Tongues and 1 Corinthians 14
1 Corinthians 14:1-5
1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.
3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.
5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.
Before we study out these and all the verses in 1 Cor 14 it should be noted by the context of Chapter 12, 13, and 14 that when Paul is speaking about tongues, he is talking about true tongues, not false tongues. The tongues he is talking about is the tongues that come from God, not the devil or man. How do we know? Because if you read the context, he compares the gift of tongues with the gift of prophecy and other gifts. Not once in all three chapters does he ever say anything about a false tongues.
vs 1 What does verse 1 say and not say? It says desire earnestly spiritual gifts-this would mean ALL the gifts. It also says strongly desire the gift of prophecy. It does not say don’t desire the gift of tongues.
vs 2 What does verse 2 say? It says that when someone speaks in tongues that they are not speaking to men, but to God. So, they obviously are not preaching the Gospel. Also, the tongues must be an unknown tongue since no one can understand it.
vs 3 and 4. Verse 4 makes it clear that one of the purposes for tongues is for one to edify themselves. Edify means to build up in a positive sense, not a prideful sense. So, by speaking in tongues a person is built up-this is a good thing, not a bad thing. So obviously one of the purposes of tongues is to be built up spiritually.
vs 5. Paul states he wishes all spoke in tongues. So, he is not against tongues. He thinks tongues are so good, that he wishes all spoke in tongues. That would mean he thinks all can have the ability to speak in tongues. He then says prophecy is better than tongues unless there is interpretation. Why, because then the entire church is edified. It does not mean that prophecy in itself is better than tongues-just that it is better than tongues in a church setting if there is no interpretation for tongues. Whenever interpreting Scripture, stay within the context.
In the previous lessons we have not taken the time to look at what the culture was like during the writing of the Bible. Since the Book of Acts was mainly documentation of what was taking place there was no need to study out the culture. In Corinthians we need to at least understand that Paul was addressing false doctrine, carnal Christians, living by feelings, etc. He was trying to bring balance. So, in Chapter 14 he is trying to bring structure within the church.
1 Corinthians 14:6-12
6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?
7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp?
8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?
9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.
10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning.
11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
In this passage of scripture Paul is saying that it is more important to seek spiritual gifts to edify the church, than just to seek them to edify yourself. He was not saying it is wrong to be edified (again edify is a good word, not a bad word). He just saying we should not focus on just building ourself up. So,it would again appear that unless there is tongues with an interpretation, that one of the main purposes of tongues is for edification-not for preaching the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 14:13-15
13 Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
15 What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.
vs 13 The context of this verse is regarding tongues in a public place. If tongues is spoken out loud intentionally in front of everyone, there should be an interpretation so others are edified.
vs 14 and 15. Praying in tongues is called praying with the spirit. Singing in tongues is called singing with the spirit. So, praying and singing in tongues in itself is not bad.
1 Corinthians 14:18-19
18 I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all;
19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.
vs 18 Paul obviously did not stop speaking tongues at some point. In fact he says he is thankful that he speaks so much tongues.
vs 19 But in a church setting Paul rather instruct than speak in tongues. That does not mean he never spoke in tongues in church, but that his emphasis was to teach, than to be edified by praying in tongues.
In our next lesson we will cover the last 20 verses in 1 Cor 14.
So far, not once does Paul condemn the use of tongues. Instead he is giving some instruction on the use of tongues. He includes tongues as a spiritual gift, he says tongues is good for edification, it is best for tongues to be combined with an interpretation when spoken in a public setting. He says tongues are for edification of the believer, thus, not for preaching the Gospel.