I Corinthians 14:1-11

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Text: I Corinthians 14:1-11

THE SUPERIORITY OF PROPHECY

INTRODUCTION:

We find an emphasis today in charismatic circles that the gift of tongues is very desirable. In fact, many are teaching that it is the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that without it, the person is not even saved. Therefore, they urge people to begin uttering a few sounds over and over again and let the Holy Spirit take over in order to speak in tongues. They supposedly practice speaking in tongues. They also supposedly pray and sing in tongues. This is not Biblical tongues, however.

At the time I Corinthians was written, tongues was the least of all the spiritual gifts. Prophecy was superior to speaking in tongues. Today, however, according to I Corinthians 13:8-10 , all nine of these sign gifts listed in I Corinthians 12:8-10 have ceased; and they ceased with the completion of the New Testament.

Because of the abuse of the gift of tongues in the church at Corinth, Paul wrote I Corinthians 14 to regulate its use in the church services. Remember that when I Corinthians was written, tongues and prophecy had not yet ceased. They would continue to be given for another 30-40 years.

Even though the gift of tongues has since ceased, it is good for us to study these regulations because people are constantly bombarded by those who believe that tongues are for today.

Whenever we discuss the subject of speaking in tongues, we must be careful as to what we mean. In the Bible speaking in tongues is first found in Acts 2 . There, according to verses 4-11 speaking in tongues was speaking in foreign languages. It is not some unintelligible gibberish.

Speaking in tongues was the ability to speak a foreign language without ever having studied it.

The gist of our text is this: Prophecy was superior to speaking in tongues because it edified the entire local church and not just the individual who understood that language.

I. BECAUSE OF ITS SUPERIORITY, LOVE OUGHT TO BE SOUGHT; BUT OF ALL THE NINE SIGN GIFTS, THE ONE TO SEEK IS PROPHECY - 14:1

I Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

Follow after = be following after or pursuing

Desire suggests be striving for or be dedicated to.

What they were to be desiring was spiritual gifts.

Rather introduces something that supplements and thereby corrects what Paul has just stated. Rather than desiring all the spiritual gifts, Paul is urging them to desire one spiritual gift in particular: that (i.e. in order that) ye may prophesy; and his reason for this is that the church might be edified.

Ye may prophesy is understood in the sense of you might proclaim an inspired revelation because this is the gift that will build up believers in their faith

II. A FOREIGN LANGUAGE EDIFIES NO ONE WHO CANNOT UNDERSTAND IT - 14:2

I Corinthians 14:2 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.

Verse 2 means that speaking in a foreign language edifies no one who cannot understood the language.

It does not mean that this is the way to speak to God. It means instead that, if he is speaking in a language which is unknown to his hearers, only God will be able to understand him.

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue is the one who is speaking in a language unknown to his hearers.

Speaketh not to men is is not speaking to human beings.

But introduces a strong contrast with speaketh not to men.

Instead of one speaking an unknown foreign language when speaking to men, he is speaking only unto God because God is the only One Who can understand what he is saying. It is not saying that speaking in a foreign language is the way to speak to God.

For no man (i.e. no one or nobody) understandeth him (i.e. hears and understands (him)

Howbeit (i.e. but) in the spirit he speaketh mysteries

In the spirit is in spirit, meaning in conjunction with (or in the exercise of) his spiritual gift.

He speaketh is he is speaking; and what he is speaking is mysteries, i.e. secrets, secret teachings, or secret truths. They are mysteries or secrets because nobody is able to understand what he is saying because he is speaking in a foreign language.

III. PROPHECY EDIFIES, EXHORTS, AND COMFORTS - 14:3

I Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

He that prophesieth is the one prophesying.

Speaketh is is speaking.

Unto men, i.e. unto human beings.

To edification is used literally of the process of building or construction. When used figuratively as in this verse, it is understood of spiritual strengthening in the sense of edifying or building up.

Exhortation is encouragement.

Comfort is a synonym of the word translated exhortation and means encouragement, especially consolation.

IV. SPEAKING IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOT UNDERSTOOD BY THE LISTENERS EDIFIES ONLY THE SPEAKER, WHEREAS PROPHECY EDIFIES THE ENTIRE CHURCH - 14:4

I Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

He that speaketh is the one speaking.

In an unknown tongue means that he is speaking in a language which is foreign to the hearer(s). It is actually a known language, but it is not known to the hearer(s).

Edifieth is strengthens or builds up.

The one he is edifying is himself.

He edifies only himself because only he understands what he is saying. However, he does not edify the church because the people do not understand what he is saying.

He that prophesieth is the one prophesying. He is the one who is delivering the message he has received by direct revelation from God.

Edifieth again means is building up or is strengthening; and he is doing this by prophesying.

What he is edifying is the church, i.e. an assembly of believers.

By prophesying in a language the people understand, he is edifying a church; whereas, if he were to deliver the very same message in a language not understood by the people, he would not be edifying this church.

V. SO THAT THE CHURCH MIGHT BE EDIFIED, UNLESS AN INTERPRETER IS PRESENT, PAUL WOULD RATHER THAT THEY ALL PROPHESY RATHER THAN SPEAK IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN CHURCH - 14:5

I Corinthians 14:5 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.

