World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
14. Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues
1Follow after love; yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2For he that speaketh in a tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for no man understandeth; but in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and consolation. 4He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5Now I would have you all speak with tongues, but rather that ye should prophesy: and greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. 6But now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching? 7Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they give not a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8For if the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war? 9So also ye, unless ye utter by the tongue speech easy to understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye will be speaking into the air. 10There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification. 11If then I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh will be a barbarian unto me. 12So also ye, since ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may abound unto the edifying of the church. 13Wherefore let him that speaketh in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16Else if thou bless with the spirit, how shall he that filleth the place of the unlearned say the Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he knoweth not what thou sayest? 17For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18I thank God, I speak with tongues more than you all: 19howbeit in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20Brethren, be not children in mind: yet in malice be ye babes, but in mind be men. 21In the law it is written, By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers will I speak unto this people; and not even thus will they hear me, saith the Lord. 22Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving: but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to them that believe. 23If therefore the whole church be assembled together and all speak with tongues, and there come in men unlearned or unbelieving, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one unbelieving or unlearned, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all; 25the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed. 26What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27If any man speaketh in a tongue, let it be by two, or at the most three, and that in turn; and let one interpret: 28but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29And let the prophets speak by two or three, and let the others discern. 30But if a revelation be made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence. 31For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted; 32and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; 33for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. 35And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church. 36What? was it from you that the word of God went forth? or came it unto you alone? 37If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 38But if any man is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Wherefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40But let all things be done decently and in order.
Prophesying, that is, explaining Scripture, is compared with speaking with tongues. This drew attention, more than the plain interpretation of Scripture; it gratified pride more, but promoted the purposes of Christian charity less; it would not equally do good to the souls of men. What cannot be understood, never can edify. No advantage can be reaped from the most excellent discourses, if delivered in language such as the hearers cannot speak or understand. Every ability or possession is valuable in proportion to its usefulness. Even fervent, spiritual affection must be governed by the exercise of the understanding, else men will disgrace the truths they profess to promote.
Even an apostle could not edify, unless he spoke so as to be understood by his hearers. To speak words that have no meaning to those who hear them, is but speaking into the air. That cannot answer the end of speaking, which has no meaning; in this case, speaker and hearers are barbarians to each other. All religious services should be so performed in Christian assemblies, that all may join in, and profit by them. Language plain and easy to be understood, is the most proper for public worship, and other religious exercises. Every true follower of Christ will rather desire to do good to others, than to get a name for learning or fine speaking.
There can be no assent to prayers that are not understood. A truly Christian minister will seek much more to do spiritual good to men's souls, than to get the greatest applause to himself. This is proving himself the servant of Christ. Children are apt to be struck with novelty; but do not act like them. Christians should be like children, void of guile and malice; yet they should not be unskilful as to the word of righteousness, but only as to the arts of mischief. It is a proof that a people are forsaken of God, when he gives them up to the rule of those who teach them to worship in another language. They can never be benefitted by such teaching. Yet thus the preachers did who delivered their instructions in an unknown tongue. Would it not make Christianity ridiculous to a heathen, to hear the ministers pray or preach in a language which neither he nor the assembly understood? But if those who minister, plainly interpret Scripture, or preach the great truths and rules of the gospel, a heathen or unlearned person might become a convert to Christianity. His conscience might be touched, the secrets of his heart might be revealed to him, and so he might be brought to confess his guilt, and to own that God was present in the assembly. Scripture truth, plainly and duly taught, has a wonderful power to awaken the conscience and touch the heart.
Religious exercises in public assemblies should have this view; Let all be done to edifying. As to the speaking in an unknown tongue, if another were present who could interpret, two miraculous gifts might be exercised at once, and thereby the church be edified, and the faith of the hearers confirmed at the same time. As to prophesying, two or three only should speak at one meeting, and this one after the other, not all at once. The man who is inspired by the Spirit of God will observe order and decency in delivering his revelations. God never teaches men to neglect their duties, or to act in any way unbecoming their age or station.
When the apostle exhorts Christian women to seek information on religious subjects from their husbands at home, it shows that believing families ought to assemble for promoting spiritual knowledge. The Spirit of Christ can never contradict itself; and if their revelations are against those of the apostle, they do not come from the same Spirit. The way to keep peace, truth, and order in the church, is to seek that which is good for it, to bear with that which is not hurtful to its welfare, and to keep up good behaviour, order, and decency.