Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

Chapter 14

Prophecy is commended, 1, and preferred before speaking with languages, 2-5, by a comparison drawn from musical instruments, 6-11. Both must be referred to edification, 12-21, as to their true and proper end, 22-25. The gifts of both languages and prophecy are directed in their use, 26-33. Women are forbidden to speak in the church, 34-40.

1 Follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts, but so much the more that you may prophesy. 2 For he who speaks in an unknown language does not speak to men, but to God, for no man understands him. Yet in the Spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for edification, exhortation, and comfort. 4 He who speaks in an unknown language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish that you all spoke in languages, but more so that you prophesied. For greater is he who prophesies than he who speaks in languages, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.

6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in languages, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by doctrine? 7 And even lifeless things giving sound, whether pipe or harp, unless they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For you will speak into the air. 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and not one of them is without signification. 11 Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him who speaks a barbarian, and he who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 Even so you, because you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek so that you may excel to the edifying of the church.

13 Therefore, let him who speaks in an unknown language pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in an unknown language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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. 16 Or else, when you bless with the spirit, how shall he who occupies the room of the unlearned say, "Amen," at your giving of thanks, seeing he does not understand what you say? 17 For you truly give thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18 I thank my God that I speak in languages more than you all. 19 Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, so that by my voice I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown language.

20 Brothers, do not be children in understanding. Yet in malice be children, but in understanding be mature. 21 In the law it is written, "With men of other languages and other lips I will speak to this people, and yet for all that they will not hear me," says the Lord. 22 Therefore, languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to those who do not believe; however, prophesying does not serve for those who do not believe, but for those who believe. 23 If therefore the whole church is assembled in one place and all speak in languages, and there come in those who are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are insane? 24 But if all prophesy, and one who does not believe, or one unlearned comes in, he is convinced by all and he is judged by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are made manifest, and so falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is in you in truth.

26 What is it then, brothers? When you are assembled, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a language, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If any man speaks in an unknown language, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him be silent in the church and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 If anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For you may all prophesy one by one so that all may learn and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

34 Let your women be silent in the churches. For it is not permitted for them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law. 35 And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36 What? Did the word of God come out from you? Or did it come to you only?

37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if any man is ignorant, let him be ignorant.

39 Therefore, brothers, covet to prophesy and do not forbid to speak in languages. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.


Matthew Henry Commentary - 1st Corinthians, Chapter 14[➚]


[v.1] - "prophesy" - Primarily, in this context, this means to speak under inspiration. From John Gill's Exposition: "Of all the gifts of the Spirit, the apostle prefers prophesying, and recommends this to the Corinthians, as what they should be chiefly desirous of, and more desirous of than of speaking with tongues, which many among them were so very fond of: by which he means, not so much the gift of foretelling future events, though there was such a gift bestowed on some persons in those times, and, in certain cases, was very profitable to the churches; but a gift of preaching the word, or explaining the prophecies of the Old Testament, and of praying and singing of psalms, all which, as appears from some following parts of this chapter, were included in it; and that not in an ordinary, but in an extraordinary way; a person possessed of this gift could at once, without the use of means, or help of study, preach the word, and open the more difficult parts of Scripture; he had an extraordinary gift of prayer, which he could make use of when he pleased, and at once compose and deliver out a psalm, or hymn, in the public congregation."

[v.19] - "I would rather" - WBS/KJV: "I had rather." Concerning this phrase, Noah Webster said, "This phrase may have been originally, 'I'd rather,' for I would rather, and the contraction afterwards mistaken for had. Correct speakers and writers generally use would in all such phrases."

[v.21a] - "In the law it is written" - This passage does not come from the section of the Scriptures known as the law; rather, as said in John Calvin's Commentary, "As to his saying that it was written in the law, this is not at variance with common usage; for the Prophets had not a ministry distinct from the law, but were the interpreters of the law, and their doctrine is, as it were, a sort of appendage to it; hence the law included the whole body of Scripture, up to the advent of Christ."

[v.21b] - Quoting Isaiah 28:11-12.

[v.25] - "God is in you" - Reference, Isaiah 45:14; Zechariah 8:23.

[v.34a] - "For it is not permitted for them to speak" - Reference, 1st Timothy 2:12-14. From John Gill's Exposition: "That is, in public assemblies, in the church of God, they might not speak with tongues, nor prophesy, or preach, or teach the word. All speaking is not prohibited; they might speak their experiences to the church, or give an account of the work of God upon their souls; they might speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; or speak as an evidence in any case at a church meeting; but not in such sort, as carried in it direction, instruction, government, and authority. It was not allowed by God that they should speak in any authoritative manner in the church; nor was it suffered in the churches of Christ; nor was it admitted of in the Jewish synagogue; there, we are told, the men came to teach, and the women 'to hear.'"

[v.34b] - "as also says the law" - From John Gill's Exposition: "In Genesis 3:16, 'your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you'. By this the apostle would signify, that the reason why women are not to speak in the church, or to preach and teach publicly, or be concerned in the ministerial function, is, because this is an act of power, and authority; of rule and government, and so contrary to that subjection which God in his law requires of women unto men. The extraordinary instances of Deborah, Huldah, and Anna, must not be drawn into a rule or example in such cases."