(1 Corinthians 14:18-26) – “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you…”
While that statement from Paul is strong, it’s said for good reason.
The Corinthians had proven that they lacked spiritual maturity in their thinking when it came to speaking in tongues. There were misapplications of truth and misappropriations of focus taking place.
Not only had they misunderstood the purpose of spiritual gifts as a whole, but they also misunderstood the unique purpose of this specific gift.
Paul has already established that spiritual gifts are given for the purpose of edification, or building others up. This could be for the benefit of the body or the blessing of the world.
And here Paul states that both prophecy and tongues are given as signs. This means that just like a billboard or a “For Sale” sign in someone’s front yard, these gifts are intended to communicate a message.
Tongues were supposed to be a “billboard” for unbelievers that something special was going on with in the body of Christ. Prophecy was supposed to be a “billboard” for believers that God was communicating a special message and they better listen.
Imagine, as an unbeliever, your intrigue with the church as you see people speaking in languages that are foreign to them. You attend their gathering to see what’s going on.
When you arrive, you hear many in the congregation speaking in these foreign languages, but no one is stepping forward to make sense of it. Your intrigue would turn into dissent as you realize that this is a group of crazy people.
Imagine the same scenario, but when the unbeliever walks in, someone is either interpreting those foreign languages or speaking in the local language, and you hear God’s truth confront your heart with no mistake of what is being said.
Your intrigue then turns to conviction, and you must now decide what to do with that experience. You repent and believe because not only is this God doing something I can’t explain, He’s also speaking to me personally in a way that I can clearly understand.
It’s this sort of rational thinking that Paul pushes for. He wanted them to consider what their actions were communicating.
The hope is that believers are mature in thinking, and do what God’s wisdom leads them to do, rather than what impulses lead to.
Side note…when a house is for sale, a “For Sale” sign is more than appropriate. When the house sells, what should be done with the “For Sale” sign? What does it mean for the house to “sell”? (Think about it in light of this topic)