Front Page
Series Contents
Series Theme:  Worship


































1. Introduction

2. The Chapter Context

3. The Church Context of Ch. 14

4. The Use of Tongues

5. The Use of Prophecy

6. Conclusions















































1. Introduction

2. The Chapter Context

3. The Church Context of Ch. 14

4. The Use of Tongues

5. The Use of Prophecy

6. Conclusions























1. Introduction

2. The Chapter Context

3. The Church Context of Ch. 14

4. The Use of Tongues

5. The Use of Prophecy

6. Conclusions



































1. Introduction
2. The Verses
3. Conclusion

4. Application


Title:   5. Practicalities in the New Testament


Each of these pages form part of a series of Worship Seminars. To that end we hope that they will be used to stimulate worship and not merely provide information.


1. Introduction


     We now move back into the New Testament to consider the wider picture of what takes place when Christians come together to “worship”.

     The theme of worship is not addressed as such in the New Testament, although as we have seen previously, worship does arise in Jesus' teaching and in the throne room of heaven as seen in the book of Revelation.

    However, as most Christians would associate the practice of worship with the meeting together of the church, no study on this subject would be complete without a study of 1 Corinthians 14. The fact is, when we look at 1 Cor 14 and the preceding chapters, Paul must be writing because of wrong ideas and wrong practices within the Corinthian church.

     All that follows therefore, is in respect of the picture given by the apostle Paul in chapter 14 of his first letter to the Corinthians.




2. The Chapter Context


Chapter 12
  • the subject of spiritual gifts v.1-11
  • all Christians are part of the body of Christ & all are important v.12-30
Chapter 13
  • gifts without love are meaningless v.1-3
  • the nature of love v.4-13

Thus, as a preliminary to looking into chapter 14, we should note the following:

  • God moves among Christians and enables them to do things they would otherwise not be able to do, i.e. the gifts of the Spirit.
  • Love, the very nature of God (1 Jn 4:8), should be the environment for the use or expression of all these gifts.
  • All Christians are important to the body and so there should be no sorting people or grading people. 

This supernatural dimension, operating in an environment of love, is thus assumed by Paul to be the norm when Christians gather together. It therefore raises two obvious questions for modern worship when the body of Christ comes together:

1. Do we expect and experience a supernatural dimension when we come to ‘worship'?

2. Do we ensure that we do all we can to ensure there is this environment of love – that is caring and inclusive?

If you wish to work through this latter question, please go Book 2 of 'Creating a Secure Church'. To do that CLICK HERE.


3. The Church Context of Chapter 14

The chapter tells us quite clearly that all that is being said is being said in the context of the church:



He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.


He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.


. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church


in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.


So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?


When you come together , everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.


If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.


As in all the congregations of the saints


it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church .


Thus we find ten references here that give us no room to doubt the context – these are instructions for when the church comes together.




4. The Use of Tongues


     Tongues were clearly an issue of contention, and so much of what is here is about the use of this particular gift that was previously referred to in 12:10,28,30, and 13:1,8.


Let's consider what this chapter says about tongues:



eagerly desire spiritual gifts

Use of Tongues : Paul wants us to know where he stands on all the gifts (including tongues). He repeats what he said in 12:30


do not forbid speaking in tongues.

There may be problems with careless or thoughtless use of tongues but that isn't a reason to forbid them. No, get the use right!


anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God

Tongues are Prayer : There is no room for doubt here – tongues are to God, i.e. prayer. On the Day of Pentecost tongues were the literal language of people there (Acts 2:4,6). It seems it was simply prayer praise (v.11). When the same thing occurred in Acts 10:46 , in respect of the Gentiles, it was clearly prayer praise.


if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

v.2 is confirmed by Paul as he speaks of tongues as prayer in the spirit.


I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

He repeats himself – he is praying with his spirit as well as with his mind AND he will also sing with his tongues (implied), in the spirit as well as singing using the words of his native tongue.


If you are praising God with your spirit…..

What is praising God but prayer?


You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

What is thanks except prayer? That's five times he's made the point!


For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit

Tongues are an unknown language. On the day of Pentecost the tongues were discernable languages (Acts 2:8,11). Here, there is no doubt in this verse and in what follows that these are not languages that might be known.


For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.

