This study has proven to
be somewhat controversial with some people. Being such as it
is, I sincerely request that people e-mail me personally to discuss differences
they may have with my conclusions presented here. I believe I have
properly proposed the desire of Paul's writings to the effect that I have
presented here. Please keep in mind that your ideas, as well as my
own, may be incorrect. And simply because we can point to many people
who happen agree with you, please realize that counting heads is not a good
method of determining truth. So, before you read this study, I request
that you consider what I am saying, rather than simply think of reasons to
"shoot down" what I have said.
Be "Berean"! Search
the scriptures to see if what I have proposed here is what Paul was trying
to convey to the church. Unlike so many people throughout the ages, the Bereans
did not shrug off anything they had not believed before, but rather checked
the scripture to see if they were truly missing something they just heard
from another minister that they had not believed before.
We readily criticize people
for being traditional and not willing to discover truth, but sometimes we
do the very same thing when we respond to something, as with this study,
and simply declare it is wrong. Without a solid, alternative interpretation
of the scriptures in question, what benefit is it to simply declare that
I am wrong? Please show me what points I misinterpret in 1 Corinthians
14, in order to correct me, if you believe I am wrong. Where in my
following exegesis have I gone offtrack? What point did I make that
conflicts with the surrounding words of Paul? Let me know! But
just do not say that I am wrong!
Now that I piqued your curiosity
even moreso, may I pray that the Lord bless you as you read. My email
address is email@example.com.
I have recently been stirred about the issue of publicly speaking in tongues in Pentecostal Church services. I am Pentecostal, myself. Like Paul, I desire to see everyone speak with other tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5), and for every church to have vobrant and living, fiery worship in the congregation. But one aspect of worship as found in 1 Corinthians 14 has seemingly been a neglected part of the Bible for many Pentecostal people. Visit the average Pentecostal church, Oneness or Trinitarian alike, and you will find people speaking out loud in tongues despite Paul's words to not do such things when we are "in the Church," or "gathered together."
Am I against loud and
vibrant public worship? Not at all! But Paul dealt with this
very issue concerning shouting in tongues in a public church service, even
though you may not have realized it!
I pray that you take time to read my commentary from the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians, and let us learn together to present ourselves properly, as the Word of God directs, when in the presence of both other believers, and sinners who do not understand this "Way."
I will go verse-by-verse, and quote the verses I am dealing with in order for you to follow closely and see for yourselves why it is incorrect for people, when "in the church," as Paul put it, to speak aloud in tongues, except it be as a precursor of an interpretation of those tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
Paul sums up the previous chapter 13 here. He urges believers to seek operation of the gift of the Spirit, as listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Though we should seek love above all, do not stop seeking the gifts either. Chapter 13 warned us to seek love above the gifts, but that does not mean we should not seek the gifts at all. Just keep the gifts in proper perspective beneath our seeking for love.
But when it comes to gifts, themselves, seek prophecy above all else. And in this chapter, Paul shows that LOVE is involved in seeking prophecy, as we shall see. So the "BEST GIFTS" mentioned in 13:31 would include prophecy.
1 Corinthians 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
Speaking in tongues is proven here to have not been used to preach to foreigners, like anti-tongue people say today.
Those who say tongues are not for us today, say that tongues were used to evangelize foreigners and preach the Gospel when the preacher did not know the foreign language of the people to whom he knew he had to minister. THIS WAS NEVER THE CASE THROUGHOUT THE BOOK OF ACTS - NEVER.
In fact, this verse says that TONGUES are not spoken to men. Men are not intended to be able to understand them. Men MAY HAPPEN TO understand them, as in Acts 2: 11, but that does not mean they were the target of the language spoken. So how could the gift of tongues be used to evangelize foreign-speaking people, when tongues are not intended for men to hear?
Many say that Acts 2:11 proves that tongues are to be used in evangelism to foreigners. But those in Acts 2:11 overheard the 120 PRAISING GOD... referring to the wonderful works of God.
Acts 2:11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.The above verse does not mean that the 120 who spoke in tongues were preaching about God's works to the people standing by. The 120 were merely worshiping God.
Psalm 40:5 Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.David explicitly referred to God's "wonderful works" as he simply praised God. This is what the 120 were doing in the upper room, but doing in tongues. That is why Paul said that tongues are spoken not to men, but to God, in praise. Keep in mind that this is the form of speaking in tongues that does not precede an interpretation, nor does it necessitate an interpretation.
Tongues are words directed to GOD.
USE THIS VERSE TO SHOOT DOWN ANY LIE THAT SAYS THAT TONGUES WERE ONLY TO THE EVANGELIZE THE FOREIGNERS.
But, on the other hand, prophecy is intended for men to hear.
1 Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
Prophecy is speaking the Word of God in native language, and God's Word comforts and edifies the hearers when understood in their native language.
1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
Concerning edification, as noted in the previous verse, tongues only edify the one speaking. As one speaks in tongues, which are words towards God, one communes with God and prays to God, and God answers.
Since nobody else can understand the tongues, nobody else is edified.
But prophecy edifies the church because others understand the words.
