Not the Author of Confusion

1Corinthians 14:27-33 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. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sits by, let the first hold his peace. For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 

‘Unknown tongue’ – there is no word in the Greek for unknown here. No language spoken in any place in the universe is actually unknown to the people who speak it. The only sense in which tongues or languages are spoken by the ability of the gift of tongues is unknown is that the speaker himself does not know the language or languages which he speaks (14:2).

‘Let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.’ In congregational meetings, the command is that no more than three messages in tongues should be allowed in any one service, and that, provided they are truly interpreted. The order should be by course with the first message being interpreted before a second, if any, is given. One who thus speaks shall not interpret himself, his words must be interpreted by another gifted to do so (14:13). Even if more than one person speaks the rule is no more than a total of three messages in a single gathering. After that, they must remain silent regardless of how much they seem to be inspired. If there is no interpretation to the first message, they likewise must remain silent (14:27-28, 32). These laws concerning the gifts of tongues are to be obeyed as the commandments of God (14:32-33, 37-38).

‘Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.’ Prophets are also to speak two or three messages in turn letting others judge whether or not they have spoken the truth. Both kinds of messages (tongues and prophecy) are to be judged as to their truth. The basis of judgment is the written revelation of God (Deut. 18:10-12, 20; Isa. 8:19-20; Rev. 22:18-19). If any message in tongues or prophecy does not harmonize with the Bible or does not come to pass, then it is to be judged false and the person said to be speaking by his own spirit (13:1-3; Deut. 13:1-9; 18:20-23; Jer. 23:25-29, 32; Ezek. 13:2-3).

‘If any thing be revealed to another that sits by, let the first hold his peace.’ Everything revealed to a person is not a divine revelation. This is why everything must be judged.

‘All prophesy’ – men and women were permitted to prophesy (11:1-16; Acts 2:16-21). ‘The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.’ Among people who have inspirational experiences of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues, it is very easy for one to claim that the Holy Spirit is moving upon him and that he should not quench the Spirit (1Thess. 5:19). This attitude of being determined to obey the Spirit leads to abuse of such gifts over and over, causing much confusion in gatherings. Let no man claim to be moved by the Holy Spirit who acts disorderly and causes confusion, for God is not the author of such (14:32-33).

Done Unto Edifying

1Corinthians 14:26  How is it then, brethren? when you come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 

‘When you come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.’ Congregational activities: singing of psalms (Eph. 5:1-33; Col. 3:1-25); teaching doctrines (Acts 2:14, 42; 8:4-5, 35; 10:33-44; 1Cor. 1:18-24; 2Tim. 4:2-4); tongues and interpretations (1Cor. 14:27); prophecies (1Cor. 14:3, 24-25, 29-30); exhortations by laymen (Heb. 10:25); the Lord’s Supper (1Cor 10:16-17; 11:17-34; Jude 1:12); scripture reading (Luke 4:16; Col. 4:16; 1Thess. 5:27; 1Tim. 4:13); prayers (Acts 2:42; 4:24-31; etc.); exercise of other gifts – healing, faith, and miracles (Acts 3:6; 5:12-16; 8:5-8; 15:12; 19:11); exercise of discernment and judgment (Acts 5:1-11; 13:6-11; 1Cor. 5:1-13); baptism (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 16:33); laying on of hands for enduement of the Holy Spirit and gifts (Acts 8:14-19; 9:17-18; 19:1-7; 1Tim. 4:14; 2Tim. 1:6; Heb. 6:1-20); collection of tithes and offerings (Acts 11:29; 1Cor. 16:2); disputings (Acts 19:8-10; Gal. 2:1-21); congregational trials (Matt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5-6; Acts 5:1-42; 11:1-30; Gal. 2:1-14).

God is In You of a Truth

1Corinthians 14:22-25 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 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 you are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believes 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. 

‘Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.’ This is Paul’s explanation of the main purpose of tongues. They are designed as a sign to unbelievers that through their miraculous exercise sinners might see the manifestation of the supernatural (Isa. 28:11-12). Examples of this are found in Acts 2:1-11; 10:44-48; 19:1-7 and 1Corinthians 14:1-40.

‘Will they not say that you are mad?’ This will naturally be the result of such misuse of tongues.

‘And so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.’ The chief end of all gifts and worship services is to bring people to repentance and surrender to God. This is the chief purpose of the death of Christ (John 3:16).’

In Understanding Be Men

1Corinthians 14:20-21 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be you children, but in understanding be men. 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, said the Lord. 

