1 Corinthians 14:32
And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(32) The spirits of the prophets . . .—They might have said it was impossible to carry out St. Paul’s instructions; that the rushing Spirit of God overcame them—shook them, so that they could not control themselves. To this St. Paul replies (1Corinthians 14:31; see above) that it is not so; that they can prophesy one by one; that the spirits of the prophets are under the control of the prophets.

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.And the spirits of the prophets - See in 1 Corinthians 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 Spirit; 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 pagan, 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 pagan world, the priests and priestesses supposed or feigned 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 special in his mode of thinking, his style, or his customary manner of expression.

32. And—following up the assertion in 1Co 14:31, "Ye can (if ye will) prophesy one by one," that is, restrain yourselves from speaking all together; "and the spirits of the prophets," that is, their own spirits, acted on by the Holy Spirit, are not so hurried away by His influence, as to cease to be under their own control; they can if they will hear others, and not demand that they alone should be heard uttering communications from God. By the spirits of the prophets the apostle either meaneth their spiritual gifts, as to the use and exercise of them, and the actions to be done by them; or, the actions themselves, or interpretations pretendedly done and given by the exercise of those gifts, their doctrines; or, that instinct, or impetus, by which they pretend themselves to be moved to prophesy: these (he saith)

are subject to the prophets themselves, so as they may themselves govern their gifts, or (which most think is the rather here intended) they are subject to the judgment and censure of others that are endued with the same gift. But here ariseth a difficulty, how the gifts of the Holy Spirit, flowing immediately from the Spirit, should be subject to any human judgment or censure? This indeed they could not, if the Divine revelation to this or that man were full and perfect, and ran as clearly in the stream always, as it was in the fountain. But God giveth his Spirit to us but by measure, and in the exercise of our gifts there is always aliquid humani, something of our own; and this maketh them subject to the prophets, viz. whether what they pretended to have from the Spirit of God were indeed from it, yea or no? Prophets were obliged to prophesy, Romans 12:6, but according to the analogy of faith: now, whether they did so or not, might be judged by other prophets, according to that rule. Others think this text is to be interpreted restrainedly, viz. as to this thing in this matter of plain, natural order, commanding, while one speaks, all the rest to hold their peace. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Meaning either that the doctrines which the prophets deliver, the explanations they give of passages of Scriptures, the revelations they declare, are subject to the examination, judgment, and censure of other prophets; who have a right to try and judge them, either according to a more clear revelation they may have, or rather according to the sure word of prophecy, the Scriptures of truth; and indeed they are subject to the trial and judgment of the whole church, and therefore ought not to be stiff in their own sentiments, and obstinately persist in them, but cheerfully and readily submit them to be examined, and approved or disapproved by others; and particularly when one that sits by signifies he has something revealed to him, which will better explain, or give further light into what the speaker is upon, he ought to submit and give way to him; and thereby truth may be made manifest and established, instruction, edification, and comfort promoted, and peace and order preserved: or else the sense is, that the spiritual gifts of the prophets, and the inspirations and instincts by which they are acted, and the affections which are excited in them, are subject to themselves, so that they can use, or not use those gifts; though they have the word of the Lord they can forbear speaking, as Jeremy did, for a while, and as the case of Jonah shows; or they can refrain themselves and be silent, and wait till they have proper opportunity of speaking, being not like the prophets of false gods, who are acted by an evil spirit, and observe no order or decorum, but with a sort of fury and madness deliver involuntarily what is suggested to them: but such is not the case of true prophets that are influenced and directed by the Spirit of God, who will give way to one another; one will be silent while the other speaks, and by turns prophesy one after another; and where there is not such a subjection, it is a sign that the Spirit of God is not in them, for the reason that follows. And the {t} spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

(t) The doctrine which the prophets bring, who are inspired with God's Spirit.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 14:32. The second part of the establishment of the precept (γάρ, 1 Corinthians 14:31). And prophets’ spirits are obedient to prophets. The indicative presents the normal relationship as it is, not as it ought to be (Olshausen and others).

πνεύματα προφ.] cannot be workings of the Divine Spirit in the prophets (Chrysostom, Erasmus, Estius, and others, including Flatt, comp. de Wette), nor does it mean the spirits which the prophets have received, so that the one πνεῦμα appears as if divided among them (Rückert), or created angelic spirits in the service of the Holy Spirit (Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. p. 307), or even actually several Holy Spirits (Hilgenfeld; see, however, on 1 Corinthians 14:12); but (comp. the genitival relation, 1 Corinthians 14:14) it is the prophets’ own spirits, filled, however, by the Holy Spirit. Persons prophetically inspired are, as such, raised to a higher spiritual potency, and have prophets’ spirits. Comp. Revelation 22:6, and Düsterdieck in loc. But their free-will is not thereby taken away, nor does the prophetic address become something involuntary, like a Bacchantic enthusiasm; no, prophets’ spirits stand in obedience to prophets; he who is a prophet has the power of will over his spirit, which makes the ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω in 1 Corinthians 14:30[20] possible; ἐπὶ τοῖς προφήταις ἐστὶ τὸ σιγᾶν ἢ λαλεῖν, Theophylact. Comp. Hofmann in loc., and Schriftbew. I. p. 312. Others, again (Theophylact gives both interpretations alongside of each other), refer προφήταις to other prophets: τὸ ἔν σοι χάρισμαὑποτάσσεται τῷ χαρίσματι τοῦ ἑτέρου τοῦ κινηθέντος εἰς τὸ προφητεύειν, Theophylact. So Theodoret, Calvin, Calovius, Estius, Rosenmüller, and others, including Heydenreich, Bleek, Rückert, and Ritschl, altkath. K. p. 473. But if Paul had conceived of the prophet’s becoming silent as conditioned by the will of another, and so objectively,—which the expression, taken simply in itself, might imply,—then plainly his admonition ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω would be entirely superfluous. He must, on the contrary, have conceived of it as conditioned subjectively by the will of the subjects themselves who spoke; and with this our view alone accords, which is found in as early expositors as Origen, Jerome, and Oecumenius.

