Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Corinthians 14:1-19

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But those who prophesy speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 Those who speak in a tongue edify themselves, but those who prophesy edify the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. Those who prophesy are greater than those who speak in tongues, unless they interpret, so that the church may be edified.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
13 For this reason those who speak in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can the others, who are now put in the same situation as an inquirer, say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but the others are not edified.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Questions to consider:

  • For what reasons does Paul encourage the Corinthians to desire prophecy over tongues?
  • In what ways can you make Paul’s advice in verse 12 the standard of behavior and desire in your Christian community?
  • Do you desire tongues or prophecy? Why?
  • How does Paul substantiate his statements to the Corinthians?
Possibilities for prayer:

Even though Paul comes across as denigrating the gift of tongues a little bit in this passage, it is clear that he values it in his own life--and it’s a pretty neat thought that this gift is kind of like your direct line to God, a language that the two of you can use to communicate that is beyond human thought or intellect. Paul’s language of prophecy being greater than tongues is perhaps a little misleading here--I think he wants the Corinthian church to be in a place where they can edify and encourage each other and not just themselves. It’s important to edify and encourage your community, but it’s also important to be edified and encouraged by God for oneself, and definitely exciting to be able to communicate with God in a very unique way. So today, let’s ask God to grant us both those gifts--and the wisdom to use them well.