1 Corinthians 14:14-15 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
Paul adds further insight in these verses about the practice of tongues speaking in Corinth. Evidently, it involved the spirit praying but the mind was not involved. This is a contradiction in terms, particularly in Paul’s anthropology. The spirit and mind may technically be separate aspects of a person but they are closely linked. The vast majority of Paul’s use of the word “spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit. The spirit of a person is the deep entity that fellowships with God and others. It is the part of a person that connects to the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 2:11, a person’s spirit knows what a person thinks. Paul can be present with the Corinthians from a distance through spirit (5:3-4). We can be united together in spirit (6:17). The Holy Spirit also works in transforming the mind. There are more references to the human mind in Paul’s letters than the human spirit. The mind is where decisions are made and where we become like Jesus. The mind influences all of a person’s life.
To pray in the spirit without engaging the mind is meaningless from Paul’s perspective because it would not bring any change or clarity to a person. Basically, it would be abstract and thoughtless. When Paul refers to “spirit” in these verses, it is almost as if he is referring to a deep inner sense of God’s presence, but this “sense” is almost unconscious because it does not engage the mind and conscience, where the Holy Spirit can have real communication with us. The danger with this “sense” is that it can stray into simply being an emotion or a feeling. Our emotions are important but the human spirit is not emotions, otherwise, we would be in trouble with all the ups and downs a person has, even on a daily basis.
Paul’s point in these verses is that prayer and praise must engage the mind. These activities must flow out of our thinking and contribute to our thinking. Wild emotionalism may make us feel better but it does not contribute to the growth of the mind. Paul wants the Corinthians to use their minds with clear thinking so that they benefit the growth of the church and not be seen as babbling fools. He will continue to develop his case in the coming verses.
The mind is our thinking that is transformed and becomes like Jesus. The spirit is the aspect of us that fellowships with God but is influenced by our mind. The two should work together, not in isolation. The Corinthians must grow in the mind of Christ through listening to the Holy Spirit. The mind of Christ will lead them to love one another deeply and to seek to grow the church in unity.
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