Speaking in Tongues – Part VI – The Rules

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.

It appears from this section of Scripture that the Corinthian church services were scenes of chaos.  From the statement concerning every one of you having something to contribute, to the limitations on the number of speakers, and Paul’s exhortation to let everything be done decently and in order, scenes of chaos are apparent.  In such an atmosphere, edification of the church body was practically impossible.*

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

The rules for speaking in tongues are laid down by the apostle Paul.  Only two should speak, at the most three, and those should speak by course or one at a time.  It should be known ahead of time whether or not there is an interpreter.  If there is no interpreter, then those two or three who would speak in tongues should remain silent in the church.

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.  If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.  For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

The office of the prophet appears to have faded from the early church with the completion of the canon of Scripture.  The office of the prophet was given to forth tell the truth of God and to declare  God’s plans for the future.  Once the canon of Scripture came to completion, the office of prophet faded away and the gift of teaching the completed revelation came to the forefront.**

The rules for the prophet as set out by the apostle Paul were similar to the rules for speaking in tongues.  At the most two or three were to speak and one at a time.  The others were to judge.  If one of the others received a revelation, the first was to remain quiet.  In this orderly manner all would be edified.

And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.  For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. 

  The participants should be in complete control of their faculties at all times.  There should be no involuntary speaking or acting out.  Letting go or giving up control of one’s faculties is a dangerous practice and can lead to behavior not condoned by Scripture nor authored by the Holy Spirit.*

Living by faith is not a leap in the dark.  Faith is a firm persuasion or conviction based upon hearing the Word of God.***  Giving control of oneself over to emotional experiences or opening oneself up to what could possibly be demonic influence is not living by faith or walking in the Spirit.*  God is not the author of confusion.

As in all churches of the saints, let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

The phrase as in all churches of the saints is printed in the KJV as part of the previous verse.  It actually fits better as the opening to the following verse.**  The chapter and verse breaks were added to the translations later to facilitate the reading and studying of the Scriptures and are not to be considered unchangeable.

The context of I Corinthians 14 is dealing with speaking in tongues and their proper place in the church.  The command for women to keep silence in the churches is in this context.  The apostle Paul’s instruction is that women are not to speak in tongues.

God puts the responsibility for spiritual leadership squarely upon the shoulders of Christian men.  It is a shame for women to speak in tongues because it is a reflection upon the absence of male spiritual leadership within the church.

When it comes to spiritual leadership, men are lazy.  If women take up the responsibility that God has placed on the men, they are enabling their men to shirk their responsibility to God.  King Saul took upon himself a responsibility that God had assigned to the priesthood and God judged him for it.

Asking the husband at home, as Paul states it, enables the husband to exercise his God given responsibilities.  It is not a poor reflection on women for them to ask their husbands about spiritual things.  It is honoring to God and enables the husband to grow into the spiritual leader God intended him to be.

What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?  If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  

The apostle Paul, who founded and nourished the Corinthian church from its beginning, now challenges the Corinthians sarcastically.**  Did the Word of God originate with you?  Are you the only recipient of His revelation?  Following this rebuke he follows up with a strong assertion of his apostolic authority by challenging those who think themselves to be spiritual to acknowledge that his instructions are the commandments of the Lord.

The leaders of tongues speaking churches today must also acknowledge Paul’s apostolic authority and the text of his letter to the Corinthians as instructions from God.  To believe that the sign gifts are for today is one thing, but to refuse to order worship that involves these “gifts” according to the rules set forth in Paul’s letter is to identify themselves with the Corinthian church and against the commandments of the Lord.

But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

Don’t argue, just state the facts.  If that man or woman refuses to acknowledge the truth, let them alone.

Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

To desire the greatest gift is to desire the gift of prophecy.

God’s judgment would not fall upon Israel until 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.  The apostle Paul is writing in 55 AD, so the sign gifts still had purpose and meaning to Israel and the unbelieving Jew.  This is why Paul stated in 55 AD, the time of this writing, and forbid not to speak with tongues.  In 70 AD the nation was judged and dispersed, and the sign gifts ceased.

Perhaps after reading this series on speaking in tongues, you are still convinced in your own mind that a gift of speaking in tongues is still for today.  Please be reminded that as Christians we are obligated to obey Scripture.  God never leads anyone to practice anything contrary to His Word.

