Tongues – Sticky Arguments
Dec. 27th, 2006
Priscilla Van Sutphin

Tuesday night I was trying to explain to a young friend some things about tongues because she is fairly new to the Lord. In the doing of that, I saw something I hadn’t seen before.
You know how when you get into speaking tongues in public how even some Charasmatics will argue that it should not be done in public, and NEVER more than three at a time, and many such rules ? Well, we’d been watching a short exerpt on the Azusa Street Revival and it was wonderful to bring out the ways in which a one eyed black man and some women were used, much to the dismay of many in 1906 ! Also tongues were spoken openly in meetings and on street corners and then they talked of the persecution that came against them! Baptists shooting at them! Others throwing vegetables and eggs at them, etc. Women speaking in tongues on streetcorners were arrested as being insane! There was a price paid for what we freely enjoy now!

Well, I was reading in 1 Corinthians 14 to my friend, and some things really caught my eye. Paul gives all these regulations around tongues, and this has been a heated debate I’ve seen since I came to the Lord between some Christians. I deliberately use the KJV but will refer also to the Amplified as many religious types think it’s the only version. Actually some say the Lamsa version is known in some circles to be a better translation than the King James. We are so culturally arrogant thinking English is the best and KJV the best, when other languages don’t interpret to the KJV.

It says:
1 Corinthians 14 KJV  1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2 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. 3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

The question then is, is prophecy ONLY for the church? Are tongues not to be spoken if they are unknown by others inside the church or outside, and how can one know if someone is going to know the tongue since there are so many languages ? Now Paul didn't say that edification, etc were the ONLY purposes of prophesy, but was showing that compared to tongues, prophesy had more to benefit the believers. I bet there were people speaking out of turn and shouting in tongues perhaps while a prophet was trying to give a word, which would be out of order, and confusing.

5  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.  Now if someone is going off in tongues that most don’t understand but ONE person does, wouldn’t it be good for that person ?

6  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?
I think maybe there were people in Paul’s day who also in their pride spoke in tongues as if they had the market on it or something or to gain attention possibly – in their immaturity.

7 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? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 9 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.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 11 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.

True, or maybe one’s attitude could be different, and there would be a place of humility, where if we were all ONLY led by our spirit, and not by our flesh that all would be in order without all the laws. Maybe this is the problem he was addressing more than anything is the selfish ambition in the church at Corinth, a seat of idolatry and witchcraft. And it is true that someone coming into a service may think you're bonkers if you speak in some angelic tongue without someone explaining what is going on.  Without interpretation of that tongue in a regular teaching service, it seems pointless. Why would God have you burst out in tongues unless HE means for interpretation so that it can be for edification and comfort to all ? It would not be the same rules as in a meeting with noone but other christians.  In other cultures like Africa or Korea, people speak in tongues all at once in prayer meetings. Joining voices in assailing the enemy of our soul, and edifying ourselves, as well as praying what is on God's heart coming out of our spirit man.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. [pris-versus showing off] 13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

Amplified version;
     1 Cor 14:12    So it is with yourselves; since you are so eager and ambitious to possess spiritual endowments and manifestations of the [Holy] Spirit, [concentrate on] striving to excel and to abound [in them] in ways that will build up the church.

This amplified version also makes it seem as though selfish ambition got he best of them. That is a common problem in new believers, just coming out of paganism and backgrounds of insecurity and lack of love.  There are some advantages to tongues not mentioned in the bible. There are some who say the devil can’t understand it but I don’t see THAT in the bible either.

But then if some of them are actual languages, how could that be true?  They [devils] surely get around the world too. But I DO know that they are very irritated by our prayers and especially tongues, from an incident I had with a person with MPD who manifested majorly a demon when I prayed in tongues for her headache. I also know that it is greatly advantageous when our flesh would get in the way in our known language in praying for someone we know. Ie. It is sometimes better to pray for family in tongues when alone, so as not to interject our OWN will.

