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.
6. Now, brethren, if I should come. He proposes himself as an example, because in his person the case was exhibited more strikingly 814814 “Estoit plus propre pour leur imprimer ce qu’il dit;” — “Was the more calculated to impress upon them what he says.” The Corinthians experienced in themselves abundant fruit from his doctrine. He asks them, then, of what advantage it would be to them, if he were to make use of foreign languages among them. He shows them by this instance, how much better it were to apply their minds to prophesyings. Besides, it was less invidious to reprove this vice in his own person, than in that of another.
He mentions, however, four different kinds of edification — revelation, knowledge, prophesying, and doctrine As there are a variety of opinions among interpreters respecting them, let me be permitted, also, to bring forward my conjecture. As, however, it is but a conjecture, I leave my readers to judge of it. Revelation and prophesying I put in one class, and I am of opinion that the latter is the administration of the former. I am of the same opinion as to knowledge and doctrine What, therefore, any one has obtained by revelation, he dispenses by prophesying. Doctrine is the way of communicating knowledge. Thus a Prophet will be — one who interprets and administers revelation. This is rather in favor of the definition that I have given above, than at variance with it. For we have said that prophesying does not consist of a simple and bare interpretation of Scripture, but includes also knowledge for applying it to present use — which is obtained only by revelation, and the special inspiration of God.
7. Nay even things without life. He brings forward similitudes, first from musical instruments, and then afterwards from the nature of things generally, there being no voice that has not some peculiarity, suitable for distinction. 815815 “C’est a dire, pour signifier quelque chose;” — “That is to say, for signifying something.” “Even things without life,” says he, “instruct us.” There are, it is true, many random sounds or crashes, without any modulation, 816816 “Sans mesure ou distinction;” — “Without measure or distinction.” but Paul speaks here of voices in which there is something of art, as though he had said — “A man cannot give life to a harp or flute, but he makes it give forth a sound that is regulated in such a manner, that it can be distinguished. How absurd then it is, that even men, endowed with intelligence, should utter a confused, indistinguishable sound!”
We must not, however, enter here upon any minute discussion as to musical harmonies, inasmuch as Paul has merely taken what is commonly understood; as, for example, the sound of the trumpet, 817817 “It is well known that trumpets were exclusively employed in almost all ancient armies, for the purpose of directing the movements of the soldiers, and of informing them what they were to do — as when to attack, advance, or retreat. This was the custom in even the most early Jewish armies, as the Law directed two silver trumpets to be made for the purpose. (Numbers 10:1, 2, 9.) Of course, a distinction of tones was necessary, to express the various intimations which were in this manner conveyed; and if the trumpeter did not give the proper intonation, the soldiers could not tell how to act, or were in danger, from misconception, of acting wrongly.” Illustrated Commentary. — Ed. of which he speaks shortly afterwards; for it is so much calculated to raise the spirits, that it rouses up — not only men, but even horses. Hence it is related in historical records, that the Lacedemonians, when joining battle, preferred the use of the flute, 818818 “Ils vsoyent plustost de fluste, que de trompette;” — “They used the flute, rather than the trumpet.” lest the army should, at the first charge, rush forward upon the enemy with too keen an onset. 819819 The use of the flute on such occasions by the Lacedemonians, is supposed by Valerius Maximus to have “been intended to raise the courage of the soldiers, that they might begin the onset with greater violence and fury;” but the reason stated by Calvin accords with the account given of it by Thucydides (with whom the rest of the ancient historians agree) — that it was designed to “render them cool and sedate — trumpets and other instruments being more proper to inspire with heat and rage;” which passions they thought were “fitted rather to beget disorder and confusion, than to produce any noble and memorable actions — valor not being the effect of a sudden and vanishing transport, but proceeding from a settled and habitual firmness and constancy of mind.” Potter’s Gr. Ant. volume 2. — Ed. In fine, we all know by experience what power music has in exciting men’s feelings, so that Plato affirms, and not without good reason, that music has very much effect in influencing, in one way or another, the manners of a state. To speak into the air is to beat the air (1 Corinthians 9:26) to no purpose. “Thy voice will not reach either God or man, but will vanish into air.”
