Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: 1 Corinthians
Book: 1 Corinthians
Chapter: 14

Prophecy preferred to the Gift of Tongues. (1-5) The
unprofitableness of speaking in unknown languages. (6-14)
Exhortations to Worship that can be understood. (15-25)
Disorders from vain display of Gifts; (26-33) and from women
speaking in the Church. (34-40)

1-5 Prophesying, that is, explaining Scripture, is compared
with speaking with Tongues. This drew attention, more than the
Plain interpretation of Scripture; it gratified pride more, but
promoted the purposes of Christian Charity less; it would not
equally do good to the souls of men. What cannot be understood,
never can edify. No advantage can be reaped from the most
excellent discourses, if delivered in language such as the
hearers cannot speak or understand. Every ability or possession
is valuable in proportion to its usefulness. Even fervent,
spiritual Affection must be governed By the Exercise of the
understanding, else men will disgrace the truths they profess to

6-14 Even an Apostle could not edify, unless he spoke So as to
be understood By his hearers. To speak words that have No
meaning to those who hear them, is but speaking into the Air.
That cannot answer the End of speaking, which has No meaning; in
this case, speaker and hearers are barbarians to each other. All
religious services should be So performed in Christian
assemblies, that all may join in, and profit By them. Language
Plain and easy to be understood, is the most proper for public
Worship, and other religious exercises. Every true follower of
Christ will rather desire to do good to others, than to get a
name for learning or fine speaking.

15-25 There can be No assent to prayers that are not
understood. A truly Christian Minister will seek much more to do
spiritual good to men's souls, than to get the greatest applause
to himself. This is proving himself the servant of Christ.
Children are apt to be struck with novelty; but do not act like
them. Christians should be like children, void of guile and
malice; yet they should not be unskilful as to the Word of
Righteousness, but only as to the arts of mischief. It is a
proof that a people are forsaken of God, when he gives them up
to the rule of those who teach them to Worship in another
language. They can never be benefitted By such teaching. Yet
thus the preachers did who delivered their instructions in an
unknown tongue. Would it not make Christianity ridiculous to a
Heathen, to hear the ministers pray or preach in a language
which neither he nor the assembly understood? But if those who
Minister, plainly interpret Scripture, or preach the great
truths and rules of the Gospel, a Heathen or unlearned person
might become a convert to Christianity. His Conscience might be
touched, the secrets of his Heart might be revealed to him, and
So he might be brought to confess his guilt, and to own that God
was present in the assembly. Scripture Truth, plainly and duly
taught, has a wonderful power to awaken the Conscience and touch
the Heart.

26-33 Religious exercises in public assemblies should have this
view; Let all be done to edifying. As to the speaking in an
unknown tongue, if another were present who could interpret, two
miraculous Gifts might be exercised at once, and thereby the
Church be edified, and the Faith of the hearers confirmed at the
same time. As to prophesying, two or three only should speak at
one meeting, and this one after the other, not all at once. The
Man who is inspired By the Spirit of God will observe order and
decency in delivering his revelations. God never teaches men to
neglect their duties, or to act in any way unbecoming their Age
or station.

34-40 When the Apostle exhorts Christian women to seek
information On religious subjects from their husbands at home,
it shows that believing families ought to assemble for promoting
spiritual knowledge. The Spirit of Christ can never contradict
itself; and if their revelations are against those of the
Apostle, they do not come from the same Spirit. The way to keep
peace, Truth, and order in the Church, is to seek that which is
good for it, to Bear with that which is not hurtful to its
welfare, and to keep up good behaviour, order, and decency.