SURVEY OF TONGUES IN FIRST CORINTHIANS

By John Henry

February 26, 2003




INTRODUCTION

After I was saved in the Spring of 1977 I spent about two years studying, searching and visiting all kinds of churches. I spent most of my time in Pentecostal churches, until the Spring of 1979 as I was studying the Book of Isaiah (chap. 6:1-8). God used that passage to call me to the mission field and convinced me that I needed to be baptized under the authority of a Baptist Church.

Before that while in an Assembly of God church several members laid hands on me an tried to get me to speak in tongues, but I never did. Then one day while taking a shower I was praying and asked God something to the effect that if it was His will I wanted the gift of tongues, and I uttered some gibberish, and then said to myself, Nah!

Since then I have thoroughly studied and have debated the issue of spiritual gifts with a number of Pentecostals and Charismatics.

To listen to the Pentecostals and Charismatics talk one might think that the Bible is full of references to speaking in ecstatic unknown tongues and prayer languages. But the fact of the matter is that there is no reference to an unknown prayer language or ecstatic self edifying tongues at all, except possibly in I Corinthians 13:1, where such tongues are referred to in a bad light.

Biblical tongues were actual known languages (unknown only to those who had never learned them or did not have the gift of interpretation).

The gift of tongues are referred to in only three New Testament books:

1. The Gospel of Mark makes one reference (16:17).

2. Acts refers to tongues five times in three chapters (2:4, 8, 11, 10:46, 19:6).

3. I Corinthians makes the most use of the word "tongue" or "tongues" using them twenty-two times in three chapters (12:10 [twice], 28, 30, 13:1, 8, 14:2, 4, 5 [twice], 6, 9, 13, 14, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 39).

There are no other references to the Biblical gift of tongues in the New Testament except in these seven chapters (Mark 16; Acts 2, 10, 19; I Corinthians 12, 13, 14).

Why should I Corinthians contain more teaching on tongues than any other book in the Bible? The answer is simple: The Church of Corinth was a very confused church. The Church at Corinth was very mixed up on:

1. Of all things, the resurrection (I Corinthians 15).

2. They had divisions among them based on personalities (I Corinthians 1:10-13, 3;1-11).

3. They were taking each other to court (I Corinthians 6:1-8).

4. They tolerated immorality (I Corinthians 5:1-13, 6:15-20).

5. They were confused about marriage and divorce (I Corinthians 7).

6. They were mixed up about Christian liberty (I Corinthians 8).

7. They did not understand their responsibilities concerning the Great Commission (I Corinthians 9:1-14).

8. They had idolatry (I Corinthians 10:7, 14-22).

9. They had insubordinate men and women (I Corinthians 11:3-15)

10. They were sinning at the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 11:20-34).

11. They were confused concerning spiritual gifts in general (I Corinthians 12).

12. And finally they were confused about tongues most particularly (I Corinthians 14).

There are striking similarities between the tongues of the Church in Corinth and the Pentecostal meetings that I attended:
1. Many spoke at the same time:
"If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course ... For God is not the author of confusion ..." (1 Cor. 14:27, 33)
2. No one interpreted:
"... let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church ..." (1 Cor. 14:27-28)
3. Women did most of the talking:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: ... for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." (1 Cor. 14:34-35)
4. There was much confusion and little edification:
"... Let all things be done unto edifying." (1 Cor. 14:26)

The Church at Corinth was really messed up, and most all of Paul's first letter to them was rebuking them for their various errors. They were in so much error on spiritual gifts that Paul wrote three whole chapters to try to straighten them out especially on tongues (I Corinthians 12-14).

Let us carefully examine every reference to tongues in I Corinthians to find out the true meanings of each reference.


I CORINTHIANS 12:4-11:

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."

The main thrust of this passage is that there are various:

1. "gifts" (Greek: charisma; meaning: a result of grace).

2. "administrations" (Greek: diakonia; meaning: ministries or offices).

3. "operations" (Greek: energema; meaning: effects or results).

There are many gifts, ministries, and results, but there is only one Spirit, Lord, and God who works all these things in all His people as He wills for the profit of both the individual believer and the local church.

Nothing in this or any other passage of the Bible ever says anything about a prayer language that no one can understand. That is not how we profit.

The individual profits when he uses the gift that God has given him in God's service. The believer will either be rewarded for the proper use of his gifts or he will suffer shame for not using or for improperly using them. (I Corinthians 3:11-15; I John 2:28) "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12; cf. II Corinthians 5:9-11)

The local church profits by being built up or edified (I Corinthians 14:3-5, 12; I Thessalonians 5:11). People getting saved profits the whole body of Christ (I Peter 2:5; Ephesians 4:11-12). When we use our spiritual gifts souls are added to the local church and the members are edified. (Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11, 12, 16)

Tongues are one of nine gifts in this list (I Corinthians 12:8-10), and one of a total of at least sixteen listed in the Bible.

