1 Corinthians 14:22
Why tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe.—This is not an interpretation of the prophecy alluded to in the previous verse, but St. Paul now returns to the gift of “tongues” as existing in the Church, and introduces a thought regarding this gift suggested by the fact mentioned, viz., that in Israel unintelligible tongues, uttered in their hearing, were for a sign to unbelieving Jews. Tongues should not be exalted in estimation above prophecy—inasmuch as the function of the latter is really grander than that of the former. Tongues were useful to arrest the attention of unbelievers, and, if rightly used, to arouse their convictions; but prophecy is in the highest sense useful for believers.

1 Corinthians 14:22. Wherefore — Since this was formerly threatened by God as a punishment, you should not so admire or magnify it, especially since tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe — Not to convince, edify, or comfort the faithful; but to them that believe not — To unbelievers, to whom ye speak in their own language, Acts 2:8; namely, to engage their attention to the gospel, and to convince them that what is delivered is the truth of God. But prophesying — Preaching the word, discoursing on divine things; serveth not so much for them that believe not — Who cannot know that you are inspired in prophesying, and have no proof that your doctrine is true; but for them which believe — For their confirmation in the faith, and their edification in holiness and righteousness.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.Wherefore - Thus, (Ὥστε Hōste), 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 the note on Acts 2:1-15.

But prophesying - Speaking in a calm, connected, didactic manner, in language intelligible to all under the influence of inspiration; see notes on 1 Corinthians 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.

22. Thus from Isaiah it appears, reasons Paul, that "tongues" (unknown and uninterpreted) are not a sign mainly intended for believers (though at the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles with him, tongues were vouchsafed to him and them to confirm their faith), but mainly to be a condemnation to those, the majority, who, like Israel in Isaiah's day, reject the sign and the accompanying message. Compare "yet … will they not hear Me" (1Co 14:21). "Sign" is often used for a condemnatory sign (Eze 4:3, 4; Mt 12:39-42). Since they will not understand, they shall not understand.

prophesying … not for them that believe not, but … believe—that is, prophesying has no effect on them that are radically and obstinately like Israel (Isa 28:11, 12), unbelievers, but on them that are either in receptivity or in fact believers; it makes believers of those not wilfully unbelievers (1Co 14:24, 25; Ro 10:17), and spiritually nourishes those that already believe.

Wherefore tongues are for a sign, &c.; that is, an eminent product of Divine providence for the confirmation of the truth of the doctrine of the gospel; signifying that the doctrine which was so delivered in every nation’s language, must be from heaven, from whence the first ministers must have their power so to speak; yet, doubtless, they were not only for a sign, being also a means, by which the knowledge of the gospel was conveyed unto those who could not have understood what the apostles and first ministers of the gospel said, had they not spoken to them in the language of the hearers. When he saith,

prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, the meaning is, not only for them that believe not; for prophesying is certainly of use to them that believe not, for their conversion, as well as

for them that believe, for their edification. Wherefore tongues are for a sign,.... Of wrath and punishment inflicted on a rebellious and unbelieving people, and not of grace and kindness, as prophesying, or speaking to them by the prophets, was; and so this is an inference from what is said in the preceding verse, and shows, that there was no reason why believers should be so very desirous of them. But if these words refer to all that is said before on this subject, the word "sign" may be taken for a miracle; and so a new argument is formed against an over fondness for divers tongues, and the use of them in public worship, showing the preferableness of prophecy to them; for speaking with divers tongues was used in a miraculous way,

not to them that believe; who have no need of miracles to raise their attention to what is said, and that it may gain credit with them, or to confirm their faith in it:

but to them that believe not; to prepare them to listen to what might be suggested to them, when they see the persons speaking were endued with miraculous powers, and to engage their assent to it, and belief of it; and so with such persons, and for such purposes, was the gift of speaking with divers tongues used by the apostles, Acts 2:4 but inasmuch as the Corinthian church consisted of believers, there was no need of such a sign or miracle among them; wherefore, if they desired such gifts, and to make use of them, they should choose to do it, not in the church, but among unbelievers:

but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not; that is, not for them only; for prophesying or explaining the prophetic writings, or preaching the word, may be, and often is, the means of converting unbelievers; yet this is not the only use, nor does it serve for, or administer comfort to unbelievers as such; but is profitable to, and serves

for them which believe: it is for their edification, exhortation, and comfort, 1 Corinthians 14:4 it is the means of building them up on their most holy faith; of quickening and stirring them up to the exercise of grace, and performance of duty; of comforting them under various distresses, inward and outward; and of establishing, strengthening, and settling them, and therefore much more eligible to be used in a church of Christ, than speaking with tongues.