The absence of the article in the case of all the three words depends upon the fact that the relation is conceived not in concreto, but generically.

Observe, further, the strict, measured form of expression, πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις, which is designed not simply for rhetorical emphasis, but for definiteness and clearness of meaning, separating the prophets’ spirits from the subjects who have them. Αὐτοῖς would not have marked this so strongly.

[20] Comp. Luther in the gloss: “They should and may well give place, since the gifts of the Spirit stand under their control, not to use them in opposition to unity, so that they may not say that the Spirit drives and compels them.”1 Corinthians 14:32. The maxim πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται, is coupled by καὶ to 1 Corinthians 14:31 under the regimen of γάρ; it gives the subjective, as 1 Corinthians 14:31 the main objective, reason why the prophets should submit to regulation. “How can I prophesy to order?” one of them might ask; “how restrain the Spirit’s course in me?” The Ap. replies: “(for) also the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”; this Divine gift is put under the control and responsibility of the possessor’s will, that it may be exercised with discretion and brotherly love, for its appointed ends. An unruly prophet is therefore no genuine prophet; he lacks one of the necessary marks of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (see 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:37). This kind of subjection could hardly be ascribed to the ecstatic Glossolalia. On the pl[2164] πνεύματα, signifying manifold forms or distributions (1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:11) of the Spirit’s power, see note on 1 Corinthians 12:10.—ὑποτάσσεται is the pr[2165] of a general truth: “a Gnomic Present” (Bn[2166], § 12); cf. 1 Corinthians 3:13, 2 Corinthians 9:7.

[2164] plural.

[2165] present tense.

[2166] E. Burton’s Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in the N.T. (1894).32. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets] The possession of a special gift from on high has, from Montanus in the second century down to our own times, been supposed to confer on its possessor an immunity from all control, whether exercised by himself or others, and to entitle him to immediate attention to the exclusion of every other consideration whatsoever. St Paul, on the contrary, lays down the rule that spiritual, like all other gifts, are to be under the dominion of the reason, and may, like all other gifts, be easily misused. A holy self-restraint, even in the use of the highest gifts, must characterize the Christian. If a man comes into the assembly inspired to speak in an unknown tongue, the impulse is to be steadily repressed, unless there is a certainty that what is said can be interpreted, so that those present may understand it. If he comes into the assembly possessed with some overmastering idea, he must keep it resolutely back until such time as he can give it vent without prejudice to Christian order, without injury to that which must be absolutely the first consideration in all public addresses—the edification of the flock. Estius justly remarks that the difference between God’s prophets and those inspired by evil spirits is to be found in the fact that the latter are rapt by madness beyond their own control, and are unable to be silent if they will. And Robertson illustrates by a reference to modern forms of fanaticism the truth that “uncontrolled religious feeling” is apt to “overpower both reason and sense.”1 Corinthians 14:32. Καὶ) and indeed; so καὶ, 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 3:4.—πνεύματα προφητῶν, the spirits of the prophets) The abstract for the concrete, the prophets, even while they are acted upon (under the Divine impulse).—προφήταις, to the prophets) He does not say, to the spirits of the prophets.—ὑποτάσσεται, are subject) not that a prophet would for the sake of another deny or cast away the truth of his prophecy; 1 Kings 13:17, etc.: for the word of prophecy is above the prophets, 1 Corinthians 14:37; but that he should not demand that he alone should be heard, but should do his endeavour to hear others also, while they are speaking, and should learn from them, what communications they have received [from God] in preference to himself: subjection is shown by keeping silence and learning,[128] 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, [1 Timothy 2:12]. Every act of teaching involves a degree of absolute authority [authentiam]: they are subject, he says; not merely they ought to be subject. The Spirit of God teaches the prophets this.

[128] This is the translation according to the printing of the London Ed., 1855; but according to the Tubingen Ed., 1773, and the Berlin Ed., 1855, which were afterwards consulted, the translation is as follows:—“But not to demand that he alone should be heard, but to endeavour to hear others also, while they are speaking, and to learn from them what they have received more than he himself, is the subjection of a man who is silent and is learning.”—T.Verse 32. - And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Into this golden aphorism St. Paul compresses the whole force of his reasoning. The articles are better omitted: "Spirits of prophets are under the control of prophets." Mantic inspirations, the violent possession which threw sibyls and priestesses into contortions - the foaming lip and streaming hair and glazed or glaring eye - have no place in the self-controlling dignity of Christian inspiration. Even Jewish prophets, in the paroxysm of emotion, might lie naked on the ground and rave (1 Samuel 19:24); but the genuine inspiration in Christian ages never obliterates the self consciousness or overpowers the reason; It abhors the hysteria and simulation and frenzy which have sometimes disgraced revivalism and filled lunatic asylums. The spirits

The movements and manifestations of the divine Spirit in the human spirit, as in 1 Corinthians 12:10.

Are subject

"People speak as if the divine authority of the prophetic word were somehow dependent on, or confirmed by, the fact that the prophets enjoyed visions.... In the New Testament Paul lays down the principle that, in true prophecy, self-consciousness, and self-command are never lost. 'The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets'" (W. Robertson Smith, "The Prophets of Israel").

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