I Corinthians 14



            The Gift of Preaching Superior to the Gift of Tongues (vs. 1-25)


1 Follow after charity” - literally, chase; pursue -  and desire spiritual gifts” – rather,

yet be zealous for -  “but rather that ye may prophesy.” – and yet more strive after the

gift of sacred preaching.  2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not

unto men” - Because, as a rule, no one understands anything that he says. The word literally

means “hears.” It may, perhaps, imply that no special attention was given to those who gave

way to these impulses of utterance – “but unto God: for no man understandeth him;

howbeit in the spirit  he speaketh mysteries.” – Secrets revealed possibly to him,

but unrevealed by this strange “tongue” to others.  3 But he that prophesieth speaketh

unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.  4 He that speaketh in an

unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

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.  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?  My

tongue will be useless to you unless I also speak to you of what I know by revelation,

or by my thoughtful study, which may take the form of preaching or of teaching (ch.

12:28).  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?  Even musical instruments — flute or harp — dead instruments as they are,

must be so played as to keep up the distinction of intervals, without which the melody

is ruined and the tune is unrecognizable. The indiscriminate use of the tongue is here

compared to the dissonance of jarring and unmodulated instrumental sounds. In harmony

there must be due sequence and intervals of sound.  8 For if the trumpet give an

uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?  A spiritual exhortation

should be like the “blowing of a trumpet in Zion;” (Joel 2:1,15) but if, as in

the tongue,” the trumpet only gave forth an unintelligible blare, its sounds were useless.

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.  10 There are, it

may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

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.  12 Even so ye,

forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying

of the church.  13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he

may interpret.  14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, 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.” - When we worship or sing we must indeed “worship in spirit,”

but also worship and “sing praises with understanding” (John 4:24; Psalm 47)).

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” - The custom of ratifying prayer

and praises with the “Amen” of hearty assent and participation existed in the Jewish

(Deuteronomy 27:15; Nehemiah 5:13; Revelation 5:14; Philo, ‘Fragm.,’ p. 630) as

well as in the Christian Church (Justin Martyr, ‘Apol.,’ 2:97). The sound of the loud

unanimous “Amen” of early Christian congregations is compared to the echo of distant



                        “Et resonaturum ferit aethera vocibus Amen.”


Being the answer of the congregation, the “Amen” was regarded as no less important

than the prayer itself – “seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?  17 For thou

verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.  18 I thank my  God, I speak

with tongues more than ye all” – Paul must either have exercised it only in private

gatherings or must have always accompanied it by interpretation.  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” - rather, in your minds. Your tendency to overvalue

glossolaly shows you to be somewhat childish.  It is remarkable that this is the only verse

of the New Testament in which the common Greek word frh>n, — frane; “mind”

occurs - “howbeit in malice be ye children” -  better, but in wickedness be babes.

The Authorized Version misses the climax involved in the change of the word. The

Christian should always be childlike (Matthew 11:25; 18:4), but never childish (ch.13:11;

Ephesians 4:14)  but in understanding be men” - rather, become or prove

yourselves full-grown; literally, perfect.  21 In the law it is written” - The quotation is

from Isaiah 28:11-12, but the term “the Law” was applied generally to the Old Testament,

as in John 10:34; 12:34; 15:25; Romans 3:19 – “With men of other tongues and other

lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith

the Lord.”  The application of this Old Testament quotation furnishes one of the many

singular instances of quotation which prove that the Jews often referred to the words

 without any direct reference to their context or original meaning. He here wishes to

show that glossolaly had little or no value except as an evidence to unbelievers, and

illustrates this by Isaiah 28:11-12. Now, in that passage Isaiah tells the drunken priests,

who scornfully imitated his style, that, since they derided God’s message so delivered to

them, God would address them in a very different way by the Assyrians, whose language

they did not understand; and that even to this stern lesson, taught them by people of alien

tongue, they would remain deaf. In the original, therefore, there is not the least allusion to

any phenomenon resembling the “gift of tongues.” But the mere words of a scriptural

passage always came to Jews with all the force of an argument, independently of their

primary meaning; (thankfully, now we have the aid of the Holy Spirit to “guide us unto

all truth” [John 16:13] whom the Jews under the Old Dispensation, did not have – CY

– 2010) and it was enough for Paul’s purpose that in Isaiah the allusion is to

unintelligible utterance, and to the fact that the teaching which it was meant to convey

would be in vain. “And other lips” -  Paul does not quote the LXX. The Hebrew has

with stammerings of lips and another tongue will he speak” (Deuteronomy 28:49).

