(1 Corinthians 14:6-12)
As I mentioned in my last post, there is a commonly held myth in the modern church that tongues were given only to the early church so that they could spread the gospel. Likewise it is held by these same people today that there is now no need for tongues.
Both of these beliefs are false. Tongues are a gift from God and are as much available to believers today as they were in the early church. But they are not and never were given to teach or to proselytise or make disciples in the early church.
And in this section of scripture, Paul absolutely smashes that idea out of the park. It is a false teaching in the modern church and should be discarded and rejected if you seek the truth.
Tongues of No Benefit to Teach
If we look at the first verse in this section we see Paul make a blunt and very clear statement about this issue.
Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? – (1 Corinthians 14:6)
It is clear what Paul is saying here. If he were to go to the church at Corinth speaking in tongues, it would be of zero benefit.
Why? Because he would be babbling words they would not understand. He would be speaking to them in a foreign language which neither he nor the hearers could understand. And Paul says that would be a waste of time because they would not learn a thing. To speak in tongues to the church or another person gives them nothing. They get no knowledge, no learning, no revelation. Nothing. So there is no point doing it.
And it is evident from Paul’s words above that the myth of tongues being to spread the gospel is exactly that…a myth.
But he continues on to strengthen the point in the next verses.
7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. – (1 Corinthians 14:7-9)
Look at the parallels Paul makes. If a musician were to play a tune but his instrument was either not in tune or he played the wrong notes, how would anyone know the song? Have you ever listened to a really bad musician play a song so badly you couldn’t work out what it was, even after you were told what the song is? Or perhaps you have listened to someone just learning to play the piano or violin or guitar and they simply play badly through inexperience.
Well that is what it would be like if someone were to walk up to you and start jabbering away to you in tongues. You would have no idea what they were speaking about, and neither do they.
Paul also uses the analogy of a bugler in an army. Before modern communications, commands were issued to the army on the field by the use of different bugle notes. It was critical that the bugler could play those notes correctly, accurately and tunefully lest the army get the wrong message and either not know what to do, or do the wrong thing. Could you imagine the confusion if the bugler blew a retreat when the officers requested the army to advance, or vice versa?
So too. A person comes to you speaking in tongues they too will not be giving you any information of any value to guide, teach, direct or lead. They will be speaking into the air, wasting your time and theirs.
Many of you will recall a time when in the Roman Catholic Church the masses were all celebrated in Latin. All of the priests would get up and speak to the congregation in Latin.
Now I am not and never have been a Roman Catholic. However I am familiar with this practice and know that many of those who attended their masses came away dissatisfied because they got nothing out of the sermon. And how could they? Unless you too spoke Latin you would have no idea what was being said. For all you know the priest could have been reading the sports pages of the daily newspaper to you.
The Latin masses were done away with in most Roman Catholic Churches because they were pointless. They did not provide any teaching, any direction or any insight for the congregation. The priests were basically speaking into the air for no one understood what they said.
Paul continues to push home this point as the section continues on.
10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. – (1 Corinthians 14:10-11)
When people speak in tongues they do not speak to men but are speaking to God by the Holy Spirit. This was made clear in the last post covering the first couple of verses in this chapter.
And here again Paul makes the point that if two foreigners come together, not knowing each other’s language or having a language in common, they cannot communicate. They are foreigners to each other.
And this would be exactly what it is like if someone were to come to you speaking in tongues. They would be speaking a foreign language to you and you would not understand it. And the person speaking cannot understand it either, which we will cover in detail later in this chapter, so how would they even know what is being said or if they are even speaking in the language of the other person?
Myths and False Teachings
There are many myths and false teachings in the modern church, and especially in relation to speaking in tongues. And why wouldn’t there be? The devil is the one responsible for such myths and false teachings and the last thing he wants is for you to know the truth. Can you imagine how upset the devil is with those people who DO speak in tongues AND understand what it is for? These people have a direct link to God through the Holy Spirit because when they speak in tongues, it is the Holy Spirit speaking to God on their behalf.
And conversely, can you imagine also how gleeful the devil is when he sees people believe what is false? People who reject tongues are rejecting a gift from God that God gave to us to help us. Tongues build us up when we are down and help us walk in the spirit.
And apart from the devil, who is it that spreads and maintains these myths and false beliefs about speaking in tongues? It is those who do NOT speak in tongues. They have not experienced the gift and so they make assumptions or believe the false teachings of the devil fed to them by others who do not have the gift.
Anybody who has received the gift of tongues can tell you categorically that they cannot understand the words spoken by the spirit and they have no idea what language they are even speaking. In fact the bible indicates that we may not even be speaking a human language for it says at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13:1,
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels…”
It is entirely possible that when the Holy Spirit is using our voice to speak in tongues to God, he is speaking in some angelic language and not a language spoken by men!
There is a very real and very important purpose for speaking in tongues, but it has nothing to do with teaching others or spreading the gospel. As we continue into this chapter we will open up more about what this and the other gifts are all about.
For now though, do not reject tongues. Do not reject the gift given by God, and in fact seek it out for it has an important part to play in the work God is doing to effect your transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.
I have said before that you do not need tongues to be saved. Salvation comes through faith. But tongues are important to help you as you walk in Christ and learn to walk in the spirit. So do not reject this wondrous gift, given by the Father to help you along your pathway to life. It is indeed a great blessing to have and to use.
You might also like:
Pentecost And Receiving The Holy Spirit
Speaking In Tongues
Receiving The Holy Spirit
Mistaken For Gods
The Holy Spirit At Work
Apostles And Elders
How To Find The Truth
Dissension In The Church
Treasures New And Old
Trouble For The End Times Church
All This For Free
Spreading The Gospel 2
Jesus Lord Sabbath
Its Not About The Law
When God Is Your Teacher
Who Are You Learning From
Judging By Appearances
A Servant Is Not Greater Than His Master
The Spirit Of Truth
Taught By Jesus
The Most Important Thing