Gifts of Tongues and Prophecy - 1 Corinthians 14:1-5

Gifts of Tongues and Prophecy

Speaking in tongues and prophesying do not seem as common today as it did in Paul’s time. Does this mean that it can’t happen or doesn’t happen today? No. God is sovereign and has the ability to give these gifts to anyone, but these gifts must be used with the right purpose and to ensure they are edifying to God and build up the congregation. 

1 Corinthians 14:1-5

1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Pursue love…Paul just finished telling us in the previous chapter that love is the most important. Without love, we are nothing. He previously discussed the gifts of the Spirit and that we are all blessed with varying gifts. Now, he is comparing prophecy and tongues. The Corinthians elevated the ability to speak in tongues. But we must ask ourselves, “Why do we do what we do?” 

The first thing Paul tells us in this chapter is to pursue love, but he proceeds to tell us to desire spiritual gifts earnestly. Although the Corinthians misused some spiritual gifts, he did not tell them that they should stop or discontinue their use. He wanted them to continue using their spiritual gifts but for the right reasons. Today, we can see spiritual gifts being misused and done for improper reasons, typically out of pride. A gift is something that we receive, and we received spiritual gifts from God. So why shouldn’t we use them? God gave them to us to use, but we must use them out of love and use them for the glory of God. If our pride and selfishness get in the way, then these gifts are being misused and may even be detrimental. 

We are blessed with gifts as individuals, but they are for the benefit of the church. It appears that Paul meant that speaking in tongues was more of a form of prayer between you and God. It is a form of praise that only God may understand. Tongues are used to build the individual up because it is personal to God. Prayer is between the individual and God. Our hearts must be prepared and humble so that we approach and praise our Lord with love. 

On the contrary, Paul says that prophecy is more important than tongues because prophecy is meant to build up the church. However, the church cannot be strengthened and built up if no one is there to interpret what is being said or prophesied. 

Both speaking in tongues and prophecy have their place. Prophecy is based on something that God suddenly puts in the heart or mind of the speaker. Tongues is the prayer or praise going from man to God. However, both must be understandable if it is to benefit the congregation. 

Paul is not discouraging us from using spiritual gifts. Everyone has a gift bestowed upon them by God. Sometimes, God will use a situation or an individual to relay His message to us. However, we must ensure that we are not misusing these gifts and pursuing love. We are to align our hearts with God’s as best as we can. We are all sinners and fail constantly, but God gives us the ability to get back up and walk alongside Him. If you have a gift, I encourage you to step up and use it out of love in order to build up the body of Christ.
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