22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that

believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them

which believe.”  “The unbelieving” are those who used to drop in at the Christian

services out of curiosity.  23 If therefore the whole church be come together into

one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned,

or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?”  - This has often been the actual

impression produced by these phenomena upon those who stand aloof from the spiritual

influences which cause them.  On the day of Pentecost the exaltation of the disciples caused

mockers to charge them with drunken exhilaration (Acts 2:13).  24 But if all prophesy,

and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all,

he is judged of all” - literally, he is being convicted by all, he is being examined by all;

 in other words, each address is calculated to awaken conviction in him and to search his

heart.  Thus the address of Peter pierced the consciences of his hearers, when the glossolaly

even of Pentecost produced no effect beyond that of irreverent wonder (Acts 2:37).

25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest” - The Word of God is quick

and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,.., and is a discerner of the thoughts

and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) – “and so falling down on his face” - An

Oriental mode of showing humility and deep conviction (Isaiah 45:14; I Samuel 19:24) –

he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”  Paul is probably

thinking both of Isaiah 45:14 and Zechariah 8:23, where similar phrases are used.


                        “Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,

                        And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.”




   Rules to Check Disorderly Self-Assertion in Christian Assemblies (vs. 26-33)


26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm,

hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.”  We see

here a somewhat melancholy picture of the struggling self-assertion of rival claimants to

attention -  “Let all things be done unto edifying.”  The object is moral improvement,

not idle self display, not the ostentation of individual gifts (ch.12:7-10). To this he recurs

again and again (chps. 3:9; here in vs.3,5,12; II Corinthians 10:8; 11:19; 13:10; and the verb

frequently).  The substantive, as used by Paul, only occurs again in Romans 14:19; 15:2),

and in Ephesians 2:21.  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.  28 But if there

be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself,

and to God.  29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.”

Rather, let the rest discriminate the value of what is said. Prophesyings are not to be

despised, but we are only to hold fast what is good (I Thessalonians 5:20-21), and we are

to try the spirits” (I John 4:1). St. Paul is not encouraging the Corinthians to the

censoriousness of conceited and incompetent criticism, but only putting them on their guard

against implicit acceptance of all they hear; which was a very necessary caution at a place

where so many teachers sprang up.  30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth

by, let the first hold his peace.  31 For ye may all prophesy” - rather, ye all can; that is,

if you have the gift of prophesying.” Paul has already implied (vs. 16,23-24) that at every

assembly there would be ijdiw>thv, id-ee-o’-tace; from  (i]diov); a private person, i.e.

(by implication)  an ignoramus (compare “idiot”): — ignorant, rude, unlearned.   These

unendowed worshippers, who only came to profit by the gifts of others, and that “all”

are not prophets (ch.12:29) -  “one by one, that all may learn, and all may be

comforted.” – that is, comforted and cheered.  32 And the spirits of the prophets

are subject to the prophets.”  Into this golden aphorism Paul compresses the whole

force of his reasoning. The articles are better omitted: “Spirits of prophets are under

the control of prophets.” Mantic inspirations, the violent possession which threw sibyls

and priestesses into contortions — the foaming lip and streaming hair and glazed or glaring

eye — have no place in the self-controlling dignity of Christian inspiration. Even Jewish

 prophets, in the paroxysm of emotion, might lie naked on the ground and rave

(I Samuel 19:24); but the genuine inspiration in Christian ages never obliterates the self

consciousness or overpowers the reason; It abhors the hysteria and simulation and frenzy

which have sometimes disgraced revivalism and filled lunatic asylums.  33 For God is not

the author of confusion” - The word is rendered “commotion” in Luke 21:9; “tumult,”

in II Corinthians 6:5 and 12:20. “Confusion” is, as James says the result of envious and

pushing egotism.  (James 3:16) – but of peace” - which cannot coexist with inflation

and restlessness – “as in all churches of the saints”



                        Rules about the Public Teaching by Women (vs. 34-35)



34 Let your women keep silence in the churches” – Paul evidently meant this to be a

general rule, and one which ought to be normally observed; for he repeats it in I Timothy

2:11-12. At the same time, it is fair to interpret it as a rule made with special reference to

time and circumstances, and obviously admitting of exceptions in both dispensations

(Judges 4:4; II Kings 22:14; Nehemiah 6:14; Luke 2:36; Acts 2:17; 21:9), as is perhaps

tacitly implied in ch.11:5 – “for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are

commanded to be under obedience (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 2:18; Titus 2:5;

I Peter 3:1). Christianity emancipated women, but did not place them on an equality with

men“as also saith the Law (Genesis 3:16; Numbers 30:3-12).  35 And if they will

learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women

to speak in the church.



