1Co 14:1-25. Superiority of
Prophecy over Tongues.
1. Follow after charity—as your first
and chief aim, seeing that it is "the greatest" (1Co 13:13).
and desire—Translate, "Yet (as a
secondary aim) desire zealously (see on 1Co
12:31) spiritual gifts."
but rather—"but chiefly that ye
may prophesy" (speak and exhort under inspiration) (Pr
29:18; Ac 13:1; 1Th 5:20),
whether as to future events, that is, strict prophecy, or
explaining obscure parts of Scripture, especially the prophetical
Scriptures or illustrating and setting forth questions of Christian
doctrine and practice. Our modern preaching is the successor of
prophecy, but without the inspiration. Desire zealously this
(prophecy) more than any other spiritual gift; or in
preference to "tongues" (1Co 14:2, &c.) [Bengel].
2. speaketh … unto God—who alone
understands all languages.
no man understandeth—generally
speaking; the few who have the gift of interpreting tongues are the
in the spirit—as opposed to "the
understanding" (1Co 14:14).
mysteries—unintelligible to the
hearers, exciting their wonder, rather than instructing them. Corinth,
being a mart resorted to by merchants from Asia, Africa, and Europe,
would give scope amidst its mixed population for the exercise of the
gift of tongues; but its legitimate use was in an audience
understanding the tongue of the speaker, not, as the Corinthians abused
it, in mere display.
3. But—on the other hand.
edification—of which the two principal
species given are "exhortation" to remove sluggishness,
"comfort" or consolation to remove sadness [Bengel]. Omit "to."
4. edifieth himself—as he understands
the meaning of what the particular "tongue" expresses; but "the
church," that is, the congregation, does not.
5. Translate, "Now I wish you all to speak
with tongues (so far am I from thus speaking through having any
objection to tongues), but rather IN ORDER
THAT (as my ulterior and higher wish for you) ye should
prophesy." Tongues must therefore mean languages, not ecstatic,
unintelligible rhapsodie (as Neander
fancied): for Paul could never "wish" for the latter in their
except he interpret—the unknown tongue
which he speaks, "that the Church may receive edifying (building
6. Translate, "But now"; seeing there
is no edification without interpretation.
prophesying—corresponding one to the other; "revelation"
being the supernatural unveiling of divine truths to man,
"prophesying" the enunciation to men of such revelations. So
"knowledge" corresponds to "doctrine," which is the gift of
teaching to others our knowledge. As the former pair refers to
specially revealed mysteries, so the latter pair refers to the
general obvious truths of salvation, brought from the common
storehouse of believers.
7. Translate, "And things without life-giving
sound, whether pipe or harp, YET
(notwithstanding their giving sound) if they give not a
distinction in the tones (that is, notes) how?" &c.
what is piped or harped—that is, what
tune is played on the pipe or harp.
8. Translate, "For if also," an
additional step in the argument.
uncertain sound—having no definite
meaning: whereas it ought to be so marked that one succession of notes
on the trumpet should summon the soldiers to attack; another, to
retreat; another, to some other evolution.
9. So … ye—who have life; as
opposed to "things without life" (1Co 14:7).
by the tongue—the language which ye
ye shall speak—Ye will be speaking
into the air, that is, in vain (1Co 9:26).
10. it may be—that is, perhaps, speaking
by conjecture. "It may chance" (1Co 15:37).
so many—as may be enumerated by
investigators of such matters. Compare "so much," used generally for a
definite number left undefined (Ac 5:8; also 2Sa 12:8).
kinds of voices—kinds of articulate
articulate voice (that is, distinct meaning). None is without
its own voice, or mode of speech, distinct from the
11. Therefore—seeing that none is
a barbarian—a foreigner (Ac 28:2). Not in the depreciatory sense as the
term is now used, but one speaking a foreign language.
12. zealous—emulously desirous.
"spirits"; that is, emanations from the one Spirit.
seek that ye may excel to—Translate,
"Seek them, that ye may abound in them to the edifying,"
13. Explain, "Let him who speaketh with a
tongue [unknown] in his prayer (or, when praying)
strive that he may interpret" [Alford]. This explanation of "pray" is needed by its
logical connection with "prayer in an unknown tongue" (1Co 14:14). Though his words be unintelligible to
his hearers, let him in them pray that he may obtain the gift of
interpreting, which will make them "edifying" to "the church" (1Co 14:12).
