In the last half of this chapter, Paul sums up what he has said and applies it in several ways. His essential point has been that what we do must be done for edification, for the building up of the church. He then gives some rules that should be followed if we really take his words seriously. He does not say that people must never speak in tongues in church. He says that those who do speak in tongues should do so in a certain way. There should be two or three who speak in tongues, not twenty or thirty. They should speak one at a time, not all at once, because if they are to be understood they should speak so that they can be heard. Then when they do speak, someone should be present to interpret because, if what we are concerned about is the edification of the body and the communication of scriptural truth to unbelievers, something that is unintelligible has no message at all.

Paul gives an illustration at this point. He talks about music. He says if everybody starts playing instruments all at once with no attention to an ordered score, it is not beneficial to anybody. In fact, it is horrible. And if, in battle, somebody picks up a trumpet but does not blow a tune that people can interpret, the soldiers will not know whether to charge or retreat. He says it is the same way in the worship service. When you are in church, try to do what is going to be strengthening, encouraging, and comforting to other Christians.

Yesterday we began to look at the gift of prophecy. Paul contrasts that gift with the gift of tongues in three areas. He says if prophecy is better for the church, if prophecy is better for the individual, and if prophecy is better for unbelievers than speaking in tongues, then you should desire prophecy. In the first place Paul says that prophecy, that is, communicating the Word of God in a clear way, is better than tongues because it helps the church to grow.

In the midst of these three chapters that lay down the principles we covered yesterday, we find 1 Corinthians 13, the great chapter on love. In times past when I looked at these chapters and tried to analyze them, I found the content of chapter 13 positioned between chapters 12 and 14 to be somewhat of a digression. I did not understand how it fit into the sequence of what he is talking about. I think I do understand that a little better now. What Paul says in chapter 13 is, most certainly, the prelude to what he says in chapter 14.

Every part of the Bible is relevant and helpful. But some parts speak to contemporary problems more than others. The fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is one of those. Someone once asked me a question to which this chapter speaks directly. This person had a friend in a charismatic fellowship who always insisted on speaking in tongues in a disruptive manner and when there was no one to interpret. He asked me what should be done, so I told him what 1 Corinthians 14 teaches.