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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 14

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


It is love then. Love is the “best of all,” even greater than faith and hope! The Greek paints a picture of “hunters in the chase.” “Strive for love with every means in your power!!!” Yet love does not replace the spiritual gifts. Set your hearts. Striving for love does not mean forgetting everything else. But love opens the true way to everything else! As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:31 : “Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts.” The gift of speaking God’s message. Because we use “prophecy” to mean “predicting the future,” it is not the best word of translation. To prophesy is to speak God’s message by inspiration.

Verse 2


In strange tongues. Because the gift of languages gave the most chance to show off, the Corinthians rated it the highest. Because they considered this gift the most honored, those who had it would show off in the public meetings by speaking long and loud in foreign languages (strange tongues). Others who were much better qualified to instruct the group were forced to remain silent. Sometimes many would speak in strange tongues at the same time, trying to shout down the others, creating confusion. Does not speak to men. No one could understand what they were saying. He is speaking secret truths. It was by the Holy Spirit’s power that he spoke. Therefore, what he said was inspired, even though it did not benefit those who heard it.

Verse 3


Who speaks God’s message. When Peter preached on Pentecost (Acts 2:0), he spoke God’s message. This was done in understandable language. Those who heard, were taught by it. Help. To make their faith stronger. Encouragement. To stir them up to spiritual activity. Comfort. To help them endure the problems of life.

Verse 4


Helps only himself. Speaking in strange tongues made this person feel close to God and gave him a sense of power (compare 2 Corinthians 12:1-10). Helps the whole church. By speaking God’s message in a form which they can understand. This also included inspired prayer (1 Corinthians 14:14) and inspired singing (1 Corinthians 14:15; 1 Corinthians 14:26).

Verse 5


To speak in strange tongues. The tongues were a real and desirable gift. Paul could wish that each one had this gift. But I would rather. Better is superior to good. The gift of speaking God’s message (prophecy) serves the church better. Is of greater value. Because it communicates instruction. Unless. If someone there can translate it into understandable form, it then becomes useful. Note. There is much confusion about tongues (languages). Some think they were “ecstatic speech” in no language at all. Others think they were gifts of the knowledge of languages. (1) We see these at work on Pentecost (Acts 2:5-13). (2) The one who spoke in tongues did not understand what he was saying (1 Corinthians 14:13-14). So it could not be just a gift of knowledge. (3) They were intended as proof for unbelievers, but only for those unbelievers who spoke the tongue (1 Corinthians 14:23).

Verse 6


So when I come to you. The gift of strange tongues, has no value when used in the public meetings, unless: (1) it brings a revelation from God; (2) it brings some knowledge; (3) it brings some inspired message; (4) it brings some teaching. But this could not be done unless they were made to understand what was being said.

Verse 7


Even such lifeless. Such things as the flute or harp must sound the notes distinctly to communicate the tune being played. What Paul says here may be directed mostly toward “ecstatic speech” which is gibberish.

Verse 8


The bugle. Armies in all ages have been directed by the sound of a bugle. But the loudest blast means nothing, if it does not communicate something which the hearers can understand!

Verse 9


In the same way. The most important message from God will mean nothing if it is spoken in a strange tongue which no one can understand, not even the one who speaks it. This also applies to “old fashioned church language” when it is spoken to those who cannot understand it.

Verse 10


Many different languages. The Bible has been translated into more than 1,500 different languages!!! Yet none of them is without meaning. Each of them is used for the purpose of COMMUNICATING with others!

Verse 11


But if I do not know the language. Anyone who has tried to communicate across the language barrier will understand what Paul is saying.

Verse 12


Since you are eager. It was proper for them to be eager for the gifts from the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:1). Which help build up the church. This is the key to the use of spiritual gifts. The Corinthians were more interested in showing off, and so were misusing the gifts from the Holy Spirit. See note on 1 Corinthians 12:1.

Verse 13


For the gift to explain. This implies more than one gift was possible. Lipscomb says: “Let him pray that he may have the gift of interpreting what he says in the tongue, else he will not profit those who hear.” MacKnight ties it in with 1 Corinthians 14:14. “For which cause, let him who by inspiration prayeth in the church in a foreign language, pray in such a manner, and at such a time, as some one who is inspired may interpret his prayer to the edification of the church.”

Verse 14


For if I pray in this way. Paul shows that for worship to be helpful, and for a sane and sound church life, the mind must work together with the energies of the (human) spirit. In a sense, these next few verses counterbalance what he said in 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:5. Paul is completely opposed to a blind fanaticism or irrational mysticism. It is tragic that some think of faith as: “something you believe, even though you know it isn’t so.” Paul is saying: “If the Holy Spirit working on my spirit makes it possible for me to pray in a strange tongue, my spirit does pray, but my mind has no part in it (because it does not understand what is being said).”

Verse 15


What should I do, then? Both his spirit and his mind will join together by using a known language. Lipscomb says: “The thought evidently is: ‘I will sing as the Spirit directs or inspires, and I will sing in a language that those who hear can understand.’ This expression is often quoted in connection with song service in a sense in which it was not used.”

Verse 16


How can an ordinary man? This shows: (1) it was standard practice for the people in a public meeting of the church to say “Amen!”; (2) there were ordinary members who did not have the gifts from the Spirit.

Verse 17


The other man is not helped at all. By Paul’s “rule of thumb,” the beautiful abstract must take second place to the practical.

Verse 18


I speak in strange tongues. Even at Corinth where this gift of tongues was widespread, Paul could still outdo them! What he said about tongues was not out of jealousy!

Verse 19


But in church worship. [The church is the people. Church worship is the public meeting.] Five words. This is Paul’s scale of values. Five words that teach others are more valuable than thousands of words in strange tongues!!!

Verse 20


Do not be like children. The “competitive spirit” and the desire to “show off” are childlike. So far as evil is concerned. Little children are “innocent” in many ways. Compare Matthew 18:1-5. But be mature. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 8:9-11.

Verse 21


In the Scriptures. Paul paraphrases Isaiah 28:11-12 to make a strong statement about the inferiority of strange tongues (glossolalia). Compare 1 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 3:19. The context of this quotation is “drunken Israelites mocking God’s message as spoken by the prophet, as though it were only suitable for little children. In anger, God says he will give his lessons to them through the lips of foreign conquerors.” The strange tongues in this quotation would be punishment. The strange tongues may serve a similar sad purpose in the church. In other words, strange tongues were not to be understood as evidence of God’s special favor.

Verse 22


Is proof for unbelievers. This is the real point of the quotation in 1 Corinthians 14:21. Those who will not be taught by God through understandable language, will become fixed in their unbelief and even justified, by the speaking in strange tongues. [Lipscomb, et. al., takes this to be a proof to unbelievers in the sense of Acts 2:5-13. But Paul wants to restrain, rather than stimulate, the use of strange tongues at Corinth.]

Verse 23


Won’t they say that you are all crazy? “If strange tongues are the supreme gift from the Spirit, then to have the whole church speaking in these at the same time ought to be the very peak of spiritual power. But in fact, the church then would be like a group of crazy people!”

Verse 24


But if all speak God’s message. This gift: (1) helps the church (1 Corinthians 14:3-5); (2) uses the mind (1 Corinthians 14:14-19); (3) can be safely done by the entire church; (4) will convince sinners. That “all” should speak God’s message is a part of the Messianic ideal (compare Revelation 1:6).

Verse 25


And worship God. When he hears God’s Truth, and measures his life by it, his secret thought will be brought out into the open (to himself). As he sees “Christ on the cross,” he will bow down and worship God!

Verse 26


What do I mean? Paul looks at the use of gifts from the Spirit, as this relates to the church meetings. When you meet for worship. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:18-20. Each one tried to get ahead of the other. One man has a hymn. This implies they were all trying to speak at once! Must be of help. This is the key! Help, not compete!

Verse 27


Two or three at the most. This can mean: (1) not more than two or three who are given God’s message by the Spirit, should speak at any one meeting (1 Corinthians 14:29). Most take this view. (2) Those who speak in strange tongues should speak two or three sentences at the most, and then someone else explain what they said. MacKnight takes this view. (3) That two or three sing together as a choir. T. C. Edwards takes this view.

Verse 28


But if no one is there who can explain. In such a case, those who speak in strange tongues are to keep quiet. This, of course, applies to their speaking in tongues, not to the other parts of the worship.

Verse 29


While the others judge. Those who had the ability to “tell the difference” (1 Corinthians 12:10 note) would be best able to do this, but others could include every prophet there except the ones speaking. F. I. Stanley brings up two important things: (1) “Paul does not discriminate between the prophets. He knew that there were both men and women prophets in the church, and that God had said, Sons and daughters shall prophesy.’” [See note on Acts 2:17.] (2) “Those prophets were to the church then as our Bible is to us today. A false prophet with a false message then could have done much harm to the church. Therefore, when prophecy was given in the church, it was screened by other prophets.”

Verse 30


But if someone. The question is: Who is to decide this??? The answer must be: The other prophets who judge (1 Corinthians 14:29). They are to preserve order in the meeting.

