Monday, 19 January 2015
I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. 1 Corinthians 14:5
Having shown the lesser nature of the gift of tongues, and then demonstrated that it does nothing to edify the congregation when tongues are spoken if nobody understands them, Paul tells the congregation that he wishes “you all spoke with tongues.” Speaking in foreign languages is always a valuable asset when encountering others who only speak in another language. If there is a Hispanic community in one’s town and nobody in the church spoke Spanish, then there would be no way of reaching out to them with the message of Christ.
However, tongues are a gift which are available to all people. With effort, anyone can pick up another language and can then effectively communicate with others in that language. But to speak that language in the church without anyone understanding it would be absolutely pointless, except for the person speaking and for God who knows all tongues. Because of this, Paul continues by saying to the Corinthians that even more than tongues, he wished “that you prophesied.” He then follows up with an immediate explanation for this – “For he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues.”
The explanation was given in the verse 3 which said that “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” Tongues are of no value to others in the congregation if nobody understands them. However, preaching the word of God is of benefit to all who listen. It is the wisdom of God and a proper explanation of it will always build up the body.
However, to not over-diminish the gift of tongues, Paul adds in a qualifying statement concerning them. Yes, the person who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, “unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.” The goal of any gift is to build up the body and to bring honor to the Lord. If someone speaks in a tongue, and that tongue is then translated, it becomes a message which is then understood by all others within the congregation. Thus it has become a point of exhortation and edification of the body.
There is nothing in the verse to restrict the one speaking in the foreign language to also be the one who translates it. However, he should be competent in the translation. Just because someone can speak a foreign language, it does not mean that they are acceptable to translate that language. So whether by the speaker or by another, it is right for the words to be translated into the common language of the congregation for their edification. Otherwise, the words are merely an unedifying show of ostentation.
Life application: The goals of using one’s gift in the church are to build up the others in the church and to bring glory to the Lord. Let us remember this in all we do in and for the church.
With the world spinning out of control all around us; with the forces of evil, wickedness, and perversion on the march; and with the overbearing weight of intrusive governments seizing freedom from the people, sometimes it feels like You have forgotten us, O God. But in our hearts we know this isn’t so. You are there and You are attending to all these things. The world will be made right, the wicked will be destroyed, and the benevolent monarchy of Messiah will rule in righteousness. We wait on that day with anticipation! Until then, we will continue to praise You through the storms. Amen.