1 Corinthians 14:20-25 When to Speak in Tongues or Prophesy

In his letter to the believers in Corinth Paul had mentioned the greatest gift was charitable love, from the Greek “agape.” Then came the gift of prophecy which could be understood by many and finally, the apostle described speaking in tongues as a spiritual gift of lesser importance since tongues required interpretation to be understood.

Paul continues his exhortation by focusing on the ultimate goal behind spiritual gifts rather than their order of importance within the church and in the eyes of God.

20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20)

Paul called on believers in corinth to seek wisdom in the word, and maturity in understanding each other showing compassion and forgiveness. The apostle also invites all those in Christ to refrain from malice, judgment and persecution thereby imitating Christ Himself.

21 In the law it is written: “ With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,” says the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 14:21)

Quoting Jewish scripture, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the judgment placed upon the Jewish nation by God almighty, as Jews found themselves captive among people who spoke a foreign language not understood by the Jews. The apostle here calls on the Corinthians to rely on prophecy in the church rather than tongues.

22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 14:22)

Paul now differentiates tongues and prophecy, pointing out that tongues were a powerful tool to unbelievers since they would hear the word of God spoken in their language, while prophecy was aimed as believers.

23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (1 Corinthians 14:23)

Because tongues could only be interpreted by either God, someone saved or individuals matching the origin of the particular tongue, church gatherings should be aimed at reinforcing the gospel through one person prophesying rather than numerous confusing speeches in tongues which would require interpretation to make sense to all believers or non believers alike.

24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all.” (1 Corinthians 14:24)

Here Paul explains that prophecy within church gatherings is more powerful than speaking in tongues since it would be understood by many including non believers. By prophesying someone speaking in church is easily discerned by those listening, both leaders and members.

25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:25)

Anyone who prophesied within a church gathering exposed himself to the judgment of both God and those present thereby testifying to the presence and glory of the Father. Prophecy was a gift above many which was meant to edify the church and equip disciples of Jesus Christ as they endeavored to save the lost and advance the gospel to the four corners of the earth, fulfilling God’s mission for their lives.

Because the gifts of tongues and prophecy ceased when “that which is made perfect” came to be, which is the bible, modern believers should follow Paul’s advice and speak in commonly known languages in church gatherings in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible. In tune with the apostle’s teaching, Christians should preach in tongues, in different languages when spreading the good news about Jesus Christ, His divine love and sacrifice as well as promised return. Let us pray!

Father God;
We thank you for your blessings in our lives and for your servant Paul,
We praise you Lord for his wisdom and for his works through this scripture,
We ask you Lord to inspire us to use these verses in our lives
As we grow in you through the teachings of your faithful apostle.

Lord we ask you to strengthen us each day as we endure through battles,
Allow us to praise and love each other through faith in you Jesus,
Shield us from evil through truth, the gospel, salvation and prayer,
Guide us to abide by your word as we spread your gospel to one and all
Becoming examples of faith through our character as we walk the narrow path.

God we pray that you will continue to bless us, to bless our lives and fill us with hope
We ask you Lord to guide our footsteps and lead us to the way everlasting,
Through faith in you Lord we seek salvation and a place with you in heaven
According to your word, your everlasting wisdom and strength.

May your will be done
In our lives, for your life.

We thank you for your love and all you bless us with each day.

Praise God,
Amen!

This message was written by Daniel St.Pierre
Email: DanielStPierre@ThriveThroughChrist.com

Posted in Bible Studies.