1 Corinthians 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
All should speak with tongues. But it is BETTER to prophesy IN THE CHURCH. Note the reference to "IN THE CHURCH." That refers to gathered believers.
Tongues were not the natural ability to know a foreign language, because the speakers did not know what they were saying - see 14:13-14.
1 Corinthians 14:6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
Only with an interpretation do tongues edify. And the Church needs to be profited. But where is the profit if Paul came to them and only spoke in tongues? They would not understand anything he said. Paul is in effect asking how could others be comforted by his words that they could not even understand?
Words can only profit people if they do one of the four following things:
1. REVELATION - speak forth words that reveal truths to people.
3. PROPHESYING-that is straightforward, as Paul mentions that prophecy is inspired Words of God spoken in one's native tongues, so as to be understood by those of like tongue.
4. DOCTRINE - teaches factual truths that are basic.
1 Corinthians 14:7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 1 Corinthians 14:8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 1 Corinthians 14:9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
Things without life are MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. You will not know what is played unless there is a distinct sound made using these instruments. You would not know the tune. Trumpets were used to command to charge, retreat, etc. Without intelligible words, we are only speaking to the air. Nobody else is getting anything out of it. Some may "opinionize" and think that their spiritual exertion to speak in tongues is doing some mystical work to the others present, but that is simply unscriptural.
1 Corinthians 14:10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
There are many, many different languages and articulate things that are said and understood by people in the world.
1 Corinthians 14:11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
If we do not know the specific language spoken by a foreigner, I will be like a barbarian to them and they like barbarians to me. Greeks and Romans called everyone not of their races "barbarians." So he is saying that I am speaking like a Foreigner to these people.
1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
If you seek to be involved in the gifts of the Spirit, seek to operate gifts that help OTHERS when you are around others. For example, seek miracles out of a true sincere desire to help those who are suffering. Or seek prophesying in order to to let others hear God's word.
1 Corinthians 14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
With that same attitude in mind, if one does indeed speak in tongues in the church around others, then that one must pray to interpret those tongues. Others need to be edified, and that can only be done, when tongues are involved, by an interpretation that follows those tongues.
Seek to let others be blessed and helped. Notice that Paul is encouraging people to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
If you have to PRAY to interpret, as Paul says here, then this is not speaking about naturally-learned languages. Notice this says "PRAY IN AN UNKNOWN TONGUE." This proves that Tongues are a form of prayer for they are talking to God (see verse 2 again).
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
Paul said we can do both – pray with understanding (where we consciously know what we are praying), or pray in the Spirit (where we do not consciously know what we are praying, for our spirits pray). This is the difference between SPIRIT AND SOUL.
Those who pray in tongues do not understand their own words. The soul (thinking) is not involved, just the spirit.
What should we then do? Paul answers himself. We should pray in tongues as well as pray with understanding, knowing what we are praying about ourselves, for we know God is ministering through us to this end, due to verse 2.
1 Corinthians 14:16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
But if you bless with the spirit alone [which blesses only you – edifies you alone, and no one else – see verse 4], and not with understanding, through prophecy using words others comprehend, then how can the one who also does not understand the language say, "SO BE IT"? (This shows people audibly said, "Amen," during speaking in the early church meetings.) The "unlearned" person here is the one who simply does not know the tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
You are giving thanks in a perfectly good manner. It is a genuine work in the Spirit and it is spiritual and good. But nobody else is blessed, because verse 4 says tongues edify only the speakers themselves. This proves that Paul is not mocking people who speak in tongues, as anti-tongue people say he is, but is honestly saying they do well.
Don't prohibit tongues from being spoken at all! Just use order and know when to talk in tongues and when not to. There is a time and place for speaking in tongues in worship and prayer, but that place is not around others in the church. This is referring to “in the Church,” because OTHERS are to be considered. DO NOT TALK IN TONGUES ALOUD IN CHURCH unless you are giving a message that you know God wants to be interpreted.
MANY PENTECOSTALS NEED TO TAKE NOTE OF THIS!
1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
Paul spoke in tongues. In Acts Paul is said to have been filled with the Holy Ghost, but we do not read he spoke in tongues as the Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles did. But yet here we read that he did speak with tongues more than most people.
1 Corinthians 14:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that [by my voice] I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
But not “in the church” did he speak so much. “In the church” means around other people in a gathering for worship. Five words in our own tongue is better than 10,000 words in an unknown tongue, when others are with us, as in church, since nobody understands the unknown tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Use good sense in dealing with what is done in church. Do not be childish and unlearned about this issue. In knowing how to attack people, be ignorant and unlearned. But not in this matter.
1 Corinthians 14:21 In the law it is written, With [men of] other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
Paul quotes from Isaiah 28: 11-12.
Isaiah 28:11-12 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.1 Corinthians 14:22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
Paul said that this prophecy from Isaiah proves to us that tongues are genuinely to be used for a sign to unbelievers. (That destroys the idea of anti-tongue people who say that Paul was mocking the speaking in tongues altogether in church meetings). But a person speaking a prophetic utterance is doing something that is intended to be a sign to unbelievers.
