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The Gift of Prophecy Is Greater Than the Gift of Tongues
In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, the apostle Paul contrasted the gift of prophecy with that of tongues. The gift of tongues is speaking in a foreign language, one that could be easily understood by a foreigner of that tongue. Its function was to confirm the faith of new converts (1 Corinthians 14:22; Acts 10:44–46; 11:15) and to provide personal spiritual edification (1 Corinthians 14:4). And the gift of prophecy is the power to speak with authority for God, or on His behalf, either by predicting future events or by stating His will for the present (Exodus 3:10, 14, 15; 2 Samuel 23:2; Matthew 11:9, 10; 2 Peter 1:21).
Paul wrote, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (1 Corinthians 14:1-5).
The Gifts of the Spirit Are Evaluated by Their Benefit to the Church
The Corinthian Christians exalted the gift of tongues above that of prophecy, perhaps because of its spectacular nature. For they took great pride in their intellectual accomplishments and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20; 8:1, 2). Thus, they behaved childishly in relation to the gifts of the Spirit. People should not seek for the gifts in order to glorify in themselves but that they be of good service to the Lord and minister to His church (Acts 8:18–22; 19:13–17).
The gift of tongues was unfruitful to the Corinthians church because: (1) It was not understood by the hearers and as a result it offered no benefit for them. (2) The conscious mind could not comprehend anything during the practice of the gift.
Apparently, the one who spoke with tongues was not always able to interpret the mysteries that had been shown to him. Therefore, Paul counseled him to pray “that he may interpret” (1 Corinthians 14: 13), but warned that “if there be no interpreter” he should “keep silence in the church” (verses 27, 28).
Thus, the gift of prophecy was greater because of its value to the church. More were benefited by it than by the gift of tongues. The great objective of all the outpouring of the Spirit should be the edification of the church. There should be no looking for the gifts in order to uplift self and satisfy personal desire for power above other members.
When many people speak in tongues at the same time in church without an interpreter, there is confusion and disorder. Our Lord is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:40). The true worship of God will not result in disorder of any kind. For He is the God of peace (Romans 15:33; 16:20), and will not be pleased by confusion (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20).
Christianity promotes order in every way (1 Corinthians 14:33). The worshiper should be ready to show his love and appreciation to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving, but he should show it with soberness, tact, and a true respect for the maintenance of order in the sanctuary of God, and not with an attempt to interrupt and distract the holy worship of God.
In His service,