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 1 Corinthians Chapter 14 Part One

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PostSubject: 1 Corinthians Chapter 14 Part One   Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:01 am

1 Corinthians 14:1

Priority of prophecy to tongues

1Co_13:1-13 is one of the most sublime digressions in any letter in any language. But it was nonetheless a deviation from the central theme of gifts and their use by the church which Paul began in 1Co_12:1-31 and then concluded in 1Co_14:1-40. Paul had intimated in 1Co_12:1-31 that the Corinthian were perverting the purpose of gifts from a unifying influence on the church to one fostering fragmentation and discord (esp. 1Co_12:21-25). A contributing factor to their factious spirit was the Corinthian pursuit of individual freedom and personal enhancement at the expense of other members of the body whose needs may have been trampled or ignored along the way. Manifestations of this self-centeredness affected each of the problem issues taken up since 1Co_8:1-13.
The focal problem in the matter of the use and abuse of gifts seemed to be the Corinthian fascination with tongues, a gift which apparently lent itself most readily to perversion from something intended “for the common good” (1Co_12:7) to something employed for personal enhancement (1Co_14:4). Paul’s corrective was not to stifle the use of gifts (1Co_14:39; cf. 1Th_5:19-20) but to urge that their use be regulated by love. Charity is love. If you love as God loves, then you will want all mankind to be saved.
Every believer is commanded to pursue love. Because love-lessness was a root spiritual problem in the Corinthian church, the godly love just described should have been sought after by them with particular determination and diligence.
“Desire spiritual gifts”: Love does not preclude the use of these enablements. Since Paul has addressed not desiring showy gifts in 12:31, and not elevating one over the other in 12:-14-25, some might think it best to set them all aside for unity’s sake. Spiritual gifts on the other hand, are sovereignly bestowed by God on each believer and necessary for the building of the church (12:1-10)
Desire for them in this context, is in reference to their use collectively and faithfully in His service, not a personal yearning to have an admired gift that one did not possess. As a congregation, the Corinthians should be wanting the full expression of all the gifts to be exercised. “You” is plural, emphasizing the corporate desire of the church.
“Prophesy”: This spiritual gift was desirable in the life of the church to serve in a way that tongues cannot, namely, by edifying the entire church, verse 5.
The gifts of the Spirit should be controlled by the fruit of the Spirit, chief among which was love (Gal_5:22). This would lead to exercising the gifts so they would benefit the church body as a whole (1Co_14:5) and also honor God (1Co_14:25, 1Co_14:33, 1Co_14:40). By way of illustration and correction, Paul compared and contrasted the Corinthians’ preoccupation with tongues with their apparent disinterest in prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:2

What Paul meant by speaking in a tongue is a matter of considerable debate. One common view is to see Paul’s use of the word “tongue” (glōssa) against the background of first-century pagan religions and thus define it as ecstatic speech similar to that expressed by the sibylla, or female prophetesses. The Cumaen sibyl was the most famous of the 10 female prophetesses claimed by various regions. Others see the tongues-speaking in 1 Corinthians as ecstatic speech similar to that of Pythia, the female oracle at Delphi or similar to the maenads of Dionysus in their ecstatic frenzy. That the Corinthians may have thought of this gift as analogous to the pagan ecstatics is certainly possible, but to suggest that Paul used the term with reference to this pagan background is hardly enlightened scholarship. In fact the seedbed for most of Paul’s theological concepts and the usual source of his terms was the Old Testament. This is evident by Paul’s use of glōssa outside of these three Corinthian chapters. He used the word 21 times in 1 Corinthians 12-14 but only 3 other times in his other letters. Each of Paul’s other uses was either in a quotation from the Old Testament (Psa_5:9 in Rom_3:13; Isa_45:23 in Rom_14:11) or in an allusion to it (Isa_45:23 in Php_2:11). In all three instances he used the word “tongue” as a figure of speech for the statement or confession made. Whether good (Rom_14:11; Php_2:11) or bad (Rom_3:13) the statement was clearly intelligible.
The same may be said of the meaning of the word glōssa elsewhere in the New Testament. Whether it was used literally of the physical organ (e.g., Mar_7:33; Jas_3:5; Rev_16:10) or figuratively of human languages (e.g., Act_2:11; Rev_5:9; Rev_7:9; Rev_10:11; Rev_11:9; Rev_13:7; Rev_14:6; Rev_17:15), it nowhere referred to ecstatic speech. If it is reasonable to interpret the unknown with the help of the known, the obscure by the clear, then the burden of proof rests with those who find in this term a meaning other than human language.
The context of this verse is the assembled congregation in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:2-14:40, esp. 1Co_14:4-5) in which utterance in a tongue was given without the benefit of interpretation (cf. 1Co_14:13, 1Co_14:19). Apparently no native speaker of the tongue was present in the assembly (cf. 1Co_14:10-11), and no one was given supernatural enablement to interpret it. The utterances therefore were mysteries, truths requiring a supernatural disclosure which God had not provided the Corinthians in this particular instance. As a result, the expression of tongues became an exercise in futility for the assembly as a whole, with only the speaker deriving some benefit if any (1Co_14:4) in his spirit (cf. 1Co_14:14), the sentient aspect of his being (pneuma; cf. Mat_5:3; Act_17:16; 2Co_2:13).

