1 You should make loving [others] your aim, yet eagerly desire [to possess] spiritual gifts, and especially [the gift of] prophecy. 2 For the person who speaks in a language [supernaturally] does not speak to people, but to God, for no one can understand him [i.e., unless there is an interpreter or it is the person's native language]; he speaks [previously] unrevealed truths under the influence of the Holy Spirit [or "in his spirit"]. [Note: For a correct understanding of this chapter, it must be kept in mind that Paul is addressing a misuse ofthe gift of speaking in languages supernaturally. The Corinthians were doing this in the wrong way and for the wrong purpose]. 3 But the person who prophesies speaks [God's message] to people to build them up [spiritually], encourage them and comfort them. 4 The person who speaks in a language [supernaturally], builds up [only] himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I would like all of you to speak in languages [supernaturally], but I would rather have you prophecy. For the person who prophesies is more important [i.e., to the church] than those who speak in languages [supernaturally], unless that person interprets [the languages], so the church can be built up [spiritually].
6 But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in languages [supernaturally], how will I benefit you unless my speaking consists of a revelation [from God], or a [message of] knowledge [See 12:8], or a prophecy, or a teaching? [i.e., the message must be intelligible to be beneficial]. 7 [This is true] even of inanimate objects which make sounds, such as a flute or harp. If they do not make distinguishable sounds, how will anyone know what tune [or signal] is being played? 8 For if the trumpet gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for a battle? 9 So, unless you people also speak clearly with your tongue, how will your speaking be understood? For it will be like you were speaking into the air. 10 There are, no doubt, many kinds of sounds [i.e., languages] in the world, and none of them is meaningless. 11 So, if I do not know the meaning of the sound [i.e., language], I will [appear] as a foreigner to the person speaking [that language to me]. And the person speaking [to me] will [appear] as a foreigner to me. 12 So, you people also, since you are eager for [supernatural] spiritual gifts, should look for ways to excel in building up the church.
13 Therefore, the person who speaks in a language [supernaturally] should pray [i.e., in advance] for the ability to interpret it [as well]. 14 For if I pray in a language [supernaturally], [it is] my spirit that is praying, but my mind does not understand [what I am saying]. [Note: Here Paul raises an objection to the use of a language without the person knowing what he is saying]. 15 What should I do then? I will pray with my spirit [i.e. from within], and I will pray with my understanding also [i.e., with a knowledge of what I am saying]. I will sing with my spirit, and I will sing with my understanding also. 16 For if you [ask God to] bless with your spirit [i.e., in a language supernaturally], how will the person there, who does not have the gift [i.e., of interpreting the language] be able to say, "May it be so," when you offer [a prayer of] thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For [though] you truly offer thanksgiving acceptably, the other person is not built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in languages [i.e., supernaturally] more than all of you. 19 However, in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, so that I can instruct other people also, than to speak ten thousand words in a language [that people do not understand].
20 Brothers, do not be children in the way you think, but be babies in wrongdoing; yet be mature in your thinking. 21 It is written in the law [Isa. 28:11f], "I [i.e., God] will speak to these people [i.e., the Israelites] by men with foreign languages and through the lips of strangers, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." 22 Therefore, languages [i.e., spoken supernaturally] are for a [miraculous] sign to unbelievers, not to believers. But prophesying is for a [miraculous] sign to believers, not to unbelievers. 23 Therefore, if the whole church assembles together and everyone speaks in languages [i.e., supernaturally], and outsiders [i.e., people who do not understand the language being spoken] or unbelievers come [into the assembly], will they not say that you people are crazy? 24 But if everyone prophesies and someone comes [into the assembly] who is an outsider or an unbeliever, he will be convicted [of his sins] by everyone [i.e., who speaks the message in an intelligible language], and judged by everyone. 25 The secrets of his heart will be revealed so that he will fall [to the ground] on his face and worship God, declaring that God is truly among you.
26 So, what is the conclusion, brothers? When you people assemble together, each one of you has a psalm [to sing], or a lesson [to teach], or a [supernatural] revelation [to give], or a language [to speak supernaturally], or an interpretation [of that language]. Everything that is done should be for the building up [of the church]. 27 If any person speaks in a language [supernaturally], there should be [only] two, or at most three people [doing it in one meeting], and they should take turns. And [only] one person should interpret [the language spoken]. 28 But if there is no interpreter present [at the meeting], the person [i.e., with the ability to speak a language supernaturally] should remain quiet in the assembly. [Note: This implies that the speaker would know before he begins speaking whether or not an interpreter is present]. [In that case], he should speak [only] to himself and to God. [See verse 2]. 29 And [only] two or three prophets should speak [in one meeting], and [then] other people should determine the significance [of their messages]. 30 But if something is revealed [supernaturally, at about the same time] to another person sitting nearby, the first one should finish speaking [i.e., before the second one begins]. 31 For all of you [i.e., who have the gifts], can prophesy, one at a time, so that all of you may learn and be encouraged. 32 And the prophets' spirits are [to be] under the prophets' control [i.e., a prophet was to determine if or when he exercised his gift], 33 because God is not a God of disorder but of peace [i.e., harmony]. As is the practice in all of the churches of the saints [i.e., God's holy people], 34 the women should remain quiet in the assemblies. For they are not permitted to speak [i.e., in a language supernaturally, or to prophesy], but they are to be in subjection [i.e., to male leaders. See I Tim. 2:11-12], as the law also says. [See Gen. 3:16?]. 35 And if they want to find out about something, they should ask their own husbands at home [i.e., instead of asking someone else in the assembly and thereby suggesting insubordination to their husbands]. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the assembly. [See verse 34]. 36 Did the message of God originate from you [i.e., the church in Corinth]? Or, were you people the only ones who received it?
37 If any man thinks he is a prophet or has a spiritual gift, he should realize that the things I am writing to you are the Lord's commandment. 38 But if any man does not know this, he should remain ignorant. [Note: The Greek may mean, "If any man does not recognize this (truth), he will not be recognized (in the judgment)"]. 39 Therefore, my brothers, desire eagerly to prophesy and [yet] do not prohibit people from speaking in a language [supernaturally]. 40 But everything [in the assembly] should be done properly and orderly.