1 Corinthians 14:14
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) For if I pray in an unknown tongue.—Better, if I pray in a tongue. 1Corinthians 14:14-19 are expressed in the first person (except 1Corinthians 14:16-17, which are a parenthesis), as enforcing the Apostle’s own example. A man praying in a tongue needed the gift of interpretation. The emotions of his spirit, kindled by the Spirit of God, found utterance in a “tongue,” the gift of the Spirit of God; but his intellectual faculty grasped no definite idea, and could not, therefore, formulate it into human language; therefore the prayer which is offered merely in a tongue, from the spirit and not from the understanding, is useless as regards others. The Apostle is here speaking of public worship (see 1Corinthians 14:16), and not of private devotion; and the word “fruitless” implies the result, or rather the absence of result, as regards others.

14:6-14 Even an apostle could not edify, unless he spoke so as to be understood by his hearers. To speak words that have no meaning to those who hear them, is but speaking into the air. That cannot answer the end of speaking, which has no meaning; in this case, speaker and hearers are barbarians to each other. All religious services should be so performed in Christian assemblies, that all may join in, and profit by them. Language plain and easy to be understood, is the most proper for public worship, and other religious exercises. Every true follower of Christ will rather desire to do good to others, than to get a name for learning or fine speaking.For if I pray ... - The reference to prayer here, and to singing in 1 Corinthians 14:15, is designed to illustrate the propriety of the general sentiment which he is defending, that public worship should be conducted in a language that would be intelligible to the people. However well meant it might be, or however the "heart" might be engaged in it, yet unless it was intelligible, and the understanding could join in it, it would be vain and profitless.

My spirit prayeth - The word spirit here (πνεῦμα pneuma) has been variously understood. Some have understood it of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit by which Paul says he was actuated. Others of the "spiritual gift," or that spiritual influence by which he was endowed. Others of the mind itself. But it is probable that the word "spirit" refers to the "will;" or to the mind, as the seat of the affections and emotions; that is, to the heart, desires, or intentions. The word "spirit" is often used in the Scriptures as the seat of the affections, and emotions, and passions of various kinds; see Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit;" Luke 10:21, "Jesus rejoiced in spirit." So it is the seat of ardor or fervor Luke 1:17; Acts 18:25; Romans 12:11; of grief or indignation; Mark 3:12; John 11:33; John 13:21; Acts 17:16. It refers also to feelings, disposition, or temper of mind, in Luke 9:55; Romans 8:15. Here it refers, it seems to me. to the heart, the will, the disposition, the feelings, as contradistinguished from the understanding; and the sense is, "My feelings find utterance in prayer; my heart is engaged in devotion; my prayer will be acceptable to God, who looks upon the feelings of the heart, and I may have true enjoyment; but my understanding will be unfruitful, that is, will not profit others. What I say will not he understood by them; and of course, however much benefit I might derive from my devotions, yet they would be useless to others."

But my understanding - (ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ho de nous mou). My intellect, my mind; my mental efforts and operations.

Is unfruitful - Produces nothing that will be of advantage to them. It is like a barren tree; a tree that bears nothing that can be of benefit to others. They cannot understand what I say, and of course, they cannot be profited by what I utter.

14. spirit—my higher being, the passive object of the Holy Spirit's operations, and the instrument of prayer in the unknown tongue, distinguished from the "understanding," the active instrument of thought and reasoning; which in this case must be "unfruitful" in edifying others, since the vehicle of expression is unintelligible to them. On the distinction of soul or mind and spirit, see Eph 4:23; Heb 4:12. From this and the former verse, the papists would justify the lawfulness of their Latin service, which none or few of the common people understand; and they seem to have a little advantage from the opinion of some of the ancients: That some of those who spake with tongues, did not themselves understand what they uttered, but the Spirit of God only made use of their tongues as machines. But these are apprehensions much beneath the Spirit of light and truth, that it should make use of the tongue of a man for an end neither profitable to the man himself, nor others. Besides, how is it then true which we had, 1 Corinthians 14:4, that he who spake in an unknown tongue edifieth himself? Nay, how can it be true, which is here said, that such a man’s

spirit prayeth? Nor is it here said, my understanding is dark or blind, but unfruitful; that is, though myself understand, yet my knowledge bringeth forth no fruit to the advantage or good of others.

My spirit prayeth, but others cannot pray with me. For if I pray in an unknown tongue,.... In the Hebrew tongue, which the greatest part of the Jewish doctors insisted (a) upon should be only used in prayer; which notion might be borrowed from them, and now greatly prevailed in the church at Corinth; and the custom was used by such as had the gift of speaking that language, even though the body and bulk of the people understood it not:

my spirit prayeth; I pray with my breath vocally; or else with affection and devotion, understanding what I say myself, and so am edified; or rather with the gift of the Spirit bestowed on me:

but my understanding is unfruitful; that is, what I say with understanding to myself is unprofitable to others, not being understood by them.

(a) Vid. Trigland. de Sect. Kar. c. 10. p. 172, 173.

{6} For {i} if I pray in an unknown tongue, my {k} spirit prayeth, but my understanding is {l} unfruitful.

(6) A reason: because it is not sufficient for us to speak so in the congregation that we ourselves worship God in spirit

(that is according to the gift which we have received), but we must also be understood of the company, lest that is unprofitable to others which we have spoken.

