Tongues and Prophecy
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 14:1–25
Spiritual gifts are channels for us, the church, to build each other up, and to show God’s love and grace to one another. Consequently, we are encouraged to eagerly desire spiritual gifts to specifically use them to build each other up in our faith. Though there are a number of spiritual gifts, the primary thrust of the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians focuses on two of them: tongues and prophecy. This chapter is devoted to comparing these two gifts, and Paul articulates why he believes that the gift of prophecy is more important to the body of Christ than that of tongues.
The gift of tongues, in particular, tends to be a controversial subject among believers today. There are those who hold that the gift of tongues is very important. However, when we read and understand this passage, the points of controversy for this case are significantly diminished. Paul compares these two gifts in the context of love. He makes his case that prophecy is the more profitable one—for the edification and the building of the church. In other words, understanding what is being forthtold involves the mind, it encourages growth, it promotes a cooperative and loving spirit between the diverse members of the body, and it helps build unity among the various body parts.
An active, functioning body must have diversity. The body is made up of individual and unique parts that work in harmony. Therefore, we are not called to uniformity but to unity. It is in our unity in diversity that we become the active body of Christ in our community. Consequently, Paul tells us that prophecy is exceedingly greater than hearing people talk in languages that are not understood.