1 Corinthians 14:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 14:16, NIV: Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say 'Amen' to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?

1 Corinthians 14:16, ESV: Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?

1 Corinthians 14:16, KJV: Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

1 Corinthians 14:16, NASB: For otherwise, if you bless God in the spirit only, how will the one who occupies the place of the outsider know to say the 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you are saying?

1 Corinthians 14:16, NLT: For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don't understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don't understand what you are saying?

1 Corinthians 14:16, CSB: Otherwise, if you praise with the spirit, how will the outsider say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?

What does 1 Corinthians 14:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Prayer is, by definition, spiritual communication. It takes place between a believer's spirit and God by way of God's Holy Spirit. Paul has shown in the previous verses that prayer should also involve the mind. In other words, prayer is best when the person praying knows what he or she is saying to God.

That's why Paul has urged those who have the gift of tongues to ask God to give them the gift of interpretation, as well. Then, when they pray to God in an unknown language, they will know what they are saying. Otherwise, prayer is limited to a merely spiritual experience for that person.

If that prayer is being spoken in an unknown tongue in a worship service, without an interpreter present, it is even worse for those who are listening. For them, the person's prayer is neither spiritual—since they are not the one praying—or intellectual—since they don't know what is being said. It becomes meaningless.

This is why Paul writes here that nobody who hears the prayer of thanksgiving of someone speaking in tongues, without interpretation, can say "Amen." The word amen is a term of agreement and endorsement. Those who don't understand the words cannot be encouraged by the expression of thanks, and they cannot amplify it by agreeing. It becomes meaningless for them.

The word "outsider" in this verse most likely refers to everyone listening who does not understand what it being said in the unknown language.