If your church and church leaders still practice a gift of speaking in tongues, the rules that the apostle Paul laid out in I Corinthians 14 must be followed.  If the rules from Scripture are ignored or pushed aside, you have no assurance that what you are practicing is from the Lord.

                              Let all things be done decently and in order. 

I Corinthians 14:26-40

……let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…..

For a more complete study of this topic, please read: *The Corinthian Catastrophe by George E. Gardner; copyright 1974 by Kregel Publications.

**The MacArthur Study Bible, Copyright 1997 by Word Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson.  Study notes on I Corinthians 12, 13, &14

***Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of  Old and New Testament Words by Unger & White.  Copyright 1984, 1996  Thomas Nelson, Inc

Speaking in Tongues – Part V – Priorities and Purpose

I Corinthians 14:1-25

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.  For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

The apostle Paul is putting spiritual gifts into proper perspective.  Once again, he reminds the Corinthians that the spiritual gifts without charity (love) profit nothing.  Love should motivate the gift, therefore follow after charity.  Paul prioritizes the gift of prophesy which is the declaration of the truth of God’s Word and the forth telling of the will of God according to the Scriptures.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.  He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

Paul is comparing the end result of the gift of tongues versus end result of the gift of prophesying.  Speaking in an unknown* tongue edifies only the speaker but prophesying edifies the whole church body.  Love focuses not on edifying self, but on edifying others.

I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

Please be reminded that this is being written by the apostle Paul about 55 AD.  The judgment coming in 70 AD had not yet fallen, so the sign gifts still had purpose and meaning to the nation of Israel and the unbelieving Jew.  Paul is not forbidding the gift of tongues, but he prefers rather that ye prophesied by stating greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues.  Why?…..that the church (the body of believers) may be edified!

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known* what is piped or harped?  For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound,* who shall prepare himself to the battle?

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known* what is spoken?  for ye shall speak into the air.

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.  Therefore if I know not the meaning* of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown* tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in an unknown* tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding* is unfruitful.

What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding* also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding* also.  Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?  For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

*Paul’s instruction through these verses is obvious, speaking with understanding (prophesying) edifies the body.  Speaking in a tongue edifies only the speaker.  The Corinthians were only interested in edifying themselves.  The Corinthians were exercising their gifts without exercising love.

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown* tongue.  Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

The apostle Paul is not a stranger to speaking in tongues.  He states simply that he has exercised this gift more than all the Corinthian church.  Once again he supplies the proper perspective by stating he would rather speak five words with my understanding,……..than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

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.”  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.

God spoke to Israel through the prophets.  When Israel chose not to listen to His prophets God spoke a message of judgment to them through their enemies (with men of other tongues).  The sign gifts which include speaking in tongues as defined in Acts 2, are for the unbelieving Jew.

To sum it all up Paul simply states that the sign gift of speaking in tongues is for the unbelieving, while the gift of prophecy is for believers.

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?

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: 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.

Once again, in the two paragraphs above the apostle Paul compares the gifts.  Are you able to distinguish the difference?  Which is the greater gift?  Which gift should be desired, the gift of speaking in tongues or the gift of prophesying?  Which gift edifies the body of Christ, the church?  What is it that is not understandable concerning Paul’s comparisons?  Do we have a higher regard for Scripture or for experience?  Will we allow experience to trump the clear teaching of Scripture?

Note:  The scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.  You will notice that in the KJV, the word unknown is italicized.  That means it was inserted by the translators but it is not in the original text.  If this is not explained or known by the preacher or the reader of Scripture, those individuals may make a case for a heavenly language that the  charismatic church of our day practices.  Whether one believes this way or not, Paul’s teaching on the gift of tongues versus the gift of prophesy still stands.

There are some that believe the apostle Paul is addressing an unknown heavenly language in the text above as well as known languages.  They make a distinction between tongue singular (an unknown heavenly language) and tongues plural (the known languages).   Whether you interpret this way or not, Paul’s teaching on the gift of tongues versus the gift of prophesy still stands.  In this case it will be with an exclamation point because Paul teaches that a gift which includes understanding is edifying for all.

It should also be noted that there was a practice of speaking in a tongue or heavenly gibberish in the pagan temples of worship during  New Testament times.  Given the influence that a culture can have upon religion, it should not be ruled out that this practice could have been transferred to the Corinthian church along with all the other cultural practices that shackled them spiritually.

