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What is the subject of this chapter? Does it refer to the constant manner in which worship was conducted in the primitive churches; or does it refer to the manner in which men possessed of secondary gifts, edified the church during the absence of their superior ministers? Dr. Hammond in one place inclines to this opinion. Has it not also a regard to the way in which the body edified itself in love, during their agapæ or love-feasts, when they might all prophesy one by one.
1 Corinthians 14:1 . Follow after charity: διωκετε , not simply follow, but follow fervently and vehemently after this first and best endowment; for what is religion worth without “fervent charity,” which sheds a lustre on all we speak or do.
1 Corinthians 14:2 . He that speaketh in an unknown tongue, does not speak to the edification of the church. Dr. Lightfoot, to whom we pay great deference, will not allow that St. Paul means here the tongues of surrounding nations, as the Punic or Catharginian, the Egyptian, the Syrian, or the Armenian language, but rather the Hebrew, often made in large quotations. Others think that the speakers did not know the Greek language; for Corinth, opulent Corinth, was a vast resort of strangers.
1 Corinthians 14:6 . What shall I profit you, except I speak either by revelation, the openings of divine truth on my mind by the Holy Spirit, as is stated in the thirtieth verse. Or by knowledge, imparting divine instruction from the information I have acquired by the study of the holy scriptures. Or by prophesying from the fulness of my own heart, replenished with wisdom from above. Or by doctrine, by sermons or discourses, which illustrate the great doctrines of the christian religion. These four ideas comprise the principal functions which belong to the sanctuary.
1 Corinthians 14:10 . There are many kinds of voices in the world. Languages and dialects, which greatly change in commercial nations, so that in the space of five hundred years the language is half new, though the primitive words and roots remain. One fifth of the Greek primitives to this day are sported through Europe; the whole word, or some radical letter, still remains, as the pillars of ancient ruins.
1 Corinthians 14:16 . Amen. See notes on Deuteronomy 27:15. Isaiah 65:16.
1 Corinthians 14:20 . In malice be ye children, as stated on Matthew 18:3. A masterly touch of the pen to teachers, agitating minor questions, and irregular forms of worship, while the powerful eloquence of the heart in prophesying was in danger of being overlooked. St. Paul certainly disapproves of the burdensome forms of jewish worship being too much forced on the christian church. Prayer, reading, expositions of the reading or exhortation, with singing, were the four ancient recognized forms of worship.
1 Corinthians 14:25 . And report that God is in you of a truth. D’ Oyley, on the eloquence of the pulpit, draws a portrait of the excellence of preaching to the heart. A man enters the church, careless about salvation, and indifferent to devotion. By and bye he hears the preacher describe a character, and gives the anatomy of a depraved heart. After awhile, reflection comes, that is my character; he is preaching to me. Some one must have told him the secrets of my heart, and all my way of life. The preacher proceeds; he brings the Lord on the clouds of heaven to judge the world; sinners are guilty and speechless at his bar; he pronounces the sentence! The hearer can contain himself no longer; he weeps, he prays, he cries for mercy, and becomes converted to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:31 . Ye may all prophesy one by one. All these sentences of Paul coincide very much with Malachi 3:16. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” The jews in their feasts, and in their gardens edified one another in this way of worship, and social intercourse. “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare unto you what he hath done for my soul.”
1 Corinthians 14:34 . Let your women keep silence in the churches. This is an injunction of the synagogue, as in Maimonides, prohibiting whispering in the time of worship. Our very learned Joseph Mede, in a sermon on prophesying, proves beyond a doubt, that St. Paul does not refer to the higher acts of prophesying by immediate inspiration, nor to the expounding of prophecy to the edification of the church. There is no reason to suppose that the women expounded the holy scriptures in the presence of so many prophets and evangelical men as were then in Corinth; he therefore refers it to the third class of prophesying, or singing the praises of God, as Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun are said to do. 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. Mede supposes that those singing women unveiled themselves, as the priestesses of idol temples, but by no means to similar indecency as the sibyls and pythonesses. In this text there is an additional thought concerning the women asking their husbands at home. This was to avoid whispering, and asking questions during the time of worship, but cannot refer to preaching and praying, because that was edifying others, not making enquiries for their own gratification.
1 Corinthians 14:35 . It is a shame for women to speak in the church. The rabbins treated the women with rigour, but the spirit of prophecy spake in milder words. Joel 2:29. Women held stations in the church, as deaconesses, and catechists to their own sex. They also prophesied, as Philip’s four daughters did, in minor assemblies.
1 Corinthians 14:37 . Let him acknowledge that the things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. St. Paul claims here, as in other places, a deference to his doctrine as a divine revelation. And he knew the difference between the thoughts of his own heart, and the dictates of the Holy Ghost.
1 Corinthians 14:39 . Covet then to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. This fully shows how Paul would have the junior ministers at Corinth cultivate the study of the holy scriptures, and to speak with grammatical accuracy and fluency the various languages that were current in the city. They required all the powers of eloquence in addressing the church, and the men of different nations who resorted to their ministry. People will not long sit under a preacher, unless they can look up to him with confidence and delight.
Men of genius seem athirst for knowledge, often with a view to display their talents. Forgetful of the tree of life, they climb high in the tree of knowledge of good and evil, make a great noise in the branches, and get many a dreadful fall to mortify their pride. We are here shown a more excellent way, and that way is charity. Therefore follow after charity; for this is life eternal to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. He is the tree of life, ever adorned with virtue, bloom, and fruits.
Ministers must covet earnestly the best gifts, especially to pray and preach so as to edify the flock. In expounding the scriptures, they have to unfold the mysteries of redeeming love, and to personate prophets and apostles in language and sentiment. In addressing the heart, they have to make manifest its secrets, anticipate its objections, supersede its evasions, and force conviction on the conscience. This is a divine work; and human learning, unless wholly submitted to a divine influence, can never effectuate it. Hence ministers must pray to be the organs of the Holy Spirit, and covet the improvement of talents next to their own salvation.
If the primitive preachers were not allowed to preach in an unknown tongue to the majority of their hearers, it is little better when we attempt to preach in a refined style, with well-turned periods, and with words which our poor hearers neither use nor understand. Oh how St. Paul would rebuke that sycophant preacher on his descending from the pulpit, as ignorant of himself and of his Master’s work. Let us always aim at simplicity, unction, and ease in our sermons.
We admire the rich and instructive liberty of the primitive church. The bishops and deacons, the elders and ministers of the church sat near together; and after reading and prayer, they spake one after another: “each,” as CALVIN says, “waiting an opportunity to speak.” Thus the spirits of the prophets were subject to the prophets, and they had no dry sermons, for they spake as they found liberty in the Lord. So at Antioch the rulers of the synagogue desired Paul and his friends all to speak. Acts 13:15. Christian worship had a close resemblance to that of the jews; strangers spake by interpreters; and the prophets, or expounders of the holy scriptures, spake in rotation two or three, as time and circumstances would allow. All things were done decently, and in order; and the whole church went home edified and comforted in the Lord.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11