14. spirit—my higher being, the
passive object of the Holy Spirit's operations, and the
instrument of prayer in the unknown tongue, distinguished from the
"understanding," the active instrument of thought and reasoning;
which in this case must be "unfruitful" in edifying others, since the
vehicle of expression is unintelligible to them. On the distinction of
soul or mind and spirit, see Eph 4:23; Heb
15. What is it then?—What is my
and—rather as Greek, "but"; I
will not only pray with my spirit, which (1Co 14:14) might leave the understanding
unedified, BUT with the understanding
also [Alford and Ellicott].
pray with the understanding also—and,
by inference, I will keep silence altogether if I cannot pray with the
understanding (so as to make myself understood by others). A prescient
warning, mutatis mutandis, against the Roman and Greek practice
of keeping liturgies in dead languages, which long since have become
unintelligible to the masses; though their forefathers spoke them at a
time when those liturgies were framed for general use.
16. Else … thou—He changes from
the first person, as he had just expressed his own
resolution, "I will pray with the understanding," whatever
bless—the highest kind of prayer.
occupieth the room of the
unlearned—one who, whatever other gifts he may possess, yet,
as wanting the gift of interpretation, is reduced by the speaking in an
unknown tongue to the position of one unlearned, or "a private
say Amen—Prayer is not a vicarious
duty done by others for us; as in Rome's liturgies and masses.
We must join with the leader of the prayers and praises of the
congregation, and say aloud our responsive "Amen" in assent, as was the
usage of the Jewish (De 27:15-26; Ne 8:6) and Christian primitive churches [Justin Martyr, Apology, 2. 97].
17. givest thanks—The prayers of the
synagogue were called "eulogies," because to each prayer was joined a
thanksgiving. Hence the prayers of the Christian Church also
were called blessings and giving of thanks. This
illustrates Col 4:2; 1Th 5:17, 18. So the Kaddisch and
Keduscha, the synagogue formulæ of "hallowing" the divine
"name" and of prayer for the "coming of God's kingdom," answer to the
Church's Lord's Prayer, repeated often and made the foundation on which
the other prayers are built [Tertullian,
18. tongues—The oldest manuscripts have
the singular, "in a tongue [foreign]."
19. I had rather—The Greek verb
more literally expresses this meaning, "I
WISH to speak five words with my understanding (rather) than ten
thousand words in an unknown tongue"; even the two thousandth part of
ten thousand. The Greek for "I would rather," would be a
different verb. Paul would NOT wish at
all to speak "ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."
20. Brethren—an appellation calculated
to conciliate their favorable reception of his exhortation.
children in understanding—as
preference of gifts abused to nonedification would make you (compare
1Co 3:1; Mt 10:16; Ro 16:19; Eph 4:14). The Greek for "understanding"
expresses the will of one's spirit, Ro 8:6 (it is not found elsewhere); as the
"heart" is the will of the "soul." The same Greek is used for
"minded" in Ro 8:6.
men—full-grown. Be childlike, not
21. In the law—as the whole Old
Testament is called, being all of it the law of God. Compare the
citation of the Psalms as the "law," Joh 10:34. Here the quotation is from Isa 28:11, 12, where God virtually says of
Israel, This people hear Me not, though I speak to. them in the
language with which they are familiar; I will therefore speak to them
in other tongues, namely, those of the foes whom I will send against
them; but even then they will not hearken to Me; which Paul thus
applies, Ye see that it is a penalty to be associated with men of a
strange tongue, yet ye impose this on the Church [Grotius]; they who speak in foreign tongues are like
"children" just "weaned from the milk" (Isa 28:9), "with stammering lips" speaking
unintelligibly to the hearers, appearing ridiculous (Isa 28:14), or as babbling drunkards (Ac 2:13), or madmen (1Co 14:23).
