Instructions on the Use of Tongues
1 Cor 14: 20-40
So far, in all the verses we have looked at (we have looked at all of them in the New Testament, except these last few verses) in the last 12 lessons, tongues is never spoken of as a bad thing. We have seen in 1 Cor 14:1-19, they can be used in a wrong manner.
In this lesson we will take a look at this passage of Scripture and see what Paul is and is not saying. As we read through these passages we are going to see if Paul at any time says that tongues are evil, bad, done away with, condemned, or for the purpose of preaching the Gospel.
We will first list all of 1 Cor 14:20-40 and then take a look at each verse.
1 Corinthians 14:20-40
20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.
21 In the Law it is written, "BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME," says the Lord.
22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.
23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;
25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;
28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.
30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;
33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?
37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.
38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.
vs 21-25 This passage of Scripture can be very confusing. It looks like Paul is contradicting himself.
In vs 22 Paul says tongues is a sign for unbelievers and prophesy us is a sign to believers. But in vs 23-25 he says if a unbeliever hears tongues he will think you are mad. But if he hears prophecy he will fall on his face and worship God. So, it would sound like prophesy is more for an unbeliever than tongues. This seems like a contradiction.
Vs 21 is a quote from Isaiah 28:11. This look at this verse in context to see if it gives any more understanding.
10 "For He says, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’ "
11 Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue,
12 He who said to them, "Here is rest, give rest to the weary," And, "Here is repose," but they would not listen.
13 So the word of the LORD to them will be, "Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there," That they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive.
It appears that God is saying I gave your precept after precept (line on line) and you did not listen. So, I spoke to you through other nations (foreign tongue) and you still did not listen. So I will again give you precept upon precept (line upon line) and you will stumble and be taken captive. So, it would appear that looking at the context, Paul is saying that tongues in a church service could actually be condemnation on those, who, like in Israel’s day, rejected God. Instead of seeing God speak through someone, they reject the message. Looking at the context and Paul’s instructions on the use of tongues within the congregation it would appear that the tongues would be given with an interpretation. To be honest I am not sure why Paul inserted Isaiah. Others see it differently. The dangerous is get so caught up on vs 21, we ignore everything else Paul is saying regarding tongues.
vs 23 Paul is talking about ALL speaking in tongues, not some speaking in tongues. Later on we will see he never condemns tongues, but gives instruction in the use of tongues.
vs 26 This is instruction regarding a church service. There should edification for all in a church service.
vs 27-29 Paul gives the same instructions for tongues with interpretation and prophecy-two to three speak.
vs 28 A person who speaks in tongues without interpretation is speaking to God, not man. Thus tongues is not for preaching.
Looking at these verses, notice Paul is speaking in the context of someone giving a message in tongues or prophecy. There is a difference between someone giving a message in tongues directed towards the congregation, than someone praying in tongues to themselves. During a worship service people at times pray/praise under their breath in the common language. In a time of worship, we are singing/worshiping/praising God. We are not doing it before men, but before God. So would there be anything wrong with singing/worshiping/praising God in an unknown tongue, if it is done before God, not man?
vs 33 Whatever is done, rather in English or unknown tongue, there should not be confusion. We need to be careful what we call confusion. Cultures are different. If an American was to go to some churches in other countries they would call it confusion because it is different to them.
vs 39 states that we are not to condemn speaking in tongues.
After looking at all of Acts, 1 Cor 12-14, there are no verses that condemn tongues, that say tongues are for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, or that tongues will be done away with before we receive our glorified bodies. It appears that there are various types of tongues or diverse purposes for the same tongues. There are tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the praising of God and prophecies. There are also tongues that are for praying and singing in the spirit, and there is tongues with interpretation.
In our next lesson we will summarize the purpose of tongues. We will then cover some of the objections of tongues and see if they line up with the Bible.