TEXT: 1 Corinthians 14:1-19
Big Idea: “The right use of prophecy and interpreted tongues will result in the building up and encouragement of the church.”
Back in chapter 12 we were given some examples of spiritual gifts. Things like utterance of wisdom and knowledge, discernment, healing and prophecy – just to name a few. We all have different gifts, but we are one in Christ.
Then in chapter 13, we learned that the motive of the spiritual gifts must be love – selfless, Christ-centered, sacrificial love. That’s the basis for every gift of the Spirit and for every aspect of the Christian life.
Now, here in chapter 14, Paul zeros in on two gifts in particular, two speaking gifts: prophecy and tongues – (you know, the two gifts you hope never happen when we bring a guest to church).
But these are spiritual gifts listed in the Bible. Not only are they listed, but Paul does an in-depth teaching on these gifts so that we will function in these gifts in a biblical way.
So what are these gifts exactly?
The gift of tongues. The word “tongue” simply means “language”. The gift of tongues or languages is the ability to temporarily speak in a language not understood by the speaker, expressing a prayer or praise to God.
The gift of interpretation. This is just what it sounds like – the supernatural ability to interpret unknown tongue-speech into a known language understood by his audience.
The gift of prophecy. Wayne Grudem defines it as “telling what God has spontaneously brought to mind.” This could be a verbal encouragement, a correction, or comfort to another.
Paul gives two basic encouragements in the text:
1. Desire prophecy more than tongues (v. 1-10)
With the gift of prophecy, people understand what you’re saying, and that understanding brings encouragement. Whatever speaking gift we have, using that gift should result in understanding. If what you say is not understood, no one is being helped. And since the Corinthians were valuing tongues more than they should, Paul tells them speaking in tongues is great, but without interpretation, the church isn’t served. If they really want to serve the church, they should seek to prophesy.
Speaking in tongues is directed from man to God (v. 2). Therefore the interpretation should be in the form of prayer, praise or thanksgiving. Prophecy is directed from God to man. Like a musical instrument must be in tune and music must have a distinct order of notes to be appreciated and understood, so must language be understood to have value (v. 6-8). Understanding of God and His word results in the edification, building up and encouragement of believers.
2. Do only what builds up the Church (v. 12-19)
The purpose God gives natural language is to communicate – to take thoughts and put them in a verbal form that can be understood. The gift of tongues (or the gift of languages) is no different. When the gift is used publicly, God wants us to understand what is said. And that is only done through interpretation.
Do only what edifies the church. Say only what glorifies God and points others to Jesus. Speak and serve in a way that causes everyone to be encouraged in the good news of the gospel. And remember that gifts are just one more evidence of God’s love for His Church. We should be amazed that God loves us so much that He wants us to be encouraged in this life, and that He went to great lengths that we would be empowered to encourage each other.
Whether it’s prophecy or interpreted tongues, or a sermon or a song or a prayer or a Bible verse or just a chat with a friend over coffee, God wants His people to be reminded of how much He loves us. That’s what builds up the church – when we get our eyes off our ourselves, off of the circumstances, and glorify Christ by serving His people.