Christ Notes > Bible Commentary > Wesley’s Explanatory Notes > 1 Corinthians > 1 Corinthians 14
Life Lessons: Book of 1 Corinthians
By Max Lucado
 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
Follow after love — With zeal, vigour, courage, patience; else you can neither attain nor keep it.
And — In their place, as subservient to this.
Desire spiritual gifts; but especially that ye may prophesy — The word here does not mean foretelling things to come; but rather opening and applying the scripture.
 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.
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaks, in effect, not to men, but to God - Who alone understands him.
 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
Edifieth himself — Only, on the most favourable supposition.
The church — The whole congregation.
 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.
Greater — That is, more useful. By this alone are we to estimate all our gifts and talents.
 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?
Revelation — Of some gospel mystery.
Knowledge — Explaining the ancient types and prophecies.
Prophecy — Foretelling some future event.
Doctrine — To regulate your tempers and lives. Perhaps this may be the sense of these obscure words.
 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?
How shall it be known what is piped or harped — What music can be made, or what end answered?
 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
Who will prepare himself for the battle — Unless he understand what the trumpet sounds? suppose a retreat or a march.
 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.
Unless ye utter by the tongue — Which is miraculously given you.
Words easy to be understood — By your hearers.
Ye will speak to the air — A proverbial expression. Will utterly lose your labour.
 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.
I shall be a barbarian to him — Shall seem to talk unintelligible gibberish.
 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
That he may be able to interpret - Which was a distinct gift.
 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
If I pray in an unknown tongue — The apostle, as he did at 1 Corinthians 14:6, transfers it to himself.
My spirit prayeth — By the power of the Spirit I understand the words myself.
But my understanding is unfruitful — The knowledge I have is no benefit to others.
 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.
I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the understanding also — I will use my own understanding, as well as the power of the Spirit. I will not act so absurdly, as to utter in a congregation what can edify none but myself.
 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?
Otherwise how shall he that filleth the place of a private person — That is, any private hearer.
Say Amen — Assenting and confirming your words, as it was even then usual for the whole congregation to do.
 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.
With my understanding — In a rational manner; so as not only to understand myself, but to be understood by others.
 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Be not children in understanding — This is an admirable stroke of true oratory! to bring down the height of their spirits, by representing that wherein they prided themselves most, as mere folly and childishness.
In wickedness be ye infants — Have all the innocence of that tender age.
But in understanding be ye grown men — Knowing religion was not designed to destroy any of our natural faculties, but to exalt and improve them, our reason in particular.
 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.
It is written in the Law — The word here, as frequently, means the Old Testament.
In foreign tongues will I speak to this people — And so he did. He spake terribly to them by the Babylonians, when they had set at nought what he had spoken by the prophets, who used their own language. These words received a farther accomplishment on the day of pentecost. Isaiah 28:11.
 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.
Tongues are intended for a sign to unbelievers - To engage their attention, and convince them the message is of God. Whereas prophecy is not so much for unbelievers, as for the confirmation of them that already believe.
 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?
Yet — Sometimes prophecy is of more use, even to unbelievers, than speaking with tongues. For instance: If the whole church be met together - On some extraordinary occasion. It is probable, in so large a city, they ordinarily met in several places.
And there come in ignorant persons — Men of learning might have understood the tongues in which they spoke. It is observable, St. Paul says here, ignorant persons or unbelievers; but in the next verse, an unbeliever or an ignorant person. Several bad men met together hinder each other by evil discourse. Single persons are more easily gained.
 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:
He is convicted by all — who speak in their turns, and speak to the heart of the hearers.
He is judged by all — Every one says something to which his conscience bears witness.
 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.
The secrets of his heart are made manifest — Laid open, clearly described; in a manner which to him is most astonishing and utterly unaccountable. How many instances of it are seen at this day! So does God still point his word.
 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.
What a thing is it, brethren — This was another disorder among them.
Every one hath a psalm — That is, at the same time one begins to sing a psalm; another to deliver a doctrine; another to speak in an unknown tongue; another to declare what has been revealed to him; another to interpret what the former is speaking; every one probably gathering a little company about him, just as they did in the schools of the philosophers.
Let all be done to edification — So as to profit the hearers.
 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.
By two or three at most — Let not above two or three speak at one meeting.
And that by course — That is, one after another.
And let one interpret — Either himself, 1 Corinthians 14:13; or, if he have not the gift, some other, into the vulgar tongue. It seems, the gift of tongues was an instantaneous knowledge of a tongue till then unknown, which he that received it could afterwards speak when he thought fit, without any new miracle.
 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
Let him speak — That tongue, if he find it profitable to himself in his private devotions.
 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
Let two or three of the prophets — Not more, at one meeting.
Speak — One after another, expounding the scripture.
 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
All — Who have that gift.
That all may learn — Both by speaking and by hearing.
 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
For the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets — But what enthusiast considers this? The impulses of the Holy Spirit, even in men really inspired, so suit themselves to their rational faculties, as not to divest them of the government of themselves, like the heathen priests under their diabolical possession. Evil spirits threw their prophets into such ungovernable ecstasies, as forced them to speak and act like madmen. But the Spirit of God left his prophets the clear use of their judgment, when, and how long, it was fit for them to speak, and never hurried them into any improprieties either as to the matter, manner, or time of their speaking.
 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.
Let your women be silent in the churches — Unless they are under an extraordinary impulse of the Spirit. For, in other cases, it is not permitted them to speak - By way of teaching in public assemblies.
But to be in subjection — To the man whose proper office it is to lead and to instruct the congregation. Genesis 3:16.
 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.
And even if they desire to learn anything - Still they are not to speak in public, but to ask their own husbands at home - That is the place, and those the persons to inquire of.
 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
Are ye of Corinth either the first or the only Christians? If not, conform herein to the custom of all the churches.
 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.
Or spiritual — Endowed with any extraordinary gift of the Spirit.
Let him — Prove it, by acknowledging that I now write by the Spirit.
 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
Let him be ignorant — Be it at his own peril.
 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
Therefore — To sum up the whole.
 Let all things be done decently and in order.
Decently — By every individual.
In order — By the whole church.