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1st Corinthians CHAPTER 14

THIS chapter is a continuation of the subject commenced in chapter 12, and pursued through chapter 13. In chapter 12. Paul had entered on the discussion of the various endowments which the Holy Spirit confers on Christians, and had shown that these endowments were bestowed in a different degree on different individuals, and yet so as to promote, in the best way, the edification of the church. It was proper, he said, (1 Co 12:31,) to desire the more eminent of these endowments; and yet there was one gift of the Spirit of more value than all others, which might be obtained by all, and which should be an object of desire to all. That was LOVE; and to show the nature, power, and value of this, was the design of the thirteenth chapter—certainly one of the most tender and beautiful portions of the Bible. In this chapter the subject is continued with special reference to the subject of prophecy, as being the most valuable of the miraculous endowments, or the extraordinary gifts of Spirit.

In doing this, it was necessary to correct an erroneous estimate which they had placed on the power of speaking foreign languages. They had prized this, perhaps, because it gave them importance in the eyes of the heathen. And in proportion as they valued this, they undervalued the gift of being able to edify the church by speaking in a known and intelligible language. To correct this misapprehension; to show the relative value of these endowments, and especially to recommend the gift of "prophecy" as the more useful and desirable of the gifts of the Spirit, was the leading design of this chapter. In doing this, Paul first directs them to seek for charity. He also recommends to them, as in 1 Co 12:31, to desire spiritual endowments, and of these endowments especially to desire prophecy, 1 Co 14:1. He then proceeds to set forth the advantage of speaking in intelligible language, or of speaking so that the church may be edified, by the following considerations, which comprise the chapter:—

(1.) The advantage of being understood, and of speaking for the edification of the church, 1 Co 14:2-5.

(2.) No man could be useful to the church except he delivered that which was understood, any more than the sound of a trumpet in times of war would be useful, unless it were so sounded as to be understood by the army, 1 Co 14:6-11.

(3.) It was the duty of all to seek to edify the church and if a man could speak in an unknown tongue, it was his duty also to seek to be able to interpret what he said, 1 Co 14:12-15.

(4.) The use of tongues would produce embarrassment and confusion, since those who heard them speak would be ignorant of what was said, and be unable to join in the devotions, 1 Co 14:16,17.

(5.) Though Paul himself was more signally endowed than any of them, yet he prized far more highly the power of promoting the edification of the church, though he uttered but five words, if they were understood, than all the power which he possessed of speaking foreign languages, 1 Co 14:18,19.

(6.) This sentiment illustrated from the Old Testament, 1 Co 14:20,21.

(7.) The real use of the power of speaking foreign languages was to be a sign to unbelievers—an evidence that the religion was from God, and not to be used among those who were already Christians, 1 Co 14:22.

(8.) The effect of their all speaking with tongues would be to produce confusion and disorder, and disgust among observers, and the conviction that they were deranged; but the effect of order, and of speaking intelligibly, would be to convince and convert them, 1 Co 14:23-25.

(9.) The apostle then gives rules in regard to the proper conduct of those who were able to speak foreign languages, 1 Co 14:26-32.

(10.) The great rule was, that order was to be observed, and that God was the Author of peace, 1 Co 14:33.

(11.) The apostle then gives a positive direction that on no pretence are women to be allowed to speak in the church, even though they should claim to be inspired, 1 Co 14:34,35.

(12.) He then required all to submit to his authority, and to admit that what he had spoken was from the Lord, 1 Co 14:36,37. And then,

(13.) Concludes with directing them to desire to prophesy, and not to forbid speaking with tongues on proper occasions, but to do all things in decency and order, 1 Co 14:38-40.

Verse 1. Follow after charity. Pursue love, (1 Co 13:1;) that is, earnestly desire it; strive to possess it; make it the object of your anxious and constant solicitude to obtain it, and to be influenced by it always. Cultivate it in your own hearts, as the richest and best endowment of the Holy Spirit, and endeavour to diffuse its happy influence on all around you.

And desire spiritual gifts. I do not forbid you, while you make the possession of love your great object, and while you do not make the desire of spiritual gifts the occasion of envy or strife, to desire the miraculous endowments of the Spirit, and to seek to excel in those endowments which he imparts. See Barnes "1 Co 12:31".

The main thing was to cultivate a spirit of love. Yet it was not improper also to desire to be so endowed as to promote their highest usefulness in the church. On the phrase, "spiritual gifts," See Barnes "1 Co 12:1".


But rather that ye may prophesy. But especially, or particularly, desire to be qualified for the office of prophesying. The apostle does not mean to say that prophecy is to be preferred to love or charity; but that, of the spiritual gifts which it was proper for them to desire and seek, prophecy was the most valuable. That is, they were not most earnestly and especially to desire to be able to speak foreign languages, or to work miracles; but they were to desire to be qualified to speak in a manner that would be edifying to the church. They would naturally, perhaps, most highly prize the power of working miracles and of speaking foreign languages. The object of this chapter is to show them that the ability to speak in a plain: clear, instructive manner, so as to edify the church and convince stoners, was a more valuable endowment than the power of working miracles, or the power of speaking foreign languages. On the meaning of the word prophesy, See Barnes "Ro 12:6".

To what is said there on the nature of this office, it seems necessary only to add an idea suggested by Professor Robinson, (Gr. and Eng. Lexicon, Art. profhthv,) that the prophets were distinguished from the teachers, (didaskaloi,) "in that, while the latter spoke in a calm, connected, didactic discourse, adapted to instruct and enlighten the hearers, the prophet spoke more from the impulse of sudden inspiration, from the light of a sudden revelation at the moment, (1 Co 14:30, apokalufyh;) and his discourse was probably more adapted, by means of powerful exhortation, to awaken the feelings and conscience of the hearers." The idea of speaking from revelation, he adds, seems to be fundamental to the correct idea of the nature of the prophecy here referred to. Yet the communications of the prophets were always in the vernacular tongue, and were always in intelligible language, and in this respect different from the endowments of those who spoke foreign languages. The same truth might be spoken by both; the influence of the Spirit was equally necessary in both; both were inspired; and both answered important ends in the establishment and edification of the church. The gift of tongues, however, as it was the most striking and remarkable, and probably the most rare, was most highly prized and coveted. The object of Paul here is to show that it was really an endowment of less value, and should be less desired by Christians, than the gift of prophetic instruction, or the ability to edify the church in language intelligible and understood by all, under the immediate influences of the Holy Spirit.

{a} "spiritual gifts" Eph 1:3

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