{10} Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

(10) The conclusion: therefore the gift of tongues serves to punish the unfaithful and unbelievers, unless it is referred to prophecy (that is to say, to the interpretation of scripture) and that what is spoken is by the means of prophecy is understood by the hearers.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 14:22. Ὥστε] Accordingly, namely, in accordance with this οὐδʼ οὕτως εἰσακούσ. μου.

εἰς σημεῖον κ.τ.λ.] The phenomenon of the speaking with tongues is destined for a (divine) sign, not for the believers, but for the unbelievers, i.e. to make those to whom the glossolalia goes forth be recognised as unbelievers. This view alone corresponds to the express οὐδʼ οὕτως εἰσακούσ. μου from which the inference is drawn, as well as to what is further inferred in 1 Corinthians 14:23. At variance, on the other hand, with both stands the interpretation which has been the ordinary one since Chrysostom (and which has hitherto been my own), that the speaking with tongues is called a sign for the unbelievers, because it was intended to arrest and move them so that they should reflect and become believers. Equally unsuitable is it that Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others, including Hofmann, only half carry out this traditional interpretation, and stop short at the impression of something astounding and amazing, whereby the γλῶσσαι are to be a σημεῖον to the unbelievers, which, moreover, in presence of the notion of a divine σημεῖον, could only appear as a means to an ulterior end. We must keep the οὐδʼ οὕτως εἰσακούσ. μου sharply before us in order to determine accurately the notion of the σημεῖον κ.τ.λ. Billroth, moreover (comp. Beza, Vatablus, Calovius, Cornelius a Lapide, and others), is in error in holding that σημεῖον is a penal sign, or a sign of divine judgment; comp. also Hilgenfeld, p. 21; Rossteuscher, p. 77. This, in fact, is not at all implied in 1 Corinthians 14:21, where, on the contrary, the glossolalia appears as a last extraordinary measure remaining likewise without result, which will at length make full exposure of the disobedience of the persons in question, but not as a sign of wrath. And had Paul thought of irae signum, he must have expressed the irae too, and, in fact, brought it emphatically forward.[13] Again Storr, Flatt, Baur, and Dav. Schulz (Geistesg. pp. 78, 176) are wrong in saying that the prevalence of the glossolalia in the church was a sign of their unbelief. This is unsuitable for this reason, that according to 1 Corinthians 14:21; 1 Corinthians 14:23 we are to conceive as the ἄπιστοι not those who speak γλώσσαις, but those who are spoken to in γλ.

τοῖς ἀπίστοις] Dative of the reference in view, as is also τοῖς πιστεύουσιν. The conception of the ἄπιστοι, however, is, by virtue of this very antithesis (and see also 1 Corinthians 14:23-24), simply the non-believing, the unbelievers,—a conception which is neither to be softened down to that of non-genuine Christians or the like (Flatt, David Schulz), nor intensified to that of obstinate unbelievers, those wholly unsusceptible of faith, infideles privative (Neander, Billroth, Rückert). Hirzel in the Stud. u. Krit. 1840, p. 120 ff. (who is followed in substance by de Wette, Osiander, Maier, Engelmann, and see Bengel’s hints of earlier date), understands by the ἀπίστοις those who do not wish to believe, and by the πιστεύουσιν those who wish to believe.[14] Comp. de Wette: “They are not heard by such as let themselves be moved thereby to believe, but by such as remain unbelieving.” This is conclusively negatived by the prevailing use of οἱ πιστεύοντες and οἱ ἄπιστοι, to which any such artificial pregnancy of meaning is quite alien (see immediately, 1 Corinthians 14:23-24).

ἡ δὲ προφητεία κ.τ.λ.] a contrast, which is not intended to be inferred from that passage of Scripture,—which in truth says nothing whatever about the προφητεύειν,—but the truth of which was self-evident to the readers in virtue of an argumentum e contrario. We are not, however, to supply the simple ἐστί, so that the meaning would be: not to the unbelievers, but to the believers, is the prophetic address to be directed (my own view hitherto), but rather εἰς σημεῖόν ἐστιν, for Paul has not written ἐστιν at all, and therefore leaves the predicate of the first half of the verse to operate still in virtue of the antithesis. Consequently: prophecy is designed to be a sign not for the unbelievers, but for the believers, i.e. in order to make those to whom the prophetic address is directed known as believers; see 1 Corinthians 14:24, where this statement of the apostle is verified by the fact that such as come into the Christian assembly as unbelievers, being won over by the overpowering impression of the prophetic addresses, submit themselves to Christianity and declare themselves believers. Erasmus, Grotius, and Bleek are wrong in holding that οὐ means non tantum. The negation is absolute, as in the preceding clause. Comp. Fritzsche, ad Matth. p. 784. According to Hirzel (de Wette and Osiander), the meaning here also is alleged to be: prophecy is given not for such as do not wish to believe, but for such as wish to believe.