                                    Appeal and Summary (vs. 36-40)


36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that

the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  38 But if any

man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” - The formula seems to fall under the idiom

which refuses to say anything more about a subject (“If I perish, I perish;” “What I have

written, I have written;” “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still). The readings vary

considerably (“He is ignored;” “He has been ignored;” “He shall be ignored;” “Let him

be ignored”). These other readings would be a statement of retribution in kind — of

God “sprinkling penal blindnesses on forbidden lusts.” But the reading of our translation is

on the whole the best supported, and means that to invincible bigotry and ignorant

obstinacy Paul will have no more to say (Matthew 15:14; I Timothy 6:3-5). 

39 Wherefore,  brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.”

The power to preach is to be desired; all that can be said of glossolaly is that it is not to

be absolutely forbidden so long as the conditions which Paul has laid down for its regulation

are observed. But glossolaly is hardly possible under conditions of order, decorum, and

self suppression, and we are not surprised that we hear no more of it in the Church, but

only in the wild excitement of fanatical sects. 40 Let all things be done decently” -  

that is, “with decorum.”  In Romans 13:13 and I Thessalonians 4:12 it is translated

honestly,” i.e. honorably – “and in order.”  Time, proportion, regulation, self

suppression, are as necessary in worship as in “the music of men’s lives.”




                                                ADDITONAL NOTES



            The Grace of Charity is Superior to all Endowments or Gifts (v. 1)


I say “charity,” for I prefer the word to the word “love,” which the New Version gives as

the substitute. “Charity” implies the highest forms of love — compassion, sympathy,

benevolence. “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts.” Whatever other

endowments you may possess or desire, do not neglect the cultivation of charity. The

remarks of the illustrious F. W. Robertson are so admirable on this point that I transcribe

them here. In showing the difference between a grace and a gift, he says, “A grace does

not differ from a gift in this, that the former is from God and the latter from nature. As a

creative power, there is no such thing as nature; all is God’s. A grace is that which has

in it some moral quality, whereas a gift does not necessarily share in this. Charity implies a

certain character, but a gift, as for instance that of tongues, does not. A man may be fluent,

learned, skilful, and be a good man; likewise, another may have the same powers, and yet

be a bad man — proud, mean, or obstinate, Now, this distinction explains at once why

graces are preferable.  Graces are what the man is: but enumerate his gifts, and you will

only know what he has. He is loving; he has eloquence, or medical skill, or legal

knowledge, or the gift of acquiring languages, or that of healing. You only have to cut out his

tongue or to impair his memory, and the gift is gone.  But, on the contrary, you must destroy

his very being, change him into another man, and obliterate his identity, before he ceases to

be a loving man. Therefore you may contemplate the gift separate from the man, and,

whilst you admire it, you may despise him. (Personally, I think of Bob Knight, former

coach at Indiana University – no doubt an effective coach, but certainly, not admirable –

CY – 2010)  As many a gifted man is contemptible through being a slave to low vices or

to his own high gifts.  But you cannot contemplate the grace separate from the man — he is

lovable or admirable according as he has charity, faith, or self control. And hence the apostle

bids the Corinthians undervalue gifts in comparison with graces. ‘Follow after charity.’ But

as to gifts, they are not ourselves, but our accidents, like property, ancestors, birth, or

position in the world. But hence, also, on the other hand, arises the reason of our due

admiration of gifts: ‘Desire spiritual gifts.’ Many religious persons go into the contrary

extreme: they call gifts dangerous, ignore them, sneer at them, and say they are of the world.

