RPM, Volume 18, Number 26, June 19 to June 25, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical
Part 59

By Albert Barnes



First Corinthians CHAPTER 12

THIS chapter commences a new subject, the discussion of which continues to the close of the fourteenth chapter. The general subject is that of spiritual endowments, or the right mode of exercising their spiritual gifts, and the degree of honour which was due to those who had been distinguished by God by the special influences of his Spirit. It is evident that many in the church at Corinth had been thus favoured; and it is evident that they had greatly abused these endowments, and that those who were thus favoured had claimed a precedency of honour above those who had been less distinguished. It is not improbable that they had, in their letter to Paul, (1 Co 7:1,) requested his counsel on this subject, and asked him to teach them what measure of honour should be given to those who had been thus endowed. This subject, as it was of importance not only for them, but for the church at large in all future times, he proceeds to discuss in this and the two following chapters; and this discussion closes the second part of the epistle. See the Introduction. The general scope of these chapters is this:

(1.) He shows that all those endowments were conferred by the Holy Ghost, and were all for the use of the church; that the church was one, but that there was a necessity for diversified operations in that church; and that, therefore, no one should value himself on that gift above his brother, and no one should feel himself dishonoured because he had not been thus favoured. All filled important places in the church, just as the various members and parts of the human system were necessary for its symmetry, action, and health; and all, therefore, should be willing to occupy the place which God had assigned them, 1 Co 12.

(2.) In 1 Co 13 he recommends love, or charity, as of more value than all other spiritual gifts put together, and therefore recommends that that should be especially the object of their desire.

(3.) In 1 Co 14 he gives particular rules about the proper exercise of spiritual gifts in their public assemblies. This chapter, therefore, is occupied in stating and illustrating the position that all spiritual gifts are conferred by the Holy Ghost, and that no one should so value himself on this gilt as to despise those who had not been thus endowed; and that no one who had not thus been favoured should be dejected, or regard himself as dishonoured. This statement is illustrated in the following manner:

(1.) Paul states the importance of the subject, 1 Co 13:1.

(2.) He reminds them that they were formerly in a state of ignorance, sin, and idolatry, 1 Co 13:2.

(3.) He states one mark of being under the influence of the Spirit of God; that is, that it would lead them to acknowledge and honour Jesus Christ. If the spirit by which they were influenced led them to this, it was proof that it was the Holy Ghost, 1 Co 13:3. If any pretenders to inspiration were in the habit of speaking disrespectfully of Jesus Christ, or of calling him "accursed," it proved that they were not under the influence of the Holy Ghost.

(4.) There were diversities in the operations of the Spirit; but however various were these operations, they all proceeded from the same agent, 1 Co 13:4-11. All were not, therefore, to expect precisely the same influences or operations; nor were they to suppose that because there were various operations, that therefore they were not influenced by the Spirit of God.

(5.) Paul states and illustrates the truth that the church is one, 1 Co 12:12-27. As the body is one, yet has many members, so is it with the church, 1 Co 12:12. The body has many members, and no members in the body are useless, but all perform important parts, however unimportant they may seem to be; and no one member can say that it has no need of the others. So it is in the church, 1 Co 12:13-27.

(6.) This beautiful allegory, drawn from the functions of the various parts of the human body, Paul applies now to the church, and shows (1 Co 12:28-30) that the same thing should be expected in the church of Christ. It followed, therefore, that those who were not as highly favoured as others, should not regard themselves as useless, and decline their station in the church. It followed, also, that those who were in inferior stations should not envy those who had been more highly favoured; and that those who were in more elevated stations, and who had been more signally favoured, should not look down on those beneath them with contempt. It followed, also, that they should regard themselves as one body, and love and cherish each other with constant Christian affection.

(7.) Paul tells them that it was not improper to desire the highest endowments, but says that he will propose an object of desire to be preferred to these gifts—and that is LOVE, 1 Co 12:31.

Verse 1. Now concerning. It is now time that I should speak of spiritual endowments. He had no doubt been consulted in regard to them, and probably various questions had been proposed, which he now proceeded to answer.

Spiritual gifts. The word "gifts" is not in the original. The Greek refers to "spiritual" things in general, or to anything that is of a spiritual nature. The whole discussion, however, shows that he refers to the various endowments, gifts, or graces that had been bestowed in different degrees on the members of the church—including the distinctions in graces, and in degrees of office and rank, which had been made in the Christian church in general, 1 Co 12, as well as the extraordinary endowments of the gift of tongues, which had been bestowed upon many, 1 Co 14.

I would not have you ignorant. The subject is of so much importance, that it demands particular attention and special care. See Barnes "1 Co 10:1".

I would not have you ignorant in regard to the nature of those endowments; the spirit with which they should be received; the rules to which they who are thus favoured should be subjected; and the feelings and views which should be cherished in all the members of the church in regard to them. Nothing is of more importance in the church than the doctrine respecting the influences and endowments of the Holy Spirit.


Verse 2.

Ye know, etc. This verse is regarded by many as a parenthesis. But it is not necessary to suppose that it is so, or that it does not cohere with that which follows. The design seems to be to remind them of their former miserable condition as idolaters, in order to make them more sensible of their advantages as Christians, and that they might be led more highly to appreciate their present condition. Paul often refers Christians to their former condition, to excite in them gratitude for the mercies that God has conferred on them in the gospel. See Barnes "1 Co 6:11".

Comp. Ro 6:17; Eph 2:11,12; Tit 3:3.

That ye were Gentiles. Heathen; worshippers of idols. The idea is, that they were pagans; that they had no Knowledge of the true God, but were sunk in miserable superstition and idolatry.

Carried away. Led along; that is, deluded by your passions, deluded by your priests, deluded by your vain and splendid rites of worship. The whole system made an appeal to the senses, and bore along its rotaries as if by a foreign and irresistible impulse. The word which is used (apagomenoi) conveys, properly, the idea of being carried into bondage, or being led to punishment; and refers here, doubtless, to the strong means which had been used by crafty politicians and priests in their former state to delude and deceive them.

Unto these dumb idols. These idols which could not speak—an attribute which is often given to them, to show the folly of worshipping them, Ps 115:5; 135:15; Hab 2:18,19.

The ancient priests and politicians deluded the people with the notion that oracles were uttered by the idols whom they worshipped, and thus they maintained the belief in their divinity. The idea of Paul here seems to be,

(1.) that their idols never could have uttered the oracles which were ascribed to them, and consequently that they had been deluded.

(2.) That these idols could never have endowed them with such spiritual privileges as they now had, and consequently that their present state was far preferable to their former condition.

Even as ye were led. Were led by the priests in the temples of the idols. They were under strong delusions, and the arts of cunning and unprincipled men. The idea is, that they had been under a strong infatuation, and were entirely at the control of their spiritual leaders—a description remarkably applicable now to all forms of imposture in the world. No System of paganism consults the freedom and independence of the mind of man; but it is everywhere characterized as a system of power, and not of thought; and all its arrangements are made to secure that power without an intelligent assent of the understanding and the heart.

{a} "dumb idols" 1 Th 1:9


Verse 3. Wherefore I give you to understand. I make known to you. The force of this expression is, I give you this rule to distinguish, or by which you may know what influences and operations are from God. The design of the passage is to give them some simple general guide by which they could at once recognize the operations of the Spirit of God, and determine whether they who claimed to be under that operation were really so. That rule was, that all who were truly influenced by the Holy Ghost would be disposed to acknowledge and to know Jesus Christ; and where this disposition existed, it was of itself a clear demonstration that it was the operation of the Spirit of God. The same rule substantially is given by John, (1 Jo 4:2,) by which to test the nature of the spirit by which men profess to be influenced: "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every, spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." See Barnes "Mt 16:17".

That no man. No one, (oudeiv). It may refer to a man, or to demons, or to those who pretended to be under inspiration of any kind. And it may refer to the Jews who may have pretended to be under the influence of God's Spirit, and who yet anathematized and cursed the name of Jesus. Or it may be intended simply as a general rule; meaning, that if any one, whoever he might be, should blaspheme the name of Jesus, whatever were his pretensions, whether professing to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit among the Jews, or to be inspired among the Gentiles, it was full proof that he was an impostor. The argument is, that the Holy Spirit in all instances would do honour to Jesus Christ, and would prompt all who were under his influence to love and reverence his name.

Speaking by the Spirit of God. Under the influence of inspiration.

Calleth. Says, or would say; that is, no such one would use the language of anathema in regard to him.

Accursed. Marg., Anathema, (anayema). See Barnes "Ac 23:14".

See Barnes "Ro 9:3".

Compare 1 Co 16:22; Ga 1:8,9.

The word is one of execration, or cursing; and means, that no one under the influence of the Holy Spirit could curse the name of Jesus, or denounce him as execrable, and as an impostor. The effect of the influences of the Spirit would be, in all instances, to inspire reverence for his name and work. It is probable that the Jews were here principally intended, since there is a bitterness and severity in the language which accords with all their expressions of feeling towards Jesus of Nazareth. It is possible also, and indeed probable, that the priests and priestesses of the pagan gods, who pretended to be under the influence of inspiration, might denounce the name of Jesus, because they would all be opposed to the purity of his religion.

And that no man can say, etc. That is, that it cannot occur, or even happen, that any one will acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah who is not influenced by the Holy Ghost. The meaning is not that no one has physical ability to say that Jesus is Lord unless aided by the Holy Ghost, since all men can say this; but that no one will be disposed heartily to say it; no one will acknowledge him as their Lord; it can never happen that any one will confess him as the true Messiah who has not been brought to this state by the agency of the Holy Ghost.

Is the Lord. Is the Messiah; or shall acknowledge him as their Lord.

But by the Holy Ghost. Unless he is influenced by the Holy Spirit. This is a very important verse, not only in regard to the particular subject under consideration in the time of Paul, but also in its practical bearing at present. We may learn from it,

(1.) that it is a proof that any man is under the influence of the Holy Spirit who is heartily disposed to honour the name and work of Jesus Christ.

(2.) Those forms and modes of religion, those religious opinions and practices, will be most in accordance with the designs of the Spirit of God, which do most to honour the name and work of Jesus Christ.

(3.) It is true that no man will ever cherish a proper regard for Jesus Christ, nor love his name and work, unless he is influenced by the Holy Ghost. No man loves the name and work of the Redeemer by following simply the inclinations of his own corrupt heart. In all instances of those who have been brought to a willingness to honour him, it has been by the agency of the Holy Ghost.

(4.) If any man, in any way, is disposed to disparage the work of Christ, to speak lightly of his person or his name, or holds doctrines that infringe on the fairness of the truth respecting his Divine nature, his purity, his atonement, it is proof that he is not under the influence of the Spirit of God. Just in proportion as he shall disparage that work or name, just in that proportion does he live evidence that he is not influenced by the Divine Spirit; but by proud reason, or by imagination, or by a heart that is not reconciled to God.

(5.) All true religion is the production of the Holy Spirit. For religion consists essentially in a willingness to honour, and love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ; and where that exists, it is produced by the Holy Spirit.

(6.) The influence of the Holy Spirit should be cherished. To grieve away that Spirit is to drive all proper knowledge of the Redeemer from the soul; to do this is to leave the heart to coldness, and darkness, and barrenness, and spiritual death.

{a} "speaking by the Spirit" Mr 9:39; 1 Jo 4:2,3

{1} "accursed" "anathema"

{b} "that no man" Mt 16:17

{*} "Holy Ghost" "Spirit"


Verse 4. Now there are diversities of gifts. There are different endowments conferred on Christians. For the meaning of the word gifts, See Barnes "Ro 1:11".

Comp. Ro 5:15,16; 6:23; 11:29; 12:6; 1 Co 1:7; 7:7.

But the same Spirit. Produced by the same Spirit—the Holy Ghost. What those diversities of gifts are, the apostle enumerates in 1 Co 12:8-11. The design for which he refers to these various endowments is evidently to show those whom he addressed, that since they are all produced by the same Holy Spirit, have all the same Divine origin, and are all intended to answer some important purpose and end in the Christian church, that therefore none are to be despised; nor is one man to regard himself as authorized to treat another with contempt. The Spirit has divided and conferred those gifts according to his sovereign will; and his arrangements should be regarded with submission, and the favours which he confers should be received with thankfulness. That the Holy Spirit—the Third Person of the adorable Trinity—is here intended, by the word "Spirit," seems to be manifest on the face of the passage, and has been the received interpretation of the church until it was called in question by some recent German commentators, at the head of whom was Eichhorn. It is not the design of these Notes to go into an examination of questions of criticism, such as an inquiry like this would involve. Nor is it necessary. Some of the arguments by which the common interpretation is defended are the following:

(1.) It is the obvious interpretation. It is that which occurs to the great mass of readers, as the true and correct exposition.

(2.) It accords with the usual meaning of the word Spirit. No other intelligible sense can be given to the word here. To say, with Eichhorn, that it means "nature," that there are the same natural endowments, though cultivated in various measures by art and education, makes manifest nonsense, and is contrary to the whole structure and scope of the passage.

(3.) It accords with all the other statements in the New Testament, where the endowments here referred to—"wisdom," "knowledge," "faith," "working of miracles," etc.— are traced to the Holy Spirit, and are regarded as his gift.

(4.) The harmony, the concinnity of the passage is destroyed by supposing that it refers to anything else than the Holy Spirit. In this verse the agency of the Spirit is recognised, and his operations on the mind referred to; in the next verse the agency of the Son of God (See Barnes "1 Co 12:4"

on the verse) is referred to; and in the following verse the agency of God—evidently the Father—is brought into view; and thus the entire passage (1 Co 12:4-6) presents a connected view of the operations performed by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in the work of redemption. To deny that this verse refers to the Holy Spirit is to break up the harmony of the whole passage, and to render it in no small degree unmeaning. But if this refers to the Holy Spirit, then it is an unanswerable argument for his personality, and for his being on an equality with the Father and the Son.

{c} "of gifts" Heb 2:4; 1 Pe 4:10


Verse 5. Of administrations. Marg., Ministries. The word properly denotes ministries; so that there are different ranks and grades in the ministries which Christ has appointed, to wit, those specified in 1 Co 12:9,10,28. But the same Lord. This refers evidently to the Lord Jesus, by whom these various orders of ministers were appointed, and under whose control they are. See Barnes "Ac 1:24".

Comp. Eph 4:5. The term Lord, when it stands by itself in the New Testament, usually refers to the Lord Jesus, the name by which he was commonly known by the disciples. See Joh 20:25. The fact also that this stands between the mention of the work of the Spirit (1 Co 4:4) and the work of God, (1 Co 12:6,) and the fact that to the Lord Jesus appertained the appointment of these various grades of officers in the church, (comp. Mt 10:1; Lu 10:1, seq. is further proof that this refers to him. The design of the verse is to show that all these offices had their appointment from him; and that since all were his appointment, and all were necessary, no one should be proud of an elevated station; no one should be depressed, or feel himself degraded, because he had been designated to a more humble office.

{1} "administrations" "ministries"


Verse 6. Of operations. Of works; to wit, of miracles, such as God produces in the church, in the establishment and defence of his religion. There are different operations on the mind and heart; and different powers given to man, or different qualifications in building up and defending his cause. Or it may be, possibly, that Paul here refers to the works of God mainly for mere illustration; and by the word "operations" means the works which God has performed in creation and providence. His works are various. They are not all alike, though they come from the same hand. The sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, are different; the trees of the forest, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the inhabitants of the deep, are different; the flowers, and shrubs, and herbs, are different from each other; yet, however much they may vary, they are formed by the same hand, are the productions of the same God, are to be regarded as proofs of the same wisdom and power. The same thing should be expected in his church; and we should anticipate that the endowments of its members would be various.

But it is the same God. The same Father; all these operations are produced by the same God. They should not, therefore, be undervalued or despised; nor should any one be unduly elated, or pride himself on what has been conferred by God alone.

All in all. All these operations are to be traced to him. His agency is everywhere. It is as really seen in the insect's wing as in the limbs of the mammoth; as really in the humblest violet as in the loftiest oak of the forest. All, therefore, should regard themselves as under his direction, and should submit to his arrangements. If men regard their endowments as the gift of God, they will be thankful for them, and they will not be disposed to despise or undervalue others who have been placed in a more humble condition and rank in the church.

{a} "of operations" Ro 12:6


Verse 7. But the manifestation of the Spirit. The word "manifestation" (fanerwsiv means, properly, that which makes manifest, conspicuous, or plain; that which illustrates, or makes anything seen or known. Thus conduct manifests the state of the heart; and the actions are a manifestation, or showing forth, of the real feelings. The idea here is, that there is given to those referred to, such gifts, endowments, or graces, as shall manifest the work and nature of the Spirit's operations on the mind; such endowments as the Spirit makes himself known by to men. All that he produces in the mind is a manifestation of his character and work, in the same way as the works of God, in the visible creation, are a manifestation of his perfections.

Is given to every man. To every man whose case is here under consideration. The idea is not at all that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to all men indiscriminately—to pagans, and infidels, and scoffers, as well as to Christians. The apostle is discoursing only of those who are Christians, and his declaration should be confined to them alone. Whatever may be true of other men, this statement should be confined wholly to Christians; and means simply that the Spirit of God gives to each Christian such graces and endowments as he pleases; that he distributes his gifts to all, not equally, but in a manner which he shall choose; and that the design of this is, that all Christians should use his endowments for the common good. This passage, therefore, is very improperly adduced to prove that the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit are conferred alike on all men, and that pagans, and blasphemers, and sinners in general, are under his enlightening influences. It has no reference to any such doctrine, but should be interpreted as referring solely to Christians, and the various endowments which are conferred on them.

To profit withal. prov to sumferon. Unto profit; that is, for utility, or use; or to be an advantage to the church; for the common good of all. This does not mean that each one must cultivate and improve his graces and gifts, however true that may be, but that they are to be used for the common good of the church; they are bestowed for utility, or profit; they are conferred in such measures, and in such a manner, as are best adapted to be useful, and to do good. They are bestowed not on all equally, but in such a manner as shall best subserve the interests of piety and the church, and as shall tend harmoniously to carry on the great interests of religion, and further the welfare of the whole Christian body. The doctrine of this verse is, therefore,

(1.) that the Holy Spirit bestows such endowments on all Christians as he pleases; and

(2.) that the design is, in the best manner to promote the common welfare—the peace and edification of the whole church. It follows from this,

(1.) that no Christian should be unduly elated, as if he were more worthy than others, since his endowments are the simple gift of God;

(2.) that no Christian should be depressed and disheartened, as if he occupied an inferior or unimportant station, since his place has also been assigned him by God;

(3.) that all should be contented and satisfied with their allotments in the church, and should strive only to make the best use of their talents and endowments; and

(4.) that all should employ their time and talents for the common utility; for the furtherance of the common welfare, and the advancement of the kingdom of Christ on earth.

{b} "profit withal" Eph 4:7


Verse 8. For to one is given. In order to show what endowments he refers to, the apostle here particularizes the various gifts which the Holy Spirit imparts in the church.

By the Spirit. By the Holy Ghost; by his agency on the mind and heart.

The word of wisdom. One he has endowed with wisdom, or has made distinguished for wise, and prudent, and comprehensive views of the scheme of redemption, and with a faculty of clearly explaining it to the apprehension of men. It is not certain that the apostle meant to say that this was the most important or most elevated endowment because he places it first in order. His design does not seem to be to observe the order of importance and value; but to state, as it occurred to him, the fact that these various endowments had been conferred on different men in the church. The sense is, that one man would be prominent and distinguished as a wise man—a prudent counsellor, instructor, and adviser.

To another the word of knowledge. Another would be distinguished for knowledge. He would be learned; would have a clear view of the plan of salvation, and of the doctrines and duties of religion. The same variety is observed in the ministry at all times. One man is eminent as a wise man; another as a man of intelligence and knowledge; and both may be equally useful in their place in the church.

By the same Spirit. All is to be traced to the same Spirit; all, therefore, may be really useful and necessary; and the one should not pride himself in his endowments above the other.