The whole of his argument from v.6 to v.23 is actually on this point – the languages (tongues) being exercised are unknown so only the person praying in the spirit is edified (v.4), on it's own it brings no edification to others (v.6), no one knows what you are saying (v.9), and it is just confusing for others coming in who don't understand (v.24)


If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

Ordering Tongues . Paul isn't going to stop tongues (v.39) but he will bring order: 3 people at the most, so it doesn't just run on, and that to be interpreted, so that everyone else understands what the spirit of the person is saying.


Some Practical Points
Bearing in mind what Paul has been saying, the question might reasonably be asked, so what is the point of tongues then, if only 2 or 3 are allowed to exercise it in a public meeting and it is prayer that must be interpreted? The following are simply some comments offered having observed it in operation in a good manner:


1. Tongues is a faith act.
Faith comes from hearing God speak (Rom 10:17). Tongues are a response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit within the spirit of the person praying. It is a sovereign prompting of God which requires as act of faith to express it. God requires faith of His people (Rom 14:23, Heb 11;6) and this is just one expression of it.

2. Tongues and interpretation is a holy act
When the tongue and the interpretation are by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, it reveals normally, a level or depth of prayer that is rarely heard in the church. There is a deep heart yearning or praising that raises the awareness of the holy presence of God like few other things do in the normal run of church services. It seems that it enables the individual to express something that is far deeper in them than they would normally be able to do when praying with their mind.

3. Singing in the Spirit
Although Paul says that if everyone together is speaking in tongues, if there are outside speakers there, they will think you are out of your mind, he is (by implication) advising against it by suggesting only 2 or 3 praying in tongues with interpretation.

It is arguable that he might say the same about singing in the spirit (v.15) but he doesn't actually pick this point up. Where there is a God-centredness and the environment is love, it has to be said that corporate singing in tongues:

• is frequently a beautiful experience for participators and observers and
• as such has been indicated to be so by onlooking seekers and
• often stirs a hunger in believing onlookers to move more into things of the Spirit.

i.e. while not justifiable by use of Scripture, neither is it denied by Scripture and its good practice seems to bear excellent fruit in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit both within the believing congregation and onlooking seekers.


5. The Use of Prophecy

Although much of chapter 14 is Paul bringing directions against the negative or poor use of tongues, when we come to prophecy we find he only speaks positively. 



Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

Significance of prophecy . Paul indicates that this is a gift he especially recommends to the church.


be eager to prophesy

At the beginning he exhorted them all to eagerly desire… to prophesy , and now he repeats it.


everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

The Purpose of prophecy. Here Paul declares its primary purpose – to strengthen, encourage and comfort the people of God. This is the God of love exercising His love for His people.


he who prophesies edifies the church.

Here he repeats the purpose – to edify or strengthen and build up the church.


you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.

Another way of saying the same thing – so the church is instructed and encouraged.


if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

Now we have a secondary purpose of prophesy, almost a bye-product if you like. Where there are seeking unbelievers in the congregation God can speak to them through the revelatory prophecy and they will be convicted.


Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.

Control of prophecy: As with tongues Paul gives guidance on good practice. Limit it to 2 or 3 (again so it just doesn't go on and on) and let those with the gift weigh or check that it is right.


The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.

Prophecy should be controlled and judged by those with the gift – see below.


Some Practical Points

1. More details of the ordering of prophecy is given in “Creating a Secure Church ”       
2. Specifically it should be noted that not only should the prophecy be judged by others with mature gifting, but it is now always subject to the Scriptures themselves, i.e. it should never run contrary to the Scriptures.

3. Again, although there is no mention of it as such, either for or against, the experience of prophetic song frequently brings a new level of awareness of the holy presence of God.

4. It is interesting to note that Asaph, David's chief musician (1 Chron 15:19 , 16:5,7) was also called to bring prophetic praise (1 Chron 25:2). Interestingly he was one of those who presided over the dedication of the Temple when the glory of the Lord filled the place (2 Chron 5:12 -14).

5. It is further interesting to speculate whether, when worship is Spirit-led, ordered and Spirit-anointed, using those called of God, we will see a greater manifestation of the presence of God filling the temple (the church – 1 Cor 3:16,17) than we have ever seen before.


6. Conclusions

Where the body of Christ come together in worship, the New Testament example is of a church that operates with a supernatural dimension in an atmosphere of love, and all things being subjected to the Scriptures.

In chapter 14, tongues and prophecy are two gifts that can be exercised in orderly but Spirit-led ways for the blessing of the assembled congregation and to the glory of God.