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Understanding In Worship – 1 Corinthians 14

Jun 28, 2020

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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

(1 Cor. 13:1)

This was the Corinthian's issue with the improper use of the spiritual gift of tongues.

The Apostle Paul had a report that the Corinthians had blended their previous style of worship (paganism) into the Church.

Unfortunately, it was rampant and causing disorder in the Church.

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

(1 Cor. 14:26)

Let all things be done decently and in order.

(1 Cor. 14:40)

The ones speaking in tongues were only building themselves up personally and not the church.

 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

(1 Cor. 14:4)

As the Apostle wrote in chapter 13, the gifts were to be used in love, and if used in love, all would be done in order, edifying the Church.

In Paul's authority, the gift of prophecy was foremost, and of the highest value, the gift of tongues, lessor.

 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

(1 Cor. 14:1)

Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.

(1 Cor. 14:39)


Prophecy & Tongues

Verses 1-5

Vs. 1

         "...desire spiritual gifts..."

              * The Corinthians were greatly endowed with the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 1:5, 12:28)

 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

(1 Cor. 12:31)

          "...but especially that you may prophecy..."

               * "Prophecy" - Teaching from the Word of God (a prepared message), but with a Spirit given understanding (unprepared) for the Church with the purpose of leading the Church to a greater desire for God, and obedience to Him because of love for Him.

Numbers 11:25-29

Vs. 2

          "For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God..."

              * "Tongue" - "Unknown tongue" (KJV) - Uninterpreted - A private prayer language of thankfulness, praise and worship.  Spoken from men to God.

          "...for no one understands him..."

              * No one understands because it's a private Spirit given language between the individual and God, and there is no "interpreter." (1 Cor. 12:10)

          "...however, in the Spirit he speaks mysteries."

               * "Mysteries" - A yet unknown truth between God and the individual doesn't even know what he's speaking, unless he has the gift of interpretation also. 

Some believe and teach the doctrine of "prophetic tongues."  That when one utters in "tongues," and another interprets, that it is prophetic.

The other, more Biblical understanding of tongues, is as given during Pentecost and the early church "different kinds of tongues."

...to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

(1 Cor. 12:10) 

Acts 2:1-11 

Acts 10:44-47

And as Christ gave to the Apostles

Mark 16:15-18

 Vs. 3

           "But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men."

                * “Prophesies” – Teaching in the Spirit.

                * "Edification" - To build up in the Word and Spirit of God unto  righteousness.

                * "Exhortation" - To encourage in the faith, strengthen.

                * "Comfort" - Consolation, at times we all need the compassion of Christ. 

Vs. 4

          "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church."

                * "Tongue" - "Unknown tongue" (KJV), uninterpreted.

                * When you edify yourself, it demonstrates self-love. (This was the Corinthian practice.)

                * When you edify the Church, it demonstrates love for others.

Best to prophecy

Vs. 5

          "I wish you all spoke with tongues..."

               * "Tongues" - Glossa (Gk.) - The tongue, by implication language.  Also, the supernatural gift of speaking in another language without it's having been learnt. (Strong's 1100)

          "...but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongue..."

               * He who prophesies is greater because prophecy builds up the Church.

          "...unless indeed he (who speaks with tongues) interprets that the Church may receive edification."

               * If the one who speaks in tongues interprets his gift has as much value (edification) to the church as he who prophesies.

Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.

(1 Cor. 14:13)

Tongues Must be Interpreted

Verses 6-19

Vs. 6

          "...what shall I profit you..."

                * That's the point, to profit is to edify the Church.

          "...unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?"

                * "Revelation," "knowledge," "prophesying" and "teaching" all build up the Church and its members in godliness.

Vs. 7

           "Flute or harp...distinction in sounds..."

                 * Musical instruments making music or melody.

Vs. 8

          "...the trumpet...prepare for battle..."

               * The trumpet, by its specific calls, gave soldiers directions.

Vs. 9

          "So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.

Vs. 10


               * Meaning

 Vs. 11


             * Literally a "barbarian."

Vs. 12


               * Eager

          "...let it be for the edification of the Church..."

                * This is the primary purpose of all that is in a "church" service.

Vs. 13

          "Therefore, let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret."

                   * Reference verse 5, Paul reiterates the importance of an interpreted "tongue."

"Let all things (especially tongues) be done for edification."

(1 Cor. 14:26)

If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two

or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.

(1 Cor. 14:27)

          Without an interpretation, there is no edification, only disruption!

Vs. 14

        "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful."

            * Again, even when praying in a tongue, if there is no interpretation, the one praying has no understanding of his prayer. 

But the Spirit does:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

(Rom. 8:26)

 Vs. 15

          "What is the conclusion then?  I will pray with the Spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding..."

                   * The conclusion, then, is that we have the "will" to be able to control our use of the spiritual gifts.

                    * Unlike what some teach, that tongues break out in the assembly uncontrollably. 

               "...sing with the Spirit." 

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

(Col. 3:16)

                "...sing with the understanding..."

                     * What is this "understanding?"

 Psalm 111:10

 Vs. 16

          "...the place of the uninformed..."

               * One who is an unbeliever who is seeking the Truth, as was Cornelius. (Acts 10:1-6)

          "...say 'Amen'..."

               * It was common in the assembly to assent to thanksgiving (blessing) by saying, "So be it" (Amen).

1 Corinthians 11:24

          "...since he does not understand what you say?"

               * What you say in tongues.

Vs. 18

          "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you."

               * There is no Scripture in the New Testament where Paul is recorded as speaking "tongues" as the other disciples did during Pentecost.

               * His "tongues" must have been his private prayer language, "unknown tongues" between himself and God, where he alone was edified. (Vs. 2, 4)

Vs. 19

          "Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with understanding..."

               * Who's understanding, the speaker, and the hearers.

               * “That I may teach.”

 Tongues Are a Sign to Believers

 Verses 20-25

Vs. 20

           "...children in understanding..."

                * Limited understanding.

           "...in malice be babes..."

                * Innocent

           "...in understanding be mature..."

                * Complete, full grown, understanding.

Vs. 21

          "...with men of other tongues..."

               * Languages, Gentiles

          "I will speak to the people..."

               * Jews

          "...they will not hear Me..."

               * God spoke to them in Hebrew by the prophets.

               * God spoke to them in foreign tongues by the Gentiles.

               * And their not hearing brought judgment. (Isa. 28:11-12) 

Vs. 22

          "Therefore, tongues are for a sign...to unbelievers."

               * As at Pentecost to preach the Gospel. 

          "...prophesying...for those who believe."

               * Teaching/prophesying the things of God can only be understood by believers indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:12-14

 Vs. 23

          "...if the whole church...speak with tongues..."

               * All at once.

          "...unbelievers will...say...you are out of your minds."

               * Who can blame them?  Confusion and weirdness never taught or convinced anyone of truth.

Vs. 24-25

          "But if all prophecy...he is convinced...he is convicted..."

                * Of his sin.

         "...the secrets of his heart..."

                 * Hidden, unconfessed sin.

          "...so falling down on his face, he will worship God..."

                 * And repent and be saved.

          "...that God is truly among you."

                 * The Word of God, powered by the Spirit of God, will lead the unsaved to the Son of God!


"When the servants of God proclaim His Truth in the power of the Spirit, we may expect the careless to be awakened, and the anxious to be led into assurance and to know that God is speaking through human lips to their souls."

H. A. Ironside

Is this our desire?

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