IV. Encouraging Remarks by Apostle Paul on Speaking in Tongues



(In the Context of the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians)




1.  All Believers Wanting to Speak in Tongues (1 Cor 14:5)


            Apostle Paul desired every believer to speak in tongues, not only the believers in the Corinthian church.  The Scripture shows a glimpse of possibility that all church members could speak in tongues (Act 2:4). 


            In 1 Corinthians 14:23, Paul said, “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues.”  The Lord also said, “These signs will accompany those who believe…..they will speak in new tongues” (Mar 16:17).


            Yet, in another passage from the New Testament Paul asked the following question: “Do all speak in tongues?” (1 Cor 12:30)  His question implies the notion that not everyone would speak in tongues.  But the main point Paul states in this passage is that not all gifts are the same (1 Cor 12:4-11).  This is further to say that not all the same spiritual gift will be given to everyone.  Despite his explanation on varieties of spiritual gifts, Apostle Paul wanted everyone in the whole church to speak in tongues.  It is because tongues gives virtue, that is, benefits to all believers (1 Cor 12:3-4).





2.      Apostle Paul Spoke in Tongues More Than All the Others (1 Cor 14:18)


Here when Apostle Paul talked about a foreign tongue, he did not talk of a tongue

other people could understand, but he was rather talking of tongues, that is, “speaking mysteries in the Spirit” to God (1 Cor 14:2).


            It is true that Apostle Paul went overseas and witnessed God to people in various regions; thus, it is a safe assumption that Paul spoke several foreign tongues.  Yet, the tongues Paul refers here are not foreign languages, but it was tongues in prayer, as mentioned in the 14th chapter from 1 Corinthians.  Apostle Paul always listened to the voice of the Spirit and did a missionary work through signs and wonders.  What made it possible for Paul in doing all these works is because he spoke in tongues more than any other person.  Apostle Paul challenged the members at the Corinthian Church to be imitators of him (1 Cor 4:16).





3.  A Worship Can Be Done Through Speaking in Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues (1 Cor 14:26)


As mentioned in the previous pages, in the early Christian church, where worship could be offered in spirit, this further implies that the whole worship can be offered in prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation, prophesy, revelation (1 Cor 14:6, 26).


            What is prophecy, when mentioned in the above passage?  Who gave the prophecy?


“But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all.  After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, God is really among you (1 Cor 14:24-25).


            In the above passage, prophecy is something everyone with a gift of prophecy can do.  Though prophesy is to provide safety and comfort and to disclose the secrets of the heart and to reprove the related person, this prophesy is not something one guides in the form of instruction.


“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.  If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent” (1 Cor 14:29-30).  At any rate, in the early church (Corinthian Church) it is clear that unlike today’s church worship setting, all believers with the spiritual gifts participate in worship using their spiritual gifts, help making the worship in spirit.





4.  Speaking in Tongues Should Be Used Only When an Individual Speaks to God

     (1 Cor 14:28)


“If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret.  But if there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God” (1 Cor 14:27-28).


            The word “church” here in the above passage is not a church building (a sanctuary), but it is rather a gathering of believers.  In the early church, since there is no church building, the above passage does not mean that one should not speak in tongues inside a church.  That is, when all members of a church gather, people should not bless, pray or teach in a language no one understands (1 Cor 14:16-19).


            One thing we should be careful in this passage is, when building up the church (or, in order to benefit others), speaking in tongues is not a big help; yet, this does not mean that praying in tongues is not useful (1 Cor 14:4).  Therefore, speaking in tongues is to benefit an individual person; thus, when people come to God individually, they should pray in tongues.  Regarding the above passage, when Paul says, “let them be silent in church,” he was not discouraging people to speak in tongues inside a church building but to use tongues when you pray to God alone.





5.  Do Not Forbid Speaking in Tongues


“So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor 14:39).


            In the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul upheld more highly the interest of the whole church than that of an individual person.  That’s why Paul acknowledged that in comparison to speaking in tongues prophecy, a teaching or an interpretation of tongues is more important than tongues.  Yet, he was not saying that speaking in tongues should be prohibited.  This is something today’s churches should pay a keen interest.


            These days speaking in tongues has become a spiritual gift, either ignored and even prohibited.  Not only praying in tongues is ignored, but prophecy, or interpretation of tongues, is ignored, as well.


“But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14: 40)


            Paul encourages the readers of his epistles, ‘everything’ that is, nothing should be barred but used in an orderly manner, building up the others (for the benefits).  This is the spiritual advice to today’s churches where there is much emphasis on negative things so that these things could easily be forbidden or criticized (1 The 5:20).