(1 Corinthians 14:13-19)
In my recent posts I have been looking at the gift of tongues and breaking down some of the false teachings and myths. The only truth we should listen to is the truth that is from God as written in the bible, and much of the truth about speaking in tongues is contained in the words of this chapter of the bible.
I have covered the fact that tongues was not just given to the early church for the purpose of spreading the gospel and that after the gospel age they were no longer necessary. This teaching, common in the modern church, is a lie perpetrated by those who have not received the gift of tongues and who do not understand the purpose and power of the gift of tongues.
Now this section of scripture further strengthens the fact that tongues are not for spreading the gospel. We see Paul discuss one of the purposes tongues are for and he also shows another proof why tongues were not for spreading the gospel.
Prayer in the Spirit
The first thing worth noting here is that when a person speaks in tongues they are praying. It is a spiritual prayer where the Holy Spirit is using the tongue and mouth of the person to pray in an unknown language to God. Note what the words of verse 14 say.
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. – (1 Corinthians 14:14)
It is quite clear then that when a person speaks in a tongue by the Holy Spirit they are praying. We see this point repeated as we continue to read this section that speaking in tongues is prayer by the Holy Spirit to God.
It is by the speaking in tongues that the Holy Spirit intercedes to God on our behalf. When a person speaks in tongues they are allowing the Holy Spirit to pray to God and ask God for whatever it is we may need at that point in time to strengthen, build us up or guide us according to His will.
But there is an issue in the thinking of some people regarding using speaking in tongues as prayer. They may think that if the Holy Spirit is speaking directly to God on our behalf, then why do we need to pray at all?
Clearly to think such things is to ignore the many scriptures where we are taught to bring our burdens to the Lord, and to ask and seek the will of God and to cast all our anxieties on Him and so on.
The fact of the matter is that we cannot have a relationship with God without offering Him our praises and without communicating with Him through prayer. And you cannot have a relationship with someone through a third party, and that includes the Holy Spirit.
God wants us to come to Him and to talk to Him and to build a relationship with Him. If we were only to speak in tongues, then it is the Holy Spirit speaking, not us.
Now as to the issue about using tongues to spread the gospel to foreigners, I have already covered this in my previous few posts, but again it is evident this is not the purpose of tongues.
The person who is speaking in tongues does not understand what they are saying when the Holy Spirit is using their mouth and tongue to speak. So how can they teach or answer questions when going to a foreign country and speaking to the people of that land when they neither understand the words coming from their own mouth nor the language of that foreign person?
And you must understand that the person speaking in tongues does not and cannot understand what the Holy Spirit is saying. It is important that they do not understand because that is a conversation between God and the Holy Spirit on our behalf and for our own good. We may be asking God for something, but the Holy Spirit in his wisdom may say to God he exact opposite because He knows whatever we are asking may not be the best course of action for us.
And we see Paul showing us that the person speaking in tongues does not understand what they are saying for he says,
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. – (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)
We see that when the person, in this case Paul used himself as the example, is speaking in tongues, the Holy Spirit in him was speaking but Paul’s own mind was unfruitful. That is, he himself was not aware of what was being said because it was nothing he was thinking about. The words in tongues were the thoughts of the Holy Spirit, not the thoughts of Paul.
And so it is with anyone else who speaks in a tongue.
And what is Paul’s response to this matter? He says to do both. Pray in the spirit, that is, pray in tongues and then pray whatever is on your own mind. And if you sing with the spirit as some people have done, then sing with your own mind and words as well.
In essence Paul encourages us to do both. Pray whatever is on your mind and make your requests known to God, and then also pray in tongues with the Holy Spirit.mthat way the full message gets to God, both your own thoughts and the thoughts of the Holy Spirit.
And again we see that to speak in tongues to another person is equally unfruitful because not only do you, the speaker, not know what is said, neither do they. Look what Paul shows us next.
16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. – (1 Corinthians 14:16-17)
You see that if you speak in tongues and are giving thanks to God or praying to God by the Holy Spirit, someone listening cannot agree or say Amen to what you have said because they cannot understand what you are saying. And to speak in tongues to another person is not upbuilding for them because they haven’t a clue what you are saying.
