The First to the Corinthians 14:1-40

14  Pursue love, yet keep striving for* the spiritual gifts, but preferably that you may prophesy.+  For the one who speaks in a tongue speaks, not to men, but to God, for no one listens,+ but he speaks sacred secrets+ by the spirit.  However, the one who prophesies builds up and encourages and consoles men by his speech.  The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up a congregation.  Now I would like for all of you to speak in tongues,+ but I prefer that you prophesy.+ Indeed, the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the congregation may be built up.  But at this time, brothers, if I should come speaking to you in tongues, what good would I do you unless I spoke to you either with a revelation+ or with knowledge+ or with a prophecy or with a teaching?  It is the same with the inanimate things that produce sound, whether a flute or a harp. Unless there is an interval to the tones, how can what is being played on the flute or on the harp be recognized?  For if the trumpet sounds an indistinct call, who will get ready for battle?  In the same way, unless you with the tongue use speech that is easily understood, how will anyone know what is being said? You will, in fact, be speaking into the air. 10  It may be that there are many kinds of speech in the world, and yet no kind is without meaning. 11  For if I do not understand the sense of the speech, I will be a foreigner to the one speaking, and the one speaking will be a foreigner to me. 12  So also with you, since you eagerly desire the gifts of the spirit, seek to abound in gifts that will build up the congregation.+ 13  Therefore, let the one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.+ 14  For if I am praying in a tongue, it is my gift of the spirit that is praying, but my mind is unproductive.+ 15  What is to be done, then? I will pray with the gift of the spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing praise with the gift of the spirit, but I will also sing praise with my mind.+ 16  Otherwise, if you offer praise with a gift of the spirit, how will the ordinary person in your midst say “Amen” to your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? 17  True, you are giving thanks in a fine way, but the other man is not being built up. 18  I thank God that I speak in more tongues than all of you do. 19  Nevertheless, in a congregation I would rather speak five words with my mind, that I might also instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.+ 20  Brothers, do not become young children in your understanding,+ but be young children as to badness;+ and become full-grown in your understanding.+ 21  In the Law it is written: “‘With the tongues of foreigners and with the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even then they will refuse to listen to me,’ says Jehovah.”+ 22  Therefore, tongues are not a sign for the believers but for the unbelievers,+ whereas prophecy is not for the unbelievers but for the believers. 23  So if the whole congregation comes together to one place and they all speak in tongues, but ordinary people or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you have lost your minds? 24  But if you are all prophesying and an unbeliever or an ordinary person comes in, he will be reproved and closely examined by them all. 25  The secrets of his heart then become evident,+ so that he will fall facedown and worship God, declaring: “God is really among you.”+ 26  What is to be done, then, brothers? When you come together, one has a psalm, another has a teaching, another has a revelation, another has a tongue, and another has an interpretation.+ Let all things take place for building up.+ 27  And if someone speaks in a tongue, let it be limited to two or three at the most, and in turns, and someone must interpret.+ 28  But if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the congregation and speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets+ speak, and let the others discern the meaning. 30  But if another one receives a revelation while sitting there, let the first speaker keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one at a time, so that all may learn and all may be encouraged.+ 32  And gifts of the spirit* of the prophets are to be controlled by the prophets. 33  For God is a God not of disorder but of peace.+ As in all the congregations of the holy ones, 34  let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak.+ Rather, let them be in subjection,+ as the Law also says. 35  If they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the congregation. 36  Was it from you that the word of God originated, or did it reach only as far as you? 37  If anyone thinks he is a prophet or is gifted with the spirit, he must acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are the Lord’s commandment. 38  But if anyone disregards this, he will be disregarded.* 39  So, my brothers, keep striving to prophesy,+ and yet do not forbid the speaking in tongues.+ 40  But let all things take place decently and by arrangement.+

Footnotes

Or “keep zealously seeking.”
Lit., “And spirits.”
Or possibly, “if anyone is ignorant, he will continue ignorant.”

