1 Corinthians 14

BIG IDEA: Spiritual gifts in worship are for the purpose of building up the church, not for individual fulfillment.

Building each other up:

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

Who are you speaking to in worship?

In a worship service, people are listening so you want to include everyone. It’s not about you, but about us together.

Principle: Our worship must praise and honor God and build up and honor the church and its members.

Who is being built up?

1 Corinthians 14:4-5

Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

It is good to build yourself up, but not in public worship. Corporate, congregational worship is not a time for your personal bible study time. You’re with others and so you must consider them and their needs.

Watch out for worship that is all about you. It’s not about you. We should refrain from doing things in worship that do not build up the church, even if those things build us up personally.

What good are you doing for others?

1 Corinthians 14:6-13

Now, brothers and sisters, 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? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?

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. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church. 13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say.

If I go into a church but they’re speaking a different language, I won’t have any idea what’s going on.

What are you speaking from?

1 Corinthians 14:14-19

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[d] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Are you speaking from your mind or your spirit?

Is your mind engaged? Or just your spirit.

When you walk into a church, “Don’t check your brain at the door.”

Real worship happens where your heart and your mind meet.

It’s the whole person – spirit and truth.

Is it all emotion? Is it jumping the pews? Are you just chasing after a feeling? Or a “quiver in your liver”? Or is it more?

Is it dry and dead? Is it all head knowledge?

We are all wired differently, and we want certain outcomes in worship. But real worship engages all of who we are, including our heart, soul, mind, and strength.


1 Corinthians 14:20 – Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

Maturity does not just mean that you understand evil. Maturity is choosing to refuse and reject evil. 

So in worship, ask, “Who is speaking? Are they mature?” 

Immaturity in the area of gifts is thinking, “Everyone else has to do what I do. I’m praying, serving, teaching, so everyone else should have the same passion for this gift that I do.” They have different gifts and every gift is necessary. Some immature people even go to another church to find people with the same gifts they have.

Another example of immaturity is insisting that if I have a gift, I can use it wherever and whenever I want.

We must consider the maturity of those listening.

1 Corinthians 14:21-25

21 In the Law it is written: “With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

They exclaimed, “God is really among you!” That should be a goal of a great worship service. That lost people will come and know they are in God’s presence so they will get to know Jesus.

In verses 23 and 24, the unbeliever is someone who is seeking. The skeptic might just reject the Gospel out of hand, but some people are more open to the truth. 

According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, public worship is not the best place for the use of the gift of tongues because those attending will not understand what is being said. These inquirers have come to church and they will think you’re crazy if they don’t understand the language you are using, but clear preaching will connect with them.

People will sometimes ask the preacher after a sermon, “How did you know I was going through this? This sermon was for me today.” That’s because the Word of God is alive and the Holy Spirit uses the clear preaching of the truth of the Bible to directly impact and change hearts and minds.