1 Corinthians 14:4 MEANING

1 Corinthians 14:4
(4) He that speaketh in an unknown tongue.--Better, He that speaketh in a tongue. The introduction of the word "unknown" destroys the whole force of the passage. All tongues--as distinct from languages--were unknown, i.e., unintelligible. The gift of prophecy is superior in usefulness to that of tongues, and therefore to be preferred. The use of the word "edify," as applied to an individual solely, as distinct from the individual as a part of the whole Church, is unusual with St. Paul (see Note on 1 Corinthians 8:1), but is introduced so as to make the antithesis verbally as well as logically more striking.

Verse 4. - Edifieth himself. When the "tongue" was genuine, and under due control (ver. 32); when it avoided the physical and orgiastic manifestations by which a sort of spiritual possession was indicated in the ancient oracular shrines; when the self consciousness was not wholly obliterated, - a sense of ennobling conviction would be produced by this spiritual outpouring. Those who have experienced the emotion describe this very result. They felt enlarged and elevated - their whole being was for a time expanded - by this emotion. The Church. Primarily the body of assembled Christians which he is addressing, and through them the Church of God in general.

14:1-5 Prophesying, that is, explaining Scripture, is compared with speaking with tongues. This drew attention, more than the plain interpretation of Scripture; it gratified pride more, but promoted the purposes of Christian charity less; it would not equally do good to the souls of men. What cannot be understood, never can edify. No advantage can be reaped from the most excellent discourses, if delivered in language such as the hearers cannot speak or understand. Every ability or possession is valuable in proportion to its usefulness. Even fervent, spiritual affection must be governed by the exercise of the understanding, else men will disgrace the truths they profess to promote.He that speaketh its an unknown tongue,.... Be it the Hebrew language, or any other; some copies, and the Ethiopic version, read, "with tongues":

edifieth himself; his heart may be warmed, his affections raised, his devotion kept up, and he be in a very spiritual and comfortable frame, knowing and understanding what he himself says:

but he that prophesieth, edifieth the church: which is the great end of the Gospel ministry, which is for the edifying the body of the church: wherefore that which tends to the edification of more, even the whole church, must be preferable to that, which at most can only edify one, and that the speaker himself.

Courtesy of Open Bible