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1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts , but rather that ye may prophesy.
Ver. 1. Follow after charity ] Διωκετε , follow it hot-foot, as they say; pursue and practise it. It is more than to desire or to be zealous of a thing, as it follows in the next words, Ζηλουτε , "Be zealous of spiritual gifts." Follow charity close, as the hunter doth his prey, or as the persecutor doth the martyr, that will hide or escape if he can. Charity may be fitly compared to the precious stone Pantarb, spoken of by Philostratus; a stone of great beauty and of strange property; so bright it is and radiant, that it gives light in the darkest midnight; and that light is of that admirable virtue, that it brings together the stones that it reacheth into heaps, as if they were so many hives of bees; but nature, lest so precious a gift should be undervalued, hath not only hid this stone in the secret bowels of the earth, but hath also put into it a property of slipping out of the hands of those that hold it, Nisi provida ratione teneatur, unless they hold it fast indeed.
2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him ; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
Ver. 2. In an unknown tongue ] So they that preach in a kind of a Roman English, and not in a low language to the people’s capacity.
But unto God ] Canit sibi et Musis, as the proverb is; and as good he may hold his tongue, for God needs him not.
3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
Ver. 3. To edification, to exhortation ] These three ends every preacher ought to propound to himself: 1. Edification in knowledge and holiness. 2. Exhortation, that is, reprehension and admonition. 3. Consolation, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way,Hebrews 12:13; Hebrews 12:13 .
4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
Ver. 4. Edifieth the Church ] Therefore prophecy is the more worthy, because profitable. Prodesse melius quam praeesse.
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
Ver. 5. I would that ye all spake with tongues ] Gr. "I will." He here prefers prophesying (which was most edifying) before speaking with tongues, which they most affected, because it served most ad pompam, for applause and admiration.
6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
Ver. 6. If I come unto you, &c. ] This you would not like in me. And is that Venus in Caio Venus in Gaius, that is Naevus in Titio? a mole in Titius, a blemish in one that is a beauty in another?
By revelation, or by knowledge, or, &c. ] Piscator reads it by revelation or by knowledge; that is, either by prophesying or by doctrine. The apostle expounding himself.
7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
Ver. 7. Except they give a distinction ] Unisono nihil auribus molestius. Discords in music make the best harmony. Through all Turkey there runs one tune, nor can every man play that; yet scarcely any but hath a fiddle with two strings.
8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
Ver. 8. For if the trumpet ] Similes are excellent for illustration, and must be fetched from things familiar.
9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
Ver. 9. Ye shall speak into the air ] You shall lose your labour, and may as well keep your breath to cool your broth.
10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
Ver. 10. So many kinds of voices ] Seventy-two material languages, they say.
11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
Ver. 11. A barbarian ] So the Grecians called all nations that spoke not their language. It is reported that nowhere in this day is spoken more barbarous language than at Athens, once the Greece of Greece. (Neand. Chron.)
12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts , seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
Ver. 12. To the edifying of the Church ] Clouds when full pour down, and the presses overflow, and the aromatic trees sweat out their precious and sovereign oils; and every learned scribe must bring out his treasure for the Church’s behoof and benefit.
13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
Ver. 13. Pray that he may interpret ] Pope Innocent III never prayed thus; for he said, that the Church decreed the service in an unknown tongue, Ne sacrosaneta verba vilescerent, lest the holy words should be underprized. But public prayers in an unknown tongue, saith Erasmus, must be attributed to the change of time itself in Italy, France, and Spain, for there a long time the Latin was understood by all. But when afterwards their speeches degenerated into those common tongues now there used, then the language, not of the service, but of the people, was altered.
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
Ver. 14. Is unfruitful ] In regard of others’ edification. It were a great grace, said Lambert the martyr, if we might have the word of God diligently and often spoken and sung unto us in such wise, that the people might understand it; then should it come to pass that craftsmen should sing spiritual psalms sitting at their work, and the husbandman at his plough, as wisheth St Jerome. Pavier, townclerk of London in Henry VIII’s time, was a man that in no case could abide to hear that the gospel should be in English; insomuch that he once swore a great oath, that if he thought that the king’s Highness would set forth the Scripture in English, and let it be read by the people by his authority, rather than he would so long live, he would cut his own throat. But he broke promise, for shortly after he hanged himself.
