What does 1 Corinthians 14:24 mean?
ESV: But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,
NIV: But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all,
NASB: But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;
CSB: But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or outsider comes in, he is convicted by all and is called to account by all.
NLT: But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say.
KJV: But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
In the previous verse, Paul imagined an unbeliever entering into a Christian church service in which everyone is speaking in tongues, with nobody to interpret what is being said. The inevitable conclusion of these unbelievers would be that Christians were out of their minds, a group of crazy people. Even if those Christians were speaking words given by God in a real language, the lack of an interpreter would ensure that nobody would perceive any truth.
Now Paul contrasts that with a slightly different scenario: an unbeliever arriving as everyone is exercising the gift of prophecy. This gift was thought to be the Holy Spirit-empowered ability to clearly declare God's specially revealed truth for the benefit of others.
The result in this scenario would be exactly the opposite of an unbeliever witnessing an uncontrolled use of the tongues gift. Those hearing God's Word as legitimately delivered to them through the gift of prophecy would experience conviction. They would be able to understand and process what they heard. They could become aware of and burdened by their own guilt for their sinfulness. They would be forced to be accountable for their sin and for their response to God's offer of grace through faith in Christ.
It's important to understand that not everyone in the church at Corinth had the gift of tongues or the gift of prophecy. Paul has written that they should desire that some have the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1), and he has even said he wishes all of them had the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5). Only a portion of them had either gift, however.
Paul's point is that if everyone could prophesy, it would be far better for unbelievers than if everyone could speak in tongues.
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.
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.
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.
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 11/30/2023 5:31:07 AM
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