Rules That Guide Speaking At Church (1 Corinthians 14:26-33)
- 14:26-28 Paul ask a question, “How is it then, brethren?” and then goes on to describe what their chaotic gatherings must have been like: each one has a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation. Then he clearly states, “Let all things be done unto edifying.” Edification is the goal of the gathering of every church. So Paul is basically saying, whatever your church meeting is like, if it isn’t edifying then it is wrong and it needs to stop. If anyone speaks in an untranslated tongue there are a few rules to follow: (1) Only allow two or three at the most to speak; (2) they should speak “by course” or successively, in order and one at a time; (3) finally they can only speak with interpretation. But if there is no interpreter, the person who has the gift of speaking in tongues must keep silent in the church. He can’t speak publicly. Instead he can speak to himself (meditate) and speak to God (prayer) silently—obviously with language you can understand not gibberish otherwise the problem is the same, it is unfruitful.
- 14:29-31 Another gift that was part of the church at that this time was prophets (Acts 13:1; Ephesians 2:20; 4:11). They also had rules to follow: (1) Only allow two or three to speak; (2) the other prophets were to judge what was said; (3) if one of the prophets who is sitting there and not speaking receives revelations from God, then the one who is speaking should hold his peace or stop speaking and allow the other to speak; (4) they must prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and be comforted.
- 14:32-33a To clarify any other confusion, Paul states that, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”—meaning that each prophet can control himself. No one can say they can’t control what they are doing because of the Holy Spirits work in their life, etc. And finally, Paul explains the basis for all of these rules, the character of God—he states, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”. Confusion, upheaval, disorder are not characteristics of God. Instead, peace and harmony are descriptive of what God is like. Therefore, in all churches of the saints, we should reflect God’s character.
- Conclusion: Edification is important (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 15:2-3). It is the goal of meeting together as a church. When the church meets together, everything they do should not only edify but also be done in such a manner that it reflects God’s very character—that which leads to peace and not confusion. Speaking gibberish seems to be at odds with God’s character and not in line with it.
Authority, Decency And Order (1 Corinthians 14:34-40)
- 14:33b-35 As in all churches of the saints—meaning the following principles will apply to all churches—women should remain silent in the churches, because they are not permitted or allowed to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience—to be in submission—this isn’t a new principle but also mentioned in the law (1 Corinthians 11:3-15; 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Since the reason for them not to speak is because they need to be in submission, it seems this prohibition for speaking in church is focused on speaking in an authoritative manner, such as judging what the prophets were saying, speaking in tongues, or any kind of lead teaching or any type of speaking that brings down male leadership in the church. Thus, in this context, it would be a shame or disgraceful for women to speak in the church, So Paul tells them to learn by asking their husbands at home.
- 14:36-38 Paul is teaching the church with authority because he knows that some might not like to read what he is writing to them. Again he sarcastically ask them, “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?”—meaning were they the original source and authority for the Word of God, of course not. So Paul goes on to say that if any person thinks they are “a prophet, or spiritual” they should acknowledge that the things that Paul wrote unto them are “the commandments of the Lord”—they have the full authority of Scripture like the Old Testament. If anyone be ignorant—refuse to acknowledge this truth, we are to let him be ignorant—ignored, not acknowledge, not recognized (they are not to be a part of this discussion because they reject Scripture).
- 14:39-40 Finally, Paul ends the discussion by summing up his key points: (1) they were to covet or be zealous to prophesy; (2) they were not to overreact and forbid people to speak with “foreign languages” but it was to be allowed to accomplish its purpose as a sign to unbelievers and in church according to the rules—especially translation; (3) they were to let all things be done decently and in order.
- Conclusion: Paul’s teaching is authoritative and supersedes all human experience. Those who aren’t following what Paul has said are not obeying the commandments of the Lord. They weren’t to forbid tongues because it had a necessary purpose but also it wasn’t the gift that Paul told them to pursue—prophesy was.
Answering Hard Questions
- What if I spoke in tongues and it made me feel better and more joyful etc? This is your emotions and emotions don’t tell us what truth is. For example, you can listen to a good song but it has nothing to do with Jesus and it can make you feel good. We can’t just do things because it makes us fell better, energizes us, etc.
- You can say that tongues don’t exist today, but so many people around the world speak in tongues, how can you explain this? It is true that there are people all around the world claim they speak in tongues. But there are two type of tongues: false and true. “False tongues” are the gibberish nonsense that most people claim to speak. The problem is that these false tongues can’t be verified because they are not human languages. A person might claim the gift of “interpreting” but their interpretation can’t be verified either. This is convenient for those who want to speak in false tongues because there is no standard to be compared to. Thus, this also voids one of the purposes of speaking in tongues—to confirm the word that is preach with signs and miracles. How does speaking gibberish and someone claiming they can translate it confirm the word being preached? Miracles are supposed to be obvious supernatural workings of God that are undeniable (like healing a blind man, not healing someone with a cold). On the other hand, real “tongues” are authentic human languages and therefore they can be verified by the vast number of people who speak that language. How many people today claim to speak real “tongues”? Not many, because this claim can actually be verified. Thus, we most who claim to speak tongues today are just speaking gibberish.
- Doesn’t the Bible says to “forbid not to speak with tongues”? Yes, but it is referring to speaking in real “tongues” and not a false “tongue”. The Bible never encourages speaking in gibberish. We don’t forbid people to speak in real tongues, but we think it has already ceased people don’t have this gift. If someone want’s to speak at church in a foreign language they can if they follow the rules—especially that it needs to be translated.
- If I spoke in tongues before but now I am told it is wrong, what was I doing before when I was “speaking in tongues” and what should I do now? Hopefully, you are convinced by the Bible that there is a false way to speak in tongues. If you were speaking in tongues before and it wasn’t a real language then you were just speaking “happy gibberish” or just sounds from your current language that are often repeated over and over again (which Jesus gives us a warning against when praying in Matthew 6:7). You should recognize this and choose to not spend time in emotional babble, but instead focusing your efforts in prayer and Bible study with your mind fully concentrated on it.
- Why are tongues and prophesy compared? Both are gifts from the Holy Spirit, one means to speak in a foreign language supernaturally and the other means to speak God’s revelations supernaturally but not in a foreign language, thus in your native language—which is also the most likely the language of the people you are talking. So it is comparing “native languages” and “foreign languages” or “language understood by the hearers” and “language not understood by the hearers”. Thus, prophecy is proven to be superior in gift for communication, pray, praise and spreading the gospel.
- Are the tongues in Acts and 1 Corinthians that same gift of tongues? Yes, it is the same gift of the Holy Spirit and not two different gifts. A detailed comparison proves this.