1 Corinthians Chapter Fourteen
1 Corinthians 14
Two verses in this chapter 14 demand a little attention-the 3rd and the 6th. Verse 3 is the effect, or rather the quality, of that which a prophet says, and not a definition. He edifies, he encourages, he comforts, by speaking. Nevertheless these words shew the character of what he said. Prophecy is in no wise simply the revelation of future events, although prophets as such have revealed them. A prophet is one who is so in communication with God as to be able to communicate His mind. A teacher instructs according to that which is already written, and so explains its import. But, in communicating the mind of God to souls under grace, the prophet encouraged and edified them. With regard to verse 6, it is plain that coming with tongues (by the use of which the Corinthians like children, loved to shine in the assembly) he that so spoke, edified no one, for he was not understood. Perhaps he did not understand himself, but was the unintelligent instrument of the Spirit, whilst having the powerful impression of the fact that God spoke by his means, so that in the Spirit he felt that he was in communication with God, although his understanding was unfruitful. In any case no one could speak for the edification of the assembly unless he communicated the mind of God.
Of such communication the apostle distinguishes two kinds-revelation and knowledge. The latter supposes a revelation already given, of which some one availed himself by the Holy Ghost for the good of the flock. He then points out the gifts which were respectively the means of edifying in these two ways. It is not that the two latter terms (v. 6) are the equivalents of the two former; but the two things here spoken of as edifying the church were accomplished by means of these two gifts. There might be"prophecy" without its being absolutely a new revelation, although there was more in it than knowledge. It might contain an application of the thoughts of God, an address on the part of God to the soul, to the conscience, which would be more than knowledge, but which would not be a new revelation. God acts therein without revealing a new truth, or a new fact. "Knowledge," or "doctrine," teaches truths, or explains the word, a thing very useful to the assembly; but in it there is not the direct action of the Spirit in application, and thus not the direct manifestation of the presence of God to men in their own conscience and heart. When any one teaches, he who is spiritual profits by it; when one prophesies, even he who is not spiritual may feel it, he is reached and judged; and it is the same thing with the Christian's conscience. Revelation, or knowledge, is a perfect division and embraces everything. Prophecy, and doctrine, are in intimate connection with the two; but prophecy embraces other ideas, so that this division does not exactly answer to the first two terms.
The apostle insists largely on the necessity for making oneself understood, whether one speaks, or sings, or prays. He desires-and the remark is of all importance in judging men's pretensions to the Spirit-that the understanding be in exercise. He does not deny that they might speak with tongues without the understanding being at all in it-a thing of evident power and utility when persons were present who understood no other language, or whose natural language it was. But, in general, it was an inferior thing when the Spirit did not act upon, and therefore by means of, the understanding in him who spoke. Communion between souls in a common subject, through the unity of the Spirit, did not exist when he who spoke did not understand what he said. The individual speaking did not himself enjoy, as from God, what he communicated to others. If others did not understand it either, it was child's play to utter words without meaning to the hearers. But the apostle desired to understand himself that which he said, although he spoke in many tongues; so that it was not jealousy on his part. He spoke more foreign tongues, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, than they all. But his soul loved the things of God-loved to receive truth intelligently from Him-loved to hold intelligent intercourse with others; and he would rather say five words with his understanding, than ten thousand without it in an unknown tongue.
What a marvellous power, what a manifestation of the presence of God-a thing worthy of the deepest attention-and, at the same time, what superiority to all carnal vanity, to the lustre reflected upon the individual by means of gifts-what moral power of the Spirit of God, where love saw nothing in these manifestations of power in gift but instruments to be used for the good of the assembly and of souls! It was the practical force of that love, to the exercise of which, as being superior to gifts, he exhorted the faithful. It was the love and the wisdom of God directing the exercise of His power for the good of those whom He loved. What a position for a man! What simplicity is imparted by the grace of God to one who forgets self in humility and love, and what power in that humility! The apostle confirms his argument by the effect that would be produced on strangers who might come into the assembly, or on unenlightened Christians, if they heard languages spoken which no one understood: they would think them mad. Prophecy, reaching their conscience, would make them feel that God was there-was present in the assembly of God.
