In his final comments on his teaching on spiritual gifts, Paul adds a brief summary: “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39).
‘Covet’ is an old English word usually used in the negative: “covet not another man’s wife“. ‘Covet’ means to earnestly desire and can also have a positive passion behind it. We are to covet (earnestly desire) to prophesy. Of all the spiritual gifts that may function through us, nothing is more valuable than prophecy, because it is speaking God’s revelation in words others can benefit from.
If others are to covet prophecy, we all should covet to hear words of prophecy. I challenge you to find a small prayer group where God’s prophetic words are often spoken. They will give you life.
I love this last challenge: “Forbid not to speak with tongues.” How much more clear can the Bible be? When I was a new believer, speaking in tongues was absolutely taboo in nearly any church. Today that has changed. Mainline denominations are now embracing speaking with tongues as a legitimate spiritual gift, but not everyone has it. But the Bible clearly forbids the banning of the gift.
If you have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with other tongues, I encourage you to not be ignorant. Seek and you shall find.
Tags: prophecy, tongues
Paul, in giving a list of rules for spiritual gifts in the church, had just said that messages in tongues should be limited to two or three at the most, one at a time, and each interpreted. In today’s verse he addresses the issue of no interpreter present: “But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:28).
That can be embarrassing. A person steps out in faith and gives a message in tongues, but no one interprets that message. If we don’t allow ourselves some room to grow, we’ll just shut up and never try again. I’ve made mistakes and missed God before. Is it better to try and fail or never to try and miss God all the time?
None of us have a “corner” on God. All these spiritual gifts come from Him, not us. Paul tried to use spiritual gifts and ended up beaten and in prison. But, we’ve got to allow others to step up and partner with us in spiritual gifts.
I remember as a young believer being at a prayer meeting when someone brought forth a message in tongues. We waited. I had an impression that God was saying something, but was afraid to speak out. Pretty soon an older lady spoke out with the same message God had put in my heart. She used different wording than I would have, but the message was the same. That emboldened me to speak out the next time.
But Paul is very clear: if there is no one to interpret, that person should pray to him/herself and to God. Don’t give another message in that meeting.
Tags: spiritual gifts, tongues
“If therefore the whole church comes together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad? (1 Corinthian s 14:23).
When I was about age 18 there was a Christian man where I worked. He asked me to go to church with him in Hicksville, Ohio. So my girlfriend and I got dressed up and went with he and his wife. The worship was the same songs I was used to in the Church of Christ and what she was used to in the Lutheran Church, but perhaps a little more lively, and they had guitars! But soon the minister announced that it was time for prayer. At that point every person in the room, with a loud voice, began speaking with words that sounded like mumble jumble to us. People were shouting and getting really emotional. We both sat really still, but it scared us. We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. It did not draw us closer to the Lord, it scared us away. We never returned.
I’m not sure, but it must have been a Pentecostal Church and they were probably praying in their prayer language. As I read the scriptures, it was probably a good thing. But, from the perspective of unbelievers, we thought they were way too radical for us. We never considered this might be God. If there was prophecy present, I can’t recall. All I remember is never wanting to go back to that wild place.
I think we get the idea of what was happening at the Corinthian Church that motivated Paul to make this statement. They were probably getting real serious with the Lord in prayer in a big public meeting and scaring everyone away before the Holy Spirit could grab their hearts. Sometimes we must be real careful with spiritual gifts, because ministry is always about helping others take their next steps toward Him, and not about our own experience. Its what we give away that comes back to us. People will not invite their friends to a place that will embarrass them.
Tell us about your early experience with others praying in tongues.
Tags: evangelism, spiritual gifts, tongues
“Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe” (1 Corinthians 14:22).
The seldom used word ‘wherefore’ refers to the cause or the reason for something. He makes two opposite statements in this verse:
1) ‘“Tongues are…a sign…to them that believe not“. In this case Paul is setting up the scenario for what he is about to say next. He is referring not to your personal prayer language, but a message in tongues, with interpretation, before a group of others, including those who believe not. Although it was clear in Paul’s mind, it may be confusing to those who are just learning about spiritual gifts. There is a distinction between speaking in tongues as your personal prayer language (which needs no interpretation and should be kept to oneself) and a message in tongues within the assembly of the saints, which requires interpretation. In the next few verses Paul describes how a message in tongues with interpretation influences unbelievers.
