What does 1 Corinthians 14:20 mean?
ESV: Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
NIV: Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
NASB: Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.
CSB: Brothers and sisters, don't be childish in your thinking, but be infants in regard to evil and adult in your thinking.
NLT: Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind.
KJV: Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Verse Commentary:
Paul begins now to wrap up his teaching on why the gift of prophecy is better than the gift of tongues. He tells the Christians in Corinth not to be immature in their thinking. This echoes what he wrote about them being infants in Christ in 1 Corinthians 3:1. He seems to be describing their fascination with the display of tongues as immature. Instead, they should be hungry for the meaning and "meat" that comes with hearing God's Word.

It's not that he wants believers to become hardened and cynical. Paul wants the Corinthians to keep their innocence, especially with regard to evil ideas and practices. He insists they can maintain that innocence while also learning to think and act with maturity.

Paul may have been echoing Jesus' instructions to His followers in Matthew 10:16, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 14:1–25 describes why the gift of prophecy is superior to the gift of tongues in church services, especially when nobody with the gift of interpreting tongues is available. Prophecy benefits everyone in the room with a revelation from God. Praying in a tongue, when nobody can interpret, only benefits the one praying. In fact, displaying the gift of tongues without interpretation may do more harm than good—it generates confusion and division. In contrast, the use of prophecy provides the opportunity for unbelievers to hear from God, be convicted about sin, and come to faith in Christ and genuine worship.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages the Corinthians to desire the gift of prophecy, especially, among the other gifts. He shows why its use in the church service is superior to the use of the gift of tongues if nobody is available to interpret. Prophecy benefits everyone; praying in tongues with nobody to interpret benefits only the speaker. Only two or three tongues-speakers should contribute to any service, and only then one at a time and followed by interpreters. The same applies to prophecy and the gift of discerning spirits. Orderliness and building up the church are guiding principles for any worship meeting. Modern churches are divided on the extent to who which these gifts are given, or should be practiced.
Chapter Context:
1 Corinthians 14 concludes Paul's teaching on the spiritual gifts begun in chapter 12. Between them, chapter 13 declared that Christlike love matters most of all. The gift of prophecy is better than the display of the gift of tongues in worship services unless someone with the gift of interpreting tongues is available. Even then, only those things which build up the church should be included in any service, and everything should be done in an orderly way, reflecting the character of God. The final two chapters of this letter discuss the resurrection of Christ and Paul's concluding remarks.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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