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What about speaking in tongues? (Part 2) First Corinthians 14

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What About Speaking in Tongues? (Part 2)

First Corinthians 14

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • February 5, AD 2012


  1. Acts 2.5–8 shows that speaking in tongues was speaking in a human language 
    1. that the tongue-speaker had not previously known.
    2. Now, we will see First Corinthians 14 regulating speaking in tongues.


  1. First Corinthians 14.1 • Desiring Spiritual Gifts 
    1. Whatever we do, love is our number one goal.
    2. Paul had mentioned spiritual gifts in First Corinthians 12,
      1. including speaking in tongues.
      2. Then in First Corinthians 13 Paul showed
        1. something that is greater than miraculous ability,
        2. demonstrating that love surpasses all spiritual or miraculous gifts.
    3. Therefore, as he began First Corinthians 14, he said to pursue love.
      1. Love should be our primary pursuit, but
      2. we can desire to benefit the church in other ways.
    4. Much of the chapter shows why prophesying is greater than tongue-speaking.
  2. First Corinthians 14.2–5 • Speaking in Tongues Versus Prophesying 
    1. Verse 2 explains why Paul encouraged the pursuit of love and prophesying.
      1. He says that speaking in a tongue,
        1. one does not speak to men, but
        2. to God, because
          1. no one understands what he is saying, but
          2. in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
      2. Reading this verse alone,
        1. you might think that it contradicts
        2. what I showed you from Acts 2 a couple of weeks ago, but
          1. even as sound bytes devoid of their context can be dangerous,
          2. so scripture bytes devoid of their context can be misleading.
    2. Paul put the gift of prophesying,
      1. receiving miraculous knowledge and speaking it,
      2. over tongue-speaking, because as verse 3 says,
        1. prophesying leads to edification, exhortation, and comfort,
        2. which should be our goals, and not showing off our abilities.
    3. Verse 4 says he who speaks in a tongue that no one understands,
      1. only edifies himself,
      2. whereas the prophet edifies the church.
    4. Because of this, as we will see later in the chapter,
      1. Paul says that if an interpreter is not present,
      2. the tongue-speaker should remain silent, and
        1. not go on speaking as some people have misused verse 2 to support.
        2. They speak, believing that verse 2 explains what they are doing, but
          1. if edification, exhortation, and comfort are not happening,
          2. the tongue-speaker must be quiet.
    5. This led Paul to say that he wished everyone spoke in tongues, but
      1. since edification is the goal,
      2. he wished more that everyone prophesied, yet,
        1. as he himself wrote in chapter 12,
        2. no one had the full range of miraculous power,
          1. except the apostles, and
          2. they could only transfer some of that power to others.
    6. The tongue-speaker only speaks to God, not man, if no interpreter is present.
      1. What good is tongue-speaking if no one understands the message?
      2. However, prophesying is done in the native tongue of the listeners.
        1. Therefore, he can edify, exhort, and comfort people, because
        2. they can understand what he is saying.
  3. First Corinthians 14.6–12 • The Profitability of Speaking in Tongues 
    1. To show that a tongue-speaker must be understood by all in attendance,
      1. he explains that the tongue-speaker must have
      2. a revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching.
    2. Paul then illustrated his point with musical instruments, because
      1. if people understand what a certain tune means,
      2. they can act accordingly, but
        1. if they do not know what that tune means,
        2. they do not know what to do.
          1. Likewise, if someone speaks, and
          2. the hearers do not understand what the speaker is saying,
            1. they will not know what to do, and
            2. the speaker is just speaking into the air.
              1. What good is that to the church?
              2. Do it on your own in private.
    3. Therefore, whatever you do, do it to excel in edifying the church.
  4. First Corinthians 14.13–19 • Speaking with the Understanding 
    1. If edification is the goal,
      1. the tongue-speaker should pray for the gift of interpreting.
      2. In a place like ancient Corinth,
        1. several language groups might be present.
        2. Therefore, the tongue-speaker may speak to a group that is present
          1. who understand him, but
          2. others are present who have no idea what is being said.
            1. The rest of the congregation needs to know the teaching, and
            2. that is where an interpreter comes in.
    2. So then verses 14 and 15 acknowledge
      1. that one might be praying,
        1. which is one of the things that we do in worship and
        2. that a tongue-speaker might be doing, but
      2. it is only in his spirit and everyone’s understanding is fruitless.
    3. Whatever kind of speaking we do in the worship assembly,
      1. praying, preaching, singing,
      2. we want to do it in the spirit, for
        1. we are to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, which
        2. also means we want to worship Him in understanding.
    4. If that does not happen,
      1. how can we say, “Amen,” to a prayer, a discourse, or whatever,
      2. if we do not understand what is being said?
        1. The tongue-speaker can give thanks to God, but
        2. again the rest are not edified.
    5. As an apostle, Paul could speak any language miraculously,
