*For the sake of unity and also for the sake of the stance of KCM, in this devotional, I will not be addressing spiritual gifts and gender roles.*
In this chapter of the Letter to the church of Corinth, Paul here is speaking about the church’s practice of the gift of tongues and prophecy. Paul here is writing to give advice to the church on the practice of tongues and how they may practice in building up the church. Paul states in verse 5 that “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” Here Paul is teaching that without interpretation of the tongues, the building of the church does not happen. He says that in verse 4 “The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church”. Paul knows that there are those within the church who speak in tongues out of spiritual arrogance and is here reminding them in both chapters 12 and 13, that they are to practice these gifts in love and with the purpose of unity.
In verses 6-12, Paul is asking the church to help one another be built up and educated in the gift of tongues. He explains how one cannot understand another language, meaning or symbol without being educated in the context first. Paul understands that tongues is a powerful gift to the church but believes that if they are to use their gift publicly, that “one who speaks in tongue should pray that he may interpret.” Paul emphasizes that while it is important to allow the Spirit to speak and to work in and through a person, he knows the importance of being sober minded in also praying and singing praises with their minds as well.
Paul understands something very important about the local church. He understands that everyone who attends the church is not a strong believer and that there are people who are not as educated in spiritual things as the rest. He desires for the church to be unified. He desires for the people who come into the church to not be confused or stumbled, but for the church to be a place of unity, teaching and of the spirit. Paul is able to make this claim because he himself speaks in tongues. In verse 19 he writes “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
Paul is telling the church that speaking in tongues without interpretation was reserved for those times where the entire body and congregation were educated believers. He urges the church to be infants in evil and mature in thinking. He desires for the church to be a place where there is no disunity or separation between the pious and the weak of faith. Church was meant to be a place of teaching and lifting up. Not shaming and arrogance.
In the last section of this chapter, Paul tells those with spiritual gifts, that if they are to practice in the church, that “all things be done for building up”. He tells specifically to those gifted in tongues, that there must be an interpreter and if there is none, to “keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God”.
Paul exhorts the church to eagerly pursue tongues and prophecy, but in the end reminds them that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace”. Our Father does not desire for disunity or disagreement, but in fact desires peace. Paul is reminding the church to first and foremost be loving and teaching above all theology and disagreement. Without unity there is no fellowship of the body and therefore the congregation and communities in which we serve are hurt and not for the glory of God.