{c} "the word of wisdom" Isa 11:2,3

{d} "to another" 1 Co 2:6,7

{e} "by the same Spirit" 1 Co 13:2


Verse 9. To another faith. Another shall be distinguished for simple confidence in God; and his endowment is also given by the same Spirit. Many of the most useful men in the church are distinguished mainly for their simple confidence in the promises of God; and often accomplish more by prayer and by their faith in God than others do who are distinguished for their wisdom and learning. Humble piety and reliance in the Divine promises, and that measure of ardour, fearlessness, and zeal, which result from such confidence; that belief that all obstacles must be and will be overcome that oppose the gospel, and that God will secure the advancement of his cause, will often do infinitely more in the promotion of his kingdom than the most splendid endowments of learning and talent. Indeed, if a man were disposed to do good on the widest scale possible, to do the utmost that he possibly could in saving men, he would best accomplish it by seeking simple faith in God's aid and promises, and then, under the influence of this, engage with ardour in doing what he could. Faith is one of the highest endowments of the Christian life; and yet, though all may attain it, it is one of the rarest endowments. Perhaps by many it is despised, because it may be obtained by all because it is a grace in which the poor and the humble may be as much distinguished as the man of splendid talents and profound learning.

To another the gifts of healing. See Mr 16:18. This was promised to the disciples of the Saviour; and in the early church was conferred on many. Comp. Ac 5:12,15,16; 19:12.

It would seem from this passage that the gift of healing was conferred on some in a more eminent degree than on others.

{f} "faith" Eph 2:8

{g} "healing" Mr 16:18; Jas 5:14


Verse 10. To another the working of miracles. Commentators have felt some perplexity in distinguishing this from what is mentioned in 1 Co 12:9 of the gift of healing. It is evident that the apostle there refers to the power of working miracles in healing inveterate and violent diseases. The expression here used, "working of miracles," (energhmata dunamewn,) refers probably to the more extraordinary and unusual kinds of miracles; to those which were regarded as in advance of the power of healing diseases. It is possible that it may denote what the Saviour had reference to in Mr 16:18, where he said they should take up serpents, and if they drank any deadly thing it should not hurt them; and possibly also to the power of raising up the dead. That this power was possessed by the apostles is well known; and it is possible that it was possessed by others also of the early Christians. It is clear from all this that there was a difference even among those who had the power of working miracles, and that this power was conferred in a more eminent degree on some than on others. Indeed, the extraordinary endowments conferred on the apostles and the early Christians seem to have been regulated, to a remarkable degree, in accordance with the rule by which ordinary endowments are conferred upon men. Though all men have understanding, memory, imagination, bodily strength, etc., yet one has these in a more eminent degree than others; and one is characterized for the possession of one of those qualities more than for another. Yet all are bestowed by the same God; So it was in regard to the extraordinary endowments conferred on the early Christians. Comp. 1 Co 14, especially 1 Co 14:32.

To another prophecy. See Barnes "Ro 12:6".

To another discerning of spirits. Comp. 1 Jo 4:1. This must refer to some power of searching into the secrets of the heart; of knowing what were a man's purposes, views, and feelings. It may relate either to the power of determining by what spirit a man spoke who pretended to be inspired, whether he was truly inspired or whether he was an impostor, or it may refer to the power of seeing whether a man was sincere or not in his Christian profession. That the apostles had this power, is apparent from the case of Ananias and Sapphira, (Ac 5:1-10,) and from the case of Elymas, Ac 13:9-11. It is evident that where the gift of prophecy and inspiration was possessed, and where it would confer such advantages on those who possessed it, there would be many pretenders to it; and that it would be of vast importance to the infant church, in order to prevent imposition, that there should be a power in the church of detecting the imposture.

To another divers kinds of tongues. The power of speaking various languages. See Ac 2:4,7-11.

This passage also seems to imply that the extraordinary endowments of the Holy Spirit were not conferred on all alike.

To another the interpretation of tongues. The power of interpreting foreign languages; or of interpreting the language which might be used by the "prophets" in their communications. See Barnes "1 Co 14:27".

This was evidently a faculty different from the power of speaking a foreign language; and yet it might be equally useful. It would appear possible that some might have had the power of speaking foreign languages who were not themselves apprized of the meaning, and that interpreters were needful in order to express the sense to the hearers.

Or it may have been that in a promiscuous assembly, or in an assembly made up of those who spoke different languages, a part might have understood what was uttered, and it was needful that an interpreter should explain it to the other portion. See Barnes "1 Co 14:28".

{a} "discerning of spirits" 1 Jo 4:1

{b} "of tongues" Ac 2:4,7-11

{*} "tongues" "Languages"


Verse 11. But all these. All these various endowments.

Worketh. Produces. All these are to be traced to him.

That one and the selfsame Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Ac 2. They were all, though so different in themselves to be traced to the Holy Ghost, just as all the natural endowments of men—their strength, memory, judgment, etc.—though so various in themselves, are to be traced to the same God.

Dividing to every man severally. Conferring on each one as he pleases. He confers on each one that which he sees to be best and most wise and proper.

As he will. As he chooses; or as in his view seems best. Dr. Doddridge remarks, that this word does "not so much express arbitrary pleasure, as a determination founded on wise counsel." It implies, however, that he does it as a sovereign; as he sees to be right and best. He distributes these favours as to him seems best adapted to promote the welfare of the whole church, and to advance his cause. Some of the doctrines which are taught by this verse are the following:

(1.) The Holy Ghost is a person. For he acts as a person; distributes favours, confers endowments and special mercies "as he will." This proves that he is, in some respects, distinguished from the Father and the Son. It would be absurd to say of an attribute of God, that it confers favours, and distributes the various endowments of speaking with tongues, and raising the dead. And if so, then the Holy Ghost is not an attribute of God.

(2.) He is a sovereign. He gives to an as he pleases. In regard to spiritual endowments of the highest order, he deals with men as he does in the common endowments bestowed on men, and as he does in temporal blessings. He does not bestow the same blessings on an, nor make all alike. He dispenses his favours by a rule which he has not made known, but which, We may be assured, is in accordance with wisdom and goodness. He wrongs no one; and he gives to all the favours which might be connected with eternal life.

(3.) No man should be proud of his endowments. Whatever they may be, they are the gifts of God, bestowed by his sovereign will and mercy. But assuredly we should not be proud of that which is the mere gift of another; and which has been bestowed, not in consequence of any merit of ours, but according to his mere sovereign will.

(4.) No man should be depressed, or should despise his own gifts, however humble they may be. In their own place, they may be as important as the higher endowments of others. That God has placed him where he is, or has given less splendid endowments than he has to others, is no fault of his. There is no crime in it; and he should, therefore, strive to improve his "one talent," and to make himself useful in the rank where he is placed. And,

(5.) no man should despise another because he is in a more humble rank, or is less favoured than himself. God has made the difference, and we should respect and honour his arrangements, and should show that respect and honour by regarding with kindness, and treating as fellow-labourers with us, all who occupy a more humble rank than we do.

{c} "dividing to every man" 1 Co 12:6


Verse 12. For as the body is one. The general sentiment which the apostle had been illustrating and enforcing was, that all the endowments which were possessed in the church were the work of the same Holy Spirit, and that they ought to be appropriately cherished and prized, as being all useful and valuable in their places. This sentiment he now illustrates (1 Co 12:12-27) by a beautiful similitude taken from the mutual dependence of the various parts of the human body. The human body is one, and yet is composed of various members and parts that all unite harmoniously in one whole.

Being many. Or, although they are many; or while they are in some respects separate, and perform distinct and different functions, yet they all unite in one harmonious whole.

So also is Christ. The church is represented as the body of Christ, (1 Co 12:27,) meaning that it is one, and that he sustains to it the relation of Head. Comp. Eph 1:22,23. As the head is the most important part of the body, it may be put for the whole body; and the name Christ here, the head of the church, is put for the whole body of which he is the head; and means here the Christian society, or the church. This figure, of a part for the whole, is one that is common in all languages. See Barnes "Ro 12:4,5".

{d} "so also is Christ" 1 Co 12:27


Verse 13. For by one Spirit. That is, by the agency or operation of the same Spirit, the Holy Ghost, we have been united into one body. The idea here is the same as that presented above, (1 Co 12:7-11,) by which all the endowments of Christians are traced to the same Spirit. Paul here says, that that Spirit had so endowed them as to fit them to constitute one body, or to be united in one, and to perform the various duties which resulted from their union in the same Christian church. The idea of its having been done by one and the same Spirit is kept up, and often presented, in order that the endowments conferred on them might be duly appreciated.

Are we all. Every member of the church, whatever may be his rank or talents, has received his endowments from the same Spirit.

Baptized into one body. Many suppose that there is reference here to the ordinance of baptism by water. But the connexion seems rather to require us to understand it of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, (Mt 3:11;) and if so, it means, that by the agency of the Holy Spirit they had all been fitted, each to his appropriate place, to constitute the body of Christ—the church. If, however, it refers to the ordinance of baptism, as Bloomfield, Calvin, Doddridge, etc. suppose, then it means, that by the very profession of religion as made at baptism, by there being but one baptism, (Eph 4:5,) they had all professedly become members of one and the same body. The former interpretation, however, seems to me best to suit the connexion.

Whether we be Jews or Gentiles. There is no difference. All are on a level. In regard to the grand point, no distinction is made, whatever may have been our former condition of life.

Bond or free. It is evident that many who were slaves were converted to the Christian faith. Religion, however, regarded all as on a level; and conferred no favours on the free which it did not on the slave. It was one of the happy lessons of Christianity, that it taught men that in the great matters pertaining to their eternal interests they were on the same level. This doctrine would tend to secure, more than anything else could, the proper treatment of those who were in bondage, and of those who were in humble ranks of life. At the same time it would not diminish, but would increase their real respect for their masters, and for those who were above them, if they regarded them as fellow Christians, and destined to the same heaven. See Barnes "1 Co 7:22".

And have been all made to drink, etc. This probably refers to their partaking together of the cup in the Lord's Supper. The sense is, that by their drinking of the same cup commemorating the death of Christ, they had partaken of the same influences of the Holy Ghost, which descend alike on all who observe that ordinance in a proper manner. They had shown, also, that they belonged to the same body, and were all united together; and that, however various might be their graces and endowments, yet they all belonged to the same great family.

{a} "all baptized" Joh 1:16; Eph 4:5

{1} "Gentiles" "Greeks"

{b} "drink into one Spirit" Joh 7:37-39


Verse 14. For the body, etc. The body is made up of many members, which have various offices. So it is in the church. We are to expect the same variety there; and we are not to presume either that all will be alike, or that any member that God placed there will be useless.


Verse 15. If the foot shall say, etc. The same figure and illustration which Paul here uses occurs also in heathen writers. It occurs in the apologue which was used by Menenius Agrippa, as related by Livy, (lib. ii. cap. 32,) in which he attempted to repress a rebellion which had been excited against the nobles and senators, as useless and cumbersome to the state. Menenius, in order to show the folly of this, represents the different members of the body as conspiring against the stomach, as being inactive, and as refusing to labour, and consuming everything. The consequence of the conspiracy which the feet, and hands, and mouth entered into, was a universal wasting away of the whole frame, for want of the nutriment which would have been supplied from the stomach. Thus he argued it would be by the conspiracy against the nobles, as being inactive, and as consuming all things. The representation had the desired effect, and quelled the rebellion. The same figure is used also by AEsop. The idea here is, that as the foot and the ear could not pretend that they were not parts of the body, and even not important, because they were not the eye, etc., that is, were not more honourable parts of the body, so no Christian, however humble his endowments, could pretend that he was useless because he was not more highly gifted, and did not occupy a more elevated rank.


Verse 16. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 17. If the whole body, etc. The idea in this verse is, that all the parts of the body are useful in their proper place, and that it would be as absurd to require or expect that all the members of the church should have the same endowments, as it would be to attempt to make the body all eye. If all were the same, if all had the same endowments, important offices which are now secured by the other members would be unknown. All, therefore, are to be satisfied with their allotment; all are to be honoured in their appropriate place.


Verse 18. Hath God set the members, etc. God has formed the body, with its various members, as he saw would best conduce to the harmony and usefulness of all.

{c} "set the members" 1 Co 12:28.

{d} "as it hath" 1 Co 12:11; Ro 12:3


Verse 19. And if all were one member. If there were nothing but an eye, an ear, or a limb, there would be no body. The idea which this seems intended to illustrate is, that if there was not variety of talent and endowment in the church, the church could not itself exist. If, for example, there were nothing but apostles, or prophets, or teachers; if there were none but those who spoke with tongues or could interpret them, the church could not exist. A variety of talents and attainments in their proper places is as useful as are the various members of the human body.


Verse 20. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 21. And the eye cannot say to the hand, etc. The hand in its place is as needful as the eye; and the feet as the head. Nay, the eye and the head could not perform their appropriate functions, or would be in a great measure useless, but for the aid of the hands and feet. Each is useful in its proper place. So in the church. Those that are most talented, and most richly endowed with gifts, cannot say to those less so, that there is no need of their aid. All are useful in their place. Nay, those who are most richly endowed could very imperfectly perform their duties, without the aid and co-operation of those of more humble attainments.


Verse 22. Which seem to be more feeble. Weaker than the rest; which seem less able to bear fatigue and to encounter difficulties; which are more easily injured, and which become more easily affected with disease. It is possible that Paul may here refer to the brain, the lungs, the heart, etc., as more feeble in their structure, and more liable to disease, than the hands and the feet, etc., and in reference to which disease is more dangerous and fatal.

Are necessary. The sense seems to be this: A man can live though the parts and members of his body which are more strong were removed; but not if those parts which are more feeble. A man can live if his arm or leg be amputated; but not if his brain, his lungs, or his heart be removed. So that, although these parts are more feeble, and more easily injured, they are really more necessary to life, and therefore more useful, than the more vigorous portions of the frame. Perhaps the idea is—and it is a beautiful thought—that those members of the church which are most retiring and feeble apparently; which are concealed from public view, unnoticed and unknown—the humble, the meek, the peaceful, and the prayerful—are often more necessary to the true welfare of the church than those who are eminent for their talent and learning. And it is so. The church can better spare many a man, even in the ministry, who is learned, and eloquent, and popular, than some obscure and humble Christian, that is to the church what the heart and the lungs are to the life. The one is strong, vigorous, active, like the hands or the feet, and the church often depends on them; the other is feeble, concealed, yet vital, like the heart or the lungs. The vitality of the church could be continued though the man of talent and learning should be removed—as the body may live when the arm or the leg is amputated; but that vitality could not continue, if the saint of humble and retiring piety and of fervent prayerfulness were removed, any more than the body can live when there is no heart and no lungs.

{e} "those members" Ec 4:9-12; 9:14,15


Verse 23. We bestow more abundant honour. Marg., "Put on." The words rendered "abundant honour" here refer to clothing. We bestow upon them more attention and honour than we do on the face that is deemed comely, and that is not covered and adorned as the other parts of the body are.

More abundant comeliness. We adorn and decorate the body with gay apparel. Those parts which decency requires us to conceal we not only cover, but we endeavour as far as we can to adorn them. The face in the mean time we leave uncovered. The idea is, that in like manner we should not despise or disregard those members of the church who are of lower rank, or who are less favoured than others with spiritual endowments.

{1} "bestow" "put on"

{*} "parts" "members"


Verse 24. For our comely parts. The face, etc.

Have no need. No need of clothing or ornament,

But God hath tempered the body together. Literally, mingled or mixed; that is, has made to coalesce, or strictly and closely joined, he has formed a strict union; he has made one part dependent on another, and necessary to the harmony and proper action of another. Every part is useful, and all are fitted to the harmonious action of the whole. God has so arranged it, in order to produce harmony and equality in the body, that those parts which are less comely by nature should be more adorned and guarded by apparel.

Having given more abundant honour, etc. By making it necessary that we should labour in order to procure for it the needful clothing; thus making it more the object of our attention and care. We thus bestow more abundant honour upon those parts of the body which a suitable protection from cold, and heat, and storms, and the sense of comeliness, requires us to clothe and conceal. The "more abundant honour," therefore, refers to the greater attention, labour, and care which we bestow on those parts of the body.

{*} "parts" "members"

{+} "part" "member"

{++} "lacked" "wanted"


Verse 25. That there should be no schism. Marg., Division. See Barnes "1 Co 11:18".

The sense here is, that the body might be united, and be one harmonious whole; that there should be no separate interests; and that all the parts should be equally necessary, and truly dependent on each other; and that no member should be regarded as separated from the others, or as needless to the welfare of all. The sense to be illustrated by this is, that no member of the church, however feeble, or illiterate, or obscure, should be despised or regarded as unnecessary or valueless; that all are needful in their places; and that it should not be supposed that they belonged to different bodies, or that they could not associate together, any more than the less honourable and comely parts of the body should be regarded as unworthy or unfit to be united to the parts that were deemed to be more beautiful and honourable.

Should have the same care. Should care for the same thing; should equally regard the interests of all, as we feel an equal interest in all the members and parts of the body, and desire the preservation, the healthy action, and the harmonious and regular movement of the whole. Whatever part of the body is affected with disease or pain, we feel a deep interest in its preservation and cure. The idea is, that no member of the church should be overlooked or despised; but that the whole church should feel a deep interest for, and exercise a constant solicitude over, all its members.

{2} "schism" "division"


Verse 26. And whether one member suffer. One member, or part of the body.

All the members suffer with it. This, we all know, is the case with the body. A pain in the foot, the hand, or the head, excites deep solicitude. The interest is not confined to the part affected; but we feel that we ourselves are affected, and that our body, as a whole, demands our care. The word" suffer" here refers to disease, or sickness. It is true, also, that not only we feel an interest in the part that is affected, but that disease in any one part tends to diffuse itself through, and to affect the whole frame. If not arrested, it is conveyed by the blood through all the members, until life itself is destroyed. It is not by mere interest then, or sympathy, but it is by the natural connexion and the inevitable result that a diseased member tends to affect the whole frame. There is not, indeed, in the church, the same physical connexion and physical effect; but the union is really not less close and important, nor is it the less certain that the conduct of one member will affect all. It is implied here, also, that we should feel a deep interest in the welfare of all the members of the body of Christ. If one is tempted, or afflicted, the other members of the church should feel it, and "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil his law." If one is poor, the others should aid him, and supply his wants; if one is persecuted and opposed for righteousness' sake, the others should sympathize with him, and make common cause with him. In all things pertaining to religion and to their mutual welfare, they should feel that they have a common cause, and regard it as a privilege to aid one another. Nor should a man regard it as any more a burden and hardship to aid a poor or afflicted brother in the church, than it should be deemed a hardship that the head, and the heart, and the hands should sympathize when any other member of the body is diseased.

Or one member be honoured. If applied to the body, this means, if one member or part be regarded and treated with special care; be deemed honourable; or be in sound, healthy, and vigorous condition. If applied to the church, it means, if one of its members should be favoured with extraordinary endowments; or be raised to a station of honour and influence above his brethren.

All the members rejoice with it. That is, in the body, all the other members partake of the benefit and honour. If one member be sound and healthy the benefit extends to all. If the hands, the feet, the heart, the lungs, the brain be in a healthy condition, the advantage is felt by all the members, and all derive advantage from it. So in the church. If one member is favoured with remarkable talent, or is raised to a station of influence, and exerts his influence in the cause of Christ, all the members of the church partake of the benefit. It is for the common good; and all should rejoice in it. This consideration should repress envy at the elevation of others, and should lead all the members of a church to rejoice when God, by his direct agency, or by the arrangements of his providence, confers extraordinary endowments, or gives opportunity for extended usefulness to others.


Verse 27. Now ye. Ye Christians of Corinth, as a part of the whole church that has been redeemed.

Are the body of Christ. The allusion to the human body is here kept up. As all the members of the human body compose one body, having a common head, so it is with all the members and parts of the Christian church. The specific idea is, that Christ is the head of the whole church; that he presides over all; and that all its members sustain to each other the relation of fellow-members in the same body, and are subject to the same head. See Barnes "1 Co 11:3".

The church is often called the body of Christ, Eph 1:23; Col 1:18,24.

And members in particular. You are, as individuals, members of the body of Christ; or each individual is a member of that body.

{a} "members" Eph 5:30

{&} "particular" "in part"


Verse 28. And God hath set. That is, has appointed, constituted, ordained. He has established these Various orders or ranks in the church. The apostle, having illustrated the main idea that God had conferred various endowments on the members of the church, proceeds here to specify particularly what he meant, and to refer more directly to the various ranks which existed in the church.

