Church Guidelines for Prophesying, Praying, and Speaking in Tongues, Part 1 (Praying Through the Bible #250)

TEXT: 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 (verses 1-4 here):

1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

We are in a series of messages titled “Praying Through the Bible: A Series on Every Passage and Verse Regarding Prayer in the Bible.” The purpose of this series is to encourage and motivate you to pray to the God of the Bible. We highlighted each of these over 500 verses and passages in the Prayer Motivator Devotional Bible. So far, we have completed 249 messages in this series.

This is message #250 titled, Church Guidelines for Prophesying, Praying, and Speaking in Tongues, Part 1.

By way of introduction, Warren Wiersbe said, “Prophecy speaks to men, tongues to God. “If you are zealous for spiritual gifts, at least desire the best gifts,” was Paul’s counsel. Prophecy was best because it built up the church. It gave the listeners encouragement and comfort—something that everybody needs. It is unfortunate that our translators inserted unknown in 1 Corinthians 14:2, because the New Testament knows nothing of an “unknown tongue.” From the very beginning of the church, tongues were known languages, recognized by the listeners. The tongue would be unknown to the speaker and to the listeners, but it was not unknown in the world. It is also unfortunate that people have the idea that tongues were used to preach the Gospel to the lost. Quite the contrary was true: Paul was afraid that the excessive tongues-speaking in the church would convince the lost that the Christians were crazy! At Pentecost, the believers extolled “the wonderful works of God,” but Peter preached the Gospel in the Aramaic language his listeners could all understand. The believer who speaks in a tongue speaks to God in praise and worship; but the believer who prophesies shares the Word with the church and helps those who listen. This leads to the second contrast. Prophecy edifies the church, tongues edify only the speaker. Paul did not deny the value of tongues to the speaker, but he did place a greater value on building up the church. “Greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues”. Unless the tongues are interpreted, the message can do the church no good. Paul pointed out that an interpreter must be present before the gift of tongues may be exercised.

Like the last passage that we went through in Corinthians, this passage is one that embodies complex and often controversial issues in the church. We approach these passages through the lens of prayer — praying better and praying more. Yet, God has seen fit to help us learn about a broad range of issues and, as we do so, we grow in our faith and in our understanding of the Christian life. From this passage, we will address the issues of prophecy, prayer, and speaking in tongues in the church. As we do so, we do well to remember that only prophecy and speaking in tongues are considered “spiritual gifts.” Prayer is not a gift; anyone can pray and pray effectively.

As he opens this chapter, Paul expresses his approval of the Corinthian believers’ desire for spiritual gifts. He says, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” Why does Paul tell them to desire the gift of prophecy, and what is prophecy as Paul thought of it? Dr. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Paul detected that the church was neglecting prophecy and giving a wrong emphasis to tongues. We must not think of a New Testament prophet as a person who foretold the future, for even the Old Testament prophets did more than that. The ‘prophets’ [of the New Testament’ received God’s message immediately, through the Holy Spirit, and communicated that message to the church, usually in a tongue, but not always. Prophecy was not the same as our modern-day ‘preaching,’ because today’s preachers study the Bible and prepare their messages. No preacher today should claim that he has immediate inspiration from God.”

The gift of prophecy was extremely valuable in the early church because the Christians of that day did not have much of the written word of God within reach. They did not have the collection of epistles that we refer to today for Christian life and practice. They relied on the Holy Spirit as He spoke spontaneously and as needed through men. The gift of prophecy was one that edified the body of Christ as a whole. However, as Dr. Wiersbe continues, “The mistake the Corinthians were making was to emphasize their own personal edification to the neglect of the church. They wanted to build themselves up, but they did not want to build up their fellow believers. This attitude, of course, not only hurt the other Christians, but it also hurt the believers who were practicing it. After all, if we are all members of the same body, the way we relate to the other members must ultimately affect us personally.”

This is why Paul said he would rather that believers desire the gift of prophecy instead of the gift of speaking in tongues. He wanted them to be mindful of their brothers and sisters in Christ and to be aware that what they did or did not do, what they said or did not say would affect them all. All of us will not receive the gifts of prophecy or speaking in tongues. But that should not hold us back from having a spirit that is concerned about the edification of the body of Christ. Prayer is something we all can do that will be a blessing and a help to each member of the family of God.

Melody Green wrote:

Make my life a prayer to You
I want to do what You want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers, no compromise

I want to shine the light You gave
Through the Son You sent to save
From ourselves and our despair
It comforts me to know You’re there

I want to die and let You give
Your life to me so I might live
And share the hope You gave to me
The love that set me free

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.

Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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