The apostle Paul said we should pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, but more than anything we should desire to prophesy because one who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation, and comfort to men and edifies the church. On the other hand, one who speaks in a tongue and speaks to God instead of men is praying in the spirit. Because he is praying in the spirit and there is no interpretation, his words are mysteries and he is edifying himself.

"He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church" (1 Corinthians 14:4).

While praying in the spirit is necessary in the life of a Christian, in a public setting it can cause confusion. Paul is simply saying that for one person to speak the oracles of God in a church service is better than many people praying in the spirit loudly and disorderly. Confusion is eliminated and the whole church is edified. Praying in the spirit corporately is acceptable, but must be done at the instruction of the church leader or pastor.

He continues by saying that he desires that everyone would speak with tongues. But even more that they prophesied, for one who prophesies is greater than one who speaks with tongues. But we can't stop the sentence there. He adds a condition. He said one who prophesies is greater than one who speaks with tongues-unless he interprets. When tongues and interpretation are in operation as gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are equal to prophecy and he goes on to say the church receives edification. Praying in the spirit is personal, but the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation are public and equal to prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5).

Paul summed it up this way. He said, "If I come to you speaking in tongues, how will it profit you unless I speak to you by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?" (1 Corinthians 14:6). For example, in battle, the trumpet makes a certain sound so that the soldiers know how to prepare for battle. But if the person with the trumpet plays random notes without order, the soldiers don't know what to do. Likewise, if someone speaks to you in an unknown language, you won't understand. So if someone speaks in a tongue by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then he should pray that he will interpret and then the whole body will be edified.

"That means that tongues are a sign of God's power, not for those who are unbelievers, but to those who already believe.

"Preaching the word of God, on the other hand, is a sign of God's power to those who do not believe rather than to believers. So that, if at a full church meeting you are all speaking with tongues and men come in who are both uninstructed and without faith, will they not say that you are insane?

"But if you are preaching God's word and such a man should come in to your meeting, he is convicted and challenged by your united speaking of the truth. His secrets are exposed and he will fall on his knees acknowledging God and saying that God is truly among you!"

1 Corinthians 14:22-25 (PHILLIPS)

Remember, the gift of tongues with the gift of interpretation of tongues is a method God uses to speak to His children through the Holy Spirit. This gift is precious because through it we hear the heart of God.

To learn more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, check out Dr. Ollison's book, Unlocking the Mysteries of the Holy Spirit.