Some in the church. The word "some," in this place, (ouv) seems to mean rather "whom" and "whom God hath placed in the church;" or, they whom God hath constituted in the church in the manner above mentioned are, first, apostles, etc.

First apostles. In the first rank or order; or as superior in honour and in office. He has given them the highest authority in the church; he has more signally endowed them and qualified them than he has others.

Secondarily prophets. As second in regard to endowments and importance. For the meaning of the word "prophets," See Barnes "Ro 12:6".

Thirdly teachers. As occupying the third station in point of importance and valuable endowments. On the meaning of this word, and the nature of this office, See Barnes "Ro 12:7".

After that miracles. Power. dunameiv. Those who had the power of working miracles— referred to in 1 Co 12:10.

Then gifts of healings. The power of healing those who were sick. See Barnes "1 Co 12:9".

Compare Jas 5:14,16.

Helps. Antilhqeiv. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is derived from antilambanw, and denotes, properly, aid, assistance, help; and then those who render aid, assistance, or help; helpers. Who they were, is not known. They might have been those to whom was entrusted the care of the poor, and the sick, and strangers, widows, and orphans, etc.; i.e., those who performed the office of deacons. Or they may have been those who attended on the apostles to aid them in their work, such as Paul refers to in Ro 16:3, "Greet Priscilla, and Aquila, my helper" in Christ Jesus;" and in Ro 16:9, "Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ." See Barnes "Ro 16:3".

It is not possible, perhaps, to determine a precise meaning of the word, or the nature of the office which they discharged; but the word means, in general, those who in any way aided or rendered assistance in the church, and may refer to the temporal affairs of the church, to the care of the poor, the distribution of charity and alms, or to the instruction of the ignorant, or to aid rendered directly to the apostles. There is no evidence that it refers to a distinct and permanent officei in the church; but may refer to aid rendered by any class in any way. Probably many persons were profitably and usefully employed in various ways as aids in promoting the temporal or spiritual welfare of the church.

Governments. kubernhseiv. This word is derived from kubernaw, to govern; and is usually applied to the government or steering of a ship. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the word kubernhthv (governor) occurs in Ac 27:11, rendered "master," and in Re 18:17, rendered "ship-master." It is not easy to determine what particular office or function is here intended. Doddridge, in accordance with Amyraut, supposes that distinct offices may not be here referred to, but that the same persons may be denoted in these expressions as being distinguished in various ways; that is, that the same persons were called "helpers" in reference to their skill in aiding those who were in distress, and "governments" in regard to their talent for doing business, and their ability in presiding in counsels for deliberation, and in directing the affairs of the church. There is no reason to think that the terms here used referred to permanent and established ranks and orders in the ministry and in the church; or in permanent offices which were to continue to all times as an essential part of its organization. It is certain that the "order" of apostles has ceased, and also the "order" of miracles, and the "order" of healings, and of diversity of tongues. And it is certain that in the use of these terms of office, the apostle does not affirm that they would be permanent, and essential to the very existence of the church; and from the passage before us, therefore, it cannot be argued that there was to be an order of men in the church who were to be called helps, or governments. The truth probably was, that the circumstances of the primitive churches required the aid of many persons in various capacities which might not be needful or proper in other times and circumstances. Whether, therefore, this is to be regarded as a permanent arrangement that there should be "governments" in the church, or an order of men entrusted with the sole office of governing, is to be learned not from this passage, but from other parts of the New Testament. Lightfoot contends, that the word which is here used and translated "governments" does not refer to the power of ruling, but to a person endued with a deep and comprehensive mind, one who is wise and prudent; and in this view Mosheim, Macknight, and Bishop Horsley coincide. Calvin refers it to the elders, to whom the exercise of discipline was entrusted. Grotius understands it of the pastors, (Eph 4:1,) or of the elders who presided over particular churches, Ro 12:8. Locke supposes that they were the same as those who had the power of discerning spirits. The simple idea, however, is that of ruling, or exercising government; but whether this refers to a permanent office, or to the fact that some were specially qualified by their wisdom and prudence, and in virtue of this usually regulated or directed the affairs of the church by giving council, etc., or whether they were selected and appointed for this purpose for a time; or whether it refers to the same persons who might also have exercised other functions, and this in addition, cannot be determined from the passage before us. All that is clear is, that there were those who administered government in the church. But the passage does not determine the form, or manner; nor does it prove—whatever may be true—that such an office was to be permanent in the church.

Diversities of tongues. Those endowed with the power of speaking various languages. See Barnes "1 Co 12:10".

{b} "first apostles" Lu 6:13

{|} "secondarily" "secondly"

{c} "prophets" Ac 13:1

{a} "healings" 1 Co 12:10

{b} "helps" 1 Co 12:9

{c} "governments" Nu 11:17

{d} "diversities" He 13:17,24

{1} "diversities" "kinds"

{e} "tongues" Ac 2:8-11

{*} "tongues" "Languages"


Verse 29. Are all apostles? etc. These questions imply, with strong emphasis, that it could not be, and ought not to be, that there should be perfect equality of endowment. It was not a matter of fact that all were equal, or that all were qualified for the offices which others sustained. Whether the arrangement was approved of or not, it was a simple matter of fact, that some were qualified to perform offices which others were not; that some were endowed with the abilities requisite to the apostolic office, and others not; that some were endowed with prophetic gifts, and others were not; that some had the gift of healing, or the talent of speaking different languages, or of interpreting, and that others had not.

{2} "all workers" "powers"


Verse 30. No Barnes text on this verse.

{+} "tongues" "Different languages"


Verse 31. But covet earnestly. Greek, "Be zealous for," (zhloute) This word, however, may be either in the indicative mood, (ye do covet earnestly,) or in the imperative, as in our translation. Doddridge contends that it should be rendered in the indicative mood; for he says it seems to be a contradiction that after the apostle had been showing that these gifts were not at their own option, and that they ought not to emulate the gifts of another, or aspire to superiority, to undo all again, and give them such contrary advice. The same view is given by Locke, and so Macknight. The Syriac renders it, "Because you are zealous of the best gifts, I will show to you a more excellent way." But there is no valid objection to the common translation in the imperative; and indeed the connexion seems to demand it. Grotius renders it, "Pray to God that you may receive from him the best, that is, the most useful endowments." The sense seems to be this: "I have proved that all endowments in the church are produced by the Holy Spirit; and that he confers them as he pleases. I have been showing that no one should be proud or elated on account of extraordinary endowments; and that, on the other hand, no one should be depressed, or sad, or discontented, because he has a more humble rank. I have been endeavouring to repress and subdue the spirit of discontent, jealousy, and ambition; and to produce a willingness in all to occupy the station where God has placed you. But I do not intend to deny that it is proper to desire the most useful endowments; that a man should wish to be brought under the influence of the Spirit, and qualified for eminent usefulness. I do not mean to say that it is wrong for a man to regard the higher gifts of the Spirit as valuable and desirable, if they may be obtained; nor that the spirit which seeks to excel in spiritual endowments and in usefulness is improper. Yet all cannot be apostles; all cannot be prophets. I would not have you, therefore, seek ruth offices, and manifest a spirit of ambition. I would seek to regulate the desire which I would not repress as improper; and in order to that, I would show you that, instead of aspiring to offices and extraordinary endowments, which are beyond your grasp, there is a way, more truly valuable, that is open to you all, and where all may excel." Paul thus endeavours to give a practicable and feasible turn to the whole subject, and further to repress the longings of ambition and the contentions of strife, by exciting emulation to obtain that which was accessible to them all, and which, just in the proportion in which it was obtained, would repress discontent, and strife, and ambition, and produce order, and peace, and contentedness with their endowments and their lot—the main thing which he was desirous of producing in this chapter. This, therefore, is one of the happy turns in which the writings of Paul abound He did not denounce their zeal as wicked. He did not attempt at once to repress it. He did not say that it was wrong to desire high endowments. But he showed them an endowment which was more valuable than all the others; which was accessible to all; and which, if possessed, would make them contented, and produce the harmonious operation of all the parts of the church. That endowment was LOVE.

A more excellent way. See the next chapter. "I will show you a more excellent way of evincing your zeal than by aspiring to the place of apostles, prophets, or rulers; and that is, by cultivating universal charity or love."

{h} "covet earnestly" 1 Co 14:39

{i} "best gifts" Mt 5:6; Lu 10:42



First Corinthians Chapter 13

This chapter is a continuation of the subject commenced in chapter 12. In that chapter Paul had introduced the subject of the various endowments which the Holy Spirit confers on Christians, and had shown that these endowments, however various they were, were conferred in such a manner as best to promote the edification and welfare of the church. In the close of that chapter (1 Co 12:31) he had said that it was lawful for them to desire the most eminent of the gifts conferred by the Spirit; and yet says that there was one endowment that was more valuable than all others, and that might be obtained by all, and that he proposed to recommend to them. That was Love; sold to illustrate its nature, excellency, and power, is the design of this exquisitely beautiful and tender chapter. In doing this, he dwells particularly on three points or views of the excellency of love; and the chapter may be regarded as consisting of three portions.

I. The excellency of love above the power of speaking the languages of men and of angels; above the power of understanding all mysteries; above all faith, even of the highest kind; and above the virtue of giving all one's goods to feed the poor, or one's body to be burned. All these endowments would be valueless without love, 1 Co 13:1-3.

II. A statement of the characteristics of love; or its happy influences on the mind and heart, 1 Co 13:4-7.

III. A comparison of love with the gift of prophecy, and with the power of speaking foreign languages, and with knowledge, 1 Co 13:8-13. In this portion of the chapter, Paul shows that love is superior to them all. It will live in heaven; and will constitute the chief glory of that world of bliss.

Verse 1. Though I speak with the tongues of men. Though I should be able to speak all the languages which are spoken by men. To speak foreign languages was regarded then, as it is now, as a rare and valuable endowment. Comp. Virg. AEn. vi. 625, seq. The word I, here, is used in a popular sense; and the apostle designs to illustrate, as he often does, his idea by a reference to himself, which, it is evident, he wishes to be understood as applying to those whom he addressed. It is evident that among the Corinthians the power of speaking a foreign language was regarded as a signally valuable endowment; and there can be no doubt that some of the leaders in that church valued themselves especially on it. See chapter 14. To correct this, and to show them that all this would be vain without love, and to induce them, therefore, to seek for love as a more valuable endowment, was the design of the apostle in this passage. Of this verse Dr. Bloomfield, than whom perhaps there is no living man better qualified to give such an opinion, remarks, that "it would be difficult to find a finer passage than this in the writings of Demosthenes himself."

And of angels. The language of angels; such as they speak. Were I endowed with the faculty of eloquence and persuasion which we attribute to them; and the power of speaking to any of the human family with the power which they have. The language of angels here seems to be used to denote the highest power of using language, or of the most elevated faculty of eloquence and speech. It is evidently derived from the idea that the angels are superior, in all respects, to men; that they must have endowments in advance of all which man can have. It may possible have reference to the idea that they must have some mode of communicating their ideas one to another, and that this dialect or mode must be far superior to that which is employed by man. Man is imperfect. All his modes of communication are defective. We attribute to the angels the idea of perfection; sold the idea here is, that even though a man had a far higher faculty of speaking languages than would be included in the endowment of speaking all the languages of men, as men speak them, and even had the higher and more perfect mode of utterance which the angels have, and yet were destitute of love, all would be nothing. It is possible that Paul may have some allusion here to what he refers to in 2 Co 12:4, where he says that when he was caught up into Paradise, he heard unspeakable words, which it was not possible for a man to utter. To this higher, purer language of heaven he may refer here by the language of the angels. It was not with him mere conjecture of what that language might be; it was language which he had been permitted himself to hear. Of that scene he would retain a most deep and tender recollection; and to that language he now refers, by saying that even that elevated language would be valueless to a creature if there were not love.

And have not charity. agaphn de mh ecw. And have not LOVE. This is the proper and usual meaning of the Greek word. The English word charity is used in a great variety of senses; and some of them cannot be included in the meaning of the word here. It means,

(1.) in a general sense, love, benevolence, good-will;

(2.) in theology, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good-will to men;

(3.) in a more particular sense, it denotes the love and kindness which springs from the natural relations, as the charities of father, son, brother;

(4.) liberality to the poor, to the needy, and to objects of beneficence, as we speak commonly of charity, meaning almsgiving, and of charitable societies;

(5.) candour, liberality in judging of men's actions; indulgence to their opinions; attributing to them good motives and intentions; a disposition to judge of them favourably, and to put on their words and actions the best construction. This is a very common signification of the word in our language now; and this is one modification of the word love, as all such charity is supposed to proceed from love to our neighbour, and a desire that he should have a right to his opinions, as well as we to ours. The Greek word agaph means, properly, love, affection, regard, good-will, benevolence. It is applied,

(a.) to love in general;

(b.) to the love of God and of Christ;

(c.) the love which God or Christ exercises towards Christians, Rom 5:5; Eph 2:4; 2 Th 3:5;

(d.) the effect or proof of beneficence, favour conferred, Eph 1:15; 2 Th 2:10; 1 Jo 3:1.—Rob. Lex. In the English word charity, therefore, there are now some ideas which are not found in the Greek word, and especially the idea of almsgiving, and the common use of the word among us in the sense of candour, or liberality in judging. Neither of these ideas, perhaps, are to be found in the use of the word in the chapter before us; and the more proper translation would have been, in accordance with the usual mode of translation in the New Testament, LOVE. Tindal, in his translation, renders it by the word love. The love which is referred to in this chapter, and illustrated, is mainly love to man, (1 Co 13:4-7;) though there is no reason to doubt that the apostle meant also to include in the general term love to God, or love in general. His illustrations, however, are chiefly drawn from the effects of love towards men. It properly means love to the whole church; love to the whole world; love to all creatures, which arises from true piety, and which centres ultimately in God.—Doddridge. It is this love whose importance Paul, in this beautiful chapter, illustrates as being more valuable than the highest possible endowments without it. It is not necessary to suppose that any one had these endowments, or had the power of speaking with the tongues of men and angels, or had the gift of prophecy, or had the highest degree of faith, who had no love. The apostle supposes a case; and says that if it were so, if all these were possessed without love, they would be comparatively valueless; or that love was a more valuable endowment than all the others would be without it.

I am become. I am. I shall be.

As sounding brass. Probably a trumpet. The word properly means brass; then that which is made of brass; a trumpet, or wind instrument of any kind, made of brass or copper. The sense is that of a sounding or resounding instrument, making a great noise, apparently of great importance, and yet without vitality; a mere instrument; a base metal that merely makes a sound. Thus noisy, valueless, empty, and without vitality, would be the power of speaking all languages without love.

Or a tinkling cymbal. A cymbal giving a clanging, clattering sound. The word rendered "tinkling," (alalazon) from alalh or alala, a war-cry,) properly denotes a loud cry, or shout, such as is used in battle; and then also a loud cry or mourning, cries of lamentation or grief; the loud shriek of sorrow: Mr 5:38, "Them that wept, and wailed greatly." It then means a clanging or clattering sound, such as was made on a cymbal. The cymbal is a well-known instrument, made of two pieces of brass or other metal, which, being struck together, gives a tinkling or clattering sound. Cymbals are commonly used in connexion with other music. They make a tinkling, or clanging, with very little variety of sound. The music is little adapted to produce emotion, or to excite feeling. There is no melody, and no harmony. They were therefore well adapted to express, the idea which the apostle wished to convey. The sense is, "If I could speak all languages, yet if I had not love, the faculty would be like the clattering, clanging sound of the cymbal, that contributes nothing to the welfare of others. It would all be hollow, vain, useless. It could neither save me nor others, any more than the notes of the trumpet, or the jingling of the cymbal, would promote salvation. Love is the vital principle; it is that without which all other endowments are useless and vain."

{*} "tongues" "In the languages"

{a} "angels" 2 Co 12:4

{+} "charity" "Love"

{b} "I am become" 1 Pe 4:8


Verse 2. And though I have the gift of prophecy. See Barnes "1 Co 12:10" See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

And understand all mysteries. On the meaning of the word mystery, See Barnes "1 Co 2:7".

This passage proves that it was one part of the prophetic office, as referred to here, to be able to understand and explain the mysteries of religion; that is, the things that were before unknown, or unrevealed. It does not refer, to the prediction of future events, but to the great and deep truths connected with religion; the things that were unexplained in the old economy, the meaning of types and emblems; and the obscure portions of the plan of redemption. All these might be plain enough if they were revealed; but there were many things connected with religion which God had not chosen to reveal to men.

And all knowledge. See Barnes "1 Co 12:8".

Though I knew everything. Though I were acquainted fully with all the doctrines of religion; and were with all sciences and arts.

And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains. Though I should have the highest kind of faith. This is referred to by the Saviour, (Mt 17:20,) as the highest kind of faith; and Paul here had this fact doubtless in his eye.

I am nothing. All would be of no value. It would not save me. I should still be an unredeemed, unpardoned sinner. I should do good to no one; I should answer none of the great purposes which God has designed; I should not by all this secure my salvation. All would be in vain in regard to the great purpose of my existence. None of these things could be placed before God as a ground of acceptance in the day of judgment. Unless I should have love, I should still be lost. A somewhat similar idea is expressed by the Saviour, in regard to the day of judgment, in Mt 7:22,23: "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

{c} "prophecy" 1 Co 14:1

{*} "mysteries" "unknown truths"

{a} "move mountains" Mt 17:20

{+} "charity" "love"

{b} "I am nothing" Mt 21:19


Verse 3. And though I bestow. The Greek word here used (qwmizw), from qaw, to break off) meant, properly, to break off, and distribute in small portions; to feed by morsels; and may be applicable here to distributing one's property in small portions. Charity, or alms to the poor, was usually distributed at one's gate, (Lu 16:20,) or in some public place. Of course, if property was distributed in this manner, many more would be benefited than if all were given to one person. There would be many more to be thankful, and to celebrate one's praises. This was regarded as a great virtue; and was often performed in a most ostentatious manner. It was a gratification to wealthy men who desired the praise of being benevolent, that many of the poor flocked daily to their houses to be fed; and against this desire of distinction the Saviour directed some of his severest reproofs. See Mt 6:1-4. TO make the case as strong as possible, Paul says that if ALL that a man had were dealt out in this way, in small portions, so as to benefit as many as possible, and yet were not attended with true love towards God and towards man, it would be all false, hollow, hypocritical, and really of no value in regard to his own salvation. It would profit nothing. It would not be such an act as God would approve; it would be no evidence that the soul would be saved. Though good might be done to others, yet where the motive was wrong, it could not meet with the Divine approbation, or be connected with his favour.

And though I give my body to be burned. Evidently as a martyr, or a witness to the truth of religion. Though I should be willing to lay down my life in the most painful manner, and have not charity, it would profit me nothing. Many of the ancient prophets were called to suffer martyrdom, though there is no evidence that any of them were burned to death as martyrs. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were indeed thrown into a fiery furnace, because they were worshippers of the true God; but they were not consumed in the flame, Da 3:19-26. Comp. Heb 11:34. Though Christians were early persecuted, yet there is no evidence that they were burned as martyrs as early as this epistle was written. Nero is the first who is believed to have committed this horrible act; and under his reign, and during the persecution which he excited, Christians were covered With pitch, and set on fire to illuminate his gardens. It is possible that some Christians had been put to death in this manner when Paul wrote this epistle; but it is more probable that he refers to this as the most awful kind of death, rather than as anything which had really happened. Subsequently, however, as all know, this was often done; and thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of Christians have been called to evince their attachment to religion in the flames.

And have not charity. Have no love to God or to men; have no true piety. If I do it from any selfish or sinister motive; if I do it from fanaticism, obstinacy, or vain-glory; if I am deceived in regard to my character, and have never been born again. It is not necessary to an explanation of this passage to suppose that this ever had been done, for the apostle only puts a supposable case. There is reason, however, to think that it has been done frequently; and that when the desire of martyrdom became the popular passion, and was believed to be connected infallibly with heaven, not a few have been willing to give themselves to the flames, who never knew anything of love to God or true piety. Grotius mentions the instance of Calanus, and of Peregrinus the philosopher, who did it. Although this was not the common mode of martyrdom in the time of Paul, and although it was then perhaps unknown, it is remarkable that he should have referred to that which in subsequent times became the common mode of death on account of religion. In his time, and before the common mode was by stoning, by the sword, or by crucifixion. Subsequently, however, all these were laid aside, and burning became the common way in which martyrs suffered. So it was, extensively, under Nero; and so it was, exclusively, under the Inquisition; and so it was in the persecutions in England in the time of Mary. Paul seems to have been directed to specify this rather than stoning, the sword, or crucifixion, in order that, in subsequent times, martyrs might be led to examine themselves, and to see whether they were actuated by true love to God in being willing to be consumed in the flames.

