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 Main Index : Commentaries : Geneva Study Bible : 1st Corinthians Index : Chapter 14

1st Corinthians, Chapter 14
Chapter 13 | Chapter 15
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14:1 Follow 1 after charity, and desire spiritual [gifts], but rather that ye may a prophesy.

    (1) He infers now of what he spoke before: therefore seeing charity is the chiefest of all, before all things set it before you as chief and principal. And so esteem those things as most excellent which profit the greater part of men (such as prophecy, that is to say, the gift of teaching and applying the doctrine: which was condemned in respect of other gifts, although it is the chiefest and most necessary for the Church) and not those who for a show seem to be marvellous, as the gifts of tongues. This was when a man was suddenly endowed with the knowledge of many tongues, which made men greatly amazed and yet of itself was not greatly of any use, unless there was an interpreter.
    (a) What prophecy is he shows in the third verse.
14:2 2 For he that speaketh in an [unknown] b tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth [him]; howbeit in the c spirit he speaketh mysteries.
    (2) He reprehends their perverse judgment concerning the gift of tongues. For why was it given? The answer: so that the mysteries of God might be the better known to a greater number. By this it is evident that prophecy, which the gift of tongues ought to serve, is better than this: and therefore the Corinthians judged incorrectly, in that they made more account of the gift of tongues than of prophesying: because no doubt the gift of tongues was a thing more to be bragged of. And hereupon followed another abuse of the gift of tongues, in that the Corinthians used tongues in the congregation without an interpreter. And although this thing might be done to some profit of him that spoke them, yet he corrupted the right use of that gift because there came by it no profit to the hearers. And common assemblies were instituted and appointed not for any private man's commodity, but for the profit of the whole company.
    (b) A strange language, which no man can understand without an interpreter.
    (c) By that inspiration which he has received of the Spirit, which nonetheless he abuses, when he speaks mysteries which none of the company can understand.
14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men [to] d edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
    (d) Which may further men in the study of godliness.
14:4 He that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the e church.
    (e) The company.
14:7 3 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?
    (3) He sets forth that which he said by a similitude, which he borrows and takes from instruments of music, which although they speak not perfectly, yet they are distinguished by their sounds, that they may be the better used.
14:9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words f easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
    (f) That fitly utter the matter itself.

14:10 4 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them [is] without signification.

    (4) He proves that interpretation is necessarily to be joined with the gift of tongues, by the manifold variety of languages, insomuch that if one speak to another without an interpreter, it is as if he did not speak.
14:11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that g speaketh [shall be] a barbarian unto me.
    (g) As the papists in all their sermons, and they that ambitiously pour out some Hebrew or Greek words in the pulpit before the unlearned people, by this to get themselves a name of vain learning.
14:12 5 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual [gifts], seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
    (5) The conclusion: if they will excel in those spiritual gifts, as it is proper, they must seek the profit of the church. And therefore they must not use the gift of tongues, unless there is an interpreter to expound the strange and unknown tongue, whether it is himself that speaks, or another interpreter.
14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue h pray that he may interpret.
    (h) Pray for the gift of interpretation.
14:14 6 For i if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my k spirit prayeth, but my understanding is l unfruitful.
    (6) A reason: because it is not sufficient for us to speak so in the congregation that we ourselves worship God in spirit (that is according to the gift which we have received), but we must also be understood of the company, lest that is unprofitable to others which we have spoken.
    (i) If I pray, when the church is assembled together, in a strange tongue.
    (k) The gift and inspiration which the spirit gives me does its part, but only to myself.
    (l) No fruit comes to the church by my prayers.
14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the m understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
    (m) So that I may be understood by others, and may instruct others.
14:16 7 Else when thou shalt bless with the n spirit, how shall he that o occupieth the room of the unlearned say p Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
    (7) Another reason: seeing that the whole congregation must agree with him that speaks, and also witness this agreement, how will they give their assent or agreement who know not what is spoken?
    (n) Alone, without any consideration of the hearers.
    (o) He that sits as a private man.
    (p) So then one uttered the prayers, and all the company answered "amen".
14:18 8 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
    (8) He sets himself as an example, both that they may be ashamed of their foolish ambition, and also that he may avoid all suspicion of envy.
14:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak q five words with my understanding, that [by my voice] I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an [unknown] tongue.
    (q) A very few words.
14:20 9 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
    (9) Now he reproves those freely for their childish folly, who do not see how this gift of tongues which was given to the profit of the Church, is turned by their ambition into an instrument of cursing, seeing that this same cursing is also contained among the punishments with which God punished the stubbornness of his people, that he dispersed them amongst strangers whose language they did not understand.

14:21 In the r 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.

    (r) By the "law" he understands the entire scripture.
14:22 10 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.
    (10) The conclusion: therefore the gift of tongues serves to punish the unfaithful and unbelievers, unless it is referred to prophecy (that is to say, to the interpretation of scripture) and that what is spoken is by the means of prophecy is understood by the hearers.
14:23 11 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in [those that are] s unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
    (11) Another argument: the gift of tongues without prophecy is not only unprofitable to the faithful, but also hurts very much, both the faithful as well as the unfaithful, who should be won in the public assemblies. For by this means it comes to pass that the faithful seem to others to be mad, much less can the unfaithful be instructed by it.
    (s) See (Ac 4:13).
14:26 12 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.
    (12) The conclusion: the edifying of the congregation is a rule and measure of the right use of all spiritual gifts.
14:27 13 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.
    (13) The manner how to use the gift of tongues. It may be lawful for one or two, or at the most for three, to use the gift of tongues, one after another in an assembly, so that there is someone to expound their utterances. But if there are none to expound, let him that has the gift speak to himself alone.
14:29 14 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
    (14) The manner of prophesying: let two or three propound, and let the others judge of that which is propounded, whether it is agreeable to the word of God or not. If in this examination the Lord indicates that nothing was wrong, let them give him leave to speak. Let every man be admitted to prophesy, severally and in his order, so far forth as it is required for the edifying of the church. Let them be content to be subject to each other's judgment.
14:32 And the t spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
    (t) The doctrine which the prophets bring, who are inspired with God's Spirit.
14:34 15 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.
    (15) Women are commanded to be silent in public assemblies, and they are commanded to ask of their husbands at home.
14:36 16 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
    (16) A general conclusion of the treatise of the right use of spiritual gifts in assemblies. And this is with a sharp reprehension, lest the Corinthians might seem to themselves to be the only ones who are wise.
14:37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or u spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
    (u) Skilful in knowing and judging spiritual things.
14:38 17 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
    (17) The church ought not to care for those who are stubbornly ignorant, and will not abide to be taught, but to go forward nonetheless in those things which are right.
14:39 18 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
    (18) Prophecy ought certainly to be retained and kept in congregations, and the gift of tongues is not to be forbidden, but all things must be done orderly.

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