From this passage (v.10) we can see that tongues are real intelligible languages, because they can be interpreted. That the gift of tongues are real languages is also demonstrated in Acts 2:4-11. There tongues are clearly defined as the Spirit given ability to speak in languages without having ever learned them. This was for the purpose of presenting God's Word so people might understand it and be saved.


I CORINTHIANS 12:28-30:

"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"

I Corinthians 12:28 gives a list of spiritual gifts and offices in the order of their importance. The first and most important in the list is the office of an apostle and the last and least important in the list is the gift of tongues. Then in verses 29 and 30 a series of questions are asked: "Are all apostles? ... Do all speak with tongues? ..." etc. Of course the answer to every question in the list is: No, no, no, no! This passage from God's Word contradicts the false Pentecostal doctrine that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism with the Holy Ghost. Pentecostals teach that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not automatic when one is born again (Titus 3:5; James 1:17-18). However, the Word of God declares: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one spirit." (I Corinthians 12:13) The Son of God "is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." (John 1:33, cf. 1:29-37, 7:37-39; Matthew 3:11-17; Acts 1:4, 5, 8, 11:13-16) The Bible no where tells Christians to seek Spirit baptism! The Word of God does command us to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). There is no second blessing of Spirit baptism; there are, however, second, third, fourth, and on and on blessings of being filled with the Holy Spirit when we are yielded to God (Romans 6:10-19, 12:1-10). In the days of the church's infancy not everyone possessed the spiritual gift of tongues, and since the completion of the Bible no one has this spiritual gift any more.


I CORINTHIANS 13:1-3:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal ... and I am nothing ... and it profiteth me nothing."

Love or charity is more important than any of the spiritual gifts: The Apostle Paul lists: 1) tongues, 2) prophecy, 3) understanding, 4) knowledge, 5) mountain moving faith, 6) sacrificial giving, and tells us all these things are nothing unless they are accompanied by God's love. Charity or God's love is the first and most important of "the fruits of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 3:12-14). Paul said that even if he had all these abilities, but did not have God's love, he was "nothing." He said: "They profiteth me nothing." We need God, and "God is love" (I John 4:8, 16). The Christian needs to speak with God's love! Sometimes speaking the truth in love may seem harsh, but in the long run it is for our good. After all that's what love does, it seeks the highest good for others.

Tongues of fallen angels: "The Corinthians considered ... tongues to be the language of angels. Such was the association of tongues speaking in pagan worship at Corinth. When a priest or devotee spoke in tongues it was considered that he spoke in the language of the gods." (Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume II, Dr. Jerry Falwell, 1982, p. 454) "And used in the worship of ... these false gods was speaking in ... ecstatic babble accompanied by clanging cymbals, smashing gongs, and blaring trumpets." (The Charismatics, Dr. John MacAruther, Jr. 1978, p. 163) Here are some examples of the tongues of fallen angels:

AFRICA: "Reports have come from East Africa telling of persons possessed by demons who spoke fluently in Swahili or English although under normal circumstances they would not understand either language. Among the Thonga people of Africa, when a demon is exorcised, a song is usually sung in Zulu even though the Thonga people do not know Zulu. The [exorcist] is supposedly able to speak Zulu by a 'miracle of tongues.'" (The Charismatics, Dr. John Mac Aruther, 1978, p. 175)

ASIA: There are reports of tongues among Buddhist monks in Thailand, Tibet, and China. One report says "that during their ritual dances Tibetan monks have spoken in English, including profanity ... " (The Charismatic Movement, Dr. John R. Rice, 1976, p. 149). "[One evidence of demon possession] is the ability to speak languages unknown by the subject. This ability is frequently referred to by Chinese witnesses." (Demon Possession, Dr. John L. Nevius, 1894, p. 190)

EUROPE: In 1889 Dr. Andrew D. White reported a case that occurred in a French village on the border of Switzerland in 1853. In the report he says: "The afflicted were said ... to have shown superhuman strength, and to have experienced the gift of tongues, speaking in German and Latin, and even Arabic." (Demon Possession, Dr. John L. Nevius, 1894, p. 191) A well documented case from Germany concerns Rev. John C. Blumherdt (1805-1880), and Miss Gottliebin Dittus who was demon possessed. Part of the account says: "Blumhardt held conversations with several of the demons [there were supposedly 1,067 in Dittus] ... These demons spoke in all the different European languages, and in some which Blumhardt and others present did not recognize." (Demon Possession, Dr. John L. Nevius, 1894, p. 115)

