Speaking in Tongues Commentary and Conclusion

As previously stated, the main scriptures that are used to justify tongues as seen in paganism and non-Christian cults which made its way into the Church in 1901, come from 1 Corinthians 14. Below is the whole chapter minus the issue of woman speaking in the Church with commentary included in parenthesis. A close and open minded look at chapter fourteen reveals that Paul is not teaching a “new” variation of tongues but is constantly pointing out that speaking in tongues is of no value unless understood by the Church and so continually pushes the use of the better gift of prophesying instead. This is further demonstrated by what Paul said in the following verse. Note Paul places prophets 2nd after apostles and tongues last in 8th position.

1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.”

After a careful study of the chapter below it should become very apparent that Paul constantly demonstrates that the gifts are to be used for edifying the Church. He never teaches that the gifts are for private use.

1 Corinthians 12:7 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”

Note how Paul rebukes the disorder and misuse of tongues. By continual examples he shows that tongues are valueless unless understood and would rather they prophesy so the Church is edified. The emphasis is on;

  1. Edifying the Church. (highest priority) No edification in disorder.
  2. Prophesy second as it is the better gift for edification of the Church.
  3. Silence on tongues (foreign languages) unless understood or translated. (otherwise no edification)

Speaking in tongues after all is only the gift of speaking another foreign language. It is still the speaker giving his own personal message. Prophesy on the other hand is a message from God for the Church. How much more valuable is that!? Paul does not forbid the use of tongues from up to three people, one at a time if someone interprets, but a message from God is far more valuable to the Church. So Paul’s constant emphasis is silence on tongues unless the Church is edified by being understood by natural means or translation.

Unknown Tongue Speaking by Commentary

1 Corinthians 14:1-33, 39-40 “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. (Prophesying edifies the Church more than the other gifts. Paul’s constant emphasis is edifying others and NOT yourself. See verses 3,4,5,12,17 and 26)

2. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue (foreign language) speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. (By your own spirit or by the power of the Holy spirit you are only speaking mysteries to those listening if the language is not understood by the others present. Therefore only God and the speaker know what is being said. See also verse 28. The word “tongue” (glossa) is the same word as used in Acts chapter 2, 10 and 19 to describe a real intelligible foreign language. The word “unknown” in this chapter is supplied by the translators and is shown in italics to tell us that it is not in the original Greek text. The translators of the KJV Bible are trying to clarify to the reader that Paul is talking of an unknown language to the listeners, not a language unknown to man. Unfortunately, it appears that the translators have accomplished just the opposite)

3. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. (Again Paul emphasizes prophesying as the better gift to edify the Church)

4. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue (foreign language) edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. (Paul said the gifts of the spirit are for the “profit of all” and NOT the individual [1 Corinthians 12:7] and so points out tongues i.e. a foreign language the listeners don’t know can only edify yourself (wrong use) and not the Church but prophesying does edify and is a better gift. See verse 1,3,5 and 39. Paul is presenting a wrong and a right use of the gifts. One edifies the Church the other does not)

5. I would that ye all spake with tongues, (foreign languages) but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, (foreign languages) except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. (Paul is happy for them to all speak in tongues i.e. foreign languages if the language is understood by others or it is translated but would still prefer that they prophesied because there is much greater edification from that gift)

6. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, (foreign languages) what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? (And again the same message. If the language is not understood there is no edification. Paul had the power of speaking many foreign languages [verse18] but he did not use this power for ostentation or display, but merely to communicate the gospel to those who did not understand his native tongue)

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? (Paul continues to express the uselessness of tongue speaking i.e. foreign languages not understood by others. It is the same message over and over. All things are to be done to the edification of the Church)

8. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (The trumpet must be blown in a way that will be recognized as a call to battle and so in the same way tongues must also be understood and recognized so people will know how to respond and be edified)

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. (And still even further emphasis that tongue speaking is of no value unless understood by the Church. Words no matter how sincere and spiritual are lost into the air if not spoken so those around understand)

10. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. (There are many foreign languages in the world (NOT heaven) all which are important to someone. Note Paul is not talking about so called “heavenly languages” but voices of different languages in the world)

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. (All other nations of the world were barbarians to the Hebrews and of course spoke other languages. Paul is saying that one who speaks a foreign language not known by the listener may as well be a barbarian to him)

12. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. (At the risk of sounding monotonous, Paul continues to emphasize edification. As much as the Corinthians desired spiritual gifts, they must excel in using them to edify the Church only. They are not for the individual)

13. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue (foreign language) pray that he may interpret. (Therefore the person with the gift of tongue speaking must have someone interpret if the others do not understand the language so the Church is edified. See also verses 5,26,27 and 28)

14. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, (foreign language) my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (Paul is saying if he prays in a language those around him do not know, he might be praying fervently and by his own spirit but his thoughts would be unfruitful for those listening. This of course is a violation of the purpose of the gift which is to edify others)

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 also clarifies that his prayer or song IS done with his understanding. It is the listener who does not understand)

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? (Paul continues to explain the previous two verses as to how his prayer does not edify the others and they cannot say Amen or “so be it” if the other does not know what the person prayed. Without an interpreter, you have no idea what was said and you may be saying “so be it” to a blessing from the devil for all you know)

17. For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. (Paul still continues to give the same message of edifying others and not yourself. The prayer is useless as the other is not edified)

18. I thank my God, I speak with tongues (foreign languages) more than ye all: (Paul says he speaks more foreign languages than all the Corinthians which he could only know if he understood what he was saying. This gives more proof that his references to tongues here are known foreign languages. The context never changes)

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. (Note Paul’s phrase “that by my voice I might teach others ALSO.” This shows when Paul spoke in an understandable language he taught himself and “others also” and consequently, if he spoke in tongues (foreign languages) he only taught himself. The thought is that when speaking in tongues, he comprehended what he was saying which is unlike today where the speaker has no idea what he is speaking. Despite Paul knowing so many foreign languages, he still points out that he would rather speak five understood words than 10,000 words in a foreign language the others do not understand)

20. Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. (Paul tells them not to behave with the understanding of children but with the thinking of mature adults)

21. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues (foreign language) and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. (The law meaning Old Testament. The quote is from Isaiah 28:11-12 where God says to Israel, these people don’t hear Me though I speak to them in their native tongue so I will therefore speak to them in the languages of foreigners, i.e. the enemy I will send against them; [Babylonians] but even then they will not listen to Me. Paul is telling them that God’s punishment to the Israelites in making them have to listen to foreigners is what they are imposing on the Church when speaking in tongues)

22. Wherefore tongues (foreign languages) 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. (It was a sign to those at Pentecost where many nations heard unlearned Galileans speaking to them in their native tongue the wonderful things of God. And as a result of this sign, 3000 people were added to the Church instantly)

23. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, (foreign languages) and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? (Paul continues, but if an unbeliever or an unlearned person comes into a Church where many people are all speaking in tongues i.e. foreign languages at the same time and without interpretation, it would sound chaotic and they would say you were all mad)

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: (But if all prophesy, the unbeliever or the unlearned will be convinced and so the Church will be edified)

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. (The sinner would be convinced that God alone could uncover the secrets of his heart and so would fall down on his face in worship and acknowledge that God was truly among them)

26. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, (foreign language) hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (Paul now continues to talk about the spiritual chaos that took place in the Church. He says why is it when you come together, that at the same time one has a psalm, another a doctrine, another speaking in tongues i.e. an unknown foreign language, another speaking a revelation and another trying to give an interpretation? This chaos can not edify the Church and the unlearned will say you are mad)

27. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, (foreign language) let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. (By course, meaning one person at a time and not more than three times in one meeting with someone interpreting so all are edified)

28. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. (It does not get much clearer. All gifts are to edify the Church. If the foreign language is not known by others or there is no interpreter, then the Church is not edified, so stay SILENT)

29. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. (Everything must be done to edifying. As speaking in an unknown tongue, if another is present who can interpret, two miraculous gifts can be exercised at once and the church edified, and the faith of the hearers confirmed at the same time. As to prophesying, two or three only should speak at one meeting, and this one after the other, not all at once. See also verse 31)

30. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. (If another person has a correction or a thought to add, let common Christian courtesy prevail and wait for the first person to finish before the other person speaks. Let everything be done in order and not confusion)

31. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. (The same rules apply to tongue speaking as prophesying. Only one person to speak at a time and no more than three people per meeting)

32. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

33. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (If many are speaking in tongues and or prophesying at the same time, it will be just utter confusion)

39. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. (Seek after the gift of prophesy first but tongue speaking is allowed providing someone interprets)

40. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (Paul’s final comment as he ends this chapter of correction and rebuke to the Corinthians for their disorderly behaviour and confusion in the Church, especially in regards to tongue speaking i.e. foreign languages)

1 Corinthians 14 - Contemporary English Version

Many of the misunderstandings in relation to tongues comes from the awkward translations of the KJV Bible. As already discussed the term “unknown” has further added to the confusion as it does not exist in the original Greek text. Below is 1 Corinthians 14 from the more modern CEV Bible that has greatly simplified the translation and has made it much easier to interpret what Paul was saying to the Church at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 14:1-33,37-40 “Love should be your guide. Be eager to have the gifts that come from the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 If you speak languages that others don't know, God will understand what you are saying, though no one else will know what you mean. You will be talking about mysteries that only the Spirit understands. 3 But when you prophesy, you will be understood, and others will be helped. They will be encouraged and made to feel better. 4 By speaking languages that others don't know, you help only yourself. But by prophesying you help everyone in the church. 5 I am glad for you to speak unknown languages, although I had rather for you to prophesy. In fact, prophesying does much more good than speaking unknown languages, unless someone can help the church by explaining what you mean. 6 My friends, what good would it do, if I came and spoke unknown languages to you and didn't explain what I meant? How would I help you, unless I told you what God had shown me or gave you some knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If all musical instruments sounded alike, how would you know the difference between a flute and a harp? 8 If a bugle call isn't clear, how would you know to get ready for battle? 9 That's how it is when you speak unknown languages. If no one can understand what you are talking about, you will only be talking to the wind. 10 There are many different languages in this world, and all of them make sense. 11 But if I don't understand the language that someone is using, we will be like foreigners to each other. 12 If you really want spiritual gifts, choose the ones that will be most helpful to the church. 13 When we speak languages that others don't know, we should pray for the power to explain what we mean. 14 For example, if I use an unknown language in my prayers, my spirit prays but my mind is useless. 15 Then what should I do? There are times when I should pray with my spirit, and times when I should pray with my mind. Sometimes I should sing with my spirit, and at other times I should sing with my mind. 16 Suppose some strangers are in your worship service, when you are praising God with your spirit. If they don't understand you, how will they know to say, "Amen"? 17 You may be worshiping God in a wonderful way, but no one else will be helped. 18 I thank God that I speak unknown languages more than any of you. 19 But words that make sense can help the church. That's why in church I had rather speak five words that make sense than to speak ten thousand words in a language that others don't know. 20 My friends, stop thinking like children. Think like mature people and be as innocent as tiny babies. 21 In the Scriptures the Lord says, "I will use strangers who speak unknown languages to talk to my people. They will speak to them in foreign languages, but still my people won't listen to me." 22 Languages that others don't know may mean something to unbelievers, but not to the Lord's followers. Prophecy, on the other hand, is for followers, not for unbelievers. 23 Suppose everyone in your worship service started speaking unknown languages, and some outsiders or some unbelievers come in. Won't they think you are crazy? 24 But suppose all of you are prophesying when those unbelievers and outsiders come in. They will realize that they are sinners, and they will want to change their ways because of what you are saying. 25 They will tell what is hidden in their hearts. Then they will kneel down and say to God, "We are certain that you are with these people." 26 My friends, when you meet to worship, you must do everything for the good of everyone there. That's how it should be when someone sings or teaches or tells what God has said or speaks an unknown language or explains what the language means. 27 No more than two or three of you should speak unknown languages during the meeting. You must take turns, and someone should always be there to explain what you mean. 28 If no one can explain, you must keep silent in church and speak only to yourself and to God. 29 Two or three persons may prophesy, and everyone else must listen carefully. 30 If someone sitting there receives a message from God, the speaker must stop and let the other person speak. 31 Let only one person speak at a time, then all of you will learn something and be encouraged. 32 A prophet should be willing to stop and let someone else speak. 33 God wants everything to be done peacefully and in order. When God's people meet in church, 37 If you think of yourself as a prophet or a spiritual person, you will know that I am writing only what the Lord has commanded. 38 So don't pay attention to anyone who ignores what I am writing. 39 My friends, be eager to prophesy and don't stop anyone from speaking languages that others don't know. 40 But do everything properly and in order.”

