I Corinthians 14:21-33

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Text: I Corinthians 14:21-33

USING THE GIFT OF TONGUES

IN THE CHURCH

INTRODUCTION:

We find an emphasis today in charismatic circles that the gift of tongues is very desirable. In fact, many are teaching that it is the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that without it, the person is not even saved. Therefore, they urge people to begin uttering a few sounds over and over again and let the Holy Spirit take over in order to speak in tongues. They pray in tongues, and they sing in tongues.

However, tongues was the least of the nine spiritual sign gifts. We have already seen that prophecy was superior to speaking in tongues.

Now, whenever we discuss the subject of speaking in tongues, we must be careful as to what we mean. In the Bible speaking in tongues was speaking in foreign languages. That which is practiced today is not speaking in foreign languages. What is being practiced today is nothing more than gibberish and has no connection whatsoever with the Biblical gift of speaking in tongues.

The gift of tongues was subject to abuse. Therefore, the Apostle Paul laid down some conditions for its use in the local churches. As we continue to study I Corinthians 14 , we want to see what those conditions were. Of course, we remind ourselves that the conditions were laid down when the Biblical gift of tongues was still legitimately being practiced, and we know according to I Corinthians 13:8-10 that the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues ceased when the New Testament was completed in approximately 95 A.D. Yet, even the gibberish being practiced today would collapse if these conditions were enforced.

I. TONGUES WERE FOR A SIGN TO UNBELIEVERS; WHEREAS, PROPHESYING WAS FOR BELIEVERS - 14:21-22

I Corinthians 14:21-22 - 21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22 Wherefore tongues 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.

This quotation is from Isaiah 28:11-12 and is a reference to the Assyrian soldiers invading Samaria. Other tongues is clearly a reference to a foreign language.

Isaiah 28:11-12 - 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

I Corinthians 14:22 22 Wherefore tongues 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.

Wherefore is for this reason, therefore, or so and introduces an inference from verse 21.

The Biblical gift of tongues (or languages) are for a sign . . . to them that believe not (i.e. to unbelievers). This means that the Biblical gift of tongues (or languages) are not a spiritual gift to be exercised in private for personal edification.

Tongues are for a sign is a Hebraism which means that tongues are a sign. It speaks of the gift of tongues (or languages) as a sign or distinguishing mark by which something is known, a token, or an indication in the sense of a (warning) sign.

This sign gift to unbelievers is clearly demonstrated in Acts 2:4-11 when people from many nations were amazed that they could all hear about the wonderful works of God in their own languages.

Acts 2:4-11 - (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

(5) And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

(6) Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

(7) And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

(8) And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

(9) Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

(10) Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

(11) Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

But introduces a statement in mild contrast between the ones for whom the gift of tongues is intended to be used and the ones for whom prophesying is to be used.

Prophesying is prophecy.

Not for them that believe not is not for the unbelievers (or the faithless ones), i.e. for unsaved people.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast between for them that believe not and for them which believe, i.e. for the ones who believe or for the believing ones.

Inasmuch as tongues were intended to be a sign for unbelievers, why would there be such an emphasis on wanting to use tongues in church services where those who attend would primarily be believers? By contrast, prophecy would benefit believers in the church services. Charles Hodge has written,

"The meaning is, that when a people are disobedient, God sends them teachers whom they cannot understand; when they are obedient, he sends them prophets speaking their own language. This is the natural conclusion from the premises contained in v. 21. When the Hebrews were disobedient God sent foreigners among them; when obedient, he sent them prophets."

II. ALL THINGS INCLUDING SPEAKING IN TONGUES ARE TO BE DONE IN A LOCAL CHURCH SERVICE FOR EDIFYING THE LOCAL CHURCH - 14:23-26

I Corinthians 14:23-26 - 23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are 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: 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. 26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Tongues are used of foreign languages which are not understood by the people who are present.

According to verse 23, if, in a meeting of the local church, all the members are speaking in foreign languages, any unbelievers present can be expected to conclude that these believers are all crazy or out of their minds.

I Corinthians 14:24 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 introduces a mild contrast

If all prophesy, i.e. if all are prophesying, i.e. the entire congregation is prophesying.

There come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned is literally, and some faithless one or an unlearned (one) come in. He is an outsider and does not know what they believe.

He is convinced of all = he is convinced (i.e. convicted) by all (of those prophesying)

He is judged of all means he is being called to account (or discerned) by all (of those prophesying).

I Corinthians 14:25 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.

And thus is and so or and in this manner.

The secrets of his heart are made manifest means are made clear, are made evident, or are made plain to him - not to everyone else. The Holy Spirit is convicting him about things in his life, just like He has done for all of us.

As a result of conviction, it seems to the unbeliever that the speaker knows everything about him and is speaking directly and only to him.

And so falling down on his face he will worship God suggests that he will do obeisance to God, prostrate himself before God, or do reverence to God. He is going to get saved and have a right relationship with God.

He will also report (or proclaim) that God is in you of a truth is that God certainly is in you (or indwells) you.

I Corinthians 14:26 26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

In verses 26-40 Paul provides instructions for regulating the use of tongues in the church services. Although there are many parts in a service, everything must be done unto edifying.

How is it? is what is it?

Then is understood in the sense of therefore, consequently, or accordingly.

When ye come together indicates that it is a church service.

What every one of you (or each one of you) has is a psalm, . . . a doctrine, . . . a tongue, . . . a revelation, and . . . an interpretation. It does not mean that all persons present in the worship service would have all five of these things mentioned but that individuals from within the congregation would have these things in the congregational meeting.

A psalm is a song of praise.

A doctrine is a teaching or an instruction.

A tongue is a language that is foreign to the language spoken by the congregation.

