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It is plain from the present chapter that the Corinthians measured the worth of the several spiritual gifts not so much from their power to edify the church, as from their adaptedness to strike the beholders with wonder. For this reason they were ready to put the gift of speaking in tongues above that of prophecy. This erroneous judgment the apostle now proceeds to correct.
Speaketh not unto men ; conveys to them no instruction or edification.
But unto God ; who understands his spirit, and with whom he thus has communion.
Speaketh mysteries ; the mysteries of the gospel; its deep truths which have heretofore been hidden, or but dimly revealed.
Endowments are valuable in proportion as they are useful, and it should be the object of all, in the exercise of their talents, to do good.
Greater is he that prophesieth ; because his office is more useful to the church, verse 1 Corinthians 14:3 .
Except he interpret ; from this and verse 1Co 14:13 it is manifest that the two gifts of speaking with tongues and of interpreting them chap 1 Corinthians 12:10 , might or might not be possessed by the same person. When a man had the gift of speaking with tongues without the power to interpret them, some think that he was unable to understand his own utterances. But the meaning seems rather to be, that though he spoke intelligibly to himself, he had not the gift of interpreting intelligibly to others. See further on verse 1 Corinthians 14:14 .
By revelation ; so as to make to you a revelation.
By knowledge ; so as to communicate to you knowledge.
By doctrine ; teachings in the ordinary way, as distinguished from the utterances of prophecy. Unless he declared to them truths which they could understand and apply to practice, he would do them no good.
A distinction ; the meaning of which shall be understood by the hearers.
An uncertain sound ; the meaning of which is not understood.
Easy to be understood ; better, as the margin, significant, that is, to the hearers.
Speak into the air ; your words shall be thrown away. All the services in public worship should be in language understood by the worshippers.
None of them is without signification ; they all have meaning, and were designed to be understood; each language should therefore be used with those only who understand it.
A barbarian unto me ; a foreigner, whose language is not understood.
Are zealous ; earnestly desire.
Excel to the edifying of the church ; abound in these gifts in such a way as to edify the church.
Pray that he may interpret ; either, that God will add to him the gift of interpretation; or, as the context seems rather to require, pray in such a way that he may interpret; namely, by adding interpretation to his prayer.
My spirit prayeth ; goeth forth to God in holy and fervent desires, and is thus edified, verse 1 Corinthians 14:4 .
My understanding is unfruitful ; according to one view, it bears no fruit to myself, since it is not enlightened by what I utter; according to another and preferable view, it bears no fruit to others, since it communicates nothing to them in an intelligible way.
With the understanding ; with the right use of it, in words which the hearers understand. The object of a wise and good minister is not to display himself, but to impart instruction, and thus be useful to those who hear him. Of course, he will not conduct any part of the public service in a language which his hearers do not understand.
Bless with the spirit ; praise God in language which others do not understand.
Not children ; not carried away with sound and show, but men who look not to show, but to the edification of their brethren. To be carried away or greatly influenced by sound, external display, or any thing pertaining to manner merely, without enlightening the mind or purifying the heart, is childish, unworthy the character of men, especially of professed Christians.
It is written ; Isaiah 28:11-12 .
Other tongues ; foreign languages. In this passage Jehovah threatens the men who treated with scorn the messages of their own prophets, who spoke to them in their own language, that he will speak to them by the lips of foreigners; namely, by giving them up to their dominion. The point on which the apostle insists is, that here foreign tongues are made a sign to unbelievers.
All speak with tongues ; in foreign languages only.
Ye are mad ; appear deranged to him who does not understand you.
All prophesy ; in language intelligible to those who hear.
He is convinced ; convicted of sin, and condemns his former course of life.
Falling down on his face ; as penitents were wont to do in confessing their sins and imploring mercy.
In you ; among you, in your assembly. The truths of the gospel plainly and kindly declared, are often so attended by the influences of the Holy Ghost, that persons who come to a place of public worship out of curiosity, or to ridicule the preacher and scoff at religion, are convicted of sin, led to condemn themselves, and join with those whom they came to oppose in sincerely worshipping God.
Come together ; in public assemblies for instruction and worship.
Every one ; one had a psalm to sing; another a doctrine or truth to inculcate; another a discourse to deliver; another an interpretation to give; and all were eager to speak, not considering that the object of each should be to do good, and the exercises should be so conducted as to be suited to this end.
By two , or-three ; let not more than two or three speak at the same meeting, and these not together, but in succession; and let some one as they proceed give the meaning, that all the hearers may understand it.
Let him ; who can speak only in an unknown tongue.
Speak to himself ; in silent meditation and prayer, but not utter in public what his hearers will not understand. Unless a minister speak in a language which his hearers understand, or some one interpret to them his meaning, it is the will of God that he should not speak at all. Suppose he speaks in Latin, and says, "This is not an unknown tongue, but is perhaps the best known in the world"; if his hearers do not understand it, he sacrifices their good and violates the revealed will of God.
The other ; in the original, the others: those who hear, let them judge whether what they hear is according to the word of God.
Be revealed ; by the Holy Ghost to one who is not speaking, as a thing which he ought to declare.
Hold his peace ; so that all shall have an opportunity to speak in succession.
Ye may all prophesy ; each may speak in his turn, and thus all be benefited.
Are subject ; they were able to control themselves in this matter. Though they were inspired, there was no need of more than one speaking at a time. The Holy Spirit by his influences does not lessen a man’s control over himself, but increases it, and leads him to do, not things which are unsuitable, but those which in themselves are right, and in their tendency useful.
God is not the author of confusion ; the Holy Spirit, by his inspiration, does not lead to it, nor does he approve it. All under his influence can and ought to avoid it.
Of peace ; order, harmony, and love, as is manifest in all well-regulated churches.
In the churches ; in the public religious assemblies.
If they will learn any thing ; beyond what they can by hearing.
It is a shame ; because it is stepping out of their proper place, assuming what does not belong to them, and acting in this respect as if they were men. It is doing what God forbids.
What! came the word-unto you only? were you the first to receive or spread the gospel, that you, in the above-mentioned things, act so differently from other churches, as if you were wiser than they? By no means. Other churches have been much longer established, have had greater experience, and are more worthy of imitation.
Prophet , or spiritual ; under the special guidance of the Holy Ghost, and qualified to judge in such matters.
Let him acknowledge ; if he does not, it will show that he does not think right. Spiritually minded persons, who are influenced by the Holy Ghost, and rightly understand truth and duty, will acknowledge that the directions given by Paul about ministers’ speaking in a language known to their hearers, about women’s keeping silence in the church, and about the avoidance of all tumult and confusion in public worship, are commandments of God which all should obey.
Be ignorant ; of the fact that the directions which Paul gave were the commandments of God.
Let him be ignorant ; it was not best for them to debate the matter further; but leave him to meet the consequences of his conduct.
Covet to prophesy ; as the best gift.
Forbid not to speak with tongues ; as a gift good in its proper place, and when exercised in a proper way.
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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent