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Thursday, July 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 14

Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentBeet on the NT

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Verses 1-25


Pursue love. And be emulous for the spiritual gifts; but especially that you may prophesy. For he that speaks with a tongue speaks, not to men, but to God. For no one hears: but in spirit he speaks mysteries. But he that prophesies speaks to men edification and exhortation and consolation. He that speaks with a tongue edifies himself: he that prophesies edifies a church. I wish all of you to speak with tongues, but rather that you may prophesy. And greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, in order that the church may receive edification.

Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless to you I speak either with revelation or with knowledge, or with prophecy or with teaching? Even the lifeless things when they give voice, whether pipe or harp, if they do not give distinction to their notes, how will that which is played with pipe or with harp be known? For indeed if an uncertain voice a trumpet give, who will prepare himself for war? So you also, if with the tongue you do not give a significant word, how will that which is spoken be known? For you will be men speaking to air. So many, it may be, kinds of voices there are in the world, and not one is voiceless. If then I do not know the force of the voice, I shall be, to him who speaks, a barbarian, and he who speaks a barbarian with me. So you also, since you are emulous for spirits, with a view to the edification of the church seek that you may abound.

For which cause, he that speaks with a tongue, let him pray in order that he may interpret. For, if I be praying with a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is without fruit. What then is it? I will pray with the spirit; and I will pray also with the mind. I will sing a psalm with the spirit; and I will sing a psalm also with the mind. Else, if thou bless with the spirit, he that occupies the place of the private member, how will he say the Amen after thy thanksgiving, since he knows not what thou art saying? For thou indeed givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I give thanks to God that more than all of you I speak with a tongue. But in church I prefer to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, than ten thousand words with a tongue.

Brothers, do not become children in your minds. Yet in wickedness be infants: but in your minds become full grown men.

In the Law it is written “that in men of other tongues and with other men’s lips I will speak to this people: and not even thus will they hear me,” (Isaiah 28:11,) says the Lord. So that the tongues are for a sign, not for those that believe, but for the unbelievers. But prophecy, not for the unbelievers but for those who believe.

If then the whole church come together to the same place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in private members or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad? But, if all prophesy, and there come in some unbeliever or private member, he is convicted by all, he is placed under examination by all, the hidden things of his heart become manifest: and thus, having fallen upon his face he will worship God, announcing that in reality God is in you.

1 Corinthians 14:1. Pursue love: practical application of 1 Corinthians 13. It implies that love, like spiritual gifts, (1 Corinthians 12:31,) may be obtained by persistent effort; and thus only. We pursue love by watching against and resisting everything contrary to it, by prayer and by the effort to believe that what we ask God will give, by pondering God’s love as manifested on the cross of Christ that thus we may experience its transforming power, and by endeavoring to (Romans 14:15) “walk according to love.”

Be emulous for etc.; takes up 1 Corinthians 12:31.

But especially etc.: specific matter of § 25, viz. that prophecy is better than the gift of tongues.

In 1 Corinthians 12:31, after urging us to pursue the greater gifts, instead of saying which they are, Paul shows us a way (of pursuing them) surpassing all other ways. He then unfolds the exceeding worth of love, and exhorts us to pursue it. And that this is quite consistent with pursuit of spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy, he now proves by again urging us to pursue these gifts. It is therefore evident that to pursue love is the “excellent way” of 1 Corinthians 12:31. And this we can understand. For love prompts us to seek powers which will make us useful to others, and specially those powers which are most useful, rather than such as merely attract attention to ourselves; and quickens our intelligence to distinguish the more useful gifts, and prevents our pursuit of these from degenerating into self-seeking. To cultivate love is, therefore, the best preparation for a pursuit of the various gifts with which the Spirit is ready to enrich us.

1 Corinthians 14:2. Begins a proof, occupying § 25, of the just-asserted superiority of prophecy.

With a tongue: see note under 1 Corinthians 14:40.

But to God; suggests that the miraculous tongues were used chiefly in prayer or praise. So 1 Corinthians 14:13-16; Acts 2:11; Acts 10:46.

For no one etc.: proof of not to men.

Hears: as in Matthew 13:15; Mark 4:33. Others hear a sound: but they no more hear what is said than if they heard no sound. As Paul is here comparing only tongues and prophecy, he leaves out of sight the separate gift of interpretation which is mentioned expressly in 1 Corinthians 14:5. His words imply clearly that, apart from this additional gift, no one understood the speaker; and thus prove that to speak with a tongue was not to speak in a foreign language. For, in that case, the possible presence of some one who understood it could not be overlooked. The word “unknown” inserted in 1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Corinthians 14:4; 1 Corinthians 14:13-14; 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:27 (A.V.) is therefore altogether incorrect and misleading.

In spirit: in his own spirit, (cp. 1 Corinthians 14:14,) in that side of his being which is nearest to God and on which the Spirit of God directly acts. Cp. Romans 1:9.

Mysteries: see note, 1 Corinthians 3:4 : here specially appropriate. For, in the inmost and uppermost chamber of his being, he speaks secrets understood only by those to whom God has revealed them.

1 Corinthians 14:3. Prophecy, in contrast to the gift of tongues.

To men: emphatic, in contrast to “not to men” in 1 Corinthians 14:2.

Speaks edification: his words build up the spiritual structure God is erecting in their hearts. The added words and exhortation etc. limit the word edification here to spiritual instruction.

Exhortation: Romans 12:1 : words prompting to action.

Consolation: for the down-hearted. Same word in John 11:19; John 11:31. Both words together in 1 Thessalonians 2:11.

1 Corinthians 14:4. Develops, and sums up in compact form, the argument of 1 Corinthians 14:2-3.

Edifies himself: constant result of “speaking to God,” 1 Corinthians 14:2. This implies, as do 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:18, that to speak with a tongue was spiritually profitable to the man himself.

A church: in superior contrast to himself. The one does good to a man; the other, to an assembly of men.

1 Corinthians 14:5. Though God in His wisdom has allotted these various gifts to various persons, yet Paul, so far as he is concerned, would like all to possess this gift which he himself possesses in so great measure and for which in 1 Corinthians 14:18 he thanks God.

That you may prophesy; is not only Paul’s wish but the purpose for which he writes § 25. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:1.

And greater etc.: adds to the just expressed preference the important lesson that usefulness to others is the measure of our real greatness. This agrees exactly with 1 Corinthians 13:13 : for love ever prompts us to do good to others. It also justifies 1 Corinthians 12:31 a.

Except he interpret; implies that sometimes but not always the same man had the gifts of tongues and of interpretation. Notice that the repeated appeals, “speaks to men edification,” “edifies a church,” the church receive edification, gain great force from 1 Corinthians 13. For, if love animate us, we shall most desire that which will make us most useful to others. Thus, to pursue love, is the best way (1 Corinthians 12:31) to obtain “the greater gifts.”

1 Corinthians 14:6. First proof of the uselessness of the public exercise of the gift of tongues. “Supposing I come to visit you, and in your midst do nothing but speak with tongues, what good shall I do you?” Paul’s pre-eminence (1 Corinthians 14:18) in this gift, so highly prized at Corinth, justified this personal argument: and its force is overwhelming.

Come to you, profit you, speak to you: emphatic repetition, giving prominence to the chief point in 1 Corinthians 14:6.

Profit; keeps before us the edification (1 Corinthians 14:3; 1 Corinthians 14:5) of others, as the only right aim of those who speak in church. So 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1 Corinthians 14:17; 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:26; 1 Corinthians 14:31.

Speak with revelation: cp. 1 Corinthians 14:26 : “unless I have some truth made known to me by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” Ephesians 1:17. Cp. Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5.

With knowledge: with some truth acquired by ordinary methods. Probably it differs here from revelation, as in 1 Corinthians 12:8 from “wisdom,” and in 1 Corinthians 13:2 from “mysteries.” For these last three are closely connected: Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5. We have here two pairs, the former giving the inner source, and the latter the outer form, of two kinds of profitable speaking. In each pair the first member denotes extraordinary, the second denotes ordinary knowledge and speaking. Paul might have said “except I interpret,” as in 1 Corinthians 14:5. But he prefers words which remind us that the gift of tongues, otherwise quite valueless in public, is when accompanied by interpretation only at best equal to the gift of prophecy, or even the lesser gift of knowledge. “Unless my words are accompanied by special inward enlightenment or acquired knowledge, i.e. unless they assume the form of prophecy or teaching, what good shall I do you?”

1 Corinthians 14:7-9. Second argument, supporting that of 1 Corinthians 14:6.

Voice: any kind of sound. Same word, Revelation 14:2; Revelation 18:22, etc. Chosen probably because Paul here compares musical notes to the human voice.

Pipe: a very common musical instrument. It was either a cane pierced with holes for notes, or wood, especially boxwood, bored out; and was played like a flageolet.

Harp: in Greek, Kithara, from which we have “guitar”: an instrument with not more than seven strings, and akin to the lyre.

Give distinction etc.: i.e. notes such as can be distinguished from other sounds.

That which is played with pipe etc.: the sense to be conveyed by the pipe; as proved by the trumpet (1 Corinthians 14:8) quoted in addition to the pipe and harp in explanation and proof of how shall it be known etc.

Uncertain: not conveying clear thought to the hearer. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:26.

Voice; keeps up the comparison with the human voice. Of all lifeless sounding bodies, a military trumpet is most significant. For, at its sound, armies march forth to battle. But this they would not do, as Paul’s question reminds us, if the trumpet’s note did not convey to them a clear meaning. And, for the meaning to be clear, the notes of the trumpet must be different from other sounds. Now 1 Corinthians 14:8 is given to explain 1 Corinthians 14:7. We must, therefore, think of the pipe or harp as used to convey intelligence, as in Daniel 3:5. In this case, unless the music had given a sound plainly understood, and different from other sounds floating over the plain of Dura, the multitudes would not, at its bidding, have bowed to the image of gold. Paul mentions the pipe and harp, instead of going at once to the war-trumpet, to remind us that this last belongs to a large class of sounds given by lifeless objects yet conveying intelligence. But in order to do this they must give a sound clearly distinguished from other sounds, and of which the meaning is known. The word distinction in 1 Corinthians 14:7 was chosen probably in contrast to the indistinguishable sounds uttered by those who spoke with tongues. We may extend the argument to any signal by sound. All such are useless unless the sound is different from others, and has a known meaning.

So you also: “your case is like that of the trumpet.”

With the tongue: graphic addition to you, suggesting how superior is a man to a trumpet.

Significant: conveying a meaning, like a military trumpet.

How will be known: i.e. “your words will not convey knowledge.” So 1 Corinthians 14:7. The question of 1 Corinthians 14:9 a is explained and justified in 1 Corinthians 14:9 b, which tells what will be the actual state of things in the supposed case.

To air: cp. 1 Corinthians 9:26.

The argument of 1 Corinthians 14:7-9 would have much more force for Paul’s readers, who were practically familiar with the gift of tongues, than it has for us. But its general scope is evident. The sounds given forth even by lifeless bodies convey sometimes intelligence; it may be, of the utmost importance. Of this the military trumpet is a conspicuous example. But in these cases the sound must have a definite meaning; and must, therefore, be quite distinct from other similar sounds. Else it is useless. Now the gift of tongues (when not accompanied by the different gift of interpretation) gave forth only indistinguishable and unmeaning sound; and was, therefore, of no more use than a trumpet whose notes could not be distinguished from other sounds on the field, or than a toy blown by a child to make a noise.

1 Corinthians 14:7-9. A third argument.

Kinds of voices: i.e. languages.

So many, suggests that the number is great; it may be (cp. 1 Corinthians 15:37) implies that the precise number does not affect the argument.

Voiceless: without meaning, and therefore no language at all.

If then: i.e. since all the innumerable languages of men have a meaning.

The force of the voice: the meaning it is able to convey to those who understand it.

I shall be a barbarian: (see Romans 1:14 :) words well understood by every one who has been in the company of men speaking a language unknown to him. The mixture of nationalities at Corinth would give great force to this argument. But these words do not imply that he who spoke “with a tongue” spoke in a foreign human language. The analogy of foreign languages, Paul adduces to dissuade his readers from a public exercise of the gift of tongues by reminding them that such exercise reproduces in the church the estrangement felt by men ignorant of each other’s language, an estrangement increased by their consciousness that the words which are to them unmeaning have nevertheless a meaning. Just so the words spoken “with a tongue” have a meaning, but one unknown to the hearers.

Therefore, he who speaks in public with a tongue sets up between himself and his brethren a barrier similar to that of nationality.

1 Corinthians 14:12. So you also; applies the argument of 1 Corinthians 14:10-11, (as does 1 Corinthians 14:9 the argument of 1 Corinthians 14:7-8,) but in a form applicable to all three arguments of 1 Corinthians 14:6-11 and leading up directly to the chief argument of § 25 which is stated in 1 Corinthians 14:2-5. Although all these powers had one source viz. the One Spirit of God, yet, since they were various and each was evidently an outworking of an animating principle higher than man’s own spirit, Paul could for the moment leave out of sight the oneness of the origin and speak of those who desired these powers as emulous for spirits. Similarly, the One Spirit is in Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5 called “the seven Spirits which are before the throne.” The phrase is chosen here perhaps because the Corinthians, in their desire for mere supernatural inspiration, forgot sometimes that the various gifts had one source. Their aspiration was, therefore, only an emulation for spirits.

Emulous: as Paul wished them to be, 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Corinthians 12:31.

The edification of the church; brings the foregoing subordinate argument, and arguments, to bear upon the great argument of 1 Corinthians 14:2-5. For it is quite certain that a barbarian’s unknown words edify no one.

Abound: be rich in spiritual gifts. To this Paul exhorts his readers, thus sanctioning their acknowledged emulation; but bids them seek these gifts in order to help forward the spiritual life of their brethren. He is thus directing them to those “greater gifts” which are (1 Corinthians 12:31) most worthy of their emulation.

1 Corinthians 14:13. A specific direction resulting from the general direction of 1 Corinthians 14:12. It also keeps before us 1 Corinthians 14:5 which completes the chief argument, viz. 1 Corinthians 14:2-5, to which argument those of 1 Corinthians 14:6-12 are subordinate.

Pray; denotes all speaking to God, and includes the blessing and thanksgiving of 1 Corinthians 14:16 f. And, since 1 Corinthians 14:14 is given in proof of 1 Corinthians 14:13, the word pray must have the same reference in both verses, viz. public prayer in church-meeting. Consequently, that he may interpret is not the matter of prayer but an end kept in view while praying in public. The word pray is therefore equivalent to speak with a tongue; and reminds us that such speaking is speaking to God. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:2. Since edification of the church is the purpose of all spiritual gifts, he who in an assembly prays with a tongue must do so with a purpose of afterwards interpreting his own inspired but unintelligible prayer. If he be unable to do this, this verse enjoins him to keep silence in church, unless (1 Corinthians 14:28) an interpreter be present. This specific direction is thus a forerunner of § 26. And, that the gift of tongues needed to be supplemented by interpretation, proves its inferiority to prophecy; which is the main thesis of § 25.

1 Corinthians 14:14-15. Proof that speaking with a tongue must needs be followed by interpretation.

My spirit: Paul’s own spirit, as in 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 16:18; 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:13; Romans 1:9; Romans 8:16. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:2.

Without fruit: good results which are the organic outworking of the mind. Cp. Matthew 13:22; Titus 3:14; 2 Peter 1:8. The mind is the organ of perception and reason. So Romans 1:28. The spirit is that inmost and uppermost chamber of our nature on which the Holy Spirit acts directly, sometimes, as this verse proves, exerting an influence which the mind cannot comprehend and therefore cannot transmit to others. In other words, there may be operations of the Holy Spirit which reach only the highest element of man’s nature and do not permeate and enlighten his intelligence.

What then is it? “Since this partial operation is possible, how do matters stand?” This question Paul answers by saying what he himself will do.

With the spirit; as in 1 Corinthians 14:14. His prayer shall be an outflow of the activity both of the highest element of his being and of his intelligence: i.e. the prayers he offers with a tongue moved by the Spirit of God, he will also interpret. In this way, both spirit and mind will be at work. And the contrast without-fruit suggests that Paul’s mental activity will be useful.

A psalm: Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16 : a hymn of praise to God similar to the book of Psalms; Luke 20:42; Luke 24:44; Acts 1:20; Acts 13:33. It refers here probably to an impromptu utterance of sacred song under a special influence of the Spirit. The argument seems to be that the gift of tongues without interpretation is defective, because limited to a part of our being, a limitation which makes it not profitable to others. And this defect of the mere gift of tongues is a reason why its public exercise should always (1 Corinthians 14:13) be in view of subsequent interpretation.

The first person, I will pray etc., directs our attention, as in 1 Corinthians 8:13, to Paul’s own purpose which all must commend.

1 Corinthians 14:16-19. Argument in support of the foregoing purpose; and a second argument (in addition to that of 1 Corinthians 14:14) in support of the direction in 1 Corinthians 14:13. Paul turns suddenly to his readers and shows the consequence if they do not follow his example.

Bless: speak good of God. See under Romans 1:25. It was suggested probably by the word “psalm.” Cp. Psalms 144-150.

With the spirit: as in 1 Corinthians 14:14 f: in the upmost element of their being, on which the Holy Spirit directly works.

Private-member: same word in 1 Corinthians 14:23-24; 2 Corinthians 11:6; Acts 4:13. In Philo’s Life of Moses, bk. iii. 29, it denotes Israelites generally in contrast to the priests. It is opposed both to officers and to those who have special capacity or training. Since we have in this Epistle no mention of church officers, it refers here probably to those not possessing the gifts of tongues or prophecy.

Occupies the place etc.; vivid picture of the scene, where private members have a place apart from him who is speaking with a tongue.

The Amen: (see under Romans 1:25 :) the well-known Amen, said by the assembly at the end of a public prayer. This is the earliest trace of something like Christian liturgical worship.

Thanksgiving: implied in bless. To bless makes prominent the good things we say about God: to give thanks tells our gratitude.

Thy: emphatic. To the thanks of others the private member may assent: to thine he cannot. For, that he knows not what thou sayest, would make the customary Amen an empty form. Thus the very saying Amen proves the need that what is said with a tongue be interpreted.

1 Corinthians 14:17. An admission, in view of 1 Corinthians 14:16, of the real worth of the gift of tongues. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:2 b.

Gives thanks well: for he who speaks with a tongue, speaks (1 Corinthians 14:2) to God.

Edified: the purpose of public thanksgiving, as of all joint worship. For the thanks of others evokes our own gratitude to God. But the man who cannot say intelligently the customary Amen is evidently not edified. This last word, which leads up to the argument of 1 Corinthians 14:5, marks the completion of the argument of 1 Corinthians 14:6-16.

1 Corinthians 14:18-19. Fuller development, in reference to Paul himself, of 1 Corinthians 14:17. His thanks proves the real worth, to the possessor, of the gift of tongues, by revealing the spiritual gain derived therefrom.

More than all of you: a rebuke to boasters.

In church: as in 1 Corinthians 11:18.

With my mind: words which my mind understands; and in the utterance of which therefore, my mind is active.

Others also; as well as myself receive benefit. From 1 Corinthians 14:19 we infer that in words spoken with a tongue the mind is inactive, and that such words, be they ever so many, do not (apart from interpretation) instruct others. Notice the force of Paul’s frequent appeal to his own purpose and practice. Cp. 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 10:33. As he speaks, we feel the attractive power of his moral earnestness and of his pure motive.

The argument subordinate to that of 1 Corinthians 14:5, “that the church may receive edification,” is now complete. Paul has proved that to speak with a tongue cannot edify, by referring (1 Corinthians 14:6) to himself visiting the Corinthian church, to (1 Corinthians 14:7-9) musical instruments used as signals, and to (1 Corinthians 14:10-12) foreigners who know not each others’ language. He therefore repeats in 1 Corinthians 14:13 the injunction implied in 1 Corinthians 14:5 that the public use of the gift of tongues be always with a view to subsequent interpretation. This injunction he further supports in 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 by reminding us that without interpretation the gift of tongues does not permeate the entire man, and therefore cannot (1 Corinthians 14:16-17) produce intelligent joint-worship. Consequently, in 1 Corinthians 14:18-19, while acknowledging the worth of the gift of tongues, Paul expresses a preference which all will approve for five intelligible words rather than an infinite number which no one can understand.

Notice that, by dwelling upon and proving by argument after argument, the uselessness of a parade of the gift of tongues, Paul greatly strengthens our conviction of the folly of such parade.

1 Corinthians 14:20. A sudden and brotherly appeal, suggesting that the Corinthians indulged in a childish parade of their gifts. Paul’s own previous argument against it forces him from this reproof.

Do not become: as though their folly were only beginning, but increasing.

But in wickedness etc.: Not all the characteristics of childhood are inappropriate to the Christian life. Cp. Matthew 18:3.

Infants: Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 5:13 : stronger term than children.

Full-grown men: as in 1 Corinthians 2:6. The repetition of the exhortation of 1 Corinthians 14:20 a suggests that Paul refers to the difficult Old Testament quotation of 1 Corinthians 14:21.

1 Corinthians 14:21. Free quotation of Isaiah 28:11, suggested perhaps by

“children” and “infants.”

In the Law: the Old Testament; see Romans 3:19.

Other: i.e. foreign. The people complained that Isaiah spoke to them in childish words. He declares that in men of stammering lip and in another language God will speak to them: i.e. by the presence of foreign soldiers, whose speech will seem to them nonsense, God will announce His anger against them. The form of the words not even thus etc. seems to be derived from the end of Isaiah 28:12 : but their real justification is the entire context, which teaches that even the warning given by the invasion of foreigners will be in vain. In other words, to people who thought themselves too wise to need God’s plain and intelligible teaching, and who therefore disbelieved the prophet’s words, God declares that he will speak through the unknown language of foreign soldiers; and that even this mode of divine utterance will be neglected by them.

1 Corinthians 14:22. A general principle inferred from Isaiah 28:11. That God speaks to men in an unknown language, is meant to be a sign, a sign given not to believers but to unbelievers; and therefore a mark not of the reward which follows faith but of punishment for unbelief. The correctness of this principle to the men of Isaiah’s day, is at once evident. For it was Judah’s disregard of the prophet’s plain words which moved God to send the foreign armies. And the stubbornness of this unbelief is seen in the people’s refusal to take even this new warning. Therefore, the foreign language heard in the land was a mark, given to unbelievers, of their coming punishment. Now, with the strange talk of the Assyrian soldiers the gift of tongues at Corinth had this in common, that it was not understood by those to whom it was sent. It was therefore a mark, not of God’s nearness, but of His distance; i.e. not of full favor, but of low spiritual life. Consequently, the gift of tongues unaccompanied by that of interpretation was no fit matter of boasting. It was a proof that the inward presence of the Spirit had not yet permeated their entire being. This is not inconsistent with Paul’s own thankfulness for the gift of tongues. For in his case (1 Corinthians 14:15) it was accompanied by interpretation. Moreover, as he admits, it brought spiritual profit to its possessor: and all such, even in its most undeveloped forms, is matter, not for boasting, but for gratitude. And it was a proof (Acts 10:46) that its possessor was accepted by God. That Paul does not mean that the gift of tongues was designed to lead unbelievers to faith, is proved plainly by the last words of 1 Corinthians 14:21; and by the contrast of 1 Corinthians 14:23 and 1 Corinthians 14:24.

But prophecy etc.; leads us up, after abundant proof of the uselessness to others of the mere gift of tongues, to the chief matter of § 25, viz. the greater value of prophecy.

Not for the unbelievers: suggested perhaps by Isaiah 28:11, which intimates that the prophet’s voice will cease, to make way for the speech of the foreign soldiers.

1 Corinthians 14:23-25. If then etc.: accepting the general principle of 1 Corinthians 14:22, Paul proceeds to show its practical operation.

The whole church; implies that such united gatherings were usual at Corinth.

All speak with tongues: not necessarily all together. For this would cause confusion even in (1 Corinthians 14:24) the case of prophecy. Paul supposes that one after another speaks with a tongue, and no one speaks otherwise.

There come in; implies that the admission of strangers was allowed. Of this 1 Corinthians 14:25 shows a good and possible result.

Private-members: as in 1 Corinthians 14:16. perhaps from other churches. For all the church-members at Corinth are supposed to be present, all speaking with tongues.

Unbelievers: heathens or Jews.

Will they not say etc.: cp. Acts 2:13. If so, the speaking with tongues would do them no good.

If all prophesy: one after another. The apparent contradiction of 1 Corinthians 14:22 suggests that the second unbeliever, like many at Corinth, had not heard in its power the word of God; whereas the first had heard and rejected it, like the Jews of Isaiah’s day.

Some unbeliever; depicts the effect of prophecy in the heart of a solitary and casual stranger. In 1 Corinthians 14:23 several spectators express to each other their astonishment. There the private members are mentioned first, as noticing first the ridiculousness of a form of worship which separated them from their brethren in Christ. Here the unbeliever stands first: for the effect of the Gospel on him is specially depicted.

Convicted by all: each succeeding speaker, uttering the Spirit’s words, increases his consciousness of guilt, sifts his inner life, and brings before him in their true character the secret thoughts and purposes of his heart. Thus: sifted by speaker after speaker.

Announcing: to any who may be within hearing. That your words reveal the secrets of his heart, proves to him that your words come from God dwelling in you. And, that God is thus present in the hearts of men, fills him with awe of God, and moves him to worship. With such results of prophecy Paul’s readers were probably familiar. Cp. Acts 2:37. And with this graphic description of the effects of prophecy even upon unbelievers, Paul concludes his proof of its superiority to the gift of tongues. Of this we have an illustration in Acts 2:13 and Acts 2:37.

For the ARGUMENT of § 25 Paul prepares us by proving in 1 Corinthians 13. that we are truly great (cp. 1 Corinthians 14:5 b) in proportion as love is the mainspring of our life. Now love ever prompts us to seek the good of others; and will, therefore, prompt us to seek the gift of prophecy, which enables us to instruct, exhort, and encourage others, rather than the gift of tongues which does good only to our selves. The uselessness to others of the mere gift of tongues, he proves and enforces by suggesting that he might himself speak thus to the Corinthians, and by referring to musical instruments used as signals and to men speaking a foreign and unknown language. Therefore, after placing before us the good of others as the object of all speaking in church, he urges that the gift of tongues be used in public only with a view to subsequent interpretation. This he supports by a fourth and a fifth argument, viz. that, apart from interpretation, to pray with a tongue puts into activity only a part of our immaterial nature, and that it makes intelligent joint worship impossible. Therefore, while admitting the real worth of tongues, Paul repeats in strong terms his preference for prophecy. The evident folly of preferring the gift of tongues calls forth a brotherly rebuke. And he reminds us that to speak with tongues in the midst of brethren is to play the part of the Assyrian soldiers through whom God declared His anger against ancient Judah. In contrast to the uselessness of an uninterpreted tongue, Paul depicts the value, even to heathens, of the gift of prophecy.

In § 25 we learn, from Paul’s frequent and emphatic repetition of the word edify, that the purpose of church meetings is not so much an approach of the individual to God as the spiritual progress of hearers by means of the voice of a speaker. Consequently, in the mode of our services we shall do well to consider the impression they will make upon the least gifted and upon unbelievers. We learn also that the various extraordinary powers with which the Spirit enriched the early church might be obtained by human effort; i.e. that they were given by the Spirit to those who diligently sought them. This is illustrated by Daniel studying the writings of Jeremiah. Cp. Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:12. Therefore, among the various gifts of the Spirit men could choose which should be their chief aim. And it was important to know which gifts were the most worthy of their pursuit. Since in this choice only Christian love can guide aright, Paul interposes between 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 1 Corinthians 14:1 a proof of its supreme excellence, and points to it as the best way to a correct choice.

This last lesson has, although these special gifts have passed away, an abiding and all-important bearing upon us. Now as then various powers may be obtained by human diligence; e.g. wealth, social influence, knowledge, eloquence, etc. Now as then we may choose whether we will pursue those powers which most benefit others or those which attract attention to ourselves. And the choice thus made is an almost infallible measure of spiritual stature. For both our aim and the strength of our preference and the intelligence of our selection will be determined by the degree of our Christian life, and by the brightness of that light which love sheds within and around its happy possessors.

Again, if Christian love animate us, we shall use in secret those gifts which, though useful to us, will not profit others by their public display. Otherwise we shall expose ourselves to arguments similar to those of 1 Corinthians 14:6-21. E.g., nothing is more helpful to the spiritual life than a knowledge of those languages in which God has been pleased, through the pen of the writers of the Bible, to speak to man. But we shall be kept back from parading such knowledge by remembering that to do so will make our hearers feel (1 Corinthians 14:11) like barbarians and that others (1 Corinthians 14:6) might treat us similarly. In our private communion with God we shall thankfully (1 Corinthians 14:18) use this precious gift that thus we may hear His voice as distinctly as possible. But to our brethren we shall speak in such words as they can best understand.

Verses 26-40


What then is it, brothers? Whenever you are coming together each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If any one speaks with a tongue, let it be by two or at most three, and in turn; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him be silent in church. But to himself let him speak, and to God. Of prophets, let two or three speak; and let the others judge. But, if to another a revelation be given while sitting, let the first be silent. For you are able, one by one, all to prophesy, that all may learn and all may receive exhortation. And spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For not a God of confusion is God, but of peace.

As in all the churches of the sayings, let the women be silent in the churches-for it is not permitted to them to speak-but let them be in subjection, according as also the Law says. And if they wish to learn something, at home let them ask their own husbands. For it is shameful to a woman to speak in church. Or, was it from you that the word of God went forth? Or, to you only did it reach?

If any one thinks himself to be a prophet or a spiritual man, let him recognize the things which I write unto you, that they are a command of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. So then, my brothers, be emulous to prophesy: and do not hinder speaking with tongues. But let all things be done becomingly, and according to order.

After asserting, and applying to the case of prophecy and the gift of tongues, the general principle that we should prefer, and in public use only, those gifts which are profitable to others, Paul gives now specific directions about the exercise of these gifts, and about another kindred matter. In view of the actual conduct of the Corinthians, he reasserts, in 1 Corinthians 14:26, the general principle; and applies it, in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, to the gift of tongues, and, in 1 Corinthians 14:29-33 a, to prophecy. He then forbids (1 Corinthians 14:33-36) women to speak in church. He concludes his specific directions by asserting in 1 Corinthians 14:37-38 his apostolic authority; and in 1 Corinthians 14:39-40 sums up 1 Corinthians 14 in two exhortations.

1 Corinthians 14:26. What then is it? as in 1 Corinthians 14:15. “Admitting the foregoing, how do matters actually stand?”

Come-together: in an ordinary church gathering. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:23; 1 Corinthians 11:17-18; 1 Corinthians 11:20.

Each-one: every church-member. Cp. “all … all” in 1 Corinthians 14:23 f.

Psalm: a hymn which he has composed or learned and wishes to have sung in church. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:16; Ephesians 5:19.

Teaching: as in 1 Corinthians 14:6 : some truth acquired by ordinary means which he wishes to put before the assembly.

Revelation: 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 12:7 : a truth unveiled to his mind by an extraordinary influence of the Spirit.

A tongue: he comes into the assembly under an influence which prompts him to “speak with a tongue.”

An interpretation: 1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 12:30 : he is ready to say in plain words what another has uttered with a tongue. Notice that the psalm and teaching are ordinary, the revelation, tongue, and interpretation, extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. But the same principle applies to all. This description, perhaps specially (cp. 1 Corinthians 1:5) characteristic of Corinth, is a vivid picture of the free and spontaneous church life of the early Christians. The Holy Spirit given to all moved all to speak. Yet this new life must not be uncontrolled; but must be directed, according to § 25, with a view to the edification of the members of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:27-28. Specific directions about speaking with a tongue.

Two or at the most three: at one meeting. In turn, suggests that sometimes many together begin to speak.

One-man interpret: for all three. A new interpreter for each would cause greater confusion. Paul takes for granted that he who could interpret for one could do so for all. This suggests that the gift of interpretation was a real power, similar to that possessed by ordinary interpreters, of giving the sense of the not-understood but significant words of him who spoke with a tongue. Perhaps (cp. 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:13) one of the speakers with a tongue might himself interpret. Paul does not mention the case (perhaps because unlikely) in which each who spoke with a tongue had also the gift of interpretation.

Be silent etc.: in agreement with 1 Corinthians 14:13, and with the general principle of 1 Corinthians 14:26 b. 1 Corinthians 14:28 b is a positive injunction and a corrective to 1 Corinthians 14:28 a. Even without interpretation, to speak with a tongue is profitable (1 Corinthians 14:4) to the speaker; and must therefore not be forbidden because there is no interpreter, but done in private.

1 Corinthians 14:29-30. In reference to the more valuable gift of prophecy, Paul does not add the strict limitation or “at most” three, as in 1 Corinthians 14:27.

Judge: cognate to “discernment of spirits” in 1 Corinthians 12:10. Same word in 1 Corinthians 11:29; 1 Corinthians 11:31. Cp. 1 John 4:1. It is quite uncertain whether the others were the other prophets, or other church-members. Power to judge was a gift quite different (1 Corinthians 12:10) from prophecy; and may or may not have been usually associated with it. These words suggest that, although as a special gift this power was possessed only by some prophets or church-members, yet in a lower degree it was possessed by all. In our ignorance of exact details in the early church we may suppose that the members generally and especially those endowed with the gift of discernment were unitedly guardians of the correctness of the utterances of each individual. That the writings of the New Testament were then only in process of composition, and that false brethren (2 Corinthians 11:13) already existed, made such guardianship very important.

Revelation: closely connected here as in 1 Corinthians 14:6 with prophecy.

While sitting; implies that while speaking they stood. It also implies a sudden impulse of the prophetic Spirit. To such impulse Paul bids that precedence be given.

1 Corinthians 14:31. Supports the last words of 1 Corinthians 14:30, by showing that they do not involve loss of what the interrupted one has to say.

All to prophesy: not necessarily at the same meeting. Paul means probably that the prophetic impulse was in no case so strong as to prevent this orderly and consecutive prophesying. Consequently, there was nothing to prevent every prophet from speaking in his turn to the church. The first all is naturally limited to those who had the special gift without which none could prophesy. But no such limitation attaches to the second and third all. And the change from 2nd to 3rd person suggests a reference to all the church-members. While writing 1 Corinthians 14:29-30, Paul thought only of prophets: but when coming to the beneficial purpose of prophecy he thinks naturally of the whole church.

May learn, receive exhortation; keeps before us the general principle of 1 Corinthians 14:26 b. These purposes of prophecy are mentioned because they are also motives for following Paul’s direction. For certainly the consecutive preaching of all the prophets is most likely to edify all who hear.

1 Corinthians 14:32-33 a. To the particular assertion of 1 Corinthians 14:31, 1 Corinthians 14:32 adds a general principle on which it rests.

Spirits of prophets: their own spirits, on which the Holy Spirit acts directly. Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:14-15; and Revelation 22:6, “the God of the spirits of the prophets.” The prophet’s spirit, which is the source of all his ordinary activity and the medium of the extraordinary activity of prophecy, is even while under the special influence of the Holy Spirit still under his own control. In other words, prophets were not so carried away by the supernatural influence under which they spoke as to be unable to control themselves, and thus unable to take their turn in orderly consecutive prophesying. Confusion is no attribute of God but its opposite, peace, is. Notice that peace, which is characteristic of whatever belongs to God, is secured by each man’s self-control. Thus Paul completes his direction about the exercise of spiritual gifts by leading us, as usual, into the presence of God. Notice that 1 Corinthians 14:30-33 a correspond with, and develop, “in turn,” 1 Corinthians 14:27. The greater importance of the gift of prophecy suggested this fuller treatment. It is an application of the general principle of 1 Corinthians 14:26 b.

1 Corinthians 14:30-33 a teach us not to yield blindly even to influences which we know to be divine; but, while obeying them, to use our own judgment about time and manner, ever having in view the spiritual benefit of others, for which the influence was sent. In other words a consciousness that we are moved by God to do His work is no excuse for a disorderly way of doing it, or for a disregard of the work others are doing. For God loves harmony. And this can be obtained only by the intelligent self-control of Christian co-workers.

1 Corinthians 14:33-34. These go together. For, whereas 1 Corinthians 14:33 b would add no force to the calm assertion of 1 Corinthians 14:33 a, it introduces suitably, by making it valid for all churches everywhere, the strong and strongly confirmed injunction of 1 Corinthians 14:34. Similar references to other churches in 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 11:16.

Of the saints; reminds us that church-members stand in a special relation to God.

In the churches: general assemblies of men and women. Compare “over the man,” in the similar prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12. Consequently, this verse is not inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 11:5 where women are tacitly permitted to “pray” and “prophesy;” but limits these exercises to more private meetings consisting chiefly or wholly of women. Notice the coincidence of 1 Corinthians 11:5. The women who were ready to speak in public would be also ready to lay aside their distinctive female head-dress.

It is not permitted etc.: supports the prohibition by an appeal to a general law of the church of Christ.

In subjection: Ephesians 5:22. The contrast implies that to speak in church is to throw off their subordination to the other sex.

The Law says: probably Genesis 3:16. Paul supports his prohibition to speak in church by enjoining general subordination; and supports this by appealing to God’s words to the first pair. Compare carefully 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

1 Corinthians 14:35. A possible excuse for speaking in church.

At home: emphatic. It is not wrong to wish to ask: but they must ask in the right place, and so as not to set aside the authority of the man to whom they are socially subject. The husband might, if needful, put his wife’s question to the church. Even the wives of heathen husbands could, through female friends, obtain information in the same way.

For it is shameful etc.: parallel to “for it is not permitted” in 1 Corinthians 14:34. These two general principles, of which the latter is a development of the former, make us feel the importance of the injunctions which they severally support.

Shameful: see under 1 Corinthians 11:5. A woman’s position of subordination is her place of honor. To desert it is therefore a disgrace. This was probably a rebuke to some who gloried in their public speaking.

1 Corinthians 14:36. Other appeals, giving additional weight to the prohibitions. By permitting (as 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 imply) women to speak, the church of Corinth was setting aside the practice of the other churches; and was thus acting as though it were the mother church of Christendom, or the only people whom had been preached the Gospel which went forth from Jerusalem.

Went-forth: cp. 1 Thessalonians 1:8.