It profiteth me nothing. If there is no true piety, there can be no benefit in this to my soul. It will not save me. If I have no true love to God, I must perish, after all. Love, therefore, is more valuable and precious than all these endowments. Nothing can supply its place; nothing can be connected with salvation without it.

{c} "I bestow" Mt 6:1,2

{d} "though I give my body" Mt 7:22-23; Jas 2:14

{+} "charity" "love"


Verse 4. Charity suffereth long. Paul now proceeds to illustrate the nature of love, or to show how it is exemplified. His illustrations are all drawn from its effect in regulating our conduct towards others, or our intercourse with them. The reason why he made use of this illustration, rather: than its nature as evinced towards God, was, probably, because it was especially necessary for them to understand in what way it should be manifested towards each other. There were contentions and strifes among them; there were of course suspicions, and jealousies, and heart-burnings; there would be unkind judging, the imputation of improper motives, and selfishness; there were envy, and pride, and boasting, all of which were inconsistent with love; and Paul therefore evidently designed to correct these evils, and to produce a different state of things by showing them what would be produced by the exercise of love. The word here used (makroyumei denotes longanimity, slowness to anger or passion; long-suffering, patient endurance, forbearance It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the State of mind which can BEAR LONG when oppressed, provoked, calumniated, and when one seeks to injure us. Comp. 2:4; 9:22; 2 Co 6:6; Ga 5:22; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12

1 Ti 1:16; 2 Ti 3:10; 4:2; 1 Pe 3:20; 2 Pe 3:15.

And is kind. The word here used denotes to be good-natured, gentle, tender, affectionate. Love is benignant. It wishes well. It is not harsh, sour, morose, in-natured. Tindal renders it, "is courteous." The idea is, that under all provocations and ill-usage it is gentle and mild. Hatred prompts to harshness, severity, unkindness of expression, anger, and a desire of revenge. But love is the reverse of all these. A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be gentle, not severe and harsh; will be courteous because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings. And as religion is love, and prompts to love, so it follows that it requires courtesy or true politeness, and will secure it. See 1 Pe 3:8. If all men were under the influence of true religion, they would always be truly polite and courteous; for true politeness is nothing more than an expression of benignity, or a desire to promote the happiness of all around us.

Envieth not. ou zhloi. This word properly means to be zealous for or against any person or thing; i.e., to be eager for, or anxious for or against any one. It is used often in a good sense, (1 Co 12:31); See Barnes "1 Co 14:1, See Barnes "1 Co 14:39; See Barnes "2 Co 11:2" but it may be used in a bad sense—to be zealous against a person; to be jealous of; to envy Ac 7:9; 17:5; Jas 4:2, "Ye kill and envy." It is in this sense, evidently, that it is used here—as denoting zeal, or ardent desire against any person. The sense is, love does not envy others the happiness which they enjoy; it delights in their welfare; and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their rank, their reputation, their wealth, their health, their domestic comforts, their learning, etc., those who are influenced by love rejoice in all this. They would not diminish it; they would not embarrass them in the possession; they would not detract from that happiness; they would not murmur or repine that they themselves are not SO highly favoured. To envy, is to feel uneasiness, mortification, or discontent at the sight of superior happiness, excellence, or reputation enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; and to fret one's self on account of his real or fancied superiority. Of course, it may be excited by anything in which another excels, or in which he is more favoured than we are. It may be excited by superior wealth, beauty, learning, accomplishment, reputation, success. It may extend to any employment, or any rank in life. A man may be envied because he is happy, while we are miserable; well, while we are sick; caressed, while we are neglected or overlooked; successful, while we meet with disappointment; handsome, while we are ill-formed; honoured with office, while we are overlooked, he may be envied because he has a better farm than we have, or is a more skilful mechanic, or a more successful physician, lawyer, or clergyman. Envy commonly lies in the same line of business, occupation, or rank. We do not usually envy a monarch, a conqueror, or a nobleman, unless we are aspiring to the same rank. The farmer does not usually envy the blacksmith, but another farmer; the blacksmith does not usually envy the schoolmaster or the lawyer, but another man in the same line of business with himself. The physician envies another physician more learned or more successful; the lawyer, another lawyer; the clergyman, another clergyman. The fashionable female, who seeks admiration or flattery on account of accomplishment or beauty, envies another who is more distinguished and more successful in those things. And so the poet envies a rival poet; and the orator, a rival orator; and the statesman, a rival statesman. The correction of all these things is love. If we loved others—if we rejoiced in their happiness, we should not envy them. They are not to blame for these superior endowments; but if those endowments are the direct gift of God, we should be thankful that he has made others happy; if they are the fruit of their own industry, and virtue, and skill, and application, we should esteem them the more, and value them the more highly. They have not injured us; and we should not be unhappy, or seek to injure them, because God has blessed them, or because they have been more industrious, virtuous, and successful than we have. Every man should have his own level in society, and we should rejoice in the happiness of all. Love will produce another effect. We should not envy them, because he that is under the influence of Christian love is more happy than those in the world who are usually the objects of envy. There is often much wretchedness under a clothing of "purple and fine linen." There is not always happiness in a splendid mansion; in the caresses of the great; in a post of honour; in a palace, or on a throne. Alexander the Great wept on the throne of the world. Happiness is in the heart; and content- ment, and the love of God, and the hope of heaven, produce happiness which rank, and wealth, and fashion, and earthly honour cannot purchase. And could the sad and heavy hearts of those in elevated ranks of life be always seen, and especially could their end be seen, there would be no occasion or disposition to envy them.

Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I,
To mourn, and murmur, and repine,
To see the wicked placed on high,
In pride and robes of honour shine !

But oh! their end, their dreadful end!
Thy sanctuary taught me so;
On slippery rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows roll below.

Now let them boast how tall they rise,
I'll never envy them again;
There they may stand with haughty eyes,
Till they plunge deep in endless pain,

Their fancied Joys how fast they flee,
Like dreams as fleeting and as vain;
Their songs of softest harmony
Are but a prelude to their pain.

Now I esteem their mirth and wine
Too dear to purchase with my blood;
Lord, 'tis enough that thou art mine,
My life, my portion, and my God.

Vaunteth not itself. (perpereuetai, from perperov, a boaster, braggart. —Robinson.) The idea is that of boasting, bragging, vaunting. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Bloomfield supposes that it has the idea of acting precipitously, inconsiderately, incautiously; and this idea our translators have placed in the margin, "he is not rash." But most expositors suppose that it has the notion of boasting, or vaunting of one's own excellences or endowments. This spirit proceeds from the idea of superiority over others; and is connected with a feeling of contempt or disregard for them. Love would correct this, because it would produce a desire that they should be happy—and to treat a man with contempt is not the way to make him happy; love would regard others with esteem—and to boast over them is not to treat them with esteem; it would teach us to treat them with affectionate regard—and no man who has affectionate regard for others is disposed to boast of his own qualities over them. Besides, love produces a state of mind just the opposite of a disposition to boast. It receives its endowments with gratitude; regards them as the gift of God; and is disposed to employ them not in vain boasting, but in purposes of utility, in doing good to all others On as wide a scale as possible. The boaster is not a man who does good. To boast of talents is not to employ them to advantage to others. It will be of no account in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and afflicted, or in saving the world. Accordingly, the man who does the most good is the least accustomed to boast; the man who boasts may be regarded as doing nothing else.

Is not puffed up. Fusioutai. This word means, to blow, to puff, to pant; then to inflate with pride, and vanity, and self-esteem. See the word explained: See Barnes "1 Co 8:1".

It perhaps differs from the preceding word, inasmuch as that word denotes the expression of the feelings of pride, vanity, etc., and this word the feeling itself. A man may be very proud and vain, and not express it in the form of boasting. That state is indicated by this word. If he gives expression to this feeling, and boasts of his endowments, that is indicated by the previous word. Love would prevent this, as it would the former, it would destroy the feeling, as well as the expression of it. It would teach a man that others had good qualities as well as he; that they had high endowments as well as he; and would dispose him to concede to them full credit for all that they have, and not to be vainglorious of his own. Besides, it is not the nature of love to fill the mind in this manner. Pride, vanity, and even knowledge (1 Co 8:1) may swell the mind with the conviction of self-importance; but love is humble, meek, modest, unobtrusive. A brother that loves a sister is not filled with pride or vanity on account of it; a man that loves the whole world, and desires its salvation, is not filled with pride and vanity on account of it. Hence the Saviour, who had most love for the human race, was at the farthest possible remove from pride and vanity.

{+} "Charity" "Love"

{e} "suffereth long" Pr 10:12

{a} "envieth" Jas 3:16

{b} "puffed up" Col 2:18

{1} "vaunteth" "is not rash"


Verse 5. Doth not behave itself unseemly, ouk aschmonei. This word occurs in 1 Co 7:36. See Barnes "1 Co 7:36".

It means, to conduct improperly, or disgracefully, or in a manner to deserve reproach. Love seeks that which is proper or becoming in the circumstances and relations of life in which we are placed. It prompts to the due respect for superiors, producing veneration and respect for their opinions; and it prompts to a proper regard for inferiors, not despising their rank, their poverty, their dress, their dwellings, their pleasures, their views of happiness; it prompts to the due observance of all the relations of life, as those of a husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, son, daughter, and produces a proper conduct and deportment in all these relations. The proper idea of the phrase is, that it prompts to all that is fit and becoming in life; and would save from all that is unfit and unbecoming. There may be included in the word also the idea that it would prevent anything that would be a violation of decency or delicacy. It is well known that the Cynics were in the habit of setting at defiance all the usual ideas of decency; and indeed this was, and is, commonly done in the temples of idolatry and pollution everywhere. Love would prevent this, because it teaches to promote the happiness of all, and of course to avoid everything that would offend purity of taste and mar enjoyment. In the same way it prompts to the fit discharge of all the relative duties, because it leads to the desire to promote the happiness of all. And in the same manner it would lead a man to avoid profane and indecent language, improper allusions, double meanings and innuendoes, coarse told vulgar expressions, because such things pain the ear and offend the heart of purity and delicacy. There is much that is indecent and unseemly still in society that would be corrected by Christian love. What a change would be produced, if, under the influence of that love, nothing should be said or done in the various relations of life but what would be seemly, fit, and decent! And what a happy influence would the prevalence of this love have on the intercourse of mankind!

Seeketh not her own. There is, perhaps, not a more striking or important expression in the New Testament than this; or one that more beautifully sets forth the nature and power of that love which is produced by true religion. Its evident meaning is, that it is not selfish; it does not seek its own happiness exclusively or mainly; it does not seek its own happiness to the injury of others. This expression is not, however, to be pressed as if Paul meant to teach that a man should not regard his own welfare at all; or have no respect to his health, his property, his happiness, or his salvation. Every man is bound to pursue such a course of life as will ultimately secure his own salvation. But it is not simply or mainly that he may be happy that he is to seek it, it is, that he may thus glorify God his Saviour; and accomplish the great design which his Maker has had in view in his creation and redemption. If his happiness is the main or leading thing, it proves that he is supremely selfish; and selfishness is not religion. The expression here used is comparative, and denotes that this is not the main, the chief, the only thing which one who is under the influence of love or true religion will seek. True religion, or love to others, will prompt us to seek their welfare with self-denial and personal sacrifice and toil. Similar expressions, to denote comparison, occur frequently in the sacred Scriptures. Thus, where it is said, (Hos 6:6; Mic 6:8; Mt 9:13, ) "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;" it is meant, "I desired mercy more than I desired sacrifice; I did not wish that mercy should be forgotten or excluded in the attention to the mere ceremonies of religion." The sense here is, therefore, that a man under the influence of true love or religion does not make his own happiness or salvation the main or leading thing; he does not make all other things subservient to this; he seeks the welfare of others, and desires to promote their happiness and salvation, even at great personal sacrifice and self-denial. It is the characteristic of the man, not that he promotes his own worth, health, happiness, or salvation, but that he lives to do good to others. Love to others will prompt to that, and that alone. There is not a particle of selfishness in true love. It seeks the welfare of others, and of all others. That true religion will produce this, is evident everywhere in the New Testament; and especially in the life of the Lord Jesus, whose whole biography is comprehended in one expressive declaration, "who went about DOING GOOD," Ac 10:38. It follows from this statement,

(1.) that no man is a Christian who lives for himself alone; or who makes it his main business to promote his own happiness and salvation.

(2.) No man is a Christian who does not deny himself; or no one who is not willing to sacrifice: his own comfort, time, wealth, and ease, to advance the welfare of mankind.

(3.) It is this principle which is yet to convert the world. Long since the whole world would have been converted, had all Christians been under its influence. And when ALL Christians make it their grand object not to seek their own, but the good of others; when true charity shall occupy its appropriate place in the heart of every professed child of God, then this world will be speedily converted to the Saviour. Then there will be no want of funds to spread Bibles and tracts; to sustain missionaries, or to establish colleges and schools; then there will be no want of men who shall be willing to go to any part of the earth to preach the gospel; and then there will be no want of prayer to implore the Divine mercy on a ruined and perishing world. Oh, may the time soon come when all the selfishness in the human heart shall be dissolved, and when the whole world shall be embraced in the benevolence of Christians, and the time, and talent, and wealth of the whole church shall be regarded as consecrated to God, and employed and expended under the influence of Christian love! See Barnes "1 Co 10:24".

Is not easily provoked, paroxunetai. This word occurs in the New Testament only in one other place. Ac 17:16: "His spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." See Barnes "Ac 17:16".

The word properly means, to sharpen by, or with, or on anything, (from oxuv, sharp,) and may be applied to the act of sharpening a knife or sword; then it means, to sharpen the mind, temper, courage of any one; to excite, impel, etc. Here it means, evidently, to rouse to anger; to excite to indignation or wrath. Tindal renders it, "Is not provoked to anger." Our translation does not exactly convey the sense. The word "easily" is not expressed in the original. The translators have inserted it to convey the idea that he who is under the influence of love, though he may be provoked—that is, injured—or though there might be incitements to anger, yet that he would not be roused, or readily give way to it. The meaning of the phrase in the Greek is, that a man who is under the influence of love or religion is not prone to violent anger or exasperation; it is not his character to be hasty, excited, or passionate. He is calm, serious, patient. He looks soberly at things; and though he may be injured yet he governs his passions, restrains his temper, subdues his feelings. This, Paul says, would be produced by love. And this is apparent. If we are under the influence of benevolence or love to any one, we shall not give way to sudden bursts of feeling. We shall look kindly on his actions; put the best construction on his motives; deem it possible that we have mistaken the nature or the reasons of his conduct; seek or desire explanation, (Mt 5:23,24;) wait till we can look at the case in all its bearings; and suppose it possible that he may be influenced by good motives, and that his conduct will admit a satisfactory explanation. That true religion is designed to produce this, is apparent everywhere in the New Testament, and especially from the example of the Lord Jesus; that it actually does produce it, is apparent from all who come under its influence in any proper manner. The effect of religion is nowhere else more striking and apparent than in changing a temper naturally quick, excitable, and irritable, to one that is calm, and gentle, and subdued. A consciousness of the presence of God will do much to produce this state of mind; and if we truly loved all men, we should be soon angry with none.

Thinketh no evil. That is, puts the best possible construction on the motives and the conduct of others. This expression also is comparative. It means that love, or that a person under the influence of love, is not malicious, censorious, disposed to find fault, or to impute improper motives to others. It is not only "not easily provoked," not soon excited, but it is not disposed to think that there was any evil intention even in cases which might tend to irritate or exasperate us. It is not disposed to think that there was any evil in the case; or that what was done was with any improper intention or design; that is, it puts the best possible construction on the conduct of others, and supposes, as far as can be done, that it was in consistency with honesty, truth, friendship, and love. The Greek word (logizetai) is that which is commonly rendered impute, and is correctly rendered here thinketh. It means, does not reckon, charge, or impute to a man any evil intention or design. We desire to think well of the man whom we love; nor will we think ill of his motives, opinions, or conduct, until we are compelled to do so by the most irrefragable evidence. True religion, therefore, will prompt to charitable judging; nor is there a more striking evidence of the destitution of true religion, than a disposition to impute the worst motives and opinions to a man.

{c} "not her own" 1 Co 10:24

{d} "not easily provoked" Pr 14:17


Verse 6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity. Does not rejoice over the vices of other men; does not take delight when they are guilty of crime, or when, in any manner, they fall into sin. It does not find pleasure in hearing others accused of sin, and in having it proved that they have committed it. It does not find a malicious pleasure in the report that they have done wrong; or in following up that report, and finding it established. Wicked men often find pleasure in this, (Ro 1:32,) and rejoice when others have fallen into sin, and have disgraced and ruined themselves. Men of the world often find a malignant pleasure in the report and in the evidence that a member of the church has brought dishonour on his profession. A man often rejoices when an enemy, a persecutor, or a alandeter, has committed some crime, and when he has shown an improper spirit, uttered a rash expression, or taken some step which shall involve him in ignominy. But love does none of these things. It does not desire that an enemy, a persecutor, or a slanderer should do evil, or should disgrace and ruin himself. It does not rejoice, but grieves, when a professor of religion, or an enemy of religion, when a personal friend or foe, has done anything wrong. It neither loves the wrong, nor the fact that it has been done. And perhaps there is no greater triumph of the gospel than in its enabling a man to rejoice that even his enemy and persecutor in any respect does well; or to rejoice that he is in any way honoured and respected among men. Human nature, without the gospel, manifests a different feeling; and it is only as the heart is subdued by the gospel, and filled with universal benevolence, that it is brought to rejoice when all men do well.

Rejoiceth in the truth. The word truth here stands opposed to iniquity, and means virtue, piety, goodness. It does not rejoice in the vices, but in the virtues of others. It is pleased, it rejoices when they do well. It is pleased when those who differ from us conduct [themselves] in any manner in such a way as to please God, and to advance their own reputation and happiness. They who are under the influence of that love rejoice that good is done, and the truth defended and advanced, whoever may be the instrument; rejoice that others are successful in their plans of doing good, though they do not act with us; rejoice that other men have a reputation well earned for virtue and purity of life, though they may duffer from us in opinion, and may be connected with a different denomination. They do not rejoice when other denominations of Christians fall into error; or when their plans are blasted; or when they are calumniated, and oppressed, and reviled. By whomsoever good is done, or where. soever, it is to them a matter of rejoicing; and by whomsoever evil is done, or wheresoever, it is to them a matter of grief. See Php 1:14-18. The reason of this is, that all sin, error, and vice, will ultimately ruin the happiness of any one; and as/eve desires their happiness, it desires that they should walk in the ways of virtue, and is grieved when they do not. What a change would the prevalence of this feeling produce in the conduct and happiness of mankind! How much ill-natured joy would it repress at the faults of others! How much would it do to repress the pains which a man often takes to circulate reports disadvantageous to his adversary; to find out and establish some flaw in his character; to prove that he has said or done something disgraceful and evil! And how much would it do even among Christians, in restraining them from rejoicing at the errors, mistakes, and improprieties of the friends of revivals of religion, and in leading them to mourn over their errors in secret, instead of taking a malicious pleasure in promulgating them to the world! This would be a very different world if there were none to rejoice in iniquity; and the church would be a different church if there were none in its bosom but those who rejoiced in the truth, and in the efforts of humble and self-denying piety:

{a} "Rejoiceth not" Ro 1:32

{1} "in" "with"


Verse 7. Beareth all things. See Barnes "1 Co 9:12".