      1. which others could claim, and
      2. that was a good thing, since they were not using this gift properly.
        1. However, what good was Paul’s ability,
        2. if he spoke ten thousand words in a tongue, but no one understood?
          1. He would rather say a few words
          2. that everyone understood.
  5. First Corinthians 14.20–25 • Signs That God Is Among Us 
    1. Starting at verse 20, Paul began to deal with their attitudes.
      1. Act like grown-ups in doctrinal understanding, but
      2. when it comes to malice, have little understanding as a child.
        1. Our brethren in ancient Corinth had malice toward one another,
        2. rather than letting love drive them in all things.
    2. To back up what he has said thus far in First Corinthians 14,
      1. Paul quoted the Old Testament to show that tongue-speaking
      2. was for people being able to hear what the Lord had to say;
        1. it was not a time to show off, nor
        2. to exalt one person above another.
    3. Verse 22 presents a crucial point.
      1. For whom was the gift of miraculous tongue-speaking?
      2. It was not to persuade believers, but
        1. to persuade unbelievers.
        2. When the early preachers went into the world,
          1. the New Testament had not been written, but
          2. the Lord wanted people all over the world to know the message,
            1. which is why He told the apostles to go into all the world and
            2. preach the Gospel to everyone, and
              1. the apostles did not have time to learn every language.
              2. Thus, the apostles could speak any language instantly, and
                1. He allowed them to pass on to a few others
                2. the miraculous ability to speak in other languages.
      3. When people of a different culture and language
        1. heard an apostle speaking fluently in their native tongue,
        2. they would be amazed and want to learn more.
      4. Prophesying though was for members of the church.
    4. If unbelievers come into an assembly of everyone speaking different languages,
      1. the visitors will think the church members are out of their minds, or
      2. drunk (as in Acts 2, until everyone found his language group).
    5. If the visitors or guests can understand what is being said in the assembly,
      1. he can then be persuaded on the truth,
      2. convicting him of his sin and of what the truth is.
        1. He will then see that God knows his heart and
        2. he will join us in worshiping God, confessing that God is among us.
  6. First Corinthians 14.26–36 • Speaking Regulations 
    1. This is where many violate the Scriptures.
    2. The first rule: Edify others.
      1. Paul repeated again in verse 26,
      2. that everyone coming to the assembly with something to share,
        1. must keep edification uppermost in mind, and
        2. we have already see what that means.
    3. The second rule: Only two or three speakers per assembly.
    4. The third rule: Speak in turn, not simultaneously.
    5. The fourth rule: Let someone interpret.
      1. If no interpreter was present,
      2. no tongue-speaking could take place.
    6. The fifth rule: Exercise self-control (vv. 29–32, especially verse 32).
      1. This is why I knew that I could help Winifred A., because
      2. once I showed her that her spirit was under her control,
        1. she no longer had those unintelligible outbursts.
    7. The sixth rule: God authorizes peace, not confusion.
    8. The seventh rule: No women speakers to the whole church.
  7. First Corinthians 14.37, 38 • The Commandment of the Lord 
    1. Does anyone dispute what Paul wrote in this chapter?
      1. Do you think you have special insight?
      2. Do you think you speak on behalf of the Lord?
    2. Then you have to acknowledge that Paul spoke the truth, because
      1. Jesus Christ personally selected Paul, and
      2. the Holy Spirit inspired Paul.
        1. Therefore, what we read in all of First Corinthians 14
        2. is not his personal, woman-hating, pharisaic opinion, but
          1. it is the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ.
          2. If you do not see this, you will have to remain in ignorance.
  8. First Corinthians 14.39 • Prophesying and Tongue-Speaking 
    1. Desire to do what benefits the church.
    2. Do not forbid someone from doing what you cannot do.
  9. First Corinthians 14.40 • A God of Order 
    1. Never forget that our God is a God of decency and order.


  1. What Paul teaches in this chapter still applies to us 
    1. whether miraculous tongue-speaking happens or not.
    2. When someone has started to speak before the church,
      1. let the rest of the congregation remain silent.
      2. If you are the speaker,
        1. be sure you have everyone’s attention before continuing.
        2. Do not simply talk over everyone.
  2. God has spoken to you in the Scriptures that you might understand, but 
    1. if you do not understand something,
    2. do not suffer frustration in silence, for
      1. we would be glad to sit down with you,
      2. answer your questions,
        1. help you understand the word, and
        2. show you what God wants with you.
  3. The God of heaven had men write down His message in Hebrew and Greek. 
    1. He enabled men to translate those documents into thousands of languages,
    2. including the English language, and
      1. you can then read what the God of heaven thinks of you.
      2. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
        1. Prepare yourself to be in His presence now
        2. by making yourself holy as He is holy.
          1. If you believe and are ready to be baptized,
          2. He will make you holy as He is holy.
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