1 Corinthians 14:37-38. Prophet or spiritual-man; shows that Paul no longer refers exclusively to the women of 1 Corinthians 14:34 ff. He now sets the seal of apostolic authority to DIV. VI., and specially to the injunctions of § 26.

Spiritual-man: wider term than prophet, denoting any one under a special influence of the Spirit. Paul’s confidence that in writing these words he is guided by the Spirit, answers him that all others moved by the same Spirit will acknowledge the binding authority of his words.

A command of the Lord: of Christ. Thus Paul claims for his own written words absolute and divine authority over the practice of his readers. Equal authority, in doctrine, he has already, in Romans 3:19, conceded to the writers of the Old Testament. Their words, he calls “the Law;” his own, a command of the Lord. The man who does not acknowledge Paul’s authority, 1 Corinthians 14:38 marks as incurably ignorant. And incurable ignorance is always culpable. On the Revisers’ marginal reading, see Appendix B. Notice that, though 1 Corinthians 14:37-38 do not refer specially to 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, yet, that Paul asserts his apostolic authority immediately after this express and emphatic prohibition, greatly increases the force of the prohibition.

1 Corinthians 14:39-40. Summary of 1 Corinthians 14.

Be emulous; takes up 1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 14:1, and marks the completion of the subject there introduced.

To prophesy; for reasons given in 1 Corinthians 14:3-5; 1 Corinthians 14:24 f.

Do not hinder etc.; repeats 1 Corinthians 14:5. The contrast of be emulous and do not hinder reasserts the preference for prophecy which in § 25 Paul justified.

Becomingly: in contrast to “they will say, You are mad,” in 1 Corinthians 14:23.

According to order: in an orderly manner, as enjoined in 1 Corinthians 14:26 ff; and in obedience to the authority claimed in 1 Corinthians 14:37.

It may be questioned whether Paul’s absolute prohibition to women to speak in a church-meeting is binding now. It may be said that it was based on a position of woman in the ancient world which has passed away; and that the commands of the apostle, binding upon his original readers, are binding now only so far as the original circumstances remain or as the commands are expressions of great universal principles. But the solemn emphasis and the assertion of apostolic authority, (so unusual to Paul,) and the appeal to the parents of our race with which in two epistles the same prohibition sets forth a principle of universal and perpetual validity, and one resting upon the unchanging relation of the sexes. But this prohibition in no way touches the ministrations of women to women: and the gift in Paul’s day of the prophetic spirit to women proved plainly that there was evangelical work for them to do. And there is abundance of such work now.

PROPHETS were men who spoke in ordinary language, under a special influence of the Spirit of God; and who were thus a mouthpiece of God to men.

For the Old Testament, see Numbers 11:24-29; 1 Samuel 10:5-13; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:20-24; Joel 2:28; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Jeremiah 1:4 to Jeremiah 2:2; Ezekiel 2:1 to Ezekiel 3:1; Acts 28:25; Hebrews 1:1. The prophet’s words, as being a voice of God, were matter (1 Peter 1:11) for his own study. In Exodus 7:1 f, Aaron was to be the mouthpiece, but Moses the real speaker. We read (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:20) of false prophets speaking in God’s Name; and (1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:40) of prophets speaking in the name of false gods.

Similarly, in classic Greek, the prophet was an interpreter of the oracular voices of the gods.

In the New Testament, the Baptist, as being a “voice” of God is in Luke 1:76; Luke 7:26 called a prophet. So also the Incarnate Word in Luke 4:24; Luke 24:19. In the apostolic church, prophecy was (1 Corinthians 12:10 f) on a special gift of the Spirit, which placed its possessors in the second rank (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11) of the servants of Christ. It was practically the same as “revelation.” Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 14:30. Ephesians 3:5. This latter word directs our attention to the inward “unveiling,” by the Spirit, of truths before unknown: prophecy is the “speaking forth” to others the revealed truths. The Book of Revelation is called in Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:10; Revelation 22:18 f a prophecy. It was needful for others to judge (1 Corinthians 14:29: cp. 1 John 4:1) whether the impulse under which professed prophets spoke was really divine. To what extent the impulse saved the speaker from error, and thus gave to his words authority, we cannot now determine. The New Testament prophets seem (1 Corinthians 14:24; 1 Corinthians 14:26; 1 Corinthians 14:29) to have been numerous. They are not mentioned (e.g.

Philippians 1:2; 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1.) as a regularly constituted order of church officers; but were probably an extraordinary class of men specially endowed by God for the good of the churches they belonged to or might visit. Their words were designed (1 Corinthians 14:3; 1 Corinthians 14:31) to teach and encourage believers, and (1 Corinthians 14:24 f) to lead sinners to repentance. Some women prophesied: Acts 2:17; Acts 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5. Cp. Luke 2:36; Judges 4:4.

Since both Old and New Covenants ever point to the future, the prophets frequently spoke, especially in the old preparatory Covenant, of things to come. Of this in the New Testament Agabus (Acts 11:27 f, Acts 21:10 f) is a good example. But foretelling is not implied in the meaning of the word.

The Cretan poet Epimenides, as a teacher of truth, is called in Titus 1:12 a prophet. By Plato (Laws p. 642d) he is called “a divine man,” and is said to have foretold the invasion by, and defeat of, the Persians.

To SPEAK WITH TONGUES was, like Prophecy, a special and extraordinary gift of the Spirit. It is mentioned by Paul only in 1 Corinthians 12:-14.; elsewhere in the New Testament only Acts 2:4-13; Acts 10:46, (cp. 1 Corinthians 11:15 ff; 1 Corinthians 15:8,) Acts 19:6; Mark 16:17. That it was not a miraculous faculty of speaking one or more foreign languages, is made absolutely certain by Paul’s taking for granted, (1 Corinthians 14:2-5; 1 Corinthians 14:13; 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:28,) when comparing the gifts of prophecy and of tongues from the point of view of their practical utility, that apart from interpretation the gift of tongues is of no use whatever to any but the speaker: whereas ability to speak in a foreign language would be an invaluable means of spreading the Gospel. Nor was it a miraculous utterance, in moments of special inspiration, of prayer or praise in a human language unknown to the speaker. Else Paul could not have left completely out of sight the possibility of the presence, especially at Corinth where many nationalities met, of some one who understood the foreign language. Words spoken “with a tongue” were evidently intelligible to others only when interpreted.

