Tongues Outline

By Phillip G. Kayser · Acts 2:4-13 · 2005-6-19

Is the "tongues" in Acts 2 a gift of hearing or a gift of speaking? (v. 4,6,7,8,11). This was clearly the gift of speaking since the text says, "they … began to speak with other tongues…" See also verses 6,7,8,11.

Is the "tongues" in Acts 2 a true language? (v. 4,6,11). Yes.

It is called a language "tongues" (v. 4), "language" (v. 6), "dialect" (v. 8) are all words for languages.

The languages are listed (vv. 9-11)

To those who claim it was "inarticulate speech," verse 4 responds: "the Spirit gave them utterance." The word "utterance" means ""to enunciate clearly… to declare, to speak forth." (Strongs). In other words, it is articulate.

Is the tongues in Acts 2 different from the tongues in 1 Corinthians 12-14? No. There are many evidences that they are the same:

Evidence that the tongues of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is a true language.

The Greek word for "tongues" (glossa - see 1 Cor. 12:10,28,30; 13:1,8; 14:2,4,5,6,9,13,14,18,19,22,23) is the same word used in Acts 2.

The Greek word for "tongues" (glossa - see 1 Cor. 12:10,28,30; 13:1,8; 14:2,4,5,6,9,13,14,18,19,22,23) is the normal word for languages (See LXX translation of Gen. 10:5,20,31; 11:7; Dan. 3:7,29; 4:1; 5:19; 6:25; 7:14; see also Rev. 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 12:7; 14:6; 17:15). It is used to refer to miraculously spoken human languages of the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:7) as well as the miraculously spoken human languages in Acts 2:4. It is used interchangeably with the Greek word dialektos (from which we get our English word "dialect") in Acts 2:6,8.

The Greek word hermeneia ("interpretation" in 12:10; 14:26) is the word used for translating languages (see John 1:42; 9:7; Heb. 7:2). If someone is able to translate, what is translated must be a language.

The word "kinds" in the phrase "different kinds of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:10; 14:10) is from the Greek word genos, from which we get the English genus: "family, group, race, nation." Babble cannot have a genus since it is not linguistically distinct from other babble. "Kinds" must refer to true language.

Likewise, "varieties of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28) implies true language since it is difficult to distinguish varieties of "inarticulate speech" since it's very inarticulateness makes it hard to distinguish from other inarticulateness.

When people speak in tongues they speak "words" (1 Cor. 14:9,19), not gibberish.

Paul says that of all true "languages … none of them is without significance" (1 Cor. 14:10). The word "without significance" (aphonos) means "incapable of conveying meaning as a language normally does" (BDAG lexicon). Thus, tongues are not "pre-linguistic communication" or "pre-rational communication," but propositional communication.

When talking about tongues, he uses another Greek word for language (phonae), and says, "There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world" (1 Cor. 14:10). For Paul, "kinds of tongues" (12:10) is a synonym for "kinds of languages" (14:10).

The Greek word for "foreigner" in 1 Cor. 14:11 implies that tongues are a language. Barbaros means barbarian, and refers to "the native people of an area in which a language other than Greek or Latin was spoken" (Louw & Nida). The BDAG lexicon defines such a person as "'non-Hellenic' with focus on strangeness of language: pertaining to using a language that is unintelligible to outsiders, foreign-speaking, of foreign tongue… [or] pertaining to not Greek speaking…" How could a tongues speaker be thought to be a "barbarian" if he wasn't speaking the language of barbarians?

Tongues communicates since it is used for prayer (1 Cor. 14:14-15), for giving of thanks (1 Cor. 14:16), for singing (1 Cor. 14:15) and for "speaking in our own tongues of the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). All of those require the communication of propositional statements, and these propositional statements are being made by the speakers themselves (not just the Spirit silently praying to the Father from within the speakers) (14:2,,3,4,5,6,9,11,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,26).

1n 1 Corinthians 14:21, Paul bases his theology of tongues on Isaiah 28:11-12, a passage which refers to a known "tongue" called Assyrian. He identifies the tongues of Corinth with the true language of Isaiah.

The word "other" in "other tongues" (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 14:21; Is. 28:11) implies language since it implies a different species of the same subject (language).

