Proper Worship: Prophecy and Tongues

I Corinthians 14:1-25

We got a new puppy, he is so cute but he chews on everything.
Yesterday he chewed up my drawstring bag of scrabble tiles.
I picked him up and asked him what he thought he was doing.
He looked at me with those sad puppy eyes
but not a single word came out of his mouth.

This morning we are going to look at the first 25 verses of the 14th
chapter of I Corinthians. Let’s start by reading the first 5 verses.

I Corinthians 14:1-5

Paul begins with a reminder to pursue love.
He wrote an entire chapter about it and how it should be the
backbone for all spiritual gifts. Every gift should be used in love.
Then he instructs the church to earnestly seek prophecy over
tongues. He gives several reasons why prophecy is superior to
tongues. The first is:

Prophecy is Profitable

Paul sees value in the gift of prophecy because he knows it has a
tremendous impact on those who hear it.

Paul writes that prophecy builds up believers, encourages them and
provides consolation to them as well.
This is contrary to what the people of Corinth were used to.

They were accustomed to speaking for their own benefit and praise,
but prophecy is for the building up of those who hear it. It is a word
from the Lord.

Prophecy Edifies the Church

Remember Paul has been writing about proper worship and the fact
that love should be the motivator in all that believers do.
Every gift should be used out of a heart of love for God and others.
Prophecy is beneficial for the church because it is a message from
the Lord.

Tongues spoken in the church without an interpreter does not edify
the church. It only edifies the one speaking. That is not why we
gather for worship.

The Church Service should Exalt God and Edify the believers.

Paul describes what should happen at church in chapter 14.
Verse 3 tells us there should be preaching and teaching – speaking to
the people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
Verse 15 tells us there should be prayer and singing – pray with my
spirit and also with my mind and praise with my spirit and also with
my mind.
Unfortunately, some people don’t come to church to exalt God but to
clear their own conscience or to feel good about themselves.
We must come to worship ready to exalt God. He alone is worthy of
our worship. Worship is not about us. It is about God.

Prophecy is Preferred over Tongues

Prophecy is speaking to men, tongues refers to speaking to God.

If no one understands what you are saying except for God then the
believers are not being built up.

Paul’s point about prophecy is that it builds up the church.
Tongues only build up the church when they are interpreted.
Every other time they only build up the one speaking.
Pau’s concern is that God’s church is built up.
He doesn’t want division in the church.
He doesn’t want them treating others with contempt.
He doesn’t want the Lord’s Supper to be done incorrectly.
He is teaching them proper etiquette for worship.

Let’s take a look at the next few verses.

I Corinthians 14:6-11

Don’t you love how Paul gives illustrations in his writings?
Here we see
3 Illustrations to show that Edification Requires Understanding.

Paul says he could come to them speaking in tongues, but there
would be no benefit unless he brought them revelation or
knowledge or prophecy or teaching.
If he talked to them in a language they didn’t speak it would be
useless and a waste of all of their time.

He compared it to lifeless instruments like a flute or a harp.
He said that if he played them without playing distinct notes no one
would know what was being played. Songs would sound terrible if
there were no melodies or harmonies. We need the different notes
to be clear and understood. Notes like words have value and
meaning. When they are missing things just aren’t right.

Then he mentioned a bugle making its usual distinct sound that the
army would not know when to attack or retreat. It would just be
noise. It would be utter confusion. There has to be a distinct sound
so the soldiers know what they are supposed to do.
Finally, he mentions speaking to one another. If they speak with
unintelligible speech, no one will understand. It’s wasted breath.
He mentions that there are various languages in the world, and they
all have meaning, but only to those who have studied it. If it came up
here and started talking in Mandarin most if not all of you would be
thinking, what is the point of this? Why is he talking in another
language that I don’t understand? How is this building me up?

Now, let’s look at the final verses of our text.

I Corinthians 14:12-25

Paul again brings up the point that worship is for the edification of
the church.
He writes that anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray for the
power to interpret. He knows that those in the church service will
only be encouraged if the tongue is interpreted.
It is one thing to pray alone or sing alone when it is just you and God,
but in the church service, there is no place for mindless chatter or
speaking words that will not be interpreted or understood by others.

Paul says he would rather speak 5 words with his mind than 10,000
in a tongue. Prophecy is greater than tongues.

Paul also says that tongues are a sign for unbelievers and prophecy
is a sign for believers.

Just like at Pentecost when the people were speaking in tongues, it
drew them in and they realized that God was moving.

Tongues not interpreted can have a negative impact on unbelievers
though. If the whole church was speaking in tongues and an
unbeliever came in, he might think the whole church was crazy, but
if the whole church was prophesying, great things would happen.

Prophecy leads people to the Truth

When the truth is preached it leads to:

Conviction of sin
Called to account for that sin
Heart open to inspection

Finally he will worship God and repent of sin.


Since Paul’s focus is about how we should be using gifts in worship, I
think our application this morning should be for us to

Consider how we can use our gifts in worship to glorify God and
edify the church.

Cease doing things in worship that do not edify the church.