As we close this series let’s remember that Paul’s purpose for teaching on the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-14 was simple: love for the church. He used the words ‘build up’ six times in 14:3-17; he was a true architect.
When we experience the Spirit in our private devotional time it’s wonderful but as exciting as it is Paul stressed building up the community, the ecclesia, the church and saw the gifts necessary to demonstrating love and bring benefit to the body. Prophecy, God speaking through believers, helps more people than our prayer language, therefore it’s a greater gift. Paul instructed us to be advantageous to each other, to allow our spiritual gifts to accumulate, helping and encouraging each other.
… if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 1 Cor. 14:6
The imagery of musical instruments that don’t follow the same song is clear: indistinguishable sounds. Our motivation when moving in the spiritual gifts should always be love and serving, when it’s not, there’s confusion and no one benefits.
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 1 Cor. 14:12
That brings us to the interpretation of tongues. Paul wanted benefit for the whole body, therefore, any message to the church (vs. 19), not our prayer language, should be translated. The Greek word is hermeneutics, an explanation of what was said to benefit everyone.
… When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Cor. 14:26
It seems that messages directed from the Spirit in our own languages, whether prophecy or tongues with interpretation, hold the same advantage; they are designed to help people. This chapter was written to assist the church when operating in the spiritual gifts with some type of organization, consequently, everyone benefits. He gives parameters and instruction (vs. 26-32) but his point is clear: so that all may learn and all be encouraged.
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 1 Cor. 14:20
Why did Paul devote so much ink to this subject? I think to clarify that the Spirit of God will use whatever means He chooses to reach people, for unbelievers it’s a supernatural prayer language (interpretation wasn’t mentioned) and for believers it’s prophecy (vs. 22). Yet prophecy, words from God, are for everyone.
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. 1 Cor. 14:24-25
Isn’t that the point? Worship God, in the Spirit, without borders: what a challenge.