1 Corinthians 14:3

One with the gift of prophecy (cf. 1Co_12:10), on the other hand, spoke in the tongue of his listeners, in this case Greek, and edified them by proclaiming God’s Word in such a way that it gave them strengthening, (oikodomēn, “edification”), encouragement, (paraklēsin), and comfort (paramythian, “consolation,” used only here in the NT). Prophesying in this sense is to predict to speak as a prophet to reveal a divine message Edification the condition of being informed spiritually. "Exhortation" the act of persuading (or attempting to persuade); communication intended to induce belief or action. We see then, that preaching should not just win people to the Lord, but should build them up after they are saved. It should comfort and console them, as well. The gospel message is good news.
“Prophesieth”: In dramatic contrast to the bedlam of counterfeit tongues was the gift of genuine prophecy or preaching of the truth. It produced the building up in truth, the encouragement to obedience, and the comfort in trouble that God desired for His church. Spiritual gifts are always for the benefit of others, never self.

1 Corinthians 14:4

A person with the gift of tongues (cf. 1Co_12:10) who spoke without the benefit of the gift of interpretation (cf. 1Co_12:10) could edify himself but not others in the church. The edification resulted from the fact that the user of a gift experienced the confirmation that he was the individual object of God’s grace (cf. 1Co_12:18, 1Co_12:28) and able to offer praise to God (1Co_14:16). Though he himself would not comprehend the content of that praise, his feelings and emotions would be enlivened, leading to a general exhilaration and euphoria. This was not a bad thing. Paul certainly was no advocate of cold, dispassionate worship. The gifts were not given for personal enrichment, however, but for the benefit of others (1Co_12:7; cf. 1Co_10:24; 1Pe_4:10). Personal edification and exhilaration were often natural by-products of the legitimate exercise of one’s gift, but they were not the main reasons for its exercise.

1 Corinthians 14:5

Paul had no intention of depreciating the gift of tongues; he was simply interested in appreciating the gift of prophecy. There was nothing wrong with the gift of tongues; in fact Paul thought it would be good if everyone had the gift. Of course he had said the same thing about celibacy (1Co_7:7), but in neither instance did he expect universal compliance with his statement. Since both were gifts from God, neither should be despised. “All spake with tongues … ye prophesied”: Here the plural “tongues”, appears as Paul was referring to the real gift of languages. Obviously this was not Paul’s true desire, even for the true gift, since the very idea was impossible and contrary to God’s sovereign distribution of gifts.
He was simply suggesting hypothetically that, if they insisted on clamoring after gifts they did not possess, they at least should seek the one that was more enduring and more valuable for the church. The only purpose tongues renders to the church is when it is interpreted (the normal Greek word for translation).
Wherever God gave the gift of languages, He also gave the gift for translation, so that the sign would also be edifying. Never was the gift to be used without such translation (v.28), so that the church would always be edified.
Paul is not telling them not to speak in tongues. In fact, he says, I wish you all had the evidence that the Holy Spirit had filled you with spiritual gifts. When the person speaking is moved upon by the Spirit of God and brings the message in tongues to the body of Christ, there should always be an interpreter to tell the congregation exactly what the message is from God. Then the church is built up, when it knows the message is from God to them.
In a church gathering, however, the gift of prophecy and its exercise was greatly to be preferred to uninterpreted tongues simply because the former built up others. As already stated, the tongues gift was confirmatory and thus temporary (1Co_13:Cool. Thus those instructions, specifically directed to the Corinthians’ misuse of tongues, are not directives for the use of tongues today.

