Of speaking with tongues
1I told you to desire the greatest gifts, and that is why I bid you earnestly to pursue love, but of those other spiritual things of which I have spoken, in my opinion the best, the most useful, is prophecy or preaching. 2-4And why? Because it instructs and builds and strengthens. To utter a spiritual language known only to God is to hold converse indeed with God, to allow the Spirit itself to utter its own mysteries, and that is good. 5I would have you all to speak with such tongues as that; but this spiritual language, the tongue of God, needs interpretation; and through that interpretation man is blessed with something that comforts, consoles, and builds him up. 6-7Prophecy does this, interpreting to others the language of heaven, and building the Church on earth. Therefore is it a greater gift to prophesy than to speak the new tongues of the Spirit, for such words make the Church. The new tongues require interpretation. I shall be no help to you unless I reveal something to you, increase your knowledge of things divine, and act as a prophet and teacher. All tongues and languages and voices on earth have meaning. 8Even the trumpet, made of brass merely, can summon men to battle, the flute and the pipe can move men most variously. But what if their sounds be not understood? What if their stops and notes be so uncertainly handled that there is no recognition of their meaning? Who will arm himself then for the fray? 9-10And of the different languages which men talk, there is not one which is without meaning and interpretation. We call those “foreign” tongues which we cannot understand, and them that speak them “foreigners.” So it is with the language of heaven, the tongue that the Spirit speaks with spiritual utterings.
To speak with the understanding is of first importance
11It sounds strange and barbarous in the ears of those who do not understand it. It needs interpretation, and for those who understand it not, you do but speak into the air, not into their minds. 12-13If you be anxious and desirous for proofs of your spirituality, for the gifts and wonders of the Spirit and its activities, then let this desire for an overflowing measure of it in your hearts end always in the furthering of that great spiritual goal, the aim, as I have said, of all the operations of the Spirit, the building up of the Church, of the infinite body of the Christ. 14To that end pray and sing, bless and give thanks. 15If I pray with the mind as well as the Spirit, and sing with understanding as well as ecstasy, and interpret to the mind and consciousness the tongue of the Spirit which I utter, then is that great purpose fulfilled. 16Then will those who hearken to your blessing and giving of thanks say Amen to it. For the demands of the understanding have been fulfilled. 17But if you give thanks with spiritual voices only, in a language unknown to those who fill the place of the humble listeners and the congregation, however well you do it, the church is not fulfilled and is not edified. 18My brethren, this language of the Spirit utters itself richly in me, and in more frequent and fuller tones than in all of you, 19yet would I rather speak five words with the understanding that can help my brother than ten thousand in a language which he does not know. 20My brethren, you have become as little children in this world, but be not children in understanding, but children only in evil. This speaking with tongues, you say, is a sign, a miracle. 21Yes, God says, “With other lips and a strange tongue will I speak to this people, and yet will they not hearken to me.” (Is. 28: 11-12) 22They are a sign to those who have no faith, and a sign that is not accepted. 23In your own midst, when the whole church is gathered together as one, what need then of such strange and startling signs? 24For then are heard the voices of understanding that build the perfect church, psalm, and teaching, revelation, tongues and their interpretation; and when one from without enters this reasonable temple of worship, 25the thoughts of his own heart are laid bare to him, he is convicted and judged and made to cry out in his own soul, “surely God is in you” (Is. 45:14).
The need for orderliness
26To this great aim let all your worship tend; let psalm, teaching, revelation, tongues and their interpretation be subject to order and arrangement, and so help to build the church. 27Let not more than two or three at most speak with tongues simultaneously, and let these utterances of the Spirit invariably be interpreted and let them not be too long. 28Without interpretation there must be no speaking with tongues. Let him who feels this ability commune with himself and with God, and be silent in his ecstasy, unless he can make his meaning clear. 29Let not more than two or three members speak as prophets voicing the divine, 30and let the rest listen in silence, and distinguish carefully the truth of the words spoken; and where one or other is moved by revelation to speak, give place to him and let the first be silent. 31-32For everyone of you, and not a few only, is able to prophesy, and to do this for the good of all, for there is nothing unruly in the spirit of prophecy. It is subject to him who has the understanding of it, 33and in the churches of God all is order and peace. There is no disorder in the divine being. 34Therefore also the women are not to speak in your assemblies. This is the tradition of the law, and it must be still observed. You may think otherwise, you may even be doing otherwise in your churches. But it is forbidden. 35-38Are you the originators and only recipients of the Gospel? Did it not come first to me, and through me to you? And I tell you that the Lord has given a commandment about these things. Perhaps you do not understand it or recognise it? Then you show yourselves to be without the pale of God’s ruling and guidance. Woman can learn and question and speak at home, not in public now. 39Then desire this gift of teaching and prophecy above all others, and allow the speaking with tongues, 40but let everything be done in an orderly and rational manner.