1 Let love be your highest goal, but also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives, especially the gift of prophecy.
2 For if your gift is the ability to speak in tongues,* you will be talking to God but not to people, since they won't be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious.1
3 But one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.
4 A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally in the Lord, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church.
5 I wish you all had the gift of speaking in tongues, but even more I wish you were all able to prophesy. For prophecy is a greater and more useful gift than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church can get some good out of it.
6 Dear brothers and sisters,* if I should come to you talking in an unknown language,* how would that help you? But if I bring you some revelation or some special knowledge or some prophecy or some teaching--that is what will help you.2
7 Even musical instruments like the flute or the harp, though they are lifeless, are examples of the need for speaking in plain language. For no one will recognize the melody unless the notes are played clearly.
8 And if the bugler doesn't sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle?
9 And it's the same for you. If you talk to people in a language they don't understand, how will they know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room.
10 There are so many different languages in the world, and all are excellent for those who understand them,
11 but to me they mean nothing. I will not understand people who speak those languages, and they will not understand me.
12 Since you are so eager to have spiritual gifts, ask God for those that will be of real help to the whole church.
13 So anyone who has the gift of speaking in tongues should pray also for the gift of interpretation in order to tell people plainly what has been said.
14 For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don't understand what I am saying.
15 Well then, what shall I do? I will do both. I will pray in the spirit,* and I will pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will sing in words I understand.3
16 For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don't understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don't understand what you are saying?
17 You will be giving thanks very nicely, no doubt, but it doesn't help the other people present.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
19 But in a church meeting I would much rather speak five understandable words that will help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.
20 Dear brothers and sisters, don't be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature and wise in understanding matters of this kind.
21 It is written in the Scriptures,* "I will speak to my own people through unknown languages and through the lips of foreigners. But even then, they will not listen to me,"* says the Lord.4
22 So you see that speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for the benefit of believers, not unbelievers.
23 Even so, if unbelievers or people who don't understand these things come into your meeting and hear everyone talking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy.
24 But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don't understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin, and they will be condemned by what you say.
25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be laid bare, and they will fall down on their knees and worship God, declaring, "God is really here among you."