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
Ver. 15. I will pray with understanding ] To an effectual prayer there must concur intentio et affectus, the intention of the mind and the affection of the heart; else it is not praying, but parroting. I have read of a parrot in Rome, that could distinctly say over the whole Creed. (Sphinx. Philos.)
16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
Ver. 16. Say Amen ] This the apostle reckons for a great loss. The poor misled and muzzled Papists are enjoined not to join so far with a Protestant in any holy action, as to say Amen. But in that there is no so great loss. (Specul. Europ.)
17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
Ver. 17. But the other is not edified ] This we should all labour, viz. to edify others. Synesius speaks of some, who having a treasure of tongues and other abilities in them, would as soon part with their hearts as their meditations; the canker of whose great skill shall be a witness against them.
18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
Ver. 18. I thank my God, &c. ] Skill in tongues is, as now, a great blessing. Indeed at first when men began θεομαχειν , to fight against God, they were compelled λογομαχειν , to babble in divers languages, 72, as Epiphanius affirmeth. But God hath turned this curse into a blessing unto his people, Acts 2:4-13 , and as in the first plantation of the gospel, so in the late reformation; God sent it before, as his munition to batter the forts of Antichrist, who had banished arts and languages, overspreading all with barbarism and atheism. Graece nosse suspectum erat. Hebraice fere haereticum.
19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
Ver. 19. In an unknown tongue ] A Parisian doctor tells us that though the apostle would have God’s service to be celebrated in a known tongue, yet the Church for various weighty reasons hath otherwise ordered and appointed it. (Benedict.) The Mahometans read their Koran (which they supposed were profaned if it were translated into common tongues) and perform their public devotions in the Arabic tongue, which is their learned language. (Montan. in 1Co 14:1-40 )
20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Ver. 20. Be not children ] Mentibus scilicet, sed moribus, Matthew 18:3 . See Trapp on " Mat 18:3 "
In malice be ye children ] In innocence and ignoscence.
In understanding be men ] Is it not a shame to have no more understanding at 80 than at eight years of age?
21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
Ver. 21. With men of other tongnes ] God threatened the Jews, that since they would not hearken to their own prophets, they should hear foreign enemies,Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 28:11 ; Jeremiah 5:15 . So those that will not obey the sweet command of Christ, "Come unto me," shall have one day no command to obey, but that dreadful discedite, " Depart from me," &c.
22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
Ver. 22. But for them which believe ] To confirm and comfort believers; this is the chief end of preaching. Let this comfort those that cannot say they have converted any by their ministry.
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
Ver. 23. Will they not say ye are mad? ] And may they not say as much if we jangle and dissent in opinion, one holding this, and another that. Ammianus Marcellinus taxed the ancient bishops of his time for their hateful miscarriage in this kind.
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
Ver. 24. He is convinced of all ] God smiteth the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips doth he slay the wicked, Isaiah 11:4 . By his word he telleth a man (as he did the Samaritaness,John 4:16-17; John 4:16-17 ; Joh 4:39 ) all that ever he did.
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
Ver. 25. The secrets of his heart ] God’s word is a curious critic, Hebrews 4:12 ; "a discerner of the thoughts," &c. It finds and ferrets out secret sins.
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
Ver. 26. Let all things, &c. ] There is edifying even in appointing of fit Psalms.
27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
Ver. 27. Or at the most by three ] Lest the hearers be tired out. Our infirmity will not suffer any long intention, either of body or mind. Long services can hardly maintain their vigour, as in tall bodies the spirits are diffused. Erasmus hath observed that Origen never preached above an hour, often but half an hour: Consultius iudicabat crebro docere, quam diu, saith he. He held it better to preach often, than long. (Eras. Praefat. ad Orig. Opera.)
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
Ver. 28. Let him keep silence ] Such as stuff their sermons with Greek and Latin are here silenced, further than they interpret the same. If thou canst help my hearers to Greek and Latin ears (saith a reverend preacher) they shall have Greek and Latin enough.
