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1 Corinthians 11-14 The Voice (VOICE)

11 So imitate me, watch my ways, follow my example, just as I, too, always seek to imitate the Anointed One.

I must say how pleased I am to hear that you remember me in everything and continue to hold on to the traditions I have passed on to you. But it is important that you understand this about headship: the Anointed One is the head of every man, the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of the Anointed. Knowing this, any man wearing a covering over his head while praying or prophesying in your gathering disgraces his head, Jesus. 5-6 On the other hand, any woman—I mean, of course, a married woman—not wearing a veil over her head while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, her husband. It wouldn’t be much different than if she walked into worship with her head shaved. For if a woman isn’t going to be veiled properly, she ought to go ahead and cut off her hair; but if it brings shame to the woman and her husband to have all her hair cut off or her head shaved clean, then by all means let her wear a veil.

Here’s the distinction: man is created in God’s image and for His glory, so he should not cover his head. But a wife is the glory of her husband. She ought to be covered. Man, you remember, was not fashioned from the body of a woman. But woman, though she was sculpted by the hands of God, was fashioned from the bones and flesh of man.[a] Furthermore, don’t forget that man was not created for woman; woman was created for man to be his helper in everything. 10 This means that a wife should wear a veil on her head as a sign she is under authority, especially when gathering in the company of heavenly messengers. 11 Regardless of how it all began, husbands and wives should recognize they are not independent; 12 for just as woman was pulled from the side of man, man is pulled from the womb of woman. In a similar way, all things and all people share the same ultimate source, God.

13 Judge for yourselves: when you gather to worship, is it appropriate for a woman to pray to God without covering her head? 14 Consider the ways of nature: doesn’t nature itself teach you that a man who wears his hair long invites shame and dishonor to cover him? 15 But doesn’t nature also teach that when a woman has long hair, it is her glory? It radiates her beauty and acts as a natural veil. 16 If you feel like debating more on this, just know that we, along with all other churches of God, have adopted the same custom.

17 On this next matter, I wish I could applaud you; but I can’t because your gatherings have become counterproductive, making things worse for the community rather than better. 18 Let me start with this: I hear that your gatherings are polarizing the community; and to be honest, this doesn’t surprise me. 19 I’ve accepted the fact that factions are sometimes useful and even necessary so that those who are authentic and those who are counterfeit may be recognized. 20 This distinction is obvious when you come together because it is not the Lord’s Supper you are eating at all. 21 When it’s time to eat, some hastily dig right in; but looksome have more than others: over there someone is hungry, and over here someone is drunk! 22 What is going on? If a self-centered meal is what you want, can’t you eat and drink at home? Do you have so little respect for God’s people and this community that you shame the poor at the Lord’s table? I don’t even know what to say to you! Are you looking for my approval? You won’t find it.

23 I passed on to you the tradition the Lord gave to me: On the same night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, He took the bread in His hands; 24 and after giving thanks to God, He broke it and said, “This is My body, broken for you. Keep doing this so that you and all who come after will have a vivid reminder of Me.” 25 After they had finished dinner, He took the cup and in the same way said, “This cup is the new covenant, executed in My blood. Keep doing this; and whenever you drink it, you and all who come after will have a vivid reminder of Me.” 26 Every time you taste this bread and every time you place the cup to your mouths and drink, you are declaring the Lord’s death, which is the ultimate expression of His faithfulness and love, until He comes again.

God doesn’t demand perfection to partake at the Lord’s table, rather brokenness. Their pride is causing division during the meal; instead they need to fellowship in a shared, broken spirit.

27 So if someone takes of this bread and drinks from the Lord’s cup improperly—as you are doing—he is guilty of violating the body and blood of our Lord. 28 Examine yourselves first. Then you can properly approach the table to eat the bread and drink from the cup; 29 because otherwise, if you eat and drink without properly discerning the significance of the Lord’s body, then you eat and drink a mouthful of judgment upon yourself. 30 Because of this violation, many in your community are now sick and weak; some have even died. 31 But if we took care to judge ourselves, then we wouldn’t have to worry about being judged by another. 32 In fact, the Lord’s hand of judgment is correcting us so that we don’t suffer the same fate as the rest of the rebellious world: condemnation.

33 From now on, brothers and sisters, this is what I want you to do: when you come together to eat at the Lord’s table, wait for each other. 34 If someone is hungry and can’t wait, he should go home and eat. In that way, your gatherings won’t result in God’s judgment. The rest of the instructions I have for you will have to wait until I come.

12 Now let me turn to some issues about spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters. There’s much you need to learn.

Remember the way you used to live when you were pagans apart from God? You were engrossed—enchanted with voiceless idols, led astray by mere images carved by human hands. With that in mind, I want you to understand that no one saying “Jesus is cursed” is operating under God’s Spirit, and no one confessing “Jesus is Lord” can do so without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.