Extra reading not in the downloadable PDF version

When God brought His chosen people out of the land of Egypt, He performed many miracles like turning Aaron’s rod into a serpent, changing rivers to blood and bringing up frogs to cover the land. The pharaoh’s magicians through the power of Satan were also able to counterfeit all these same miracles. (Exodus 7:10-11; 7:20-22; 8:6-7)

In Job 1:16 Satan burned up Job’s sheep and servants with “fire from heaven” and in Job 1:19, Satan used a “great wind” to bring down a house killing the occupants and in Job 2:7, Satan smote Job with “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” If Satan has power to change rods to serpents, change rivers to blood, bring up frogs to cover the land, control the weather, bring down fire from the heavens (see also Revelation 13:13) and inflict illness, then he can certainly heal people. Note Satan needed God’s permission to inflict illness on Job. (Job 1:12; 2:6) So we know God heals and Satan counterfeits, God gives the gift of tongues and Satan counterfeits, God has true Prophets and Satan has counterfeit false Prophets, (Matthew 24:11) God is going to seal His people with a mark in their foreheads (Revelation 7:3) and Satan has a counterfeit mark in the forehead and hand. (Revelation 13:16)

Please allow me to ask you some thought provoking questions. If the gift of tongues which was given at Pentecost was real languages, what is Satan’s counterfeit? What type of tongue speaking would be of value to Satan? Known understood languages as at Pentecost or tongues that we don’t understand or know what we are saying? Which would Satan use? Would you be convinced that speaking in tongues as seen today was from God if you received healing while using them? Even though Satan would heal you while using his counterfeit tongue speaking just to deceive you into believing they were the real thing and from God? If you were the enemy with his incredible God given wisdom and power and had an army of fallen angels at your disposal, and you hated God and wanted to take as many people from the kingdom as possible, what would you do? So, do Satan and his demons sit around all day throwing an odd temptation or two into people’s minds or do they have strategic long term, full scale plans and are they very actively deceiving everyone who chases after “signs and wonders” while ignoring the many warnings in the Bible?

If Satan is working towards a New World Order in preparation for the mark of the beast, what common doctrine could be used to unite the many denominations and is already doing so? How can we test the spirits here as we are instructed without any doubt of being deceived? If there were two types of tongues as some unbiblically claim, why would God give this gift so freely for personal use and almost never give the needed gift for spreading the Gospel? Which is God's priority and more important? If the unintelligible tongues spoken in Church today were from God, then He would be giving the needed gift even more freely to missionaries but this is not the case. This is not the nature and priority of God. In Matthew 24:5 and verse 11, Jesus says “many” will be deceived. The many spoken of here means a large number. Here is the Thayer Definition: “polus / polos” 1) many, much, large. Please don’t be part of this large number of people is my prayer for you.

Matthew 16:4 Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.”

Page Five - Speaking in Tongues by Bible Commentary

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