Study Notes

prophesying: In a sense, all Christians prophesied when they spoke about the fulfillment of prophecies recorded in God’s Word. (Ac 2:17, 18; see study notes on Ac 2:17; 21:9 and Glossary, “Prophecy”; “Prophet.”) However, those who possessed the miraculous gift that Paul mentions here were also able to foretell future events. For example, Agabus was inspired to prophesy about a great famine and to foretell that Paul was to be imprisoned as a result of persecution from the Jews. (Ac 11:27, 28; 21:10, 11) Such prophesying did much to strengthen the congregations.​—1Co 14:3-5, 24, 25.

prophesy: See study note on 1Co 12:10 and Glossary, “Prophecy.”

different tongues: The gift of tongues, or languages, gave a Christian the ability to convey the good news of God’s Kingdom to people who spoke languages the Christian did not know. Thanks to this divine gift, Christians in 33 C.E. were able to share “the magnificent things of God” with many foreign sojourners who had come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost. (Ac 2:1-12) Paul later reminded the Corinthians to use this gift in an orderly way by making sure that the speech was interpreted and that those speaking in tongues took turns.​—1Co 14:4, 5, 9, 27.

speaks in a tongue: See study note on 1Co 12:10.

encourages and consoles: The Greek words pa·raʹkle·sis (translated “encourages”) and pa·ra·my·thiʹa (translated “consoles”) both convey the idea of “encouragement,” but the word pa·ra·my·thiʹa denotes an even greater degree of tenderness and comfort. The related verb pa·ra·my·theʹo·mai is used at Joh 11:19, 31 regarding the Jews who went to console Mary and Martha after the death of their brother, Lazarus.​—See also 1Th 5:14, where the verb is rendered “speak consolingly.”

interpreted: The Greek word di·er·me·neuʹo can be used in the sense “to translate from one language to another.” (Ac 9:36; 1Co 12:30, ftn.) However, it also signifies “to clarify the meaning; to explain fully.” In this verse, it refers to interpreting the meaning of prophecies.

interpretation of tongues: A Christian who was blessed with this miraculous gift was able to interpret a message uttered in a language he or she did not speak. This gift was particularly useful, as the one speaking in tongues could encourage only those who understood his message. Paul thus directed those who spoke in tongues to remain silent unless someone was present to interpret. In that way, the entire congregation would hear the message and be encouraged.​—1Co 14:27, 28.

interprets: Or “translates.” The Greek word is here used in the sense “to translate from one language to another.” (Ac 9:36; 1Co 12:30; ftn.; 14:13, 27) However, it also signifies “to clarify the meaning; to explain fully.”​—See study notes on Lu 24:27; 1Co 12:10.

revelation: Lit., “uncovering; disclosure.” The Greek term a·po·kaʹly·psis is often used, as in this verse, regarding the revealing of God’s will and purposes or of other spiritual matters. (Eph 3:3; Re 1:1) God is the ultimate Source of such revelations.​—Compare study note on Lu 2:32.

revelation: See study note on Ro 16:25.

the inanimate things: Or “the lifeless things,” here used to describe musical instruments.

trumpet: The Mosaic Law directed the Israelite priests to use trumpet blasts to signify important announcements. (Nu 10:2-10) For example, when it was time to go into battle, the trumpets sounded a war call. (Nu 10:9) If a soldier heard an indistinct trumpet call, he might not know just how to respond. Likewise, in the congregation, vague direction or indistinct communication could cause confusion, disorder, and discouragement.

interprets: Or “translates.” The Greek word is here used in the sense “to translate from one language to another.” (Ac 9:36; 1Co 12:30; ftn.; 14:13, 27) However, it also signifies “to clarify the meaning; to explain fully.”​—See study notes on Lu 24:27; 1Co 12:10.

interpret: Or “translate.”​—See study note on 1Co 14:5.

with my mind: Or “with my understanding.” In this verse, the Greek word nous (often rendered “mind”) is used twice. It is also used at 1Co 14:14, 19.

