Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Follow after charity--as your first and chief aim, seeing that it
is "the greatest"
and desire--Translate, "Yet (as a secondary aim) desire
zealously (see on
but rather--"but chiefly that ye may prophesy"
(speak and exhort under inspiration)
whether as to future events, that is, strict prophecy, or
explaining obscure parts of Scripture, especially the prophetical
Scriptures or illustrating and setting forth questions of Christian
doctrine and practice. Our modern preaching is the successor of
prophecy, but without the inspiration. Desire zealously this
(prophecy) more than any other spiritual gift; or in
preference to "tongues"
2. speaketh . . . unto God--who alone understands all languages.
no man understandeth--generally speaking; the few who have the gift
of interpreting tongues are the exception.
in the spirit--as opposed to "the understanding"
mysteries--unintelligible to the hearers, exciting their wonder,
rather than instructing them. Corinth, being a mart resorted to by
merchants from Asia, Africa, and Europe, would give scope amidst its
mixed population for the exercise of the gift of tongues; but its
legitimate use was in an audience understanding the tongue of the
speaker, not, as the Corinthians abused it, in mere display.
3. But--on the other hand.
edification--of which the two principal species given are "exhortation"
to remove sluggishness, "comfort" or consolation to remove
sadness [BENGEL]. Omit "to."
4. edifieth himself--as he understands the meaning of what the
particular "tongue" expresses; but "the church," that is, the
congregation, does not.
5. Translate, "Now I wish you all to speak with tongues (so far am I
from thus speaking through having any objection to tongues), but rather
IN ORDER THAT (as my ulterior and higher wish for you) ye should
prophesy." Tongues must therefore mean languages, not ecstatic,
unintelligible rhapsodie (as NEANDER fancied): for Paul could never
"wish" for the latter in their behalf.
greater--because more useful.
except he interpret--the unknown tongue which he speaks, "that the
Church may receive edifying (building up)."
6. Translate, "But now"; seeing there is no edification without
revelation . . . prophesying--corresponding one to the other;
"revelation" being the supernatural unveiling of divine truths to man,
"prophesying" the enunciation to men of such revelations. So "knowledge"
corresponds to "doctrine," which is the gift of teaching to others
our knowledge. As the former pair refers to specially
revealed mysteries, so the latter pair refers to the
general obvious truths of salvation, brought from the common
storehouse of believers.
7. Translate, "And things without life-giving sound, whether pipe or
harp, YET (notwithstanding their giving sound)
if they give not a
distinction in the tones (that is, notes) how?" &c.
what is piped or harped--that is, what tune is played on the pipe or
8. Translate, "For if also," an additional step in the
uncertain sound--having no definite meaning: whereas it ought to be
so marked that one succession of notes on the trumpet should summon the
soldiers to attack; another, to retreat; another, to some other
9. So . . . ye--who have life; as opposed to "things without life"
by the tongue--the language which ye speak in.
ye shall speak--Ye will be speaking into the air, that is,
10. it may be--that is, perhaps, speaking by conjecture. "It may
so many--as may be enumerated by investigators of such matters. Compare
"so much," used generally for a definite number left undefined
kinds of voices--kinds of articulate speech.
without signification--without articulate voice (that is, distinct
meaning). None is without its own voice, or mode of speech,
distinct from the rest.
11. Therefore--seeing that none is without meaning.
a barbarian--a foreigner
Not in the depreciatory sense as the term is now used, but one
speaking a foreign language.
12. zealous--emulously desirous.
spiritual gifts--literally, "spirits"; that is, emanations from
the one Spirit.
seek that ye may excel to--Translate, "Seek them, that ye may
abound in them to the edifying," &c.
13. Explain, "Let him who speaketh with a tongue [unknown] in
his prayer (or, when praying) strive that he may
interpret" [ALFORD]. This explanation of "pray"
is needed by its logical connection with "prayer in an unknown tongue"
Though his words be unintelligible to his hearers, let him in them pray
that he may obtain the gift of interpreting, which will make them
"edifying" to "the church"
14. spirit--my higher being, the passive object of the Holy
Spirit's operations, and the instrument of prayer in the unknown tongue,
distinguished from the "understanding," the active instrument of
thought and reasoning; which in this case must be "unfruitful" in
edifying others, since the vehicle of expression is unintelligible to
them. On the distinction of soul or mind and spirit, see
15. What is it then?--What is my determination thereupon?
and--rather as Greek, "but"; I will not only pray with my spirit,
might leave the understanding unedified, BUT with
the understanding also [ALFORD and ELLICOTT].
pray with the understanding also--and, by inference, I will keep
silence altogether if I cannot pray with the understanding (so as to
make myself understood by others). A prescient warning,
mutatis mutandis, against the Roman and Greek practice of keeping
liturgies in dead languages, which long since have become unintelligible
to the masses; though their forefathers spoke them at a time when those
liturgies were framed for general use.
