Kehillah in Corinth I 14

1 4 Pursue ahavah (agape), and eagerly desire the things of the Ruach Hakodesh (matanot HaRuach Hakodesh), and especially that you may speak forth a dvar hanevu’ah (word of prophecy).
2 For the one speaking in a lashon (tongue) speaks not to Bnei Adam but to Hashem; for no one grasps with their ears, but the speaker by the Ruach Hakodesh speaks sodot (mysteries).
3 However, the one speaking forth divrei nevu’ah (words of prophecy) speaks to Bnei Adam for chizzuk (strengthening) and musar encouragement and nechamah (comfort).
4 The one speaking in a lashon (tongue) edifies himself; but, the one speaking forth a dvar hanevu’ah (word of prophecy) edifies kehillah.
5 Now I desire all of you to speak in leshonot (tongues), and even more that you may speak forth a dvar hanevu’ah (word of prophecy) (BAMIDBAR 11:29). Now greater is the one speaking forth a dvar nevu’ah (word of prophecy) than the one speaking in leshonot, unless he gives the pitron (interpretation) of the leshonot (tongues), that the kehillah (congregation) may receive the edification.
6 But now, Achim b’Moshiach, if I come to you speaking in leshonot (tongues), what will I benefit you unless I speak to you either with a dvar hisgalus (a word of revelation) or with a dvar da’as or with a dvar nevu’ah or with a dvar hora’ah (word of teaching)?
7 So even lifeless things, like the flute or harp, if they do not articulate a distinction in the notes, how will it be known what is being played on the flute or on the harp?
8 Indeed, if a shofar gives an unclear trumpet call, who will prepare himself for krav (battle)? [BAMIDBAR 10:9; YIRMEYAH 4:19]
9 So also unless you by your lashon (tongue) render an intelligible dvar Torah, how will the thing being uttered be known? For you will be merely speaking into the air.
10 There are doubtless many kinds of foreign languages in the Olam Hazeh, and not one is meaningless.
11 If, therefore, I do not have da’as of the meaning of the language, I will be to the speaker a foreigner and the speaker will be a foreigner to me. [BERESHIS 11:7]
12 So also you, als (since) you have a zeal for the matanot of the Ruach Hakodesh, endeavor to abound in them for the edification of the Kehillah (Congregation).
13 Therefore, the speaker in a lashon (tongue), let him offer tefillos that he may give the pitron (interpretation).
14 For if I daven (pray) in a lashon, my nashamah davens, but my sikhliyut (rationality) lies shemitah (fallow).
15 Nu? (Well?) I will daven [in leshonot] with my nashamah, and I will daven also with my seichel; I will sing [in leshonot] with my nashamah, and I will sing niggunim also with my seichel.
16 Otherwise, if you make a bracha [in leshonot] with your neshamah, how will the am ha’aretz, who have no idea what you are saying, answer the "Omein"? [DEVARIM 27:15:26; DIVREY HAYAMIM ALEF 16:36; NECHEMYAH 8:6; TEHILLIM 106:48]
17 For indeed you make the bracha well enough, but the other is not being edified.
18 Modeh Ani Hashem that I speak in leshonot more than all of you,
19 but in kehillah I want to speak five words with my sikhliyut (rationality), that also others I may instruct with a dvar hora’ah (word of teaching), rather than speak ten thousand words in a lashon (tongue).
20 Achim b’Moshiach, be not yeladim in your machsh’vot (thoughts); be infantile in kavvanah ra’ah (malice), perhaps, but in your binah, be mature. [YIRMEYAH 4:22]
21 In the Torah it stands written, KI BELA’AGEI SAFAH UVELASHON ACHERET YEDABER EL HAAM HAZEH...V’LO AVU SHMO’A ("Then with ones of foreign lip and with strange tongue he will speak to this people... but they were not willing to listen"?YESHAYAH 28:11-12), says the L-rd.
22 So then the leshonot (tongues) are for an ot (miraculous sign), not to the ones believing, the ma’aminim in Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, but an ot (miraculous sign) to the Apikorosim; but divrei hanevu’ah (words of prophecy) are not for the Apikorosim, but for the ones believing, the ma’aminim in Moshiach.
23 If, therefore, the kehillah has a farbrengen gathering and all speak in leshonot (tongues), and then in walks the am ha’aretz or the Apikorosim, will they not say that you are all meshuggah?
24 However, if all speak forth divrei hanevu’ah (words of prophecy), and then in walks some Apikorosim or am ha’aretz, such a visitor is brought under conviction by all, he is brought into mishpat (judgment) by all,
25 What is hiding in his lev (heart) becomes manifest, and, having fallen on his face, he worships Hashem, declaring that G-d is among you (Zech 8:23; Isa 45:14; Dan 2:47).
26 Nu? Well? Achim b’Moshiach, when you come together, each one has a mizmor (hymn, psalm), a musar (teaching with an ethical point), a dvar hisgalus (a dvar of revelation), a lashon (tongue), or a pitron (interpretation) of a lashon (tongue); let all things be for edification.
27 If anyone speaks in a lashon (tongue), let the speakers be shenayim (two) or at most shloshah (three), and by turn, and let one give the pitron (interpretation).
28 But if there is no one to give the pitron, let the one with the lashon (tongue) be silent in the kehillah and let him instead speak to himself and to Hashem.
29 And let shenayim or shloshah nevi’im speak and let the other nevi’im be used with discernings of ruchot (spirits) (12:10).
30 And if a dvar hisgalus (a word of revelation) is given to a navi sitting by, let the first navi become silent.
31 For you all are able one by one to speak forth a dvar hanevu’ah (word of prophecy), in order that all may learn and receive chizzuk (strengthening).
32 And the neshamot of nevi’im are subject to the nevi’im.
33 For Hashem is no Elohei HaMevucha (the G-d of Confusion, Tohu); He is Elohei HaShalom, and this is so in all the kehillot of the Kadoshim.
34 Let the nashim in the kehillot be silent, for it is not permitted for them to blurt out, but let them become submissive, as it says in the Torah (BERESHIS 3:16).
35 And if the nashim wish to inquire about something, let them inquire of their own be’alim b’bayis, for it is a bushah (shame) for an isha to blurt out in the kehillah (BERESHIS 3:2).
36 Or from you did the dvar Hashem go forth (YESHAYAH 2:3), or to you only did it reach?
37 If anyone thinks himself to be a navi or a man of the Ruach Hakodesh (2:13), let him have full da’as that the things I wrote to you are a mitzvoh of Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach Adoneinu.
38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
39 So then, Achim b’Moshiach of mine, earnestly desire to speak forth a dvar hanevu’ah (word of prophecy), and do not forbid speaking in leshonot (tongues).
40 Let all things be done b’seder and without bushah (shame).

