14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
It was tough to choose where to cut off today's portion of Scripture because all of chapter 14 is on this topic of spiritual gifts and specifically how the gift of tongues was being over valued and misused.
Let's start at the top. Paul writes that we should pursue love and desire spiritual gifts. What he is saying is that love is the ultimate. It must be pursued above all else. It is a the Pinnacle. Nothing is higher or better. All the gifts minus love are noise and confusion. So make love your singular pursuit and desire gifts only as a complement to your love. Love is the foundation, walls, and roof of your house. The gifts are the furnishings. You can survive the rain and snow and cold in a house with no furniture much better than on furniture with no house. Never think your talents, gifts, and position make love optional. Love is never optional and God is eager to fill us with His love.
Having said that as clearly as I know how the gifts are not nothing. To have a dry, heated, garage is awesome. To have tools to work with is so much better.
Apparently there was a language problem in Corinth. The words tongue and tongues just means language and languages. It can refer to and most often does refer to human languages. It can also refer to the language of heaven as mentioned in the last chapter when Paul said "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels..." It is possible to be given the gift of speaking the language of the angels. Some people are uncomfortable with that idea but it's Biblical.
Paul addresses the problem head on as Paul always does. First he clearly states prophecy is the best gift. Why? Because it is a clear message from God, through an individual to His church. It is practical and powerful both for the one who is given the message (prophet) and those who hear it (the church body). Speaking in other languages is also a great gift but if no one knows the language it is just noise. Paul is not condemning the gift, he is condemning the improper use of it. If anyone has the gift and uses it in public it must be accompanied by a translation into the language of the listeners or it is entirely counter productive.
So in summary, love is supreme, prophecy is the best gift and languages is a good gift too if uses properly. We'll continue tomorrow and flesh this out even more.