Speaking in tongues builds up the person speaking, but a listener is not built up. I have already shown from Paul’s words that speaking in tongues is a prayer language, and as we see in these verses above it is also a form of giving thanks, which is in essence a form of praise, to God.
Now there is a poor translation in the next verse and when you consider what is written you can see that it is an illogical thing for Paul to say. Look at these words.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. – (1 Corinthians 14:18)
Think about it for a moment. How could Paul possibly say that he speaks in tongues more than all those to whom he was writing? How would he possibly even know such a thing? The truth is that he could not know and to say such a thing would be considered arrogant.
But when we look at the direct translation of this verse we see that it is poorly translated, for Paul may have been many things, but he was not arrogant.
The direct translation of these words in verse 18 from the Greek says,
“Thank the God all you more tongues speak”
Consider these words as compared to the way they have been translated in the verse quoted above. First, the word “I” does not exist in the direct Greek. So to translate it as if Paul is saying “I speak in tongues more than you all” is clearly not what is written. In fact the focus of “who” the verse is speaking about is “you” not “I”.
In the previous verse Paul shows us that when we speak in tongues we give thanks, so a better way to translate this verse should be,
“You thank God all the more speaking in tongues.”
This is a better rendering of this verse and it fits with the previous verses because Paul was talking about using tongues to thank God. Furthermore, it is logically correct because you do thank God when you speak in tongues, so logically the more you speak in tongues the more you thank God.
It doesn’t matter who speaks in tongues more than anyone else. It’s not a competition and it is not a point for pride or arrogance. It is about using this gift of God through Holy Spirit for the purpose it was given.
And that purpose or those purposes as we see in this chapter are:
- To build up the individual speaking in tongues
- To offer spiritual prayers to God
- To offer thanks and praise to God
Tongues in Church
Finally we see Paul speaking about the use of tongues in church.
Earlier he showed that there is no point speaking in tongues in church unless someone has the gift of interpretation of tongues, which is also a gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact Paul encourages anyone and everyone who speaks in a tongue to also party and ask God for the gift of interpretation.
Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. – (1 Corinthians 14:13)
But when it comes to speaking to the church, and again this includes the spreading of the gospel and the ministry to foreigners, Paul is quite clear about whether it is a good thing to use tongues or not. In the last verse of this section Paul writes:
Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. – (1 Corinthians 14:19)
This is a clear message to all those who believe that tongues were given to spread the gospel or to teach others.
Paul says he would rather speak five words with his own mind and his own understanding and insight than ten thousand words in tongues that are not of his mind but of the Holy Spirit and that no one, including himself can understand.
Instruction comes from teachers who understand and apply the teachings of Christ Jesus and who can pass on that knowledge and insight to others in words they can understand. It does not come from babbling in tongues.
To stand up in church and speak in tongues to the congregation is pointless and of zero value. In fact it is in direct contravention of the scripture because Paul tells us that unless someone is there with the gift of interpretation then a person should not speak in tongues in the church. This is further emphasised in the next paragraphs of this chapter and we will look at that shortly.
For now though, seek tongues and the understanding of what they are for and how and when to use them. God only gives good gifts and this is one of His gifts to His people. Do not ignore it for it is given for your benefit as are all the gifts of God.
You might also like:
Bearing Witness To Jesus
Pentecost And Receiving The Holy Spirit
Speaking In Tongues
Promise Of Salvation
Receiving The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit At Work
The Lords Prayer and Issues of Seeking Praise from Men
The Power Of A Prayer Of Faith
Ask In Faith And It Will Be Done
Making A Request Of God
Have Faith In God
The Lords Prayer How To Pray
Persistence In Prayer
Never Ever Give Up
Persistence Pays Off
Dealing With Persecution
Believe What You Pray For
The Sum Of The Parts
Temptations To Sin Are Sure To Come
The Peace Of Christ
Restored By Grace
Why We Suffer
Change Your Behaviour
Oops I Did It Again
Walking In The Spirit
Walking Properly With Christ