Doddridge renders this, "covers all things." The word here used (stegei) properly means, to cover, (from stegh, a covering, roof; Mt 8:8; Lu 7:6;) and then to hide, conceal, not to make known. If this be the sense here, then it means that love is disposed to hide or conceal the faults and imperfections of others; not to promulgate or blazon them abroad, or to give any undue publicity to them. Benevolence to the individual or to the public would require that these faults and errors should be concealed. If this is the sense, then it accords nearly with what is said in the previous verse. The word may also mean, to forbear, bear with, endure. Thus it is used in 1 Th 3:1,5. And so our translators understand it here, as meaning that love is patient, long-suffering, not soon angry, not disposed to revenge. And if this is the sense, it accords with the expression in 1 Co 13:4, "Love suffers long." The more usual classic meaning is the former; the usage in the New Testament seems to demand the latter. Rosenmuller renders it, "bears all things;" Bloomfield prefers the other interpretation. Locke and Macknight render it, "cover." The real sense of the passage is not materially varied, whichever interpretation is adopted. It means, that in regard to the errors and faults of others, there is a disposition not to notice or to revenge them. There is a willingness to conceal, or to bear with them patiently.

All things. This is evidently to be taken in a popular sense, and to be interpreted in accordance with the connexion. All universal expressions of this kind demand to be thus limited. The meaning must be, "As far as it can consistently or lawfully be done." There are offences which it is not proper or right for a man to conceal, or to suffer to pass unnoticed. Such are those where the laws of the land are violated, and a man is called on to testify, etc. But the phrase here refers to private matters; and indicates a disposition not to make public, or to avenge the faults committed by others.

Believeth all things. The whole scope of the connexion and the argument here requires us to understand this of the conduct of others. It cannot mean that the man who is under the influence of love is a man of universal credulity; that he makes no discrimination in regard to things to be believed; and is as prone to believe a falsehood as the truth; or that he is at no pains to inquire what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong. But it must mean, that in regard to the conduct of others, there is a disposition to put the best construction on it; to believe that they may be actuated by good motives, and that they intend no injury; and that there is a willingness to suppose, as far as can be, that what is done is done consistently with friendship, good feeling, and virtue. Love produces this, because it rejoices in the happiness and virtue of others, and will not believe the contrary except on irrefragable evidence.

Hopeth all things. Hopes that all will turn out well. This must also refer to the conduct of others; and it means, that however dark may be appearances; how much soever there may be to produce the fear that others are actuated by improper motives or are bad men, yet that there is a hope that matters may be explained and made clear; that the difficulties may be made to vanish; and that the conduct of others may be made to appear to be fair and pure. Love will hold on to this hope until all possibility of such a result has vanished, and it is compelled to believe that the conduct is not susceptible of a fair explanation. This hope will extend to all things—to words, and actions, and plans; to public and to private intercourse; to what is said and done in our own presence, and to what is said and done in our absence. Love will do this, because it delights in the virtue and happiness of others, and will not credit anything to the contrary unless compelled to do so.

Endureth all things. Bears up under, sustains, and does not murmur. Bears up under all persecutions at the hand of man; all efforts to injure the person, property, or reputation; and bears all that may be laid upon us in the providence and by the direct agency of God. Comp. Job 13:15. The connexion requires us to understand it principally of our treatment at the hands of our fellow-men.

{*} "Beareth" "covereth"

{b} "all things" Ro 15:1

{c} "believeth" Ps 119:65

{d} "hopeth" Ro 8:24

{e} "endureth" Job 13:15


Verse 8. Charity never faileth. Paul here proceeds to illustrate the value of love, from its permanency as compared with other valued endowments. It is valuable, and is to be sought, because it will always abide; may be always exercised; is adapted to all circum- stances, and to all worlds in which we may be placed, or in which we may dwell. The word rendered faileth (ekpiptei) denotes, properly, to fall out of, to fall from or off; and may be applied to the stars of heaven falling, (Mr 13:25,) or to flowers that fall or fade, (Jas 1:11; 1 Pe 1:24,) or to chains falling from the hands, etc., Ac 12:7. Here it means to fall away, to fail; to be without effect, to cease to be in existence. The expression may mean that it will be adapted to all the situations of life, and is of a nature to be always exercised; or it may mean that it will continue to all eternity, and be exercised in heaven for ever. The connexion demands that the latter should be regarded as the true interpretation. 1 Co 13:13. The sense is, that while other endowments of the Holy Spirit must soon cease and be valueless, LOVE would abide, and would always exist. The argument is, that we ought to Seek that which is of enduring value; and that, therefore, love should be preferred to those endowments of the Spirit on which so high a value had been set by the Corinthians.

But whether there be prophecies. That is, the gift of prophecy, or the power of speaking as a prophet; that is, of delivering the truth of God in an intelligible manner under the influence of inspiration; the gift of being a public speaker; of instructing and edifying the church, and foretelling future events. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

They shall fail. The gift shall cease to be exercised; shall be abolished, come to naught. There shall be no further use for this gift in the light and glory of the world above, and it shall cease. God shall be the teacher there. And as there will be no need of confirming the truth of religion by the prediction of future events, and no need of warning against impending dangers there, the gift of foretelling future events will be of course unknown. In heaven, also, there will be no need that the faith of God's people shall be encouraged, or their devotions excited, by such exhortations and instructions as are needful now; and the endowment of prophecy will be, therefore, unknown.

There be tongues. The power of speaking foreign languages.

They shall cease. Macknight supposes this means that they shall cease in the church after the gospel shall have been preached to all nations. But the more natural interpretation is, to refer it to the future life; since the main idea which Paul is urging here is the value of love above all other endowments, from the fact that it would be abiding, or permanent—an idea which is more certainly and fully met by a reference to the future world, than by a reference to the state of things in the church on earth. If it refers to heaven, it means that the power of communicating thoughts there will not be by the medium of learned and foreign tongues. What will be the mode is unknown. But as the diversity of tongues is one of the fruits of sin, (Ge 11,) it is evident that in those who are saved there will be deliverance from all the disadvantages which have resulted from the confusion of tongues. Yet LOVE will not cease to be necessary; and Lees will live for ever.

Whether there be knowledge. See Barnes "1 Co 14:8".

This refers, I think, to knowledge as we now possess it. It cannot mean that there will be no knowledge in heaven; for there must be a vast increase of knowledge in that world among all its inhabitants. The idea in the passage here, I think, is: "All the knowledge which we now possess, valuable as it is, will be obscured and lost, and rendered comparatively valueless, in the fuller splendours of the eternal world—as the feeble light of the stars, beautiful and valuable as it is, vanishes, or is lost in the splendour of the rising sun. The knowledge which we now have is valuable, as the gift of prophecy and the power of speaking foreign languages is valuable, but it will be lost in the brighter visions of the world above." That this is the sense is evident from what Paul says in illustration of the sentiment in 1 Co 13:9,10. Now we know in part. What we deem ourselves acquainted with, we imperfectly understand. There are many obscurities and many difficulties. But in the future world we shall know distinctly and clearly, (1 Co 13:12;) and then the knowledge which we now possess will appear so dim and obscure, that it will seem to have vanished away and disappeared,

"As a dim candle dies at noon."

Macknight and others understand this of the knowledge of the mysteries of the Old Testament, or "the inspired knowledge of the ancient revelations, which should be abolished when the church should have attained its mature state;" a most meager, jejune, and frigid interpretation. It is true, also, that not only shall our imperfect knowledge seem to have vanished in the superior light and glory of the eternal world, but that much of that which here passes for knowledge shall be then unknown. Much of that which is called science is "falsely so called;" and much that is connected with literature that has attracted so much attention, will be unknown in the eternal world. It is evident that much that is connected with criticism, and the knowledge of language, with the different systems of mental philosophy which are erroneous—perhaps much that is connected with anatomy, physiology, and geology, and much of the science which now is connected with the arts, and which is of use only as tributary to the arts—will be then unknown. Other subjects may rise into importance which are now unknown; and possibly things connected with science which are now regarded as of the least importance will then become objects of great moment, and ripen and expand into sciences that shall contribute much to the eternal happiness of heaven. The essential idea in this passage is, that all the knowledge which we now possess shall lose its effulgence, be dimmed and lost in the superior light of heaven. But LOVE shall live there; and we should, therefore, seek that which is permanent and eternal.

{*} "Charity" "love"

{+} "tongues" "languages"


Verse 9. For we know in part. Comp. See Barnes "1 Co 12:27".

This expression means, "only in part;" that is, imperfectly. Our knowledge here is imperfect and obscure. It may, therefore, all vanish in the eternal world amidst its superior brightness; and we should not regard that as of such vast value which is imperfect and obscure. Comp. See Barnes "1 Co 8:2".

This idea of the obscurity and imperfection of our knowledge, as compared with heaven, the apostle illustrates (1 Co 13:11) by comparing it with the knowledge which a child has, compared with that in maturer years; and (1 Co 13:12) by the knowledge which we have in looking through a glass—an imperfect medium—compared with that which we have in looking closely and directly at an object without any medium.

And we prophesy in part. This does not mean that we partly know the truths of religion, and partly conjecture or guess at them; or that we know only a part of them, and conjecture the remainder. But the apostle is showing the imperfection of the prophetic gift; and he observes, that there is the same imperfection which attends knowledge. It is only in part; it is imperfect; it is indistinct, compared with the full view of truth in heaven; it is obscure; and all that is imparted by that gift will soon become dim and lost, in the superior brightness and glory of the heavenly world. The argument is, that we ought not to seek so anxiously that which is so imperfect and obscure, and which must soon vanish away; but we should rather seek that love which is permanent, expanding, and eternal.

{a} "in part" 1 Co 8:2


Verse 10. But when that which is perfect is come. Does come; or shall come. This proposition is couched in a general form. It means that when anything which is perfect is seen or enjoyed, then that which is imperfect is forgotten, laid aside, or vanishes. Thus, in the full and perfect light of day, the imperfect and feeble light of the stars vanishes. The sense here is, that in heaven—a state of absolute perfection—that which is "in part," or which is imperfect, shall be lost in superior brightness. All imperfection will vanish. And all that we here possess that is obscure shall be lost in the superior and perfect glory of that eternal world. All our present unsatisfactory modes of obtaining knowledge shall be unknown. All shall be clear, bright, and eternal.

{b} "But when" 1 Jo 3:2


Verse 11. When I was a child. The idea here is, that the knowledge which we now have, compared with that which we shall have in heaven, is like that which is possessed in infancy, compared with that we have in manhood; and that as when we advance in years we lay aside, as unworthy of our attention, the views, feelings, and plans which we had in boyhood, and which we then esteemed to be of so great importance, so, when we reach heaven, we shall lay aside the views, feelings, and plans which we have in this life, and which we now esteem so wise and so valuable. The word child here (nhpiov) denotes, properly, a babe, an infant, though without any definable limitation of age. It refers to the first periods of existence, before the period which we denominate boyhood, or youth. Paul here refers to a period when he could speak, though evidently a period when his speech was scarcely intelligible—when he first began to articulate.

I spake as a child. Just beginning to articulate, in a broken and most imperfect manner. The idea here is, that our knowledge at present, compared with the knowledge of heaven, is like the broken and scarcely intelligible efforts of a child to speak, compared with the power of utterance in manhood.

I understood as a child. My understanding was feeble and imperfect. I had narrow and imperfect views of things. I knew little. I fixed my attention on objects which I now see to be of little value. I acquired knowledge which has vanished, or which has sunk in the superior intelligence of riper years. "I was affected as a child. I was thrown into a transport of joy or grief on the slightest occasions, which manly reason taught me to despise."—Doddridge.

I thought as a child. Marg., reasoned. The word may mean either. I thought, argued, reasoned in a weak and inconclusive manner. My thoughts, and plans, and argumentations were puerile, and such as I now see to be short-sighted and erroneous. Thus it will be with our thoughts, compared to heaven. There will be, doubtless, as much difference between our present knowledge, and plans, and views, and those which we shall have in heaven, as there is between the plans and views of a child and those of a man. Just before his death, Sir Isaac Newton made this remark: "I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself by now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."—Brewster's Life of Newton, pp. 300, 301, edit. New York, 1832.

{1} "thought" "reasoned"


Verse 12. For now we see through a glass. Paul here makes use of another illustration to show the imperfection of our knowledge here. Compared with what it will be in the future world, it is like the imperfect view of an object which we have in looking through an obscure and opaque medium, compared with the view which we have when we look at it "face to face." The word glass here (esoptron) means, properly, a mirror, a looking-glass. The mirrors of the ancients were usually made of polished metal, Ex 38:8 Job 37:18. Many have supposed, (see Doddridge, in loc., and Robinson's Lexicon,) that the idea here is that of seeing objects by reflection from a mirror, which reflects only their imperfect forms. But this interpretation does not well accord with the apostle's idea of seeing things obscurely. The most natural idea is that of seeing objects by an imperfect medium, by looking through something in contemplating them. It is therefore probable that he refers to those transparent substances which the ancients had, and which they used in their windows occasionally; such as thin plates of horn, transparent stone, etc. Windows were often made of the lapis specularis, described by Pliny, (xxxvi. 22,) which was pellucid, and which admitted of being split into thin laminae or scales, probably the same as mica. Humboldt mentions such kinds of stone as being used in South America in church windows.—Bloomfield. It is not improbable, I think, that even in the time of Paul the ancients had the knowledge of glass, though it was probably at first very imperfect and obscure. There is some reason to believe that glass was known to the Phenicians, the Tyrians, and the Egyptians. Pliny says that it was first discovered by accident. A merchant vessel, laden with nitre or fossil alkali, having been driven on shore on the coast of Palestine near the river Belus, the crew went in search of provisions, and accidentally supported the kettles on which they dressed their food upon pieces of fossil alkali. The river sand, above which this operation was performed, was vitrified by its union with the alkali, and thus produced glass.—See Edin. Ency., art. Glass. It is known that glass was in quite common use about the commencement of the Christian era. In the reign of Tiberius, an artist had his house demolished for making glass malleable. About this time, drinking vessels were made commonly of glass; and glass bottles for holding wine and flowers were in common use. That glass was in quite common use has been proved by the remains that have been discovered in the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. There is, therefore, no impropriety in supposing that Paul here may have alluded to the imperfect and discoloured glass which was then in extensive use; for we have no reason to suppose that it was then as transparent as that which is now made. It was, doubtless, an imperfect and obscure medium, and therefore well adapted to illustrate the nature of our knowledge here, compared with what it will be in heaven.

Darkly. Marg., in a riddle, en ainigmati. The word means a fiddle, an enigma; then an obscure intimation. In a riddle, a statement is made with some resemblance to the truth; a puzzling question is proposed, and the solution is left to conjecture. Hence it means, as here, obscurely, darkly, imperfectly. Little is known; much is left to conjecture: a very accurate account of most of that which passes for knowledge. Compared with heaven, our knowledge here much resembles the obscure intimations in an enigma compared with clear statement and manifest truth.

But then. In the fuller revelations in heaven.

Face to face. As when one looks upon an object openly, and not through an obscure and dark medium. It here means, therefore, clearly, without obscurity.

I know in part. 1 Co 13:9.

But then shall I know. My knowledge shall be clear and distinct. I shall have a clear view of those objects which are now so indistinct and obscure. I shall be in the presence of those objects about which I now inquire; I shall see them; I shall have a clear acquaintance with the Divine perfections, plans, and character. This does not mean that he would know everything, or that he would be omniscient; but that in regard to those points of inquiry in which he was then interested, he would have a view that would be distinct and clear—a view that would be clear, arising from the fact that he would be present with them, and permitted to see them, instead of surveying them at a distance, and by imperfect mediums.

Even as also I am known. In the same manner, (kaywv,) not to the same extent. It does not mean that he would know God as clearly and as fully as God would know him; for his remark does not relate to the extent, but to the manner and the comparative clearness of his knowledge. He would see things as he was now seen and would be seen there. It would be face to face. He would be in their presence. It would not be where he would be seen clearly and distinctly, and himself compelled to look upon all objects confusedly and obscurely, and through an imperfect medium. But he would be with them; would see them face to face; would see them without any medium; would see them in the same manner as they would see him. Disembodied spirits, and the inhabitants of the heavenly world, have this knowledge; and when we are there, we shall see the truths, not at a distance and obscurely, but plainly and openly.

{a} "through a glass" 2 Co 3:18

{*} "darkly" "a dim glass"


Verse 13. And now abideth. Remains, (menei). The word means, properly, to remain, continue, abide; and is applied to persons remaining in a place, in a state or condition, in contradistinction from removing or changing their place, or passing away. Here it must be understood to be used to denote permanency, when the other things of which he had spoken had passed away; and the sense is, that faith, hope, and love would remain when the gift of tongues should cease, and the need of prophecy, etc.; that is, these should survive them all. And the connexion certainly requires us to understand him as saying that faith, hope, and love would survive all those things of which he had been speaking, and must therefore include knowledge, (1 Co 13:8,9,) as well as miracles, and the other endowments of the Holy Spirit. They would survive them all; would be valuable when they should cease; and should, therefore, be mainly sought; and of these the greatest and most important is love. Most commentators have supposed that Paul is speaking here only of this life, and that he means to say that in this life these three exist; that "faith, hope, and charity exist in this scene only, but that in the future world faith and hope will be done away, and therefore the greatest of these is charity."—Bloomfield. See also Doddridge, Macknight, Rosenmuller, Clarke, etc. But to me it seems evident that Paul means to say that faith, hope, and love, will survive all those other things of which he had been speaking; that they would vanish away, or be lost in superior attainments and endowments; that the time would come when they. would be useless; but that faith, hope, and love would then remain; but of these, for important reasons, love was the most valuable. Not because it would endure the longest, for the apostle does not intimate that; but because it is more important to the welfare of others, and is a more eminent virtue than they are. As the strain of the argument requires us to look to another state, to a world where prophecy shall cease and knowledge shall vanish away, so the same strain of argumentation requires us to understand him as saying, that faith, and hope, and love will subsist there; and that there, as here, LOVE will be of more importance than faith and hope. It cannot be objected to this view that there will be no occasion for faith and hope in heaven. That is assumed without evidence, and is not affirmed by Paul. He gives no such intimation. Faith is confidence in God and in Christ; and there will be as much necessity of confidence in heaven as on earth. Indeed, the great design of the plan of salvation is to restore confidence in God among alienated creatures; and heaven could not subsist a moment without confidence; and faith, therefore, must be eternal. No society—be it a family, a neighbourhood, a church, or a nation; be it mercantile, professional, or a mere association of friendship—can subsist a moment without mutual confidence or faith; and in heaven such confidence in God MUST subsist for ever. And so of hope. It is true that many of the objects of hope will then be realized, and will be succeeded by possession. But will the Christian have nothing to hope for in heaven? Will it be nothing to expect and desire greatly augmented knowledge, eternal enjoyment, perfect peace in all coming ages, and the happy society of the blessed for ever? All heaven cannot be enjoyed at once; and if there is anything future that is an object of desire, there will be hope. Hope is a compound emotion, made up of a desire for an object and an expectation of obtaining it. But both these will exist in heaven. It is folly to say that a redeemed saint will not desire there eternal happiness; it is equal folly to say that there will be no strong expectation of obtaining it. All that is said, therefore, about faith as about to cease, and hope as not having an existence in heaven, is said without the authority of the Bible, and in violation of what must be the truth, and is contrary to the whole scope of the reasoning of Paul here.

But the greatest of these is charity. Not because it is to endure the longest, but because it is the more important virtue; it exerts a wider influence; it is more necessary to the happiness of society; it overcomes more evils. It is the great principle which is to bind the universe in harmony; which unites God to his creatures, and his creatures to himself; and which binds and confederates all holy beings with each other. It is therefore more important, because it pertains to society, to the great kingdom of which God is the head, and because it enters into the very conception of a holy and happy organization. Faith and hope rather pertain to individuals; love pertains to society, and is that without which the kingdom of God cannot stand. Individuals may be saved by faith and hope; but the whole immense kingdom of God depends on Low. It is, therefore, of more importance than all other graces and endowments; more important than prophecy and miracles, and the gift of tongues and knowledge, because it will SURVIVE them all; more important than faith and hope, because, although it may co- exist with them, and though they all shall live for ever, yet LOVE enters into the very nature of the kingdom of God; binds society together; unites the Creator and the creature; and blends the interests of all the redeemed, and of the angels, and of God, INTO ONE.

