1 Corinthians 14 Study Notes


14:1-4 Paul valued prophecy over uninterpreted tongues (Gk glossai; cp. 12:10). Utterance gifts should be exercised only for the edification and exhortation of others. The phrase no one understands him refers to the uselessness of uninterpreted tongues for the corporate body.

14:5 Paul discouraged uninterpreted tongues within the church by declaring the supremacy of prophecy for the edification of the church.

14:6-10 Paul’s point is that speaking other tongues is pointless unless content is communicated.

14:11 Just as a foreigner is estranged by those speaking a language he does not know, so too members of the body of Christ become estranged from one another if unintelligible, untranslated tongues are spoken in the church.

14:12 Rather than being selfishly ambitious with spiritual gifts, believers must strive for building up the church.

14:13-19 This section includes an apostolic ruling in which Paul declares the necessity of intelligibility over untranslated tongues for edification of the church body.

14:13-14 Paul bade the person who wanted to speak in another tongue to pray for the ability to interpret. Ironically, while praying in an unintelligible tongue one could not ask God for the power to interpret because one would not know what one was praying.

14:15-17 The legitimacy of a person’s speech in the midst of the congregation is measured by the edification it brings the body of Christ. Speeches, prayers of blessing, and expressions of thanksgiving cannot edify the body if they are unintelligible. Paul’s statement, I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with my understanding, means he will pray in a way that is both intelligible to bystanders and drawn from his spirit.

14:18 I thank (Gk eucharisto) can express either thanksgiving to God (“I give thanks”) or prayer (“I pray with thanksgiving”). More than all of you indicates that Paul was not merely speaking from theory in his instructions about other tongues and their proper practice in the church.

14:21-22 Drawing on Is 28:11-12, Paul states that uninterpreted tongues serve as a sign of God’s impending “strange work” of judgment to unbelievers (Is 28:11,21). In Is 28, the leaders of Judah rejected as unintelligible nonsense Isaiah’s message that would have given Jerusalem rest from their enemies.

14:23-25 Paul warned the Corinthians that practicing other tongues carelessly would be harmful to outsiders and unbelievers. Churchwide prophesying, however, would serve to convict and convert visitors. Interpreters differ over exactly what was entailed by “prophecy” in NT times, but see vv. 29-32 and note.

14:26 When the church gathers for worship, everything done must be for edification.

14:27-28 Again Paul emphasizes the importance of self-restraint for the greater good; see note at 11:33-34.

14:29-32 That Paul instructed people with the gift of prophecy to speak in turn and then await evaluation by others in attendance suggests that the kind of “prophecy” in view here is not predictive or a foretelling of future events.

14:33 God is not the author of disorder in a worship service.

14:34-35 During assemblies of the church at Corinth, women were not permitted to speak in the process of evaluating prophetic utterances (vv. 29-30,37). For the sake of propriety and order, they were to ask their own husbands in private at home about what was spoken. These verses should not be taken as a prohibition against women speaking in church. To say otherwise contradicts Paul elsewhere (e.g., 11:5).

14:36 With rhetorical flair Paul reminded the believers at Corinth of his apostolic authority. He appealed to their own recollection about his role as an apostle who brought them God’s authoritative word.

14:37-38 Those who were truly prophets would discern that Paul’s principles for the orderly exercise of prophetic gifts were consistent with the Lord’s command. It is unclear exactly what is meant by will be ignored. Possibly it means those wishing to conduct services correctly will disregard those clamoring to do otherwise.