People hear tongues and perk up and wonder what is going on. And then an interpretation is supposed to follow, and the unbelievers are at full attention. That is how tongues are for a sign.
1 Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
So when the CHURCH is gathered, and sinners, who do not know the languages being spoken, are not given an interpretation, they will think you are crazy. So do not speak in tongues aloud just to worship.
1 Corinthians 14:24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 1 Corinthians 14:25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
But if everyone spoke in the native tongues of those present, sinners and saints, and spoke Words of God, they will speak truths that touch others' lives since it will be God's Spirit prompting them and the visitors will feel they are face to face with God, and will know God is really there. That is quite a difference from thinking we are crazy!
1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath arevelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
So what should we do in public assembly? It is incorrect for EVERYONE to have a psalm, tongue and etc. The rule to keep in mind is that everything that is done in CHURCH ought to be done in edifying others. Tongues only edifies the people speaking, themselves, and no one else. Notice the stipulation for this rule is WHEN YE COME TOGETHER. That is, when OTHERS are present with you. Or, "In the Church."
1 Corinthians 14:27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
Here is where tongues are to be spoken in church. No more than two out loud or three. And that by course, or by taking turns speaking. Not everyone at once. And one person should interpret. Notice that tongues should only be spoken in Church meetings as a precursor to interpretation of those tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
But if there is no interpreter, then do not speak in tongues out loud. Speak in tongues to yourself, quietly, and to God, because verse 2 says that what is said using tongues is between you and God alone when it is prayer or worship in tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
Prophets, are people who speak words in native tongues of those present, to edify these others. And let no more than three people prophesy.
"Let the other judge." This means that you do not take every prophecy that is given and deem it as being from God by default. Determine if it is from God or not, by the Word, for example. A prophecy that contradicts the Word is not of God. And there will be a witness in the spirit to informs you if the prophecy is of God or not. One may prophesy commonly-known thoughts from the Word. In that case, the prophecy is biblical, and judging it from the word will show it is indeed biblical. But it may be the person’s own flesh prompting one to do such, and not be the result of an actual moving of the Spirit of God causing that one to prophesy. Some just want to be heard by others!
1 Corinthians 14:30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
If one speaks out in the Spirit and to the people in prophecy, and a second person starts to speak while the first one is still speaking, the first one should stop and let the second one proceed.
1 Corinthians 14:31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
There can be others who prophesy, but not all at the same time. ONE BY ONE. That way there is no confusion, and everyone (others) can clearly hear the prophecy without being distracted by another prophecy that is being spoken at the same time. Others can then be edified, or comforted, with a word from God that they can understand. See verse 3.
1 Corinthians 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
Nobody can say that they cannot control themselves, because the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet. In other words, God never moves upon someone to the extent that the person cannot control themselves. Demons make people do things they cannot control. God is a gentleman, and never overrides our choice to work with Him.
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
God will not override, nor will He direct people to prophesy all at the same time, without taking turns, because He does not author confusion.
(Words spoken about women learning in church by asking aloud questions is referred here next).
1Cor 14:36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
Paul asks the people at the Corinthian Church, mockingly, if they are God, themselves, and think that whatever they decide is the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 14:37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
If someone perceives oneself to be spiritual, then that one had better follow Paul's words of instruction about tongues, for his words were given to him by God.
1 Corinthians 14:38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
But he who wishes to carry on with one's stubbornness and not follow Paul's instruction, Paul said that such a one is ignorant, and such a one will remain ignorant of God's will in such matters.
1 Corinthians 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
Paul sums it all up again by saying that Prophecy is the best gift in public gatherings of worship, but that does not that mean people should never speak in tongues at such times. And it does not mean that tongues should be prohibited from being spoken in any form (as modern-day anti-tongue people propose). Its just that tongues must only be spoken in public to precede an interpretation, and they must be spoken in private when in form of worship or prayer to God.
I trust that this little study has helped you as a believer to know the purpose for tongues as a form of prayer and as a precursor to an interpretation. May we do things decently and in order. We do not want to turn the world away from us by our own ignorance of how we should act in the Spirit when the world comes to our meetings to find God. Some Pentecostal people never consider that the world does not understand a blessing in the Spirit. We can get pretty much beside ourselves at times in worship. And that is good. But wisdom may tell us to watch ourselves around unbelievers who just might not understand all that we are involved in. And it might scare them away.
Some may ask, "What about a person who is receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost for the first time, and that person speaks in other tongues out loud? Is it considered wrong for that to occur?" No. Reception of the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues out loud always go together. That is a different issue altogether! But when it comes to those who already have been baptized in the Spirit, their worship in tongues and prayer to God in tongues should never be done in public Church meetings.
This is not only for the sake of the unbelievers who do not understand, but Paul's words teach that even out of concern for our brothers and sisters, who know all about tongues, we should endeavor to prophesy, if anything. This is because, even though our brothers and sisters understand that prayer in tongues and praise in tongues is genuine, they are not blessed themselves as we are blessed in speaking in tongues around them. We should seek to bless our brothers and sisters, rather than ourselves alone. This is the spirit of love in 1 Corinthians 13 coupled with the gifts of the Spirit.