Are Tongues the Least of All Gifts?

Jason Dulle


Why do you Pentecostals emphasize tongues so much if Paul said it was the least of all gifts?



I would disagree that the Bible says tongues is the least of all gifts. I believe that you have misunderstood I Corinthians 14. Paul was not talking against tongues, but was only declaring that prophecy was better than tongues in the context of corporate worship (the context of I Corinthians 12, 14 indicates that Paul is speaking of corporate worship) because prophecy can be understood by all, whereas tongues cannot. Paul was concerned about the edification of the church (I Corinthians 14:12, 26). Tongues would only edify the individual speaking in tongues, but not the body (I Corinthians 14:2-4). Paul was not downplaying tongues. He was only explaining to the Corinthians that in corporate worship, the edification of the whole body should be the main concern. In fact, Paul put tongues on the same level of prophecy if those tongues were interpreted: "I would that you all spoke with tongues but rather that you prophesied: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying" (I Corinthians 14:5; emphasis mine). In the context of provoking the Corinthians to edify the body Paul said, "Even so, forasmuch as you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret" (I Corinthians 14:12-13). If tongues were interpreted, they would bring edification to the body just as would prophecies.

That Paul was not against tongues-speaking, even in the context of corporate worship is evident. Notice that in I Corinthians 14:5 Paul said he wanted everyone to be speaking in tongues. That is hardly tantamount to Paul discouraging tongues or saying that tongues are the most undesirable gift. He even says, "Forbid not to speak in tongues" (I Corinthians 14:39). He only placed limits on the exercise of uninterpreted tongues so that the body would be edified, rather than just the individual.

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