[13] According to Billroth’s view, namely, Paul warns the Corinthians that they should not thoughtlessly foster among themselves a thing which is called in the O. T. a sign of punishment. Comp. Beza and Cornelius a Lapide, also Calovius. Upon this view, Paul must have absolutely disapproved of the glossolalia. It would have been a tempting of God by the abuse of a divine sign of curse.

[14] Hofmann also understands by τοῖς ἀπίστοις those indisposed to believe. As if Paul would not have known how to express this conception! Hofmann even conceives two classes to be comprehended under τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, namely, those already standing in faith and those who are becoming believers, and holds that on this account Paul did not write τοῖς πιστοῖς. As if οἱ πιστεύοντες were not with the apostle quite the usual expression for the believers (1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 3:22; Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:22; Ephesians 1:19, al.), who are such, but not for those, or so as to include those, who are only becoming such. The πιστεύοντες are not at all different from the πιστοῖς (2 Corinthians 6:15; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2).1 Corinthians 14:22. The real point of the above citation from Isaiah comes out in ὥστε αἱ γλῶσσαι εἰς σημεῖόν κ.τ.λ., “And so the tongues are for a sign not to the believing, but to the unbelievers”—sc. to “those who will not hear,” who having rejected other modes of instruction find their unbelief confirmed, and even justified (1 Corinthians 14:23 b), by this phenomenon. This interpretation (cf. Matthew 16:4; and for εἰς σημεῖον in the judicial sense, Isaiah 8:18) is dictated by the logical connexion of 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, which forbids the thought of a convincing and saving sign, read into this passage by Cm[2130] and many others. P. desires to quench rather than stimulate the Cor[2131] ardour for Tongues.—ἡ δὲ προφητεία κ.τ.λ., “while prophecy on the other hand” (δέ) serves the opposite purpose—it “(is for a sign) not to the unbelievers, but to the believing”. οἱ πιστεύοντες implies the act continued into a habit (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21); οἱ ἄπιστοι, the determinate character. For ὥστε with ind[2132], see note on 1 Corinthians 3:7.

[2130] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[2131] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[2132] indicative mood.22. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not] The passage here quoted has been regarded as a prophecy either (1) of the Day of Pentecost, or (2) of the Babylonish captivity. The latter is more probable, and in that case it becomes not an argument, but an illustration. The occupation of Judæa by the Assyrian and Babylonian troops had been a sign to God’s people of their unbelief and its punishment, and the unwonted speech they had been doomed to hear was to them a call to repentance, especially when viewed in the light of the prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:49. In a similar manner the miraculous gift of tongues was still (see next verse), as at the Day of Pentecost, a call to the outside world to examine and inquire into this new thing which had come to pass, to acknowledge in it the finger of God, and to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” Cf. Acts 2:7-12; Acts 2:41.1 Corinthians 14:22. Εἰς σημεῖον) for a sign, by which unbelievers may be allured and hear [give ear to] the word; but οὐδʼ οὕτως, not even thus do they hear [alluding to Isaiah 28:12, see last note].—εἰσὶν, have their existence) The accent has the effect of making the word emphatic.—ἡ δὲ προφητεία, but prophecy) namely, is for a sign, or simply is; comp. 1 Corinthians 6:3.—τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, to them that believe) This must be taken as an instance of the figure Amplificatio;[126] inasmuch as prophecy makes believers of unbelievers; the speaking tongue leaves the unbeliever to himself [still an unbeliever]. The expression of Paul is indefinite. Unbelievers, generally, when tongues fall upon them, continue to be unbelievers, but prophecy makes believers of unbelievers, and gives spiritual nourishment to them, that believe.

[126] See Append. The taking of the denomination of a thing, not so much from what it now is, as from what it is about to be. As here, “Prophecy is a sign to those who thereby are made believers.” This seems Bengel’s meaning.—ED.Verse 22. - Wherefore. In accordance with this illustration. Not to them that believe. Because their belief depends on other and far deeper grounds. Serveth. This word is wrongly supplied; it should be, is for a sign. Not for them that believe not. Because there is nothing necessarily startling in preaching. It might, indeed, produce conviction in the unbelieving (ver. 25), but it was not a special "sign" "The unbelieving" are those who used to drop in at the Christian services out of curiosity.
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