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
Ver. 29. Let the other judge ] But is not this a disparagement to the prophets? may some say: no, but an honour. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 , after "despise not prophesying," he subjoineth, "try all things."
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
Ver. 30. That sitteth by ] And is extraordinarily inspired and qualified; a little otherwise than our enthusiasts, that brag of their lumen propheticum, light of prophecy.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
Ver. 31. That all may learn ] The most learned may learn something by the discourses of others less learned than themselves. Apollos, a learned teacher, may yet be taught by a tentmaker. The Jewish rabbins acknowledge that they came to understand Isaiah 14:23 , by hearing an Arabian woman mention a besom in her language to her maid, טאטא (R. David in Radic.)
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
Ver. 32. Are subject to the prophets ] To be scanned and examined: which they should not be, unless they took their turns in course to prophesy. Eloquere, said one, ut quid sis videam: Speak, that I may see what is in thee.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Ver. 33. Not the author of confusion ] Nec author, nec fautor. Unquiet spirits are of the devil, who keeps ado, and fills the Church with confusion by his turbulent agents and emissaries, sowing sedition and spreading schisms.
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
Ver. 34. Let your women, &c. ] See Trapp on " Rom 16:1 "
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Ver. 35. Ask their husbands ] Who therefore must dwell with them according to knowledge, 1 Peter 3:7 , and be manly guides unto them in the way to heaven. The master’s breast must be the household’s treasury.
For it is a shame for women, &c. ] She was a singular example that taught the Greek and Latin tongues at Heidelberg, A.D. 1554; her name was Olympia Fulvia Morata, an Italian, of the city of Ferrara. Ancient histories indeed make mention of one Aratha, who read openly in the schools at Athens 25 years, made 40 books, and a hundred philosophers to her scholars. Leoptia likewise wrote against Theophrastus; Corinna often contended with Pindarus in versifying.
36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
Ver. 36. What? came the word, &c. ] As if he should say (and he saith it with some displeasure), Are ye the first, or the only Christians? are ye too good to be admonished? take heed lest your arrogance and high spiritedness lay you low enough, even in that slimy valley, Job 21:31-32 .
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
Ver. 37. The commandment ] And therefore to be obeyed by the best of you. Aut faciendum, aut patiendum: Aut poenitendum, aut pereundum. Either do it, or die for it.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
Ver. 38. But if any man be ignorant, &c. ] If stubbornly ignorant and uncounsellable; let him take his own course. I have cleared the truth in things now controverted, and there I rest me. Who so blind as he that will not see? such put not light under a bushel, but under a dunghill, and shall give a heavy account of it to God. When I hear men (saith Lord Kemp) under all the means that we enjoy, yet think that their ignorance shall excuse them, it makes me think of the answer of the agent of Charles V, emperor to the ambassador of Sienna. The Siennois having rebelled against the emperor, sent their ambassador to excuse it; who when he could find no other excuse, thought in a jest to put it off thus: What, saith he, shall not we of Sienna be excused, seeing we are known to be all fools? the agent replied, Even that shall excuse you, but upon the condition which is fit for fools, which is, to be kept bound and enchained.
39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
Ver. 39. Wherefore, brethren ] This he adds as a corollary, to prevent mistakes, as if that he were an enemy either to prophecy or tongues, so soberly and orderly used. Arbitror nonnullos in quibusdam locis librorum meorum, opinaturos me, sensisse quod non sensi, aut non sensisse quod sensi, saith Augustine (lib. iii. de Trin. c. 3): I foresee that some will construe many passages of my writings far otherwise than I intend them: and it happened accordingly, as Baronius testifieth. (Annul. tom. 6, A. D. 450, n. 17.)
40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
Ver. 40. Let all things, &c. ] A general rule of great moment. In things both real and ritual decency and order must be observed in Church meetings. For this the Colossians are much commended, Colossians 2:5 . Our Saviour caused the people whom he had fed to keep order in their sitting on the grass; they sat down rank by rank, as rows or borders of beds in a garden; so the Greek imports. a Whereupon an expositor noteth, Ordinatim res in Ecclesia faciendae, order must be observed in the Church.
a πρασιαι πρασιαι , Hebraisc. ut Exodus 8:14 . Cartwright.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17