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I Corinthians 14:1-25

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Good morning again and welcome to those of you who have just joined us. We have been plowing along through the book of I Corinthians in a series we call, “Wild Times in Corinth.” The book of 1st Corinthians is actually a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church at the city of Corinth. He had gotten word of several issues that the church was experiencing including divisions over which leader they followed and the emphasizing of one of the spiritual gifts over the others to the detriment of the body of believers. It is this latter issue that today’s passage finds Paul in the middle of dealing with. In Chapter 12 he had given spoken to the church as the body of Christ and though they were many different parts with different gifts, they were all part of one body and needed one another. Then towards the end of chapter 12, he says he’s going to show them a more excellent way. In Chapter 13 he lays out that the more excellent way is love and basically that the gifts don’t matter if they are not empowered by love.
This brings us to Chapter 14, verses 1-25, which is our lengthy passage for this morning. As we read I want you to listen for how Paul explains that the gift of prophecy is to be preferred over the gift of tongues. He’s going to give some admonitions to the Corinthian church that connected with the very issues they were dealing with. We can also pick up on ways this can solve or prevent issues happening in our own fellowship of believers.
Let’s read from the Word of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:1–25 ESV
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 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. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 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. Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.


Dear Lord,
I thank you for calling me to this church to proclaim your word today. I ask that your word would do it’s life changing work on our hearts. Help us see our sin and help us see your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us understand and apply what we read. May my speech be clear and may you be glorified by everything that happens here today. This is for you, Jesus, and I am nothing without out. Please increase in this place and may I decrease. In Jesus Name, Amen

Defining Prophecy and Tongues

As we get into this passage we need to examine each gift first and make sure we are on the same page with what we’re actually talking about here and then we can look at what Paul says about each gift and how it should be used. First up is the gift of prophecy.

I. The Gift of Prophecy

The gift of prophecy refers to utterances or messages inspired by the Holy Spirit. As with the prophets of the Old Testament this role entails social critique, calling people to repentance, and revealing the future plans of God for judgement and for salvation. These messages could have included predictions of the future but their intent is not to confuse believers but to encourage them in their faith. It’s important to note differences in the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy.
Prophets in the Old Testament sometimes predicted the future and when they did it was always accurate. Generally they were anointed by God to apply God’s message to the society.
In the New Testament we read that the prophets were a gift to the church.
Ephesians 4:11 ESV
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
Sometimes they proclaimed far off events as John did in the book of Revelation but sometimes they also made short-term prophecies such as Agabus in Acts 21. The main function of a prophet appears to be receiving revelations of God’s will and then passing them on. As an office this seems to have ceased in the local church. The Bible is completed. God’s Word is complete. His revelation of Himself to us is complete.
Ephesians 2:20 ESV
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. So, if we understand the office of prophet to have ceased, what does the gift of prophecy look like in the church? Ben Merold writes,
“ To speak God’s Word with power and authority carries with it the idea of a relevant proclamation to the situation at hand. Those who have the ability to teach and preach the word of God and apply it.”
Paul gives the Corinthians an admonition or authoritative council to seek this gift.

A. Admonition to seek this gift. (Authoritative council or warning)

Love was to be the highest goal. However, they should also be seeking after the gift of prophecy. (Verse 1)

B. Advantages of this gift.

Paul wants his audience in Corinth to understand the advantages of the gift of prophecy over tongues.
It strengthens, encourages, and brings comfort to Christians.
It builds up/edifies the entire church.
This was Paul’s preference for them. He wanted this for them.
Paul saw it as his most effective way to help all of the churches.
In verse 18 and 19 he puts a number to the amount he feels that prophecy is more effective than tongues. (comes out to 2,000 times) This is something he believed deeply.

C. Analogies concerning this gift

To illustrate the superiority of prophecy over tongues, Paul gives three analogies as proof.
First is from the music world in verse 7. No one recognizes the melody unless each note is sounded clearly.
Second, he brings an example from the military world. An unclear call to battle is useless. If the soldiers can’t understand then they won’t come to arms. (v.8)
Paul’s third and final illustration is that of the daily world. (v. 14:9-12) Unclear language is useless language. We need to make sense and be clear with the message of the Gospel. If we are unintelligible, what good does that do the lost world and what good does it do to edify the church body?

D. Admonitions Concerning this gift.

Only two or three people should speak prophecy in a service and the other people should evaluate what is said. God will never contradict His Word. He’s not going to give a message to someone that is in opposition to what is in the Bible or in anyway out of His character.
If someone is prophesying and another gets some kind of divine revelation, the first was supposed to allow the second person to speak. v. 30-31
The speakers who are prophesying should remain in control of their spirit to wait their turn to speak.

