I’ll readily admit that I don’t get 1 Cor 14 upon first glance. It seems that Paul goes from exhorting us to enjoy our place in the church to then desire tongues and prophecy. This reinforces my personal hunch that Paul goes from talking to the congregation as a whole to the leadership of the church in his epistles without much in the way of warning.
What do I mean? Well, before Paul writes beautifully on love in 1 Cor 13, he says this:
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
We then jump to this:
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
First off, the emphasized portion isn’t even logically possible—more than all?—but the concept of all speaking in tongues or prophesying seems to be in direct conflict with the concept of “one body, many members”. And honestly, it seems, from experience, that “one body, many members” is better suited to the facts as they’ve presented themselves to us. When we think of our corporate worship and our other congregational acts, we can all pick out what roles go with what members, and I rather doubt that any of us really see every member of the congregation prophesying.
It’s logical inconsistencies like this that sometimes leave me to wonder exactly who Paul’s audience was in his letters to these churches, and if these letters were sometimes actually to the elders of these churches, with some sections definitely aimed at the whole congregation.
If you have another view of this, though, I’d love to hear it. I’m not a seminarian or a trained theologian; I’m but a (not-so-) humble engineer.