Opening Prayer

Merciful One, in gratitude I praise you for your care over me and for the abundant life, you give me.

Read 1 CORINTHIANS 14:1–25

Intelligibility in Worship

14 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,[b] but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,[c] unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

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? 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? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 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 the one who speaks 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 someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[d] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is 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.

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues
    and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
    but even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord.”[e]

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

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  1. 1 Corinthians 14:2 Or in another language; also in verses 4, 13, 14, 19, 26 and 27
  2. 1 Corinthians 14:5 Or in other languages; also in verses 6, 18, 22, 23 and 39
  3. 1 Corinthians 14:5 Or in other languages; also in verses 6, 18, 22, 23 and 39
  4. 1 Corinthians 14:16 The Greek word for inquirer is a technical term for someone not fully initiated into a religion; also in verses 23 and 24.
  5. 1 Corinthians 14:21 Isaiah 28:11,12

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Thank God for loving and gifting you to be a unique part of your faith community. Ask for discernment in how best to share your gifts to edify others.

Think Further

So, if we’re called to love as Jesus loves, what does that mean for our practice of spiritual gifts? Paul now turns to address that question. Once we understand that this is what he’s doing, the different parts of his argument fall into place.

The burden of the passage is captured in verse 12: aim to ‘excel’ in the gifts that ‘build up’ the church. Paul is particularly concerned to commend prophecy. His comment that it promotes ‘strengthening’, ‘encouragement’ and ‘comfort’ (v 3) suggests a wide understanding of ‘prophecy’. It surely includes prophetic preaching, but it could also apply to a word of encouragement or comfort spoken informally to a fellow believer. The injunction to ‘build up’ has a wider application too, hence Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of verse 12 (The Message): ‘Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church?’ While some gifts have more potential to build others up, we can use any gift or talent selfishly, or as God intends – namely for the benefit of others.

Note that the concern for others is not limited to ‘believers’; it is extended to ‘unbelievers’ too (vs 22–25). The Corinthians were self- indulgent in their practice of tongues. Not only were they not building one another up, they were in danger of putting off ‘inquirers’ who would be bewildered by their worship times (v 23). Such a cavalier attitude disregards what we recognize now as one of Paul’s great concerns, the priority of ‘others’. Do our worship services commend Christ to outsiders? A good question to ask is, ‘Would I bring my friends and colleagues here?’ Paul begins this section by saying ‘Follow the way of love’ (v 1). Let’s apply that principle to all we do.


‘Follow the way of love.’ What difference would this principle make if we applied it to our discipleship in the church and wider world?

Closing prayer

Almighty God, how great you are. Strengthen me to express my faith and gratitude to you, in deeds of love today.

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Last Updated on October 14, 2022 by kingstar

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