It would seem that there were some in the Corinthian church who could speak in tongues. This is a way of praying or praising God in a language that the speaker doesn’t even understand. It is a work and a gift of the Spirit in the believer’s life.
There are conflicting views on whether this gift ceased after the apostolic age (after the time the apostles worked to build the early church) or if it continues to this day and will end when Christ returns (13:8). Whatever your view, it is important to note that speaking in tongues is not a requirement for all Christians – it is a simply a gift.
Evidently, the believers in Corinth put an especially large emphasis on this gift of speaking in tongues, because Paul goes to great lengths in Chapter 12 to emphasize the importance of ALL spiritual gifts. Then he goes on in Chapter 13 to emphasize LOVE over ALL things, and finally in Chapter 14, he is tackling the subject of speaking in tongues head-on.
Paul – even though he says he speaks in tongues more than anyone in the church of Corinth – diminishes this gift in the church – simply because it is only beneficial to the speaker and unintelligible to others within the congregation.
It also hinders the gospel to outsiders…
If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (1 Corinthians 14:23).
So let’s wade through the mire of details to find the transcendent principle. First, everyone is valuable within the church. It is common for those with more “behind the scenes” gifts to not feel as valuable as those with “up front” gifts. The Corinthian church exalted speaking in tongues over other gifts. Our churches might exalt something different – but no matter what gift is exalted, it is wrong. All gifts are vital to the building of the church!
We can also learn to conduct our worship services with a sensitivity to “outsiders” or unbelievers. We want to conduct our church-life and all-of-life in a way that others don’t look in and think “They are out of their minds!” :)
This is a worthwhile principle! We want our lives to be savory to the world – for we want ALL to come into God’s Kingdom and experience the indescribable joy that awaits for us at the end of the age!!!
Go through, go through the gates;
prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway;
clear it of stones;
lift up a signal over the peoples.
Behold, the Lord has proclaimed
to the end of the earth:
Say to the daughter of Zion,
“Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.”
And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken. (Isaiah 62:10-12)