This last half of Chapter 14 gives some good foundational rules about prophecy and tongues “since God is a God, not of confusion, but of peace” (v32). It is easy to become self-important. When God gives good gifts, pride can swell up, even with the intentions of humility. It can creep up on us without us being aware of it. The gifts we have should always be received with humility, reverence and holy disinterest.
If you notice the attitude Paul has toward the gifts, he acknowledges them as good and holy. But when God gives, there is a purpose to them and care should be taken to make sure they have the fruitfulness He intended for them (26b). These gifts do exist and should be desired, but not inordinately, causing a person to sin. Paul appreciates these gifts, but does not put a person’s total worth on them. He does not hold on to these gifts. Peace should be one of its fruits. It should bring clarity to the mind.
To facilitate this clarity and peace, Paul is making the rule that only three should bring about the revelations they receive and one at a time (27, 29 &31). A person should be there to interpret. If there is nobody there to interpret the tongues, then that person should remain silent and pray quietly (28). One time a person was speaking in Russian and nobody was there to interpret at that time. The person kept on talking because they thought they were praising God. Then another person came in and understood the language. Come to find out the person was cursing God, not praising God. There are spiritual realities that we must all be careful of.
Going back to some of the basics, we need to be able to discern when it is the Holy Spirit acting and when we can be sure it is the enemy. The Holy Spirit will always have His fruits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). When it is the enemy, you will notice what is listed in Galatians 5:19-21, which is any kind of sin or sinful disposition in the heart and mind.
There are some different reasons why God chooses these gifts. They are a form of communication. Prophecy can be in the form of tongues. It can be to instruct a person on what to do in big life situations or in small occurrences. They can be words of consolation and/or healing. They are meant to build up faith, and at times a warning about sin and death. The message may make a person feel guilty so as to encourage them to go to confession, but does not shame them of their sins so as to fall into despair. How a person reacts to these messages is up to them. God does not take away free will.
The person speaking does not necessarily understand what the message is all about. Abraham didn’t even know he was prophesying when he told Isaac, “God will supply the Sacrifice” (Gen 22:8). The messenger does not have to be a person who is holy. In John 11:50-15, the high priest that had condemned Jesus prophesied about the death of Jesus. A fun reading would be in Numbers, Chapter 22-24. In Chapter 22, verses 28-30, a donkey spoke to the prophet Balaam. So God can speak through anything He wishes.
So many times, the message gets lost in the hype that God would speak to us through such strange means. The most important thing is the message, so that it does not go in vain. Gifts are good to ask for. The one who asks for them must be willing to be God’s servant and keep that disposition in their soul.