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1 Corinthians 14:7

ESV If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played?
NIV Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?
NASB Yet even lifeless instruments, whether flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp?
CSB Even lifeless instruments that produce sounds—whether flute or harp —if they don’t make a distinction in the notes, how will what is played on the flute or harp be recognized?
NLT Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody.
KJV And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
NKJV Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played?

What does 1 Corinthians 14:7 mean?

Apparently, speaking in tongues without anyone to interpret had become a normal part of the worship services in Corinth. Paul is showing why, in this case, the use of the gift of prophecy is far better than the display of the gift of tongues.

Paul does not dismiss those given this gift as fakes. He has acknowledged that this gift from God can bring genuine benefit to the spiritual life of the speaker, even when no interpretation of what he or she is saying is available. The problem is with using the gift in church without interpretation. In that case, Paul insists, the gift does not benefit anyone else.

Perhaps those speaking in tongues imagined their display of God's power as beautiful on its own, as a musical performance might be. Paul counters that idea with the illustration in this verse. If nobody can understand what is being spoken, then to hear tongues spoken is like listening to music played without a melody. Just hearing flutes and harps produce random sounds in random order, not guided by any human mind, isn't pleasant to listen to. It is simply noise.
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