Study Sheet for I Corinthians 14:1-19 (click here for Study Notes)
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 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. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
Now, brother, if I come to you and speak in tongueas, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? 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. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. (NIV)
"Follow the way of love, and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy," Paul says (v. 1).
1. What does Paul establish as the bedrock for effectively exercising spiritual gifts? (see I Cor. 16:14)
2. What exactly is prophecy in the New Testament? (see Rev. 19:10; Luke 3:2, 7, 16; John 1:29; Acts 11:28; Rev. 1:10, 12; Acts 10:9-16; Matt. 1:19,20; Acts 13:9-11; 21:11; 1 Tim. 4:14)
3. Who can be prophets? (v. 5, 31; 1 Cor. 11:5; 12:11; Acts 21:9)
4. Will NT prophets have new doctrines? (see Romans 6:10; Hebrew. 7:27; 9:12,26; 10:2, 10; 1 Peter 3:18; Jude 23)
5. What is prophecy for? (v. 3-5; 22-25; Ephesians 4:12,13)
The Greek word for "tongues" means "languages" or "dialects".
1. What was the significance of tongues in the Old Testament? (Genesis 11:1-8; Is. 28:10,11; Deut. 28:49)
2. What was significant about the gift of tongues at Pentecost, and who benefited from the gift? (Acts 2:1-13)
3. What surprising fact did the gift of tongues confirm for Peter and other Jewish Christians as the gospel spread? (Acts 10:34, 44-48; 11:11-18)
4. How were Pentecost and the subsequent outpouring of the gift of tongues in the infant church significant in light of Genesis 11:1-8?
"For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God," Paul says.
1. Is there more than one type of gift of tongues in the New Testament? (see Acts 2:4, 6, 11; 10:44-46; 11:15-19; I Cor. 14:9-10; 13:1; 14:14-16, 18)
2. If the tongues at Pentecost proclaimed the gospel so every Jew present could understand it in his/her own language, why does Paul say someone speaking in tongues is not speaking to men but to God?
3. What is the purpose of the gift of tongues? (Acts 2:11; 10:46: I Cor. 14: 2, 14-17, 22-28)
4. Why might there be tongues that people understand and tongues that need to be interpreted?
Prophecy is God's Spirit speaking to man, and tongues is, at least in some cases, man's spirit speaking to God. (v. 2, 14)
1. Why does Paul say that "he who prophecies is greater than one who speaks in tongues"? (Numbers 11:29; v. 3)
2. In what situation does speaking in tongues resemble prophecy? (v. 5,6; 26-7)
3. How does the gift of tongues both literally and symbolically underscore Paul's assertion in Gal. 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus," and why are tongues so symbolic of this new unity? (Gen. 11:7; v. 10-11; 12:13)
Paul is detailed in his analysis of the drawbacks and benefits of publicly speaking in tongues, and he repeats his endorsement of interpreting tongues and of prophecy.
1. What is significant about the Trinity giving Christ-followers Spirit-inspired words, whether they are tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophecy, teaching, encouraging, wisdom, knowledge, or other verbal gifts? (John 1:1-3, 14; 17:17; Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24; Eph. 6:17, 18)
2. How are spiritual gifts, including those of service, healing, administration, etc., related to proclaiming truth?
3. Using v. 13-19 as a guideline, what do you see as the primary function of spiritual gifts, including but not limited to tongues? (see also Eph. 4:11-13)
1. Have you ever dealt with a person who claimed to have a spiritual gift but left you confused or troubled? Explain the situation.
2. How can you tell whether or not a person's spiritual gift is from God?
3. Has anyone ever ministered to you with a spiritual gift? Explain.
4. What frightens OR draws you the most regarding spiritual gifts?
1. What areas of your life do you feel are NOT controlled by the Holy Spirit?
2. What fear or sin or issue of control stands in your way of proclaiming truth by the power of the Holy Spirit?
3. To what area of deeper commitment do you feel God calling you?
4. In what way(s) is God calling you to risk trusting him?
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised August 8, 2000.