1 Corinthians 14:1-19
Worship in a Way That Helps People Understand
Follow the way of love. You should also want the gifts the Holy Spirit gives. Most of all, you should want the gift of prophecy. Anyone who speaks in a language they had not known before doesn’t speak to people. They speak only to God. In fact, no one understands them. What they say by the Spirit remains a mystery. But the person who prophesies speaks to people. That person prophesies to make people stronger, to give them hope, and to comfort them. Anyone who speaks in other languages builds up only themselves. But the person who prophesies builds up the church. I would like all of you to speak in other languages. But I would rather have you prophesy. The person who prophesies is more helpful than those who speak in other languages. But that is not the case if someone explains what was said in the other languages. Then the whole church can be built up.
Brothers and sisters, suppose I were to come to you and speak in other languages. What good would I be to you? None! I would need to come with new truth or knowledge. Or I would need to come with a prophecy or a teaching. Here are some examples. Certain objects make sounds. Take a flute or a harp. No one will know what the tune is unless different notes are played. Also, if the trumpet call isn’t clear, who will get ready for battle? It’s the same with you. You must speak words that people understand. If you don’t, no one will know what you are saying. You will just be speaking into the air. It is true that there are all kinds of languages in the world. And they all have meaning. But if I don’t understand what someone is saying, I am a stranger to the person speaking. And that person is a stranger to me. It’s the same with you. You want the gifts of the Spirit. So try to do your best in using gifts that build up the church.
So here is what the person who speaks in languages they had not known before should do. They should pray that they can explain what they say. If I pray in another language, my spirit prays. But my mind does not pray. So what should I do? I will pray with my spirit. But I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing with my spirit. But I will also sing with my understanding. Suppose you are praising God in the Spirit. And suppose there are visitors among you who want to know what’s going on. How can they say “Amen” when you give thanks? They don’t know what you are saying. You are certainly giving thanks. But no one else is being built up.
I thank God that I speak in other languages more than all of you do. In the church, I wouldn’t want to speak 10,000 words in an unfamiliar language. I’d rather speak five words in a language people could understand. Then I would be teaching others.