No, says the apostle, ‘desire’ them, look them in the face as goods; not the highest goods,

but still desirable, like wealth or health. Only remember, you are not wealthy or good because

of them. And remember, other people are not bound to honor you for them. Admire a

Napoleon’s genius, do not despise it, but do not let your admiration of that induce you to

give honor to the man.  Let there be no mere hero-worship, that false modern spirit which

recognizes the force that is in a man as the only thing worthy of homage.  (Like many

modern athletes whose only redeeming quality is that they are very good athletically –

take an athletic man, the most perfect specimen of athletic training, bone, flesh and

sinew, if that is all, he is but one-third a man and useless to society.  Send him to the

best schools and cram his mind full, he is but two-thirds of a man, and now dangerous

as well as useless.  Put Christ and Christ’s love in his heart, to control and urge

his purpose and you have an ideal man, a whole man – copied - CY – 2010) 

The subject of this chapter is, not the principle on which graces are preferable as gifts,

but the principle on which one gift is preferable to another: ‘Rather that ye may prophesy.’

Now, the principle of this preference is very briefly stated. Of gifts, Paul prefers those which

are useful to those that are showy. The gift of prophecy was useful to others, whilst that of

tongues was only a luxury for self. The principle of this preference is stated generally in the

twelfth verse: ‘Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that

ye may excel to the edifying of the Church.’”  We must not rest content even with

the possession of love. We must seek qualification for making that love effective. Inactive

love is both suspicious and useless. If we have a true love for men, we shall seek to be

helpful to them, especially in their spiritual life, and to this end we shall seek all possible

means for conveying to them the knowledge of the love of God and the truth as

it is in Jesus. (Ephesians 4:21)




                                    The Purposes of Prophesying (v. 3)


There was a marked difference of judgment between Paul and his Corinthian converts with

regard to the relative value of speaking with tongues and of prophesying. The Corinthians

were disposed to set too high a value upon the more brilliant and startling girt; its novelty

and singularity seem to have so impressed them with admiration that, in comparison with

it, gifts which appealed to sober reason sank into insignificance. Paul, however, who himself

spake with tongues, maintains the superiority of the rational and moral endowment over that

which surprised the sense and dazzled the imagination. He does this most successfully by

exhibiting in this verse the purposes of prophesying.


  • EDIFICATION. A prophet is one who speaks from God and for God,

            to his fellow men. The prophets of the old covenant came before their

            fellow countrymen with messages which they prefaced by the declaration,

            “Thus saith the Lord.” In the new dispensation, there seems to have been

            at first an order of prophets, but in addition to these there were many who

            upon occasion uttered forth the mind of God. Now, since human nature is

            dependent upon truth, upon spiritual motive, upon personal influence, for

            the realization of the designs of the Creator, it is dear that a true prophet is

            one who apprehends those designs, and seeks their accomplishment by

            means ordered by Divine wisdom. Character and moral life require building

            up, i.e. upon a divinely laid foundation, by the use of divinely provided

            material, so that the edifice may assume form, proportions, beauty, in

            consonance with the idea of the Great Architect. Hence the importance

            given in the New Testament to that element in prophecy denominated

            edification. No individual can become full grown, no society can be at once

            progressive and secure, where this department of ministry is lacking.


  • EXHORTATION. It must never be forgotten that the communication

            of knowledge is not the whole of ministry; that religion is not altogether a

            matter of the intellect; that human life is not simply one long lesson. Man is

            so framed that he is bound to action, and that he needs inducements,

            directions, encouragement, with a view to such action as shall be

            acceptable to his Maker and Savior. Especially do the young, and

            converts whose principles are not fully formed, whose habits are not yet

            established, need frequent admonition. Paul reminds us that this also is

            part of the prophetic office and ministry.


  • CONSOLATION. If the necessity of exhortation follows upon the

            characteristics of human nature, the necessity of consolation arises from

            the circumstances of human life. Stronger than human philosophy, and

            tenderer, the consolations of Christian prophecy are able to bind up all

            wounds, and to cheer all sad and downcast hearts



                        The Power of Christianity on Intellect (v. 20)


This text directly encourages the cultivation of intellect, and supposes that Christianity will

exert a practical and helpful influence on such cultivation.



      Christianity recognizes no model, ideal man, save one whose whole

            circle of faculties has been duly developed, and certainly that noble part,

            the mind. It presents to us its ideal man in the person of Jesus Christ; there

            we see what it proposes to bring all men up to, and behold, in the very

            beginnings of Christ’s life we read that “He grew in wisdom and in stature,”

            exhibiting a surprising intelligence, which astonished the great doctors in

            the temple. A willingly ignorant Christian is an anomaly, a strange being, an

            imperfection, essentially incomplete; he has not felt, or he has resisted, the

            full force of the Christly principles and requirements.


