1 Corinthians 14:1-13


1 Corinthians 14:1-13


  • Paul encourages them to pursue love first and foremost
  • He also encourages them to desire a spiritual gift that will encourage the church
  • Between the gift of tongues and prophesy, Paul encourages them to seek out prophesy
  • For someone who is speaking in tongues (an unknown language) is only speaking to God because only God understands the message
  • But the one who prophesies is understood by others and it results in the church being strengthened, encouraged, and comforted
  • The one who speaks in tongues strengthens him or herself only; whereas the one who prophesies strengthens everyone in the church listening
  • Paul think tongues is a great gift and wouldn’t mind if everyone had the self-encouraging gift
  • But he would prefer that they had the gift of prophesy because the purpose of the gifts are not for the person with the gift but to help the church.
  • This makes prophesy a greater gift than tongues because it encourages others
  • Of course tongues would meet the criteria if someone was present with the gift to interpret so that everyone could be encouraged.
  • Then he gives an example that if he came to them and only spoke in tongues (an unknown language) it wouldn’t benefit the church at all because no-one would understand what he is saying.
  • However, if he came to their church and revealed something God was going to do, gave them some spiritual insight, prophesied, or taught the scriptures; then they would get something out of it
  • The same is true for an instrument in an orchestra. Unless each instrument makes a sound that is close to the tune, no-one will hear the song but just random blast of sound
  • If a bugle is not clearer understood in battle, then no-one will know what to do
  • In the same way, when we speak in tongues – without interpretation – it is just meaningless sound.
  • There are many languages in the world and each has a meaning if people understand it. Without understanding it is just babbling.
  • So if you really want the Holy Spirit to give you a gift, make sure you seek spiritual gifts that do the job the Holy Spirit wants you to do which is to build up and encourage the church
  • Based on this information, if you are going to speak in an unknown language you should also pray the Holy Spirit give you the gift to interpret what you spoke for the good of others in the church.


The gift of speaking in unknown tongues was a concern in the Corinthian church. The use of the gift had caused disorder in worship. Speaking in tongues was one of the legitimate gifts of the Holy Spirit, but the Corinthian believers used it as a sign of spiritual superiority rather than as a means for giving spiritual unity and encouragement. When spiritual gifts are properly used, they help everyone in the church.

Even today many Christians struggle with the discussion of tongues. Paul would clearly say that no one should put down those Christians who speak in tongues, and those who speak in tongues should not disparage those who do not. He would also say that whatever you do in the context of the church gathering should be understood by all so that everyone in the church will be comforted, encouraged, and edified.

Paul confronted the self-oriented use of the gift of tongues or any gift for that matter. Spiritual people must be careful not to pursue self-development at the expense of their brothers and siters in Christ Giving too much attention to our own needs, ideas, and spiritual expression, we may push aside the Spirit's true desire and abandon those who need encouragement. We need to follow Paul's advice and make encouraging and edifying others our highest goal.


Father, thank you for giving Yourself, the Holy Spirit, to reside in me. Thank you that you not only adopted me into Your family but that You give me a family responsibility. Help me continue to use my spiritual gifts to build up my brothers and sisters in Christ. Forgive me for using Your gifts for my own gain and ego. Show me how I might grow in love, and serve the church. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

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