10. None of them dumb 820820 “That in this passage,” says Dr. Henderson, “φωνὴ, which properly signifies sound, then voice, must be taken in the sense of language or dialect, is evident: for it would not be true, that there are no sounds or voices in the world (ἄφωνων) without signification, according as these terms are usually understood. The meaning is — every language is intelligible to some nation or other; and it is only to persons who are ignorant of it, that its words are destitute of signification. This the Apostle illustrates in a very forcible manner: ‘Therefore, if I know not the, meaning of the voice, (τὢς φωνὢς, of the language,) I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.’ We shall be like two foreigners, who do not understand each other’s tongue. The very use of the term interpret and interpretation, as applied to this subject, also proves that he could only have intelligent language in view: it being a contradiction in terms to speak of interpreting that which has no meaning.” Henderson on Inspiration. — Ed He now speaks in a more general way, for he now takes in the natural voices of animals. He uses the term dumb here, to mean confused — as opposed to an articulate voice; for the barking of dogs differs from the neighing of horses, and the roaring of lions from the braying of asses. Every kind of bird, too, has its own particular way of singing and chirping. The whole order of nature, therefore, as appointed by God, invites us to observe a distinction. 821821 “C’est a dire, nous monstre aucunement qu’il faut parler en sorte que nous soyons entendus;” — “That is to say, it shows us, in a manner, that we must speak so as to be understood.”
11. I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian 822822 “The Greeks, after the custom of the Egyptians, mentioned by; Herodotus, (lib. 2,) called all those barbarians who did not speak their language. In process of time, however, the Romans having subdued the Greeks, delivered themselves by the force of arms from that opprobrious appellation; and joined the Greeks in calling all barbarians who did not speak either the Greek or the Latin language. Afterwards, barbarian signified any one who spoke a language which another did not understand. Thus the Scythian philosopher, Anacharsis, said, that among the Athenians the Scythians were barbarians; and among the Scythians the Athenians were barbarians. In like manner Ovid. Trist. 5. 10, ‘Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli;’ — ‘I am a barbarian here, because I am not understood by any one.’ This is the sense which the Apostle affixes to the word barbarian, in the present passage. McKnight. — Ed. The tongue ought to be an index of the mind — not merely in the sense of the proverb, but in the sense that is explained by Aristotle in the commencement of his book — “On Interpretation.” 823823 “La langue doit estre comme vn image, pour expimer et representer ce qui est en l’entendement;” — “The tongue should be like an image, to express and represent what is in the understanding.” How foolish then it is and preposterous in a man, to utter in an assembly a voice of which the hearer understands nothing — in which he perceives no token from which he may learn what the person means! It is not without good reason, therefore, that Paul views it as the height of absurdity, that a man should be a barbarian to the hearers, by chattering in an unknown tongue, and at the same time he elegantly treats with derision the foolish ambition of the Corinthians, who were eager to obtain praise and fame by this means. “This reward,” says he, “you will earn — that you will be a barbarian.” For the term barbarian, whether it be an artificial one, (as Strabo thinks, 824824 He considers the term βάρβαρος, (barbarian,) to be a term constructed in imitation of the sense — to convey the idea of one that speaks with difficulty and harshness. See Strabo, Book 14. Bloomfield considers the term barbarian to be derived — “not” as some think, “from the Arabic berber, to murmur, but from the Punic berber, a shepherd — having been originally appropriated to the indigenous and pastoral inhabitants of Africa; who, to their more civilized fellow-men on the other side of the Mediterranean, appeared rustics and barbarians. Hence the term βάρβαρος came at length to mean a rustic or clown.” — Ed ) or derived from some other origin, is taken in a bad sense. Hence the Greeks, who looked upon themselves as the only persons who were good speakers, and had a polished language, gave to all others the name of barbarians, from their rude and rustic dialect. No language, however, is so cultivated as not to be reckoned barbarous, when it is not understood. “He that heareth,” says Paul, “will be unto me a barbarian, and I will be so to him in return.” By these words he intimates, that to speak in an unknown tongue, is not to hold fellowship with the Church, but rather to keep aloof from it, and that he who will act this part, will be deservedly despised by others, because he first despises them.
12. Since you are in pursuit of spiritual gifts Paul concludes that the gift of tongues has not been conferred with the view of giving occasion of boasting to a few, without yielding advantage to the Church. “If spiritual gifts,” says he, “delight you, let the end be edification. Then only may you reckon, that you have attained an excellence that is true and praiseworthy — when the Church receives advantage from you. Paul, however, does not hereby give permission to any one to cherish an ambition to excel, even to the benefit of the Church, but by correcting the fault, he shows how far short they come of what they are in pursuit of, and at the same time lets them know who they are that should be most highly esteemed. He would have a man to be held in higher estimation, in proportion as he devotes himself with eagerness to promote edification. In the meantime, it is our part to have this one object in view — that the Lord may be exalted, and that his kingdom may be, from day to day, enlarged.
The term spirits, 825825 “Les dons spirituels, il y a mot a mot, les esprits;” — “Spiritual gifts — it is literally, spirits.” he employs here, by metonymy, to denote spiritual gifts, as the spirit of doctrine, or of understanding, or of judgment, is employed to denote spiritual doctrine, or understanding, or judgment. Otherwise we must keep in view what he stated previously, that it is one and the same Spirit, who distributeth to every man various gifts according to his will. (1 Corinthians 12:11.)