ü      Christianity comes into the world to rescue man from his fallen

                        condition. Man’s self willed fall involved his mind as well as his will, and

                        the restorative applies to the fallen mind. The mind suffered sadly, lost its

                        guiding truth, lost its harmonies, lost its place of rule, which was usurped

                        by the passions of the body.


ü      History confirms the relation of Christianity to intellect. Illustrate times

                        of Wickliffe and Luther, etc.


ü      The Christian services and duties help the intellect. Other religions are

                        mostly ceremonial, making only routine demands. Christian services are

                        essentially spiritual things, applications of mind to God’s written Word,

                        contemplations of Divine and heavenly realities, ordering of the thoughts

                        so as to fashion them into prayers; these, and many other things, actually,

                        by their own direct influence, storing and training the mind. The public

                        Christian worship is intelligent. Its praises are expressed in the words of

                        cultivated poets. Our Bible is the utterance of learning as well as of

                        inspiration. Our preaching is the product of study and thought, and its

                        appeal is made to the understanding as well as to the heart.


ü      Christianity, with its revelations and doctrines, provides the very best

                        food for the mind. It is the highest of sciences. It is the philosophy of the

                        Infinite and the Absolute — it is the science of God.


ü      Christianity makes the cultivation of the intellect a matter of direct counsel.

      It bids us “with all our getting get understanding,” (Proverbs 4:7) and

      the apostle complains that the believers do not mentally grow as fast as they

      should —that he has to feed them with the milk of first principles, when

      they ought to be able to take the strong meat of the Christian mysteries. If

      this be the relation of Christianity to mind, then two things are manifest.


Ø      Those men are utterly wrong who sneer at religion as a weak thing,

      and affirm that there is an antagonism between reason and revelation.


Ø      We are quite in the spirit of the religion which we profess, when we

      do our utmost to take our stand honorably among the intellectual men

      of our day. Our very religion helps us “in understanding to be men.”



      MEN. It does so:


ü      By announcing mysteries that are at present unfathomable by the human



ü      By making clear the distinction between speculation and knowledge.


ü      By setting forth prominently its teaching of man’s entire dependence on

                        the Divine help. If we know anything, we know it only as God’s revelation

                        to us.



      The mind may be cultivated and the morals neglected, so that a man may become

      dry, and cold, and hard, and unlovely. Men may be mentally vigorous and morally

      weak; intellectual giants, but slaves to passion. Christianity keeps men from this


ü      by proposing to harmonize man’s whole nature by beginning with the

                        regeneration of his heart; and


ü      by carefully developing the character and the moral qualities. Asking

                        the love of the soul for God manifested in Jesus, it quickens and

                        strengthens and nourishes every moral good, every moral power, and helps

                        a man to grow healthily on every side of his nature, so as to develop into

                        the “stature of the perfect man.” (Ephesians 4:13)




                                    Preaching to Unbelievers (v. 24)


Previously the apostle had shown that the proper sphere of the Christian prophet was the

teaching of the Church, so that its members might be edified, exhorted, and comforted.

Now he intimates that this is not the only influence exerted by Christian prophesying; it has

its power also on the “unbeliever” and the “unlearned.” In the early Church the claims

of worship were met by attendance on the temple and synagogue services, and the Christian

meetings were, at first, simply gatherings for edification, and prayer; so preaching and

teaching were the prominent features of them. Gradually worship and edification became

united in the Christian meetings, and a Christian cult, as well as Christian doctrine, was

formulated. Then a greater publicity was given to the meetings; unbelievers were allowed to

come in, and the preaching came to bear direct relation to them. We observe that:



            It may seem that a ministry adapted to believers is not suited for the

            arresting, convincing, and converting of the impenitent; and this is made a

            complaint against those who occupy the pastoral office. It may be

            advisable that for this particular work a class of evangelists, or missioners,

            should be raised up, but it may fairly be urged that in the regular Church

            ministry there should be, and may be, a real converting power. For:


ü      Faithful preaching is the exertion of spiritual power; and this all must

                        feel and respond to, in greater or less degree. When God speaks to men by

                        tempests, plague, or famine, every one must feel it more or less; all must

                        hear the voice. An assembled congregation is for the time shut in with God,

                        and all must feel, in some degree, caught by the power of God. We have

                        many cases, in history and within experience, in which the results have

                        been much grander than the means used could indicate. Illustrate by the

                        day of Pentecost, times of revival, seasons of hallowed emotion in

                        Christian services. These are times of spiritual power which all must feel,

                        times of life or of death to men.