I would (i.e. wish or desire) that ye all spake (i.e. you all be speaking) with tongues (i.e. in languages)

But rather that ye prophesied (i.e. you be prophesying)

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to Paul's desire that they all speak in tongues.

Rather introduces something that supplements and thereby corrects what Paul has just stated. Rather than desiring that all speak in tongues, Paul is wishing or desiring that they all prophesy; and his reason for this is that the church might be edified.

For greater (i.e. more outstanding) is he that prophesieth (i.e. the one prophesying) than he that speaketh with tongues (i.e. the one who is speaking in languages foreign to the audience).

Except is unless.

He interpret is he translates.

He may refer to the one speaking in a foreign language or to someone else. See verse 27 (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.).

This except clause indicates that speaking in foreign languages, when translated, is of equal value with prophesying. Because of the interpretation or translation, the people are able to understand the message being delivered.

That the church may receive edifying indicates either the purpose or the intended result of the interpretation - in order that (or so that) the church may be strengthened.

VI. THE ASSEMBLED LOCAL CHURCH WILL NOT BENEFIT FROM SOMEONE SPEAKING IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE WHICH IS NOT UNDERSTOOD BY THE HEARERS; WHEREAS, IT WILL BENEFIT FROM SOMEONE SPEAKING BY REVELATION, BY KNOWLEDGE, BY PROPHESYING, OR BY DOCTRINE - 14:6

I 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?

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues means if I come to you speaking in languages you don't understand.

What shall I profit you? means, What shall I benefit (or help) you?

Except I shall speak (i.e. unless I speak or if I do not speak) to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine

Revelation speaks of an unveiling or disclosure. It is a communication revealed directly by God to an individual, such as Paul, who then passes it on to others, such as to the believers in a church service in Corinth. Its placement before knowledge suggests that in this context it is equivalent to, or the result of, the spiritual gift referred to as the word of wisdom in I Corinthians 12:8 .

Knowledge refers to the spiritual gift of knowledge mentioned in I Corinthians 12:8 and again in I Corinthians 13:9 and 12.

Prophesying or prophecy also speaks of truth which was delivered by divine revelation to a prophet who then delivered it to the people to whom he was sent. Sometimes it foretells the future, and sometimes it deals with things in the present.

The spiritual gifts of revelation, knowledge, and prophesying are sign gifts which are to pass away with the completion of the New Testament.

Doctrine, i.e. teaching or instruction, although a spiritual gift, is not one of the nine sign gifts which are to pass away with the completion of the New Testament but will be given throughout the church age.

VII. TO BENEFIT FROM WHAT IS SAID, THE HEARER MUST BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND CLEARLY THE WORDS THAT ARE USED - 14:7-11

I Corinthians 14:7 7 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?

Things without life giving sound is lifeless things or soulless things which give sound. It is speaking of musical instruments.

Pipe is a flute, and harp is a stringed instrument such as a lyre.

Except they give (i.e. if it dos not give) a distinction (i.e. a difference) in the sounds (i.e. in the tones)

How (i.e. in what way) shall it be known (i.e. understood, comprehended, or ascertained) what is piped or harped (i.e. what is played on the pipe {i.e. flute} or harp {i.e. lyre})?

It implies that it won't be understood.

I Corinthians 14:8 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

For is for indeed.

If the trumpet give an uncertain sound is if a trumpet gives an unclear (or indistinct) sound.

Who shall prepare himself to the battle? Perhaps it means he should charge or perhaps it means he should retreat. Who knows what it means?

I Corinthians 14:9 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.

So likewise ye is in this manner you also.

Except ye utter by the tongue words is if you do not give words through the tongue.

Easy to be understood is easily recognizable, clear, or distinct.

It may be because there is too much background noise, a heavy accent, whether foreign or unfamiliar, or words beyond the hearers' comprehension.

One of the best assignments I had in my studies was to write a paper on the rapture to be read by those in the highest level of my profession. When I finished, I was to rewrite the same paper on the level of a 12 year old child. If I know my subject well, I should be able to explain it on almost all intellectual levels; and I must target my audience so that I put my message on their level.

How shall it be known (i.e. comprehended or understood) what is spoken? The implied answer is that it will not be known, understood, or comprehended.

For ye shall speak into the air means the same thing as the more modern, You are wasting your breath.

Paul is saying that even if someone speaks in a foreign language or in the same language as his audience, if his message is not able to be understood because the vocabulary he is using is beyond the ability of his audience to understand, if his words are not enunciated clearly, or if he is so soft spoken that his audience is not able to hear clearly what he says, he might just as well keep quiet.

I Corinthians 14:10 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world is there are, perhaps, so many kinds of voices in the world.

And none of them is without signification means that none of them is incapable of conveying meaning or that every kind of voice contains meaning.

I Corinthians 14:11 11 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.

To benefit from what is said, the hearer must be able to understand clearly the meaning of the sounds or words that are used.

Therefore introduces an inference drawn from the previous verse and is understood in the sense of then, consequently, accordingly, or so.

If I know not (i.e. do not see, perceive, or recognize) the meaning of the voice means if I don't understand what he is saying because I don't speak his language.

I shall be a barbarian unto him that speaketh and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me is I shall be unto him someone speaking a foreign (or unintelligible) language, and he shall be someone speaking a foreign (or unintelligible) language to me.