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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.
As he had previously exhorted them to follow after the more excellent gifts, (1 Corinthians 12:31,) so he exhorts them now to follow after love, 806806 “The word διώκετε,” says Doddridge, “properly signifies — to pursue with an eagerness like that with which hunters follow their game And it may be intended to intimate, how hard it is to obtain and preserve such a truly benevolent spirit in the main series of life; considering, on the one hand, how many provocations we are like to meet with, and on the other, the force of self-love, which will in so many instances be ready to break in upon it.” — Ed for that was the distinguished excellence, 807807 “C’estoit ceste voye et vertu excellente;” — “This was that distinguished way and excellence.” which he had promised that he would show them. They will, therefore, regulate themselves with propriety in the use of gifts, if love prevails among them. For he tacitly reproves the want of love, as appearing in this — that they had hitherto abused their gifts, and, inferring from what goes before, that where they do not assign to love the chief place, they do not take the right road to the attainment of true excellence, he shows them how foolish their ambition is, which frustrates their hopes and desires.
1. Covet spiritual gifts. Lest the Corinthians should object that they wronged God, if they despised his gifts, the Apostle anticipates this objection by declaring, that it was not his design to draw them away even from those gifts that they had abused — nay rather he commends the pursuit of them, and wishes them to have a place in the Church. And assuredly, as they had been conferred for the advantage of the Church, man’s abuse of them ought not to give occasion for their being thrown away as useless or injurious, but in the meantime he commends prophecy above all other gifts, as it was the most useful of them all. He observes, therefore, an admirable medium, by disapproving of nothing that was useful, while at the same time he exhorts them not to prefer, by an absurd zeal, things of less consequence to what was of primary importance. Now he assigns the first place to prophecy. Covet, therefore, spiritual gifts — that is, “Neglect no gift, for I exhort you to seek after them all, provided only prophecy holds the first place.”
2. For he that speaketh in another 808808 It is remarked by Granville Penn, that “the context shows that the Apostle means, a language foreign to that of the auditors, and, therefore, not known to them” — as “we learn from verse 21 that we are to supply ἑτερᾳ — ‘other,’ not αγνωστὟ — ‘unknown.’ We have,” he adds, “had lamentable proof of the abuse to which the latter injudicious rendering can be perverted in the hands of ignorant or insidious enthusiasm, by assuming the term to mean, ‘a tongue unknown to all mankind;’ and from thence, by an impious inference, supernatural and divine; instead of relatively, ‘unknown to another people.’ And yet, after all, ‘unknown’ is not the Apostle’s word, but only an Italic supplement suggested by the English revisers of the seventeenth century.” — Ed tongue, speaketh, etc. He now shows from the effect, why it was that he preferred prophecy to other gifts, and he compares it with the gift of tongues, in which it is probable the Corinthians exercised themselves the more, because it had more of show connected with it, for when persons hear a man speaking in a foreign tongue, their admiration is commonly excited. He accordingly shows, from principles already assumed, how perverse a thing this is, inasmuch as it does not at all contribute to the edifying of the Church. He says in the outset — He that speaketh in another tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: that is, according to the proverb, “He sings to himself and to the Muses.” 809809 “Comme on dit en prouerbe — I1 presche a soy-mesme et aux murailles;” — “As they say proverbially — He preaches to himself and the bare walls.” The proverb, “Sibi canit et Musis” — (“He sings to himself and the Muses,”) is believed to have originated in a saying of Antigenides, a celebrated musician of Thebes, who, when his scholar Ismenias sung with good taste, but not so as to gain the applause of the people, exclaimed — “Mihi cane et Musis;” — (“Sing to me and the Muses”) — meaning that it was enough, if he pleased good judges. — Ed. In the use of the word tongue, there is not a pleonasm, 810810 A pleonasm is a figure of speech — involving a redundancy of expression. — Ed. as in those expressions — “She spake thus with her mouth,” and “I caught the sound with these ears.” The term denotes a foreign language. The reason why he does not speak to men is — because no one heareth, that is, as an articulate voice. For all hear a sound, but they do not understand what is said.
He speaketh in the Spirit — that is, “by a spiritual gift, (for in this way I interpret it along with Chrysostom.) He speaketh mysteries and hidden things, and things, therefore, that are of no profit.” Chrysostom understands mysteries here in a good sense, as meaning — special revelations from God. I understand the term, however, in a bad sense, as meaning — dark sayings, that are obscure and involved, as if he had said, “He speaks what no one understands.”
3. He that prophesieth, speaketh unto men “Prophecy,” says he, “is profitable to all, while a foreign language is a treasure hid in the earth. What great folly, then, it is to spend all one’s time in what is useless, and, on the other hand, to neglect what appears to be most useful!” To speak to edification, is to speak what contains doctrine fitted to edify. For I understand this term to mean doctrine, by which we are trained to piety, to faith, to the worship and fear of God, and the duties of holiness and righteousness. As, however, we have for the most part need of goads, while others are pressed down by afflictions, or labor under weakness, he adds to doctrine, exhortation and consolation It appears from this passage, and from what goes before, that prophecy does not mean the gift of foretelling future events: but as I have said this once before, I do not repeat it.
4. He that speaketh in another tongue, edifieth himself. In place of what he had said before — that he speaketh unto God, he now says — he speaketh to himself But whatever is done in the Church, ought to be for the common benefit. Away, then, with that misdirected ambition, which gives occasion for the advantage of the people generally being hindered! Besides, Paul speaks by way of concession: for when ambition makes use of such empty vauntings, 811811 “Iettent ainsi de grandes bouffees et se brauent en leur parler;” — “Make use in this way of great puffings, and boast themselves in their talk.” there is inwardly no desire of doing good; but Paul does, in effect, order away from the common society of believers those men of mere show, who look only to themselves.
5. I would that ye all spake with tongues Again he declares that he does not give such a preference to prophecy, as not to leave some place for foreign tongues. This must be carefully observed. For God has conferred nothing upon his Church in vain, and languages were of some benefit. 812812 “Les langues aidoyent lors aucunement a l’auancement des Eglises;” — “Languages, at that time, were of some help for the advancement of the Churches.” Hence, although the Corinthians, by a misdirected eagerness for show, had rendered that gift partly useless and worthless, and partly even injurious, yet Paul, nevertheless, commends the use of tongues. So far is he from wishing them abolished or thrown away. At the present day, while a knowledge of languages is more than simply necessary, and while God has at this time, in his wonderful kindness, brought them forward from darkness into light, there are at present great theologians, who declaim against them with furious zeal. As it is certain, that the Holy Spirit has here honored the use of tongues with never-dying praise, we may very readily gather, what is the kind of spirit that actuates those reformers, 813813 “Ces gentils reformateurs;” — “Those pretty reformers.” who level as many reproaches as they can against the pursuit of them. At the same time the cases are very different. For Paul takes in languages of any sort — such as served merely for the publication of the gospel among all nations. They, on the other hand, condemn those languages, from which, as fountains, the pure truth of scripture is to be drawn. An exception is added — that we must not be so taken up with the use of languages, as to treat with neglect prophecy, which ought to have the first place.
Unless he interpret. For if interpretation is added, there will then be prophecy. You must not, however, understand Paul to give liberty here to any one to take up the time of the Church to no profit by muttering words in a foreign tongue. For how ridiculous it were, to repeat the same thing in a variety of languages without any necessity! But it often happens, that the use of a foreign tongue is seasonable. In short, let us simply have an eye to this as our end — that edification may redound to the Church.