Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. (I Corinthians 14:4-5 NIV).
I have pointed out in my previous post, that the gift of tongues–in this case the speech of a supernatural language–is intended more for private use than public use. This gift is clearly not generally given to be a miraculous testimony to the gospel (the gift of tongues used for that purpose on the day of pentecost was of a different sort than the kind discussed here). Some people speak in babble that no one understands and act as a great miracle has occurred. In many cases these outbursts can be easily excluded as the work of the Holy Spirit because of the brazen way in which they feed the arrogance of the individual. The gift of tongues is given primarily as a private gift so that a person may edify themselves. The gift of prophecy–that is preaching God’s commandments–is a much more practical gift for public worship because its use, unlike that of tongues edifies the church. Paul does permit the gift of prophecy to be displayed in public, but only if someone interprets so that the church may be edified. This means that whenever God intends the gift of tongues to be used publicly, He supernaturally inspires another person to understand and translate the speech into normal human language. Obviously, if such translations are possible, this proves that the genuine gift of tongues is used to communicate tangible ideas that can be interpreted into normal human speech. God apparently does not use tongues simply to communicate shallow, undefined emotions. It is very important that churches insist on a translator when this gift is used in public, so that the leaders can know that the substance of what is being said is compatible with true Christian doctrine, and is not of a demonic nature.
Having said that, I must be clear that the gift of tongues is apparently a real gift, dispensed as God sees fit. When used properly, it can greatly encourage and strengthen the individual, which is why Paul says I would like every one of you to speak in tongues. However, Paul then explains that there are for more important things: “but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.”