Kehillah in Corinth I 14 Commentary

Chapter 14

Prophecy preferred to the gift of tongues. (1-5) The unprofitableness of speaking in unknown languages. (6-14) Exhortations to worship that can be understood. (15-25) Disorders from vain display of gifts; (26-33) and from women speaking in the church. (34-40)

Verses 1-5 Prophesying, that is, explaining Scripture, is compared with speaking with tongues. This drew attention, more than the plain interpretation of Scripture; it gratified pride more, but promoted the purposes of Christian charity less; it would not equally do good to the souls of men. What cannot be understood, never can edify. No advantage can be reaped from the most excellent discourses, if delivered in language such as the hearers cannot speak or understand. Every ability or possession is valuable in proportion to its usefulness. Even fervent, spiritual affection must be governed by the exercise of the understanding, else men will disgrace the truths they profess to promote.

Verses 6-14 Even an apostle could not edify, unless he spoke so as to be understood by his hearers. To speak words that have no meaning to those who hear them, is but speaking into the air. That cannot answer the end of speaking, which has no meaning; in this case, speaker and hearers are barbarians to each other. All religious services should be so performed in Christian assemblies, that all may join in, and profit by them. Language plain and easy to be understood, is the most proper for public worship, and other religious exercises. Every true follower of Christ will rather desire to do good to others, than to get a name for learning or fine speaking.