16. Else . . . thou--He changes from the first person, as he had
just expressed his own resolution, "I will pray with the
understanding," whatever "thou" doest.
bless--the highest kind of prayer.
occupieth the room of the unlearned--one who, whatever other gifts
he may possess, yet, as wanting the gift of interpretation, is reduced
by the speaking in an unknown tongue to the position of one unlearned,
or "a private person."
say Amen--Prayer is not a vicarious duty done by others for us;
as in Rome's liturgies and masses. We must join with the leader of
the prayers and praises of the congregation, and say aloud our
responsive "Amen" in assent, as was the usage of the Jewish
and Christian primitive churches
MARTYR, Apology, 2. 97].
17. givest thanks--The prayers of the synagogue were called "eulogies,"
because to each prayer was joined a thanksgiving. Hence the prayers
of the Christian Church also were called blessings and
giving of thanks. This illustrates
1Th 5:17, 18.
So the Kaddisch and Keduscha, the synagogue formulæ
of "hallowing" the divine "name" and of prayer for the "coming of God's
kingdom," answer to the Church's Lord's Prayer, repeated often and made
the foundation on which the other prayers are built [TERTULLIAN, Prayer].
18. tongues--The oldest manuscripts have the singular, "in a tongue
19. I had rather--The Greek verb more literally expresses this
meaning, "I WISH to speak five words with my understanding
ten thousand words in an unknown tongue"; even the two thousandth part
of ten thousand. The Greek for "I would rather," would be a
different verb. Paul would
NOT wish at all to speak "ten thousand words
in an unknown tongue."
20. Brethren--an appellation calculated to conciliate their favorable
reception of his exhortation.
children in understanding--as preference of gifts abused to
nonedification would make you (compare
The Greek for "understanding" expresses the will of one's
(it is not found elsewhere); as the "heart" is the will of the "soul."
The same Greek is used for "minded" in
men--full-grown. Be childlike, not childish.
21. In the law--as the whole Old Testament is called, being all of
it the law of God. Compare the citation of the Psalms as the "law,"
Here the quotation is from
Isa 28:11, 12,
where God virtually says of Israel, This people hear Me not, though I
speak to. them in the language with which they are familiar; I will
therefore speak to them in other tongues, namely, those of the foes
whom I will send against them; but even then they will not hearken to
Me; which Paul thus applies, Ye see that it is a penalty to be
associated with men of a strange tongue, yet ye impose this on the
Church [GROTIUS]; they who speak in foreign
tongues are like "children" just "weaned from the milk"
"with stammering lips" speaking unintelligibly to the hearers,
or as babbling drunkards
22. Thus from Isaiah it appears, reasons Paul, that "tongues" (unknown
and uninterpreted) are not a sign mainly intended for believers
(though at the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles with him, tongues were
vouchsafed to him and them to confirm their faith), but mainly to be a
condemnation to those, the majority, who, like Israel in Isaiah's
day, reject the sign and the accompanying message. Compare "yet . . .
will they not hear Me"
"Sign" is often used for a condemnatory sign
(Eze 4:3, 4;
Since they will not understand, they shall not
prophesying . . . not for them that believe not, but
. . . believe--that is, prophesying has no effect
on them that are radically and
obstinately like Israel
(Isa 28:11, 12),
unbelievers, but on them that are either in receptivity or in fact
believers; it makes believers of those not wilfully unbelievers
(1Co 14:24, 25;
and spiritually nourishes those that already believe.
23. whole . . . all . . . tongues--The more
there are assembled, and the more that speak in unknown tongues, the
more will the impression be conveyed to strangers "coming in" from
curiosity ("unbelievers"), or even from a better motive ("unlearned"),
that the whole body of worshippers is a mob of fanatical
"madmen"; and that "the Church is like the company of builders of Babel
after the confusion of tongues, or like the cause tried between two
deaf men before a deaf judge, celebrated in the Greek epigram" [GROTIUS].
unlearned--having some degree of faith, but not gifts
24. all--one by one
prophesy--speak the truth by the Spirit intelligibly, and not in
one--"anyone." Here singular; implying that this effect,
namely, conviction by all, would be produced on anyone,
who might happen to enter. In
the plural is used; "unlearned or unbelievers"; implying that
however many there might be, not one would profit by the tongues; yea,
their being many would confirm them in rejecting the sign, as many
unbelieving men together strengthen one another in unbelief;
individuals are more easily won [BENGEL].
convinced--convicted in conscience; said of the "one that believeth
(Joh 16:8, 9).
judged--His secret character is opened out. "Is searched into"
[ALFORD]. Said of the "one unlearned" (compare
25. And thus--omitted in the oldest manuscripts and versions.
secrets of his heart made manifest--He sees his own inner character
opened out by the sword of the Spirit
the word of God, in the hand of him who prophesieth. Compare the same
effect produced on Nebuchadnezzar
and end of
No argument is stronger for the truth of religion than its
manifestation of men to themselves in their true character. Hence
hearers even now often think the preacher must have aimed his sermon
particularly at them.
and so--convicted at last, judged, and manifested to himself. Compare
the effect on the woman of Samaria produced by Jesus' unfolding of her
character to herself
(Joh 4:19, 29).
and report--to his friends at home, as the woman of Samaria did.
