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.
1Co 14:1-25. Superiority of Prophecy over Tongues.
1. Follow after charity—as your first and chief aim, seeing that it is "the greatest" (1Co 13:13).
and desire—Translate, "Yet (as a secondary aim) desire zealously (see on 1Co 12:31) spiritual gifts."
but rather—"but chiefly that ye may prophesy" (speak and exhort under inspiration) (Pr 29:18; Ac 13:1; 1Th 5:20), whether as to future events, that is, strict prophecy, or explaining obscure parts of Scripture, especially the prophetical Scriptures or illustrating and setting forth questions of Christian doctrine and practice. Our modern preaching is the successor of prophecy, but without the inspiration. Desire zealously this (prophecy) more than any other spiritual gift; or in preference to "tongues" (1Co 14:2, &c.) [Bengel].