Seek the greater thing

But Rather

1 Corinthians 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

Previously, I mentioned that there is not one positive verse in the New Testament concerning seeking the gift of “tongues.”  However, the first part of verse 5 seems to say exactly the opposite.  Of course, it is just the FIRST part of the verse that indicates that, but not the entire verse.  The “but rather” of the verse indicates that the thought is continued. “But rather that ye proph­esied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues.”  The clause “I would that ye all spake with tongues” is negated by Paul’s statement that he would rather they prophesy.  

Paul’s instruction is that the person who prophecies is greater than the person who speaks with “tongues.”  This is not the greatness of the person, but rather the greatness of their influence on other people and their effectiveness for being used of the Lord.  The spreading and sharing of the Gospel is much greater in importance than keeping the Lord to one’s self.

The one exception to the greatness of speaking with tongues as compared to prophesying is if someone is able to interpret the message of the tongues being spoken, (his own or someone else’s).  If the message can be interpreted so that the whole church may profit from the message being given in tongues, then in fact you are prophesying; the edification, exhortation, and comfort of others from explaining the Scripture.

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