I Corinthians 14:12-20

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Text: I Corinthians 14:12-20

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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?

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

VIII. AS A RESULT, GIFTS SHOULD BE SOUGHT THAT WILL EDIFY THE CHURCH - 14:12

I Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Even so ye is the same phrase Paul used to begin verse 9 where it was translated likewise.

Forasmuch as (i.e. because or since) ye (i.e. you {plural}) are zealous (i.e. enthusiasts) of spiritual gifts indicates that they really wanted to have spiritual gifts.

Seek (i.e. be seeking) that ye may excel to the edifying (i.e. the edification) of the church. The Corinthian believers were being counseled to be seeking the spiritual gifts which would result in the building up of their local church spiritually.

IX. ONE WHO SPEAKS IN AN UNKNOWN TONGUE MUST PRAY THAT HE CAN INTERPRET BECAUSE IT WILL DO NO ONE ANY GOOD IF HE CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD - 14:13

I Corinthians 14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

Wherefore (i.e. therefore or for this very reason) let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray is the one who is speaking in a foreign language must pray.

Unknown means in a language which is unknown to the hearer, not in some heavenly or Holy Ghost language which is unknown to everyone, including the speaker.

That he may interpret is that he may translate. He may not speak the same language as his audience. If he cannot translate what he is saying into their language, they will not understand him.

It is not suggesting that he does not understand what he is saying. He understands it, but his audience doesn't.

X. SO, PAUL WILL PRAY, SING, BLESS, AND GIVE THANKS SO THAT OTHERS MIGHT UNDERSTAND HIM - 14:14-17

I Corinthians 14:14 14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

If I pray is if I would pray. In an unknown tongue is in a (foreign) language, a language which is not known to someone who hears him pray. Of course, God hears his prayers and understands him regardless of the language in which he prays.

My spirit prayeth = my spiritual gift is praying. Paul is uttering or expressing his thoughts and feelings but not in a language understood by those who are with him. He is exercising his spiritual gift of tongues or languages under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He understands what he is praying, but no one else does.

My understanding is unfruitful = people's understanding of me produces no fruit (i.e. It is useless or unproductive).

It does not mean that Paul does not understand it. It means that others do not understand Paul.

People who hear Paul praying will not understand the content of his prayer if he speaks in a language which is foreign to them.

I Corinthians 14:15 15 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.

Paul purposes to speak and to sing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, i.e. in the exercise of his spiritual gift, so that it will be intelligible to his hearers.

What is it then? is What is it, therefore?

I will pray with the spirit refers to Paul's expression in verse 14 where he wrote, If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

And I will pray with the understanding denotes with the faculty of physical and intellectual perception and means with the mind. In saying this, Paul is not speaking of his own understanding, but of the understanding of others who are present and hear his prayer.

I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

I will sing means that Paul will sing (to the accompaniment of a harp) or sing praise. The future tense indicates his commitment to singing not only with the spirit but also with the understanding. Paul will continue to sing praise with the spirit, but he will also always sing praise so that others might understand the praise he is singing.

If a musical group or soloist does not pronounce its words so that the audience can understand them, the audience misses some of the benefit it might otherwise have experienced.

I Corinthians 14:16 16 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?

In verse 16 Paul indicates that no one will be able to agree with the speaker unless he understands what the speaker is saying.

Else is for otherwise.

When thou shalt bless with the spirit indicates that someone would say something which commends God in the sense of speak well of, praise, or extol, but that he would say it in a language which is foreign to the hearer.

When introduces a condition. It is ordinarily translated if and should be understood in the sense of if in this verse.

Thou shalt bless suggests you will give thanks.

With the spirit suggests with the spirit only but not with the understanding. Although he understands it, this blessing is not understood by others. It is in his exercise of his spiritual gift of tongues, i.e. of languages that he is giving this blessing which no one else who is present can understand.

How shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

How shall he . . . say amen? is in what way shall he say the amen?, i.e. in what is this person going to be able to affirm the content of this prayer?

