|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:15-25 There can be no assent to prayers that are not understood. A truly Christian minister will seek much more to do spiritual good to men's souls, than to get the greatest applause to himself. This is proving himself the servant of Christ. Children are apt to be struck with novelty; but do not act like them. Christians should be like children, void of guile and malice; yet they should not be unskilful as to the word of righteousness, but only as to the arts of mischief. It is a proof that a people are forsaken of God, when he gives them up to the rule of those who teach them to worship in another language. They can never be benefitted by such teaching. Yet thus the preachers did who delivered their instructions in an unknown tongue. Would it not make Christianity ridiculous to a heathen, to hear the ministers pray or preach in a language which neither he nor the assembly understood? But if those who minister, plainly interpret Scripture, or preach the great truths and rules of the gospel, a heathen or unlearned person might become a convert to Christianity. His conscience might be touched, the secrets of his heart might be revealed to him, and so he might be brought to confess his guilt, and to own that God was present in the assembly. Scripture truth, plainly and duly taught, has a wonderful power to awaken the conscience and touch the heart.
Verse 16. - That occupieth the room of the unlearned; that is, "one in the position of an ordinary worshipper, who has no spiritual gifts." An idiotes is a private person; one who does not possess the skill or the knowledge which is immediately in question. Say Amen; rather, say the Amen. The custom of ratifying prayer and praises with the "Amen" of hearty assent and participation existed in the Jewish (Deuteronomy 27:15. Nehemiah 5:13; Revelation 5:14; Philo, 'Fragm.,' p. 630) as well as in the Christian Church (Justin Martyr, 'Apol.,' 2:97). The sound of the loud unanimous "Amen" of early Christian congregations is compared to the echo of distant thunder.
"Et resonaturum ferit aethera vocibus Amen." Being the answer of the congregation, the "Amen" was regarded as no less important than the prayer itself.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Else when thou shall bless with the spirit,.... Which must be understood of giving thanks to God, not in a private way, in the family and at meals, but in a public manner before the whole congregation, for mercies temporal and spiritual, especially the latter; and that not with the breath, or voice only; nor with the affections of the heart, with the soul, and all that is within it, though that is what should be; nor with the common assistance of the Spirit, and under the influence of his grace, which excites to true gratitude; but with the extraordinary gift of the Spirit, pronouncing the blessing, or expressing the thanksgiving with divers tongues, or in an unknown language: when this part of divine service, which by the way is distinct from singing, is performed in this manner,
how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned; "idiot". The word "idiot", is often used by the Jewish writers, and signifies a plebeian, one of the common people; and is sometimes indeed distinguished from a wise man, or a learned man; but frequently signifies a private person, whether learned or unlearned, that is not in so high a post as others; hence we read (c) , "of private judges", which were not of the great sanhedrim, and of private men, as distinguished from kings (d);
"there are three kings, and four "private men", (the Jews say,) that have no part in the world to come; the three kings are Jeroboam, Ahab, and Manasseh; the four private persons are Balsam, Doeg, Ahithophel, and Gehazi:''
here a private man is distinguished from the public minister that blesses, or gives thanks in the name of the people; and not to be understood of a single person, whose place and office it was to say "Amen", at the minister's giving of thanks, and who stood in some particular place for that purpose; but of the whole body of the people, who, in distinction from the minister, were in the condition of private men, and all joined, as will be seen hereafter, in saying "Amen"; now the apostle's question is, that if thou who art a public minister, givest blessing and praise, or returnest thanks to God in an unknown tongue, how shall the common people, or anyone that is in a private capacity,
say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? It was usual to say "Amen" at blessing, or giving of thanks privately at meals, by those that were present, concerning which are the following rules (e);
"he that breaks the bread, might not break it until the "Amen" was finished out of the mouth of those that answered; Rab Chasdai says out of the mouth of the major part of those that answer:''
and elsewhere (f) it is said,
"they answer "Amen" after an Israelite has blessed, but they do not answer "Amen" after a Cuthite (a Samaritan, or any Gentile, or Christian) hath blessed, unless the whole blessing is heard:''
but of this kind of blessing the apostle speaks not, but of blessing in public: upon which all the people, and not a single person only, as with one united voice, said Amen; see 1 Chronicles 16:36 to this practice the apostle refers; concerning which the rule (g) is;
"that the congregation may not answer "Amen", until the blessing is finished out of the mouth of the priests; and the priests may not begin the other blessing, until the "Amen" is finished out of the mouth of the congregation.''
There were different sorts of "Amen", or rather different pronunciations of it; of which the Jews say (h),
"they may not answer with a fatherless "Amen"; nor with a sudden or violent "Amen"; (pronounced quick and in haste;) nor with an "Amen" cut off, or asunder (the last letter of it not pronounced): says Ben Azzai, whoever answers with a fatherless "Amen", his children shall be fatherless; with a quick "Amen", his days will be short; with an "Amen" cut off, his days shall be cut off; and whoever prolongs "Amen", his days and years shall be prolonged.''
Now, , "a fatherless Amen", was when a person answered, and he did not know what he answered (i) to; and such an "Amen", in the case here, must a private man answer with, at the giving of thanks in an unknown tongue; and to answer "Amen" to what was said in a language not understood, was not allowed of; so the woman suspected of adultery was to be sworn and examined by the priest in a language she understood; and was to say "Amen, Amen", to what was said, in a language known to her (k); for if she did not understand it, how could she say "Amen?" which is the apostle's reasoning here: but was this an affair of such importance, to be instanced in and argued upon in this manner? with the Jews it was, who say (l),
"that greater is he that answers "Amen", than he that blesses:''
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. Else … thou—He changes from the first person, as he had just expressed his own resolution, "I will pray with the understanding," whatever "thou" doest.
bless—the highest kind of prayer.
occupieth the room of the unlearned—one who, whatever other gifts he may possess, yet, as wanting the gift of interpretation, is reduced by the speaking in an unknown tongue to the position of one unlearned, or "a private person."
say Amen—Prayer is not a vicarious duty done by others for us; as in Rome's liturgies and masses. We must join with the leader of the prayers and praises of the congregation, and say aloud our responsive "Amen" in assent, as was the usage of the Jewish (De 27:15-26; Ne 8:6) and Christian primitive churches [Justin Martyr, Apology, 2. 97].
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