20 “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.”
This verse brings us to a transition in chapter 14 as to the purpose of tongues (14:21-22).
Paul used the word “brethren” as punctuation throughout the chapter 14 (14:6, 20, 26, 39). He appealed to the Corinthians as members in the family of God to consider what he had to say about the relative value of tongues when there was no translator. This softened the rebuke of calling them infantile in the next phrase. “Brethren” also indicates change in subject.
do not be children in understanding;
The word “children” means infants. Preoccupation with tongues is infantile spirituality. Christians can be “children in understanding.” Twice Paul used the word “understanding” in this verse. Mature spirituality stresses reasoning power over the subjective. The Corinthians took childish delight in the use of this very unusual gift; in doing so they were immature.
However, in malice be babes,
The word “malice” refers to general wrong. It can refer to evil, wickedness, depravity or it can mean badness, difficulties. Whatever distracts the believer from maturity dislocates movement towards maturity. We live in a day when evangelical Christians are “adult” in their understanding of the world. They have allowed their hearts to be distracted from growth in Christ. Christians expose themselves to evil without any attempt to purge it out of their lives.
1 Pe 2: 1Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
but in understanding be mature.
Corinthian infatuation with tongues blunted their maturity in Christ.
God puts priority on exposition over experience.
God always puts priority on the cognitive and the understanding. A central objective of the worship service is to teach doctrine. Any other form of worship is infantile. We cannot measure our spirituality on experience without exposition.