1 Corinthians 14:22
ESV - 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.
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Tongues is a hotly debated topic and I suspect that many people will offer their opinion and personal experience about it, which varies greatly from denomination to denomination. Here are some excerpts from Matthew Henry's Commentary about the passage you referenced: "Thus from Isaiah it appears, reasons Paul, that "tongues" (unknown and uninterpreted) are not a sign mainly intended for believers (though at the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles with him, tongues were vouchsafed to him and them to confirm their faith), but mainly to be a condemnation to those, the majority, who, like Israel in Isaiah's day, reject the sign and the accompanying message... it makes believers of those not wilfully unbelievers (1 Co 14:24, 25 o 10:17), and spiritually nourishes those that already believe." My thoughts: Speaking in tongues is mentioned in several places in the NT and is indicated as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, 1 Cor. 13 and 14, Mark 16:17). All believers receive the Holy Spirit when they receive Jesus as Savior. Since one needs to be saved to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the practice of speaking in tongues is for the believer, but can be a sign to unbelievers to convince them that God is real and to lead them to salvation. The language in the passage you referenced has always confused me, and I think it's helpful to read it in several translations and to use study tools for clarity.
Some clarification may come from I Corinthians 14 and others. First foundation: Oh! The tongue. What power for good or evil. Wrongly used it can set my whole world on fire, and defile my whole body (James 3:1-6). We are told we can not tame our own tongue (James 3:7-8). We should not use it to bless and curse i.e fresh and salt water (James3:9-11). It is also connected to the fruit of the Spirit, wisdom and works (James 3:12-18). Finally, teachers, pastors, apostles, prophets, evangelists and anyone who speaks on behalf of the Bible and God will be judged for EVERY word that comes out of their mouth (Romans 3:4, Matthew 12:31-37). Those idle and profane words today are a cancer in the body of Christ (II Timothy 2:14-18). Every teacher on this web site should know without a doubt that their answer comes from God because you will be held accountable concerning God sheep (Jeremiah 23:1-2). Every teacher will be held accountable (James 3:1) but the good news is God can 100% perfectly control our tongues and we can be declared by God to be perfect in our speech (James 3:2) and love (Matthew 5:43-48). That said, here is the environment Paul found himself in with the Corinthians: 1) They were carnal babies on milk still being in their strife, envy and causing division (I Corinthians 3:1-3). 2) They had the leaven of malice and wickedness that was not yet purged (Holy Spirit circumcision of their heart - Romans 2:25-29) from their lives (I Corinthians 5:6-8) and they brought this to the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 11:18-20). 3) After two visits by Paul in his second letter (many years) Paul was concerned no change was made and they may not even be of the faith because they had no works of the Spirit, that is fruit of the Spirit (II Corinthians 12:19-13:7). Another warning from II Corinthians 5:10: "For everyone must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in the body according to what he has done whether good or bad." Jesus Christ is not our lawyer trying to justify or bad behavior and words, Jesus Christ is the judge of His body of whom we are all members (I Corinthians 10:17). Now to I Corinthians 14: Paul wanted all of these carnal babies to prophesy (V 31) because 1) God would be in complete control of their tongue and 2) They would now only edify, exhort, comfort, teach and encourage one another (V 3, 4, 6, 17 & 31). Tongues alone, in the assembly, is really the problem so if I speak in a tongue I or someone else must interpret or I keep silent (V 13, 19). The unbeliever who hears tongues with interpretation will think new are out of our minds (I have seen this) (V 22, 23). But if we all prophesy and speak the same thing in unity (I Corinthians 1:10) that person will be convinced, convicted, secrets of his heart revealed and he will repent (V 24, 25) of his dead works (Hebrews 5:5-6:3) which in God's eyes are wood, hay and stubble (I Corinthians 3:10-20). When was the last time you heard a teaching on our works being judged and encouraged you want works of gold, silver or precious stone (Galatians 2:22-26, Ephesians 2:10) and not dead works of wood, hay and stubble? Oh, make no mistake our works will be judged for living or dead works. We are saved by grace through faith, make sure your faith is not dead (James 2:14-3:18). You have to put verse 22 in context to understand Paul is teaching them if they speak in tongues there must be an interpreter (V 27-28). And let the fully mature, spiritual leaders (fruit of the Spirit and fulfilling their destiny) judge what is said (V29, 32, 33). Paul spoke this with full authority as an apostle and prophet (V 37-39). Lastly, in verse 40 is often misinterpreted. Order means like chronological or due order. In other words in light of the Corinthians Paul was saying do not put carnal babies in as leaders. That is why Paul was sending Timothy because they were children (I Corinthians 4:14-21). Paul did the same in sending Timothy to the Philippians (Phil 2:19-23). I pray this helps you.
Wow! Tongues is a language not unknown gibberish that we see today. From the above comment it seems like if you don't speak in tongues your not a believer. Pagans speak in an unknown tongue does that mean that they are "Christians"?
When I read the book of Acts, I understood that the reason for speaking in tongues was because Jerusalem was a hub for commerce and many tribes and ethnic groups, many languages were spoken there. And when the men of Galilee came out preaching. Other groups heard the gospel in their own native tongues at the same time. Which, in my opinion can't be practiced or mimicked at will. It is of the Holy Spirit. And not something that is taught and learned.
Here is the problem. If there is no interpretation of said language then it's useless. Paul speaks clearly to the Corinthian church. Why is it that this is the one gift some people want to have? It's the easiest gift to fake. How about the other gifts?
Your tongue is the language that you speak. The holy spirit has given gifts to some people to be good in learning and understanding and speaking in other people's tongues/ languages. This facilitates the spread of the gospel. The ultimate objective of God is that before the end all those living on earth have heard the gospel and make informed choices. My simple understanding of the verse in question is that during Paul's time, the majority of unbelievers spoke a different tongue from the gospel preachers. There were 4 or 5 common languages spoken in the region, but to spread the gospel fast it was important that it be translated into the unbeliever's language/ tongue. The Holy Spirit miraculously enabled believers to be able to speak these peoples languages and transmit the gospel. A close look at the event at Pentecost will show that the Apostles spoke known languages which members of the crowd, the target audience, could understand that is why thousands repented that day! Today thanks to the English language we discuss the bible at the same level, things were very different then.
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