ADOLF HITLER: A demon, perhaps Satan himself, spoke through Adolf Hitler: As a teenager, Hitler had a young friend named Gustl Kubizek. "According to Kubizek's account ... [one night Hitler seemed to be] ... 'propelled by an invisible force ... [and Hitler] looked almost sinister.' ... [Then he] launched into a pyrogenic speech such as Gustl had never heard before and never heard again. Hitler's voice ... was hoarse and raucous ... [Gustal] continues: 'I was struck by something strange ... even when he talked to me in moments of great excitement. It was if another being spoke out of his body ... and moved him as much as it did me ... [He] himself listened with astonishment and emotion to what burst forth from him with elementary force.' What happened ... was for Hitler a state of 'complete ecstasy and rapture ...' [Hitler] spoke of a 'mandate which, one day, he would receive, ... a special mission which would, one day, be entrusted to him.'" Adolf Hitler's occult connections with Tibetan Buddhist monks, astrology, yoga, and "gifts of foresight" are well established. "Hitler was supposedly in tune with some mystical 'Cosmic Consciousness' and ... able to communicate with secret 'Ascended Masters.'" Did he communicate with Ascended Masters or fallen angels? In 1918 Hitler was in a military hospital after having been gassed during the Battle of Ypres. "[There] Hitler learned of his 'mission,' the task which had been promised him [as a teenager]: he heard voices that told him that he was selected by providence to rid Germany of the hated Jews". "[Hitler had] an immense gift of oratory ... [His audiences] seemed to be under a hypnotic spell when listening to their Fuhrer speak. Germans were blindly obedient to Hitler's will ... [An estimated] 97 percent of the German public supported Hitler in 1938 ... [He] began each speech in the same low key, stumbling manner ... but soon after he started the speech, something would 'stiffen him like a fire hose,' and he would take off in the flaming oratory for which he was so famous. Rather than being drained by his speeches, Hitler seemed to be charged by them ... [The] emotional and physical intensity of Hitler's speeches ... should exhaust any man. Yet Hitler was able to recover with only a few sips of tea!" (The Twisted Cross, Joseph J. Carr, 1985, pp. 68, 74, 75, 78, 82, 83) Most certainly Adolf Hitler had a satanic "gift of speech."


I CORINTHIANS 13:8-11:

"Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Charity or God's kind of love is eternal, whereas the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues, and the word of knowledge are temporary. "Charity never faileth," but all the Biblical signs and revelation gifts have already "vanished away." We know that tongues have ceased for the following reasons:

Tongues were one of the sign gifts given to the apostles of Jesus Christ to confirm their authority to speak for God (II Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:2-4; Mark 16:17, 20). The sign gifts were to:

1) Confirm the promises of God (Romans 15:8)

2) Confirm the testimony of Christ (I Corinthians 1:6)

3) Confirm the salvation spoken by the Lord (Hebrews 2:3-4)

4) Confirm the Word of God (Mark 16:20).

The Lord worked with the apostles and prophets of the infant church "confirming the Word with signs following" (Mark 16:20).

"[Salvation] ... was confirmed to us by them that heard [Jesus Christ]; God also bearing [the apostles and prophets] witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost according to His will" (Hebrews 2:3-4).

Today there are no more apostles and prophets that heard the Lord Jesus Christ personally (Acts 1:21-26). The Apostle John was the last apostle to die. The Scriptures were completed before his death around 95 A. D. and there have been no more apostles. Therefore there has been no need for "confirming the Word with signs following" seeing it has been completed.

The Bible which is the Word of God, the Holy Faith, and the Perfect Law of Liberty is now complete and has been delivered to the Church (I Corinthians 13:9-10, 12; James 1:23-25; II Corinthians 3:5-6, 9, 14-18; Jude 3, 20; I Peter 1:25; Hebrews 4:12; I Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19-20). The Bible says: "[When] that which is Perfect [The completed Bible] is come, then that which is in part [the revelation gifts] shall be done away." (I Corinthians 13:10) There is no other absolutely perfect thing on Earth today, except the Word of God!!! When the Apostle John finished the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible to be written, and laid his pen down, the revelation gifts (which are prophecy and the word of knowledge) ended and were done away with by God. John, the last living apostle, completed the Word of God around 95 A. D. with a stern warning: "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this Book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book ... He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen." Even so, come Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen." (Revelation 22:18, 20-21). Thus direct revelation from God ceased!