ü      Faithful preaching wilt liberate and arouse the human conscience.

     The preaching which fills believers with a new sense of God will arouse the

                        conscience of unbelievers to the conviction of His existence and claims. The

                        preaching that reveals the deep horror, the moral helplessness, and the final

                        ruin of the sinner, will stir the conscience of all who hear it. The things that

                        lull the Christian conscience to sleep are the very things which lull to sleep

                        the sinner’s conscience. Men’s “refuges of lies,” from which they have to

                        be driven, are much the same.


ü      Faithful preaching must include the aspects of truth directly suited to

                        reach the unbeliever. He who would “declare the whole counsel of God”

                        (Acts 20:27) must be often dealing with the simplest foundation truths. He

                        speaks to many weak, unlearned believers, who cannot bear “strong meat,”

                        and so he must be very often laying down the groundwork of hope; and every

                        sermon may thus gain its helpful adaptation to unbelievers. We have to be

                        constantly presenting such great first principles as these: “All have sinned,

                        and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  God is the Father

                        of all the human race. He finds expression for His Fatherhood in a gracious

                        redemption of His erring children. The Divine Spirit is the source of all

                        goodness in man. Jesus is the only and all sufficient Savior. Apart,

                        then, from those direct appeals which ministers may be at times constrained

                        to make, their whole preaching should prove a power unto salvation.



            OF POWER ON UNBELIEVERS. Vs. 24-25, speak of three things:


ü      Impression. He is convinced of all.” He is interested, seized, held to

                        thought, even, it may be, against his will. The trifles that agitated him are

                        gone; his purpose in coming is forgotten; he is impressed, held by the force

                        of preached truth.


ü      Knowledge of self. “Secrets of heart made manifest.” Sometimes the

                        minister seems to us as if he knew all about us. He brings to memory our

                        wrong doings, he reveals to us our bad motives, our heart wrongness. We

                        see the corruptness of our inclinations and purposes. We feel convicted of

                        the master sin of ungodliness.


ü      Sense of God. (v..25.) The merely shadowy thought of God becomes

                        substance, the idea becomes reality. In the sanctuary God seems to come

                        out of the dim distance and look us in the face. God’s claims and relations

                        go searchingly through our souls. God’s love and redemption seem to be

                        great glories far up out of our reach. The minister’s sense of God is borne

                        in upon us, compelling us to say, “God! What is God to me?” So sabbath

                        preaching is the savor of life or of death to us all. (II Corinthians 2:15-16)

                        Under its influence are we being won to God? If not, what shall we say?

                        O guilty will, that decides not for Christ! O mournful worldliness, that

                        plucks men back from the very threshold of life!




                        The Conviction of the Unbeliever (vs. 24-25)


In estimating the gifts of intelligent prophecy on the one hand, and the gifts of tongues on the

other, the apostle tests their respective value by their practical utility. It could not be denied

that one great end of the existence of the Christian Church was, as it still is, the instruction

of the ignorant and the reformation of the sinful. It is clear that at Corinth, and at other places

where Christian communities existed in the first age, there was already a constant intercourse

between the Church and the world. Attracted by curiosity, or driven by spiritual wants and

hopes, the unbelieving heathen and Jews would sometimes attend the Christian assemblies.

This being so, Paul asks, What must be the effect upon such persons, first of such an

exhibition of supernatural powers such as the Corinthians delighted in, and secondly of the

proclamation of the truths and promises of the gospel? His own answer is that, whilst the

speaking with tongues may amaze, it will probably be set down as ranting; whilst the

utterance of God’s Word will, if heeded, issue in the enlightenment, conviction, and

salvation of the sinner. Surely a sufficient and decisive test!



            represented as prophecy, i.e. the uttering forth by man, as God’s

            messenger, of God’s mind and will. And in the case supposed by the

            apostle, evidently the declaration concerns the sinful state and the spiritual

            needs of man, the merciful purposes of God, the provision of pardon,

            renewal, and eternal life, through the Savior Jesus Christ. Prophecy, so

            understood, has never ceased in the Church of the Lord Jesus. His

            ministers prophesy when they give witness to Him, when they publish the

            gospel and its gracious invitations.



