That is the best and most eligible gift which best answers the purposes of charity and edifies the church. That which cannot be understood cannot edify, and such confusion is to be avoided in the church. No gift of the Spirit was to be despised, and if the gift of tongues was bestowed, it was with interpretation among two or three brethren, and resulted in their blessing.
I Corinthians 14
1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
7 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?
8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
21 In the 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.
22 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.
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
26 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.
27 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.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
34 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.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
I Corinthians 14:1 – J. Vernon McGee
I Corinthians 14:1-5 – J. Vernon McGee
I Corinthians 14:6-22 – J. Vernon McGee
I Corinthians 14:23-30 – J. Vernon McGee
I Corinthians 14:31-40 – J. Vernon McGee
1 Corinthians 14:1-12 – The Gift of “Prophesying”
The word prophesy is used here, as so largely in Scripture, not in the limited sense of foretelling the future, but of pouring forth heaven-given speech. There was a strong tendency at Corinth to magnify the use of tongues; that is, forms of utterance which the assembly could not understand. The Apostle rebukes this, and says that it is far better to be able to speak to the edification of the hearers. Indeed, he directs that speech in an unknown tongue should be withheld, unless someone were present who could explain and interpret it.
The gift of tongues was a special sign intended for the convincing of that age, but it was not a necessary accompaniment of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and is certainly of inferior value. A mere blare of a trumpet, without note or modulation, conveys no meaning to the waiting ranks of soldiers; and the mere sound of an unknown tongue startles without teaching. Do not be content merely to make a sound; say something. Seek to do actual service to others is one of the three directions suggested in I Corinthians 14:3. Edification is the building up of the soul in truth. Comfort is for the distressed and weary. Consolation is the heartening of the soul to fresh enterprise. —Through the Bible Day by Day
I Corinthians 14:10—There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world.
There are the voices of nature.—The deep bass of the ocean wave booming along the shore; the crash of the ice; the silver choirs of the stars; the song of bird, hum of bee, shrill trumpet of gnat, the rustle of the leaves, the patter of the rain, the chorus of the hailstones—how varied, and charming, and musical! No doubt if we could listen to all these from a distance we should detect perfect chords.
There are the voices of human life.—First, the mother’s; then of the brothers and sisters of our home (and sad is the lot of the lonely child which has none); then of the teacher, the minister, the friend, the lover, not one could be spared; not one that has not a significance; not one to whose words we shall not do well to give heed.
There are the voices of our daily lot.—Now we are called to experience joy, now sorrow, now gain, and now loss; now of the harsh reprimand of disaster; now of the tender assurances of sunny hours. Behind all these God is speaking. Listen, therefore, heedfully to all, and try to acquire the lesson He is longing to inculcate. What is He saying to you, by your circumstances, at this moment? Is it in tones of pleading, of remonstrance, of blame?
“Where is thy favored haunt, Eternal Voice,
The region of thy choice,
Where, undisturbed by sin and earth, the soul
Owns thy entire control?
“’Tis then we hear the voice of God within,
Pleading with care and sin:
‘Child of my Love,
How have I wearied thee?’” —Our Daily Homily
1 Corinthians 14:13-25 – Understanding Promotes Edifying
The Apostle here gives two practical directions, in order to restore the rule of the understanding above the babble of incoherent sounds, which was confusing the Corinthian church.
The first was that worship should be conducted in a form that the assembled congregation could understand. To utter prayer or thanksgiving to which the audience could give no assent; to utter sounds which were meaningless, was inconsistent with the true nature of Christian worship. It was therefore from this chapter that the Reformers drew their arguments against the practice of conducting the services of the Church in Latin. The second was that instruction was a most necessary part of worship, I Corinthians 14:19.
The effect of prophesying, that is, preaching, is set forth very forcibly and beautifully in the closing verses of our reading. We must always have in mind the unbelieving and the unlearned. If he hears the solemn voice of God speaking through human lips to his conscience, stirring its depths, moving it to repentance and faith, he will bear speedy testimony to the truth of what he has heard. We must seek to have in our assemblies the convincing power of God’s Word, accompanied by the corroborating witness of the unhindered Spirit. —Through the Bible Day by Day
1 Corinthians 14:26-40 – Order of Church Services
Again the Apostle sums up his directions in two simple rules: 1. Let all things be done unto edifying; that is, to building up individual character, and to fitting each member as a brick or stone into the rising fabric of the Church. Hence the stress laid on prophesying or speaking under the impulse of God’s Spirit. All who had that gift should certainly have a chance to use it, because the whole Church would be thereby profited and enriched. 2. Let all things be done decently and in order: decently, so as not to interrupt the dignity and gravity of the services; in order, not by hazard or impulse, but by design and arrangement.
The Apostle’s ideal is that of the calm and simple majesty which should mark all solemn assemblies, as distinct from fanatical and frenzied excitement. Hence he discountenances the disuse of the Eastern veil (the badge of modesty), the speaking of women in public, and the interruption of speakers by each other. That the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets is a truth of universal application. It condemns every impulse of a religious character which is not under the intelligent control of those who display it. —Through the Bible Day by Day