Gifts were abundant in Corinth. Having regulated that which concerned moral questions, the apostle in the second place regulates the exercise of those gifts. Every one came with some manifestation of the power of the Holy Ghost, of which they evidently thought more than of conformity to Christ. Nevertheless the apostle acknowledges in it the power of the Spirit of God, and gives rules for its exercise. Two or three might speak with tongues, provided there was an interpreter, so that the assembly might be edified. And this was to be done one at a time, for it appears they even spoke several at once. In the same way as to the prophets: two or three might speak, the others would judge if it really came from God. For, if it were given to them of God, all might prophesy; but only one at a time, that all might learn-a dependence always good for the most gifted prophets-and that all might be comforted. The spirits of the prophets (that is to say, the impulse of the power in the exercise of gifts) were subject to the guidance of the moral intelligence which the Spirit bestowed on the prophets. They were, on God's part, masters of themselves in the use of these gifts, in the exercise of this marvellous power which wrought in them. It was not a divine fury, as the pagans said of their diabolical inspiration, which carried them away; for God could not be the author of confusion in the assembly, but of peace. In a word we see that this power was committed to man in his moral responsibility; an important principle, which is invariable in the ways of God. God saved man by grace, when he had failed in his responsibility; but all that He has committed to man, whatever may be the divine energy of the gift, man holds as responsible to use it for the glory of God, and consequently for the good of others and especially for the assembly.
Women were to be silent in the assembly: it was not permitted to them to speak. They were to remain in obedience and not to direct others. The law moreover held the same language. It would be a shame to hear them speak in public. If they had had questions to ask, they might inquire of their husbands at home.
With all their gifts, the word did not come out from the Corinthians, nor had it come unto them only; they ought to submit to the universal order of the Spirit in the assembly. If they pretended to be led by the Spirit, let them acknowledge (and this would prove it,) that the things which the apostle wrote to them were the commandments of the Lord: a very important assertion; a responsible and serious position of this wonderful servant of God.
What a mixture of tenderness, of patience, and of authority! The apostle desires that the faithful should come to the truth and to order, conducted by their own affections; not fearing, if necessary for their good, to avail himself of an authority without appeal, as speaking directly from God-an authority which God would justify if the apostle was forced unwillingly to use it. If any were ignorant that he wrote by the Spirit with the authority of God, it was ignorance indeed; let such be given up to their ignorance. Spiritual and simple men would be delivered from such pretensions. Those who were really filled with the Spirit would acknowledge that what the apostle wrote came immediately from God, and was the expression of His wisdom, of that which became Him: for often there may be the recognition of divine or even human wisdom when it is found, where there was not the ability to find it, nor, if it were perceived in part, the power to set it forth with authority. Meanwhile the man of pretension, reduced to this place, would find the place profitable, and that which he needed.
We shall also observe here the importance of this assertion of the apostle's with regard to the inspiration of the epistles. That which he taught for the details even of the order of the assembly, was so really given of God, came so entirely from God, that they were the commandments of the Lord. For doctrine we have, at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, the same declaration that it was by means of prophetic writings that the gospel was disseminated among the nations.
The apostle resumes his instructions by saying, that they should desire to prophesy, not forbid to speak with tongues, and that all should be done with order and propriety.
── John Darby《Synopsis of 1 Corinthians》
1 Corinthians 14
Prophecy preferred to the gift of tongues. (1-5) The unprofitableness of speaking in unknown languages. (6-14) Exhortations to worship that can be understood. (15-25) Disorders from vain display of gifts; (26-33) and from women speaking in the church. (34-40)
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:1-5
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-5)
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.
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:6-14
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:6-14)
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.
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:15-25
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:15-25)
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.
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:26-33
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-33)
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.
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34-40
(Read 1 Corinthians 14:34-40)
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.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on 1 Corinthians》
1 Corinthians 14
 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
Follow after love — With zeal, vigour, courage, patience; else you can neither attain nor keep it.
And — In their place, as subservient to this.
Desire spiritual gifts; but especially that ye may prophesy — The word here does not mean foretelling things to come; but rather opening and applying the scripture.
 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaks, in effect, not to men, but to God - Who alone understands him.
 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
Edifieth himself — Only, on the most favourable supposition.
The church — The whole congregation.
 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
Greater — That is, more useful. By this alone are we to estimate all our gifts and talents.
 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
Revelation — Of some gospel mystery.
Knowledge — Explaining the ancient types and prophecies.
Prophecy — Foretelling some future event.
Doctrine — To regulate your tempers and lives. Perhaps this may be the sense of these obscure words.
 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
How shall it be known what is piped or harped — What music can be made, or what end answered?
 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
Who will prepare himself for the battle — Unless he understand what the trumpet sounds? suppose a retreat or a march.
 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
Unless ye utter by the tongue — Which is miraculously given you.
Words easy to be understood — By your hearers.
Ye will speak to the air — A proverbial expression. Will utterly lose your labour.
 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
I shall be a barbarian to him — Shall seem to talk unintelligible gibberish.
 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
That he may be able to interpret - Which was a distinct gift.