            question arises — How does the Christian prophecy affect the mind and

            heart of the ignorant and unbelieving hearer? According to the

            representation of the apostle, the word evinces its own divinity by making

            the sinner known to himself. And there can be no more generally

            convincing and conclusive evidence of the authority of religion than is

            afforded by the fact. that the preaching of the gospel reveals man to himself

            in his true state and position. The truths of the gospel are the utterances of

            Him who formed the human heart. The candle of the Lord searches even

            the dark places of man’s nature, and that which is hidden is brought forth

            to light. The conscience stricken sinner realizes his guilt and danger, and

            his need of a Divine Deliverer. He is convinced, examined, judged, by the

            several messages which penetrate his nature. The secrets of his heart, his

            iniquities, his sorrow and penitence, his aspirations for a better life, are all

            made manifest.




ü      His enmity to God and to God’s truth is utterly vanquished. He falls

                        down, contrite and submissive, like him Who cried, “God, be merciful to

                        me a sinner.”  (Luke 18:13)


ü      His enmity is exchanged for reverence and worship. Before, he may have

                        adored the false gods whom he has been trained to revere; now and

                        henceforth there is for him but one God, the Savior of all men.


ü      He acknowledges the Divine presence in the Church. Had he listened

                        only to “tongues,” he would have deemed the speakers to have raved. But

                        listening to words of grace and truth, the convert acknowledges that in

                        meeting God’s people he has met with God, and their assembly has become

                        to him, as it as it has become to multitudes, “the house of God, and the

                        gate of heaven.” – (Genesis 28:17)



                             Women in the Church (vs. 34-35)


  • WOMEN HAVE A PLACE IN THE CHURCH. Christianity exalts

            woman. It found her degraded; it ennobles her. In Christ there is neither

            male nor female (Galatians 3:28).



            CHURCH. If excluded from some positions, how many are still open to

            woman! In not a few of these she is unrivalled by the other sex. If woman

            may not do some work, man cannot do other. Christianity has opened to

            woman a most wide sphere of usefulness. It is quite an open question

            whether the Church has received more help from men or women; not a few

            would say from women. The Church owes a vast debt to the holy women

            who have been enrolled amongst her adherents.



            SPEAKING IN CHURCH ASSEMBLIES, On the ground of propriety.

            Does not accord with woman’s true position. This position indicated in the

            Law (Genesis 3:16), and laid down in the eleventh chapter of this

            Epistle. It had been foretold, “Your sons and your daughters shall

            prophesy (Joel 2:28), and in Acts 21:9 we read of four daughters

            of Philip who prophesied; but in neither case is anything said of

            prophesying in public and mixed assemblies. The apostle does not prohibit

            women from prophesying, but only from prophesying in public. This,

            according to his view, would conflict with modesty and with woman’s

            rightful position, and would lead to many evils. It is an evasion to

            discriminate between women speaking in Church meetings and women

            addressing general congregations. The apostle’s objection was to the

            public character of the act, and when he is speaking of “meetings of the

            Church” in this very chapter, he is referring to gatherings to which

            unbelievers had access (v. 24).



            instruction of the sanctuary, women may ask questions at home of their

            husbands. It may be said — What are those to do who have no husbands?

            Emphasis seems to rest upon “their own” (Revised Version) rather than

            upon “husbands.” It would be acting in the spirit of the apostle’s injunction

            for the unmarried to ask their relatives or personal friends. There seems no

            possible reason why an unmarried woman should be allowed to speak in

            public mixed assemblies whilst a married woman is debarred, but rather the



ü      We have here incidentally indicated a special and most important

                        sphere of woman — the home. A beautiful temple for the exercise of

                        woman’s ministry. Oratorical females are frequently poor housewives.

                        (What an interesting comment! – CY – 2010)


ü      A suggestion that husbands should be well furnished with religious

                        knowledge. (What an interesting comment!  CY – 2010)  The head of the

                        house should not be an empty head. If he glories in a superior position,

                        he should realize its responsibilities. But many people like their office

                        more than its duties.


ü      Evidence that women are not in the religious sphere to be mere

                        automata. They are not to be the dupes of priests. They are to think, ask

                        questions, understand. They are not to be kept in ignorance. Intelligent

                        service is expected from them. Highest culture is as open to them as to

                        men. There is nothing unwomanly in being well informed.


(I repeat:  one of my favorite scriptures is “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them

according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel,

and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not

hindered.”  I Peter 3:7 – CY – 2010)






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