1 Corinthians 14:23
If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
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(23) If therefore.—Intended, as tongues were, for a “sign,” they cease to be thus useful if not properly employed. The report of the strange utterances which take place in the assembled Church may lead some unbeliever to come there: but if there be tongues alone, and they uninterpreted, the stranger will simply think those present are mad. (See Acts 2:13.) It is not meant here that all commence shouting out at the same time, neither is it in the next verse that all prophesy simultaneously; but the thought presented is the undue and exclusive cultivation of this gift by all in the Corinthian Church.

1 Corinthians 14:23-25. Yet sometimes prophecy is of more use even to unbelievers than speaking with tongues. For instance: if the whole church be come together — On some extraordinary occasion; (it is probable in so large a city they ordinarily met in several places;) and all — That are endowed with such a gift; speak with tongues — One in one language, and another in another; and there come in those that are unlearned — Persons ignorant of those languages; men of learning might possibly have understood the tongues in which they spake; or unbelievers — Heathen, who are strangers to these dealings of God with his church; will they not say ye are mad — When they see the confusion you make by speaking languages which no one present understands? “This is not contrary to what is said 1 Corinthians 14:22, that the speaking in foreign languages was a sign to convince unbelievers. For the unbelievers to be convinced by that sign, were such strangers as understood the language in which they were addressed; whereas the unbelievers and unlearned persons, who considered the speaking of foreign languages as an effect of madness, were those strangers who did not understand them.” — Macknight. But if all prophesy — Expound the word of God, or discourse by turns on divine things; and there come in one that believeth not — One who did not before believe; or one unlearned — Acquainted with no language but that in which the discourses are delivered; he is convinced — Rather, convicted, by all who thus speak in succession, and speak to the hearts of the hearers; he is judged of all — Every one says something to which his conscience bears witness. And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest — Laid open, clearly described in a manner which to him is most astonishing and utterly unaccountable; insomuch, that although he perhaps came into your assembly out of mere curiosity, or with some ill design, he is not able to command himself under the impression which the word of God thus spoken makes upon him; and so falling down — Under the power of it; on his face — To the ground; he will worship — That one living and true God — Whose people you are, and to whose truth you thus bear witness; and report — Declare to others; that God is among you of a truth — How many instances of this kind are seen at this day, in places where the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is faithfully preached! So does God still give point and efficacy to the word of his grace!

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.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 honor 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 Acts 2:13.

23. whole … all … tongues—The more there are assembled, and the more that speak in unknown tongues, the more will the impression be conveyed to strangers "coming in" from curiosity ("unbelievers"), or even from a better motive ("unlearned"), that the whole body of worshippers is a mob of fanatical "madmen"; and that "the Church is like the company of builders of Babel after the confusion of tongues, or like the cause tried between two deaf men before a deaf judge, celebrated in the Greek epigram" [Grotius].

unlearned—having some degree of faith, but not gifts [Bengel].

Be come together into one place; the phrase signifieth to one place, or for one and the same work; the first seemeth to be meant here by what followeth.

And all speak with tongues: some think that the apostle here, by all speaking with tongues, understands all, or many of them, confusedly talking together; and indeed that is an error we shall find the apostle afterward reflecting upon them for; but here I do not think it is intended, but only, many of you, one after another, because of what the apostle speaketh of prophesying, 1 Corinthians 14:24. For if all prophesied in that sense, talking at the same time together confusedly, and unbelievers came in and heard, they would also, instead of being convinced, say they were mad.

And there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers; those that are heathens, or that did not understand the language you discoursed in.

Will they not say that ye are mad? Would they not say you were men that had lost the use of your reason, to talk to men in a language you yourselves knew they understood nothing of?

If therefore the whole church,.... The whole congregation of believers incorporated together in a Gospel church state, consisting of its officers and private members; the church at Corinth is particularly designed:

be come together in one place; to worship God, to pray unto him, sing his praise, preach and hear the word, as were usually done. Hence may be observed the custom of the primitive churches to meet together, in some certain place, for divine worship; nor did the members of them in common forsake the assembling of themselves together on that account, though it was the evil practice of some of them; the whole church, all the members of it, met together: and it may be seen from hence, that the church, and the place where it met, are two different things:

and all speak with tongues; divers tongues, languages not understood; meaning, not that all that came together spoke with tongues; but that as many as did speak, should they speak with such, and without an interpreter.

