Five words (1 Cor. 14:19)


In a church assembly

I would rather speak

Five words

With my mind,

In order to instruct others

Than ten thousand words

In a tongue.”

ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι, ἵνα καὶ ἄλλους κατηχήσω, ἢ μυρίους λόγους ἐν γλώσσῃ.

Paul then said that in a church assembly (ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ), he would rather (θέλω) speak (λαλῆσαι) five words (πέντε λόγους) with his mind (τῷ νοΐ μου) in order to instruct others (ἵνα καὶ ἄλλους κατηχήσω) than ten thousand words (ἢ μυρίους λόγους) in a tongue (ἐν γλώσσῃ).  Paul made a clear distinction between speaking in tongues and rational instructional discourse.  Paul said that he preferred to speak a mere five rational instructional words than 10,000 tongue speaking words that no one understood.  Paul was primarily a rational teacher, not a tongue speaker, although he often did both.  Do you prefer rational conversation rather than tongue speaking?

I speak in tongues (1 Cor. 14:18)

“I thank God

That I speak

In tongues

More than all of you.”;

εὐχαριστῶ τῷ Θεῷ, πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον γλώσσαις λαλῶ·

Paul then said that he thanks God (εὐχαριστῶ τῷ Θεῷ) that he speaks in tongues (γλώσσαις λαλῶ) more than all of them (πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον).  Now Paul made an astonishing statement.  He said he often thanked God in tongues, more than any of the other Christian people in Corinth.  Thus, he was not trying to degrade this practice, but only put it into context.  He himself was a tongue speaker.  Are you a tongue speaker?

No edification (1 Cor. 14:17)

“You may give thanks

Well enough,

But the other man

Is not edified.”

σὺ μὲν γὰρ καλῶς εὐχαριστεῖς, ἀλλ’ ὁ ἕτερος οὐκ οἰκοδομεῖται.

Paul said that you may give thanks well enough (σὺ μὲν γὰρ καλῶς εὐχαριστεῖς), but the other man is not edified (ἀλλ’ ὁ ἕτερος οὐκ οἰκοδομεῖται).  Paul explained that there was nothing wrong with the person praising or thanking God in tongues, but the other people there would not be edified or built up.  They would be perplexed.  Personally, there was nothing wrong, but the community did not progress based on the individual speaking in tongues.  Speaking in tongues was a good personal activity, but it did not help the community of believers.  Do you know anyone who speaks in tongues?

Bless with the spirit (1 Cor. 14:16)

“If you bless

With the spirit,

How can anyone

In the position

Of an outsider say

The ‘Amen’

To your thanksgiving,

When he does not know

What you are saying?”

ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς πνεύματι, ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ Ἀμήν ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ; ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις οὐκ οἶδεν·

Paul then asked another question.  If you bless with the spirit (ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς πνεύματι), how can any uninformed or uninitiated outsider there (ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου) say (πῶς ἐρεῖ) “Amen (τὸ Ἀμήν)” to your thanksgiving (ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ), when he does not know (οὐκ οἶδεν) what you are saying (ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις)?  Paul continued to ask questions when he knew the answer.  If you blessed with the spirit or ecstatic emotional prayer, how could a non-initiated who did know what you are saying respond with an “Amen”, the traditional Jewish response when a person agreed with what was said.  Literally, it meant “So be it!”  The problem of an outsider looking in is that he would be in a state of confusion, since he could not understand what was being said.  They were called the unlearned ones, so that our English word idiot comes from this Greek word ἰδιώτου.  How could you agree with something that you do not understand?

Pray and sing with the mind and spirit (1 Cor. 14:15)

“What am I to do?

I will pray

With the spirit.

I will pray

With the mind also.

I will sing

With the spirit.

I will sing

With the mind also.”

τί οὖν ἐστιν; προσεύξομαι τῷ πνεύματι, προσεύξομαι δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ· ψαλῶ τῷ πνεύματι, ψαλῶ δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ.

Paul asked “What am I to do (τί οὖν ἐστιν)?”  As per usual, he answered his own question.  “I will pray (προσεύξομαι) with the spirit (τῷ πνεύματι).  I will pray (προσεύξομαι) with the mind also (δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ).  I will sing (ψαλῶ) with the spirit (τῷ πνεύματι).  I will sing (ψαλῶ) with the mind also (δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ).” Only the Pauline letters used this word ψαλῶ, that means to pull, twitch, twang, play, sing, or sing psalms.  Paul asked this question when he knew what the answer was.  He would pray with the spirit and with the mind or intelligence also.  It was not a mere ecstatic experience.  At the same time, Paul added that he also sang psalms with the spiritual ecstatic experience as well as his mind or intelligence.  Paul indicated that prayer was not merely emotional or spiritual but also had a rational or meaningful element.  Both praying and singing psalms contained both the emotional and intellectual features.  This was not the case of either/or but rather both components of emotional and rational combined in prayer and singing psalms.  What kind of prayer and singing are you involved with?

