Tongue Speaking and Prophesy
The apostle tells the Corinthians to pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts. Why are they told this and how does it apply to us today? Firstly the Corinthians at that time only had partial revelation, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part” 1Cor. 13:9. The scriptures were not yet complete. They needed to have the Spiritual gifts to have God’s will revealed to them. We are fortunate that today we have the complete scriptures, 2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3, Jude 3. Their need to know God’s will is the reason that Paul put such importance on prophesy.
Tongue speaking in the Corinthian church was only useful for the church if the tongues were interpreted, 1 Cor 14: 5, 13,18-19, 21, 23). This show us the need to understanding of what Tongue Speaking in the Bible was. To understand that we have to go to the first time that Tongue Speaking is mentioned, that is found in Acts 2. Read Acts 2:4-11. Note: Acts 2:6 “And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.” Acts 2:8 “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Acts 2:11”…we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” We will not find a definition of what Tongue Speaking was in the letter to the Corinthians, they knew what it was, they had it.
While Paul does not define the gift of Tongue Speaking here, we can see the clear understanding of what it was See 1 Cor 14:6-11. Just as an indistinct bugle on the battlefield would be useless, so too speech that can not be understood in the church is useless. All languages have meaning. They are spoken to convey meaning. If they can not be understood no meaning is conveyed – they are useless.
Spiritual gifts were given for the edification of the church. Paul reminded them of that fact and showed that it was of far greater importance for the church to be “ built up” rather than the individual. Tongue Speaking edified the one doing the speaking, but unless it was interpreted no one else was edified. Note, “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church” 1Cor. 14:4. When the gifted men prophesied he was telling the whole church the truths of God. As such the church was uplifted and built up. The Tongue speaker could not be understood in Corinth, unless he was interpreted, so he only edified himself. See also 1Cor 3, 5, 12, 15.
Order in the church
Paul points out that in all of the services of the church there needs to be order and organization. If one speaks in a tongue, he needs to be interpreted, 1 Cor 14:27. There should only two or three speakers, either Tongue speakers or prophets 1 Cor 14:27-29. The need for order is so that all may be edified.
Paul also teaches that the women are to “keep silent in the churches”. This is a simple command that is easy to understand, but is unpopular with current trends. It is, however a command from God and is repeated in Paul’s letter to Timothy, see 1 Tim 2:11-14. This was not a unique teaching for the Corinthians, Paul was not teaching them something that did not have application for other churches and for us today. In 1 Corinthians 4:17 he writes of the coming of Timothy and his teachings, “and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church” 1 Cor 4:17b. Paul wrote to the Corinthians the same as he taught everywhere.
Many will disagree with Paul’s words here and he knew that. That is why he reminds them that these are commandments of God. Paul was not writing to please men, He was writing as directed by God.
A final point: “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” 1Cor. 14:40.
The Corinthians were using Spiritual Gifts in a disorderly manner. They were using them for their own selfish ends. They needed to follow the pattern that God had given and seek for the edification of the church.