 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
If I pray in an unknown tongue — The apostle, as he did at 1 Corinthians 14:6, transfers it to himself.
My spirit prayeth — By the power of the Spirit I understand the words myself.
But my understanding is unfruitful — The knowledge I have is no benefit to others.
 What 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.
I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the understanding also — I will use my own understanding, as well as the power of the Spirit. I will not act so absurdly, as to utter in a congregation what can edify none but myself.
 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
Otherwise how shall he that filleth the place of a private person — That is, any private hearer.
Say Amen — Assenting and confirming your words, as it was even then usual for the whole congregation to do.
 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
With my understanding — In a rational manner; so as not only to understand myself, but to be understood by others.
 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Be not children in understanding — This is an admirable stroke of true oratory! to bring down the height of their spirits, by representing that wherein they prided themselves most, as mere folly and childishness.
In wickedness be ye infants — Have all the innocence of that tender age.
But in understanding be ye grown men — Knowing religion was not designed to destroy any of our natural faculties, but to exalt and improve them, our reason in particular.
 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
It is written in the Law — The word here, as frequently, means the Old Testament.
In foreign tongues will I speak to this people — And so he did. He spake terribly to them by the Babylonians, when they had set at nought what he had spoken by the prophets, who used their own language. These words received a farther accomplishment on the day of pentecost. Isaiah 28:11.
 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
Tongues are intended for a sign to unbelievers - To engage their attention, and convince them the message is of God. Whereas prophecy is not so much for unbelievers, as for the confirmation of them that already believe.
 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
Yet — Sometimes prophecy is of more use, even to unbelievers, than speaking with tongues. For instance: If the whole church be met together - On some extraordinary occasion. It is probable, in so large a city, they ordinarily met in several places.
And there come in ignorant persons — Men of learning might have understood the tongues in which they spoke. It is observable, St. Paul says here, ignorant persons or unbelievers; but in the next verse, an unbeliever or an ignorant person. Several bad men met together hinder each other by evil discourse. Single persons are more easily gained.
 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
He is convicted by all — who speak in their turns, and speak to the heart of the hearers.
He is judged by all — Every one says something to which his conscience bears witness.
 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
The secrets of his heart are made manifest — Laid open, clearly described; in a manner which to him is most astonishing and utterly unaccountable. How many instances of it are seen at this day! So does God still point his word.
 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
What a thing is it, brethren — This was another disorder among them.
Every one hath a psalm — That is, at the same time one begins to sing a psalm; another to deliver a doctrine; another to speak in an unknown tongue; another to declare what has been revealed to him; another to interpret what the former is speaking; every one probably gathering a little company about him, just as they did in the schools of the philosophers.
Let all be done to edification — So as to profit the hearers.
 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
By two or three at most — Let not above two or three speak at one meeting.
And that by course — That is, one after another.
And let one interpret — Either himself, 1 Corinthians 14:13; or, if he have not the gift, some other, into the vulgar tongue. It seems, the gift of tongues was an instantaneous knowledge of a tongue till then unknown, which he that received it could afterwards speak when he thought fit, without any new miracle.
 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
Let him speak — That tongue, if he find it profitable to himself in his private devotions.
 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
Let two or three of the prophets — Not more, at one meeting.
Speak — One after another, expounding the scripture.
 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
All — Who have that gift.
That all may learn — Both by speaking and by hearing.
 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
For the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets — But what enthusiast considers this? The impulses of the Holy Spirit, even in men really inspired, so suit themselves to their rational faculties, as not to divest them of the government of themselves, like the heathen priests under their diabolical possession. Evil spirits threw their prophets into such ungovernable ecstasies, as forced them to speak and act like madmen. But the Spirit of God left his prophets the clear use of their judgment, when, and how long, it was fit for them to speak, and never hurried them into any improprieties either as to the matter, manner, or time of their speaking.
 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
Let your women be silent in the churches — Unless they are under an extraordinary impulse of the Spirit. For, in other cases, it is not permitted them to speak - By way of teaching in public assemblies.
But to be in subjection — To the man whose proper office it is to lead and to instruct the congregation. Genesis 3:16.
 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
And even if they desire to learn anything - Still they are not to speak in public, but to ask their own husbands at home - That is the place, and those the persons to inquire of.
 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
Are ye of Corinth either the first or the only Christians? If not, conform herein to the custom of all the churches.
 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
Or spiritual — Endowed with any extraordinary gift of the Spirit.
Let him — Prove it, by acknowledging that I now write by the Spirit.
 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
Let him be ignorant — Be it at his own peril.
 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
Therefore — To sum up the whole.
 Let all things be done decently and in order.
Decently — By every individual.
