1 Corinthians 14:1-6
Principles of Biblical Interpretation
Dr. Dale Hutchcraft
The passage that I chose to exegete is 1 Corinthians 14:1-6, the main idea of this passage is for the apostle Paul to confront the Corinthian church in Corinth about their misuse of the spiritual gifts, namely the use of tongues. The following is a full outline of the passage with the main point of each verse, it goes as follows: 1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
Paul starts out this verse strongly with the word “pursue” and “earnestly” showing the importance he is putting on pursuing the spiritual gifts. He stresses the importance though of the gift of prophecy, showing right away what he is passionate about and what to pursue (Mare). 2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. Here in verse 2 Paul addresses the gift of tongues and explains the use of it and how it is directed to God and not to men. He uses the word “mysteries” to describe that the speaker knows not what he is saying. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. Paul is explaining in this verse that prophecy is a “greater” gift because is edifies (builds up) the church. This is seen by his use of “but”, inferring that he prefers prophesy over the gift of tongues, introducing the topic for the rest of the passage. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. He continues to explain that the gift of tongues is a personal use of the gifts, and continues to explain that prophecy is the “greater” of the gifts because it builds up the church. 5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. In this verse Paul explains that tongues is a good thing and should be sought after, but again stresses the idea that prophecy is much greater, unless the tongue can be interpreted, because then it can help the church, which is the main idea Paul is trying to get across. 6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? The entire idea is now put into perspective for the Corinthians with an example of if Paul came to them speaking in tongues; he asks how it would help them if they did not understand.
Prophetic revelations and speaking in tongues are controversial topics in this day and age. The debates on these topics have been raging in churches for years on this is one of the passages that are usually brought up in these discussions. The purpose of this passage is to confront the church in Corinth about their misuse of the gift of tongues and possibly their obsession with it. In almost every on of the six verses Paul brings up that tongues is not as important as prophesying because prophesying is something that can bring truth and revelation to the church. Although he does bring up an exception of sorts, which is if there is an interpreter present that can share the message to the church (vs 5). It is obvious that Paul’s main concern is that the church is using their gifts to help build up the church. The city of Corinth was a large city with about 250,000 free people and as many as 400,000 slaves (Barker). As with any large city their was much immorality that went on within the city, so it is obvious that the church in Corinth was plagued by the sexual immorality and the surrounding temples supporting false gods. Paul had gained information from certain sources that the condition of the Corinthian church was in need of a wake up call. Some members from the household of Chloe had informed him of the conditions that...