What does 1 Corinthians 14:21 mean?
ESV: In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”
NIV: In the Law it is written: 'With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.'
NASB: In the Law it is written: 'BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,' says the Lord.
CSB: It is written in the law,I will speak to this peopleby people of other tonguesand by the lips of foreigners,and even then, they will not listen to me, says the Lord.
NLT: It is written in the Scriptures : 'I will speak to my own people through strange languages and through the lips of foreigners. But even then, they will not listen to me,' says the Lord.
KJV: In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
NKJV: In the law it is written: “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,” says the Lord.
Verse Commentary:
As he so often does in his letters, Paul now quotes from one of the Old Testament prophets to make a connection between present circumstances and how God acted in the past. This time, he paraphrases Isaiah 28:11–12. In that passage, Israel had rejected God's clear and simple message to them in their own language. Soon He would speak to them through the Assyrians, people with "strange lips" and "foreign tongues." In other words, His messages to them would become less clear as a result of His judgment for their sin.

Paul connected this to what was happening in Corinth. He is helping the Corinthians see that the clear teaching that comes from the practice of the gift of prophecy is better than the lack of meaning that results when the gift of tongues is used without an interpreter. Listeners may be impressed (or not) by a display of foreign languages, but they will not respond to the direction of the Lord because they will not be able to understand it.
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.
Accessed 5/24/2024 10:50:59 PM
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