In order — By the whole church.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on 1 Corinthians》
Chapter 14. The Exercise of Gifts
Not of Disorder
But of Peace
I. Desire the Gift of Prophecy
II. Exercise gifts in Meetings
III. Woman in Meeting
── Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》
Chapter Fourteen General Review
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER
1) To understand the proper use of tongues, especially their use in the
2) To understand the principles which are to govern the assembly of the
In this chapter Paul concludes his discussion of spiritual gifts. In
comparing the gift of prophesying with that of speaking in tongues, he
points out that prophesying excels when it comes to the edification of
the church (1-5). In fact, unless the speaking of tongues provides a
new revelation or teaching, and is properly interpreted, it does little
good (6-19). Designed to convince unbelievers, improper use of
speaking in tongues in the assembly can even bring reproach on the
church (20-25). Therefore Paul regulates the proper use of spiritual
gifts in the assembly with a series of instructions, including
commandments from the Lord about the place of women (26-40).
I. SPIRITUAL GIFTS: PROPHESYING AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES (1-25)
A. PROPHESYING VERSUS SPEAKING IN TONGUES (1-5)
1. A call to love, but also spiritual gifts, especially the gift
of prophecy (1)
2. Speaking in tongues (as done at
) is speaking to God Corinth
and is speaking mysteries (2)
3. Whereas prophesying edifies, exhorts, and comforts others (3)
4. Speaking in tongues (as done at
) was not edifying the Corinth
church, thus the desire that they had the gift of prophecy
more than the gift of tongues (4-5)
B. USING TONGUES IN A PROFITABLE WAY (6-19)
1. Without a revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching,
speaking in tongues profit nothing (6)
2. Like playing an instrument without giving any distinction in
the sounds (7-9)
3. Without interpretation, it is no better than a foreigner
speaking to you (10-11)
4. Therefore the admonitions:
a. To excel in the area of edifying the church (12)
b. For those who speak in tongues to pray that they may be
able to interpret (13)
c. To be able to pray and sing with both the spirit and the
understanding, that all might be edified (14-19)
C. ANOTHER COMPARISON BETWEEN TONGUES AND PROPHESYING (20-25)
1. Tongues are a sign for unbelievers, while prophesying is for
2. Tongues in the assembly (without interpreters) will give
people the wrong impression (23)
3. But prophesying in the assembly can bless even the unbeliever
and uninformed person (24-25)
II. SPIRITUAL GIFTS: REGULATING THEIR USE (26-40)
A. LET ALL THINGS BE DONE FOR EDIFICATION (26)
B. REGULATING THE USE OF TONGUES (27-28)
1. Two or three may speak, in turn, and let one interpret (27)
2. If there is no interpreter, keep silent in church (28)
C. REGULATING THE USE OF PROPHESYING (29-33)
1. Two or three prophets may speak, and others may discern (29)
2. To be done in turn, that all may learn, for the spirits of the
prophets are subject to the prophets (30-32)
3. God is not the author of confusion but of peace, in all the
D. REGULATING THE PLACE OF WOMEN IN THE ASSEMBLY (34-38)
1. They are to keep silent in the assemblies (34)
2. Let them ask husbands at home if they have questions (
3. For it is shameful for women to speak in church (35b)
4. These are commandments of the Lord which must be recognized as
E. FINAL COMMENTS (39-40)
1. Desire to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues
2. Let all things be done decently and in order (40)
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER
1) List the main points of this chapter
- Spiritual Gifts: Prophesying And Speaking In Tongues (1-25)
- Spiritual Gifts: Regulating Their Use (26-40)
2) As being practiced at
, what did speaking in tongues Corinth
- Edifying only the speaker
3) What is the value of prophesying? (3)
- Provides edification, exhortation and comfort
4) What is necessary for speaking in tongues to be of value in the
- It must provide a revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching
5) What is the purpose of speaking in tongues? (22)
- To serve as a sign to unbelievers
6) What restrictions does Paul place on speaking in tongues in the
- Must be two, no more than three
- Must have an interpreter, or remain silent
7) What restrictions does Paul place on women in the assemblies?
- To be silent
8) What two basic principles are to govern the assembly of the church?
- Let all things done for edification
- Let all things done decently and in order
The Exercise of Gifts
Not of Disorder
But of Peace
I. Desire the Gift of Prophecy
1. The Function of Prophecy
2. The Gift of Speaking in Tongues
3. Edify the Church
II.Exercise Gifts in Meetings
1. Open to the Lord
a Fitting and
3. Think Carefully and Clearly
III. Woman in Meeting
1. Better to Remain Silent
2. Think Herself as Spiritually Gifted
3. Be in Submission
－－ Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》