“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” – 1 Corinthians 14:1
Speaking in Tongues has always been among the most desirable gifts to have, after all, what could be more proof that God is working in you and through out than to speak a language you do not know and to speak a language of praise between you and God? Even to this day, there are churches that specialize in speaking in tongues. A friend of mine once visited one and was called a sinner for being unable to speak in tongues.
But Paul – who himself could speak in tongues – told the church that prophecy was the sort of gift that they should count themselves blessed to have. It is a gift that builds up the whole church as opposed to one believer. It’s a gift that doesn’t make outsiders feel like they’re the only sane person in the room. It’s a gift that is greater than speaking in tongues.
Oddly, Paul get’s a little confusing on the subject:
11:5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.
14:3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
14:24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
14:31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
14:34 Women[f] should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
14:36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.[h]
14:39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
And let’s throw in a little something from Acts 2:17-18
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
Now my favorite school of thought is that verse 34 and 35 are a quote from the original letter and that verse 36 onward is the response. Much the same way as we might copy a block of text out of a blog post to paste into our comment and respond to it. Same goes for some portions of chapter 11 – the ancient equivalent of back-and-forth e-mailing. It would only be natural to quote from parts of their letter (which they would have recognized what they wrote even though there was no such thing as punctuation marks) because it was not a quick and easy process to get a response and one could very well forget what they had wanted to know in all that time. It’s either that or Paul means both to be true: women are to prophesy and women are to not speak. But if women are not to speak, then they cannot prophesy. Which makes the statement from Acts make God out to be the one that’s more confusing than Paul.
In which case, the bulk of the argument preventing ladies from speaking in church doesn’t hold nearly as much water, especially given that part of prophesying is to speak in public. And God makes it really clear that women will be prophetesses. Perhaps this is why the spiritual gift of prophecy is one that gets ignored, its very inconvenient for the guys who love verse 34. Ultimately though, the more knowledge increases, the less likely the status quo will remain. Who knows, we might rediscover the gift of prophecy and spent our Sunday services prophesying in turn, both prophets and prophetesses. That way, people will know that God is among us, by letting every voice be heard.