22. Thus from Isaiah it appears, reasons Paul,
that "tongues" (unknown and uninterpreted) are not a sign mainly
intended for believers (though at the conversion of Cornelius and the
Gentiles with him, tongues were vouchsafed to him and them to confirm
their faith), but mainly to be a condemnation to those, the
majority, who, like Israel in Isaiah's day, reject the sign and the
accompanying message. Compare "yet … will they not hear Me"
14:21). "Sign" is often used
for a condemnatory sign (Eze 4:3, 4; Mt 12:39-42). Since they will not
understand, they shall not understand.
prophesying … not for them that believe
not, but … believe—that is, prophesying has no effect
on them that are radically and obstinately like Israel (Isa 28:11, 12), unbelievers, but on them that
are either in receptivity or in fact believers; it makes believers of
those not wilfully unbelievers (1Co 14:24, 25; Ro 10:17), and spiritually nourishes those
that already believe.
23. whole … all …
tongues—The more there are assembled, and the more that speak
in unknown tongues, the more will the impression be conveyed to
strangers "coming in" from curiosity ("unbelievers"), or even from a
better motive ("unlearned"), that the whole body of worshippers
is a mob of fanatical "madmen"; and that "the Church is like the
company of builders of Babel after the confusion of tongues, or like
the cause tried between two deaf men before a deaf judge, celebrated in
the Greek epigram" [Grotius].
unlearned—having some degree of faith,
but not gifts [Bengel].
24. all—one by one (1Co 14:31).
prophesy—speak the truth by the Spirit
intelligibly, and not in unintelligible tongues.
one—"anyone." Here singular;
implying that this effect, namely, conviction by all, would be
produced on anyone, who might happen to enter. In 1Co 14:23 the plural is used; "unlearned or
unbelievers"; implying that however many there might be, not one would
profit by the tongues; yea, their being many would confirm them in
rejecting the sign, as many unbelieving men together strengthen one
another in unbelief; individuals are more easily won [Bengel].
convinced—convicted in conscience;
said of the "one that believeth not" (Joh 16:8, 9).
judged—His secret character is opened
out. "Is searched into" [Alford]. Said
of the "one unlearned" (compare 1Co 2:15).
25. And thus—omitted in the oldest
manuscripts and versions.
secrets of his heart made manifest—He
sees his own inner character opened out by the sword of the Spirit
(Heb 4:12; Jas 1:23), the word of God, in the hand of him
who prophesieth. Compare the same effect produced on Nebuchadnezzar
2:30 and end of Da 2:47). No argument is stronger for the truth
of religion than its manifestation of men to themselves in their true
character. Hence hearers even now often think the preacher must have
aimed his sermon particularly at them.
and so—convicted at last, judged, and
manifested to himself. Compare the effect on the woman of Samaria
produced by Jesus' unfolding of her character to herself (Joh 4:19, 29).
and report—to his friends at home, as
the woman of Samaria did. Rather, as the Greek is, "He will
worship God, announcing," that is, openly avowing then and
there, "that God is in you of a truth," and by implication that the God
who is in you is of a truth the God.
1Co 14:26-40. Rules for the
Exercise of Gifts in the Congregation.
26. How is it then?—rather, "What
then is the true rule to be observed as to the use of gifts?"
Compare 1Co 14:15,
where the same Greek occurs.
a psalm—extemporary, inspired by the
Spirit, as that of Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna (Lu
1:46-55, 67-79; 2:34-38).
a doctrine—to impart and set forth to
a tongue … a revelation—The
oldest manuscripts transpose the order: "revelation … tongue";
"interpretation" properly following "tongue" (1Co 14:13).
Let all things be done unto
edifying—The general rule under which this particular case
fails; an answer to the question at the beginning of this verse. Each
is bound to obey the ordinances of his church not adverse to Scripture.
See Article XXXIV, Church of England Prayer Book.
27. let it be by two—at each time, in
one assembly; not more than two or three might speak with tongues at
by course—in turns.
let one interpret—one who has the gift
of interpreting tongues; and not more than one.
28. let him—the speaker in unknown
speak to himself, and to God—(compare
4)—privately and not in
the hearing of others.