Sometimes tongues just comes on me when in an atmosphere where there is serious spiritual warfare. There are three places on the way to San Diego I typically would go into warfare in tongues when passing through: Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad and just before the city of San Diego. I wasn’t trying to pray in tongues, I was worshipping as I usually do when driving, and suddenly would erupt in prayer in those places. We need to let GOD be GOD inside of us. Let HOLY SPIRIT do the guiding and leading and let us step OUT of the equation. Of course there are those souls who are unhealed and need attention that might also claim they are led when they aren’t and that is always difficult. That is where forebearance & gentle correction comes in. What I learned from asking the Lord why it happened was that there were strong satanic strongholds in those areas.

15   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.
One time I felt led to go in my bedroom and pray, and I started praying in tongues, which suddenly led to singing in tongues,  then God had me read Ps 107 & He had me put certain verses to the song He gave me in tongues which JUST FIT !!! He was also teaching me the connection between prayer, praise , and prophecy. These are things we usually do in private, but not exclusively.

16 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? 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19 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.

Paul emphasizes it’s an unknown tongue, but our knowledge of various languages is so limited and 1 Cor 13 says though I speak with tongues of men or tongues of angels…which indicates that our tongues can be those of men or angels. I’ve had short words in Italian, Spanish, or French, and what I speak in Japanese, which someone once recognized me speaking,  I surely don’t know, but it’s obvious due to the kind of language and expression that comes that it is Japanese. So how could anyone know AHEAD of time who knows what ?

20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  21 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.
22 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.

At Pentacost, ALL the apostles had tongues of fire and spoke in tongues and appeared snockered, as people thought they were drunk. And there in Acts 2 it says the men from various nations heard them speak PRAISES TO GOD in their own languages !
And Paul says he who speaks in tongues speaks to GOD. HE prays in tongues and sings in tongues he says. We don’t know if the men just heard them speaking in their tongue or if they really heard each disciple speak in a different tongues ! You see both can happen. My tongues later in my walk changed and turned to JAPANESE from what an Egyptian man told me was Ancient Hebrew language. This was confirmed by a woman in worship and a Japanese pastor. Others have heard someone speaking English, yet heard that person heard them in Spanish or other languages! So all kinds of different  manifestations of tongues are possible. Heidi Baker’s mentor was given tongues for the various nations she visited when she went to them, so many experiences in tongues are not mentioned in the bible.

As to the Prophecy being only for those who believe. It would seem that might be MAINLY true, but not always. Sometimes I’ve gotten stuff for unbelievers without even asking…and was afraid to say it to them. Later I was able to. Jesus Himself spoke to the woman at the well who didn’t even know Him, and was a Samaritan,  so would not exactly be a believer, yet she became a believer once HE prophesied to her that she’d had 5 husbands and the one she has now was not her husband.  Many unbelievers and believers are possible in all church meetings, though it is likely more will be believers. Yet, prophecy is one way many prophets today are reaching out to the lost to win their souls for Christ.

23  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 he just said tongues are a sign to unbelievers !??? And he also said prophesying is for those that believe as if it is only for those!  So Paul here is saying don't all speak AT ONCE in tongues in a service where unbelievers may be present.  But in a prayer meeting, that would be different.  God Himself, made man, spoke prophecy to the woman at the well who was yet an unbeliever in Jesus? Many today are using prophecy to reach out to the lost. If I get an impression for an unbeliever, and I can pray for healing for an unbeliever, why can I not prophesy also? Does that make sense ?

If Daniel can tell the most UNGODLY ruler in the world what his dream was without that ruler telling him, that seems to be prophesying to an unbeliever !  So what are we to make of these scriptures ? Could it be Paul was as yet not as experienced as he was at the end of his life ? or do we not understand completely all that was going on in Corinth to make him respond in such a manner? I don’t know. But it surely seems inconsistent with Pentacostal experiences and other experiences in the Bible. But if you look at various scriptures in Old Testament and the New, there is more balance than just taking this chapter and making it the "LAW of Tongues." Scripture is important but you need to know ALL the scriptures to See that there are many things in the scriptures that bring balance to that one scripture, not just it alone.

24  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: 25 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. 26 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.
1 Cor 14:24-25 AMP But if all prophesy [giving inspired testimony and interpreting the divine will and purpose] and an unbeliever or untaught outsider comes in, he is told of his sin and reproved and convicted and convinced by all, and his defects and needs are examined (estimated, determined) and he is called to account by all, 25 The secrets of his heart are laid bare; and so, falling on [his] face, he will worship God, declaring that God is among you in very truth.