  The purpose for Jesus’ teaching, preaching and healing was so that unbelieving Israel would know He came from God, that He was and is their promised Messiah.  His healing ministry restored those with congenital defects.  Often those that were healed by His disciples had no clue about what was to happen.  Jesus’ healing ministry with His disciples was so thorough it is probable there was no disease, defect, infirmity or demon possession left in the land of Israel.**

For a more complete study of this topic please read The Corinthian Catastrophe by George E. Gardner; copyright 1974 by Kregel Publications.

*Understanding is the key for edifying the body of Christ which is the church.

**This final statement is opinion only and cannot be proven from the text of Scripture.

To be continued in Part VI, as the apostle Paul lay down the rules for speaking in tongues in I Corinthians 14:26-40.

…….let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…..


Concerning Israel

My Christian mother taught me from an early age to love and respect the Jews.  My Saviour, Messiah Jesus, is a Jew. 

While living in the Midwestern United States limits my exposure to the Jewish community, I am in constant gratefulness to the faithful remnant for the blessing that I receive daily as I study the Old and New Testament Scriptures.  The New Testament is filled with passages from the Old Testament which testify of the Messiah and God’s purpose for His children.

God saw fit to establish Israel as a peculiar people and a nation through which He would reveal Himself.  Israel became an apostate* nation by departing from His Word and living in disobedience to God, not unlike what today’s professing Christian church has done. 

The Northern Kingdom of Israel departed from God first and then later the Southern Kingdom departed.  The Jews remained religious, but their leaders turned from true worship to worshiping God their own way.  They turned from depending on God to depending on their enemies.  God responded by replacing His presence in the temple with four hundred years of silence until the time of Messiah’s birth.

God through His prophets constantly warned Israel to repent.  God was merciful each time they came back to Him, but when they rejected the Messiah Himself, God had to judge Israel.  I do not rejoice in that judgment.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

In my blog articles about speaking in tongues, I have talked much about God’s judgment upon Israel.   This is because of the Apostle Paul’s quote from Isaiah 28 in I Corinthians 14, which is a warning of coming judgment.  Understanding the context of Isaiah 28 is the only way to properly understand the gift of speaking in tongues as a sign to unbelieving Israel.  

In the Old Testament setting, when Israel heard the foreign tongue of their enemy, this was an indication that God’s judgment was near.  God’s judgment came because Israel turned to their enemies for help rather than to the God of their fathers.

The temptation for many when seeing judgment upon the nation of Israel is to focus on the Jewish people in a bad way.  Some have used God’s judgment of Israel as justification for their hatred of the Jew.  I am writing this to remind you, my fellow Gentiles, that we are the branch of the wild olive tree which has been grafted into God’s plan (See Romans 11:19-25).   The graft does not support the root, but the root the graft.

If we reject the rule of God in our hearts by rejecting God’s provision for our sin through Jesus Christ (our only hope of salvation), then we are individually rejecting His kingdom in this present church age as surely as the nation of Israel rejected the Messiah.  God’s judgment will come to the individual Gentile as surely as it came to Israel as a nation.  

Like the majority of Israel, who retained outward ceremony with an unregenerate heart, professing “Christians” will face God’s judgment along with all other unbelievers.   

The majority of the professing Christian church today is apostate.* It is apostate because of its rejection of the Bible as the churches’ sole authority for faith and practice.  The church is apostate because of its rejection of what the Bible says about itself, salvation, and Messiah Jesus.

Messiah Jesus speaking:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!  Luke 13:34

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  John 3:14-18  

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name………, if thou canst tell?  Proverbs 30:4

Note:  The church is not Israel. 

God is not finished with Israel (See Romans chapters 9-11).

 *To commit apostasy is to desert, to revolt, to stand away from.

Which Baptism Have You?

John answered them, saying, I baptize with water:  John 1:26a

I (John) indeed have baptized you with water: but he (The Messiah) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.  Mark 1:8

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he (Jesus Christ) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:  Luke 3:16

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  I Corinthians 12:13

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  Romans 8:9

The very moment an individual trusts Jesus Christ as his/her only hope of salvation, this individual is baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Have you received the Messiah?