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1 Corinthians 14

1 Corinthians 14:1-25 . SUPERIORITY OF PROPHECY OVER TONGUES.

21. In the law--as the whole Old Testament is called, being all of it the law of God. Compare the citation of the Psalms as the "law," John 10:34 . Here the quotation is from Isaiah 28:11 Isaiah 28:12 , where God virtually says of Israel, This people hear Me not, though I speak to. them in the language with which they are familiar; I will therefore speak to them in other tongues, namely, those of the foes whom I will send against them; but even then they will not hearken to Me; which Paul thus applies, Ye see that it is a penalty to be associated with men of a strange tongue, yet ye impose this on the Church [GROTIUS]; they who speak in foreign tongues are like "children" just "weaned from the milk" ( Isaiah 28:9 ), "with stammering lips" speaking unintelligibly to the hearers, appearing ridiculous ( Isaiah 28:14 ), or as babbling drunkards ( Acts 2:13 ), or madmen ( 1 Corinthians 14:23 ).

22. Thus from Isaiah it appears, reasons Paul, that "tongues" (unknown and uninterpreted) are not a sign mainly intended for believers (though at the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles with him, tongues were vouchsafed to him and them to confirm their faith), but mainly to be a condemnation to those, the majority, who, like Israel in Isaiah's day, reject the sign and the accompanying message. Compare "yet . . . will they not hear Me" ( 1 Corinthians 14:21 ). "Sign" is often used for a condemnatory sign ( Ezekiel 4:3 Ezekiel 4:4 , Matthew 12:39-42 ). Since they will not understand, they shall not understand.
prophesying . . . not for them that believe not, but . . . believe--that is, prophesying has no effect on them that are radically and obstinately like Israel ( Isaiah 28:11 Isaiah 28:12 ), unbelievers, but on them that are either in receptivity or in fact believers; it makes believers of those not wilfully unbelievers ( 1 Corinthians 14:24 1 Corinthians 14:25 , Romans 10:17 ), and spiritually nourishes those that already believe.

23. whole . . . all . . . tongues--The more there are assembled, and the more that speak in unknown tongues, the more will the impression be conveyed to strangers "coming in" from curiosity ("unbelievers"), or even from a better motive ("unlearned"), that the whole body of worshippers is a mob of fanatical "madmen"; and that "the Church is like the company of builders of Babel after the confusion of tongues, or like the cause tried between two deaf men before a deaf judge, celebrated in the Greek epigram" [GROTIUS].
unlearned--having some degree of faith, but not gifts [BENGEL].

24. all--one by one ( 1 Corinthians 14:31 ).
prophesy--speak the truth by the Spirit intelligibly, and not in unintelligible tongues.
one--"anyone." Here singular; implying that this effect, namely, conviction by all, would be produced on anyone, who might happen to enter. In 1 Corinthians 14:23 the plural is used; "unlearned or unbelievers"; implying that however many there might be, not one would profit by the tongues; yea, their being many would confirm them in rejecting the sign, as many unbelieving men together strengthen one another in unbelief; individuals are more easily won [BENGEL].
convinced--convicted in conscience; said of the "one that believeth not" ( John 16:8 John 16:9 ).
judged--His secret character is opened out. "Is searched into" [ALFORD]. Said of the "one unlearned" (compare 1 Corinthians 2:15 ).

25. And thus--omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions.
secrets of his heart made manifest--He sees his own inner character opened out by the sword of the Spirit ( Hebrews 4:12 , 1:23 ), the word of God, in the hand of him who prophesieth. Compare the same effect produced on Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 2:30 and end of Daniel 2:47 ). No argument is stronger for the truth of religion than its manifestation of men to themselves in their true character. Hence hearers even now often think the preacher must have aimed his sermon particularly at them.
and so--convicted at last, judged, and manifested to himself. Compare the effect on the woman of Samaria produced by Jesus' unfolding of her character to herself ( John 4:19 John 4:29 ).
and report--to his friends at home, as the woman of Samaria did. Rather, as the Greek is, "He will worship God, announcing," that is, openly avowing then and there, "that God is in you of a truth," and by implication that the God who is in you is of a truth the God.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40 . RULES FOR THE EXERCISE OF GIFTS IN THE CONGREGATION.

26. How is it then?--rather, "What then is the true rule to be observed as to the use of gifts?" Compare 1 Corinthians 14:15 , where the same Greek occurs.
a psalm--extemporary, inspired by the Spirit, as that of Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna ( Luke 1:46-55 Luke 1:67-79 , 2:34-38 ).
a doctrine--to impart and set forth to the congregation.
a tongue . . . a revelation--The oldest manuscripts transpose the order: "revelation . . . tongue"; "interpretation" properly following "tongue" ( 1 Corinthians 14:13 ).
Let all things be done unto edifying--The general rule under which this particular case fails; an answer to the question at the beginning of this verse. Each is bound to obey the ordinances of his church not adverse to Scripture. See Article XXXIV, Church of England Prayer Book.

