RECAP: (1) A “tongue” is simply a “language”; (2) The “tongues” that some first-century Christians spoke were actual, intelligible, human languages, the knowledge of which was given to them miraculously by the Holy Spirit. Hence, “the gift of languages.”
But there is more. In 1 Corinthians 14, over half of the chapter is dedicated to admonitions concerning “tongue-speaking.” Here are some things Paul says about “tongue-speaking” there:
– Simply proclaiming the truth in plain language was better than “tongue-speaking” (vv. 1-5, 23-25).
– It was not only useless in the assembly, but actually counterproductive (vv. 2-12, 23-25).
– It had no place in the worship assembly of Christians—it was NOT for believers (i.e., as a mere exhibition of power), but strictly for unbelievers (i.e., to remove language barriers, and as a sign) (v. 22).
– It—in the assembly of believers—was childish and immature (v. 20).
– If none could understand what was being said, the speaker was to remain silent (vv. 13-19, 28).
His point was simple:
- STOP childishly and distractedly fawning over the miraculous gifts given for spreading the gospel;
- START spreading the gospel!
I wish that all of you could speak in other languages, but especially that you could speak what God has revealed. The person who speaks what God has revealed is more important than the person who speaks in other languages. This is true unless he can interpret what he says to help the church grow… [For], in order to teach others…, I would rather say five words that can be understood than ten thousand words in another language.
1 C O R I N T H I A N S 1 4 : 5 , 1 9
(God’s Word Version)