The gift of tongues was inferior to prophecy (I Corinthians 12:28, 14:1-3). Tongues was a sign gift, but was also a revelation gift (I Corinthians 14:6; Acts 2:11, 19:6). If the superior revelation gift of prophecy ceased, and the Bible clearly says that it has been done away with (I Corinthians 13:8-10; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18), then why wouldn't the inferior revelation gift of tongues have ceased also? The Biblical spiritual gift of tongues has been abolished along with all the other sign and revelation gifts!

The infant Church came of age when it was "weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" of sign and revelation gifts (Isaiah 28:9, cf. 28:11-12). When the Church received the complete Bible then it could begin to really "understand doctrine" by putting "precept upon precept; line upon line ... ; here a little and there a little" from the Word of God (Isaiah 28:9-10, cf. 28:13). That is what Paul was talking about when he wrote: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now [in Paul's time] we [the church] see through a glass [God's Word] darkly [obscurely]; but then [when the Bible is complete] face to face: now I know in part [have only part of the revelation]; but then [when the Bible is completed] shall I know even as also I am known." (I Corinthians 13:11-2; cf. Numbers 12:6-8; II Corinthians 3:7-18; James 1:23-25). Now that the Church is mature we must:

1) "study to show [ourselves] approved ... rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (II Timothy 2:15; cf. I Timothy 3:15).

2) "[build] up [ourselves] on [our] most Holy Faith" (Jude 20).

3) "earnestly contend for the Faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).

4) "preach the Word" (II Timothy 4:2) to bring saving faith (Romans 10:17; Mark 16:15), and "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).


I CORINTHIANS 14:1-4:

"Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 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. But he that prophesieth edifieth the church."

First of all it should be noted that all of I Corinthians 14 is talking about the use of tongues (both the gift and learned) in the local church assembly. It does not concern private prayer in tongues. None of the gifts were for private use, but for the edification of the church. Neither does any other passage of Scripture even hint that we should have a private prayer language other than our native tongue or one that we understand.

Christians are commanded to "follow after charity [God's love], and desire spiritual gifts" or be zealous for the things imparted by the Holy Ghost. The word "desire" here is translated from the Greek word "zelo". This same word is translated "covet earnestly" in I Corinthians 12:31 where it says: "covet earnestly the best gifts ... " The question arises: Which spiritual gifts are the best, and which ones are we to be zealous for? The Bible answers this question: The best gifts are the ones that the holy Spirit have given to each individual: "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit ... But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal ... But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will." (I Corinthians 12:4, 7, 11 cf. Hebrews 2:4; Acts 2:4) Each Christian receives spiritual gifts according to God's, not our, will. Today believers receive their spiritual gifts when they are saved when the Lord baptizes us with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38, 10:44-47; I Corinthians 12:13). The Bible says, " ... the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." (Romans 11:29) Therefore, the best gifts that we are to be zealous for are the ones that God has given to us personally to "profit withal." Christians are responsible to use their spiritual gifts in the context of the local church body (I Corinthians 12:27-28; Ephesians 4:11-12).

For the most part the Apostle Paul is not talking about the misuse of the spiritual gift of tongues in I Corinthians 14. Paul is not talking about ecstatic gibberish either. That is an ancient pagan meaning, and generally the modern Pentecostal meaning also, but the Biblical meaning of tongues was translatable language. The problem with tongues there in Corinth was most likely twofold: 1) Members showing off their ability to speak in various foreign languages; 2) Members were not properly controlling their gifts (I Corinthians 14:27-32, cf. Acts 19:6).

"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." (I Corinthians 14:2)

Anyone that is showing off his knowledge of a foreign language, that no one else around knows, "edifieth himself" alone (I Corinthians 14:4), because "he speaketh not unto men, but unto God" (I Corinthians 14:2). Of course God understands all languages! The whole jest of the matter in I Corinthians 14 is that all speech in the church should be clear and understandable (I Corinthians 14:6, 9, 16, 19, 27, 28). When anyone speaks in a language that others around him do not understand his speech is a secret or mystery to them. I am a missionary to Thailand. I speak both English and Thai. If I go to a church in America, and speak in Thai "no man understandeth [me]; howbeit in the spirit [I] speaketh mysteries." The same would be true if I teach in English in a church in Thailand. I have preached in both at the same time interpreting for each language as I went along when we had folks that did not understand one of the languages.