II. The Gift of Tongues

Now that we have a base understanding of the gift of prophecy we turn to the gift of tongues. This particular gift, we believe the over emphasis of to have been part of the issue in the Corinthian church.

A. Reasons for this gift.

1. Regarding believers.
The speaker is edified himself. The Corinthians wanted to be personally edified to the neglect of the body of Christ. Let me be clear: I believe these people were using their gifts and much more concerned with how it built them up than how it affected anyone else. They were putting themselves before the body of Christ. Paul is not okay with this. God wants us to be in communion with Him and this can be done without tongues. Paul doesn’t deny that tongues has value but it must be interpreted for the message to do any good for the church.
2. Regarding unbelievers.
In verse 21 Paul quotes Isaiah to show that tongues is a sign of judgement for the unbelieving Israelites. Paul then gives a warning against an entire congregation using the gift of tongues because an unbeliever may come in and make the conclusion that they are all out of their minds. Even at Pentecost some people thought those speaking in tongues were drunk basically.
Verses 24-25 If the gift of prophecy is happening (preaching) then the unsaved person who happens into the gathering may be convinced to accept Christ, thus this gift of prophecy is more desirable.

B. Rules governing this gift. (why Paul gave these rules)

Knowing what he knew about the Corinthians’ propensity to overemphasize one gift over the others, Paul gave some rules that should govern the use of the gift of tongues. H.L. Wilmington outlines these well. Some of them flow into our passage for next week so we are going to focus on what’s covered here in this section today.
1. Those speaking in tongues should pray that what is said might be correctly interpreted (14:13–14).
2. The one praying and singing with his spirit is also to do both with his mind (14:15–17).

III. Prophecy and Tongues in the role of building up the church. (edifying)

Again, Mr. Wilmington is helpful in our understanding here.
Edifies was a construction term. It means to build up.
Paul is very clear when it comes to which of these gifts he wants more for the Corinthians. I believe it was included in the Word of God to direct us in our understanding and exercise of these gifts as well.
The Corinthians wanted to be personally edified to the neglect of the body of Christ.
Prophecy speaks to people. Tongues speak to God—or only to the speaker.
They were desiring the miraculous gifts because it gave them status. Opposite that we are supposed to seek the way of love and to desire gifts that build up the church. They were not using it for that. They were selfish. When our desire for our own benefit outweighs the desire to build others up in our hearts, we have stepped outside of the example that Jesus sets for us.
Philippians 2:3–11 ESV
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Though Jesus was God, He willingly humbled Himself to be crucified in the place of sinners. He took on wrath for my sin. He was perfect and never sinned and yet willingly took on our sin. He gave His very life. If we trust in Him alone for salvation, that His death was a sufficient payment for our sin then we will have eternal life and Jesus’ righteousness imputed to our account. The wrath of God gets removed from us because it was put on Him. This is incredibly good news!
And in Jesus we see an attitude of humility, not demanding the status due Him. He was secure in who He was and who His Father was. We must not seek status or selfishly push others behind in our chase to become the most spiritual or have our own status increase. We should be like Jesus and put others above ourselves, even to the point of death. No wonder Paul centers this gifting discussion around love. Seek to love. It’s more important that you love than which gift you have. We love because He first loved us and our gifts MUST be empowered by love so that we aren’t just making noise.

To wrap up:

Prophecy was the more desirable gift because of the way it edified the whole church. It also preached the word in such a way that the unbelievers among them could understand the Gospel and be saved.
God wants us to be in communion with Him. This can be done without tongues. Our goal is to love God and do that which edifies the church.
Prophecy builds up the church. Tongues build up the speaker (vv. 11, 12).
Paul did not deny that tongues have some value. The tongues must be interpreted for the message to do the church any good (vv. 13–17).
Those who spoke in tongues were to abide by the rules. They were also to make sure it was founded on love.
Those who did not speak in tongues were not unsaved. Even today there are churches that believe you must speak in tongues to prove you are saved.
We don’t have a recorded instance where Jesus spoke in tongues.
Tongues are not in the qualifications for church leaders (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1).
As we think about how these things impact our own lives and gifting experience we need to give great consideration to verses 12, 18, and 19 here.
1 Corinthians 14:12 ESV
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:18–19 ESV
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
May we too, desire the better for the building up of the body of Christ.
Let’s pray.


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