He that occupieth the room of the unlearned is speaking of someone who does not understand the language in which the blessing or giving of thanks has been expressed.

At thy giving of thanks is at your rendering of thanks or at your thanksgiving and suggests that bless at the beginning of this verse is understood in the sense of giving of thanks.

The answer to the question is that he cannot affirm what you have said in a language which he does not understand.

I Corinthians 14:17 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

For thou verily givest thanks well is for indeed you are giving thanks well.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to the first half of this verse.

The other speaks of the one who occupies the position of the unlearned in the previous verse.

Is not edified means that he is not being helped to improve his Christian life in the sense of is not strengthened or is not built up.

XI. ALTHOUGH PAUL EXERCISES THE GIFT OF LANGUAGES MORE THAN ANY OF THE CORINTHIAN BELIEVERS, HE WOULD RATHER SPEAK IN THE CHURCH IN A WAY IN WHICH OTHERS CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT HE SAYS - 14:18-20

I Corinthians 14:18-20 - 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 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. 20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all is, I thank my God, speaking in languages more than you all.

I Corinthians 14:19 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.

Yet introduces a statement in strong contrast to what was stated in verse 18. It is the word ordinarily translated but.

In the church is in church (i.e. a congregation or an assembly).

I had rather speak is I wish (i.e. want or desire) to speak. It is always Paul's wish or desire. I had rather may be more determinative than wish, want, or desire and be understood as expressing purpose or resolve in the sense of I will to speak or I resolve to speak.

Five words suggests a very few words.

Words with my understanding does not mean words that I can understand. Instead it means words which will be understood by others - words that those who hear me can understand.

That (i.e. in order that) by my voice I might teach (i.e. I might instruct) others, i.e. others of the same sort (or of the same kind) and suggests that Paul wants to instruct believers.

Also suggests that in addition to merely speaking with a foreign language, Paul desires to teach others.

Than makes the comparison between what Paul had rather do and what he had rather not do.

Speak should be supplied in the mind of the reader before ten thousand.

Than (speak) ten thousand words suggests than (speak) a very large number of words in comparison to five words, i.e. a very small number of words.

In an unknown tongue means in a language unknown to my hearers.

I Corinthians 14:20 20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

Be not children in understanding means stop being children in thinking. It suggests that they are not to be young, naive, and innocent in their understanding but are to be mature or adult believers in their understanding or thinking. Understanding, although translated as a singular, is actually plural in the Greek text. It indicates the sum total of all the understandings or thinkings or, perhaps, in your understandings or thinkings of everything, i.e. in everything you understand or think about.

Howbeit introduces a statement in strong contrast to be not children in understanding. It is the same word translated yet in verse 19 and is ordinarily translated but.

In malice suggests in depravity, in wickedness, or in vice.

Be ye children is be as children but is not the same terminology translated be not children in the first half of this verse. This time it speaks of young children. Its tense indicates that this is always to be the case. Believers are to be as young children in relation to malice, depravity, wickedness, and vice, i.e. young, naive, and innocent.

But introduces a mild contrast to in malice be ye children.

In understanding is the same word translated understanding in the first half of this verse. Again, it is plural; and again, the appears before understanding in the Greek text in order to show that it is the sum total of all understandings or thinkings Paul has in mind. As in the previous clause, the may be used to show possession and be understood in the sense of your thinkings or your understandings.

Be is an imperative or command, and its tense indicates that it is always to be this way. It may be understood in the sense of be becoming.

Men is what they are to be in their thinking. It is the term meaning full-grown, mature, or adult.

CONCLUSION:

Due to the abuses of the gift of speaking in tongues, the Apostle Paul found it necessary to lay down some regulations or limitations regarding the use of the gift of tongues in the local churches. If these regulations were enforced today, even the present-day speaking in tongues or speaking in gibberish, if you would prefer, would cease.

Don't get involved in speaking in tongues in any way. It is not scriptural for today.