1 Corinthians 14:29
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Let the prophets speak.—Here follows the application, to those who had the gift of prophecy, of the general principle, Let all be done to edification. Only two or three prophets are to speak in each assembly on each occasion; the others (not “other,” as in English version) who had the gift are to sit by silent and judging, i.e., determining whether the utterances were from the Spirit of God. (See 1Corinthians 12:3, and 1John 4:1-3.) If, however, while one prophet was standing speaking there came a sudden revelation of truth to some other prophet who was sitting by, the speaker would pause, and the other prophet give utterance to the inspiration which had come to him. The suddenness of the revelation would show that it was a truth needed there and then, and so should find utterance without delay.

1 Corinthians 14:29-33. Let the prophets speak — In succession; two or three — And not more, at one meeting; and let the others judge — And compare one doctrine with another for the further improvement of all. Or, the sense may be, Let the others, who have the gift of discerning spirits, διακρινετωσαν, discern whether they have spoken by inspiration or by private suggestion. If any thing be revealed to another — If to another, who sitteth by, hearing a prophet speak, any thing be revealed, let the first finish his discourse and be silent, before the other attempts to speak. For in this way ye may all prophesy — Who have that gift; one by one — That is, one after another; that all may learn — Both by speaking and by hearing; which you could not do if many were speaking at once. The apostle supposes here, that when a spiritual man was speaking in the church by inspiration, something relating to the same, or to a different subject, might be revealed to another prophet who was sitting by, hearing him. In such a case, the rule to be observed was, the first was to be silent, that is, was to finish what he had to say before the other began to speak, as is plain from the reason of the rule given in the next verse. For the spirits of the prophets — Or the spiritual gifts bestowed on them, as the word

πνευματα is rendered, 1 Corinthians 14:12, and ought certainly to have been rendered here; are subject to the prophets — the meaning of the apostle is, that the impulses of the Holy Spirit, even in men really inspired, so suited themselves to their rational faculties, as not to divest them of the government of themselves, as was the case with the heathen priests and priestesses under their diabolical possessions; whom evil spirits often threw into such ungovernable ecstasies, as forced them to speak and act like mad persons. “Few of them,” says Bishop Potter, (Antiq., 1 Corinthians 2:12,) “that pretended to inspiration, but raged after this manner, foaming and yelling, and making a strange, terrible noise, sometimes gnashing their teeth, shivering and trembling, with a thousand antic motions. In short these rapti and Deo pleni, (persons enrapt and full of the god,) were beside themselves, and absolutely mad during the time of their inspirations.” But the Spirit of God left his prophets the clear use of their judgment, when and how long it was fit for them to speak, and never hurried them into any improprieties, either as to the matter, manner, or time of their speaking. Let all enthusiasts consider this! For God is not the author of confusion — Greek, ακαταστασιας, of disorder and disturbance; but of peace — And regularity; as in all the churches of the saints — As is practised in all the churches elsewhere. “How often,” says Dr. A. Clarke, “is the work of God marred and discredited by the folly of men! for nature will always, and Satan too, mingle themselves, as far as they can, in the genuine work of the Spirit, in order to discredit and destroy it. Nevertheless, in great revivals of religion, it is almost impossible to prevent wild fire from getting in among true fire: but it is the duty of the ministers of God to watch against and prudently check this; but if themselves encourage it, then there will be confusion and every evil work.”14:26-33 Religious exercises in public assemblies should have this view; Let all be done to edifying. As to the speaking in an unknown tongue, if another were present who could interpret, two miraculous gifts might be exercised at once, and thereby the church be edified, and the faith of the hearers confirmed at the same time. As to prophesying, two or three only should speak at one meeting, and this one after the other, not all at once. The man who is inspired by the Spirit of God will observe order and decency in delivering his revelations. God never teaches men to neglect their duties, or to act in any way unbecoming their age or station.Let the prophets - See the note at 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Speak two or three - On the same days, or at the same meeting; see the note at 1 Corinthians 14:27.

