- 1 Corinthians 14:11-20
- 1 Cor 14:11 (KJV)
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.
Here Paul is stating that unless there is language harmony between the
speaker and the hearer, then both will be considered as barbarians. That
term in ancient Greece referred to those foreigners who did not have
understanding of the Greek language plus they were uneducated and cruel
people. If the speaker does not speak in the tongue of the hearer, then that
person who is hearing will gain nothing by the teaching. Speech is a
powerful communications medium but when it is not understood, it is but
futile and useless.
- 1 Cor 14:12 (KJV)
Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts,
seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
Paul is stating that these Corinthians, even though they are very zealous
for spiritual gifts, must use those gifts in the way that will edify the
church. Building on verse 11, Paul wants there to be harmony between what is
spoken and what is heard, this way there will be profit by both speaker and
hearer. Having and using spiritual gifts are useless if they are not used
for the purpose of edification of the brethren.
- 1 Cor 14:13 (KJV)
Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray
that he may interpret.
Paul wants those that speak in a tongues to be able to edify the
congregation, therefore those who used tongues should pray that the message
given them could also be interpreted by them so the whole church could
benefit from the message. Keep in mind this was still the time when people
received divine messages from God in languages they were not fluent in, an
interpretation was needed so the congregation would understand the message.
The interpretation of tongues and tongues were two separate spiritual gifts,
but how great it would be if they were within the same person.
- 1 Cor 14:14 (KJV)
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my
understanding is unfruitful.
If a person is engaging the spiritual gift of tongues and has no
understanding of what they are saying, then their spirit is doing the
praying. It is a normal function that we operate through our understanding.
For example, if we hear a sermon on missions, we will then have an
understanding on missions and maybe the Holy Spirit might prompt a person to
go to the field. The gift of tongues in the early church had bypassed the
normal channels of understanding. The spirit did not automatically convey
the meaning to another person’s spirit and that is why even the tongue
speaker could not understand what was being said, never mind the others who
heard. The spirit does not convey to another in the same way that our
understanding conveys to others.
- 1 Cor 14:15 (KJV)
- 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.
Here Paul says that what he is going to do is both pray and sing in tongues
but including the understanding. Paul was giving recognition to both the
gift of tongues and the necessity of understanding the message which was
given in tongues. Paul is teaching that both the spiritual gift and the
understanding of the believer is necessary for edification.
- 1 Cor 14:16 (KJV)
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?
Paul continues the discourse by stating that if you are praying with the
spirit and not conveying the understanding, then how will those whom you are
speaking to be able to give approbation to your prayer by saying, “Amen,” if
they cannot understand what you are saying? The key to using this spiritual
gift properly is to take what the Spirit teaches and translate that into
understanding so all will be edified. Paul continually exhorts them to makes
sure this gift is not abused but that it is used to the glory of God, and
that will be accomplished by making sure that the understanding accompanies
the tongues message.
- 1 Cor 14:17 (KJV)
For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
A person can praise the Lord in another language and that is pleasing to the
Lord, since He is the creator of all languages, but the problem is that
those who hear the giving of thanks are not edified, which carries with it
the meaning of “built up.” Spiritual gifts are to be used for the
furtherance of the Gospel but the hindrance to that is not conveying the
message into a person’s understanding. If I went to Warsaw, Poland and
handed out tracts in the Korean language, how would that benefit those who
received it? But if I handed out tracts in the Polish language, then all
would be edified, even though some would probably be angry.
1 Cor 14:18 (KJV)
I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
Paul was thankful that the Lord gave him the gift of tongues which would
have been a great gift for a missionary. He probably had more opportunity
than these Corinthians to utilize that gift, since he did much traveling and
encountered many people of differing languages.
- 1 Cor 14:19 (KJV)
- 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 now gives his analogy. He would rather speak a smaller sermon in the
understanding of his hearers rather than speak an eloquent sermon in tongues
without anyone understanding it. Some in the Corinthian church were probably
glorying a little in the fact that they could speak in tongues for a long
period of time. Without understanding, they could speak for hours and it
will be a futile message if no one understands.
- 1 Cor 14:20 (KJV)
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye
children, but in understanding be men.
It seems Paul had changed his writing demeanor in this verse. Since there
was this tongues misuse in the church at Corinth, there may have been much
contention which was causing a lot of strife in the church. If someone got
up in the church and spoke a long sermon in tongues just to show off, it
would definitely raise the ire of many in the congregation. So Paul is
hoping to quench any strife by telling them that they need to increase their
understanding from the way a child understand things, through limited
intelligence, into maturing their faculties for understanding. The word
“malice” carries with it the meaning of “Ill will” or “a desire to do
injury.” The proper understanding of spiritual issues shows an increase in
maturity and would put away the childish practices which can destroy a