Pursue [this] love [with eagerness, make it your goal], yet earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual gifts [to be used by believers for the benefit of the church], but especially that you may prophesy [to foretell the future, to speak a new message from God to the people]. For one who speaks in an unknown tongue does not speak to people but to God; for no one understands him or catches his meaning, but by the Spirit he speaks mysteries [secret truths, hidden things]. But [on the other hand] the one who prophesies speaks to people for edification [to promote their spiritual growth] and [speaks words of] encouragement [to uphold and advise them concerning the matters of God] and [speaks words of] consolation [to compassionately comfort them]. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church [promotes growth in spiritual wisdom, devotion, holiness, and joy]. Now I wish that all of you spoke in unknown tongues, but even more [I wish] that you would prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater [and more useful] than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he translates or explains [what he says], so that the church may be edified [instructed, improved, strengthened].
Now, believers, if I come to you speaking in unknown tongues, how will I benefit you unless I also speak to you [clearly] either by revelation [revealing God’s mystery], or by knowledge [teaching about God], or by prophecy [foretelling the future, speaking a new message from God to the people], or by instruction [teaching precepts that develop spiritual maturity]? Yet even lifeless things, whether flute or harp, when producing a sound, if they do not produce distinct [musical] tones, how will anyone [listening] know what is piped or played? And if the [war] bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So it is with you, if you speak words [in an unknown tongue] that are not intelligible and clear, how will anyone understand what you are saying? You will be talking into the air [wasting your breath]! There are, I suppose, a great many kinds of languages in the world [unknown to us], and none is lacking in meaning. But if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will [appear to] be a foreigner to the one who is speaking [since he knows exactly what he is saying], and the one who is speaking will [appear to] be a foreigner to me. So it is with you, since you are so very eager to have spiritual gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in ways that will build up the church [spiritually].
Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may [be gifted to] translate or explain [what he says]. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unproductive [because it does not understand what my spirit is praying]. Then what am I to do? I will pray with the spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me] and I will pray with the mind [using words I understand]; I will sing with the spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me] and I will sing with the mind [using words I understand]. Otherwise if you bless [and give thanks to God] in the spirit only, how will any outsider or someone who is not gifted [in spiritual matters] say the “Amen” [of agreement] to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough [in a way that God is glorified], but the other person [who does not understand you] is not edified [and spiritually strengthened since he cannot join in your thanksgiving]. I thank God that I speak in [unknown] tongues more than all of you; nevertheless, in public worship I would rather say five understandable words in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue [which others cannot understand].