Jun 28, 2021
The language of hymnody is filled with imagery related to speech and communication (“speak,” “sing,” “voice,” “tongue,” “mouth,” as well as related concepts like “listen,” “hear,” etc.). In the psalms, we are commanded to sing cheerfully with our voices (All People That On Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100) and to listen to a mouth speaking wisdom (Hear Me, All You People—Psalm 49). We find the language of “tongues of fire” from Acts 2:3 in Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing, while To Our Redeemer’s Glorious Name portrays a coming day when this “immortal flame” is found on every tongue. We are warned to avoid the wicked who speak lies “with serpents’ tongues” (Do You Decree O Earthly Gods—Psalm 58) and are instead urged to listen to the speech of the Lord, whose words can never fail (Speak, O Lord). A common theme emerges: we should be careful how we use our tongues, and to which tongues we listen. While it may be unclear what exactly was happening in the worship of first century Corinth (were these ecstatic tongues, or a multiplicity of languages?), what is clear from 1 Corinthians 14 is that the result was confusion which did not build up the whole body. In contrast, we pray that the Lord would “assist us to proclaim” to the watching world His glories and triumphs. When we speak in our own capacity, confusion (or worse, falsehood) may come. But “He speaks and, listening to His voice, new life the dead receive.” —Henry C. Haffner Key Words: Prophesy, Upbuilding, Encouragement, Consolation, Meaning, Instruct, Sign Keystone Verse: The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding. (1 Corinthians 14:3)
1 Corinthians 14:1-25 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. 6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.