{+} "abideth" "remaineth"

{b} "faith" He 10:35,39; 1 Pe 1:21



First Corinthians CHAPTER 14

THIS chapter is a continuation of the subject commenced in chapter 12, and pursued through chapter 13. In chapter 12. Paul had entered on the discussion of the various endowments which the Holy Spirit confers on Christians, and had shown that these endowments were bestowed in a different degree on different individuals, and yet so as to promote, in the best way, the edification of the church. It was proper, he said, (1 Co 12:31,) to desire the more eminent of these endowments; and yet there was one gift of the Spirit of more value than all others, which might be obtained by all, and which should be an object of desire to all. That was LOVE; and to show the nature, power, and value of this, was the design of the thirteenth chapter—certainly one of the most tender and beautiful portions of the Bible. In this chapter the subject is continued with special reference to the subject of prophecy, as being the most valuable of the miraculous endowments, or the extraordinary gifts of Spirit.

In doing this, it was necessary to correct an erroneous estimate which they had placed on the power of speaking foreign languages. They had prized this, perhaps, because it gave them importance in the eyes of the heathen. And in proportion as they valued this, they undervalued the gift of being able to edify the church by speaking in a known and intelligible language. To correct this misapprehension; to show the relative value of these endowments, and especially to recommend the gift of "prophecy" as the more useful and desirable of the gifts of the Spirit, was the leading design of this chapter. In doing this, Paul first directs them to seek for charity. He also recommends to them, as in 1 Co 12:31, to desire spiritual endowments, and of these endowments especially to desire prophecy, 1 Co 14:1. He then proceeds to set forth the advantage of speaking in intelligible language, or of speaking so that the church may be edified, by the following considerations, which comprise the chapter:—

(1.) The advantage of being understood, and of speaking for the edification of the church, 1 Co 14:2-5.

(2.) No man could be useful to the church except he delivered that which was understood, any more than the sound of a trumpet in times of war would be useful, unless it were so sounded as to be understood by the army, 1 Co 14:6-11.

(3.) It was the duty of all to seek to edify the church and if a man could speak in an unknown tongue, it was his duty also to seek to be able to interpret what he said, 1 Co 14:12-15.

(4.) The use of tongues would produce embarrassment and confusion, since those who heard them speak would be ignorant of what was said, and be unable to join in the devotions, 1 Co 14:16,17.

(5.) Though Paul himself was more signally endowed than any of them, yet he prized far more highly the power of promoting the edification of the church, though he uttered but five words, if they were understood, than all the power which he possessed of speaking foreign languages, 1 Co 14:18,19.

(6.) This sentiment illustrated from the Old Testament, 1 Co 14:20,21.

(7.) The real use of the power of speaking foreign languages was to be a sign to unbelievers—an evidence that the religion was from God, and not to be used among those who were already Christians, 1 Co 14:22.

(8.) The effect of their all speaking with tongues would be to produce confusion and disorder, and disgust among observers, and the conviction that they were deranged; but the effect of order, and of speaking intelligibly, would be to convince and convert them, 1 Co 14:23-25.

(9.) The apostle then gives rules in regard to the proper conduct of those who were able to speak foreign languages, 1 Co 14:26-32.

(10.) The great rule was, that order was to be observed, and that God was the Author of peace, 1 Co 14:33.

(11.) The apostle then gives a positive direction that on no pretence are women to be allowed to speak in the church, even though they should claim to be inspired, 1 Co 14:34,35.

(12.) He then required all to submit to his authority, and to admit that what he had spoken was from the Lord, 1 Co 14:36,37. And then,

(13.) Concludes with directing them to desire to prophesy, and not to forbid speaking with tongues on proper occasions, but to do all things in decency and order, 1 Co 14:38-40.

Verse 1. Follow after charity. Pursue love, (1 Co 13:1;) that is, earnestly desire it; strive to possess it; make it the object of your anxious and constant solicitude to obtain it, and to be influenced by it always. Cultivate it in your own hearts, as the richest and best endowment of the Holy Spirit, and endeavour to diffuse its happy influence on all around you.

And desire spiritual gifts. I do not forbid you, while you make the possession of love your great object, and while you do not make the desire of spiritual gifts the occasion of envy or strife, to desire the miraculous endowments of the Spirit, and to seek to excel in those endowments which he imparts. See Barnes "1 Co 12:31".

The main thing was to cultivate a spirit of love. Yet it was not improper also to desire to be so endowed as to promote their highest usefulness in the church. On the phrase, "spiritual gifts," See Barnes "1 Co 12:1".

But rather that ye may prophesy. But especially, or particularly, desire to be qualified for the office of prophesying. The apostle does not mean to say that prophecy is to be preferred to love or charity; but that, of the spiritual gifts which it was proper for them to desire and seek, prophecy was the most valuable. That is, they were not most earnestly and especially to desire to be able to speak foreign languages, or to work miracles; but they were to desire to be qualified to speak in a manner that would be edifying to the church. They would naturally, perhaps, most highly prize the power of working miracles and of speaking foreign languages. The object of this chapter is to show them that the ability to speak in a plain: clear, instructive manner, so as to edify the church and convince stoners, was a more valuable endowment than the power of working miracles, or the power of speaking foreign languages. On the meaning of the word prophesy, See Barnes "Ro 12:6".

To what is said there on the nature of this office, it seems necessary only to add an idea suggested by Professor Robinson, (Gr. and Eng. Lexicon, Art. profhthv,) that the prophets were distinguished from the teachers, (didaskaloi,) "in that, while the latter spoke in a calm, connected, didactic discourse, adapted to instruct and enlighten the hearers, the prophet spoke more from the impulse of sudden inspiration, from the light of a sudden revelation at the moment, (1 Co 14:30, apokalufyh;) and his discourse was probably more adapted, by means of powerful exhortation, to awaken the feelings and conscience of the hearers." The idea of speaking from revelation, he adds, seems to be fundamental to the correct idea of the nature of the prophecy here referred to. Yet the communications of the prophets were always in the vernacular tongue, and were always in intelligible language, and in this respect different from the endowments of those who spoke foreign languages. The same truth might be spoken by both; the influence of the Spirit was equally necessary in both; both were inspired; and both answered important ends in the establishment and edification of the church. The gift of tongues, however, as it was the most striking and remarkable, and probably the most rare, was most highly prized and coveted. The object of Paul here is to show that it was really an endowment of less value, and should be less desired by Christians, than the gift of prophetic instruction, or the ability to edify the church in language intelligible and understood by all, under the immediate influences of the Holy Spirit.

{a} "spiritual gifts" Eph 1:3 ,/p>


Verse 2. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue. This verse is designed to show that the faculty of speaking intelligibly, and to the edification of the church, is of more value than the power of speaking a foreign language. The reason is, that however valuable may be the endowment in itself, and however important the truth which he may utter, yet it is as if he spoke to God only. No one could understand him.

Speaketh not unto men. Does not speak so that men can understand him. His address is really not made to men, that is, to the church. He might have this faculty without being able to speak to the edification of the church. It is possible that the power of speaking foreign languages and of prophesying were sometimes united in the same person; but it is evident that the apostle speaks of them as different endowments, and they probably were found usually in different individuals.

But unto God. It is as if he spoke to God. No one could understand him but God. This must evidently refer to the addresses in the church, when Christians only were present, or when those only were present who spoke the same language, and who were unacquainted with foreign tongues. Paul says that there that faculty would be valueless compared with the power of speaking in a manner that should edify the church. He did not undervalue the power of speaking foreign languages when foreigners were present, or when they went to preach to foreigners. See 1 Co 14:22. It was only when it was needless, when all present spoke one language, that he speaks of it as of comparatively little value.

For no man understandeth him. That is, no man in the church, since they all spoke the same language, and that language was different from what was spoken by him who was endowed with the gift of tongues. As God only could know the import of what he said, it would be lost upon the church, and would be useless.

Howbeit in the spirit. Although, by the aid of the Spirit, he should, in fact, deliver the most important and sublime truths. This would doubtless be the case, that those who were thus endowed would deliver most important truths, but they would be lost upon those who heard them, because they could not understand them. The phrase "in the Spirit" evidently means "by the Holy Spirit," i. e., by his aid and influence. Though he should be really under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and though the important truth which he delivers should be imparted by his aid, yet all would be valueless unless it were understood by the church.

He speaketh mysteries. For the meaning of the word mystery, See Barnes "1 Co 2:7".

The word here seems to be synonymous with sublime and elevated truth; truth that was not before known, and that might be of the utmost importance.

{b} "speaketh not unto men" Ac 10:46

{c} "for no man" Ac 22:9

{1} "understandeth" "heareth"

{*} "howbeit" "However"


Verse 3. But he that prophesieth. 1 Co 14:1. He that speaks under the influence of inspiration in the common language of his hearers. This seems to be the difference between those who spoke in foreign languages and those who prophesied. Both were under the influence of the Holy Spirit; both might speak the same truths; both might occupy an equally important and necessary place in the church; but the language of the one was intelligible to the church, the other not; the one was designed to edify the church, the other to address those who spoke foreign tongues, or to give demonstration, by the power of speaking foreign languages, that the religion was from God.

Speaketh unto men. So as to be understood by those who were present.

To edification. See Barnes "1 Co 10:23".

Speaks so as to enlighten and strengthen the church.

And exhortation. See Barnes "Ro 12:8".

He applies and enforces the practical duties of religion, and urges motives for a holy life.

And comfort. Encouragement. That is, he presents the promises and the hopes of the gospel; the various considerations adapted to administer comfort in the time of trial. The other might do this, but it would be in a foreign language, and would be useless to the church.


Verse 4. Edifieth himself. That is, the truths which are communicated to him by the Spirit, and which he utters in an unknown language, may be valuable, and may be the means of strengthening his faith, and building him up in the hopes of the gospel, but they can be of no use to others. His own holy affections might be excited by the truths which he would deliver, and the consciousness of possessing miraculous powers might excite his gratitude. And yet, as Doddridge has well remarked, there might be danger that a man might be injured by this gift when exercised in this ostentatious manner.

{*} "tongue" "Language"


Verse 5. I would that ye all spake with tongues. "It is an important endowment, and is not, in its place, to be undervalued. It may be of great service in the cause of truth, and if properly regulated, and not abused, I would rejoice if these extraordinary endowments were conferred on all. I have no envy against any who possess it; no opposition to the endowment; but I wish that it should not be overvalued; and would wish to exalt into proper estimation the more useful but humble gift of speaking for the edification of the church."

Greater is he that prophesieth. This gift is of more value, and he really occupies a more elevated rank in the church. He is more useful. The idea here is, that talents are not to be estimated by their brilliancy, but by their usefulness. The power of speaking in an unknown tongue was certainly a more striking endowment than that of speaking so as simply to be useful; and yet the apostle tells us that the latter is the more valuable. So it is always. A man who is useful, however humble and unknown he may be, really occupies a more elevated and venerable rank than the man of most splendid talents and dazzling eloquence, who accomplishes nothing in saving: the souls of men.

Except he interpret. However important and valuable the truth might be which he uttered, it would he useless to the church, unless he should explain it in language which they could understand. In that case, fire apostle does not deny that the power of speaking foreign languages was a higher endowment and more valuable than the gift of prophecy. That the man who spoke foreign languages had: the power of interpreting, is evident from this verse. From 1 Co 14:27, it appears that the office of interpreting was sometimes performed by others.

{+} "tongues" "Different languages"

{a} "edifying" 1 Co 14:26


Verse 6. Now, brethren, if I come unto you, etc. The truth which the apostle had been illustrating in an abstract manner, he proceeds to illustrate by applying it to himself, If he should come among them speaking foreign languages, it could be of no use unless it were interpreted to them.

Speaking with tongues. Speaking foreign languages; that is, speaking them only, without any interpreter. Paul had the power of speaking foreign languages, (1 Co 14:18); but he did not use this power for ostentation or display, but merely to communicate the gospel to those who did not understand his native tongue.

Either by revelation. Macknight renders this, "speak INTELLIGIBLY;" that is, as he explains it, "by the revelation peculiar to an apostle." Doddridge, "by the revelation of some gospel doctrine re and mystery." Locke interprets it, that you might understand the revelation, or knowledge," etc.; but says in a note, that we cannot now certainly understand the difference between the meaning of the four words here used. "It is sufficient," says he, "to know that these terms stand for some intelligible discourse tending to the edification of the church." Rosenmuller supposes the word revelation stands for some "clear and open knowledge of any truth arising from meditation." It is probable that the word here does not refer to Divine inspiration, as it usually does, but that it stands opposed to that which is unknown and unintelligible, as that which is revealed apokaluqiv stands opposed to what is unknown, concealed, hidden, obscure. Here, therefore, it is synonymous, perhaps, with explained. "What shall it profit, unless that which I speak be brought out of the obscurity and darkness of a foreign language, and uncovered or explained?" The original sense of the word revelation here is, I suppose, intended, (apokaluqiv, from apokaluptw, to uncover;) and means, that the sense should be uncovered, i.e., explained, or what was spoken could not be of value.

Or by knowledge. By making it intelligible. By so explaining it as to make it understood. Knowledge here stands opposed to the ignorance and obscurity which would attend a communication in a foreign language.

Or by prophesying. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

That is, unless it be communicated, through interpretation, in the manner in which the prophetic teachers spoke; that is, made intelligible, and explained, and actually brought down to the usual characteristics of communications made in their own language.

Or by doctrine? By teaching, (didach.) By instruction; in the usual mode of plain and familiar instruction. The sense of this passage, therefore, is clear. Though Paul should utter among them, as he had abundant ability to do, the most weighty and important truths, yet, unless he interpreted what he said in a manner clear from obscurity, like revelation; or intelligibly, and so as to constitute knowledge; or in the manner that the prophets spoke, in a plain and intelligible manner; or in the manner usual in simple and plain instruction, it would be useless to them. The perplexities of commentators may be seen stated in Locke, Bloomfield, and Doddridge.

{+} "tongues" "different languages"

{b} "revelation" 1 Co 14:26


Verse 7. Things without life. Instruments of music.

Whether pipe. This instrument (aulov) was usually made of reeds, and probably had a resemblance to a flageolet.

Or harp. This instrument (kiyara) was a stringed instrument, and was made in the same way as a modern harp. It usually had ten strings, and was struck with the plectrum, or with a key. It was commonly employed in praise.

Except they give a distinction in the sounds. Unless they give a difference in the tones, such as are indicated in the gamut for music.

How shall it be known, etc. That is, there would be no time, no music. Nothing would be indicated by it. It would not be fitted to excite the emotions of sorrow or of joy. All music is designed to excite emotions; but if there be no difference in the tones, no emotion would be produced. So it would be in words uttered. Unless there was something that was fitted to excite thought or emotion; unless what was spoken was made intelligible, no matter how important in itself it might be, yet it would be useless.

{1} "sounds" "tunes"


Verse 8. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound. The trumpet was used commonly in war. It is a well-known wind instrument, and was made of brass, silver, etc. It was used for various purposes in war—to summon the soldiers; to animate them in their march; to call them forth to battle; to sound a retreat; and to signify to them what they were to do in battle, whether to charge, advance, or retreat, etc. It therefore employed a language which was intelligible to an army. An uncertain sound was one in which none of these things were indicated, or in which it could not be determined what was required.

Who shall prepare himself, etc. The apostle selects a single instance of what was indicated by the trumpet, as an illustration of what he meant. The idea is, that foreign tongues spoken in their assembly would be just as useless in regard to their duty, their comfort, and edification, as would be the sound of a trumpet when it gave one of the usual and intelligible sounds by which it was known what the soldiers were required to do. Just as we would say, that the mere beating on a drum would be useless, unless some tune was played by which it was known that the soldiers were summoned to the parade, to advance, or to retreat.

{c} "trumpet" Nu 10:9


Verse 9. So likewise ye, etc. To apply the case. If you use a foreign language, how shall it be known what is said, or of what use will it be, unless it is made intelligible by interpretation?

Utter by the tongue. Unless you speak.

Words easy to be understood. Significant words, (margin;) words to which your auditors are accustomed.

For ye shall speak into the air. You will not speak so as to be understood; and it will be just the same as if no one was present, and you spoke to the air. We have a proverb that resembles this: "You may as well speak to the winds; that is, you speak where it would not be understood, or where the words would have no effect. It may be observed here, that the practice of the papists accords with what the apostle here condemns, where worship is conducted in a language not understood by the people; and that there is much of this same kind of speaking now, where unintelligible terms are used, or words are employed that are above the comprehension of the people; or where doctrines are discussed which are unintelligible, and which are regarded by them without interest. All preaching should be plain, simple, perspicuous, and adapted to the capacity of the hearers.

{1} "words easy to be understood" "significant"


Verse 10. There are, it may be, etc. There has been considerable variety in the interpretation of this expression. Rosenmuller renders it, "For the sake of example." Grotius supposes that Paul meant to indicate that there were, perhaps, or might be, as many languages as the Jews supposed, to wit, seventy. Beza and others suppose it means, that there may be as many languages as there are nations of men. Bloomfield renders it, "Let there be as many kinds of languages as you choose." Macknight, "There are, no doubt, as many kinds of languages in the world as ye speak." Robinson (Lex.) renders it, "If so happen, it may be; perchance, perhaps;" and says the phrase is equivalent to "for example." The sense is, "There are perhaps, or for example, very many kinds of voices in the world; and all are significant. None are used by those who speak them without meaning; none speak them without designing to convey some intelligible idea to their hearers." The argument is, that as all the languages that are in the world, however numerous they are, are for utility, and as none are used for the sake of mere display, so it should be with those who had the power of speaking them in the Christian church. They should speak them only when and where they would be understood.

Voices. Languages.

{*} "voices" "Languages"


Verse 11. The meaning of the voice. Of the language that is uttered, or the sounds that are made.

I shall be unto him, etc. What I say will be unintelligible to him, and what he says will be unintelligible to me. We cannot understand one another any more than people can who speak different languages.

A barbarian. See Barnes "Ro 1:14".

The word means one who speaks a different or a foreign language.

{+} "voice" "language"

{a} "barbarian" Ro 1:14


Verse 12. Even so ye. Since you desire spiritual gifts, I may urge it upon you to seek to be able to speak in a clear and intelligible manner, that you may edify the church. This is one of the most valuable endowments of the Spirit; and this should be earnestly desired.

Forasmuch as ye are zealous. Since you earnestly desire. See Barnes "1 Co 12:31".

Spiritual gifts. The endowments conferred by the Holy Spirit. See Barnes "1 Co 12:1".

Seek that ye may excel, etc. Seek that you may be able to convey truth in a clear and plain manner; seek to be distinguished for that. It is one of the most rare and valuable endowments of the Holy Spirit.

{2} "spiritual gifts" "spirits"


Verse 13. Pray that he may interpret. Let him ask of God ability that he may explain it clearly to the church. It would seem probable that the power of speaking foreign languages, and the power of conveying truth in a clear and distinct manner, were not always found in the same person, and that the one did not of necessity imply the other. The truth seems to have been, that these extraordinary endowments of the Holy Spirit were bestowed on men in some such way as ordinary talents and mental powers are now conferred; and that they became in a similar sense the characteristic mental endowments of the individual, and of course were subject to the same laws, and liable to the same kinds of abuse, as mental endowments are now. And as it now happens that one man may have a peculiar faculty for acquiring and expressing himself in a foreign language who may not be by any means distinguished for clear enunciation, or capable of conveying his ideas in an interesting manner to a congregation, so it was then. The apostle therefore directs such, if any there were, instead of priding themselves on their endowments, and instead of always speaking in an unknown tongue, which would be useless to the church, to pray for the more useful gift of being able to convey their thoughts in a clear and intelligible manner in their vernacular tongue. This would be useful. The truths, there- fore, that they had the power of speaking with eminent ability in a foreign language, they ought to desire to be able to interpret so that they would be intelligible to the people whom they addressed in the church. This seems to me to be the plain meaning of this passage, which has given so much perplexity to commentators. Macknight renders it, however, "Let him who prayeth in a foreign language, pray so as SOME ONE may interpret;" meaning that he who prayed in a foreign language was to do it by two or three sentences at a time, so that he might be followed by an interpreter. But this is evidently forced. In order to this, it is needful to suppose that the phrase o lalwn, "that speaketh," should be rendered, contrary to its obvious and usual meaning, "who prays," and to supply tiv, some one, in the close of the verse. The obvious interpretation is that which is given above; and this proceeds only on the supposition that the power of speaking foreign languages and the power of interpreting were not always united in the same person—a supposition that is evidently true, as appears from 1 Co 12:10.

