What’s That?

1Corinthians 14: What’s That?

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“Pursue love,

yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts,

but especially that you may prophesy.” (14:1)

“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?”

The telemarketer tried a second time. Yes, I know. I should have ended the call, but I felt bad for the soft-spoken, quick-speaking, foreign-accented woman. It wasn’t her fault I couldn’t make out her words.

“I’m sorry, but I still can’t understand what you are asking. Could you, please, slow down.”

She did. It didn’t work. Her accent was too heavy for me to make out. She tried a third time. I needed an interpreter.

The Corinthian church had a similar problem when speaking in tongues brought confusion into the congregation. If too many spoke at once or no interpreter was present, the words were meaningless to the hearers.

“For one who speaks in a tongue

does not speak to men, but to God:

for no one understands,

but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.

(Verse 2, NASB*)

Paul did not forbid speaking in an unknown tongue—one not known by the speaker. He laid out instructions on using the gift properly and in order in the church. As he, also did for using the gift of prophesy in the church.

“Therefore, my brethren,

desire earnestly to prophesy,

and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

But let all things be done

properly and in an orderly manner.”

(Verses 39,40)

Paul begins this chapter saying prophesy is a gift to desire. In verse 3, he tells why.

“But the one who prophesies speaks to men

for edification

and exhortation

and consolation.”

Prophecy brings edification through speaking in the wisdom and knowledge of God by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Prophecy brings understanding to the hearers. It is that “aha” moment when it all makes sense, and the hearer grows in the knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding of God and his message. How many times have you read a passage or heard a message on a familiar passage and suddenly it takes on a living meaning in your heart. That is the spirit of prophecy that edifies or produces growth.

Prophecy, the spoken word in a language the hearer knows, exhorts or urges the hearer to pursue an action resulting in the hearer’s growth.

“Hello?” Another phone call.

“Little Johnny, came home from camp today, saying you told him he couldn’t go to heaven unless he was a Christian. Is that true?”

“Yes, I remember saying that to our group.”

“So, you don’t believe a Baptist can go to heaven?”

The light came on. I had used a term little Johnny misunderstood. I learned a valuable lesson. It’s important to speak in a language the audience understands. Johnny left that day discouraged through hearing a message he didn’t understand. As a teacher or speaker of the word the message should urge our hearers in growth.

Prophecy, speaking God’s message, brings consolation or comfort to those who suffer from grief and other trials of life. It encourages the hearers to persevere and strengthens their resolve to wait for the Lord to perform his good work in their lives.

When my dad died suddenly, the Holy Spirit spoke such a word to me. “I am with you. Your dad is with me. You are not that far apart—just out of sight.” I’ve used those same words several times to bring comfort to others.

To end, we go back to the beginning. Whether it’s prophecy, speaking in tongues or any other gift—

“Pursue love…” For without it, we are—“a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”(13:1)


For Thought: What spiritual gift/s has the Holy Spirit given you? How are you using them?

Scripture Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 14:9-12: What are the spiritual gifts given for?

Our Prayer: Father, you have given us all we stand in need of to share your word with others. You have gifted each of us according to your purpose, for the building up of your church, and for your glory. Thank you for providing all we need to do the work of ministry you have called us to. May we be faithful stewards and speak your word with understanding, in truth, and in love.


*All scripture is quoted from the NASB.

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