1 Corinthians 14 Meaning and Commentary

1 Corinthians 14 Meaning and Commentary

1 Corinthians 14

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord.”

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

1 Corinthians 14 Meaning

1 Corinthians 14 is a chapter in the Bible that focuses on the use of spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of prophecy and speaking in tongues, within the context of the church. The passage emphasizes the importance of using these gifts for the edification and building up of the church, rather than for personal gain or self-gratification. It teaches us that the purpose of spiritual gifts is to serve and bless others, and to bring glory to God.

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1 Corinthians 14 Commentary and Explanation

Chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians is a rich and complex portion of Scripture that deals with the topic of speaking in tongues and prophecy within the context of corporate worship.

The opening verses of 1 Corinthians 14 emphasize the importance of pursuing love above all else. Paul reminds us that love should be our primary motivation in our spiritual gifts and interactions within the church. This aligns with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39, where He instructs us to love God and love our neighbors.

The chapter goes on to highlight the value of prophecy over speaking in tongues in the context of public worship. Paul makes it clear that prophecy, which involves speaking God’s word to edify, exhort, and console the church, is more beneficial for the entire congregation than speaking in tongues without interpretation. This emphasis on edification and understanding echoes the sentiment expressed in 1 Corinthians 12:7, which reminds us that spiritual gifts are given for the common good.

Throughout this chapter, Paul provides practical guidelines for the orderly exercise of spiritual gifts in the church. He emphasizes the importance of clarity and understanding in the assembly. The apostle insists that speaking in tongues should be accompanied by interpretation so that the church may be built up. This aligns with his earlier teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:10, where he mentions the gift of interpreting tongues as a distinct spiritual gift.

Verse 26 emphasizes the need for order and edification in the worship service. When we gather as a church, our aim should always be to build one another up in the faith and to worship God in a way that is decent and orderly. Disorder and confusion are not reflective of the character of our God (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Paul also addresses the role of women in public worship in verses 34-35. It’s important to remember that these verses need to be understood in their cultural context. While Paul’s words may seem restrictive, his primary concern is maintaining order in the church gatherings. The Bible, in other places, affirms the valuable roles that women play in the life of the church (e.g., Acts 18:26, Romans 16:1-2, Galatians 3:28).

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Ultimately, 1 Corinthians 14 underscores the importance of love, edification, and orderliness in the worship and exercise of spiritual gifts within the church. We should seek to apply these principles as we gather for corporate worship, always striving for unity and understanding among believers. Ultimately, the overarching theme is to glorify God and build up one another in love, in accordance with the broader teachings of Scripture.

Context of 1 Corinthians 14

In the Corinthian church, there was a misuse and misunderstanding of spiritual gifts. Speaking in tongues had become a source of pride and some were speaking in tongues simultaneously, causing chaos and confusion. Paul wrote this letter to address these issues and bring the Corinthians back to a proper understanding and use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In the preceding chapters, Paul speaks about the diversity of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ. He reminds the believers that all these gifts come from the same Spirit and are meant to serve the common good. In chapter 14, Paul specifically addresses the issues surrounding prophecy and tongues, urging the Corinthians to seek the gifts that will most effectively build up the church.

Breaking Down the Key Parts of 1 Corinthians 14

1 Corinthians 14:1: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”

This verse sets the tone for the chapter, highlighting the importance of love and the desire for spiritual gifts. It encourages believers to eagerly seek the gift of prophecy, as it brings edification and encouragement to the church.

1 Corinthians 14:4: “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.”

This verse contrasts the use of tongues for personal edification with the use of prophecy for building up the church. It emphasizes the importance of using spiritual gifts in a way that benefits the entire body of believers.

Lessons From 1 Corinthians 14

  1. We are called to pursue love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts. These gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of serving and edifying others.
  2. We should prioritize the use of spiritual gifts that bring understanding and edification to the church. While tongues have their place in personal prayer and worship, they should be used in the church context only if there is interpretation.
  3. The ultimate goal is not personal gratification or self-promotion, but the building up of the body of Christ. We should use our gifts in a way that brings unity, peace, and order to the church.
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Final Thoughts

1 Corinthians 14 is a powerful reminder of the importance of using spiritual gifts in a way that honors God and blesses others. It teaches us to prioritize love, seek after the gifts that will edify the church, and maintain order and unity in the body of Christ. Let us strive to use our spiritual gifts for the glory of God and the building up of His people. May we always pursue love and eagerly desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit, knowing that they are meant to serve the common good.

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