Amen: Or “So be it.” The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of a Hebrew term derived from the root word ’a·manʹ, meaning “to be faithful, to be trustworthy.” (See Glossary.) “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures often used it to express agreement with some form of praise to God, as Paul does here. (Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11) In other cases, it is used to emphasize the writer’s wish that God extend favor toward the recipients of the letter. (Ro 15:33; Heb 13:20, 21) It is also used to indicate that the writer earnestly agrees with what is expressed.​—Re 1:7; 22:20.

say “Amen” to your giving of thanks: The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” A number of scriptures indicate that those listening to a public prayer said amen at the end. (1Ch 16:36; Ne 5:13; 8:6) Paul’s statement shows that those in Christian assembly apparently continued to follow this pattern and joined in the amen to a prayer. However, Paul did not say specifically whether their amen was audible or silent, in their hearts.​—See Glossary, “Amen,” and study note on Ro 1:25.

instructed: The Greek verb ka·te·kheʹo literally means “to sound down,” and it may include the idea of oral instruction. When the truths of God’s Word are repeatedly sounded down into the mind and heart of a learner, he becomes qualified to teach others.​—Compare Ga 6:6, where the same Greek word is used twice.

with my mind: Or “with my understanding.” The Greek word nous used here refers to the ability to think and comprehend. Under inspiration, Paul ranked speaking in tongues as a lesser gift, stating that he would rather speak five words that he and others understood than ten thousand words in a tongue, or language, that were not understood.​—1Co 14:11, 13-18.

instruct others: Or “instruct others orally.” The Greek verb ka·te·kheʹo literally means “to sound down,” and it may include the idea of oral instruction.​—See study note on Ac 18:25.

become young children: Paul first urges the Corinthians not to become young children, that is, immature or childish, in their understanding of spiritual matters. But he does urge them to “be young children,” that is, childlike, inexperienced, and innocent, “as to badness.”

in your Law: Here referring to the entire Hebrew Scriptures, not just to the Law of Moses. The quote that follows is taken from Ps 82:6. “Law” is used in the same sense at Joh 12:34; 15:25.

under law . . . by law: In Paul’s letter to the Romans, these are the first two occurrences of the Greek word for “law” (noʹmos). The expression without law in this verse renders the Greek word a·noʹmos. In this context, the term “law” refers to the Mosaic Law, as is true of most occurrences in the book of Romans. As used throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term “law” can refer to (1) a single or particular law, (2) God’s Law given through Moses, (3) all of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures or parts thereof, or (4) law as a guiding principle.​—See study notes on Mt 5:17; Joh 10:34; Ro 8:2.

In the Law it is written: The quote that follows is taken from Isa 28:11, 12, so the term “Law” is here used in a broad sense, referring to the entire Hebrew Scriptures.​—See study notes on Joh 10:34; Ro 2:12.

says Jehovah: Paul here quotes from Isa 28:11, 12 to show that God would speak to people “with the tongues of foreigners,” but they would refuse to listen. Though Isaiah’s prophecy says that “he [God] will speak,” Paul quotes these words as spoken by God in first person: “I will speak.” To clarify who made this statement, Paul adds a phrase that occurs hundreds of times in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew phrases for “declares Jehovah,” “says Jehovah,” and “this is what Jehovah says.” Some examples are found at Isa 1:11; 22:25; 28:16; 30:1; 31:9; 33:10; 43:10; 48:17; 49:18 (quoted at Ro 14:11); 52:4, 5; Am 1:5; Mic 2:3; Na 1:12; Mal 1:2. So for the reasons mentioned in App. C, the Hebrew Scripture background strongly suggests that the divine name was originally used in this verse and was later replaced with the title Lord.​—See App. C3 introduction; 1Co 14:21.

prophesying: In a sense, all Christians prophesied when they spoke about the fulfillment of prophecies recorded in God’s Word. (Ac 2:17, 18; see study notes on Ac 2:17; 21:9 and Glossary, “Prophecy”; “Prophet.”) However, those who possessed the miraculous gift that Paul mentions here were also able to foretell future events. For example, Agabus was inspired to prophesy about a great famine and to foretell that Paul was to be imprisoned as a result of persecution from the Jews. (Ac 11:27, 28; 21:10, 11) Such prophesying did much to strengthen the congregations.​—1Co 14:3-5, 24, 25.

prophecy: See study note on 1Co 12:10.

