I Corinthians 14:1-21
What does this mean?
By what power does a man speak an unknown tongue? (1-2)
What three things do one do who prophesied? (3)
Who does someone who speaks in tongues edify? (4) What does this mean?
Which does Paul say is greater, the person who speaks in tongues or the person who prophesies? (5)
What is needed if the church is to be edified when a person speaks in tongues? (5) Why?
2. Verses 6-19 What musical instruments that Paul used in relation to speaking with tongues? (6-9)
Which musical instrument was used for a call to battle? (8) Why mention this?
When does one merely speak into the air? (9) What does this mean?
The Corinthian were zealous for spiritual gifts. Paul advises to seek excellence for what purpose? (12)
What do you think about that?
What did Paul instruct the person who spoke in an unknown tongue to pray for? (13) Why?
What part of a man prays when using an unknown tongue? (14) What does this mean?
What two things does Paul say he will do in relation to the spirit and understanding? (15)
What is Paul saying?
What can’t a person say to a prayer or song that is not understood? (16) Why?
Who was able to speak with tongues more than the Corinthians? (18) What is Paul saying?
Paul would rather speak words with understanding than what kind of words? (19) Why?
3. Verses 20-21 Paul wrote the Corinthians “brethren be not children in” what? (20)
What do you think about that?
Which Old Testament prophecy refers to speaking in tongues? (21, Isaiah11) What does this mean?
1. What should we desire most in the church? Do we?
1 Corinthians 14:1 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.
**1 Corinthians 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue - This verse is designed to show that the faculty of speaking intelligibly, and to the edification of the church, is of more value than the power of speaking a foreign language. The reason is, that however valuable may be the endowment in itself, and however important the truth which he may utter, yet it is as if he spoke to God only. No one could understand him. Speaketh not unto men - Does not speak so that people can understand him. His address is really not made to people, that is, to the church. He might have this faculty without being able to speak to the edification of the church. It is possible that the power of speaking foreign languages and of prophesying were sometimes united in the same person; but it is evident that the apostle speaks of them as different endowments, and they probably were found usually in different individuals. But unto God - It is as if he spoke to God. No one could understand him but God. This must evidently refer to the addresses “in the church,” when Christians only were present, or when those only were present who spoke the same language, and who were unacquainted with foreign tongues. Paul says that “there” that faculty would be valueless compared with the power of speaking in a manner that should edify the church. He did not undervalue the power of speaking foreign languages when foreigners were present, or when they went to preach to foreigners; see 1Co 14:22. It was only when it was needless, when all present spoke one language, that he speaks of it as of comparatively little value.
For no man understandeth him - That is, no man in the church, since they all spoke the same language, and that language was different from what was spoken by him who was endowed with the gift of tongues. As God only could know the import of what he said, it would be lost upon the church, and would be useless. Howbeit in the Spirit - Although, by the aid of the Spirit, he should, in fact, deliver the most important and sublime truths. This would doubtless be the case, that those who were thus endowed would deliver most important truths, but they would be “lost” upon those who heard them, because they could not understand them. The phrase “in the Spirit,” evidently means “by the Holy Spirit,” that is, by his aid and influence. Though he should be “really” under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and though the important truth which he delivers should be imparted by his aid, yet all would be valueless unless it were understood by the church. He speaketh mysteries - For the meaning of the word “mystery,” see Note, 1Co 2:7. The word here seems to be synonymous with sublime and elevated truth; truth that was not before known, and that might be of the utmost importance.
***1 Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth - The person who has the gift of teaching is much more useful to the Church than he is who has only the gift of tongues, because he speaks to the profit of men: viz. to their edification, by the Scriptures he expounds; to their exhortation, by what he teaches; and to their comfort, by his revelation. - Whitby. I must here refer to my sermon on this text, intitled, “The Christian Prophet and his Work,” in which I have endeavored to consider the whole of this subject at large.
1 Corinthians 14:4 Edifieth himself - Only, on the most favourable supposition. The church - The whole congregation.
***1 Corinthians 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues - The word θελω does not so much imply a wish or desire, as a command or permission. As if he had said: I do not restrain you to prophesying or teaching though I prefer that; but I give you full permission to speak in Hebrew whenever it is proper, and when one is present who can interpret for the edification of the Church, provided yourselves have not that gift, though you understand the language. The apostle said tongue, in the singular number, 1Co 14:2, 1Co 14:4, because he spoke of a single man; now he says tongues, in the plural number, because he speaks of many speaking; but he has the same meaning in both places. - Lightfoot. Greater is he that prophesieth - A useful, zealous preacher, though unskilled in learned languages, is much greater in the sight of God, and in the eye of sound common sense, than he who has the gift of those learned tongues; except he interpret: and we seldom find great scholars good preachers. This should humble the scholar, who is too apt to be proud of his attainments, and despise his less learned but more useful brother. This judgment of St. Paul is too little regarded.
1 Corinthians 14:6 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.
1 Corinthians 14:7 How shall it be known what is piped or harped - What music can be made, or what end answered?
1 Corinthians 14:8 Who will prepare himself for the battle - Unless he understand what the trumpet sounds? suppose a retreat or a march.
1 Corinthians 14:9 Likewise ye - If ye do not speak in the Church so as to be understood, your labor is useless; ye shall speak into the air - your speech will be lost and dissipated in the air, without conveying any meaning to any person: there will be a noise or sound, but nothing else. Gifts of that kind, thus used, are good for nothing.
***1 Corinthians 14:10 There are, it may be - Ει τυχοι, For example. So many kinds of voices - So many different languages, each of which has its distinct articulation, pronunciation, emphasis, and meaning; or there may be so many different nations, each possessing a different language, etc.
1 Corinthians 14:11 I shall be a barbarian to him - Shall seem to talk unintelligible gibberish.
1 Corinthians 14:14 If I pray in an unknown tongue - The apostle, as he did at 1Co 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.
1 Corinthians 14:15 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.
1 Corinthians 14:16 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.
***1 Corinthians 14:18 I speak with tongues more than ye all - He understood more languages than any of them did: and this was indispensably necessary, as he was the apostle of the Gentiles in general, and had to preach to different provinces where different dialects, if not languages, were used. In the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Latin, he was undoubtedly well skilled from his education; and how many he might understand by miraculous gift we cannot tell. But, even literally understood, it is very probable that he knew more languages than any man in the Church of Corinth.
1 Corinthians 14:19 With my understanding - In a rational manner; so as not only to understand myself, but to be understood by others.
1 Corinthians 14:21 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. Isa 28:11.
* Gills Commentaries ** Barnes Commentaries *** Clarke's Commentaries
All others by Wesley