2) “Prophesying serves…them which believe“. Prophesying is speaking what God has revealed to others so we can instruct them in the ways of God. We learned earlier that a message in tongues with interpretation equals prophecy. But prophecy is always done in the language of the people, otherwise no one can understand the message.
A “sign” simply is something that indicates something else. Jesus said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). These are indications of the indwelling Holy Spirit at work in the heart of the believer.
In the next 17 verses Paul lays out some ground rules for the ministry of spiritual gifts in the assembly of the saints. As we go through them I’d like to hear your experience with each of these rules.
Tags: prophecy, signs, tongues
“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Paul said in the previous verse (v. 17) that when praying in their prayer languages, the Corinthians were thanking God well. Paul wasn’t saying in our current verse that, comparatively, he spoke in tongues more than anyone else. He, rather, was thankful that God had given him the freedom and opportunity to devote his life to spiritual ministry and praying in his prayer language was a major part of that.
Paul spoke on several occasions about praying without ceasing. With so much to do in the world, how does one pray without ceasing? The answer is to make our attitude such that prayer becomes a part of our everyday lives. Instead of thinking to ourselves, we think to God. And God responds by giving us ideas and insight we would not normally have thought of. Combine that concept with praying in our prayer language where the spirit inside me prays to the Holy Spirit, and we have a powerful prayer life that releases great spiritual gifts.
He says this in contrast to those in the Corinthian church who thought they were more spiritual if they spoke much in tongues in a public meeting. The gift of tongues is direct communication with God and is not for the purpose of impressing other people with our depth of spirituality. As a matter of fact, some of the most immature Christians I have known spoke with tongues. It is not a measure of your spiritual maturity at all. It is the power to become mature as we seek God. But if we turn inward and use these gifts without the Agape love for others, it can become dangerous and prideful.
So, don’t be afraid to use that gift powerfully in your own life.
Tags: spiritual gifts, tongues
“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” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
To pray with the understanding is to pray in a way that others can say “Amen” with you. Amen means agreement, like saying, “I agree”. To sing with the understanding is to sing the same song with others. That’s why we put the words of songs in print, so we can all sing the same thing together. There is a wonderful power that comes in unity and agreement.
To pray with the spirit means to pray in your own personal prayer language. No one understands what is being said, but we are all praying to God so we don’t need to understand. Singing with the spirit is the same thing: its singing a song of praise to God in your personal prayer language. Have you ever been in a room where many believers were all praying together in their prayer language? When multiple people are all singing to God at the same time, it is a wonderful sense of harmony (unless you are afraid to sing out loud with your prayer language). And just as with singing songs where we know the words, the tune can be joyous or worshipful. It is our spirits praying in harmony and its beautiful in God’s ears.
Paul says in this verse that we need to do both. Not just one, but both. When we sing in the spirit, we communicate with God. But, when we sing with the understanding, we’re communicating with each other. We need both in the church. What is your response to this verse?
Tags: spiritual gifts, tongues
Still making his point about speaking in plain language so people can benefit, Paul continues, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaks a barbarian, and he that speaks shall be a barbarian to me” (1 Corinthians 14: 10-11).
I have traveled outside this country and found it a little troubling when announcements in an airport or train station are made and I can’t understand a word they are saying. Is this a message that refers to my ride? I can’t tell what they are trying to say. They should be speaking in plain English (lol). That’s the very point Paul is making. In the church world, we should be speaking in a language others can understand.
He is spending enough time talking about this subject that it apparently was a problem in the Corinthian Church. Perhaps they had people all speaking in their prayer language all day and not winning anyone to the Lord or helping to disciple anyone. Whatever the issue, Paul clearly explains the solution: speak in the language of who is listening.
No one knows exactly how many languages or dialects are spoken in the world today. And how many have become extinct over the centuries? And what of angelic languages? We can only communicate within our language group.
Paul said in 1 Cor. 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not [agape love], I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal“. We must learn what it means to love people by caring about them enough to speak to them straight up in a language they can understand. I speak in tongues to God; I speak to my brothers and sisters in a language they can understand.
Tags: language, tongues