"[He] that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (I Corinthians 14:3)

Here "he that prophesieth" is not necessarily someone with the gift of prophecy (I Corinthians 12:10, 28, Romans 12:6). The word "prophesy", in addition to meaning "foretell", also means "tell forth the will of God" (cf. Genesis 20:7; Deuteronomy 18:18; Joshua 1:8; Isaiah 59:21). It means: 1) foretell future events by special revelation from God, and 2) tell forth what God has already revealed through special revelation. When one speaks according to the revealed Word of God he is prophesying even though he does not have the spiritual gift of prophecy. A prophet of this type may have the gift of "exhortation" (Romans 12:8), or "the word of wisdom" (I Corinthians 12:8) which are used in soul winning, teaching, and preaching for the "edification, and exhortation, and comfort ... [of] the church" (I Corinthians 14:3-4). All spiritual gifts, including tongues, are "[for] the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body" (Ephesians 4:12, cf. 4:7-8, 11, 16). Again they are for:

1. "the perfecting of the saints," that is, they are for use in teaching, exhorting and comforting saved folks (Romans 12:8; I Corinthians 14:3; Matthew 28:20).

2. "the work of the ministry," that is, they are for governing, and helping or ministering (Romans 12:7-8; I Corinthians 12:28).

3. "the edifying of the body," that is, they are for showing mercy to the lost in order to get them saved, and in strengthening the saved in the church through teaching and exhortation (Romans 12:7-8; Luke 6:35-36; Jude 22-23; Acts 2:41).

The word "edify" means "to build up." The Bible never instructs us to use our spiritual gifts to edify ourselves; on the contrary, we are commanded to "edify one another" (I Thessalonians 5:11; cf. Romans 14:19, 15:2; I Peter 4:10), and to "edify ... the church" (I Corinthians 14:12, 26; cf. Hebrews 10:24-25). We are "to build up" the church 1) by laying the foundation of salvation (I Corinthians 3:9-11; Ephesians 2:20), and 2) by service, prayer, and giving (I Peter 2:5; Ephesians 4:16; Jude 20). Much of the tongues speaking in Corinth was unscriptural and self-edifying. The same problem is magnified many times over today!

"Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." (I Corinthians 8:1) "Charity [or God's love] ... vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly ... " (I Corinthians 13:4-5) To "vaunteth" is to "display boastfully." To be "puffed up" is to be "proud of one's own self." Some of the Corinthian believers were proudly showing off their knowledge of languages that most of the other Corinthian believers did not understand. "He that speaketh in a tongue [unknown to anyone except himself] edifieth himself [only]" (I Corinthians 14:4). Similarly today, except now without any real knowledge, many are speaking in gibberish unknown to anyone, including angels. Some vaunt and boast of their "gift of tongues" Tongues to many is 'a badge of spirituality', and one extremely heretical group, the United Pentecostal Church, even says, if you don't speak in tongues then you are not saved. But no where in the Bible do we find that speaking in tongues, much less gibberish, is a sign of salvation, and neither are tongues "the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost" as many claim. These false doctrines stem from a false spiritual pride.


I CORINTHIANS 14:5-13:

"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. 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? 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? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 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. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 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. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret."

Paul begins here by saying, I wish you all could speak in foreign languages (Not necessarily the gift of tongues). If they could then everyone would understand each other. But better than speaking a foreign language is the ability to plainly give out God's Word or prophesy in the language of those present so that they can understand plainly, and receive edification. (I Corinthians 14:5)

The Apostle Paul allowed for us the true spiritual gift of tongues when he said, " ... if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall it profit you, except I shall speak ... by knowledge, or by prophesying ... " (I Corinthians 14:6). Tongues was not only a sign gift, but was also a gift to reveal new spiritual knowledge, and foretell future events before they come to pass. "Revelation" is the opposite of "mysteries" (I Corinthians14:2). Today, one may reveal mysteries from the Word of God through study. Now, unlike Paul's day, the three revelation gifts, 1) "the word of knowledge", 2) "prophecy", and 3) "tongues", have been done away with (I Corinthians 13:8-10).

Paul allows for gibberish, and rebukes it when he indicates that even musical instruments must make distinct sounds in order to know the tune. But just as much of the music in tongues churches is not really music, so also much of their tongue speaking is not language. They "speak into the air", and no one understand them (I Corinthians 14:9, cf. 13:1, 14:7-9). I know of what I speak, because the first years of my saved life I visited many tongues churches.

A "barbarian" was someone that spoke a language other than Greek (Romans 1:14; Acts 28:2, 4; Colossians 3:11). The infant church needed the gifts of tongues and interpretation so that they could go to the nations to preach the gospel to them in their own languages, and in order to understand the tongues of those countries (Matthew 28;19, Mark 16:15, 17, 20; Acts 1:8). They did not have time to go to language school as the missionaries do today, so God equipped them supernaturally for their missionary task. Paul said, "There are ... many kinds of voices [languages] in the world, and none of them is without signification [words]. 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." (I Corinthians 14:10-11) That is exactly why God gave the gift of tongues, and interpretation of tongues: so the early missionaries could communicate in the foreign lands they went to evangelize. "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church." (I Corinthians 14:12). Speak clearly and understandably so you can win people to Christ, and edify believers.

