1Corinthians 14:1-8 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy. For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; howbeit in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he that prophesies speaks unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. I would that you all spake with tongues, but rather that you prophesied: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
There are sixteen contrasts between tongues and prophecy: Tongues are spoken to God; prophecy is spoken to edify people (14:2-3). Mysteries or things not understood are spoken in tongues; all things spoken in prophecy are clear (14:3-4). Tongues edify the speaker; prophecy edifies the speaker and others (14:3-4). Tongues enable one to commune with God; prophecy speaks to people to edification, exhortation, and comfort (14:2-4). The one who prophecies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues unless the tongues are interpreted and understood (14:5). Tongues are no profit to the public unless interpreted; all prophecy is profitable to the public (14:5-13, 27-28). The speaker in tongues must pray for the interpretation; the one who prophecies need not, for his message is in his own tongue (14:3-13). Tongues make one a barbarian to others; prophecy does not (14:3, 11). In all gifts, the main purpose is to excel in edifying fellow Christians (14:12). In this, prophecy is greater than tongues (14:1-6, 27-28). The human spirit of the speaker is the thing edified by tongues; prophecy benefits all people (14:1-5, 14-15, 24-25). Tongues are a great personal blessing, but 5 words of prophecy are more important in public gatherings than 10,000 words in tongues (14:17-19). Tongues are a sign to unbelievers; prophecy to believers (14:21-22). All speaking in tongues at once causes mockery by the unsaved whereas with prophesying the unsaved are convicted of sin (14:23-25). Every gift must be used to edify Christians (14:26). Prophecies do this better (14:1-5, 23-25). Only one message is allowed at a Christian gathering if not interpreted; three messages in prophecy are allowed (14:3, 27-31). Three messages in tongues are allowed at a Christian gathering if they are interpreted. This many messages in prophecy are always allowed (14:27-32).
‘He that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; howbeit in the spirit he speaks mysteries.’ It is clear in Scripture that men have spoken in tongues by the Holy Spirit. It was predicted by Isaiah (Isa. 28:11-12; 1Cor. 14:21); Joel (Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:16); and Jesus (Mark 16:17; John 15:26; 16:13-15). It was fulfilled in Acts 2:4; 10:44-48; 19:1-7; 1Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-31; 13:1-3; 14:1-40.