1 Corinthians 14:26 – Presentation Worship

Wayne Jackson
Does 1 Corinthians 14:26ff authorize solos or choirs in New Testament worship?

It is becoming increasingly popular to assert that the New Testament contains the authority for “presentation worship” in the church assembly. By this it is meant that activities like solo and group singing are sanctioned in the Scriptures. First Corinthians 14:26 is cited as proof.

The fact is, 1 Corinthians 14:26ff offers no such support. The apostle asks:

“What is it then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”

Paul’s question, with its corresponding answer, comes in the midst of a rebuke to the Corinthian saints, who were abusing the spiritual gifts at their disposal. Is it proper to seek biblical authority in a rebuke?

Twice previously in this epistle Paul had employed the Greek adjective hekastos [each one] to highlight what Professor Harold K. Moulton calls the “selfish individualism” that was characteristic of these saints (The Challenge of the Concordance — Some New Testament Words Studied in Depth, 1977, p. 37). The apostle had admonished them because “each one” had adopted the name of the person who immersed him (1:12).

The Corinthians had violated principles of truth when “each one” had put his own participation in the communion supper above the interests of the group as a whole (11:21).

So now, in chapter 14, “each one” is attempting to exercise his spiritual gift divorced from those regulating principles which were designed to facilitate edification (14:26).

Why would anyone extract this admonition from its context, and employ it as a proof-text for solo or choir singing? The answer is obvious; the authority is found nowhere else, and this passage is appealed to in a time of desperation.

Thus, underline the words “each one” in 1 Corinthians 14:26, and in your margin note: A rebuke of selfish individualism (cf. 1:12; 11:21) — provides no authority for solos/choirs in church worship.