And there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers; either private Christians, who, though they have learned Christ, and understand the doctrines of the Gospel, yet are ignorant of languages; or rather the same persons with unbelievers, Heathens that have no knowledge of Christ, nor faith in him, and who also understood no other language but the Greek: if any such persons should come into the place where the church was met together, and should hear him or them that spoke, speak in a language they understood not, and which they were very well assured was equally unknown to the whole congregation, and so could be of no service to them:

will they not say ye are mad? act like men in a frenzy, that have not the use of their reason; since speaking in a strange language to a congregation that know not one word of what is said, is speaking to the air, and to no profit at all to them that hear; and who but a madman would do this? The apostle here argues from the scandal and contempt that would be poured upon them by such a practice; and the rather he mentions this, because it seems as if their governing view was the glory and applause of men, in which, he suggests, they would be sadly disappointed.

{11} If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are {s} unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

(11) Another argument: the gift of tongues without prophecy is not only unprofitable to the faithful, but also hurts very much, both the faithful as well as the unfaithful, who should be won in the public assemblies. For by this means it comes to pass that the faithful seem to others to be mad, much less can the unfaithful be instructed by it.

(s) See Ac 4:13.

1 Corinthians 14:23. What, then, will be the effect of the speaking with tongues, which you all so much desire, upon ungifted persons or unbelievers? If such come into your church when you are assembled together, and get nothing else there to hear from any of you but glossolalia, so far will they be from declaring themselves as believers upon your speaking with tongues, that, on the contrary, they will declare you to be mad.

οὖν] draws an inference from 1 Corinthians 14:22 in such a way that 1 Corinthians 14:23 corresponds to the first, and 1 Corinthians 14:24 f. to the second half of 1 Corinthians 14:22.

πάντες] Paul does not suppose that all those assembled speak together in a confused, tumultuous way (Cornelius a Lapide and others; comp. also Maier), but that all in succession hold glossolaliae, and only such,—not addresses of any other kind. For, if all spoke together and confusedly, even in the case of prophecy it could make no impression (1 Corinthians 14:24).

ἰδιῶται] is not to be understood otherwise than in 1 Corinthians 14:16 : Christians who are not endowed with glossolalia, or with the gift of understanding it. The context, however, shows by the foregoing ἐὰναὐτό that those meant are ungifted persons from any extraneous church, who come into the church at Corinth when in full assembly. Were the stranger who entered not an ungifted person, but one who himself spoke with tongues or interpreted, his judgment respecting the gift which he himself possessed or understood would, of course, not take the same form. All explanations which deviate from the meaning of the word in 1 Corinthians 14:16 are on that very account to be rejected, such as not only that of most of the old interpreters, with Billroth and Chr. F. Fritzsche: “such as do not understand foreign languages,” but also that of Theodoret, David Schulz, Flatt, Olshausen (also Rückert, although with hesitation): “beginners in Christianity;” comp. Pelagius, Thomas, Estius: “nuper credentes, neophyti;” Melanchthon: “rudis qui primum coepit catechismi doctrinam audire,” comp. Neander. Rückert suggests that Paul is supposing the case that the glossolalia should break out somewhere suddenly and for the first time, and there should then come in Christians who knew nothing of it and, not being present, had not been affected by the paroxysm, and non-Christians. But the suggestion is to be dismissed, because there is no mention of the “suddenly and for the first time,” which would in that case be the main thing. Hirzel and de Wette hold erroneously, because in opposition to 1 Corinthians 14:16,[15] and not to be established even by 2 Corinthians 11:6, that the ἰδιῶται are non-Christians (so, too, Ulrich in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 420, and Hofmann), in which case they are in various arbitrary ways distinguished from the ἄπιστοι, namely, by Hirzel[16] asserting that the ἄπ. are heathen, the ἰδ. Jews; by de Wette, that the former were still more aloof from believing than the latter; by Ulrich, that the ἰδ. were persons unacquainted with Christianity, the ἀπ. those acquainted with it indeed, but unbelieving and (Hofmann) hostile towards it. Not the ἰδιῶται, but the ἄπιστοι, are the non-Christians (who are never called ἰδ.), as in 1 Corinthians 14:22. We may add that Grotius remarks rightly: “Solebant enim pagani” (and Jews also) “adire Christianorum ecclesias ad videnda quae ibi agebantur.” Their admission (certainly not to the Agapae, however) was the less a matter for hesitation, since it might become a means of their conversion. Comp. generally, Harnack, Gemeindegottesd. p. 143 ff.

ὅτι μαίνεσθε] that you (Christians in Corinth) are foolish, and out of your senses, because, namely, you collectively and without exception carry on a kind of converse so unintelligible and meaningless for the hearers. Olshausen strangely holds that the verdict expressed is: “We see, doubtless, that you are possessed by a god; but there is no prophet here; we do not understand what the god says to us!” An unwarranted explaining away of the clear import of the word: μαίνεσθαι means insanire, just as in Acts 26:24. The verdict of drunkenness passed by the unbelievers in Acts 2:13 presents a remarkable analogy.