Now there are many kinds of grace gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are many different ways to serve, but they’re all directed by the same Lord. There are many amazing working gifts in the church, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all who have the gifts.

Paul’s description of the works of the Spirit, the Lord (Jesus), and God (the Father) links the three persons together in remarkable ways. Although Paul never articulates the doctrine of the Trinity, what he writes here about the Godhead relationship—their community of persons—becomes the raw materials used by later believers to construct the church’s teaching on the Trinity. In this chapter the apostle emphasizes the agency of the Spirit. For him the Spirit is not just an impersonal force or feeling; He is just as much a person within the Trinity as the Father and the Son. Accordingly, the Spirit chooses where to impart gifts as He works together with the Father and the Son to build up the church.

Each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence. That gift is given for the good of the whole community. The Spirit gives one person a word of wisdom, but to the next person the same Spirit gives a word of knowledge. Another will receive the gift of faith by the same Spirit, and still another gifts of healing—all from the one Spirit. 10 One person is enabled by the Spirit to perform miracles, another to prophesy, while another is enabled to distinguish those prophetic spirits. The next one speaks in various kinds of unknown languages, while another is able to interpret those languages. 11 One Spirit works all these things in each of them individually as He sees fit.

12 Just as a body is one whole made up of many different parts, and all the different parts comprise the one body, so it is with the Anointed One. 13 We were all ceremonially washed through baptism[b] together into one body by one Spirit. No matter our heritage—Jew or Greek, insider or outsider—no matter our status—oppressed or free—we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Here’s what I mean: the body is not made of one large part but of many different parts. 15 Would it seem right for the foot to cry, “I am not a hand, so I couldn’t be part of this body”? Even if it did, it wouldn’t be any less joined to the body. 16 And what about an ear? If an ear started to whine, “I am not an eye; I shouldn’t be attached to this body,” in all its pouting, it is still part of the body. 17 Imagine the entire body as an eye. How would a giant eye be able to hear? And if the entire body were an ear, how would an ear be able to smell? 18 This is where God comes in. God has meticulously put this body together; He placed each part in the exact place to perform the exact function He wanted. 19 If all members were a single part, where would the body be? 20 So now, many members function within the one body. 21 The eye cannot wail at the hand, “I have no need for you,” nor could the head bellow at the feet, “I won’t go one more step with you.” 22 It’s actually the opposite. The members who seem to have the weaker functions are necessary to keep the body moving; 23 the body parts that seem less important we treat as some of the most valuable; and those unfit, untamed, unpresentable members we treat with an even greater modesty. 24 That’s something the more presentable members don’t need. But God designed the body in such a way that greater significance is given to the seemingly insignificant part. 25 That way there should be no division in the body; instead, all the parts mutually depend on and care for one another. 26 If one part is suffering, then all the members suffer alongside it. If one member is honored, then all the members celebrate alongside it. 27 You are the body of the Anointed, the Liberating King; each and every one of you is a vital member. 28 God has appointed gifts in the assembly: first emissaries,[c] second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, healers, helpers, administrators, and then those who speak with various unknown languages. 29 Are all members gifted as emissaries? Are all gifted with prophetic utterance? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Or are all gifted in healing arts? Do all speak or interpret unknown languages? Of course not. 31 Pursue the greater gifts, and let me tell you of a more excellent way—love.

Gifts of the Spirit, which are intended to strengthen the church body, often divide the body because members of the church elevate those who possess the more visible gifts over those whose gifts function in the background. In fact, this is the very problem facing the Corinthians. So while talking about the importance and function of these gifts in chapters 12 and 14, Paul shifts his focus to the central role love plays in a believer’s life in chapter 13. Love is essential for the body to be unified and for members to work together. Members of the body that are very different, with little in common, are able to appreciate and even enjoy others because of the love that comes when a life is submitted to God.

13 What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a crashing cymbal. What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so, I am nothing. I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts.

Paul boils it all down for the believers in Corinth. Religious people often spend their time practicing rituals, projecting dogma, and going through routines that might look like Christianity on the outside but that lack the essential ingredient that brings all of it together—love! It is a loving God who birthed creation and now pursues a broken people in the most spectacular way. That same love must guide believers, so faith doesn’t appear to be meaningless noise.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete. Now as for the prophetic gifts, they will not last; unknown languages will become silent, and the gift of knowledge will no longer be needed. Gifts of knowledge and prophecy are partial at best, at least for now, 10 but when the perfection and fullness of God’s kingdom arrive, all the parts will end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke, thought, and reasoned in childlike ways as we all do. But when I became a man, I left my childish ways behind. 12 For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal. I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God. 13 But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love.