I CORINTHIANS 14:13-17:

"Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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. 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? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified."

Some things to keep in mind here: 1) Paul is speaking of the real gift of languages here, not ecstatic gibberish, 2) Paul is not referring to a private prayer language, 3) Paul is teaching on prayer in the public worship service.

The Biblical gift of tongues is defined for us in Acts chapter two. It says: 1) "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and ... SPAKE with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them UTTERANCE." (Acts 2:4) The apostles may or may not have understood what they were saying, we are not told, but they did clearly utter words in other languages. 2) Others heard them because they spoke. "Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven ... HEARD them SPEAK in his own language." (Acts 2:5-6) The Jews and proselytes to Judaism who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost "HEARD them SPEAK in their own tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). They were from the following nations where they "were born." Acts 2:4-11:

1. Parthia: A tribal area in Persia.

2. Media: A country on the Caspian Sea and Persia.

3. Elam: A region of Persia between Babylonia and Media.

4. Mesopotamia: The area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

5. Judea: In Israel.

6. Cappadocia: An inland area of Asia Minor.

7. Pontus; An area north of Cappadocia.

8. Asia: The western most Roman province in Asia Minor.

9. Phrygia: A province of Asia Minor where Colosse is located.

10. Pamphylia: An imperial Roman province of Asia Minor.

11. Egypt: In north Africa.

12. Libya: In north Africa west of Egypt. Cyrene was Libya's capitol.

13. Rome: In Italy.

14. Crete: An island south of Greece.

15. Arabia: A large area about 1,300 miles from north to south between the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf.

These nations spoke various languages, and the apostles were able to supernaturally speak their tongues to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Remember: 1) "the Spirit gave [the apostles] utterance," and 2) the utterances were real languages.

The Apostle Paul said: "[Let] him that speaketh in a [supernaturally given language] pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a [supernaturally given language], my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful." (I Corinthians 14:13-14) Paul is saying that everyone in the Church, including the one praying, needs to be able to understand what is being said. Either the one praying himself should interpret, or someone else may (I Corinthians 14:13-14, 27). Paul he says: "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also," and the same goes for singing (I Corinthians 14:15). Unless there is an interpretation of the tongue "the unlearned ... understandeth not what he sayest ... others are not edified" (I Corinthians 14:16-17). For this reason Paul forbids speaking in tongues in Church unless they are interpreted (I Corinthians 14:27-28).

All this shows that one needs to understand his own private prayers too. "Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall ... [you being] unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing [you] understandeth not what thou sayest?" This is Paul's inspired teaching: "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also" (I Corinthians 14:15).


I CORINTHIANS 14:18-19:

"I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all: 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."

Paul here says that he spoke with tongues more than any of the Corinthians. He had probably learned at least four languages: 1) Hebrew because he was Jewish (Acts 21:40), 2) Latin because he was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29), 3) Aramaic which was in common use in Judea then, and 4) Koine Greek which he used to write all of his epistles. In addition to having learned languages, Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, and his missionary journeys took him to Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor (the Roman provinces of Cilicia, Pamphylia, Galatia, Lycia, and Asia), Europe (Macedonia, Achaia, and Italy), and the islands of the Mediterranean Sea (Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, and Sicily).

We are led by the Bible to believe that Paul had the spiritual gifts of tongues and interpretation in order to communicate with the Gentiles of these lands also. The God given ability to communicate in an unknown foreign language did not necessarily guarantee that the speaker would understand what he was saying. (That goes for the demon given ability to speak in tongues also). However, when God, in apostolic times, gave someone the ability to speak in tongues we can be sure of two things: 1) there was someone there who needed to hear the Gospel, or a special Word from God, and 2) there would be someone there to interpret for all to understand.

Paul teaches that if tongues are used in a church service there must always be an interpretation, and that just five words, like, "Christ died for our sins," are many times more beneficial than "ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" (I Corinthians 14:19, cf. 14:27-28). Paul wanted to "teach others," which is what Jesus Christ commanded His Church to do! Jesus said: "Go ye [church] therefore [because the Lord would give power, i.e. spiritual gifts], and teach all nations [give them the plan of salvation and get them saved] ... [and then teach] them [the new church members] to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you ... " (Matthew 28:19-20). Getting people saved, and teaching them are the ultimate purpose of every one of the spiritual gifts; bar none, even tongues!


I CORINTHIANS 14:20-25:

"Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 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. 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. 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? 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: 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."