Observe, further: (1) Here ἰδιῶται is put first, and ἄπιστοι follows, because the ἰδιῶται, as Christians, and therefore acquainted with the uselessness and absurdity of the glossolalia without interpretation and to the exclusion of all other (intelligible) discourse, come here into the foreground,[17] and may and will be the first to pass the judgment ὅτι μαίνεσθε; in 1 Corinthians 14:24, on the contrary, ἄπιστος stands first, because conversion is spoken of, and hence “praecipue agitur de infideli; idiota obiter additur ob rationem ejus non plane disparem” (Bengel). (2) In 1 Corinthians 14:23, since Paul designs to cite the judgment in the form of an utterance (ἐροῦσιν), which is most naturally conceived of by him as a mutual communication, the plural εἰσέλθωσι κ.τ.λ. presented itself with as much appropriateness as the singular εἰσέλθῃ κ.τ.λ. does in 1 Corinthians 14:24, where the apostle wishes to depict specially the converting work, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, in its course, which, from the nature of the case, is done most befittingly in an individualizing representation.

[15] For in ver. 23 and ver. 16 the conception of ἰδιῶται is determined by a like context—namely, by the same contrast to those gifted with the glossolalia. This we remark in opposition to Hirzel, Ulrich, Hofmann, who assume that ver. 16 cannot regulate the explanation of ἰδιώτης in ver. 23 f.

[16] Comp. van Hengel, Gave d. talen, p. 94.

[17] ἢ ἄπιστοι is omitted in B, because it might appear unsuitable. Buttmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1860, p. 370, believes that it has crept in from ver. 24. But in that case ἄπιστοι would have been prefixed (so only Ambrosiaster).

1 Corinthians 14:23 shows the disastrous impression which the exercise of the Tongues, carried to its full extent, must make upon men outside—a result that follows (οὖν) from the aforesaid intention of the gift (1 Corinthians 14:22): “If then the entire Church should assemble together and all should be speaking with tongues, but there should enter uninstructed persons or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad!” If the Tongues are, as many Cor[2133] think, the highest manifestation of the Spirit, then to have the whole Church simultaneously so speaking would be the ne plus ultra of spiritual power; but, in fact, the Church would then resemble nothing so much as a congregation of lunatics! A reductio ad absurdum for the fanatical coveters of Tongues.—The ἰδιῶται (here unqualified: otherwise in 16; cf note) are persons unacquainted with Christianity (altogether uninitiated) and receiving their first impression of it in this way, whereas the ἄπιστοι are rejectors of the faith. The impression made upon either party will be the same. The effect here imagined is altogether diff[2134] from that of the Day of Pentecost, when the “other tongues” spoke intelligibly to those religiously susceptible amongst non-believers (Acts 2:11 ff.). The imputation of madness from men of the world P. earnestly deprecates (Acts 26:24 f.).—Ed[2135] renders ἰδιῶται “separatists”—unattached Christians; but this interpretation wants lexical support, and is out of keeping with 1 Corinthians 14:16 : did any such class of Christians then exist?

[2133] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[2134] difference, different, differently.

[2135] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

23. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place] ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. The usual word for the place of assembly, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 2:1. However well calculated the gift of tongues might be to arrest and compel attention when used properly, it is clear, says the Apostle, that its introduction at the public assemblies of the Church was not a proper use of it, unless (1 Corinthians 14:27) it were restricted in its use by wise rules. It not so restricted, so far from its being a sign to unbelievers, it would give them, as well as the great body of the Christian laity, occasion of complaint, and even ridicule.

all] Not necessarily all together, as some have supposed, but that no other means of communication was adopted by any but the unknown tongue. Meyer.

1 Corinthians 14:23. Ὅλη ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ, the whole into one place) That was a rare, occurrence in so large a city.—εἰσέλθωσι δὲ, and there come in) as strangers or even from curiosity.—ἰδιῶται, unlearned) men who have some degree of faith, but do not abound in gifts. There follows by gradation, or unbelievers, who did not so readily come in, and yet were not debarred. In this verse Paul speaks in the plural, in the following in the singular. Many bad men, when together, prevent one another from believing by their bad conversation; individuals are more easily gained.—ὅτι μαίνεσθε, that ye are mad) For they will not be able to distinguish that earnestness from madness; hence they will speak to your prejudice; comp. Acts 2:13.

Verse 23. - All speak with tongues. He does not necessarily mean that all are speaking at once; though, amid these strange scenes of self-asserting enthusiasm, even that was not wholly impossible; but he means, "if there be nothing, going on except glossolaly." Will they not say that ye are mad? This has often been the actual impression produced by these phenomena upon those who stand aloof from the spiritual influences which cause them. On the day of Pentecost the exaltation of the disciples caused mockers to charge them with drunken exhilaration (Acts 2:13). 1 Corinthians 14:23
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