1 Corinthians, 14
Confusion over Tongues
1: Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2: For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3: But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4: He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5: I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. 6: Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 7: And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8: For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 9: So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. 10: There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 11: Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. 12: Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. 13: Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. 14: For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15: What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16: Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17: For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18: I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 20: Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 21: In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22: Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 23: If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24: 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: 25: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
Paul now gives more instruction regarding spiritual gifts and the gift of languages in particular. But follow he says follow after love. Love should be the over riding desire in our christian lives before gifts. However among the spiritual gifts prophesy is the best gift. Prophesy is the teaching of the Word of God. Either by direct revelation as in the days of the apostles or teaching based on the scriptures. This gift supersedes the gift of languages. Paul explains why this is so. He says the person who speaks in church gatherings in a language that is unknown to the believers finds that he is speaking only to God. Nobody else understands him!, even though his is speaking the revelation of the truth of God. But the prophet when he is teaching Gods word either by direct revelation or expounding the scriptures speak to the feeding, encouragement and strengthening of the believers. The person who speaks in a language that is unknown by the congregation finds that the only person who is blessed is himself, but the prophet I the whole congregation. I would love it if you all spoke in languages but l would much prefer you to preach the Word. The teacher of the word is greater than the speaker in languages, unless another person is able to interpret what is being said, only then will people understand it and be benefited. If when l come to Corinth says Paul and l spoke in a language that you didn’t understand what benefit would you get out of it unless l spoke something that you could understand. If l spoke by direct revelation from God or if l spoke by divine knowledge or if l spoke a prophesy or if l preached doctrine from God then you would benefit. Even inanimate objects like a flute or a guitar, if they gave an indistinct sound who would know what tune is being played? And if a bugler sounded his bugle with an indistinct call who would get ready for battle? It is the same in church, If a believer doesn’t utters words that are easy to understand how will people know what he is saying? He is speaking into the air. Paul says there are many languages in the world and all of them are understood by somebody. But if l do not understand the language then l am a barbarian to him and he is a barbarian to me. Paul says, now l know how keen you are to speak in languages but you should really be keen to teach the word. So let him that speaks in a language pray that he may interpret. Because if l pray in a language that l do not understand then my spirit may be praying but my brain doesn’t understand the words. So what would l rather do? I would rather pray in my spirit and understand in my head also. When l sing in the spirit l want my brain to understand the words. How can people say amen if they don’t know what l am saying? You may be giving thanks to God good enough but other people who don’t understand the language will not have any benefit. I thank God says Paul that in my ministry l speak in more languages than all of you but in church gatherings l would rather say just five words that can be understand than ten thousand words which people cannot understand. Brothers says Paul don’t be childish about the gift of languages be childish in hatred but in your understanding of these things be mature. Then Paul explains the true meaning of the use of languages. Paul says, in the Law God said to Israel, I will send to you men who speak in languages and dialects that you have never heard before. And yet for all this you will not hear me, says the Lord. So therefore the gift of languages is a sign to Israel, not to those who are believers but to those who are unbelievers. But the preaching and teaching of the word of God (prophesy) is not for those who are unbelievers but for those who believe. If when you meet in church everybody has a language and if people come in who are unbelievers they will conclude that you are MAD ! But if they came in and everyone had a message from God either by direct revelation or by the scriptures they would be convinced by everyone and come into conviction by all of you. And so the secrets of his heart and made clear for him to see and he will fall down and worship God and he will tell the people he meets that God is definitely with you.