Note that the words "understanding, understandeth, and understood" appears nine times in this chapter (verses 2, 9, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20). It generally refers to the understanding of the speaker (I Corinthians 14:14, 15, 19, 20), rather than the hearer (I Corinthians 14:2, 9, 16). The understanding of the hearer is most important, but Paul puts the emphasis on the understanding of the one speaking in tongues. Why? 1) He said if one prays in an unknown tongue without knowing the interpretation his "understanding is unfruitful." (I Corinthians 14:14), 2) He said we should pray and sing "with the spirit, and ... with the understanding also." (I Corinthians 14:16), 3) He said that one should speak "with [one's] understanding, that ... [he] might teach others also." (I Corinthians 14:19)

There are two main reasons why all speech, prayer, and song must be understood by the one speaking, praying, or singing: 1) One should never relinquish his understanding, or put his mind in neutral, as in hypnosis, due to the possibility of demonic influence (in such a state it is impossible to "try [test] the spirits whether they are of God" [I John 4:1-2] as we have been commanded). 2) Speech, prayer, and singing without understanding is childish: Paul said: "Brethren [born again believers], be not children in understanding ... but in understanding be men." (I Corinthians 14:20) A child many times can say words and phrases without having any idea what they mean, and they often speak in a baby talk or gibbberish which has no meaning at all. Paul has already said: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (I Corinthians 13:11) Tongues are baby talk. The real spiritual gift of tongues was the baby talk of the infant church, and for the most part modern tongues are childish learned behavior, but sometimes they are demonic. Paul's use of the word "understanding" is important, because it helps us realize that we are not to have an "unknown prayer language" as the Pentecostals falsely teach, and that all speech, prayer, and song in the church must be understandable!

Paul said, "[Howbeit] in malice be ye children ... " (I Corinthians 14:20). This brings us back to the fact that some of the Corinthians were proudly vaunting their ability to speak in foreign languages that others there did not understand (I Corinthians 8:1, 13:4, 14:2). Paul's statement here means that they were acting like "evil" children. The word translated "malice" here is a noun (Greek: kakia) which means: "Wickedness as an evil habit of ... heart, life and character" (Zodhiates). That word "malice" (1 Corinthians 14:20; cf. 5:8; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 2:1) is also elsewhere translated "maliciousness" (Romans 1:29; 1 Peter 2:16), "evil" (Matthew 6:34), "naughtiness" (James 1:21) and "wickedness" (Acts 8:22). That is exactly what some of the tongues speaking in the Church of Corinth was, and it is what much of the modern Tongues Movement is all about! Born again people and also pseudochristians are acting like "evil children." Pride is a wicked thing. Pride was the down fall of Satan (Ezekiel 28:17); it is the down fall of most lost people; and it is the down fall of many saved people also!!! Lord help us!!!

"In the Law [Isaiah 28:11-12] 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." (I Corinthians 14:21)

Note Isaiah 28:9-13: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 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. But the Word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken." (cf. I Corinthians 13:11; Acts 3:19, 10:1, 24-26, 34, 44-47)

"The context of Isaiah 28 is set in the reign of King Hezekiah of Judeah [705-701 B. C.]. ... Isaiah reprimanded [Judah]. ... with a severe warning of coming judgment [because of their wickedness]. ... [The] Jews would not listen when God spoke to them [through Isaiah and other prophets] in plain Hebrew; so God would speak to them in a language they would not understand. It was the language of the Assyrian invaders from Babylon. Because of Judah's constant unbelief and departure from the faith, God was going to bring judgment upon her [which would be] ... signaled by ... 'other tongues' (Isaiah 28:11; cf. Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 5:15). This prophecy found its fulfillment when the Babylonians conquered Judah in 586 B. C., and even greater judgment would come later to the nation [as the Lord Jesus Christ] ... had clearly warned (Luke 13:35, 21:20, 24). ... In 70 A. D., Titus, the Roman, sacked Jerusalem, killing 1,100,000 Jews and scattering the rest all over the world. The gift of languages was a sign of this judgment on unbelieving Israel." (The Charismatics, Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., 1978, pp. 167, 168) It is interesting to note that all references to the gift of tongues in the Bible were written before 70 A.D. when the Roman General, Titus, conquered Israel (Mark 16:17 was written between 55 and 65 A.D., Acts around 63 A.D., and I Corinthians was written about 56 A.D.). Tongues were clearly a sign of God's impending judgment upon Israel.

Note again that "tongues are for a sign" (I Corinthians 14:22):

1. To authenticate the apostles authority to speak on God's behalf (Mark 16:17, 20).

2. To Jews who would believe when they heard God's Truth (Acts 2:4-11, 10:46).

3. To the Jews for impending judgment (Isaiah 28:11; Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 5:15; Luke 13:34-35, 21:12-24).

