Paul is concerned about edification of the church.
The problem is that tongues are not intelligible and so unable to edify the church.
Paul is going to indicate he prefers prophecy over tongues.
The issue, though, is not tongues itself but instead uninterrupted tongues.
14:1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”
Paul sums up chapter 13 and resumes the thought of 12:31
The following two imperatives (“follow” and “desire”) serve as a transition from chapter 13 (a comparison of love and charismata) into the real issue (non-intelligible gifts)
“Follow the way of love” is in the present imperative.
“Eagerly desire spiritual gifts”, also present imperative.
Paul had ended chapter 12:31 by saying “eagerly desire the greater gifts”.
Now he adds “especially the gift of prophecy” which serves as a definition for or a sample of the “greater gifts.” The greater gifts are gifts that communicate and edify. The lesser gifts would be the unintelligible gifts like tongues that can not communicate or edify.
In 12:31 Paul writes:
“Eagerly desire the greater gifts” (NIV)
“zhloute de ta capismata ta meizona”
“you desire eagerly the gifts greater”
In 14:1 Paul writes:
“eagerly desire spiritual gifts”
“zjloute de ta pneumatika”
“you desire eagerly the spirituals”
14:2 “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.”
Important to decide: If tongues are a known human language supernaturally spoken then the interpreter could understand them in one of two ways. One, they could understand it because they academically knew the language. Two, they supernaturally understood a foreign language (tongues) they had never known before. If this is the case then on the day of Pentecost the disciples where speaking different human languages that the people listening naturally understood. But, if tongues are an ecstatic speech that is not a human language then both on the day of Pentecost and in the Corinthian church no one could understand them naturally. They were not speaking a human language. If this is the case then tongues could only be understood supernaturally by the gift of interpretation. Scripture supports this second method and nowhere (not even at Pentecost) are tongues a natural language nor are they naturally understood.
“Anyone who speaks in a tongue”:
The point of this information in context: Tongues are of no value in a congregation of people who have gathered for edification and exhortation.
14:3 “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”
The Twelve and the Apostle Paul
Functional (unofficial) apostles
Church planters and missionaries
Communicated new revelation
Functional (unofficial) prophets
Communicated edification, exhortation, and consolation
i. 8:1 – “love builds up”
ii. 14:3 – here prophecy “builds up”
iii. Thus, prophecy in a congregation is easily aligned with love since they both “build up”
Please note: There is nothing said of prophecy predicting
the future. Even the OT prophets who
spoke of future events where doing so primarily to provide the people of
14:4 “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”
Tongues and prophecy “edifies” “oikodimei” (same word)
Tongues even though it is not understood with the mind (14:2) builds up the speaker (14:4) in his spirit (14:14-15).
This quote misses the entire concept of “spirit” and makes it sound like a person speaking in tongues is a cheerleader at a pep rally:
"Though he himself would not comprehend the content of that praise, his feelings and emotions would be enlivened, leading to a general exhilaration and euphoria. This was not a bad thing. Paul certainly was no advocate of cold, dispassionate worship.” (Lowery, 1 Corinthians, p. 538)
14:5 “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.”
The point continues here: Edification of the people at a meeting of the congregation is the purpose for the assembly. Thus, the gifts that accomplish this are “greater” in this context.
Tongues are not said here to be a lesser gift over all, but a lesser gift or less productive and less beneficial when the church is gathered for exhortation.
Paul says he wishes everyone would speak in tongues. Why? So they could be edified or built-up in their spirit. Does not an edified employee do better work for the company? Does not a built-up athlete produce better results in the game for the team? It is ridiculous for some teachers to say tongues are a selfish gift based on this verse. To follow the logic then an athlete who lifts weights during the off season is only thinking of themselves and not the team. So a true team player would stop lifting weights?
14:6 “Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?”
14:7 “Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?”
14:8 “Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”
14:9 “So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.”
14:10 “Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.”
14:11 “If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.”
14:12 “So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
14:13 “For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.”
14:14 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”