29. two or three—at one meeting (he does
not add "at the most," as in 1Co 14:27, lest he should seem to "quench
prophesyings," the most edifying of gifts), and these "one by one," in
14:27, "by course," and 1Co 14:31). Paul gives here similar rules to
the prophets, as previously to those speaking in unknown tongues.
judge—by their power of "discerning
spirits" (1Co 12:10),
whether the person prophesying was really speaking under the influence
of the Spirit (compare 1Co 12:3; 1Jo 4:13).
30. If any thing—Translate, "But
if any thing."
another that sitteth by—a hearer.
let the first hold his peace—Let him
who heretofore spoke, and who came to the assembly furnished with a
previous ordinary (in those times) revelation from God (1Co 14:26), give place to him who at the assembly
is moved to prophesy by a sudden revelation from the Spirit.
31. For ye may—rather, "For ye
can [if ye will] all prophesy one by one," giving way to one
another. The "for" justifies the precept (1Co 14:30), "let the first hold his peace."
32. And—following up the assertion in
14:31, "Ye can (if ye will)
prophesy one by one," that is, restrain yourselves from speaking all
together; "and the spirits of the prophets," that is, their own
spirits, acted on by the Holy Spirit, are not so hurried away by His
influence, as to cease to be under their own control; they can if they
will hear others, and not demand that they alone should be heard
uttering communications from God.
33. In all the churches of the saints God is a
God of peace; let Him not among you be supposed to be a God of
confusion [Alford]. Compare the same
argument in 1Co 11:16.
Lachmann and others put a full stop at
"peace," and connect the following words thus: "As in all churches of
the saints, let your women keep silence in your churches."
34. (1Ti 2:11, 12). For women to speak in public would be
an act of independence, as if they were not subject to their husbands
(compare 1Co 11:3; Eph 5:22; Tit 2:5; 1Pe 3:1). For "under obedience," translate, "in
subjection" or "submission," as the Greek is
translated (Eph 5:21, 22, 24).
the law—a term applied to the whole
Old Testament; here, Ge 3:16.
35. Anticipation of an objection. Women may
say, "But if we do not understand something, may we not 'ask' a
question publicly so as to 'learn'? Nay, replies Paul, if you want
information, 'ask' not in public, but 'at home'; ask not other men, but
'your own particular (so the Greek) husbands.'"
36. What!—Greek, "Or." Are you
about to obey me? Or, if you set up your judgment above that of
other churches. I wish to know, do you pretend that your church is the
first church FROM which the gospel word came, that you should give the
law to all others? Or are you the only persons In, fro whom it has
37. prophet—the species.
spiritual—the genus: spiritually
endowed. The followers of Apollos prided themselves as "spiritual"
3:1-3; compare Ga 6:1). Here one capable of discerning
spirits is specially meant.
things that I write … commandments of the
Lord—a direct assertion of inspiration. Paul's words as an
apostle are Christ's words. Paul appeals not merely to one or two, but
to a body of men, for the reality of three facts about which no
body of men could possibly be mistaken: (1) that his having converted
them was not due to mere eloquence, but to the "demonstration of the
Spirit and of power"; (2) that part of this demonstration consisted in
the communication of miraculous power, which they were then exercising
so generally as to require to be corrected in the irregular employment
of it; (3) that among these miraculous gifts was one which enabled the
"prophet" or "spiritual person" to decide whether Paul's Epistle was
Scripture or not. He could not have written so, unless the facts were
notoriously true: for he takes them for granted, as consciously
known by the whole body of men whom he addresses [Hinds, On Inspiration].
38. if any man be ignorant—wilfully; not
wishing to recognize these ordinances and my apostolic authority in
let him be ignorant—I leave him to his
ignorance: it will be at his own peril; I feel it a waste of words to
speak anything further to convince him. An argument likely to have
weight with the Corinthians, who admired "knowledge" so much.
39. covet—earnestly desire. Stronger
than "forbid not"; marking how much higher he esteemed "prophecy" than
40. Let, &c.—The oldest manuscripts
read, "But let," &c. This verse is connected with 1Co 14:39, "But (while desiring
prophecy, and not forbidding tongues) let all things be done
decently." "Church government is the best security for Christian
liberty" [J. Newton]. (Compare 1Co 14:23,