1 Corinthians 14:6

Two illustrations (in 1Co_14:6 and 1Co_14:7-9) made this plain. In the first, Paul used himself with a possible glance back to his initial ministry in Corinth. He could have come proclaiming his message in the tongue of a language which they did not know (cf. 1Co_14:18), but it would have produced only disinterest at best (1Co_14:11) or at worst, derision (1Co_14:23). As it was, he brought them a revelation from God (cf. 1Co_2:10) by his ministry of prophecy (1Co_12:29), or he brought them a word of knowledge (cf. 1Co_2:12) by his ministry of instruction (1Co_12:29; cf. 1Co_14:26) which they would understand and to which they could respond (cf. 1Co_14:24-25). Paul is saying, here, that he will not speak to them in tongues, because they would not benefit from it. He will preach by revelation knowledge from God. He, also, speaks to them of the things he has learned. Preaching comes in several different forms; I personally believe the most effective sermons are when the speaker is overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, and God speaks through the preacher.
Even an apostle who spoke in tongues did not spiritually benefit a congregation unless, through interpretation, his utterance was clarified so that the revelation and knowledge could be understandably preached and taught. Any private use of this gift is excluded for several reasons:
(1) It is a sign to unbelievers, verse 22
(2) It must have a translator to have any meaning, even to the speaker, verse 2, and
(3) It must edify the church, verse 6.
In verses 7-9, Paul illustrates his previous point about the uselessness of even the true gift apart from translation for the church to understand. If even inanimate musical instruments are expected to make sensible sounds, how much more should human speech make sense, especially when it deals with the things of God?

1 Corinthians 14:7-9

The same was true in a musical tune or a call to battle. To be profitable for others the notes of a flute or harp or trumpet needed to be clear and intelligible; otherwise they amounted to no more than the venting of air with consequences which, besides being annoying (1Co_14:7), might be devastating (1Co_14:Cool. If an instrument of music is out of tune, it would be impossible to bless anyone with the sounds it produced.
The trumpet was used to call the people to battle when it was played a certain way. You would not know what to do, if a recognizable sound did not come from the instrument. This same trumpet was used to call the people to worship. The trumpet was silver {redemption} that was used for the gathering of the people. This is the same trumpet {silver} that will be blown to redeem the Christians from the earth. We will know the sound well and go to meet the Lord in the air. To speak in tongues and no one interpret would be of no use to the winning of souls at all. Speaking in tongues in public should never be done without an interpreter.

1 Corinthians 14:10-12

Human communication operated on the same principles as instrumental communication. The word languages in 1Co_14:10 is phōnōn, the plural of the same word phōnēn, rendered “sounds” of the harp (1Co_14:7) and “call” of the trumpet (1Co_14:Cool. Human sounds, apart from a shared understanding of their meanings, were worthless. Paul simply points up the obvious: the purpose of every language is to communicate, not to impress and certainly not to confuse, as the Corinthians had been doing with their counterfeits. That was clearly the point in the first instance of tongues: Each heard the apostles speak in his own language, Acts 2:6.
This section makes an undeniable case for the fact that the true gift of tongues was never some unintelligible gibberish, but was human language that was to be translated.
So was the Corinthian preoccupation with uninterpreted tongues. That was why Paul did not discourage their interest in spiritual gifts but did encourage them to pursue those gifts that benefited all in the church (1Co_14:12; cf. 1Co_12:31; 1Co_14:1). Again Paul returned to the issue of edification, central to all gifts.
We all want to be able to minister more effectively in the church. The various gifts of the Spirit are for that very purpose. Paul is saying here, seek the gifts that will do the most good to build the church up.

