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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 14

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Tongues & Prophecy First Corinthians Fourteen

This is the concluding chapter in the discussion of spiritual gifts. In 1Co_12:1-31 Paul identified the spiritual gifts. The gifts included (1) The word of wisdom, (2) The word of knowledge, (3) Faith, (4) The gifts of healing, (5) The working of miracles, (6) Prophecy, (7) Discerning of spirits, (8) Diverse kinds of tongues, and (9) The interpretation of tongues. Each gift was important because each gift was given by the same Spirit. Those that received these gifts were to be united in one body.

In 1Co_13:1-13 Paul showed that all spiritual gifts must be exercised in love. Without love we are nothing. Love is defined in these words, "Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love is not selfish or quick tempered. It does not keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!" Love continued after the spiritual gifts ceased.

First Corinthians fourteen is the sad account of contentions that had been caused in the church at Corinth by attitudes dealing with spiritual gifts, especially the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. This chapter shows how the miraculous spiritual gifts were to be regulated and how important the edification of the church is in all matters. Whatever is done in the church is to be done humbly and in love.

Verses 1-5

The gifts of tongues and prophecy -- 1Co_14:1-5 : These spiritual gifts were temporary and were only possessed in the first few years of the existence of the church. In this chapter Paul dealt with the many abuses of spiritual gifts that existed at Corinth. The theme of the chapter centers in proper conduct in worship by correct use of spiritual gifts. Paul wanted them to be guided by love and to understand the value of the gift of prophecy. Speaking with tongues showed miraculous power, but it did not help the brethren as much as prophecy. Prophecy provided edification, exhortation, and comfort. It helped the entire church.

Paul was happy for anyone to speak in tongues. He did not begrudge them. However, prophesying did more good than speaking in unknown languages, unless someone could help the church by explaining what was said in the tongue. Paul was very practical in dealing with the gifts. He felt that the brethren should desire the gift that would provide the most help for the church and that would be the gift of prophecy.

Verses 6-19

Tongues must be properly interpreted -- 1Co_14:6-19 : What good would it do speak in a language that the church could not understand? It would do no good for Paul to speak without giving them some knowledge, prophecy or teaching. Even lifeless instruments must give a certain sound or their sounds would be useless. In olden days when the trumpet was blown in a certain way it meant prepare for battle. An uncertain sound would mean nothing and the soldier would simply remain in his tent.

The tongues should be used only in a way that would benefit the hearers. They must somehow be able to understand what is being said, otherwise there is no profit in the speech. Speaking in a language that cannot be understood makes you appear to be a foreigner to those that hear you. At Corinth the members were seeking gifts that would make them look better. Paul said they should seek gifts that would best help the church. If a man prays or preaches with an unknown tongue, the hearer that does not understand that tongue will not gain anything from the prayer or preaching.

In the early church there were inspired songs and there were inspired prayers. "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." ( 1Co_14:15 ) Sing so that everyone can hear and understand the words because we are taught thereby. When we pray others should be able to say "amen." A prayer in a foreign language may be beautiful, but there is no way it can edify the person that does not speak that language. Paul preferred a few understandable works over thousands of eloquent words that could not be understood.

Verses 20-25

Tongues might bring reproach - 1Co_14:20-25 : Paul said the brethren at Corinth were acting like children when it came to the matter of spiritual gifts. They had shown malice toward each other over these gifts. Unbelief led Israel into a land of captivity where people spoke in languages they could not understand. ( Isa_28:11-12 ) Tongues were a sign to those that believe not. Prophecy was for those that did believe. Remember, prophesying edified the church.

When a person hears a message that touches his heart he will kneel down and say to God, "We are certain that you are with these people." They would never be able to do this if all they heard was people speaking in a foreign language. However, prophesying that instructed the mind would bring about such a reaction.

Verses 26-40

The proper use of spiritual gifts -- 1Co_14:26-40 : Paul wanted it understood that when the church met for worship that everything that was done must be done for the good of all that were present. One would sing, another teaches and another speaks in a language, another interprets and all do so for the edification of the church. When tongues were spoken it was to be done orderly with one speaking a few words and another interpreting. If no one was present with the gift to interpret then tongues were not to be spoken. Even the prophets were to speak orderly; only two or three speaking at the same gathering. "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." There would be no excuse for the assembly being disorderly. "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." The assembly must be a place of edification and not of confusion.

In Paul's attempt to restore order in the church he told the wives of those men with the spiritual gifts to remain silent in the church. They were not to speak; they were to be in subjection. Their wives were to be in silent subjection while their husbands exercised their gifts. If there was something they wanted to know they could ask their husbands at home instead of causing confusion in the church.

The Corinthians should never have been puffed up. The word of God did not originate with them or go forth from them. Paul wanted it understood that the truly spiritual person would know that what he was writing was from God. They were to pay no attention to those that ignored his writings. He taught the brethren to "desire earnestly" to prophesy, but not to forbid the other spiritual gifts. The conclusion of the entire matter was that confusion must not exist in the church.

Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/box/1-corinthians-14.html. 2014.
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