Verse 31


All of you. Those who speak God’s message (1 Corinthians 14:29). One by one. Only one speaking at a time. [All the prophets would have their turn, but only two or three at any one meeting. The “best speakers” would not be allowed to suppress the others.]

Verse 32


Under the speaker’s control. 1 Corinthians 14:31 tells WHY the speakers must submit to regulation. “So that all will learn and be encouraged.” This verse tells HOW that is possible. One proof of the Holy Spirit’s gift, is the ability to control it. The unruly prophet is not genuine. This means, then, that the speakers can be directed by those who judge.

Verse 33


Because God. Disorder is contrary to God. Rather than being unruly, one who speaks God’s message must be peaceful.

Verse 34


The women should keep quiet. Which women??? Paul is dealing with the gift of speaking God’s message. Then the women of this verse must be prophetesses. F. I. Stanley says: “He is speaking of what prophets are doing, and not of marriage! He has no thought about men and their wives, but about men and women who are to prophesy (Joel 2:28-30; Acts 2:17).” SIGATOO = quiet. This same word appears in 1 Corinthians 14:28, and is translated should stop in 1 Corinthians 14:30. It means not so much as a sigh or a grunt. We can see in 1 Corinthians 14:28 this silence applied to the use of a spiritual gift. Here, then, it must also be a specific silence on a specific thing. If it were not, women would not be allowed to sing a note or to speak a word of any kind in a church meeting! The next verse tells us what this specific silence is about.

Verse 35


If they want to find out about something. “We see two or three who speak God’s message, and others who judge what is said (1 Corinthians 14:29). We see one of the “judges” rebuke one who “speaks,” but we do not know why. It would waste valuable time for the judges to stop and explain, Those who have the gift “to tell the difference” (1 Corinthians 12:10 note) have the authority to do this, and we are not to worry about it.” (1) The women who belong to this context have the gift of prophecy (to speak God’s message by inspiration). (2) They do not have the authority to judge those who speak. (3) If they want to find out something about what the “judges” have done, they can ask at home. Women are to learn and be encouraged in the church meeting (1 Corinthians 14:31), which proves that this verse speaks of something specific. It is a disgraceful thing. Notice Paul’s choice of words. What he is saying, then, is: “It is disgraceful for a prophetess to judge a speaking prophet in the church meeting, or to interrupt the church meeting by asking questions.” F. I. Stanley writes: “It now becomes apparent that this scripture does not contradict such verses as 1 Corinthians 14:3-4; 1 Corinthians 11:4-5; Acts 21:9; Philippians 4:2-3; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:14-16, and a host of other scriptures, but rather complements them, and gives a woman her place in the church, by the side of man, and in subordination to him.”[This whole subject is carefully examined in C. R. Nichol’s book, God’s Woman.]

Verse 36


Or could it be? The Corinthians acted without thinking of anyone but themselves, as though they were the only church in the world, and that they ought to set the example for everyone else. MacKnight thinks it means: “What? Went the word of God forth into the world from you women? Did Christ employ any of your sex as apostles? Or did the word only come to you by the ministry of men? How then can you pretend to teach men?” But we must also consider Miriam, the first prophetess (Exodus 15:20), Deborah, a prophetess who judged Israel (Judges 4:4), Huldah, the prophetess, who taught men (2 Chronicles 34:22-23), Phillip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), et. al.

Verse 37


He must realize. Paul was an inspired apostle. Whoever claims to have the gifts from the Spirit, and does not pay attention to the New Testament commands, proves himself to be a phony!

Verse 38


But if he does not pay attention. The one who proves himself a phony is to be ignored! Notice what Christ said in Matthew 7:22-23.

Verse 39


So then, my brothers. “Speaking God’s message is still the most important of the gifts, but strange tongues have their place also.”

Verse 40


In a proper and orderly way. “These who have spiritual gifts must not fight and quarrel and try to outdo each other; and the women prophets must not judge the speakers or interrupt the worship with questions.”

The Resurrection. The Greeks viewed the body as the “prison of the soul,” and expected their happiness to come by being freed from the body forever by death. The false teacher, to please the Greeks, denied the raising from death of the body; taught that the only resurrection Christ promised was a spiritual resurrection from the death of sin; and taught that this resurrection was already past (2 Timothy 2:18). It does make a difference whether we think the body is a “prison of the soul,” or a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Paul taught that man himself is a trinity (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and showed the raising from death of the body is one of the great Christian doctrines (Acts 17:18; Acts 17:31-32). In this chapter he examines the raising of Christ from death, and how this relates to the raising of the dead.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/1-corinthians-14.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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