Some of the principles established in 1 Corinthians 12 include how God chooses to distribute spiritual gifts and how every believer should be content with his gifts.
Paul exhorts the church in Corinth as a whole to “be continually eager for the greater gifts.” We need to examin the language form to understand what Paul is saying. Because the Greek imperative is the same form as the indicative active verb, the context determines if it should be interpreted as an imperative command or a present active verb. If it is present active, it would be translated, “But you are earnestly desiring the greater gifts.”
Secondly, if it is the command in the present active plural form, it means that it is not for individuals but for the entire congregation to “be protective of” or “deeply committed to” (Louw and Nida, Greek–English Lexicon) the “best” gifts. This means the “greater in status, or rank” (Louw and Nida, Greek–English Lexicon), or “the more useful, or profitable” (Strong) gifts.
Paul’s ranking or categories of spiritual gifts for those directly communicating the word of God is “first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that [fourth] miracles, then [fifth] gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Cor 12:28). The gift of tongues is ranked in the least effective category, because no one can understand it, so it is last on the list.
All of 1 Corinthians 14 is dedicated to proving that the gift of tongues is totally “unprofitable” by itself. The purpose for tongues was to be a “sign, not for believers but for unbelievers” (1 Cor 14:22), especially for Jews who had been promised such a sign (14:21), as demonstrated on the day of Pentecost, when sixteen actual languages were spoken to the unbelieving Jews (Acts 2). Do not let phenomena distract you from your love for and study of God’s word. The greater gifts that exhort and teach the congregations should be prioritized.
“Heavenly Father, the Bible is Your message for mankind. Help Your children use our speaking gifts to the greatest advantage to help prepare Your church for Your prompt return to earth.”