Sensitive problems need to be addressed with diplomacy and tact. Paul had received a delegation from the church at Corinth about a number of problems, one of which Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 14:12.
They were “eager . . . for manifestations of the Spirit” (Gk. pneuma, meaning “supernatural and non–material entity” [Louw and Nida, Greek–English Lexicon], not the pneumatikon of 14:1: “spiritual things or gifts”). This eagerness for a supernatural manifestation was a problem that blinded them to biblical values provoking three chapters of corrections (1 Cor 12–-14).
The introductory phrase, “It is the same with you,” refers to their exaggerated focus on speaking in tongues (1 Cor 14:9–-11). In pagan circles when ecstatic speaking manifested, they thought it was the language of the gods. Among believers, speaking in tongues was similar to these pagan frenzies.
Paul explained the nature of meaningful communication: it must always be understandable and intelligent. He began by illustrating the meaningful sounds of music (e.g., the flute or harp: 1 Cor 14:7). Even in the military, the bugle gives certain sounds necessary to guide the troops (14:8). Unintelligible sounds were useless.
We see in 1 Corinthians 14:9 that if you use unintelligible speech, no one will know what was said, “for you will be speaking into the air.” Instead of speaking to God, there is really no communication! Paul defines the tongue as “many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning” (1 Cor 14:10).
Tongues or languages are constructed with particular phonetic, grammatical, and linguistic structures that communicate understandable intelligence. Even real languages are unintelligible if they violate these linguistic structures (14:11).
Paul asks us to be “continually seeking to abound in order to strengthen the church.” The command is to “strengthen” (oikodome, “build up” someone, or “increase the potential of someone” [Louw and Nida, Greek–English Lexicon]). As one understands the word and trusts in its truths, he is edified, which is the priority of the ministry. Are you willing to learn to communicate His word clearly to build up others? This is building fruit in others rather than ourselves.
“Dear Father, give me an eagerness to edify others in the most effective way so I may help strengthen Your church. This is Your priority, so it must be mine as well.”