And let the other judge - The word "other" (οἱ ἄλλοι hoi 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 the note at Acts 17:11; compare 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

29. two or three—at one meeting (he does not add "at the most," as in 1Co 14:27, lest he should seem to "quench prophesyings," the most edifying of gifts), and these "one by one," in turn (1Co 14:27, "by course," and 1Co 14:31). Paul gives here similar rules to the prophets, as previously to those speaking in unknown tongues.

judge—by their power of "discerning spirits" (1Co 12:10), whether the person prophesying was really speaking under the influence of the Spirit (compare 1Co 12:3; 1Jo 4:13).

That is, two or three successively, the one beginning to speak when the others have done, and two or three at the same church assembly; and if there be more present, let them sit still and judge of the truth of what he saith. Let the prophets speak, two or three,.... The apostle having finished the rules for streaking with an unknown tongue, proceeds to lay down some for the gift of prophesying; and observes, that where there are a number of prophets, as very likely there were in the church at Corinth, two or three of them might prophesy, or explain the prophecies of the Old Testament, or preach the Gospel at one opportunity or meeting: he does not use that restrictive clause, "at most", as before, because if there was any necessity or occasion for it, more might be employed, so that care was taken not to burden the people, and send them away loathing; and this they were to do, as before, in course, one after another, otherwise it would be all confusion, nor could they be heard to edification. Though some have thought that they might speak together at one and the same time, in different parts of the church:

and let the other judge: the other prophets that sit and hear, and all such as have a spirit of discerning, whether what the prophets say comes from their own spirits, or from a lying spirit, from the spirit of antichrist, or whether from the Spirit of God; and even the body of the people, private members of the church, and hearers, might judge of the doctrine for themselves, according to the word of God, the standard of faith and practice; and were not to believe every spirit, but try them, whether they were of God, and their doctrines by his word, whether they were true or false; for the spiritual man is in a measure capable of judging all things of a spiritual kind, through that spiritual experience he has of the word of God, and divine things, and by the assistance of the Spirit of God.

{14} Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

(14) The manner of prophesying: let two or three propound, and let the others judge of that which is propounded, whether it is agreeable to the word of God or not. If in this examination the Lord indicates that nothing was wrong, let them give him leave to speak. Let every man be admitted to prophesy, severally and in his order, so far forth as it is required for the edifying of the church. Let them be content to be subject to each other's judgment.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 14:29. Δέ] marks the transition to the rule regarding the prophets.

The ἀνὰ μέρος (1 Corinthians 14:27) is emphasized in a special way, 1 Corinthians 14:30; yet Paul does not add a τὸ πλεῖστον here, thereby limiting the gift of prophecy less sharply, and tacitly also conceding a plurality of speakers, when the circumstances might perhaps involve an exception from the rule. Still we are not (with Hofmann) to read δύο ἢ τρεῖς as meaning “rather three than two.”

Καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρ.] and the other prophets, who do not take part in speaking, are to judge: whether, namely, what has been said proceeds really from the Spirit or not. We see from this that the charisma of judging the spirits was joined with that of prophecy, so that whoever could himself speak prophetically was qualified also for the διάκρισις; for οἱ ἄλλοι (comp. ἄλλῳ, 1 Corinthians 14:30) cannot be taken (with Hofmann) universally, without restriction to the category of prophets, seeing that in fact the διάκρισις was no universal χάρισμα. The article is retrospective, so that it is defined by προφήται. At the same time, however, it must not be overlooked that even such persons as were not themselves prophets might still be endowed with the διάκρισις (1 Corinthians 12:10), although not all were so.1 Corinthians 14:29-30. προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς κ.τ.λ.: “But in the case of prophets, let two or three speak, and let the others discern” (dijudicent, Vg[2159]). In form this sentence varies from the parl[2160] clause respecting the Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:27); see Wr[2161], p. 709, on the frequency of oratio variata in P., due to his vivacity and conversational freedom; the anarthrous προφῆται is quasi-hypothetical, in contrast with γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ—not “the prophets,” but “supposing they (the speakers) be prophets, let them speak, etc.” The number to prophesy at any meeting in limited to “two or three,” like that of the Tongue-speakers; the condition ἀνὼ μέρος (1 Corinthians 14:27) is self-evident, where edification is consciously intended (1 Corinthians 14:3, etc.). “The others” are the other prophets present, who were competent to speak (1 Corinthians 14:31); these silent prophets may employ themselves in the necessary “discernment of spirits” (see 1 Corinthians 12:10)—διακρινέτωσαν, acting as critics of the revelations given through their brethren. The powers of προφητεία and διάκρισις appear to have been frequently combined, like those of artist and art-critic. It is noticed that in the Didaché a contrary instruction to this (and to 1 Thessalonians 5:20 f.) is given: πάντα προφήτην λαλοῦντα ἐν πνεύματι οὐ πειράσετε οὐδὲ διακρινεῖτε.—The above regulation implies pre-arrangement amongst the speakers; but this must not hinder the free movement of the Spirit; if a communication be made ex tempore to a silent prophet, the speaker should give way to him: “But if anything be revealed to another seated” (the prophesier stood, as in Synagogue reading and exhortation: Luke 4:1, Acts 13:16), “let the first be silent”. σιγάτω does not command (as σιγησάτω might) an instant cessation; “some token would probably be given, by motion or gesture, that an ἀποκάλυψις had been vouchsafed to another of the προφῆται; this would be a sign to the speaker to close his address, and to let the newly illumined succeed to him” (El[2162]). Even inspired prophets might speak too long and require to be stopped!

[2159] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[2160] parallel.

[2161] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[2162] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.29. Let the prophets speak two or three] The same rule was to hold good of preaching. Those who felt that they had something to communicate must notwithstanding be governed by the desire to edify their brethren. The Church was not to be wearied out by an endless succession of discourses, good indeed in themselves, but addressed to men who were not in a condition to profit by them. It would seem that two or three short discourses, either in the vernacular, or, if there were any one present who could interpret, in some foreign tongue, took the place in Apostolic times of the modern sermon. “Let the presbyters one by one, not all together, exhort the people, and the Bishop last of all, as the commander.” Apostolical Constitutions (circ. a.d. 250) ii. 57.

and let the other judge] Either (1) the other prophets, or (2) the whole congregation. If the former be the correct interpretation, it refers to the gift of discerning of spirits (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:10). The latter may be defended on the ground that St Paul constantly (ch. 1 Corinthians 10:15, 1 Corinthians 11:13) appeals to the judgment of his disciples, and that he considered (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3, cf. 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27) that all the people of God had the faculty of discerning the spiritual value to themselves of what they heard in the congregation. For the word translated judge see ch. 1 Corinthians 11:29; 1 Corinthians 11:31, and note.1 Corinthians 14:29. Προφῆται δὲ, but let the prophets) An Antithesis to those who speak in an unknown tongue. Prophecy, strictly so called, is opposed to revelation, 1 Corinthians 14:6; prophecy, used in a wider sense, (as well as revelation) is opposed to knowledge: ibid. Again, comprehending knowledge, it is opposed to tongues, 1 Corinthians 14:4.—λαλείτωσαν, let them speak) supply ἀνὰ μέρος, one by one, 1 Corinthians 14:27.—οἱ ἄλλοι, the rest) viz., of the prophets.—διακρινέτωσαν, decide [judge]) even by word of mouth.Verse 29. - Two or three. If more than two or three preached, the congregation would get weary. Let the other judge; rather, let the rest discriminate the value of what is said. "Prophesyings" are not to be despised, but we are only to hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21), and we are "to try the spirits" (1 John 4:1). St. Paul is not encouraging the Corinthians to the consoriousness of conceited and incompetent criticism, but only putting them on their guard against implicit acceptance of all they hear; which was a very necessary caution at a place where so many teachers sprang up. Judge

See on 1 Corinthians 11:29. Referring to the gift of the discernment of spirits. See on 1 Corinthians 12:10.

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