A revelation is a disclosure, i.e. something which the Holy Spirit has made known to the prophet who is disclosing it to the congregation.

An interpretation is a translation and is used in connection with speaking in a foreign language.

III. NO MORE THAN THREE PEOPLE IN THE ASSEMBLY WERE TO SPEAK IN TONGUES DURING A SERVICE, AND ONLY ONE WAS TO SPEAK AT A TIME. EACH WAS TO SPEAK IN HIS TURN - 14:27

I Corinthians 14:27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

An unknown tongue = a language not understood by the congregation

Let it be by two, or at the most by three indicates that none, one, two, or three persons speaking in languages foreign to the hearers in any one service would be acceptable, but four or more persons should never speak in a languages foreign to the hearers in the same service.

And that by course means one after the other or in succession. Although two or three could speak in tongues in the same service, they must speak one after another and not at the same time.

And let one interpret is not a suggestion. It is a third person command for which English has no equivalent. It means and one must interpret (or translate).

IV. THERE WAS TO BE NO SPEAKING IN TONGUES UNLESS AN INTERPRETER WAS PRESENT TO INTERPRET THEM - 14:28

I Corinthians 14:28 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

If there be no interpreter is if there is no translator present in the service.

Let him keep silence in the church means that he must be (or keep) silent (or still) or he must say nothing.

In the church is in church, in assembly, or in congregation. It has no reference to the church building which houses the congregation; instead, the reference is to a church service.

Let him speak to himself and to God indicates the ones to whom he may speak in a church meeting if no interpreter is present. They are the only ones who will understand his message in a language which is foreign to the congregation.

To himself means silently, of course, so that he does not disturb the congregational meeting.

V. ONLY TWO OR THREE PROPHETS MAY SPEAK IN A SERVICE AND THE OTHERS MUST JUDGE - 14:29

I Corinthians 14:29 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

The prophets is prophets, i.e. those who receive divine revelation directly from God and pass this revelation on to other people.

These are not modern-day preachers in that prophets must receive divine revelation directly from God and preachers get their revelation indirectly through the Scriptures.

In addition, like the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy has been shown in I Corinthians 13 to have ceased with the completion of the New Testament.

The number of prophets who can speak in any one service is limited to two or three, regardless of how many of them might have messages they could deliver.

Other = others - it is plural

Let the other judge is let the others pass judgment, i.e. they must pass judgment or they must be passing judgment. The other prophets passing judgment is intended to prevent demonic spirits from delivering their messages through their own prophets in the church.

These others may have the gift of discerning of spirits mentioned in I Corinthians 12:10 . The noun form of the verb translated let . . . judge in this verse is translated discerning in the phrase discerning of spirits in I Corinthians 12:10 .

VI. ONLY ONE PROPHET MAY SPEAK AT A TIME - 14:30-32

I Corinthians 14:30-32 - 30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

It appears that the first prophet has finished delivering his message and may be commenting on it. He is to stop and let the second one deliver his prophecy.

If any thing be revealed (i.e. disclosed) to another (of the same kind) that sitteth by (i.e. sitting there).

Let the first hold his peace is the same word used in verse 28 meaning let him be (or keep) silent, let him be (or keep) still, or let him say nothing and is understood in the sense of he must be (or keep) silent, he must be (or keep) still, or he must say nothing.

The first suggests the first one and suggests that he is in the process of delivering a prophecy and may now be commenting on it after delivering the prophecy, when another who is sitting there and listening to him receives a prophecy. That the first prophet's actual prophecy is not interrupted is suggested by verse 31 (For ye may all prophesy one by one).

I Corinthians 14:31 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

According to verse 31, only one prophet may prophesy at a time. This suggests that the first prophet in verse 30 has already delivered his prophecy and is merely commenting on it when something is revealed to a second prophet who is sitting there listening to him. There will be confusion if more than one prophet speaks at a time, and no one will learn anything.

Ye may all prophesy, where all refers to the prophets, is, You are all able to prophesy but must be interpreted in the light of the limit of three prophets prophesying in the same service in verse 29. It is intended to prevent one prophet from taking up all the time so that the other two do not get adequate time to deliver their prophecies.

One by one is another way of saying that only one prophet can prophesy at a time. They may not all prophesy at the same time.

That (i.e. in order that) all may learn and all may be comforted (i.e. consoled or encouraged) indicates the purpose of the prophesying.

I Corinthians 14:32 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

The spirits of the prophets refers to the prophets' gift of prophecy.

Are subject to is are subjected to, are subordinated to, or obey. What the spirits of the prophets are subjected to is the prophets themselves. They are not out of control or in a frenzy but obey the prophets because they are under their control. This means that they can wait their turns or wait until the next meeting of the assembly.

VII. CONFUSION OR DISORDER DOES NOT ORIGINATE WITH GOD. THEREFORE, THOSE SPEAKING IN TONGUES MUST BE IN CONTROL OF THEIR FACULTIES - 14:33

I Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Confusion is disorderliness or unruliness.

Peace is used in the sense of good order.

Verse 33 gives the reason the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. If they were not subject to the prophets, there would be confusion. If the spirits of the prophets are not under the control of the prophets, if the prophet who is speaking cannot stop speaking and let another prophet who was sitting there deliver a prophecy which was delivered to him, if there is more than one prophet prophesying at the same time, or if there are many speaking in tongues in a service with no interpreter, this situation is not of the Holy Spirit.

As in all churches of the saints may be connected to verse 33 or verse 34. If connected to verse 33, it provides Paul's proof that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. It is something that is true in all the churches.

However, as in all churches of the saints may be better understood with verse 34 rather than with verse 33. If so, it is an adverbial clause describing let . . . keep silence in verse 34, indicating comparison.