Text: 1 Corinthians 14:1-18
By: Godwin Toju Eyiangho
1 Cor. 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were a promise by Christ directly to the apostles who through the laying of hands on believers, transferred the gifts to them (Mark 16:17-20, Acts 2:1-4; 8:15-17).
These gifts were miraculously used or exercised in the early stages of the church but the abusive use of some of them led to the Holy Spirit’s instructions through Apostle Paul to the Corinthians church on decent and orderly use.
Our topic which does not need any detailed definition is simply about how spiritual gifts
should be exercised or used when the church gathers to worship God.
Prophecy And Speaking In Tongues (Verses 1 – 5)
Apostle Paul, having shown the Corinthians Christians the more excellent way of love as the best virtue all Christians must possess and exhibit (1 Cor. 13), he went on to discuss spiritual gifts comparing prophecy with speaking in tongues.
Let’s take a brief definition of both words – prophecy means speaking or revealing the mind or will of God (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel prophesied) or teaching the mind or will of God through study of His word (2 Tim. 2:15), while speaking in tongues means speaking the language of another people which the speaker has not learned or understood before – the Holy Spirit gives the utterance (Acts 2:1-11). It is not ecstasy or glossolalia – unintelligible utterance as seen in paganism.
Paul told them to desire spiritual gifts especially prophecy because it edifies, exhorts, and comforts brethren (verse 2,3) [Romans 14;19, 1 Cor. 14:26b].
But he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks to God and edifies himself and he who prophesies edifies the church (purpose of Christians gathering) and thus prophesying is better than speaking in tongues except the speaker in an unknown tongue is able to interpret for the benefit of the church (verse 4,5).
Speaking In Tongues And Lifeless Things (Verses 6 – 14)
The Apostle went on to tell the Christians in Corinth that if he comes to them with an unknown tongue which they cannot understand, it will profit them nothing rather with prophecy which will benefit them.
He then compared speaking in tongues with lifeless things like pipe, harp, or trumpet which give distinctive sounds otherwise their sounds will be meaningless. The trumpet for instance in the Old Testament was to give a certain sound of alarm or warning for the people to prepare for battle (Num 10:9; Jer. 4:19) but if it gives uncertain sound, nobody will be battle ready.
Likewise, are those who speak in tongues, unless they speak the language that can easily be understood, how would the hearers understand what has been spoken? In fact, the speaker would have spoken in the air (in vain) [verse 9].
Paul continued that there are so many different kinds of languages on earth, and none is without meaning and understanding (verse 10), if not, they would not be languages. That as they desire spiritual gifts, they must use such to edify the church – having meaningful impact on the development and growth of the body of Christ.
Correspondingly, let him who speaks in tongues, pray for the gift of interpretation that he may serve the church better (verse 26).
Praying And Singing (Verses 14 – 18)
If he who speaks in tongues, prays in an unknown tongue, his spirit prays but his understanding is nothing, futile, or unprofitable because he does not understand what he is saying.
He must therefore pray and sing with the spirit and understanding (Verse 15) [Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16]. If he prays in an unknown tongue and gives thanks at the end of his prayer, his hearers cannot say amen because they do not understand what has been said; though he has prayed correctly in the spirit, others are not edified (verse 16,17).
Finally, Paul said that though he speaks in tongues more than them, he would not do it to the unedification of brethren.
Though prophecy and speaking in tongues were two common miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit that were used or exercised in the assembly of the saints, they were to be properly used for the edification of the church.
In like manner, those who teach the word today must do so with clarity and praying and singing in spirit and with understanding, all for the proper edification of the church to the glory of God (1 Cor. 14:26).