“Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:39–40, KJV)
In 1983, the Lord saved me while reading a Gideon placed Bible in a hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, I joined a small mission church in our community of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Shortly after joining the church, the whole issue of speaking in tongues came up. As a new believer, I did not understand much, but I heard someone state, not the pastor or other church leaders, that if you did not speak in tongues, you were not saved. This truly bothered me because I did not. However, the transformation of my life was so dramatic, that all those around me were convinced that the Lord saved me. However, I was in a moment of crisis.
My problem was one of ignorance regarding spiritual gifts. As I researched this, I discovered there were a variety of opinions on the issue of tongues. At the time, I thought that the gift of tongues was an ability to speak in some language totally unknown on earth. As I studied the first recorded instances of this in the Book of Acts, I realized that those who spoke in tongues were speaking in known languages, understandable by those around them. This settled my mind a bit, but there were still questions and concerns. I mean, when I was in Germany, I learned a bit of German, even enough to communicate the gospel. Was this a spiritual gift or an intellectual ability to learn a language?
Then, the pastor of our church gave me a pamphlet that the denomination put out regarding the issue of tongues. It was titled, “Seek Not – Forbid Not. Here we see two key verses as Paul concluded this thought on prophecy and tongues in corporate assembly. First, in the verses Paul told the church to “covet to prophesy.” The verb “covet,” zeloo, means to covet earnestly, to be zealous (Strong G2206). It is a command. Believers are commanded to seek for the ability to prophesy. In this era where the revelation of God has been completed, this gift cannot mean bringing forth new revelation. Thus, it is most likely the forthtelling of that which God has already revealed to us in His word as it applies to life and situations that we all will encounter. This is the gift that we are to seek with zeal.
The second thing that Paul wrote was that the church should “forbid not to speak with tongues.” Here, there is no command to seek the gift of tongues, but the believer is commanded not to forbid it in the assembly. Yet, Paul had already placed several constraints on the use of this gift. First, the speaking in tongues was to be a known foreign language that someone in the congregation could interpret. If there was no interpretation, the person speaking in tongues was to be silent. Moreover, there was only to be two or three (1 Cor 14:27-28).
The last concluding thought is a reminder that order needed to be maintained in the corporate assembly. This was the overriding problem in the church at Corinth. It is one that we must remember in our churches today.