Verses 15-25 There can be no assent to prayers that are not understood. A truly Christian minister will seek much more to do spiritual good to men's souls, than to get the greatest applause to himself. This is proving himself the servant of Christ. Children are apt to be struck with novelty; but do not act like them. Christians should be like children, void of guile and malice; yet they should not be unskilful as to the word of righteousness, but only as to the arts of mischief. It is a proof that a people are forsaken of God, when he gives them up to the rule of those who teach them to worship in another language. They can never be benefitted by such teaching. Yet thus the preachers did who delivered their instructions in an unknown tongue. Would it not make Christianity ridiculous to a heathen, to hear the ministers pray or preach in a language which neither he nor the assembly understood? But if those who minister, plainly interpret Scripture, or preach the great truths and rules of the gospel, a heathen or unlearned person might become a convert to Christianity. His conscience might be touched, the secrets of his heart might be revealed to him, and so he might be brought to confess his guilt, and to own that God was present in the assembly. Scripture truth, plainly and duly taught, has a wonderful power to awaken the conscience and touch the heart.

Verses 26-33 Religious exercises in public assemblies should have this view; Let all be done to edifying. As to the speaking in an unknown tongue, if another were present who could interpret, two miraculous gifts might be exercised at once, and thereby the church be edified, and the faith of the hearers confirmed at the same time. As to prophesying, two or three only should speak at one meeting, and this one after the other, not all at once. The man who is inspired by the Spirit of God will observe order and decency in delivering his revelations. God never teaches men to neglect their duties, or to act in any way unbecoming their age or station.

Verses 34-40 When the apostle exhorts Christian women to seek information on religious subjects from their husbands at home, it shows that believing families ought to assemble for promoting spiritual knowledge. The Spirit of Christ can never contradict itself; and if their revelations are against those of the apostle, they do not come from the same Spirit. The way to keep peace, truth, and order in the church, is to seek that which is good for it, to bear with that which is not hurtful to its welfare, and to keep up good behaviour, order, and decency.