‘Be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be you children, but in understanding be men.’ Three stages of human growth are mentioned: [1] The Greek word nepios, meaning an infant who cannot yet speak and who knows nothing of sin (the verb nepiazo is translated “be you children” in 1Corinthians 14:20). [2] The Greek word paidion, a child beginning schooling to receive their first instructions. [3] The Greek word teleios, a man of mature age and thought; a man of growth and understanding. In other words, don’t be as little children in understanding. In malice be infants who cannot speak and who knows nothing of sin, but in understanding be people of maturity and growth.

‘Law’ – the law was a term used by Jews to express the whole Scriptures of the law, the prophets, and the psalms (Luke 24:44; John 10:34; 15:25), which we call the Old Testament today. ‘…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.’ This is the 5th and last Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in 1 Corinthians (Isa. 28:11-12). This prophecy reveals that God intended over 700 years before Christ to speak to people with stammering lips and other languages.

By My Voice

1Corinthians 14:18-19 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you 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. 

‘I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all’ – Paul admits his ability to talk in tongues, yet says there is a time and place for tongues.

Six times not to speak in tongues: When not impelled by love (13:1-3). When there is no interpreter present (14:5, 27-28). When it is time to give truth to the public (14:6-13, 19, 14:23-25).  When invited to say grace at the table (14:16-17).  When others speak in tongues and people are present who would stumble over such action (14:23-25).  After two or three messages in tongues have been given and interpreted (14:27).

‘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.’ This does not belittle tongues or make them unimportant in their place, but it shows that the public will not get as much truth in 10,000 words in a language they cannot understand as they would get from 5 words they could understand. Most people try to impress others of their higher spiritual status when speaking or in a tongue, which is only used for self-edification, and means that God can heal and restore the speaker. Praying in tongues is also a new addition to the fallacies surrounding the use of the gifts, for no one in Scripture ever did so or was commanded to do so.

‘Teach others also’ – This emphasizes the purposes of all gifts and public Christian services. At least 20 out of 40 verses in this chapter emphasize the importance of public good, not the personal display of one’s gifts (14:1, 3-9, 11-13, 15-17, 19, 23-25, 26-28, 31, 40). The speaking of tongues is not a sign of your status as a Christian, rather a necessity for the broken who needs edification of their spirits.

An Unknown Tongue

1Corinthians 14:9-19 So likewise you, except you utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for you 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 speaks a barbarian, and he that speaks shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so you, forasmuch as you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, 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 shall bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupies the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understands not what thou say? For thou verily give thanks well, but the other is not edified. 

‘Easy to be understood’ [Greek: eusemos] intelligible.

‘Kinds of voices’ – kinds of languages. All of them are intelligible to those who speak them.

‘Let him that speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret’ – a command to those who speak in tongues.

‘For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.’ This is Paul’s reason for praying for the interpretation. The understanding is unfruitful unless the tongues are interpreted. Edification of a broken spirit take place when an individual speaks in an unknown language – God can then speak words of healing and restoration without our interference.

‘I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also’ – I will pray in tongues or by the Spirit (as in 1Corinthians 14:14) and I will pray with the interpretation of my prayer also (14:14-16).

‘Else when thou shall bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupies the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understands not what thou say?’ When you say the blessing in tongues or in the Spirit, how can it be understood? You give thanks in tongues well, but your host is not edified. He does not know whether you curse or bless the food. You must learn to use your gifts rightly and in the proper place.

Prophecy and Tongues

1Corinthians 14:1-8 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy. For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; howbeit in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he that prophesies speaks unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. I would that you all spake with tongues, but rather that you prophesied: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. 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? 

There are sixteen contrasts between tongues and prophecy: Tongues are spoken to God; prophecy is spoken to edify people (14:2-3). Mysteries or things not understood are spoken in tongues; all things spoken in prophecy are clear (14:3-4). Tongues edify the speaker; prophecy edifies the speaker and others (14:3-4). Tongues enable one to commune with God; prophecy speaks to people to edification, exhortation, and comfort (14:2-4). The one who prophecies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues unless the tongues are interpreted and understood (14:5). Tongues are no profit to the public unless interpreted; all prophecy is profitable to the public (14:5-13, 27-28). The speaker in tongues must pray for the interpretation; the one who prophecies need not, for his message is in his own tongue (14:3-13). Tongues make one a barbarian to others; prophecy does not (14:3, 11). In all gifts, the main purpose is to excel in edifying fellow Christians (14:12). In this, prophecy is greater than tongues (14:1-6, 27-28). The human spirit of the speaker is the thing edified by tongues; prophecy benefits all people (14:1-5, 14-15, 24-25). Tongues are a great personal blessing, but 5 words of prophecy are more important in public gatherings than 10,000 words in tongues (14:17-19). Tongues are a sign to unbelievers; prophecy to believers (14:21-22). All speaking in tongues at once causes mockery by the unsaved whereas with prophesying the unsaved are convicted of sin (14:23-25). Every gift must be used to edify Christians (14:26). Prophecies do this better (14:1-5, 23-25). Only one message is allowed at a Christian gathering if not interpreted; three messages in prophecy are allowed (14:3, 27-31). Three messages in tongues are allowed at a Christian gathering if they are interpreted. This many messages in prophecy are always allowed (14:27-32).