{+} "unknown tongue" "Language"


Verse 14. For if I pray, etc. The reference to prayer here, and to singing in 1 Co 14:15, is designed to illustrate the propriety of the general sentiment which he is defending, that public worship should be conducted in a language that would be intelligible to the people. However well meant it might be, or however the heart might be engaged in it, yet, unless it was intelligible, and the understanding could join in it, it would be vain and profitless.

My spirit prayeth. The word spirit here (pneuma) has been variously understood. Some have understood it of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit by which Paul says he was actuated. Others of the spiritual gift, or that spiritual influence by which he was endowed. Others of the mind itself. But it is probable that the word "spirit" refers to the will; or to the mind, as the seat of the affections and emotions; i.e., to the heart, desires, or intentions. The word spirit is often used in the Scriptures as the seat of the affections, emotions, and passions of various kinds. See Mt 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Lu 10:21, "Jesus rejoiced in spirit." So it is the seat of ardour or fervour, (Lu 1:17; Ac 18:25; Ro 12:11; ) of grief or indignation, Mr 8:12; Joh 11:33; 13:21; Ac 17:16.

It refers also to feelings, disposition, or temper of mind, in Lu 9:55; Ro 8:15. Here it refers, it seems to me, to the heart, the will, the disposition, the feelings, as contradistinguished from the understanding; and the sense is, "My feelings find utterance in prayer; my heart is engaged in devotion; my prayer will be acceptable to God, who looks upon the feelings of the heart, and I may have true enjoyment; but my understanding will be unfruitful, that is, will not profit others. What I say will not be understood by them; and of course, however much benefit I might derive from my devotions, yet they would be useless to others."

But my understanding. o de nouv mou. My intellect, my mind; my mental efforts and operations.

Is unfruitful. Produces nothing that will be of advantage to them. It is like a barren tree; a tree that bears nothing that can be of benefit to others. They cannot understand what I say, and, of course, they cannot be profited by what I utter.

{+} "unknown tongue" "Language"

{++} "unfruitful" "but not being understood is without fruit"


Verse 15. What is it then? What shall I do? What is the proper course for me to pursue? What is my practice and my desire? See the same form of expression in Ro 3:9; 6:15. It indicates the conclusion to which the reasoning had conducted him, or the course which he would pursue in view of all the circumstances of the case.

I will pray with the spirit, etc. I will endeavour to blend all the advantages which can be derived from prayer; I will unite all the benefits which can result to myself and to others. I deem it of vast importance to pray with the spirit in such a way that the heart and the affections may be engaged, so that I may myself derive benefit from it; but I will also unite with that, utility to others; I will use such language that they may understand it, and be profited.

And I will pray with the understanding also. So that others may understand me. I will make the appropriate use of the intellect, so that it may convey ideas, and make suitable impressions on the minds of others.

I will sing with the spirit. It is evident that the same thing might take place in singing which occurred in prayer. It might be in a foreign language, and might be unintelligible to others. The affections of the man himself might be excited, and his heart engaged in the duty, but it would be profitless to others. Paul, therefore, says that he would so celebrate the praises of God, as to excite the proper affections in his own mind, and so as to be intelligible and profitable to others. This passage proves,

(1.) that the praises of God are to be celebrated among Christians, and that it is an important part of worship;

(2.) that the heart should be engaged in it, and that it should be so performed as to excite proper affections in the hearts of those who are engaged in it; and,

(3.) that it should be so done as to be intelligible and edifying to others. The words should be so uttered as to be distinct and understood. There should be clear enunciation as well as in prayer and preaching, since the design of sacred music in the worship of God is not only to utter praise, but it is to impress the sentiments which are sung on the heart, by the aid of musical sounds and expression, more deeply than could otherwise be done. If this is not done, the singing might as well be in a foreign language. Perhaps there is no part of public worship in which there is greater imperfection than in the mode of its psalmody. At the same time, there is scarcely any part of the devotions of the sanctuary that may be made more edifying or impressive. It has the advantage—an advantage which preaching and praying have not—of using the sweet tones of melody and harmony to impress sentiment on the heart; and it should be done.

{a} "spirit" Joh 4:24

{b} "sing" Eph 5:19; Col 3:16

{c} "understanding" Ps 46:7


Verse 16. Else. Epei. Since; if this is not done; if what is said is not intelligible, how shall the unlearned be able appropriately to express his assent, and join in your devotions?

When thou shalt bless. When thou shalt bless God, or give thanks to him. If thou shalt lead the devotions of the people in expressing thanksgiving for mercies and favours. This may refer to a part of public worship, or to the thanks which should be expressed at table, and the invocation of the Divine blessing to attend the bounties of his providence. Paul had illustrated his subject by prayer and by singing; he now does it by a reference to the important part of public worship expressed in giving thanks.

With the spirit. In the manner referred to above; that is, in an unknown tongue, in such a way that your own heart may be engaged in it, but which would be unintelligible to others.

He that occupieth the room. Is in the place, or the seat of the unlearned; that is, he who is unlearned. On the meaning of the word room, See Barnes "Lu 14:8".

To fill a place means, to occupy a station, or to be found in a state or condition.

Of the unlearned, tou idiwtou. On the meaning of this word, See Barnes "Ac 4:13".

Here it means, one who was unacquainted with the foreign language spoken by him who gave thanks. It properly denotes a man in private, in contradistinction from a man in public life; and hence a man who is ignorant and unlettered, as such men generally were.

Say Amen. This word means truly, verily; and is an expression of affirmation (Joh 3:6) or of assent. Here it means assent. How can he pronounce the AMEN; how can he express his assent; how can he join in the act of devotion? This might have been, and probably was, expressed aloud; and there is no impropriety in it. It may, however, be mental—a silent assent to what is said, and a silent uniting in the act of thanksgiving. In one way or the other, or in both, the assent should always be expressed by those who join in acts of public worship.

{d} "giving of thanks" 1 Co 11:24


Verse 17. For thou verily givest thanks well. That is, even if you use a foreign language. You do it with the heart; and it is accepted by God as your offering; but the other, who cannot understand it, cannot be benefited by it.


Verse 18. I thank my God. Paul here shows that he did not undervalue or despise the power of speaking foreign languages. It was with him a subject of thanksgiving that he could speak so many; but he felt that there were more valuable endowments than this. See the next verse.

With tongues more than ye all. I am able to speak more foreign languages than all of you. How many languages Paul could speak, he has nowhere told us. It is reasonable, however, to presume that he was able to speak the language of any people to whom God in his providence, and by his Spirit, called him to preach. He had been commissioned to preach to the Gentiles, and it is probable that he was able to speak the languages of all the nations among whom he ever travelled. There is no account of his being under a necessity of employing an interpreter wherever he preached.

{*} "more" "In more languages"


Verse 19. Yet in the church. In the Christian assembly. The word church does not refer to the edifice where Christians worshipped, but to the organized body of Christians.

I had rather, etc. It is probable that in the Christian assembly, usually, there were few who understood foreign languages. Paul, therefore, would not speak in a foreign language when its only use would be mere display.

With my understanding. So as to be intelligible to others; so that I might understand it, and so that at the same time others might be benefited.

{+} "understanding" "So as to be understood"

{++} "unknown tongue" "Language"


Verse 20. Brethren, be not children in understanding. Be not childish; do not behave like little children. They admire, and are astonished at what is striking, novel, and what may be of no real utility. They are pleased with anything that will amuse them, and at little things that afford them play and pastime. So your admiration of a foreign language, and of the ability to speak it, is of as little solid value as the common sports and plays of boys. This, says Doddridge, is an admirable stroke of oratory, and adapted to bring down their pride by showing them that those things on which they were disposed to value themselves were really childish. It is sometimes well to appeal to Christians in this manner, and to show them that what they are engaged in is unworthy the dignity of the understanding— unfit to occupy the time and attention of an immortal mind. Much, alas! very much, of that which engages the attention of Christians is just as unworthy of the dignity of mind, and of their immortal nature, as were the aims and desires which the apostle rebuked among the Christians at Corinth. Much that pertains to dress, to accomplishment, to living, to employment, to amusement, to conversation, will appear, when we come to die, to have been like the playthings of children; and we shall feel that the immortal mind has been employed, and the time wasted, and the strength exhausted, in that which was foolish and puerile.

Howbeit in malice be ye children. This is one of Paul's most happy turns of expression and of sentiment. He had just told them that in one respect they ought not to be children. Yet, as if this would appear to be speaking lightly of children—and Paul would not speak lightly of any one, even of a child—he adds, that in another respect it would be well to be like them—nay, not only like children, but like infants. The phrase, "be ye children," here, does not express the force of the original, nhpiazete. It means, "be infants," and is emphatic; and was used evidently, by the apostle, of design. The meaning may be thus expressed: "Your admiration of foreign languages is like the sports and plays of childhood. In this respect be not children, (paidia;) be men. Lay aside such childish things. Act worthy of the understanding which God has given you. I have mentioned children. Yet I would not speak unkindly or with contempt even of them. In one respect you may imitate them. Nay, you should not only be like children, that are somewhat advanced in years, but like infants. Be as free from malice, from any ill-will toward others, from envy, and every improper passion, as they are: This passage, therefore, accords with the repeated declaration of the Saviour, that in order to enter into heaven, it was needful that we should become as little children, Mt 18:3.

Be men. Margin, "Perfect, or of a ripe age. Teleioi. The word means, full-grow men. Act like those whose understandings are mature and ripe.

{e} "not children" Eph 4:14,15; Heb 6:1-3

{f} "ye children" Ps 131:2; Mt 18:3; Ro 16:19; 1 Pe 2:2

{&} "howbeit" "yet"

{|} "children" "infants"

{1} "be" "perfect or, of a ripe age"

{g} "men" Ps 119:99


Verse 21. In the law it is written. This passage is found in Isa 28:11,12. The word law here seems to mean the same as revelation; or is used to denote the Old Testament in general. A similar use occurs in Joh 10:34; 15:25.

With men of other tongues, etc. This passage, where it occurs in Isaiah, means, that God would teach the rebellious and refractory Jews submission to himself, by punishing them amidst a people of another language, by removing them to a land—the land of Chaldea—where they would hear only a language that to them would be unintelligible and barbarous. Yet, notwithstanding this discipline, they would be still, to some extent, a rebellious people. The passage in Isaiah has no reference to the miraculous gift of tongues, and cannot have been used by the apostle as containing any intimation that such miraculous gifts would be imparted. It seems to have been used by Paul, because the words which occurred in Isaiah would appropriately express the idea which he wished to convey, See Barnes "Mt 1:23,) that God would make use of foreign languages for some valuable purpose. But he by no means intimates that Isaiah had any such reference; nor does he quote this as a fulfilment of the prophecy; nor does he mean to say, that God would accomplish the same purpose by the use of foreign languages, which was contemplated in the passage in Isaiah. The sense is, as God accomplished an important purpose by the use of a foreign language in regard to his ancient people, as recorded in Isaiah, so he will make use of foreign languages to accomplish important purposes still. They shall be used in the Christian church to effect important objects, though not in the same manner, nor for the same end, as in the time of the captivity. What the design of making use of foreign languages was, in the Christian church, the apostle immediately states, 1 Co 14:22,23.

Yet for all that, etc. Notwithstanding all this chastisement that shall be inflicted on the Jews in a distant land, and among a people of a different language, they will still be a rebellious people. This is the sense of the passage, as it is used by Isaiah. Isa 28:12. It is not quoted literally by the apostle, but the main idea is retained. He does not appear to design to apply this to the Corinthians, unless it may be to intimate that the power of speaking foreign languages did not of necessity secure obedience. It might be that this power might be possessed, and yet they be a sinful people; just as the Jews were admonished by the judgments of God, inflicted by means of a people speaking a foreign language, and yet were not reformed or made holy.

{a} "law" Joh 10:34

{b} "it is written" Isa 28:11,12

{*} "tongues" "languages"

{+} "hear" "hearken to"


Verse 22. Wherefore. Thus, (wste) or wherefore. The apostle does not mean to say that what he was about to state was a direct conclusion from the passage of Scripture which he had quoted, but that it followed from all that he had said, and from the whole view of the subject. "The true statement or doctrine is, that tongues are for a sign," etc.

Tongues. The power of speaking foreign languages.

Are for a sign. An indication, an evidence, or a proof that God has imparted this power, and that he attends the preaching of the gospel with his approbation. It is a sign, or a miracle, which, like all other miracles, may be designed to convince the unbelieving world that the religion is from God.

Not to them that believe. Not to Christians. They are already convinced of the truth of religion, and they would not be benefited by that which was spoken in a language which they could not understand.

But to them that believe not. It is a miracle designed to convince them of the truth of the Christian religion. God alone could confer the power of thus speaking; and as it was conferred expressly to aid in the propagation of the gospel, it proved that it was from God. See Barnes "Ac 2:1-15".

But prophesying. Speaking in a calm, connected, didactic manner, in language intelligible to all under the influence of inspiration. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

For them that believe not. Is not particularly intended for them; but is intended mainly for the edifying of the church. It is not so striking, so replete with proofs of the Divine presence and power, as the gift of tongues. Though it may be really under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and may be really by inspiration, yet it is not so evidently such as is the power of speaking foreign languages. It was, therefore, better adapted to edify the church than to convince gainsayers. At the same time the truths conveyed by it, and the consolations administered by it, might be as clear evidence to the church of the attending power, and presence, and goodness of God, as the power of speaking foreign languages might be to infidels.

{c} "for a sign" Mr 16:17; Ac 2:16

{d} "them that believe" 1 Ti 1:9


Verse 23. Be come together into one place. For public worship.

And all speak with tongues. All speak with a variety of unknown tongues; all speak foreign languages. The idea is, that the church would usually speak the same language with the people among whom they dwelt; and if they made use of foreign languages which were unintelligible to their visitors, it would leave the impression that the church was a bedlam.

And there come in those that are unlearned. Those that are unacquainted with foreign languages, and to whom, therefore, what was said would be unintelligible.

Or unbelievers. Heathen, or Jews, who did not believe in Christ. It is evident from this, that such persons often attended on the worship of Christians. Curiosity might have led them to it; or the fact that they had relatives among Christians might have caused it.

That ye are mad? They will not understand what is said; it will be a confused jargon; and they will infer that it is the effect of insanity. Even though it might not, therefore, be in itself improper, yet a regard to the honour of Christianity should have led them to abstain from the use of such languages in their worship when it was needless. The apostles were charged, from a similar cause, with being intoxicated. See Ac 2:13.

{++} "tongues" "In unknown languages"

{e} "mad" Ac 2:13


Verse 24. But if all prophesy. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

If all, in proper order and time, shall utter the truths of religion in a language intelligible to all.

Or one unlearned. One unacquainted with the nature of Christianity, or the truths of the gospel.

He is convinced of all. He will be convinced by all that speak. He will understand what is said; he will see its truth and force, and he will be satisfied of the truth of Christianity. The word here rendered convinced (elegcetai) is rendered reprove in Joh 16:8: "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin," etc. Its proper meaning is to convict, to show one to be wrong; and then to rebuke, reprove, admonish, etc. Here it means, evidently, that the man would be convicted or convinced of his error and of his sin; he would see that his former opinions and practice had been wrong; he would see and acknowledge the force and truth of the Christian sentiments which should be uttered, and would acknowledge the error of his former opinions and life. The following verse shows that the apostle means something more than a mere convincing of the understanding, or a mere conviction that his opinions had been erroneous. He evidently refers to what is now known also as conviction for sin; that is, a deep sense of the depravity of the heart, of the errors and fellice of the past life, accompanied with mental anxiety, distress, and alarm. The force of truth, and the appeals which should be made, and the observation of the happy effects of religion, would convince him that he was a sinner, and show him also his need of a Saviour.

He is judged by all. By all that speak; by all that they say. The effect of what they say shall be, as it were, to pass a judgment on his former life, or to condemn him. What is said will be approved by his own conscience, and will have the effect to condemn him, in his own view, as a lost sinner. This is now the effect of faithful preaching, to produce deep self-condemnation in the minds of sinners.


Verse 25. And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest. Made manifest to himself in a surprising and remarkable manner. He shall be led to see the real designs and motives of his heart. His conscience would be awakened; he would recall his former course of life; he would see that it was evil; and the present state of his heart would be made known to himself. It is possible that he would suppose that the speaker was aiming directly at him, and revealing his feelings to others; for such an effect is often produced. The convicted sinner often supposes that the preacher particularly intends him, and wonders that he has such an acquaintance with his feelings and his life; and often supposes that he is designing to disclose his feelings to the congregation. It is possible that Paul here may mean that the prophets, by inspiration, would be able to reveal some secret facts in regard to the stranger; or to state the ill design which he might have had in coming into the assembly; or to state some things in regard to him which could be known only to himself; as was the case with Ananias and Sapphira, (Ac 5:1), seq.;) but perhaps it is better to understand this in a more general sense, as describing the proper and more common effect of truth, when it is applied by a man's own conscience. Such effects are often witnessed now; and such effects show the truth of religion; its adaptedness to men; the omniscience and the power of God; the design of the conscience, and its use in the conversion of sinners.

And so falling down on his face.The usual posture of worship or reverence in eastern countries. It was performed by sinking on the knees and hands, and then placing, the face on the ground. This might be done publicly; or the apostle may mean to say that it would lead him to do it in private.

He will worship God. He will be converted, and become a Christian.

And report that God, etc. Will become your friend, and an advocate for the Christian religion. An enemy will be turned to a friend. Doubtless this was often done. It is now often done. Paul's argument is, that they should so conduct their public devotions as that they should be adapted to produce this result.

{a} "God is" Isa 45:15; Zec 8:23

{*} "in" "among"


Verse 26. How is it then, brethren? See Barnes "1 Co 14:15".

What is the fact? What actually occurs among you? Does that state of things exist which I have described? Is there that order in your public worship which is demanded and proper? It is implied in his asking this question that there might be some things among them which were improper, and which deserved reproof.

When ye come together. For worship.

Every one of you, etc. That is, all the things which are specified would be found among them. It is evidently not meant that all these things would be found in the same person, but would all exist at the same time; and thus confusion and disorder would be inevitable. Instead of waiting for an intimation from the presiding officer in the assembly, or speaking in succession and in order, each one probably regarded himself as under the influence of the Holy Spirit; as having an important message to communicate, or as being called on to celebrate the praises of God; and thus confusion and disorder would prevail. Many would be speaking at the same time, and a most unfavourable impression would be made on the minds of the strangers who should be present, 1 Co 14:23. This implied reproof of the Corinthians is certainly a reproof of those public assemblies where many speak at the same time; or where a portion are engaged in praying, and others in exhortation. Nor can it be urged that in such cases those who engage in these exercises are under the influence of the Holy Spirit; for, however true that may be, yet it is no more true than it was in Corinth, and yet the apostle reproved the practice there. The Holy Spirit is the Author of order, and not of confusion, 1 Co 14:33; and true religion prompts to peace and regularity, and not to discord and tumult.

Hath a psalm. Is disposed to sing; is inclined to praise; and, however irregular or improper, expresses his thanks in a public manner. See Barnes "1 Co 14:16".

Hath a doctrine. Has some religious truth on his mind which he deems it of special importance to inculcate. See Barnes "1 Co 14:6".

Hath a tongue. Has something made known to him in a foreign language; or has a power of speaking a foreign language, and exercises it, though it produces great confusion.

Hath a revelation. Some truth which has been particularly revealed to him; perhaps an explanation of some mystery, (Doddridge;) or a revelation of some future event, (Macknight;) or a prophecy, (Bloomfield;) or a power of explaining some of the truths couched in the types and figures of the Old Testament, (Grotius.)

Hath an interpretation. An explanation of something that has been uttered by another in a foreign language. See Barnes "1 Co 12:10".

Let all things, etc. Let this be the great principle, to promote the edification of the church. See Barnes "1 Co 14:12".

If this rule were followed, it would prevent confusion and disorder.