an unbeliever or an ordinary person comes in: Besides “believers,” that is, those who had accepted Christ and been baptized (Ac 8:13; 16:31-34; 18:8), “unbelievers” were also welcome to attend Christian meetings (1Co 14:22). “An unbeliever” (Greek, aʹpi·stos) and “an ordinary person” (Greek, i·di·oʹtes) who attended these meetings no doubt progressed in studying and applying God’s Word at varying rates. Yet, they benefited by hearing truths that reproved them, or caused the secrets of their heart to “become evident.”​—1Co 14:23-25; 2Co 6:14.

a psalm: The Greek word psal·mosʹ used here refers to a sacred song or composition and could be rendered “a song of praise.”

interprets: Or “translates.” The Greek word is here used in the sense “to translate from one language to another.” (Ac 9:36; 1Co 12:30; ftn.; 14:13, 27) However, it also signifies “to clarify the meaning; to explain fully.”​—See study notes on Lu 24:27; 1Co 12:10.

interpret: Or “translate.”​—See study note on 1Co 14:5.

interprets: Or “translates.” The Greek word is here used in the sense “to translate from one language to another.” (Ac 9:36; 1Co 12:30; ftn.; 14:13, 27) However, it also signifies “to clarify the meaning; to explain fully.”​—See study notes on Lu 24:27; 1Co 12:10.

interpreter: Or “translator.”​—See study note on 1Co 14:5.

a God not of disorder but of peace: Paul here contrasts disorder with peace. He describes Jehovah as “the God of peace” at Php 4:9, 1Th 5:23, and Heb 13:20 and as “the God who gives peace” at Ro 15:33 and 16:20. God-given peace forms the foundation for order and unity in the Christian congregation. Paul was not implying that doing things in an organized way would, in itself, result in peace. Rather, by conducting their worship in an orderly manner, the Corinthians would enjoy meetings in a peaceful environment that would serve “for building up,” so that “all may be encouraged.” (1Co 14:26-32) Orderly meetings of worship would reflect the qualities and character of the God of peace, bringing him honor.

let the women keep silent in the congregations: Paul has already given the direction to “keep silent” to those speaking in tongues without an interpreter and to those prophesying while another receives a revelation. In this context, he gives direction to women who were speaking out of turn during the congregation meetings. (1Co 14:28, 30, 34) Perhaps some women were interrupting or challenging the men who took the lead in teaching. Paul encouraged those women who had questions or concerns to “ask their husbands at home” rather than disrupt the meetings. (1Co 14:35) Additionally, Paul is here inspired to uphold the Scriptural direction that God assigns men to handle the oversight positions among his people. (1Ti 2:12) The apostle left no doubt that he greatly valued women as fellow ministers or preachers of the good news. (Ro 16:1, 2; Php 4:2, 3) His inspired direction did not exclude women from participating in congregation meetings.​—1Co 11:5; Heb 10:23-25.

Was it from you that the word of God originated . . . ?: Paul asked the rhetorical question here to remind the Corinthians that theirs was not the first congregation to be formed; nor had “the word of God” been declared to them alone. They were part of a large association of believers. Rather than introduce new ways of doing things in the congregation, they were to follow the direction of the apostles. Doing so would promote orderliness, unity, and spiritual growth.

is gifted with the spirit: All Christians may ask for and receive guidance and help from the holy spirit. (Lu 11:13) Also, Christians with the heavenly calling are anointed with holy spirit. (2Co 1:21, 22) However, this expression applies to one who had received a special, miraculous gift of the holy spirit. The expression is translated from the Greek word pneu·ma·ti·kosʹ, which has the basic sense of “pertaining to the spirit; spiritual.” At 1Co 14:1, it is translated “spiritual gifts.” Here at 1Co 14:37, near the close of his discussion of miraculous gifts, Paul mentions both prophesying and being “gifted with the spirit,” indicating, as in verse 1, that he is still referring to miraculous gifts of the holy spirit.

by arrangement: Or “in an orderly manner.” Lit., “according to order.” In this context, Paul encourages Christians to have orderly meetings for worship. (1Co 14:26-33) The Greek word used here is rendered “assignment” at Lu 1:8, where the orderly procedures of the temple service are described. In the Septuagint, it is used at Nu 1:52 to describe the well-organized camp of Israel.

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