1 Corinthians 14:18-19 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
This is a direct amplification of verse 12: “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” Tongues are a gift for which Paul was thankful, but they build up the one speaking, rather than those listening. (Unless it is one of those rare occasions when the tongue in question is directly understood by others present, which we have experienced.) Our focus needs to be on being available to God for Him to use us in building others up, just as Paul said. So why would Paul have been grateful to “speak in tongues more than all of you?” Tongues are very useful when we want to pray, need to pray, but have no knowledge or presence of mind to pray in a language we know. Because they don’t use the mind directly, they enable praying while doing other things, such as driving a car, housework, or countless other things. As it says in verse 4 and several other places, speaking in tongues builds up the speaker, and sometimes we all need building up! We are to be grateful for any gifts God gives us, but our focus should be on using whatever gifts we have as God intends, building up the Body of Christ.
Numbers of groups teach that the gift of tongues will always accompany the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but as I have written before, that understanding almost kept me from receiving the baptism. It was when I let go of my preconceptions and thanked God for being true to His Word that I did receive, but I only realized I had done so a couple of days later, when it hit me that I was talking to a total stranger about Jesus, and Acts 1:8 came to mind. It was a matter of months later that I received the specific gift of tongues. I find myself very much in Paul’s position, speaking in tongues frequently but not in public. I would be thrilled if everyone in the church spoke in tongues, because some of them really need building up! I need wisdom in encouraging the believers to seek and receive spiritual gifts, and in recognizing and applying the gifts they have already received. That could easily be a series of messages, but more than preaching, the believers need coaching to help them recognize things rather than having them dictated to them. This church will not become properly Christ-centered until the believers realize they are as much a part of the Body of Christ as I am.
Father, thank You for all that you are doing in this church and in me. I really have been a major “lid” holding the church down, preaching at them instead of coming alongside and showing them things. I pray that in all things we would all grow as You intend, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!