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14 So in everything strive to love. Passionately seek the gifts of the Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy. You see, a person speaking in an unknown language is not addressing the church because he is really addressing God—those who overhear don’t understand because he is speaking in the Spirit the depths of the mysteries of the Lord. But a person who has the gift of prophecy teaches in a way that builds up the community, draws them near, and comforts them. Those who speak in an unknown language only strengthen themselves, but those who prophesy strengthen the community. While I’d like for you all to be able to speak by the Spirit in unknown languages, my preference would be for you all to prophesy by the Spirit. Those who speak prophetically are God’s mouthpiece and are far more useful to the church than those who speak in exotic languages—unless there is another who interprets so that the community may be strengthened.

If I come to you, brothers and sisters, talking in unknown languages, what good would that be for any of you? You receive no benefit unless I speak to you some word of revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or instruction in your own language. Look, if inanimate objects, musical instruments like a pipe or harp, don’t make a clear, distinct sound, how would you know what tune is being played? If the bugle blares more like a clank, who would know to prepare for battle? It’s the same with you. Unless you speak a message in a language everyone understands, they won’t know what you’re talking about. You’ll be talking into the wind. 10 This world is full of languages, each and every one of them having meaning; 11 but if I don’t understand the meaning of some sound, then I become like a foreigner to the person speaking, and the person speaking will be like a foreigner to me. 12 It’s the same with you; in your passion for spiritual gifts, seek to strengthen the community of believers, and you will all be better off.

13 So anyone who speaks in an unknown language should pray for the ability to interpret 14 because if I pray in such a language, although my spirit prays, my mind isn’t productive. 15 What do I do then? I pray. I pray with my spirit but also with my mind engaged; I sing with my spirit but also with my mind engaged. 16 If you speak a word of blessing in the spirit only, then how will an uninformed person who can’t understand your prayer say “Amen” when you are done giving thanks? 17 Even though you give thanks to God well, the unknowing person doesn’t benefit. 18 I thank God that I speak in unknown languages more than the rest of you; 19 but when the church gathers, I would rather speak five words with my mind so I can be understood and train others than utter 10,000 exotic words.

20 Brothers and sisters, don’t think like children. Be innocent of malice but mature in understanding. 21 In the law, it states:

“I will send My message to this people
    with strange languages and foreign lips.
And even when that happens,
    they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.[a]

22 So speaking in unknown languages is not a sign to the believing but a miracle to the unbelieving; prophecy, though, is not a sign to the unbelieving but for the believing. 23 Imagine what would happen if the entire church gathered together speaking in different languages, one foreign to the next. Then people who have never heard of such a thing or unbelieving people walk up on all that’s going on. Would they not think each and every one of you were raving lunatics? 24 But let’s say an outsider or unbeliever walks in on a different scene: all are speaking for God with great power and insight in a language they know. What then? Well, the outsider would come under the conviction of his own sins and be called to accountability by the words of all the prophets. 25 The very secrets of his heart would be revealed, and right there—mystified—he would fall on his face in worship to God, proclaiming all the while that God most certainly dwells among you.

26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community. 27 But if any do speak in an exotic language, limit it to two or three people at the most, and have them speak one at a time, while another interprets for the rest. 28 If there is not an interpreter present, then the one should stay silent during the gathering, speaking only to himself and God. 29 Have two to three prophets speak, and let others with discerning gifts evaluate the messages they hear. 30 Now if in the course of things a message comes to another who is seated, then the first one speaking should be silent until this new message can be spoken. 31 To avoid confusion and create a space where all can learn and be encouraged, let only one prophet speak at a time without interruption. 32 You see, the prophetic spirits are under the control of the prophets 33 because God is the author of order, not confusion. This is how it is in all gatherings of the saints. 34 Wives should be respectfully silent at the gatherings, as they are not allowed to speak; and they should yield themselves to those in authority just as it is written in the law. 35 When they want to learn anything in particular, they should ask their husbands when they get home. It creates a shameful situation for them to speak at church. 36 Do you think the word of God came to the world by you? Or that it came only to you?

Paul clearly wants to correct the excessive use of speeches given in these exotic, unknown languages, but he doesn’t want them banned either.

37 Let any person who thinks he is a prophet or a spiritual person affirm that these things I write to you are the commands of the Lord. 38 Whoever chooses to be ignorant of this will be treated as ignorant. 39 So, my dear brothers and sisters, passionately desire to prophesy; but don’t ban the gift of speaking in unknown languages. 40 Just maintain the proper order in all things.

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