4. To "them that believe not" in general, including the barbarians of India to whom Nathanael and Thomas went, them of Ethiopia to whom Matthew and Matthias went, them of Egypt to whom Simon Zelotes went, them of Syria to whom Andrew went, them of Persia to whom Thaddeus went, and to them of other parts of the world to whom the other early missionaries went where they needed the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues (I Corinthians 14:22).

But if tongues were to be of benefit in the church they had to be tongues understood by those who heard them. If anyone came into the church who was "unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad" or out of your minds (I Corinthians 14:23). "But if all prophesy [in an orderly fashion], and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all." (I Corinthians 14:24, cf. 14:27-33). The only way to get people saved by way of tongues is that they understand the tongue being spoken. Paul had already said that the only way to "profit" from tongues was to use them on people who understood them. He said: "if I come unto you speaking with tongues what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you [in an understandable tongue] either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?" (I Corinthians 14:6) People just have to know what is being said if they are ever going to get saved or edified, that is all there is to it!!!

If a church is doing its job then it is in the business of convincing and judging sinners of their sins. The Lord Jesus Christ said to the church after His resurrection: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:22-23) How does the church know whose sins to remit, and whose sins to retain? We know by the Spirit of Truth Who Christ sent to "guide [the Church] into all Truth" (John 16:13, cf. 14:16-17, 26, 15:26, 16:7-11). The Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would "be in", "teach", "guide", "comfort" and "testify" with the Church, and that He would "reprove the world" (John 14:16-17, 26, 15:26, 16:8). A church that is doing its job right is following the leadership of the Holy Ghost "in one spirit, with one mind" (Philippians 1:27, 2:2; Romans 15:5-6; I Peter 3:8; Acts 1:14, 2:1, 46, 4:24, 15:25). The Spirit of God guided the apostles in their writing of the New Testament (John 16:13), just as He did the Old Testament prophets (II Peter 1:21). Once the sixty six books of the Bible were completed the Spirit of truth guided the Church as to what books were inspired so that they could be gathered into one volume and then preserved. Now the Holy Spirit teaches and guides the church in the proper interpretation and use of the Bible. " ... [The] house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (I Timothy 3:15) The Word of God is the Standard by which the church must judge. We must not judge according to our own thoughts, but according to the Word of God as we are guided by the Spirit of Truth. The business of the local church is winning souls, not speaking in tongues! The Bible says that the Holy Spirit "will reprove [Greek: elegxo] the World of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." (John 16:8) The Bible also says that an unbeliever "is convinced [Greek: elegxo] of all [the whole church], he is judged of all" (I Corinthians 14:24, cf. 14:23). The same goes for "unlearned," and "malice" filled church members (I Corinthians 14:20, 23, 24; Matthew 18:15-18). The Bible is the Standard that judges both the lost sinner and the church member. Conviction of both saved and lost sinners comes from the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) through the church (I Corinthians 14:23-24) by the man of God according to the Word of God: "For a bishop [pastor] must ... [hold] fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince [Greek: elegxo] the gainsayers." (Titus 1:9) But before we can "elegxo" (convince, reprove, or convict) anyone we must "anakrino" [examine, discern, or judge] them and before we can properly judge or examine anyone we must "search [anakrino] the Scriptures" (Acts 17:11; cf. I Corinthians 2:14-15).

The church must go along with the verdict of God who has already examined all the evidence, and convicted the whole world of sin (Romans 3:19, 23; John 16:8-11). So our job is to get the lost person to see:

1. He is a sinner (Romans 3:19, 23).

2. The wages of his sin is eternal death in Hell (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:14, 21:8).

3. God loves him in spite of his sin and died on the cross to keep him out of Hell, and rose from the dead to demonstrate His power to take the sinner to Heaven and keep him safe forever (Romans 4:25, 5:8-10; Hebrews 7:25; John 3:16).

4. The only way to be saved is to simply turn from the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ and receive Him as the one and only Lord and Saviour (Matthew 22:37-38; John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5).

5. There is nothing that one can do to earn, merit or add to his salvation; it is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Romans 6:23; John 1:12)

When the members of the church are working together along side of God, in accordance with His Word, the end results is that lost people get saved! When the church is doing what it is supposed to do that lost man is "convicted" in his heart that he is a sinner on his way to Hell, and that it was for his sins that Christ went to the cruel cross of Calvary. When the sinner understands this "the secrets of his heart are made manifest [he repents of his sin]: and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" (I Corinthians 14:25).




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