The fourth list of spiritual gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26. This is the introductory statement of a long paragraph which I believe ends at the end of this chapter (1 Corinthians 14:40). However, for the purpose of this discussion, we can look at just this one verse:
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV)
(I’ve discussed this verse in detail in a series on 1 Corinthians 14. The conclusion of this series is called “Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 4,” and links to the other parts of the series are at the bottom of that page.) In this passage, Paul seems to list how various people implement their gifts, and not necessarily the gifts themselves. Thus, the lesson would be related to teaching, and revelation would be related to prophecy. Tongue and interepretation seem to be directly related to the gift with the same names. But what about hymn? Perhaps hymn would be a method of implementing the gifts of exhortation, or word of knowledge, or some other gift. Again, this list differs from the previous lists in this section of 1 Corinthians and it also differs from the list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12.
What is the purpose of this list? In this list of spiritual gifts, or perhaps in this list of ways to implement spiritual gifts, the emphasis is on the participation of each person, and on the purpose of each person’s emphasis. As each person comes together with other believers ready to exercise their various spiritual gifts, they all should have one purpose in mind: building up other believers, that is, helping them mature in Jesus Christ.
After the teaching on spiritual gifts in chapter 12, Paul tells the believers in Corinth that love must be the foundation of everything that they do and say (chapter 13). Remember that Paul also included instructions about love with spiritual gifts in Romans 12. This teaching on love should not be considered to be separate from spiritual gifts, but a very important part of Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts. It is impossible to properly exercise spiritual gifts without understanding and exercising love first.
Next, after teaching about love, Paul distinguishes between gifts that are easily understandable (such as prophecy) and gifts that are not understandable (such as uninterpreted tongues). When the church meets together, only gifts that are understandable should be exercised, because only understandable gifts can build up the church.
Following 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul gives guidelines to help the believers build up one another. These guidelines follow from the character of God, whose character is one of peace, not of disturbance. Thus, even as everyone comes together ready to build up others, there still needs to be order (one at a time) so that everyone can participate and everyone can be edified.
Therefore, Paul uses the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14:26 to give examples of how believers can exercise their spiritual gifts when the church meets together. However, the list is punctuated with the command to make sure that everything done is done for the purpose of edifying other believers.
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Alan Knox is a PhD student in biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a web developer. His interests include PHP and ecclesiology. His dissertation topic is the purpose of the gathering of the church in the New Testament. By God’s grace, he tries to live what he is learning about the church.
He writes about how our understanding of the church affects (or should affect) the way the we live our lives among other brothers and sisters in Christ. He's found that many aspects of our understanding of church (gathering, leading, teaching, etc.) are woven together such that it’s almost impossible to focus on only one aspect.
Find out more on his website, The Assembling of the Church.