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14 Let love be your greatest aim; nevertheless, ask also for the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives, and especially the gift of prophecy, being able to preach the messages of God.

But if your gift is that of being able to “speak in tongues,” that is, to speak in languages you haven’t learned, you will be talking to God but not to others, since they won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be a secret. But one who prophesies, preaching the messages of God, is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them. So a person “speaking in tongues” helps himself grow spiritually, but one who prophesies, preaching messages from God, helps the entire church grow in holiness and happiness.

I wish you all had the gift of “speaking in tongues,” but even more I wish you were all able to prophesy, preaching God’s messages, for that is a greater and more useful power than to speak in unknown languages—unless, of course, you can tell everyone afterwards what you were saying, so that they can get some good out of it too.

Dear friends, even if I myself should come to you talking in some language you don’t understand, how would that help you? But if I speak plainly what God has revealed to me, and tell you the things I know, and what is going to happen, and the great truths of God’s Word—that is what you need; that is what will help you. Even musical instruments—the flute, for instance, or the harp—are examples of the need for speaking in plain, simple English[a] rather than in unknown languages. For no one will recognize the tune the flute is playing unless each note is sounded clearly. And if the army bugler doesn’t play the right notes, how will the soldiers know that they are being called to battle? In the same way, if you talk to a person in some language he doesn’t understand, how will he know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room.

10 I suppose that there are hundreds of different languages in the world, and all are excellent for those who understand them, 11 but to me they mean nothing. A person talking to me in one of these languages will be a stranger to me and I will be a stranger to him. 12 Since you are so anxious to have special gifts from the Holy Spirit, ask him for the very best, for those that will be of real help to the whole church.

13 If someone is given the gift of speaking in unknown tongues, he should pray also for the gift of knowing what he has said, so that he can tell people afterwards plainly. 14 For if I pray in a language I don’t understand, my spirit is praying, but I don’t know what I am saying.

15 Well, then, what shall I do? I will do both. I will pray in unknown tongues and also in ordinary language that everyone understands. I will sing in unknown tongues and also in ordinary language so that I can understand the praise I am giving; 16 for if you praise and thank God with the spirit alone, speaking in another language, how can those who don’t understand you be praising God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t know what you are saying? 17 You will be giving thanks very nicely, no doubt, but the other people present won’t be helped.

18 I thank God that I “speak in tongues” privately[b] more than any of the rest of you. 19 But in public worship I would much rather speak five words that people can understand and be helped by than ten thousand words while “speaking in tongues” in an unknown language.

20 Dear brothers, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent babies when it comes to planning evil, but be men of intelligence in understanding matters of this kind. 21 We are told in the ancient Scriptures that God would send men from other lands to speak in foreign languages to his people, but even then they would not listen. 22 So you see that being able to “speak in tongues” is not a sign to God’s children concerning his power, but is a sign to the unsaved. However, prophecy (preaching the deep truths of God) is what the Christians need, and unbelievers aren’t yet ready for it. 23 Even so, if an unsaved person, or someone who doesn’t have these gifts, comes to church and hears you all talking in other languages, he is likely to think you are crazy. 24 But if you prophesy, preaching God’s Word, even though such preaching is mostly for believers,[c] and an unsaved person or a new Christian comes in who does not understand about these things, all these sermons will convince him of the fact that he is a sinner, and his conscience will be pricked by everything he hears. 25 As he listens, his secret thoughts will be laid bare, and he will fall down on his knees and worship God, declaring that God is really there among you.

26 Well, my brothers, let’s add up what I am saying. When you meet together some will sing, another will teach, or tell some special information God has given him, or speak in an unknown language, or tell what someone else is saying who is speaking in the unknown language, but everything that is done must be useful to all, and build them up in the Lord. 27 No more than two or three should speak in an unknown language, and they must speak one at a time, and someone must be ready to interpret what they are saying. 28 But if no one is present who can interpret, they must not speak out loud. They must talk silently to themselves and to God in the unknown language but not publicly.

29-30 Two or three may prophesy, one at a time, if they have the gift, while all the others listen. But if, while someone is prophesying, someone else receives a message or idea from the Lord, the one who is speaking should stop. 31 In this way all who have the gift of prophecy can speak, one after the other, and everyone will learn and be encouraged and helped. 32 Remember that a person who has a message from God has the power to stop himself or wait his turn.[d] 33 God is not one who likes things to be disorderly and upset. He likes harmony, and he finds it in all the other churches.

34 Women should be silent during the church meetings. They are not to take part in the discussion, for they are subordinate to men[e] as the Scriptures also declare. 35 If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to express their opinions in church meetings.

36 You disagree? And do you think that the knowledge of God’s will begins and ends with you Corinthians? Well, you are mistaken! 37 You who claim to have the gift of prophecy or any other special ability from the Holy Spirit should be the first to realize that what I am saying is a commandment from the Lord himself. 38 But if anyone still disagrees—well, we will leave him in his ignorance.[f]

39 So, my fellow believers, long to be prophets so that you can preach God’s message plainly; and never say it is wrong to “speak in tongues”; 40 however, be sure that everything is done properly in a good and orderly way.


  1. 1 Corinthians 14:7 English. The local language, whatever it is.
  2. 1 Corinthians 14:18 privately, implied; see vv. 19, 28.
  3. 1 Corinthians 14:24 even though such preaching is mostly for believers, implied.
  4. 1 Corinthians 14:32 a person who has a message from God has the power to stop himself or wait his turn, literally, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”
  5. 1 Corinthians 14:34 they are subordinate to men, literally, “they are not authorized to speak.” They are apparently permitted to pray and prophesy in public meetings (1 Corinthians 11:5), but not to teach men (1 Timothy 2:12).
  6. 1 Corinthians 14:38 leave him in his ignorance, or “ignore his opinion.”

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