27. let it be by two--at each time, in one assembly; not more than two or three might speak with tongues at each meeting.
by course--in turns.
let one interpret--one who has the gift of interpreting tongues; and not more than one.

28. let him--the speaker in unknown tongues.
speak to himself, and to God--(compare 1 Corinthians 14:2 1 Corinthians 14:4 )--privately and not in the hearing of others.

29. two or three--at one meeting (he does not add "at the most," as in 1 Corinthians 14:27 , lest he should seem to "quench prophesyings," the most edifying of gifts), and these "one by one," in turn ( 1 Corinthians 14:27 , "by course," and 1 Corinthians 14:31 ). Paul gives here similar rules to the prophets, as previously to those speaking in unknown tongues.
judge--by their power of "discerning spirits" ( 1 Corinthians 12:10 ), whether the person prophesying was really speaking under the influence of the Spirit (compare 1 Corinthians 12:3 , 1 John 4:13 ).

30. If any thing--Translate, "But if any thing."
another that sitteth by--a hearer.
let the first hold his peace--Let him who heretofore spoke, and who came to the assembly furnished with a previous ordinary (in those times) revelation from God ( 1 Corinthians 14:26 ), give place to him who at the assembly is moved to prophesy by a sudden revelation from the Spirit.

31. For ye may--rather, "For ye can [if ye will] all prophesy one by one," giving way to one another. The "for" justifies the precept ( 1 Corinthians 14:30 ), "let the first hold his peace."

32. And--following up the assertion in 1 Corinthians 14:31 , "Ye can (if ye will) prophesy one by one," that is, restrain yourselves from speaking all together; "and the spirits of the prophets," that is, their own spirits, acted on by the Holy Spirit, are not so hurried away by His influence, as to cease to be under their own control; they can if they will hear others, and not demand that they alone should be heard uttering communications from God.

33. In all the churches of the saints God is a God of peace; let Him not among you be supposed to be a God of confusion [ALFORD]. Compare the same argument in 1 Corinthians 11:16 . LACHMANN and others put a full stop at "peace," and connect the following words thus: "As in all churches of the saints, let your women keep silence in your churches."

34. ( 1 Timothy 2:11 1 Timothy 2:12 ). For women to speak in public would be an act of independence, as if they were not subject to their husbands (compare 1 Corinthians 11:3 , Ephesians 5:22 , Titus 2:5 , 1 Peter 3:1 ). For "under obedience," translate, "in subjection" or "submission," as the Greek is translated ( Ephesians 5:21 Ephesians 5:22 Ephesians 5:24 ).
the law--a term applied to the whole Old Testament; here, Genesis 3:16 .

35. Anticipation of an objection. Women may say, "But if we do not understand something, may we not 'ask' a question publicly so as to 'learn'? Nay, replies Paul, if you want information, 'ask' not in public, but 'at home'; ask not other men, but 'your own particular (so the Greek) husbands.'"
shame--indecorous.

36. What!--Greek, "Or." Are you about to obey me? Or, if you set up your judgment above that of other churches. I wish to know, do you pretend that your church is the first church FROM which the gospel word came, that you should give the law to all others? Or are you the only persons In, fro whom it has come?

37. prophet--the species.
spiritual--the genus: spiritually endowed. The followers of Apollos prided themselves as "spiritual" ( 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 ; compare Galatians 6:1 ). Here one capable of discerning spirits is specially meant.
things that I write . . . commandments of the Lord--a direct assertion of inspiration. Paul's words as an apostle are Christ's words. Paul appeals not merely to one or two, but to a body of men, for the reality of three facts about which no body of men could possibly be mistaken: (1) that his having converted them was not due to mere eloquence, but to the "demonstration of the Spirit and of power"; (2) that part of this demonstration consisted in the communication of miraculous power, which they were then exercising so generally as to require to be corrected in the irregular employment of it; (3) that among these miraculous gifts was one which enabled the "prophet" or "spiritual person" to decide whether Paul's Epistle was Scripture or not. He could not have written so, unless the facts were notoriously true: for he takes them for granted, as consciously known by the whole body of men whom he addresses [HINDS, On Inspiration].

38. if any man be ignorant--wilfully; not wishing to recognize these ordinances and my apostolic authority in enjoining them.
let him be ignorant--I leave him to his ignorance: it will be at his own peril; I feel it a waste of words to speak anything further to convince him. An argument likely to have weight with the Corinthians, who admired "knowledge" so much.

39. covet--earnestly desire. Stronger than "forbid not"; marking how much higher he esteemed "prophecy" than "tongues."

40. Let, &c.--The oldest manuscripts read, "But let," &c. This verse is connected with 1 Corinthians 14:39 , "But (while desiring prophecy, and not forbidding tongues) let all things be done decently." "Church government is the best security for Christian liberty" [J. NEWTON]. (Compare 1 Corinthians 14:23 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 ).

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