{b} "doctrine" 1 Co 14:6

{+} "tongue" "Language"

{c} "Let all things" 1 Co 14:40


Verse 27. Let it be by two, or at the most by three. That is, two, or at most three in one day, or in one meeting. So Grotius, Rosenmuller, Doddridge, Bloomfield, and Locke understand it. It is probable that many were endowed with the gift of tongues; and it is certain that they were disposed to exercise the gift even when it could be of no real advantage, and when it was done only for ostentation. Paul had shown to them (1 Co 14:22) that the main design of the gift of tongues was to convince unbelievers; he here shows them that if that gift was exercised in the church, it should be in such a way as to promote edification. They should not speak at the same time; nor should they regard it as necessary that all should speak at the same meeting. It should not be so as to produce disorder and confusion; nor should it be so as to detain the people beyond a reasonable time. The speakers, therefore, in any one assembly, should not exceed two or three.

And that by course. Separately; one after another. They should not all speak at the same time.

And let one interpret. One who has the gift of interpreting foreign languages, (See Barnes "1 Co 12:10,) so that they may be understood, and the church be edified.

{+} "tongue" "language"

{++} "by course" "In succession"


Verse 28. But if there be no interpreter. If there be no one present who has the gift of interpretation.

And let him speak to himself, and to God. 1 Co 14:2,4. Let him commune with himself, and with God; let him meditate on the truths which are revealed to him, and let him in secret express his desires to God.


Verse 29. Let the prophets. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

Speak two or three. On the same days, or at the same meeting. See Barnes "1 Co 14:27".

And let the other judge. The word "other" (oi alloi, the others) Bloomfield supposes refers to the other prophets; and that the meaning is, that they should decide whether what was said was dictated by the Holy Spirit or not. But the more probable sense, I think, is that which refers it to the rest of the congregation, and which supposes that they were to compare one doctrine with another, and deliberate on what was spoken, and determine whether it had evidence of being in accordance with the truth. It may be that the apostle here refers to those who had the gift of discerning spirits, and that he meant to say that they were to determine by what spirit the prophets who spoke were actuated. It was possible that those who claimed to be prophets might err; and it was the duty of all to examine whether that which was uttered was in accordance with truth. And if this was a duty then, it is a duty now; if it was proper even when the teachers claimed to be under Divine inspiration, it is much more the duty of the people now. No minister of religion has a right to demand that all that he speaks shall be regarded as truth, unless he can give good reasons for it; no man is to be debarred from the right of canvassing freely, and comparing with the Bible, and with sound reason, all that the minister of the gospel advances. No minister who has just views of his office, and a proper acquaintance with the truth, and confidence in it, would desire to prohibit the people from the most full and free examination of all that he utters. It may be added, that the Scripture everywhere encourages the most full and free examination of all doctrines that are advanced; and that true religion advances just in proportion as this spirit of candid, and earnest, and prayerful examination prevails among a people. See Barnes "Ac 17:11".

Comp. 1 Th 5:21.

{d} "Let the prophets" 1 Co 14:39; 1 Th 5:19,20


Verse 30. If any thing be revealed to another. If, while one is speaking, an important truth is revealed to another, or is suggested to his mind by the Holy Spirit, which he feels it to be important to communicate.

Let the first hold his peace. That is, let him that was speaking conclude his discourse, and let there not be the confusion arising from two persons speaking at the same time. Doddridge understands this as meaning, that he to whom the revelation wag made should sit still, until the other was done speaking, and not rise and rudely interrupt him. But this is to do violence to the language. So Macknight understands it, that the one who was speaking was first to finish his discourse, and be silent, before the other began to speak. But this is evidently a forced construction. Locke understands it as meaning, that if, while one was speaking, the meaning of what he said was revealed to another, the first was to cease speaking until the other had interpreted or explained it. But the obvious meaning of the passage is, that the man who was speaking was to close his discourse and be silent. It does not follow, however, that he was to be rudely interrupted. He might close his discourse deliberately, or perhaps by an intimation from the person to whom the revelation was made. At any rate, two were not to speak at the same time, but the one who was speaking was to conclude before the other addressed the assembly.

{e} "the first" Job 32:11

{&} "hold his peace" "Be silent"


Verse 31. For ye may all prophesy, etc. There is time enough for all; there is no need of speaking in confusion and in disorder. Every person may have an opportunity of expressing his sentiments at the proper time.

That all may learn. In such a manner that there may be edification. This might be done if they would speak one at a time in their proper order.


Verse 32. And the spirits of the prophets. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1"

for the meaning of the word prophets. The evident meaning of this is, that they were able to control their inclination to speak; they were not under a necessity of speaking, even though they might be inspired. There was no need of disorder. This verse gives confirmation to the supposition, that the extraordinary endowments of the Holy Spirit were subjected to substantially the same laws as a man's natural endowments. They were conferred by the Holy Ghost; but they were conferred on free agents, and did not interfere with their free agency. And as a man, though of the most splendid talents and commanding eloquence, has control over his own mind, and is not compelled to speak, so it was with those who are here called prophets. The immediate reference of the passage is to those who are called prophets in the New Testament; and the interpretation should be confined to them. It is not improbable, however, that the same thing was true of the prophets of the Old Testament; and that it is really true as a general declaration of all the prophets whom God has inspired, that they had control over their own minds, and could speak or be silent at pleasure. In this the spirit of true inspiration differed essentially from the views of the heathen, who regarded themselves as driven on by a wild, controlling influence, that compelled them to speak even when they were unconscious of what they said. Universally, in the heathen world, the priests and priestesses supposed or reigned that they were under an influence which was incontrollable; which took away their powers of self-command, and which made them the mere organs or unconscious instruments of communicating the will of the gods. The Scripture account of inspiration is, however, a very different thing. In whatever way the mind was influenced, or whatever was the mode in which the truth was conveyed, yet it was not such as to destroy the conscious powers of free agency, nor such as to destroy the individuality of the inspired person, or to annihilate what was peculiar in his mode of thinking, his style, or his customary manner of expression.

{a} "spirits of" 1 Jo 4:1


Verse 33. God is not the author of confusion. Marg., Tumult, or unquietness. His religion cannot tend to produce disorder. He is the God of peace; and his religion will tend to promote order. It is calm, peaceful, thoughtful. It is not boisterous and disorderly.

As in all churches of the saints. As was everywhere apparent in the churches. Paul here appeals to them, and says that this was the fact wherever the true religion was spread, that it tended to produce peace and order. This is as true now as it was then. And we may learn, therefore,

(1.) that where there is disorder, there is little religion. Religion does not produce it; and the tendency of tumult and confusion is to drive religion away.

(2.) True religion will not lead to tumult, to outcries, or to irregularity. It will not prompt many to speak or pray at once; nor will it justify tumultuous and noisy assemblages.

(3.) Christians should regard God as the Author of peace. They should always in the sanctuary demean themselves in a reverent manner, and with such decorum as becomes men when they are in the presence of a holy and pure God, and engaged in his worship.

(4.) All those pretended conversions, however sudden and striking they may be, which are attended with disorder, and confusion, and public outcries, are to be suspected. Such excitement may be connected with genuine piety, but it is no part of pure religion. That is calm, serious, orderly, heavenly. No man who is under its influence is disposed to engage in scenes of confusion and disorder. Grateful he may be, and he may and will express his gratitude; prayerful he will be, and he will pray; anxious for others he will be, and he will express that anxiety; but it will be with seriousness, tenderness, love; with a desire for the order of God's house, and not with a desire to break in upon and disturb all the solemnities of public worship.

{1} "author of confusion" "tumult or unquietness"


Verse 34. Let your women keep silence, etc. This rule is positive: explicit and universal. There is no ambiguity in the expressions; and there can be no difference of opinion, one would suppose, in regard to their meaning. The sense evidently is, that in all those things which he had specified, the women were to keep silence; they were to take no part. He had discoursed of speaking foreign languages, and of prophecy; and the evident sense is, that in regard to all these they were to keep silence, or were not to engage in them. These pertained solely to the male portion of the congregation. These things constituted the business of the public teaching; and in this the female part of the congregation were to be silent. "They were not to teach the people, nor were they to interrupt those who were speaking."—Rosenmuller. It is probable that, on pretence of being inspired, the women had assumed the office of public teachers. In 1 Co 11 Paul had argued against their doing this in a certain manner—without their veils, (1 Co 11:5;) and he had shown that, on that account, and in that manner, it was improper for them to assume the office of public teachers, and to conduct the devotions of the church. The force of the argument in 1 Co 11 is, that what he there states would be a sufficient reason against the practice, even if there were no other. It was contrary to all decency and propriety that they should appear in that manner in public. He here argues against the practice ON EVERY GROUND; forbids it altogether; and shows that on every consideration it was to be regarded as improper for them even so much as to ask a question in time of public service. There is, therefore, no inconsistency between the argument in 1 Co 11 and the statement here; and the force of the whole is, that on every consideration it was improper, and to be expressly prohibited, for women to conduct the devotions of the church. It does not refer to those only who claimed to be inspired, but to all; it does not refer merely to acts of public preaching, but to all acts of speaking, or even asking questions, when the church is assembled for public worship. No rule in the New Testament is more positive than this; and however plausible may be the reasons which may be urged for disregarding it, and for suffering women to take part in conducting public worship, yet the authority of the apostle Paul is positive, and his meaning cannot be mistaken. Comp. 1 Ti 2:11,12.

To be under obedience. To be subject to their husbands; to acknowledge the superior authority of the man. See Barnes "1 Co 11:3".

As also saith the law. Ge 3:16, "And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."

{c} "Let your women" 1 Ti 2:11,12

{d} "under obedience" Eph 5:22; Tit 2:5; 1 Pe 3:1

{e} "saith the law" Ge 3:16; Nu 30:3-12; Es 1:20


Verse 35. And if they will learn any thing. If anything has been spoken which they do not understand; or if on any particular subject they desire more full information, let them inquire of their husbands in their own dwelling. They may there converse freely; and their inquiries will not be attended with the irregularity and disorder which would occur, should they interrupt the order and solemnity of public worship.

For it is a shame. It is disreputable and shameful; it is a breach of propriety. Their station in life demands modesty, humility, and they should be free from the ostentation of appearing so much in public as to take part in the public services of teaching and praying. It does not become their rank in life; it is not fulfilling the object which God evidently intended them to fill. He has appointed men to rule; to hold offices; to instruct and govern the church; and it is improper that women should assume that office upon themselves. This evidently and obviously refers to the church assembled for public worship, in the ordinary and regular acts of devotion. There the assembly is made up of males and females, of old and young, and there it is improper for them to take part in conducting the exercises. But this cannot be interpreted as meaning that it is improper for females to speak or to pray in meetings of their own sex, assembled for prayer or for benevolence; nor that it is improper for a female to speak or to pray in a Sabbath-school. Neither of these come under the apostle s idea of a church. And in such meetings, no rule of propriety or of the Scriptures is violated in their speaking for the edification of each other, or in leading in social prayer. It may be added here, that on this subject the Jews were very strenuous, and their laws were very strict. The Rabbins taught that a woman should know nothing but the use of the distaff; and they were specially prohibited from asking questions in the synagogue, or even from reading.—See Lightfoot. The same rule is still observed by the Jews in the synagogues.

{*} "shame" "unbecoming"


Verse 36. What? came the word of God out from you? The meaning of this is, "Is the church at Corinth the mother church? Was it first established; or has it been alone in sending forth the word of God? You have adopted customs which are unusual. You have permitted women to speak in a manner unknown to other churches. See 1 Co 11:16. You have admitted irregularity and confusion unknown in all the others. You have allowed many to speak at the same time, and have tolerated confusion and disorder. Have you any right thus to differ from others? Have you any authority, as it were, to dictate to them, to teach them, contrary to their uniform custom, to allow these disorders? Should you not rather be conformed to them, and observe the rules of the churches which are older than yours?" The argument here is, that the church at Corinth was not the first that was established; that it was one of the last that had been founded; and that it could, therefore, claim no right to differ from others, or to prescribe to them. The same argument is employed in 1 Co 11:16. See Barnes "1 Co 11:16".

Or came it unto you only? As you are not the first of those who believed, neither are you the only ones. God has sent the same gospel to others, and it is travelling over the world. Others, therefore, have the same right as you to originate customs and peculiar habits; and as this would be attended with confusion and disorder, you should all follow the same rule, and the customs which do not prevail in other churches should not be allowed in yours.

{a} "came it" 1 Co 4:7


Verse 37. If any man think himself to be a prophet. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

If any man claim to be divinely endowed. Macknight renders it, "be really a prophet." But the more correct meaning here is, doubtless, "If any man profess to be a prophet; or is reputed to be a prophet." —Bloomfield. The proper meaning of the word dokew is, to seem to one's self; to be of opinion, to suppose, believe, etc.; and the reference here is to one who should regard himself, or who should believe and profess to be thus endowed.

Or spiritual. Regarding himself as under the extraordinary influence of the Spirit.

Let him acknowledge, etc. He will show that he is truly under the influence of the Holy Spirit, by acknowledging my authority, and by yielding obedience to the commands which I utter in the name and by the authority of the Lord. All would probably be disposed to acknowledge the right of Paul to speak to them; all would regard him as an apostle; and all would show that God had influenced their hearts, if they listened to his commands, and obeyed his injunctions. I do not speak by my own authority, or in my own name, says Paul. I speak in the name of the Lord; and to obey the commands of the Lord is a proof of being influenced by his Spirit. True religion everywhere, and the most ardent and enthusiastic zeal that is prompted by true religion, will show their genuineness and purity by a sacred and constant regard for the commands of the Lord. And that zeal which disregards those commands, and which tramples down the authority of the Scriptures, and the peace and order of the church, gives demonstration that it is not genuine. It is false zeal, and, however ardent, will not ultimately do good to the cause.

{b} "any man" 2 Co 10:7; 1 Jo 4:6


Verse 38. But if any man be ignorant, etc. If any one affects to be ignorant of my authority, or whether I have a right to command. If he affects to doubt whether I am inspired, and whether what I utter is in accordance with the will of God.

Let him be ignorant. At his own peril, let him remain so, and abide the consequences. I shall not take any further trouble to debate with him. I have stated my authority. I have delivered the commands of God. And now, if he disregards them, and still doubts whether all this is said by Divine authority, let him abide the consequences of rejecting the law of God. I have given full proof of my Divine commission. I have nothing more to say on that head. And now, if he chooses to remain in ignorance or incredulity, the fault is his own, and he must answer for it to God.


Verse 39. Covet to prophesy. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

This is the summing up of all that he had said. It was desirable that a man should wish to be able to speak, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in such a manner as to edify the church.

And forbid not, etc. Do not suppose that the power of speaking foreign languages is useless, or is to be despised, or that it is to be prohibited. In its own place it is a valuable endowment; and on proper occasions the talent should be exercised. See in 1 Co 14:22.

{*} "tongues" "in different languages"


Verse 40. Let all things be done decently and in order. Let all things be done in an appropriate and becoming manner; decorously, as becomes the worship of God. Let all be done in order, regularly, without confusion, discord, tumult. The word used here (kata taxin) is, properly, a military term, and denotes the order and regularity with which an army is drawn up. This is a general rule, which was to guide them. It was simple, and easily applied. There might be a thousand questions started about the modes and forms of worship, and the customs in the churches, and much difficulty might occur in many of these questions; but here was a simple and plain rule, which might be easily applied. Their good sense would tell them what became the worship of God; and their pious feelings would restrain them from excesses and disorders. This rule is still applicable, and is safe in guiding us in many things in regard to the worship of God. There are many things which cannot be subjected to rule, or exactly prescribed; there are many things which may and must be left to pious feeling, to good sense, and to the views of Christians themselves, about what will promote their edification and the conversion of sinners. The rule in such questions is plain. Let all be done decorously, as becomes the worship of the great and holy God; let all be without confusion, noise, and disorder.

In view of this chapter, we may remark:

(1.) That public worship should be in a language understood by the people; the language which they commonly employ. Nothing can be clearer than the sentiments of Paul on this. The whole strain of the chapter is to demonstrate this, in opposition to making use of a foreign and unintelligible language in any part of public worship. Paul specifies in the course of the discussion every part of public worship; public preaching, (1 Co 14:2,3,5,13,19; ) prayer, (1 Co 14:14,15;) singing, (1 Co 14:15;) and insists that all should be in a language that should be understood by the people. It would almost seem that he had anticipated the sentiments and practice of the Roman Catholic denomination. It is remarkable that a practice should have grown up, and have been defended, in a church professedly Christian, so directly in opposition to the explicit meaning of the New Testament. Perhaps there is not, even in the Roman Catholic denomination, a more striking instance of a custom or doctrine in direct contradiction to the Bible. If anything is plain and obvious, it is that worship, in order to be edifying, should be in a language that is understood by the people. Nor can that service be acceptable to God which is not understood by those who offer it; which conveys no idea to their minds, and which cannot, therefore, be the homage of the heart. Assuredly, God does not require the offering of unmeaning words. Yet this has been a grand device of the great enemy of man. It has contributed to keep the people in ignorance and superstition; it has prevented the mass of the people from seeing how utterly unlike the New Testament are the sentiments of the papists; and it has, in connexion with the kindred doctrine that the Scripture should be withheld from the people, contributed to perpetuate that dark system, and to bind the human mind in chains. Well do the Roman Catholics know, that if the Bible were given to the people, and public worship conducted in a language which they could understand, the system would soon fall. It could not live in the midst of light. It is a system which lives and thrives only in darkness.

(2.) Preaching should be simple and intelligible. There is a great deal of preaching which might as well be in a foreign tongue as in the language which is actually employed. It is dry, abstruse, metaphysical, remote from the common manner of expression, and the common habits of thought among men. It may be suited to schools of philosophy, but it cannot be suited to the pulpit. The preaching of the Lord Jesus was simple, and intelligible even to a child. And nothing can be a greater error, than for the ministers of the gospel to adopt a dry and metaphysical manner of preaching. The most successful preachers have been those who have been most remarkable for their simplicity and clearness. Nor are simplicity and intelligibleness of manner inconsistent with bright thought and profound sentiments. A diamond is the most pure of all minerals; a river may be deep, and yet its water so pure that the bottom may be seen at a great depth; and glass in the window is most valuable the clearer and purer it is, when it is itself least seen, and when it gives no obstruction to the light. If the purpose is that the glass may be itself an ornament, it may be well to stain it; if to give light, it should be pure. A very shallow stream may be very muddy; and because the bottom cannot be seen, it is no evidence that it is deep. So it is with style. If the purpose is to convey thought, to enlighten and save the soul, the style should be plain, simple, pure. If it be to bewilder and confound, or to be admired as unintelligible, or perhaps as profound, then an abstruse and metaphysical, or a flowery manner, may be adopted in the pulpit.

(3.) We should learn to value useful talent more than that which is splendid and showy, 1 Co 14:3. The whole scope of this chapter goes to demonstrate that we should more highly prize and desire that talent which may be useful to the church, or which may be useful in convincing unbelievers, (1 Co 14:24,25,) than that which merely dazzles, or excites admiration. Ministers of the gospel who preach as they should do, engage in their work to win souls to Christ, not to induce them to admire eloquence; they come to teach men to adore the great and dreadful God, not to be loud in their praises of a mortal man.

(4.) Ministers of the gospel should not aim to be admired. They should seek to be useful. Their aim should not be to excite admiration of their acute and profound talent for reasoning; of their clear and striking power of observation; of their graceful manner; of their glowing and fervid eloquence; of the beauty of their words, or the eloquence of their well-turned periods. They should seek to build up the people of God in holy faith, and so to present truth as that it shall make a deep impression on mankind. No work is so important, and so serious in its nature and results, as the ministry of the gospel; and in no work on earth should there be more seriousness, simplicity: exactness, and correctness of statement, and invincible and unvarying adherence to simple and unvarnished truth. Of all places, the pulpit is the last in which to seek to excite admiration, or where to display profound learning, or the powers of an abstract and subtle argumentation, for the sake of securing a reputation. Cowper has drawn the character of what a minister of the gospel should be, in the well-known and most beautiful passage in the "Task:"-

Would I describe a preacher, such as Paul,
Were he on earth, would hear, approve, and own,
Paul should himself direct me. I would trace
His master strokes, and draw from his design.
I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain;
And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste,
And natural in gesture; much impress'd
Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
May feel it too; affectionate in look.
And tender in address, as well becomes
A messenger of grace to guilty men.

He stablishes the strong, restores the weak,
Reclaims the wanderer, binds the broken heart;
And, arm'd himself, in panoply complete
Of heavenly temper, furnishes with arms,
Bright as his own, and trains, by every rule
Of holy discipline, to glorious war,
The sacramental host of God's elect.
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