Spiritual Gifts: Tongues, Interpretations, & Prophesy

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I Corinthians 14:1-27, Acts 2:4 & 11-13 and I Corinthians 13:1

Continuing with his spiritual gifts series, Steve started with an observation that tongues were controversial in Acts: “They are filled with new wine,” and still are. One key to this and other gifts is love, he said, referring to 1 Corinthians 13:1, where Paul said without love he would be like a noisy gong—worthless.

From there, Steve turned to 1 Corinthians 14:1, where Paul urged the church to desire spiritual gifts, but especially prophecy. Speaking in tongues is speaking to God, but prophecy is speaking to people, which is why Paul preferred the latter. He wanted people to build up the church; tongues build up the individual. They aren’t to be spoken willy-nilly during a service, which is why Paul went into detail about how to conduct church.

“If there are people around, I’m going to (speak) in a language they can understand,” Steve said. “Verse 18: ‘I speak in tongues more than all of you, but I would rather speak five words to instruct than 10,000 words in a tongue.’ Paul is showing what happens in his life outside the church. In his personal life he’s praying and speaking in tongues. But unless there is an interpreter, he wants to speak in tongues in the shower.”

Steve said he grew up in a Pentecostal church where there were unbiblical excesses, but we shouldn’t let that deter us from being open to spiritual gifts. If we’re going to have tongues and prophecy, we’re going to have mistakes: “(That means) we have to pursue love. If someone makes a mistake with prophecy, we have to pursue love. You can be like me and get fed up and despise another word from the same person, but we have to have an attitude of grace.”

Likewise, if we tell someone who delivers a “word” that they made a mistake, the person must be willing to accept the correction, Steve said. Still, if our standard with spiritual gifts is that we expect utter perfection, then we might as well tear this chapter out the Bible. While a church service is mainly about dispensing the Word of God, we should be open to spiritual gifts operating in our midst.

Referring to verses 21-25, where Paul says that prophecy can be an instrument of salvation and a sign that God is with us, Steve emphasized the point of spiritual is not to draw attention to ourselves but to build others up: “Who knows what will happen when spiritual gifts are exercised? Who knows what blessings God has for people?”