Listen: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If we could say there was a theme to this chapter, it would be ‘order in the assembly, or church’.  1 Corinthians 14:40instructs us, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”  Most of the chapter is taken up with the proper use of speaking in tongues and in prophesying.  The ability to speak in tongues was a legitimate gift from the Lord.  In speaking of gifts, or manifestations of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:10, “To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.”  However, in the Corinthian assembly, there was a great misuse of speaking in tongues and Paul writes to correct the saints about this.

Let’s read 1 Corinthians 14:21-25, “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” 

In verse 21, the Apostle Paul is quoting from Isaiah 28:11-12which says, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.”  This declares that the Lord would use people of other tongues, or languages, to speak to the nation of Israel.  Paul, using the passage from Isaiah, shows that tongues are for a sign to them who do not believe, even as the nation of Israel had fallen into a state of unbelief and the Lord used those who spoke a different language, or a foreign tongue to speak to them. 

While the Lord does not denounce the use of tongues, He exalts the proper use of prophesy in the church.  The proper use of the gift of tongues was to manifest the power of God to the unsaved.  It seems those in Corinth were using this gift as a way to draw attention to themselves and they weren’t benefitting those in the church.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:19, “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”  How much greater was the gift of prophecy!  To speak five intelligent, understandable words was much better than speaking ten thousand words that could not be understood.

What is prophecy?  1 Corinthians 14:3says, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”  In the New Testament sense, prophesy is a word spoken to build up, encourage, and give comfort to the saints of God.  Rather than foretelling, it means to tell forth by giving needed ministry to the Lord’s people.  Who can prophesy?  According to 1 Corinthians 14:31, “…ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.”  The ability to share the Word of God has been given to all saved men as the Lord leads. 

We are told in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “…Let all things be done unto edifying.”  Yet, in speaking of tongues, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:17, “…the other is not edified.”  So, what attitude should we have towards speaking in tongues?  Our desire should be to edify one another through prophesy, or ministering God’s Word.  If someone truly has the ability to speak in a different tongue, and is following the order given in scripture, then it is to be permitted.  As we read in 1 Corinthians 14:39, “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.”  Does the Lord still lead men to speak in tongues today?  Well, I would never try to limit what the Lord might do, but I will say, that if you study 1 Corinthians 14 and Acts 2carefully, you will see that what is being practiced in some churches today as ‘speaking in tongues’ has no semblance at all to what is taught in the Word of God.   (143.2)