(i) If I pray, when the church is assembled together, in a strange tongue.

(k) The gift and inspiration which the spirit gives me does its part, but only to myself.

(l) No fruit comes to the church by my prayers.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 14:14. Justification of the precept προσευχ. ἵνα διερμ.

For if I pray with my tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. It is a thoroughly arbitrary and mistaken procedure to take the genitive relation in τὸ πνεῦμά μου otherwise than in ὁ νοῦς μου, and to explain the former, with Bleek, Billroth, Olshausen, Maier, and Chr. F. Fritzsche, following Chrysostom (τὸ χάρισμα τὸ δοθέν μοι καὶ κινοῦν τὴν γλῶσσαν), of the Spirit of God, in so far as He has laid hold of the man and speaks out of him. The Holy Spirit, although in the man, is never called the spirit of the man, and cannot be so called, just because He is different from the spirit of the man. See 1 Corinthians 2:11; Romans 8:16; Romans 9:1. No; τὸ πνεῦμά μου is my spirit, i.e. my individual principle of higher life (comp. on 1 Corinthians 14:2). If I pray with the tongue, this higher life-power in me, which plunges immediately (i.e. without the intervention of the discursive reflective faculty) into the feelings and intuitions of the divine, is called into activity, because it is filled and moved by the Holy Spirit as His receptive organ; but my understanding, my thinking faculty, furnishes nothing, ἄκαρπός ἐστι.[8]

νοῦς in contrast to πνεῦμα, which is the deeper basis of life, the “penetrale” (Bengel) of the νοῦς, is the reflective discursive power through which the making oneself intelligible to those without is effected, and without the co-operative action of which the human πνεῦμα cannot with such onesided development of its energy express the contents of its converse with the Divine Spirit in such a way as to be intelligible for others who are not specially gifted for this end. Comp. Krumm, de notionib. psychol. Paul. p. 64 ff.; Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 184; Ernesti, Urspr. d. Sünde, II. p. 87 f. Note how definitely Paul here distinguishes the specific activities of the mind, and excludes the νοῦς from the glossolalia. And he speaks thus from experience. But were we to think of foreign languages, that distinction and exclusion would not be appropriate, or would resolve themselves into a mere self-deception.

[8] Namely, to edify the church by the praying; see ver. 12. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Calvin, Estius, and others erroneously hold it to apply to one’s own profit. Theodoret rightly remarks: καρπὸς τοῦ λέγοντος ἡ ὠφέλεια τῶν ἀκουόντων.1 Corinthians 14:14-20. § 46. THE ΝΟΥΣ THE NEEDED ALLY OF THE ΠΝΕΥΜΑ. In § 44 the Ap. has insisted on edification as the end and mark of God’s gifts to His Church, and in § 45 on intelligibility as a condition necessary thereto. Now the faculty of intelligence is the νοῦς; and we are thus brought to see that for a profitable conduct of worship, and for a sane and sound Church life (1 Corinthians 14:14; 1 Corinthians 14:17 ff., 1 Corinthians 14:23), the understanding must be in exercise: it is a vehicle indispensable (1 Corinthians 14:14 f.) to the energies of the spirit. On this point P. is at one with the men of Gnosis at Cor[2078]; he discountenances all assumptions made in the name of “the Spirit” that offend against sober judgment (1 Corinthians 14:20). This passage, in a sense, counterbalances 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:5; it shows how far the Ap. is from approving a blind fanaticism or irrational mysticism, when he exalts the Gospel at the expense of “the wisdom of the world”.

[2078] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.14. my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful] The afflatus of the Spirit suggests the words of prayer to the possessor of the gift. He is conscious that he is fervently addressing the Giver of all good in a spirit of supplication. But his consciousness goes no further. He does not know what he is saying.1 Corinthians 14:14. Τὸ πνεῦμα μου, ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου, my spirit—but my understanding) The spirit is a faculty of the soul, when it becomes the passive object of the Holy Spirit’s delightful operations; but νοῦς, the understanding, is a faculty of soul, when it goes abroad, and acts with our neighbour:[123] as also when it attends to objects placed beyond itself, to other things and persons, although its reasonings may however be concealed, ἀπόκρυφος λογισμός (Ammonius); comp. 1 Corinthians 14:20, note. So understanding, 1 Corinthians 14:19; πνεῦμα, the inmost shrine of the understanding, τοῦ νοός, Ephesians 4:23; comp. Hebrews 4:12 : νοῦς from νέω, on account of its agitation or movement:[124] comp. Alexand. Aphrodit., 50:2, περὶ ψυχῆς, f. 144, ed. Ald.—ἌΚΑΡΠΟς, without fruit) It has fruit, but does not bring it forth. Respecting this word, see Matthew 13:22.

[123] i.e. πνεῦμα is passive, when said of man: νοῦς, active.—ED.

[124] Rather from the same root as γνῶναι, and noscere.—ED.Verse 14. - My understanding is unfruitful. I am only aware that I am praying. I have no definite consciousness as to what I say. Spirit (πνεῦμα)

The human spirit, which is moved by the divine Spirit. See on Romans 8:4.

Understanding (νοῦς)

See on Romans 7:23.

Is unfruitful (ἄκαρπός ἐστιν)

Furnishes nothing to others.

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