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Prophecy and Languages

14 Keep on pursuing love, and keep on desiring spiritual gifts, especially the ability to prophesy. For the person who speaks in a foreign[a] language is not actually speaking to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands him, because he is talking about secrets by the Spirit.[b] But the person who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding, encouragement, and comfort. The person who speaks in a foreign language builds himself up, but the person who prophesies builds up the church. Now I wish that all of you could speak in foreign languages, but especially that you could prophesy. The person who prophesies is more important than the person who speaks in a foreign language, unless he interprets it so that the church may be built up.

Indeed, brothers, if I come to you speaking in foreign languages, what good will I be to you unless I speak to you in some revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching? In the same way, lifeless instruments like the flute or harp produce sounds. But if there’s no difference in the notes, how can a person tell what tune is being played? For example, if a bugle doesn’t sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? In the same way, unless you speak an intelligible message with your language, how will anyone know what is being said? You’ll be talking into the air!

10 There are, I suppose, many different languages[c] in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If I don’t know the meaning of the language,[d] I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker will be a foreigner to me. 12 In the same way, since you’re so desirous of spiritual gifts, you must keep on desiring them for building up the church.

13 Therefore, the person who speaks in a foreign language should pray for the ability to interpret it. 14 For if I pray in a foreign language, my spirit prays but my mind is not productive. 15 What does this mean? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing psalms with my spirit, but I will also sing psalms with my mind. 16 Otherwise, if you say a blessing with your spirit, how can an otherwise uneducated person[e] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you’re saying? 17 It’s good for you to give thanks, but it does not build up the other person. 18 I thank God that I speak in foreign languages more than all of you. 19 But in church I would rather speak five words with my mind to instruct others than 10,000 words in a foreign language.

20 Brothers, stop being[f] childish in your thinking. Be like infants with respect to evil, but think like adults. 21 In the Law it is written,

“By means of foreign languages
    and through the mouths of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
    but even then they will not listen to me,”[g]
        declares the Lord.

22 Foreign languages, then, are meant to be a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers, while prophecy is meant, not for unbelievers, but for believers. 23 Now if the whole church gathers in the same place and everyone is speaking in foreign languages, when uneducated people or unbelievers come in, they will say that you are out of your mind, won’t they? 24 But if everyone is prophesying, when an unbeliever or an uneducated person comes in he will be convicted and examined by everything that’s happening.[h] 25 His secret, inner heart will become known, and so he will bow down to the ground and worship God, declaring, “God is truly among you!”

Maintain Order in the Church

26 What, then, does this mean,[i] brothers? When you gather, everyone has a psalm, teaching, revelation, foreign language, or interpretation. Everything must be done for upbuilding. 27 If anyone speaks in a foreign language, only two or three at the most should do so, one at a time, and somebody must interpret. 28 If an interpreter is not present, the speaker[j] should remain silent in the church and speak to himself and God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another person who is seated, the first person should be silent. 31 For everyone can prophesy in turn, so that everyone can be instructed and everyone can be encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, 33 for God[k] is not a God of disorder but of peace.

As[l] in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women must keep silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak out, but must place themselves in submission, as the oral[m] law also says. 35 If they want to learn anything, they should ask their own husbands at home, for it is inappropriate for a woman to speak out in church.[n]

36 Did God’s word originate with you? Are you the only ones[o] it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or a spiritual person, he must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, he should be ignored.[p]

39 Therefore, my brothers, desire the ability to prophesy, and do not prevent others from speaking in foreign languages. 40 But everything must be done in a proper and orderly way.


  1. 1 Corinthians 14:2 The Gk. lacks foreign; and so throughout 14:39
  2. 1 Corinthians 14:2 Or with his spirit
  3. 1 Corinthians 14:10 Or sounds
  4. 1 Corinthians 14:11 Or sound
  5. 1 Corinthians 14:16 Lit. the person who occupies the place of the uneducated
  6. 1 Corinthians 14:20 Or do not be
  7. 1 Corinthians 14:21 Isa 28:11-12
  8. 1 Corinthians 14:24 The Gk. lacks that’s happening
  9. 1 Corinthians 14:26 The Gk. lacks does this mean
  10. 1 Corinthians 14:28 Lit. present, he
  11. 1 Corinthians 14:33 Lit. he
  12. 1 Corinthians 14:33 Or peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 The
  13. 1 Corinthians 14:34 The Gk. lacks oral
  14. 1 Corinthians 14:35 Other mss. place vv. 34 and 35 after v. 40.
  15. 1 Corinthians 14:36 The Gk. is a pl. masc. pronoun
  16. 1 Corinthians 14:38 Other mss. read If he is ignorant of this, he should remain ignorant