The mind and the spirit (1 Cor. 14:14)

“If I pray in a tongue,

My spirit prays,

But my mind is unfruitful.”

ἐὰν γὰρ προσεύχωμαι γλώσσῃ, τὸ πνεῦμά μου προσεύχεται, ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ἄκαρπός ἐστιν.

Paul said that if he prayed in a tongue (ἐὰν γὰρ προσεύχωμαι γλώσσῃ), his spirit was praying (τὸ πνεῦμά μου προσεύχεται), but his mind was unfruitful (ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ἄκαρπός ἐστιν).  Paul was clear that tongue speaking was okay because the individual human spirit was praying.  However, it had the limitation that the mind, and here Paul makes it personal, was unfruitful.  The congregation or assembly of Christians could not be intellectually involved with the tongue speaker.  Even the tongue speaker, although clearly praying, was unable to communicate with his fellow Christians.  Is your mind involved with prayer?

Pray for interpretation (1 Cor. 14:13)


Those who speak

In a tongue

Should pray

For the power

To interpret tongues.”

Διὸ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ προσευχέσθω ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ.

Paul then said that those who speak in a tongue (Διὸ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ) should pray (προσευχέσθω) for the power to interpret tongues (ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ).  Paul wanted anyone in Corinth who was speaking in tongues to pray for the power to interpret tongues.  Paul put a lot of emphasis on the interpretation of tongues rather than the speaking in tongues itself.  He wanted the community, not the individuals to develop.  They should pray to have more interpreters of the tongues, rather than to have more tongue speakers.  Would you rather be a tongue speaker or an interpreter of tongues?

Build up the church assembly (1 Cor. 14:12)

“With yourselves,

Since you are eager

For manifestations

Of the Spirit,

Strive to excel

In building up

The church community.”

οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ἐπεὶ ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμάτων, πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας ζητεῖτε ἵνα περισσεύητε.

Paul then came back to the Corinthian community.  “With yourselves (οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς), since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit (ἐπεὶ ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμάτων), strive to excel (ζητεῖτε ἵνα περισσεύητε) in building up the church community (πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας).”  Paul wanted the Corinthians who were eager for spiritual manifestations to strive at building up the church community.  He wanted them to work for the common good and not for the individual spectacular speaking in tongues.  He knew that they liked spiritual manifestations that were showy rather than the common good.  He wanted a strong united church at Corinth, not a disjointed community.  Do you try to build up your church community?

Foreign languages (1 Cor. 14:11)

“But if I do not know

The meaning of a language,

I will be a foreigner

To the speaker.

The speaker will be

A foreigner to me also.”

ἐὰν οὖν μὴ εἰδῶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς φωνῆς, ἔσομαι τῷ λαλοῦντι βάρβαρος καὶ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν ἐμοὶ βάρβαρος.

Paul said that if he did not know the meaning of a language (ἐὰν οὖν μὴ εἰδῶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς φωνῆς), he would be a foreigner to the speaker (ἔσομαι τῷ λαλοῦντι βάρβαρος).  The speaker would be a foreigner to him (καὶ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν ἐμοὶ βάρβαρος), also.  Thus, Paul pointed out that anyone who did not speak Greek in Corinth would be considered a foreigner or a barbarian.  Anyone who does not speak your language is considered a foreigner by you.  The same is true of the other person.  They consider you a foreigner or a barbarian because you do not speak their language.  Any language you do not know is a foreign language to you or anyone who does not speak that language.  Thus, we have our natural native ethnic language that is foreign to other people, and vice versa.  Have you ever been to a country where you were the foreigner who could not speak the language of that country?

Many different languages (1 Cor. 14:10)

“There are doubtless

So many different languages

In the world.

None is without meaning.”

τοσαῦτα εἰ τύχοι γένη φωνῶν εἰσιν ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ οὐδὲν ἄφωνον·

Paul said that there are doubtless so many different languages (τοσαῦτα εἰ τύχοι γένη φωνῶν εἰσιν) in the world (ἐν κόσμῳ).  None is without meaning (καὶ οὐδὲν ἄφωνον).  Paul then turned to the situation in Corinth.  As a commercial city, they were accustomed to hearing many different languages and different dialects of Greek on a daily basis.  Thus, Paul pointed out to them about the various languages in the world that they were already aware of.  All these languages had meaning to those people who spoke these different languages.  In fact, words or sounds have meaning only within a specific language configuration.  Words, by themselves are just strange sounds until they fit into a pattern of a specific language arrangement structure.  An individual language is an organized pattern of sounds, as opposed to mere random sounds as in tongue speaking.  Can you speak more than one language?