1 Corinthians 14:4
He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church.
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(4) He that speaketh in an unknown tongue.—Better, He that speaketh in a tongue. The introduction of the word “unknown” destroys the whole force of the passage. All tongues—as distinct from languages—were unknown, i.e., unintelligible. The gift of prophecy is superior in usefulness to that of tongues, and therefore to be preferred. The use of the word “edify,” as applied to an individual solely, as distinct from the individual as a part of the whole Church, is unusual with St. Paul (see Note on 1Corinthians 8:1), but is introduced so as to make the antithesis verbally as well as logically more striking.

14:1-5 Prophesying, that is, explaining Scripture, is compared with speaking with tongues. This drew attention, more than the plain interpretation of Scripture; it gratified pride more, but promoted the purposes of Christian charity less; it would not equally do good to the souls of men. What cannot be understood, never can edify. No advantage can be reaped from the most excellent discourses, if delivered in language such as the hearers cannot speak or understand. Every ability or possession is valuable in proportion to its usefulness. Even fervent, spiritual affection must be governed by the exercise of the understanding, else men will disgrace the truths they profess to promote.Edifieth himself - That is, the truths which are communicated to him by the Spirit, and which he utters in an unknown language, may be valuable, and may be the means of strengthening his faith, and building him up in the hopes of the gospel, but they can he of no use to others. His own holy affections might be excited by the truths which he would deliver, and the consciousness of possessing miraculous powers might excite his gratitude. And yet, as Doddridge has well remarked, there might be danger that a man might be injured by this gift when exercised in this ostentatious manner. 4. edifieth himself—as he understands the meaning of what the particular "tongue" expresses; but "the church," that is, the congregation, does not. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; knowledge or understanding of the things that any man speaketh, is necessary to the improvement of them, by their being a means to promote faith and love; for how shall what men say in the least promote, either my faith in God or Christ, or my love to him, if I understand not what they say?

How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? Romans 10:14. So that, though he that speaketh in an unknown tongue may (if he understand what he says) have his own heart affected with what he saith, yet it is not possible he should affect another.

But he that prophesieth edifieth the church; but he that preacheth in an intelligible language and style to all that hear him, he doth what in him lieth to edify all those that hear him. He that speaketh its an unknown tongue,.... Be it the Hebrew language, or any other; some copies, and the Ethiopic version, read, "with tongues":

edifieth himself; his heart may be warmed, his affections raised, his devotion kept up, and he be in a very spiritual and comfortable frame, knowing and understanding what he himself says:

but he that prophesieth, edifieth the church: which is the great end of the Gospel ministry, which is for the edifying the body of the church: wherefore that which tends to the edification of more, even the whole church, must be preferable to that, which at most can only edify one, and that the speaker himself.

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the {e} church.

(e) The company.

1 Corinthians 14:4. Difference between the relations of the two in respect of the just mentioned οἰκοδομή.

ἑαυτόν] in so far, namely, as he not merely believes that he feels (Wetstein), but really does feel in himself the edifying influence of what he utters. This does not presuppose such an understanding of what he utters as could be communicated to others, but it does assume an impression on the whole of a devout and elevating, although mystical kind, experienced in his own spiri.

ἐκκλησ.] a church, without the article, an assembly.1 Corinthians 14:4. “He that speaks with a tongue edifies himself, but he that prophesies edifies a church (assembly)”—not one but many persons, not himself but a whole community. The impression made on the γλωσσολαλῶν by his utterance, since it was delivered in a rapture and without clear conception (1 Corinthians 14:12 ff.), must have been vague; but it powerfully confirmed his faith, since it left an abiding sense of possession by the Spirit of God (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-10). Our deepest feelings frequently enter the mind below the surface consciousness.4. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself] Not necessarily because he understands what he is saying, but because his spirit, stirred up by the Spirit of God, is led by the experience of the inward emotion to praise God. Estius. See 1 Corinthians 14:14.

but he that prophesieth edifieth the church] The profit of the brethren is ever St Paul’s object. Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 14:12; ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12, &c. Prophecy is to be preferred to the gift of tongues because it is more directly useful. See note, ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28.1 Corinthians 14:4. Ἐαυτὸν, himself) understanding the meaning of what the tongue speaks.—ἐκκλησίαν, the church) the whole congregation.Verse 4. - Edifieth himself. When the "tongue" was genuine, and under due control (ver. 32); when it avoided the physical and orgiastic manifestations by which a sort of spiritual possession was indicated in the ancient oracular shrines; when the self consciousness was not wholly obliterated, - a sense of ennobling conviction would be produced by this spiritual outpouring. Those who have experienced the emotion describe this very result. They felt enlarged and elevated - their whole being was for a time expanded - by this emotion. The Church. Primarily the body of assembled Christians which he is addressing, and through them the Church of God in general.
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