What does 1 Corinthians 14:32 mean?
ESV: and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
NIV: The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
NASB: and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;
CSB: And the prophets' spirits are subject to the prophets,
NLT: Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns.
KJV: And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
NKJV: And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
Verse Commentary:
Perhaps some in Corinth misunderstood how spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues or prophecy worked. They may have thought that those with these gifts were taken over by the Holy Spirit and lost control of themselves, speaking in an unknown language in a frenzy or speaking a revelation from God in a kind of trance. Some of the idol worship in Greek cities like Corinth involved similar behavior: worshippers seemingly becoming possessed by the gods they served, ranting and moving in a frenzy.

Paul has made it clear that this is not how spiritual gifts work in the Christian church. He has instructed those who speak in tongues not to do so if they are not chosen to contribute to the service, or if nobody is available to interpret what they say. He has commanded those with the gift of prophecy to stop talking if someone else receives a revelation from God.

Now Paul puts it in plain language: The "spirits of prophets are subject to prophets." By this he means that the Holy Spirit does not "take over" a person's spirit to the point where that person loses restraint. The opposite is true—one of the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22–23 is self-control. Anyone legitimately expressing a spiritual gift can always decide when and how to start or stop expressing that gift.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 14:26–40 includes specific instructions to the Corinthians on an orderly worship service. These meetings should reflect the character of God. Everyone should have an opportunity to bring a hymn, a lesson, a prophetic revelation from God, and even to speak in a tongue if someone is able to interpret. Each must happen one at a time, in turn, and only two or three tongues-speakers or prophets should contribute during a single service. Wives must remain silent and be in submission to their husbands. Only that which builds up the church should be included.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages the Corinthians to desire the gift of prophecy, especially, among the other gifts. He shows why its use in the church service is superior to the use of the gift of tongues if nobody is available to interpret. Prophecy benefits everyone; praying in tongues with nobody to interpret benefits only the speaker. Only two or three tongues-speakers should contribute to any service, and only then one at a time and followed by interpreters. The same applies to prophecy and the gift of discerning spirits. Orderliness and building up the church are guiding principles for any worship meeting. Modern churches are divided on the extent to who which these gifts are given, or should be practiced.
Chapter Context:
1 Corinthians 14 concludes Paul's teaching on the spiritual gifts begun in chapter 12. Between them, chapter 13 declared that Christlike love matters most of all. The gift of prophecy is better than the display of the gift of tongues in worship services unless someone with the gift of interpreting tongues is available. Even then, only those things which build up the church should be included in any service, and everything should be done in an orderly way, reflecting the character of God. The final two chapters of this letter discuss the resurrection of Christ and Paul's concluding remarks.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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