Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.4. Prophecy and Speaking with a Tongue.
It is evident from the contents of this chapter that the Corinthians had unduly magnified the gift of speaking in a strange tongue. It had a spectacular aspect which they enjoyed. He therefore shows them that the gift of prophecy is more to be coveted than speaking in an unknown tongue. The speaking in an unknown tongue is intelligible to God, but he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation and comfort. While the Apostle does not deny the value of speaking with tongues, he would rather that they prophesied “for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues.” Speaking with tongues edifies the speaker alone but prophecy edifies the church. What is the profit in speaking with an unknown tongue to believers unless the tongue has a real meaning. Musical instruments, which give forth sound, like a pipe or an harp, have no meaning whatever unless there be distinction in the tunes. Thus he shows the uselessness of the gift of tongues for edification unless the tongue is intelligible to all. “Even so ye, for as much as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.”
What the speaking in tongues really was we do not know positively. It was probably an ecstatic form of speech, or some foreign language. As a distinctive gift it has passed away, notwithstanding the fact that from time to time the restoration of this sign-gift has been claimed. (During the middle ages; at the time of the Wesley’s; during the days of Edward Irving, when it was proven to emanate from evil spirits; and in our own days, thousands claim to possess it.) But what is prophesying?, In the Old Testament prophecy, it was foretelling coming events. In the New Testament, it has a different meaning. It is not foretelling, but forthtelling. it is one who is speaking as from God and for God; the one who possesses this gift must therefore be in communication with God through the Spirit so as to be able to communicate to others His mind and His will. The exercise of this gift necessitates a close walk with God. This gift the Apostle desired the Corinthians to have. Instead the Corinthians had the inferior gift, which they valued on account of the display and perhaps the mysteriousness of it.
(The people in our own times who profess to have received this sign-gift claim that it is an evidence of having received the “baptism” of the Spirit, which, as we have already pointed out, is in itself unscriptural. They are on ground on which they are open to the subtle influences of Satan’s power.)
The Apostle also states that he spoke with tongues more than they did. “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” From all these regulations and statements we learn that the use of this gift was rather tolerated than commended (see (1Corinthians 14:39) to the churches because it was a hindrance rather than a help to the needed thing, which is edification in love. Furthermore, tongues were for a sign to the unbelievers. Prophesying is for the believers. “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place and all speak with tongues and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad?”
It is a fact that in the meetings of the modern advocates of the gift of tongues often the greatest disorder prevails. Men and women falling down in convulsions, hysterical laughter, unpleasant shrieks and other demonstrations have not been uncommon, so that an unbeliever would be perfectly right to pass the verdict “they are mad.” It is different With prophesying. “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or are unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all. And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, declaring that God is truly among you.”
The meetings of the Saints of God coming together in His Name and gathered to that name must be characterized by quietness and order. “For God is not the author of confusion (tumult, unquietness), but of peace, as in all churches of the Saints.” All things must be done decently and in order ((1Corinthians 14:40). Another important instruction is given in (1Corinthians 14:34-35. “let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is shame for women to speak in the church.” Some have said that this demand of the Apostle was given solely to the Corinthians, because women were forward in the church and that it does not apply to our days. This is a serious mistake. Nor are these words merely the words of the Apostle Paul, as some have claimed. It is God’s Word and the command is the command of the Holy Spirit. The public ministry of women is not permitted by the Spirit of God. The Word of God discountenances a prominent public ministry of women as inconsistent with the original law of creation, and with the modesty and meekness which are the woman’s chief adorning in the sight of God. What mischief, confusion and worse things have resulted from disobeying this divine command. Woman leaving the sphere assigned to her by the Creator and the Redeemer is stepping on dangerous ground. In connection with the statement, “A woman suffer not to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence,” the Apostle calls attention to the fact “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression” (1Timothy 2:12-13). The originators and leaders of the most damnable heresies of the latter times such as Christian Science, Theosophy and Spiritism are women. But woman has a ministry and can exercise her gifts as a member of the body of Christ.
(Again we call attention to the modern gift of tongues, the Pentecostal movements. Women are prominent among them. The divine command “let your women keep silence in the churches” is disregarded by them, while they claim obedience to the Word and a return to apostolic faith and practice.)
“The woman’s sphere of liberty, and, one may say, sovereignty, is at home; that is to say, it is private and not public. It must not be thought that this does not give ample scope for the exercise of gifts of whatever kind. If there were only more of the cultivation on the woman’s part of that which belongs really to her sphere, how fruitful would be the exercise of the gift with which God has endowed her and how many places would be open to her which men, by reason of their being men, could not in the same way fill! This in relation to children, it is at once evident; with the younger children, the woman is still the best and the nature-ordained teacher. God has placed the babe in its mother’s arms and not its father’s; and this does not mean that the woman’s sphere is only in her own family. There are countless families to which her sex will introduce her, and where she may find herself fully at home and abundant profit and recompense of her work. So, through the wives, women have access in this way to an indefinite sphere of occupation for varied blessing. The wife is the heart-center of the household, and the ability thus to reach the wife in a way that women certainly can do far beyond others is an immense privilege and responsibility entrusted to her. Would that there were more realization of this!” (Numerical Bible.)