The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
1 Corinthians 14:32
Paul is talking about church order in this section of Scripture. He talks about the limits we place in public meetings.
According to Paul, no one can say, “I just had to – I couldn’t control it.” In context he’s talking about the gift of prophecy. But it’s the same for tongues, healing, or any gift that comes from the Holy Spirit. My spirit is always under the control of my soul.
Does that mean that I’m controlling everything that happens? No. I simply can allow the gift to operate or not operate at any given moment.
Think about sports, for instance. An athlete will spend an enormous amount of time practicing so that his body will function almost independently. We call that eye, hand coordination. If a third baseman has to think about catching a line drive, it’s already too late.
In certain areas we’ll let our body do things on its own. Our mind initiates the response, but reflex takes over. It’s the same with prayer in the spirit.
We need to let prayer in the spirit become a reflex of the spirit. I know when I need to commune with God, and whether or not it’s an appropriate time. Then, if it’s right, I give my spirit the freedom to go where the Holy Spirit will lead.
The reason tongues is so important should be obvious. Paul talks about the reasons we use our spirit to talk to God.
In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:21
God is trying to get our attention. With Israel He tried using prophets, but they wouldn’t listen. So God used other means to get His word across.
Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
1 Corinthians 14:22
This verse seems to confuse people. The first definition of the word sign is a distinguishing mark. For instance, circumcision was the sign of the covenant. The second definition of sign is an unusual occurrence beyond the course of nature.
The fact is that tongues gets people’s attention.
So what Paul is saying in this verse, is that tongues is not unusual to believers (or at least they shouldn’t be). It’s something that gets the attention of unbelievers. Prophecy, speaking for God, is not that unusual for unbelievers. They’ve heard moving speeches before.
When used together in a meeting, tongues will get their attention, and then the prophetic word will open their hearts. Both are needed. This generation is in desperate need of seeing the hand of God at work.
It’s time for God’s people to spend time praying in the spirit. It’s not just a spiritual toy to take out when we want to feel happy. It’s vital to our spiritual growth and the evangelism of our nation.
Question: How have you experienced tongues and prophecy working together in the church?
© Nick Zaccardi 2016