(Vs. 18, 19.) Paul lets them know that he did not despise the gift of tongues, nor did he discourage them from desiring the gift nor using it. He had this gift and used it in the many countries to which he travelled and preached. He could speak in more different languages than anyone, yet he says that he had rather speak a few words to the congregation in a language they understand than ten thousand words in a language no one understands. If men understand our words, we can communicate to them the doctrines of the gospel and the mysteries of grace.
(Vs. 20.) There are some things in which it is commendable to be like little children. Children are usually tender-hearted, ready to forgive, willing to be taught, free from pride and vain glory and without guile and hypocrisy. "But in your thinking and judgement, don't act like babies; act like mature men." His chief reference here is to the way they were acting in this matter of gift, behaving with childish vanity and immaturity!
(Vs. 21.) There is no reason to be over-excited about speaking the Word of God in other languages, for in Isaiah 28:11, 12 the Lord says, "By men of strange languages and by lips of foreigners I will speak to these people (in their own tongue Acts 2:5-8) and not even then will they listen to me." Men are not converted by signs and wonders but by the Spirit and the Word (Luke 16:29-31).
(Vs. 22.) The power of the apostles and other early preachers to speak supernaturally in other languages is not a sign for believers (who need no miracle to gain their attention or to confirm their faith), but these gifts and miracles bore witness before unbelievers that these men were sent from God and preached a message from heaven (Heb. 2:3, 4; John 3:2). Inspired preaching and teaching (interpreting the divine will and purpose of God in Christ) serves to edify believers not unbelievers, who must first be regenerated and given ears to hear.
(Vs. 23.) "If the church be assembled together and all of you are speaking in whatever tongues and languages you are gifted to speak and one comes in who is unlearned and untaught in the things of the Spirit, he will think you are all crazy."
(Vs. 24, 25.) "But if you preach the Word in the Spirit and with the undestanding, and people are present who are unbelievers, yet who understand your words, it may be that they shall hear the Word of God, be convinced of sin, be brought to see the glorious gospel of Christ and fall on their faces in worship and faith, declaring that God is among you in very truth."
(Vs. 26-35.) "What then is the right and proper order of using these gifts which you have? When you come together in the assembly and different ones have different gifts and abilities, how shall they all be used for the glory of God and the good of the church? All things must be done for edification, instruction and the good of all."
1. If men speak in another language, limit the speakers to two or three, with each taking his turn while another interprets what he says.
2. If there is no one present who can interpret what is said, let the person keep silent in the assembly and speak quietly to himself and God.
3. Let two or three preachers, who are gifted to teach or preach, speak in the service while the rest pay attention, weigh and discern what is said.
4. If a man is inspired of God to speak, if a message is laid on his heart, then let him wait until the first one is silent, or let the first one be silent and allow him to speak.
5. We are not to sing, preach, or pray all at the same time, but one by one, to avoid confusion and disorder. Men cannot learn or be comforted in disorder and confusion.
6. The gifts, abilities and talents a man has are subject to the man's wisdom and should be controlled by him. God is not the author of confusion, but he is the author of peace, order and wisdom. If a man cannot use his gifts in a sane, orderly fashion for God's glory and the good of all, it is a sign that the Spirit of God is not in him.
7. What has been said before does not apply to women, for they are to keep silent in the assembly. Women are not authorized to teach, preach, nor usurp and exercise authority over the men in the church, if they have a problem to be resolved or a question to be answered, let them have it resolved by their husbands at home (1 Tim. 2:11, 12). This is what the Old Testament teaches also (Gen. 3:16).
(Vs. 36-38.) Here is a sharp rebuke to those in Corinth who thought themselves wise, spiritually grown and beyond the instructions of the apostle Paul. He asks, "Did the gospel originate with you? Did the Word of God come to you only?" There were churches in Jerusalem and in other places before there was a church at Corinth. "If one among you is lifted up with pride and claims to be a prophet and spiritually wise, he must acknowledge that I am an apostle and what I am writing to you is the command of the Lord. But if any man refuses to own these words to be the commandment of Christ, let him be treated as an ignorant man, shunned and rejected."
(Vs. 39, 40.) "Wherefore, brethren, desire to preach and teach the Word. Do not despise nor forbid men to speak in other languages if they are so gifted, but let all things be done decently and in an orderly fashion."