The gift of tongues was a supernatural gift given by the Holy Spirit to God’s chosen servants to speak in foreign human languages for the sake of preaching the gospel. The gift of prophecy on the other hand was a word of God spoken by a prophet under the divine authority of God to His people. The Corinthian church misused both of these gifts for their own popularity and brought chaos and confusion in the public worship of God. In this passage, we learn the how the gift of tongues and prophecy were used in the early church and the practical way Paul commands to handle these gifts in the church.
The gift of tongues in the Bible always referred to foreign human languages. God’s servants and His apostles were given special authority and power through the Holy Spirit to speak in foreign languages which they have not learned, for the sake of advancing the gospel in other parts of the world. In the Corinthian church, people were misusing this gift of tongues to elevate themselves as super spiritual Christians appearing to have high status in God’s sight than those who don’t speak in tongues. In this passage, we see how the apostle Paul handles this tension and discrimination in the church and the solution he provides.
Spiritual gifts are primarily given to Christians for the benefit and the edification of the church, so that the church might be blessed with all the necessary resources through the gifts of God’s people. But it is possible for Christians to boast about themselves and their gifts and not serve others through their gifts. It is possible to make the gifts an end in themselves and not have a greater purpose. In this passage, we learn that spiritual gifts only serve to strengthen others and love people because the gifts are temporary but Love is not.
Christians are called to reflect the character of God. This passage lists out various characteristics which believers need to exhibit. In the last part of this section, we see how love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but in truth. Love also forebears all things when someone sins against us, because God has been forbearing towards us when we sin against Him. Gospel becomes the foundation on which we relate to other people in love.
There are many ways we can be rude to others, for example when we’re not grateful to others for the service they have rendered, or we interrupt people when they’re speaking to us, or we ignore someone when they approach us. We can also irritate or hurt people when we say insensitive things. We often talk about love in radical and heroic terms and how we fail in those areas, but our failure to love can also be seen in small ways as mentioned earlier. In this passage, we learn how rudeness, self-obsession, and being provocative hinders us from loving others.