1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. 6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 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.


Here, Paul discusses the purpose of two spiritual gifts – tongues and prophecy – and gives instruction about how, when and why they are to be used.

The most common way we are to use the gift of tongues is as a prayer language in our personal prayer time (v. 18-19). When we pray in tongues, we engage in “spirit-to-Spirit” communication with God with words from Him that we do not understand (v. 14), but that build up our faith (v. 4, Jude 1:20) and intercede for others according to His perfect will (Romans 8:26-27). Occasionally when we are gathered with other believers the Holy Spirit may prompt us to give a message in tongues, so that another person with the gift of interpretation can communicate what God is speaking to the group (v. 5,27).

Prophecy is more valuable to the community, because it builds up the church. While Paul would love it if everyone prayed in tongues, he would much rather they employ the gift of prophecy (v. 1,5). When we bring a prophetic message, it speaks to people in the deep places of their hearts and shows them that God is real, leading them to experience and follow Him (v. 24-25). Prophecy is an important and impactful way God uses us to build up others.

Paul encourages us to “earnestly desire” spiritual gifts – especially prophecy (v.1). If you have not experienced these gifts, you can ask God for them. It can also be helpful to ask a friend who is more experienced in this area to pray for you, too.


Do you have any unanswered questions about the gifts of tongues or prophecy?

If you have experienced either (or both) of these gifts, how have they benefited you? Have you seen them used in any awkward or seemingly unhelpful ways?

Would you like to ask God to experience one or both of these gifts (or another spiritual gift), either for the first time or to a greater degree?