1 Corinthians 14:31 – You can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted.
The subject of prophecy is at the heart of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14. Earlier, Paul told these believers, “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols” (1 Corinthians 12:2). Paul goes on to share about those who speak by the Spirit of God. God the Father always intended His people to be a voice for Him. Moses said, “I would that all God’s people were Prophets” (Numbers 11:29). Revelation 19:10 states that “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Let’s review what Paul teaches concerning prophecy. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul commands us to “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” In verse 3 he writes, “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification, and exhortation, and consolation.” He goes on in verse 4, “One who prophesies edifies the church.” In verse 5, Paul shares a deep desire, “Now I wish that you all speak in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is the one who prophesies than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.”
Remember, Paul is dealing with these gifts in the corporate gathering of the church. The instruction applies to the church as a whole being edified not just ministering to one person. Paul writes in verse 6, “What will it profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?” These are four clear spoken ways of building up the body of Christ! In verses 7 through 33, Paul illustrates his point using musical instruments, the natural way of speaking, and the call to war. Paul states, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:19). In verses 31-33 Paul teaches us that “you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; for God is not the God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
Paul is not dealing with the private use of tongues in these passages. He is concerned for the church when she gathers together. There, the focus must be “edification of one another.” In the corporate gathering, there is no place for being self-focused or drawing attention to oneself. The concern is always to be toward building up others in Christ.
Pray with me for the Holy Spirit to make us an instrument for Him to speak through Him to others. Lord, cause me to both hear You clearly and to speak clearly Your word to others that they may be edified. Release the “gift of prophecy” in my life as You please. I am listening Lord, use me.