1 Corinthians 14:13-25
13 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. 14 If I pray in another language, my spirit prays. But my mind does not pray. 15 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. 16 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. 17 You are certainly giving thanks. But no one else is being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in other languages more than all of you do. 19 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. 20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. Be like babies as far as evil is concerned. But be grown up in your thinking. 21 In the law it is written, “With unfamiliar languages and through the lips of outsiders I will speak to these people. But even then they will not listen to me.” (Isaiah 28:11,12) That is what the Lord says. 22 So speaking in other languages is a sign for those who don’t believe. It is not a sign for those who do believe. But prophecy is not for those who don’t believe. It is for those who believe. 23 Suppose the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in other languages. And suppose visitors or unbelievers come in. Won’t they say you are out of your minds? 24 But suppose unbelievers or visitors come in while everyone is prophesying. Then they will feel guilty about their sin. They will be judged by all. 25 The secrets of their hearts will be brought out into the open. They will fall down and worship God. They will exclaim, “God is really here among you!”
Paul is concerned about the use of spiritual gifts by the Corinthian church. These gifts are outlined in Chapter 12:8-10, he writes here specifically about speaking in tongues. The special communion between our spirit and God is a work of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to be free spiritually as we pray. However if we pray in this way publicly, how does this “build up the church” (verse 12)? This intimate prayer language could be seen to exclude rather than build up, unless it is interpreted for all to understand. The body is built up when another uses their gifts to interpret the spiritual language.
The passage does not highlight any one in particular as having these spiritual gifts – I am thinking of leaders. Paul uses general words like “everyone” and “everybody”, to tell us that we all are responsible for using our gifts to build up and draw unbelievers to God. It is such a privilege to be used by God to impact others. The beautiful result is that when we use our spiritual gifts we are built up, together and individually. Paul’s words encourage me that God wants to use me to bless and encourage others, and he has equipped me to do this. How can I use my spiritual gifts?
Lord, I want to thank you for putting me in community, your church. You have given each of us the gifts we need to build and grow together. Strengthen me to boldly use my spiritual gifts. Amen
Written by Claire Moore