14 So in everything strive to love. Passionately seek the gifts of the Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy. You see, a person speaking in an unknown language is not addressing the church because he is really addressing God—those who overhear don’t understand because he is speaking in the Spirit the depths of the mysteries of the Lord. But a person who has the gift of prophecy teaches in a way that builds up the community, draws them near, and comforts them. Those who speak in an unknown language only strengthen themselves, but those who prophesy strengthen the community. While I’d like for you all to be able to speak by the Spirit in unknown languages, my preference would be for you all to prophesy by the Spirit. Those who speak prophetically are God’s mouthpiece and are far more useful to the church than those who speak in exotic languages—unless there is another who interprets so that the community may be strengthened.

If I come to you, brothers and sisters, talking in unknown languages, what good would that be for any of you? You receive no benefit unless I speak to you some word of revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or instruction in your own language. Look, if inanimate objects, musical instruments like a pipe or harp, don’t make a clear, distinct sound, how would you know what tune is being played? If the bugle blares more like a clank, who would know to prepare for battle? It’s the same with you. Unless you speak a message in a language everyone understands, they won’t know what you’re talking about. You’ll be talking into the wind. 10 This world is full of languages, each and every one of them having meaning; 11 but if I don’t understand the meaning of some sound, then I become like a foreigner to the person speaking, and the person speaking will be like a foreigner to me. 12 It’s the same with you; in your passion for spiritual gifts, seek to strengthen the community of believers, and you will all be better off.

13 So anyone who speaks in an unknown language should pray for the ability to interpret 14 because if I pray in such a language, although my spirit prays, my mind isn’t productive. 15 What do I do then? I pray. I pray with my spirit but also with my mind engaged; I sing with my spirit but also with my mind engaged. 16 If you speak a word of blessing in the spirit only, then how will an uninformed person who can’t understand your prayer say “Amen” when you are done giving thanks? 17 Even though you give thanks to God well, the unknowing person doesn’t benefit. 18 I thank God that I speak in unknown languages more than the rest of you; 19 but when the church gathers, I would rather speak five words with my mind so I can be understood and train others than utter 10,000 exotic words.

20 Brothers and sisters, don’t think like children. Be innocent of malice but mature in understanding. 21 In the law, it states:

“I will send My message to this people
    with strange languages and foreign lips.
And even when that happens,
    they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.[d]

22 So speaking in unknown languages is not a sign to the believing but a miracle to the unbelieving; prophecy, though, is not a sign to the unbelieving but for the believing. 23 Imagine what would happen if the entire church gathered together speaking in different languages, one foreign to the next. Then people who have never heard of such a thing or unbelieving people walk up on all that’s going on. Would they not think each and every one of you were raving lunatics? 24 But let’s say an outsider or unbeliever walks in on a different scene: all are speaking for God with great power and insight in a language they know. What then? Well, the outsider would come under the conviction of his own sins and be called to accountability by the words of all the prophets. 25 The very secrets of his heart would be revealed, and right there—mystified—he would fall on his face in worship to God, proclaiming all the while that God most certainly dwells among you.

26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community. 27 But if any do speak in an exotic language, limit it to two or three people at the most, and have them speak one at a time, while another interprets for the rest. 28 If there is not an interpreter present, then the one should stay silent during the gathering, speaking only to himself and God. 29 Have two to three prophets speak, and let others with discerning gifts evaluate the messages they hear. 30 Now if in the course of things a message comes to another who is seated, then the first one speaking should be silent until this new message can be spoken. 31 To avoid confusion and create a space where all can learn and be encouraged, let only one prophet speak at a time without interruption. 32 You see, the prophetic spirits are under the control of the prophets 33 because God is the author of order, not confusion. This is how it is in all gatherings of the saints. 34 Wives should be respectfully silent at the gatherings, as they are not allowed to speak; and they should yield themselves to those in authority just as it is written in the law. 35 When they want to learn anything in particular, they should ask their husbands when they get home. It creates a shameful situation for them to speak at church. 36 Do you think the word of God came to the world by you? Or that it came only to you?

Paul clearly wants to correct the excessive use of speeches given in these exotic, unknown languages, but he doesn’t want them banned either.

37 Let any person who thinks he is a prophet or a spiritual person affirm that these things I write to you are the commands of the Lord. 38 Whoever chooses to be ignorant of this will be treated as ignorant. 39 So, my dear brothers and sisters, passionately desire to prophesy; but don’t ban the gift of speaking in unknown languages. 40 Just maintain the proper order in all things.


  1. 11:8 Genesis 2:21–25
  2. 12:13 Literally, immersed, in a rite of initiation and purification
  3. 12:28 Literally, apostles
  4. 14:21 Isaiah 28:11–12
The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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