Yet the exercise of this gift was (1 Corinthians 14:4) profitable to the speaker. The possession of it by Paul himself in large measure calls forth (1 Corinthians 14:18) his gratitude to God. And even while forbidding the public use of it when no interpreter is present he urges (1 Corinthians 14:28) that it be used in private. Probably its usual form was (1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Corinthians 14:14 ff: Acts 2:11; Acts 10:46) prayer or praise. Although the words spoken with a tongue were (unless interpreted with the aid of another gift) altogether unintelligible, they nevertheless had a meaning for they were capable of interpretation. That the mind (1 Corinthians 14:14) had no part in the utterance, and that the speaker was sometimes unable (1 Corinthians 14:13; 1 Corinthians 14:28) to interpret to others his own words implies that, unless he had also the gift of interpretation, he did not himself understand them.

Of all this the simplest explanation is that in the apostolic church there were men on whose “tongue” the Holy Spirit exerted a direct influence, moving it to speak words which were neither prompted nor understood by the speaker’s own mind; and that, like (Romans 8:15; Romans 8:26) the Spirit-prompted words were chiefly or wholly directed to God in prayer or praise. Such speaking might be called “with a tongue:” for only the tongue was at work, without conscious mental effort. But, since none but living tongues could thus speak, the man’s own spirit, i.e. the principle of life within him, was an essential factor of the speaking: and Paul could say (1 Corinthians 14:14) correctly, “my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” Moreover, the speaker “with a tongue” would (1 Corinthians 14:2) “speak mysteries.” For his words contained the deep things of God, and truths known only by special revelation. Such speaking, though not penetrating the speaker’s whole being and his consciousness, could not but be profitable, in a manner to us incomprehensible. For it came from the Spirit of God acting on man’s spirit. And probably the spirit, as distinguished from the mind, is not only physiologically but morally that part of man which is nearest to the Great Source of animal and spiritual life. If interpreted, the words would give profit to others.

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:27 imply that men under this influence of the Spirit could so restrain themselves as to speak in turn, or be silent till they were alone with God. And we can also conceive different modes of speaking, under the influence of the Spirit: hence one person might have (1 Corinthians 12:10) “kinds of tongues;” and (1 Corinthians 14:5 f) speak “with tongues.”

To “speak with a tongue,” implies articulate utterance. But we have no means of knowing the relation, if such existed, of the words thus spoken to the speaker’s mother tongue or to other languages known or unknown to him. No safe inference can be drawn from 1 Corinthians 13:1, which is given merely as the highest conceivable grade of the gift.

With the foregoing, Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6 agree exactly. We have the same phrase, “speak with tongues,” denoting again a manifestation of the Spirit, in the form of praise to God, and associated with prophecy. Cp. Mark 16:17; where “new” is probably spurious, and Mark 16:9-20 very doubtful.

With the same agrees Acts 2:4-13 in that the Spirit (Acts 2:4) gave the utterance, in (Acts 2:11) the form of praise to God. But in Acts 2:6; Acts 2:8; Acts 2:11 we are told explicitly that the assembled disciples spoke in foreign languages, recognized as such by natives who were present. Consequently, the gift of tongues at Pentecost was, according to Acts 2:4-13, different from that about which Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Yet, in Acts 11:15 ff, the gift mentioned in Acts 10:46 in words the same as those in this chapter is said to have been “the equal gift … as on us at the beginning.” Now, so clear are the proofs that the gift at Corinth was not a speaking in foreign languages, that the very able and godly scholars, Neander and Meyer, with others, have supposed that the tongues at Pentecost were really the same as at Corinth, but that in the confusion of the hour they were mistaken for foreign languages by those who heard but did not understand them, and that in this form the tradition had reached Luke and had been recorded in the Book of Acts. But Luke claims (Luke 1:3) to have carefully investigated the facts he narrates: and he was (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24; see Dissertation II.) a “beloved” companion and fellow-worker of Paul, who was himself a colleague of the chief actors at Pentecost. Surely it is inconceivable that Luke would fall into so great an error about so conspicuous and well-known an event, during the lifetime of the chief actors in it. On the mere ground then of simple historic evidence, without reference to the authority of Scripture, (which is, however, seriously involved,) we are compelled to accept the narrative of Acts 2:1-13 as correct. Much easier is the supposition that the “tongues” at Pentecost were a higher grade, perhaps never repeated, of the gift spoken of by Paul. Not that the power to communicate thought in foreign languages was given. But God thought fit that His Spirit, the one source of human life and thought and speech, should inaugurate the Gospel dispensation by pouring through the lips of men words in human languages before unknown to them. This highest form of the gift was limited to the founding of the church. A lower form of the same lingered probably during the lifetime of those who witnessed its founding.

The similarity of phrase suggests that the “tongues” of Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6 were the same as in 1 Corinthians 14, and different from those of Acts 2:4-13. But in each case the significance of the gift was the same, viz. a proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit to be henceforth, in those who receive Him, the animating principle of a new life, a witness of reception into the family of God, and an earnest of an eternal inheritance. This Spirit, not the transient form of His manifestation was “the equal gift” (Acts 11:17) alike to Jews and Gentiles. Consequently, without thought of the unimportant difference of mode, Peter could correctly say in 1 Corinthians 14:15 : “The Holy Spirit fell upon them, as also upon us at the beginning.” Cp. Ephesians 1:13 f.

DIVISION VI. gives us the noblest ideal of a Christian church, viz. a human body, 1 Corinthians 12; the one great principle which ought to animate all church life, viz. love, 1 Corinthians 13; and a valuable glimpse (in addition to those in 1 Corinthians 11) into the actual meetings of the apostolic church, 1 Corinthians 14.

In accordance with the liberty which permitted each member to take for himself (1 Corinthians 11:21) the sacred bread and wine, we find each member ready to speak in public, and many moved by the Spirit to speak, and permitted to do in an orderly way. Even women, probably after laying aside (1 Corinthians 11:5) their distinctive head-dress, were eager to address a promiscuous assembly. And we find traces of an empty and useless parade of influences flowing from the Spirit of God. All this agrees with the spiritual childishness of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. Very remarkable, amid this confusion, is the absence of all reference, especially in 1 Corinthians 5, 11, 14, to church officers. These doubtless existed: cp. Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:12 &c. They are unmentioned perhaps because in a church consisting only of new converts, they were probably in knowledge or experience little above the rest; and therefore not conspicuous. The absence of all reference to them, and the complete contrast of the church life depicted here and that depicted in the earliest sub-apostolic writings and even in the later epistles in Paul, are indisputable marks of the very early date, and therefore of the genuineness, of this Epistle. The whole chapter teaches clearly that church life was earlier than church order.

Bibliographical Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jbc/1-corinthians-14.html. 1877-90.
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