1 Corinthians 14
1. Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to bring a message from God to men.
Keep watching for things that you can do to show that you love one another. It is good to look for ways to use your gift to build up the church. Some gifts are needed more than others, such as the gift of bringing God’s words to the church.
2. If you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people will not be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will be a mystery to everyone else.
People who speak in an unknown language are speaking to God and nobody else can understand these words. We need to see the difference between speaking to God and from God.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26
3 – 4
But one who bring a message from God strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word from God strengthens the whole church.
Some churches have not been taught these things and they believe that the church service should be filled with people speaking in tongues and then someone might be able to explain what was said. Paul is making a difference here between speaking to God in a private conversation and bringing a message from God to the whole church. So we can see that speaking in tongues is not the same as speaking a message in a language that the church understands.
5. I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all bring a message from God. For bringing a message from God is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened.
Churches need to be honest about this. If the church service is always about speaking in tongues and there is no interpretation then what is happening is that people are speaking only to God and nobody else can understand them.
Another problem is that there are well–meaning people who try to help God by speaking up and saying something that gives the impression that it was the interpretation.
It usually sounds like this, “You will be My people and I will be Your God” and many other general ideas. These things always sound the same and are repeated again and again. The problem is that it is a dangerous thing to pretend that you are giving an interpretation. God does not take it lightly when someone pretends that they are giving a message in His name that He did not tell them to say.
But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in My name or who speaks in the name of another god must die. Deuteronomy 18:20
6. Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful.
The church is a hospital. People come to church to receive God’s medicine for their spirit, not to be impressed by someone else’s spiritual gift.
7. Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody.
If a person does not know how to play a musical instrument but gets up in front of the church and makes some random sounds it will not help anyone to worship or learn anything. But if someone with the gift of music plays then everyone is lifted up to God.
8. And if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle?
We are in a war and have not been called to play church. We need to know whether to go forward or wait for more orders. If a soldier cannot understand his orders he is a target for the enemy.
9. It is the same for you. If you speak to people in words they do not understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space.
So we see that speaking in tongues is given by God as a private conversation between you and Him. As with many other things in your spiritual life, what God is saying to you is not meant for others to hear.
10 – 12
There are many different languages in the world, and every language has meaning.
But if I do not understand a language, I will be a stranger to someone who speaks it, and the one who speaks it will be a stranger to me.
And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.
God is asking us to be honest. Are you letting other people listen to your private conversation with God so that they will think you are very spiritual? Instead of building yourself up in the eyes of men, look for ways to build up the church.
13 – 17
So anyone who speaks in tongues should pray also for the ability to interpret what has been said. For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I do not understand what I am saying.
Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the Spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the Spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.
For if you praise God only in the Spirit, how can those who do not understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they do not understand what you are saying?
You will be giving thanks very well, but it will not make the people who hear you any stronger.
Paul is going to explain how this gift is to be used in the church. We already know that we are His people and He is our God, so we do not need a message in tongues to tell us this. Verse 25 shows us that there may be something hidden that may be revealed.
There have been some interpretations that say things like, “God sees that the man with the red shirt in the back row does not have enough faith and there are angels laughing at him.”
The purpose of the church is to build up the saints and to bring people to Christ. A false message is only going to push people away from Christ. Verse 29 shows us that God expects two or three witnesses to prove whether a message is from God or not.
18 – 19
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you. But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.
Paul is saying that he does speak in an unknown tongue when he is alone with God. Your prayer closet is the right place for your personal conversations with God.
20. Dear brothers and sisters, do not be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind.
I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. Romans 16:19
21. It is written in Isaiah: “I will speak to my own people through strange languages and through the lips of foreigners. But even then, they will not listen to Me,”
says the LORD.
Paul wants to show the Corinthians that God uses unknown tongues to speak to people when they will not listen any other way. The Jews were making fun of Isaiah and they refused to listen to God’s warnings. So God said, “I will send the Assyrians and they will speak to you in a language that you do not understand.”
He will speak to this people through stuttering lips and a foreign tongue. Isaiah 28:11
22. So you see that speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is for the benefit of believers, not unbelievers.
God used a donkey to speak to Balaam because he would not listen in any other way (Numbers 22:28). The reason some churches do not use the gift of tongues correctly is because there are not many mature Christians in that church and God uses tongues because they will not listen in any other way.
23. Even so, if unbelievers or people who do not understand these things come into your church meeting and hear everyone speaking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy.