‘He that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; howbeit in the spirit he speaks mysteries.’ It is clear in Scripture that men have spoken in tongues by the Holy Spirit. It was predicted by Isaiah (Isa. 28:11-12; 1Cor. 14:21); Joel (Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:16); and Jesus (Mark 16:17; John 15:26; 16:13-15). It was fulfilled in Acts 2:4; 10:44-48; 19:1-7; 1Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-31; 13:1-3; 14:1-40.

Perfect is Come

1Corinthians 13:9-13 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 

‘Perfect’ [Greek: teleios] that which has reached an end. Prophecies that have been fulfilled have reached an end. Tongues and knowledge will be superseded by a more complete knowledge and means of communication.

‘I put away childish things’ – Three things that a man puts away: Speaking like a child; understanding like a child and thinking like a child.

The Greek for “put away” is katargeo and means the things that cease are to be superseded by a more complete life along the same lines, in the same way, that adulthood is so far advanced beyond childhood as to be on another plane entirely. There will be no need of prophecies when we shall know as we are known (13:12). There will be no need for the gift of tongues when we shall know all languages of the universe. There will be no need of stumbling around in ignorance with our partial knowledge when we shall have super-knowledge and complete and perfect insight into eternal things.

‘Glass’ [Greek: esoptron] mirror (13:12; Jas. 1:23).

‘Darkly’ [Greek: ainigma] a dark saying, riddle, enigma. Life is like a riddle. The future state, although somewhat clear from the many revelations about it, is still like a dream. It is hard to realize how wonderful it will be, due to our present lack of experience.

‘Then shall I know even as also I am known.’ We shall know each other in heaven and on earth forever (15:35-58).

‘Abideth faith, hope, charity’ – Three things that eternally abide: faith, hope, and divine love.

They Shall Fail

1Corinthians 13:8 Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 

‘Charity never faileth …’ This is the 11th New Testament prophecy in 1 Corinthians (13:8-13).

‘But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.’ Three things that will fail or be superseded: prophecies, tongues, and knowledge.

‘Fail’ [Greek: katargeo] to make useless or void; abolish; leave unemployed (Rom. 3:3; 4:14; Gal. 3:17; 5:4). It is translated “fail,” “vanish away,” “done away” and “put away” (13:8, 10, 11). Here it literally means that when the completeness of communication and knowledge comes, tongues will be no barrier and partial knowledge will be superseded by the perfect or complete (13:9-10). People in eternity will be able to speak all the languages – or just one language – of all others in the universe, thus doing away with present-day language barriers. The partial knowledge will be superseded by perfect knowledge. It is only that which is in part that will be done away or come to an end (13:9-10).

In 1Corinthians 13:11-12 Paul further makes clear his meaning, when he compares the next life to something as far advanced over this one as adulthood over childhood; and when he declares that we now see darkly into the future, knowing only a few things, whereas then, face to face with God, we shall know other persons and things as now known by God. Don’t use this Scripture as an excuse of not knowing the Bible (2Tim. 3:16).

Charity

1Corinthians 13:1-7 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing. Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.’ Paul here shows the possibility of exercising gifts in a backslidden condition (13:1-3), as Solomon did (Eccl. 2:9).

‘Tongues of men and of angels’ – This suggests that those who speak with tongues could be using earthly and angelic languages.

‘Charity’ [Greek: agape] spontaneous and divine love, the unconditional love that God has for us. It is more eternal than gifts. Nine ingredients of divine love: Patience- love passive: no hurry; suffers long; bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things (13:4, 7). Kindness- love in action: never acts rashly or insolently; not inconsistent, puffed up, or proud (13:4). Generosity- love in competition: not envious or jealous (13:4). Humility- love in hiding: no parade; no airs; works then retires (13:4). Courtesy- love in society: does not behave unseemly; always polite; at home with all classes; never rude or discourteous (13:5). Unselfishness- love in essence: never selfish, sour, or bitter; seeks only good of others; does not retaliate or seek revenge (13:5). Good temper- love in disposition: never irritated; never resentful (13:5). Righteousness- love in conduct: hates sin; never glad when others go wrong; always gladdened by goodness to others; always slow to expose; always eager to believe the best; always hopeful, always enduring (13:6-7). Sincerity- love in profession: never boastful and conceited; not a hypocrite; always honest; leaves no impression but what is strictly true; never self-assertive; does not blaze out in passionate anger, nor brood over wrongs; always just, joyful, and truthful; knows how to be silent; full of trust; always present.