NOTE: Now he just said prophecy is for believers, yet he gives an example with one UNBELIEVING and unlearned !!! So can you see that you can’t take one scripture without the other ? So if his heart secrets are discovered by a prophet speaking, then he will come to the Lord.
Being new believers, there was likely some selfish ambition in that they all came out of idolatrous backgrounds, and so everyone felt they HAD to share to feel important maybe, and Paul was trying to get some order to the chaos.

27 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.

Here’s another example that defies experience I saw at a conference once at the Vineyard when a British worship leader was leading worship, there was such a LOVE anointing I could hardly stand. I counted 7 people with short tongues messages going off, then 7 prophecies which seemed they may have been the interpretation, and one fit automatically right after the other previously given - through 7 different people. It was amazing order, totally by Holy Spirit. Does it make it invalid because it was more than 3 ?  This kind of nit-picking gets tedious and serves no purpose but to cause much bickering and fighting in the church.

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

Since when I first read this, I ALWAYS pray for an interpretation when I hear someone going off in the congregation in TONGUES. Which is what we all should do.  And most times there has been interpretation. We should ALL pray for this when we hear it…that God would give interpretation. But the thing is HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THERE IS SOMEONE TO INTERPRET ? What if God chooses a new person to do it ? What if He uses a child ?

I believe Paul out of some frustration with the church there, made some guidelines but
Many do not use WISDOM in the implementing of the scripture, weighing one scripture vs another. Remember that LOVE is the greatest gift more than tongues or prophecy.
Also remember at Pentacost, there was no interpretation except by those who understood the words of their own languages and were compelled to say WHAT IS THIS that we hear them speaking praises to GOD in our own languages.

All were overcome by the Spirit of GOD and there are times when this often happens in REVIVAL and AWAKENINGS. When the church gets back to training new believers and there is regular church services, there is always time during worship, or after the teaching for the demonstration of the gifts, but in revivals, there is what seems CHAOS when Holy Spirit is taking the lid off limitations and pouring out new wine, and He gives to each one according to HIS WILL. He takes over in Awakenings and Revivals so that our idea of order is disrupted, PRAISE THE LORD. He is supposed to be GOD after all.

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.  31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33    For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

The original Greek actually says "not for confusion is God" the author was added in by interpreters. and note that this is in reference to PROPHESYING and prophets judging each other as to accuracy etc. so is not relative to the clamor of revivals that always comes when God pours out AS HE WILLS on His people according to each one's need. In that situation, it isn't always necessary for the whole body to hear what is prophesied, as it may be just for those around the person or for his own edification.

See, the above makes it seem like many were just prophesying all at once instead of waiting for another to finish, out of inexperience. So he is trying to bring some semblance of order to what was a chaotic meeting perhaps, as there were many problems in the Corinthian church, and distractions no doubt.

34 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. 34 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

This is always a really nasty argument about women being teachers and a LARGE percentage of even charismatic churches do not allow women to teach anyone but women. It is one of the most misunderstood passages in the N.T. and yet Paul allowed Priscilla to be mentioned FIRST in his letters about the church that met in her home.
He also talked of her and Aquila teaching Apollos a BETTER WAY. It is again, taking something out of context when people use this to say women should not be pastors, much less apostles, and yet Priscilla trained others in the Antioch church along with her husband. Paul also mentions JUNIA which is a female name as an apostle. But this article isn’t about that, and there are several good articles on the site about women. There is archeological evidence of even women bishops in the early church. One was Prudentia.

35    What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
See here it seems that Paul is addressing dominating new Christian women of a gentile city that worshipped the queen of heaven and to whom Witchcraft would have been common. And they were INTERRUPTING the men who are teaching, which is rude.

36    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.  38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.   39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

AFTER all this talk, Paul is saying DO NOT FORBID TO SPEAK IN TONGUES !!! And He uses a strong word - COVET to prophesy ! So we need to pray to prophesy, to be useful to the church and the world, to EQUIP the people of GOD and to expand the KINGDOM. Praise the Lord that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM, as there was at Pentacost when they all heard them speaking in tongues in their own languages.