Our God is merciful and He has pity on us. He sees that some people are wounded in their emotions and they need someone to approve of them and make them feel that they are worth something. Many times these wounded people go from one church to another using the gift of tongues and hoping to find some new friends who will approve of them. Many times these people will interrupt the church service.
When God has given a message to a pastor in careful study of the Word and prayer, it would be crazy for the Holy Spirit to interrupt the message to bring attention to someone who is looking for attention.
A wise pastor will ask such wounded people to follow the guidelines in this chapter and also explain to them that he appreciates their gift and would like to get to know them after church. Unfortunately, these wounded people will leave the church if they are not allowed to be the center of attention.
24 – 25
But if all of you are bringing God’s message, and unbelievers or people who do not understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say.
As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.”
We need to remember that it is God’s Words and not our own words that can change the lives of people. We are insulting God when think that we can do a better job of speaking to people, than God can.
The way God has set up His church is that when His Words are spoken, lives will be changed. We need to trust God that this is true, and we will see the results.
26. Well, my brothers and sisters, look at what is happening! When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said [all at the same time]! But everything that is done should be done in a way that makes all of you stronger.
Everybody was talking at the same time and all it did was to bring confusion. All of these things are good things, but when everyone is talking at the same time, it reminds us of a room full of babies.
God gives some gifts to show us that our spirits are alive inside of us. After we know this, we do not feel the need to show our gift to everyone as we grow in Christ. We know what He can do and we do not need to prove it to anyone. God will prove what He can do. After the supernatural gifts were given in the book of Acts, and explained in the epistles, we do not see them as the main topic that needs to be focused on.
27 – 28
No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately
Paul has already said that speaking in an unknown tongue was given to us for our private conversations with God. He then said that sometimes God will use it when a church will not listen to Him in any other way.
Now Paul is saying that if you are going to make a practice of doing this, then at least stop talking all at the same time. Make sure that what is being done is from God by having people speak one at a time and if there is no interpretation, then do not go on this way.
29. Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others examine what is said.
It would be a crazy world if God did not give us a way to know if something is true or not. The Bible says in many places that the truth can be known by the mouth of two or three witnesses.
Mature leaders in the church can be witnesses and the Word of God is a witness. Leaders in the church must be soaked in the Word of God so that they can tell when something that is said goes against the Word.
God told the priests that they were responsible for any sin that was brought into His house. Church leaders need to take this seriously and not allow just anyone to say whatever they want to in front of the church.
Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You, your sons, and your relatives from the tribe of Levi will be held responsible for any offenses related to the sanctuary. Numbers 18:1
30 – 31
But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged.
There are times when you think that you are supposed to say something in the church. Be quiet for a while and you may be surprised to see that God has told someone else to say it.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak. James 1:19
32. Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns.
Many times wounded people (who are needing attention) will say, “I could not help it, I just know that the Lord told me to say it in front of everybody.” This is not according to the Bible. The Lord says that you are in control of your spirit and can wait to make sure that you should do this and to make sure that you are not just bringing attention to yourself.
Better to have self–control than to conquer a city. Proverbs 16:32
33. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.
If you look for the word “confusion” in the Bible you will see that it is the devil who brings confusion. If he cannot get the church to sin in any other way than he will suggest confusion.
34. Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.
Sometimes when people ask a question, they ask it in a way that shows you they are not really looking for the answer.
We see in 1 Corinthians 11:5 that women do speak in the church while showing respect for their husbands. It is embarrassing for a man to be made to look stupid in front of the church.
As long as a woman is not trying to control things, she can share many good things with the church. Anyone who is married knows that a woman can help a man see what he should do by praying for him and not saying a word about it.
I do not allow a woman to teach or push authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12
36. Or do you think God’s Word started with you Corinthians? Are you the only ones to whom it was given?
The Corinthians thought that they had special revelation that Paul did not have.
37 – 38
If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should know that what I am saying is a command from the Lord Himself. But if you do not know this, you yourself will not be known.
We all know that there are things we thought we understood in the Bible, only to find out some time later that we did not completely understand. First, we knew it in our head, but now we see it in our heart. It is better to say, “I do not know everything that I should know. I will work with what I do know and ask God to show me what I do not know.”
39 – 40
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be ready to bring a message from God, and do not stop anyone from speaking in tongues. But be sure that everything is done properly and in order.
Do not look at the gift of tongues as more important than the other gifts. There are some people who have no other experience with the Lord so do not take it away from them. Ask yourself if you are using your gift in front of men, or in front of God.