1 Corinthians 14:13

Interpreted tongues, like prophecy, could benefit the assembly (cf. Act_19:6). Therefore the gift of interpretation should be requested of God. If no one was present who was able to interpret, the tongues-speaker was to keep silent (1Co_14:28). Many, who speak in tongues, also have the gift of interpretation. That is one way that you would know for sure that the message in tongues would be understood by all in the church. Paul is saying pray for the gift of interpretation to go with your gift of tongues.

1 Corinthians 14:14-17

It was also true that however beneficial the gift of tongues might be to its recipient (cf. 1Co_14:4), when coupled with the gift of interpretation it had much more value because it involved not only the feeling aspects of a person, but his mental faculties as well. If it were true that one who possessed the gift of tongues would find his worship enhanced by the possession and use of the gift of interpretation (1Co_14:15), it was certainly true that anyone listening to him who did not have the same gift could not empathize with the tongues-speaker. At least another person with the gift of tongues could identify with the exhilaration experienced in the exercise of the gift. In verses 14-17 Paul continues to speak sarcastically, (verse 16 and chapter 4:8-10) about counterfeit tongues, so he used the singular “tongue”, which refers to the fake gift. He was speaking hypothetically to illustrate the foolishness and pointlessness of speaking in ecstatic gibberish. The speaker could not understand, and what virtue is there in praying to God or praising God without understanding? No one can “Amen” such nonsense. Amen means so be it.
Without the interpretation, the people around you would not be able to praise God with you. How in the world could they agree, if they did not know what you were saying?
“Unlearned”: Meaning uninformed or ignorant.
However, a Christian with a different gift required intelligible communication if he were to gain any benefit from what was said and so have a basis for affirming his agreement by saying an Amen. But such comprehension did not exist if the tongue were not interpreted and so the brother was not edified.

1 Corinthians 14:18-19

Paul’s concern to harness the enthusiasm for the gift of tongues in Corinth was not motivated by sour grapes. When it came to the gift of tongues, he could out talk them all. But Paul was not primarily interested in self-fulfillment. Instead he was concerned with ministering to others and thereby glorifying God (cf. 1Co_10:31-33). For that reason he did not use his gift of tongues with the assembled church but he did exercise his gift of prophecy (1Co_14:6). That, in fact, was in accord with God’s purpose. Where then did tongues fit into God’s purpose? Paul discussed that next. “I speak with tongues more than ye all”: Paul emphasized that by writing all of this, he was not condemning genuine tongues (plural); nor, as some may have thought to accuse him, was he envious of a gift he did not possess.
At that point, he stopped speaking hypothetically about counterfeit tongue speaking. He actually had more occasions to use the true gift than all of them. He knew the true gift and had used it properly.
Paul, in all of this, is not speaking against tongues. He is just explaining the proper use of tongues. Paul is not ashamed that he has the evidence of speaking in tongues and that he is filled with the Holy Spirit. He just wants to explain not to run people who do not understand off from the church. “Teach others”: This is the general principle that summarizes what Paul has been saying, i.e., teaching others are the important matter and that requires understanding.

1 Corinthians 14:20

The Corinthian infatuation with tongues was for Paul another manifestation of their immaturity and worldliness (cf. 1Co_3:1-3). This he hoped would change, especially in regard to an enhanced appraisal of prophecy and recognition of the importance of this gift for the assembled church. We are God's children, so we should always be humble before God as His dear children. We should be forgiving as children forgive, as well. Children can fight one minute, and in the next five minutes be playing again. They are quick to forgive and forget. In that, we should be just like them. We should not be children in the decisions we make, however. We should be mature Christians in understanding. We should grow in the Lord each day, so that we will be wise in the decisions that we make. Our understanding of the things of God must be influenced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit of God.
Most of the Corinthian believers were the opposite of what Paul here admonished. They were extremely experienced in evil, but greatly lacking in wisdom. Yet mature understanding was especially essential for proper comprehension and use of the gift of tongues, because the conspicuous and fascinating nature of the gift made it so attractive to the flesh. He was asking his readers to put aside emotion and experience, along with the desires of the flesh and pride, to think carefully about the purpose of tongues.
His final words, contrasting prophecy and tongues (1Co_14:21-25), were intended to conclude the exhortation begun in 1Co_14:1.
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1 Corinthians Chapter 14 Part One
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