1Co 14:26-28 “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.”
It is exciting and humbling to be given a spiritual gift from God, and rightly so. For there to be many such gifts in the church is cause for rejoicing. Some have the gift of composing and singing songs of praise. Others may have the gift of seeing the patterns and instructions in God’s word and sharing how they applied to God’s people in the past and how they are relevant to us today.
There may be some that are given the gift of speaking in a different language. The Spirit may be pleased to bless another with understanding of one of the mysteries in God’s word. Still another may be able to understand foreign languages and interpret the meaning for the congregation. If God gives these gifts, then He intends for there to be a time and place for the use of them.
This is the matter that Paul is addressing with the brethren at Corinth. They were apparently a talented and gifted group. However, by Paul’s question and subsequent instruction, it would appear that they were so enamored of their own gifts as to not give place for each to be used in turn. Paul is asking them why it is that they are behaving in such a manner.
Then he returns their attention yet again to the correct use of the gifts that God gives: let all things be done unto edifying. Suppose three different ones showed up at church on Sunday morning with a new song, and each insisted on singing their song first. Since no one was willing to give way, they began to sing simultaneously a different song with different melodies, different words, and different rhythms. The congregation would not be able to enjoy the presentation of the gifts much less be edified to God’s glory.
While he specifically uses the gift of tongues and interpreting, the principle here should be applied to all the gifts of the church. They should be used in a manner that builds up the body instead of causing confusion. Further every individual does not have to exercise their gift every time the church assembles. We need to follow Paul’s instruction to do nothing for vain glory, but to esteem others before ourselves (Eph 2:3).
If there are a dozen who can speak in tongues, Paul instruction is for two and not more than three to be heard at any given time. They are not to speak all at once, but each in turn. If the gift of tongues is being used, then it must be done in conjunction with the gift of interpretation. If there is no one to interpret, then the ones with the gift of tongues should make use of it privately.
Any prohibition of the use of a gift is not about the gift itself. It is not about the one with the ability to use the gift either. The use of the gifts God gives is about edifying when we come together. If for any reason on any given day our gift is not going to edify the assembly then we should be silent in the church. However, we can still use our gift in our heart and both comfort ourselves and praise God.
May God give us the wisdom and grace to always use His gifts appropriately in the church!