Rather, as the Greek is, "He will worship God, announcing," that
is, openly avowing then and there, "that God is in you of a truth," and
by implication that the God who is in you is of a truth the God.
RULES FOR THE
GIFTS IN THE
26. How is it then?--rather, "What then is the true rule to be
observed as to the use of gifts?" Compare
where the same Greek occurs.
a psalm--extemporary, inspired by the Spirit, as that of Mary,
Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna
(Lu 1:46-55, 67-79; 2:34-38).
a doctrine--to impart and set forth to the congregation.
a tongue . . . a revelation--The oldest manuscripts transpose the
order: "revelation . . . tongue"; "interpretation" properly following
Let all things be done unto edifying--The general rule under which
this particular case fails; an answer to the question at the beginning
of this verse. Each is bound to obey the ordinances of his church not
adverse to Scripture. See Article XXXIV,
Church of England Prayer Book.
27. let it be by two--at each time, in one assembly; not more than two
or three might speak with tongues at each meeting.
by course--in turns.
let one interpret--one who has the gift of interpreting tongues; and
not more than one.
28. let him--the speaker in unknown tongues.
speak to himself, and to God--(compare
1Co 14:2, 4)
--privately and not in the hearing of others.
29. two or three--at one meeting (he does not add "at the most," as
lest he should seem to "quench prophesyings," the most edifying of
gifts), and these "one by one," in turn
"by course," and
Paul gives here similar rules to the prophets, as previously to those
speaking in unknown tongues.
judge--by their power of "discerning spirits"
whether the person prophesying was really speaking under the influence
of the Spirit (compare
30. If any thing--Translate, "But if any thing."
another that sitteth by--a hearer.
let the first hold his peace--Let him who heretofore spoke, and who
came to the assembly furnished with a previous ordinary (in those times)
revelation from God
give place to him who at the assembly is moved to prophesy by a sudden
revelation from the Spirit.
31. For ye may--rather, "For ye can
[if ye will] all prophesy one
by one," giving way to one another. The "for" justifies the precept
"let the first hold his peace."
32. And--following up the assertion in
"Ye can (if ye will) prophesy one by one," that is, restrain yourselves
from speaking all together; "and the spirits of the prophets," that is,
their own spirits, acted on by the Holy Spirit, are not so hurried away
by His influence, as to cease to be under their own control; they can
if they will hear others, and not demand that they alone should be
heard uttering communications from God.
33. In all the churches of the saints God is a God of peace; let
Him not among you be supposed to be a God of confusion [ALFORD]. Compare the same argument in
LACHMANN and others put a full stop at
"peace," and connect the following words thus: "As in all churches of
the saints, let your women keep silence in your churches."
(1Ti 2:11, 12).
For women to speak in public would be an act of independence, as if
they were not subject to their husbands (compare
For "under obedience," translate, "in subjection" or
"submission," as the Greek is translated
(Eph 5:21, 22, 24).
the law--a term applied to the whole Old Testament; here,
35. Anticipation of an objection. Women may say, "But if we do not
understand something, may we not 'ask' a question publicly so as to
'learn'? Nay, replies Paul, if you want information, 'ask' not in
public, but 'at home'; ask not other men, but 'your own particular (so
the Greek) husbands.'"
36. What!--Greek, "Or." Are you about to obey me? Or, if you
set up your judgment above that of other churches. I wish to know, do
you pretend that your church is the first church FROM which the gospel
word came, that you should give the law to all others? Or are you the
only persons In, fro whom it has come?
37. prophet--the species.
spiritual--the genus: spiritually endowed. The followers of
Apollos prided themselves as "spiritual"
Here one capable of discerning spirits is specially meant.
things that I write . . . commandments of the Lord--a direct assertion
of inspiration. Paul's words as an apostle are Christ's words. Paul
appeals not merely to one or two, but to a body of men, for the
reality of three facts about which no body of men could possibly be
mistaken: (1) that his having converted them was not due to mere
eloquence, but to the "demonstration of the Spirit and of power"; (2)
that part of this demonstration consisted in the communication of
miraculous power, which they were then exercising so generally as to
require to be corrected in the irregular employment of it; (3) that
among these miraculous gifts was one which enabled the "prophet" or
"spiritual person" to decide whether Paul's Epistle was Scripture or
not. He could not have written so, unless the facts were
notoriously true: for he takes them for granted, as consciously
known by the whole body of men whom he addresses
[HINDS, On Inspiration].
38. if any man be ignorant--wilfully; not wishing to recognize these
ordinances and my apostolic authority in enjoining them.
let him be ignorant--I leave him to his ignorance: it will be at his
own peril; I feel it a waste of words to speak anything further to
convince him. An argument likely to have weight with the Corinthians,
who admired "knowledge" so much.
39. covet--earnestly desire. Stronger than "forbid not"; marking how
much higher he esteemed "prophecy" than "tongues."
40. Let, &c.--The oldest manuscripts read, "But let," &c.
This verse is connected with
"But (while desiring prophecy, and not forbidding
tongues) let all things be done decently." "Church government is
the best security for Christian liberty" [J. NEWTON]. (Compare
1Co 14:23, 26-33).