A Study on 1 Corinthians 14Bro. David Chancellor
2/16/2003 11:00 AM
1 Corinthians 14:1-5
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; however in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 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.
Verse 1 (Follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.) ties together chapters 12, 13, and 14 of this book. Chapter 12 dwells on spiritual gifts; chapter 13 dwells on love in the heart. It is good to desire a greater manifestation of God in your life. Spiritual gifts are not to make you rich, or just so you can say that you have one. Spiritual gifts should be workers together with charity. Without charity, the great gifts aren't too effective. In chapter 14, Paul begins to speak about prophesy. He is not speaking here about a foretelling of the future, but speaking so as to help one another. It is bringing that which encourages and helps another to draw closer to God.
Many today make much of spiritual gifts and "unknown tongues." The word unknown in this chapter was added by the translators to emphasize that it was a tongue (or language) that the others present did not know. If people don't know the language, they won't get much out of what is said. No benefit or understanding will be given. God will hear and understand, and the speaker will understand, but no one else will know what is being said. If you would practice another language, find someone who speaks the language, or speak it when you are praying alone. It may be the world's greatest exposition in another language, but no one will get anything out of it if they do not know the language. Prophesy has to do with edification, exhortation, and comfort. Meeting together for church services is done so that the needs of people can be met. Christ met the needs of man - spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. He met every need of man. He fed the people when they were hungry. He came to meet the needs of every man. His church (his body) desires to see people prosper in their souls, in their health, in every way. John desired that they would prosper and be in health even as their souls prospered. We desire that people's lives would be made better by having been here. This isn't a "gain is godliness" message, but the help in the soul also helps in other areas of life. This help and comfort can come through preaching, a song, or a prayer. Charity doesn't seek to be blessed only. If we come desiring to be a blessing, we'll leave with one as well. It's like going to a potluck supper. Everyone brings something, and everyone gets something good. Bringing this good thing isn't with the intention to put on a display. This isn't about showing off or demonstrating our own self-worth and abilities. Charity tries to be a help to others, to encourage, to strengthen, to comfort. This is what it means to edify. If one can only speak one language, and another is there that can interpret, the edifying can still take place. This "jabbering until you pass out" or putting on a show isn't edifying.
1 Corinthians 14:6
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?
If we just speak all we know so that we can impress everyone with our knowledge, this isn't edifying. Teaching is trying to get something across. If we know what this is ahead of time, we will do a lot better. There is a difference between having something to say and just saying something. We want to be able to benefit one another. It's the sharing of what another has learned.
1 Corinthians 14:7-8
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? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
There are different tunes played in the military for different things. If the tune is indistinguishable then the message isn't there. Even the tune can edify, as it brings the words of the song to mind. There needs to be a message there.
1 Corinthians 14:9
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.
The message needs to be understandable. It's more than just picking out the right words. It needs to convey the information. It needs to be easy to understand. When we try to speak for God, we want it to be easy to understand. We want the complexity to be removed. We want to break it up into pieces we can understand. If people can't understand the message, what's the point?
Our president may jumble his words sometimes, but when he's done, you're convinced that he really means what he says. When we speak the message of God, we may get our grammar mixed up sometimes, we may not be the world's greatest orator, but people can know that it comes from the heart.
1 Corinthians 14:10-12
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 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. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
As you seek God to work in you, don't seek to put on a good show. Seek to edify others. It needs to come from charity in the heart. You can be zealous of spiritual gifts, but there needs to be a desire to edify the church. The gift of prayer should begin to be exercised in private, but there is also a place for public prayer. Don't be timid in prayer. Prayer requests are taken so that we can help to bear the burdens of others. Carry the burden in prayer until the answer comes. Use the gift to the edification of others.
1 Corinthians 14:13-17
Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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. 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? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
We want prayer to come from the heart. If everyone prays at the same time, how can anyone agree? How can anyone pray with understanding and agreement if everyone is taking at once? We can agree in prayer, although one is praying at a time. If everyone was singing a different song at the same time, it would be confusion. We come together to be edified and to edify.
1 Corinthians 14:18
I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
Paul spoke approximately 8 different languages. He was able to travel in the then-known world and speak the gospel wherever he went.
1 Corinthians 14:19
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.
Paul desired to be able to speak whatever was necessary to help another soul. He didn't want to be a great orator, but to help others. Our goal should be to edify.
1 Corinthians 14:40
Let all things be done decently and in order.
This sums up the chapter. It's not about show. It is orderly, with the purpose that needs would be met and that souls would be helped and edified. We want the others to be profited. The charity in the heart desires that others would be built up. The emphasis is on serving one another by love.
Tongues is a lesser gift. We want the gift that feeds the soul of man. Good teaching will whet your appetite for the Bible. Find the Lord, know him and desire that the needs of others be met. This is why we are here.