4 “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.”
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself,
The tongues speaker edified himself when he spoke in tongues, because he was the only one who knew the intent of what he said, if there was no one present who understood the language he spoke or there was no translator. The speaker in tongues did not understand the words he said, but he knew what he intended to say. The tongues speaker knew that the Holy Spirit enabled him to do this, so he was blessed by the gift of tongues.
but he who prophesies edifies the church.
Edifying the church is more important than edifying oneself.
I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied;
Paul made the point that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with speaking in tongues and that it would be nice if everyone could do it – implying that not all spoke with tongues. Glory in supernatural manifestations is not nearly as important as communicating the Word of God.
for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues,
The comparative value of speaking in tongues is much lower than prophesying because of its usefulness. Tongues are of less use than communicating the Word of God.
unless indeed he interprets,
The one qualification to the previous statement is that, should one “interpret” or translate what was said, then the person listening could understand what was said in his own language. Translation implies that tongues are foreign languages.
that the church may receive edification.
Edification or building up the maturity of the believer is central to the function of a church. Edification of the church is far more important than edification of self in the previous verse.
What we do in the assembly must be done for the whole.
Understanding is central to the Christian life. People who do not understand what is said in the message miss the dynamics of the Christian life. The erection of Christian character rests on what people hear and understand. We do not get anything out of listening to a message in a foreign language, so we cannot be edified by it. No one can be edified without understanding. Are you seeking to raise your understanding of the Word of God and thus build an edification construct in your life?