Chapter Summary


In this chapter the apostle discourses concerning the use of spiritual gifts, and prefers prophesying, or preaching, to every other gift; and directs to the order and manner of using it, and also points at the persons who should exercise it; and whereas there was much confusion and disorder in this church, in the management of the affairs of it, the chapter is concluded with a general exhortation to do everything in a decent and orderly manner. The apostle begins with an exhortation to follow after charity, which he had commended in the preceding chapter, and had preferred to gifts, and yet he would not have gifts slighted, but represents them as desirable; particularly prophesying or preaching, which he prefers above all, 1Co 14:1 and especially above the gift of tongues, and for which he gives his reasons; he that speaks with tongues, speaks to God and not to men; at least not to their understanding, though he may by his gift deliver the most excellent truths, 1Co 14:2 whereas he that preaches speaks to men, to their edification, exhortation, and comfort, 1Co 14:3 the one edifies himself, and the other the church, 1Co 14:4 wherefore since he had a sincere affection for this church, though he could wish they all had the gift of speaking with tongues, yet he rather desired they might have the gift of preaching, because that was most for edification, 1Co 14:5 and exemplifies this in himself, that should he come to them speaking with divers tongues, this would be of no use to them, unless he came revealing, making known, and preaching the doctrines of the Gospel to them, 1Co 14:6 and illustrates this by a simile taken from musical instruments, in which unless there is a distinction of sounds, the music will not be understood, and there can be nothing grateful and pleasant: and such is speaking with divers tongues, without an interpretation, 1Co 14:7 and particularly by a simile taken from the trumpet, as used in war; which if it gives a sound that is unknown, it will be no direction to prepare for the battle, 1Co 14:8 which similes are accommodated to the case in hand; showing that words easy to be understood by the hearer should be made use of by the speaker, or speaking is in vain, 1Co 14:9 each word in every language indeed has its signification, some idea or another annexed to it; but if this is not understood by the hearer as well as the speaker, they become barbarians to one another, 1Co 14:10,11 wherefore such as were eagerly desirous of spiritual gifts, should covet those that were most for edification; and if speaking with tongues were what they were most set upon, they should pray for the gift of interpretation also, 1Co 14:12,13 because, for instance, if prayer is made in an unknown tongue, the extraordinary gift indeed may be exercised, but not to the understanding, and so not to the profit of others, 1Co 14:14 hence the apostle determines for himself, that though he should make use of his spiritual gifts, both in praying and singing, it should be in such a manner as to be understood by others, as well as himself, 1Co 14:15 and it was right for everyone to do so likewise, otherwise persons not knowing what is prayed for, or thanks given for, would be so far from being able to join in the exercise, that they could not so much as say Amen at the conclusion of it, 1Co 14:16 and though thanks might be returned for a mercy received in ever so agreeable a manner, yet it could be no ways edifying to a man that did not understand the language in which it was expressed, 1Co 14:17 not that the apostle said all this, because he had not such a gift himself, for he had it to a greater degree than any in this church had arrived to, 1Co 14:18 yet after all it was more eligible to him to speak live words in a public manner, so as to be understood, than ten thousand in a language the people were ignorant of, 1Co 14:19 wherefore he exhorts the Corinthians not to act the childish part, to covet speaking with tongues, but rather the more manly one, to prophesy, or preach, to the understanding of others, 1Co 14:20 moreover, the apostle deters them from seeking to speak with divers tongues, by citing a passage out of Isa 28:11 by which it appears, that speaking with divers tongues and strange languages was sometimes threatened as a punishment, and not given as a blessing, 1Co 14:21 besides, speaking with tongues was a sign of unbelief, and used for the conviction of unbelievers; whereas prophesying, or preaching, was a sign of faith, and was for the profit of believers, and therefore the most desirable, 1Co 14:22 to which he adds another reason, dissuading from the use of speaking with divers tongues in public, where they are not understood, taken from the opinion that ignorant and unbelieving persons coming into their assemblies would entertain of them, as though they were madmen, 1Co 14:23 whereas should they preach in a language understood, on the contrary it might be of use for the conviction of such persons, who having the secrets of their hearts laid open to them, will fall down and worship God, whose word they hear; and when they depart, report that the divine presence is with such a people, 1Co 14:24,25 hence the apostle proceeds to direct to the proper and orderly manner of using gifts; that whereas there were different ones among them, one had one gift, and another had another, they might all be used, provided they were used in such a manner as to tend to edification, 1Co 14:26 so for instance, if speaking in an unknown tongue was used, it should be only by two or three at most, one after another; and there should be an interpreter to make known the meaning of what was said to the people, 1Co 14:27 but if there were none that had the gift of interpreting, then it was most advisable for the speaker to be silent in public, and only in private speak to God and himself, 1Co 14:28 and then as for those that had the gift of prophesying, or preaching, these should exercise their gift two or three at a time, one after another, and the rest should sit and judge what they delivered, whether agreeable to the word of God or not, 1Co 14:29 and should anything be more clearly revealed to one that sat and heard, the speaker should be silent, and give way to him, that he might have the opportunity of declaring it to the edification of the church, 1Co 14:30 for all that had the gift of preaching might use it one after another, by turns, for general instruction and comfort, 1Co 14:31 seeing spiritual gifts are subject to and at the dispose of those that are possessed of them: or the doctrines preached by the one are subject to the examination and judgment of the other, 1Co 14:32 for God, the donor of all gifts, is the author of order and peace, and not of confusion in all the churches, 1Co 14:33 and whereas the apostle had suggested, that all might prophecy, or preach, that is, that had gifts qualifying for it, he would be understood only of men, and not women, who were not permitted to speak in the church in a way of preaching; no, not even to ask questions there about what they heard, but if they wanted to be informed of any thing they did not rightly understand, they were to ask their husbands at home; this the apostle argues, partly from the law, which commands them to be in obedience to men, and partly from the indecency of such a practice, 1Co 14:34,35 and seeing as it should seem such a practice did obtain in the church at Corinth, the apostle warmly reproves them for it, it being what was not to be observed in other churches, by intimating to them, that the Gospel neither came out from them, nor did it come to them only, 1Co 14:36 and whoever had a gift of preaching, or a spiritual understanding of things, must allow, that what the apostle said were not the commandments of men, but of God, 1Co 14:37 but as for ignorant persons, who were affectedly and wilfully such, they must so remain, there was no help for it, 1Co 14:38 upon which the apostle repeats his exhortation he set out with, to desire in the first place the gift of prophesying, or preaching, though he would not have speaking with tongues forbidden, provided the above rules were attended to, 1Co 14:39 and concludes with a general exhortation to do all the above things, and everything relating to the doctrine and discipline of the church, in a becoming and orderly manner, 1Co 14:40.

Kehillah in Corinth I 14 Commentaries