The word "new" in Mark 16:17 implies language (otherwise, what is it new in comparison to?). The new tongue is in context of the old tongue or language that the person already knows.

The word "unknown" in the King James Version (1 Cor. 14:2,4,14,19,27) is not in the Greek. It was added by the translators to make it clear that the language being spoken was a language that had not been previously learned. But this should not be interpreted to mean that nobody on earth knows the language. Nor should it be interpreted to mean that the person speaking in tongues does not know what he is saying. There is nothing in the text to indicate that the speaker does not know the language at the time he is speaking. (See next week's sermon)

Some claim that Paul's reference to the tongues of angels (13:1) explains why linguists cannot make out any linguistic features in modern "tongues" – supposedly because angels don't communicate as we do.

However, Paul is not saying that there is an utterly different category of tongue for angels than there is for men. The phrase says, "tongues of men and of angels," implying that the category of definition for "tongues" for men applies equally well to angelic languages. This means that if it is admitted that human tongues are languages, then angelic tongues must be languages.

It is clear that angels communicate to God (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; 1 Kings 22:22), communicate with each other (Job 38:7; Is. 6:1-3; Jude 9), communicate with man and vice versa (Dan. 9:22-27; 10:10-15; Matt. 28:57; Luke 1:11-17 [notice the subsequent dumbness of Zacharia in vv 18-20]; Acts 1:10-11; 10:1-7 with 11:13-14; Gal. 1:8; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 2:2; Rev. 2:24; etc.). Such communication by definition is not "pre-linguistic" or "pre-rational" as many charismatics claim.

To argue that angelic tongues is pre-linguistic communication necessitates the odd idea that angels can't understand each other without the gift of interpretation.

The deep structure rules of language is that core aspect of God's image that is given to communicating beings. Angels have been granted this ability to have and understand language.

The one other passage that apparently refers to the language of angels (2 Corinthians 12:4) implies that the reason for the need for additional language for angels is because they are dealing with issues that can't be translated into human language. Therefore, if the Corinthians were speaking in the tongues of angels, why did Paul insist that everything be translated? Paul claims that such words are "inexpressible."

The same verse (2 Cor. 12:4) says that it is unlawful for man to utter the angelic words that Paul heard.

Paul is using a form of logic that argues from the greater (what very few if any people have been able to do) to the lesser (the tongues of men these Corinthians were speaking). Paul's logic is that even if someone were somehow to be given the ability to speak in angelic language, it would still mean nothing if he did not have love.

Just as there were varieties of tongues (languages) in Acts 2, there were "varieties of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28) in Corinth.

Just as the tongues in Acts 2 included an evangelistic purpose, the tongues mentioned in Corinth was primarily intended to be used outside the church.

Implied by Paul's contrast between what he speaks outside the church and what he is willing to speak inside the church (1 Cor. 14:18-19). See the "yet."

Implied by the fact that tongues is primarily intended for unbelievers (14:22)

Implied by the contrast between 14:5 and 14:27. Paul desires everyone to speak in tongues (apparently outside the church – 14:5), but only wants a few to speak inside the church (14:27).

Tongues is not just a "prayer language." Just as Acts shows that tongues (a supernaturally given ability to speak in a foreign language) could be used for both prophesy (Acts 2:4,18) and teaching (Acts 2:11), so too Paul says that tongues has multiple purposes of communicating information "by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching" (1 Cor. 14:6), praying (14:15), singing (14:15), blessing (14:16), giving thanks (14:17) and speaking to people outside the church (14:18 contrasted with verse 19).

In contrast, charismatics often cite 14:2 as proof that tongues is purely a prayer language and is only addressed to God.

However, Paul emphasizes throughout this chapter that tongues must edify others, and the profit of tongues flows from multiple uses: "If I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge…"etc.

It is clear that tongues is indeed spoken to men, and not just to God (14:6,21,22,28).

14:2 (in context) means that untranslated tongues is only addressed to God, and therefore it should not be done in the church.\

While people generally agree that the speakers in Acts 2 knew what they were saying, many people insist that the tongues speaker in Corinth does not know what he is saying.[1] However, there are several evidences that the speaker did indeed understand exactly what he was saying when he spoke in another language.

1 Corinthians 14:2-4 says, "He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church." Two things to notice in this verse. First, the tongues speaker speaks mysteries. That is a transliteration of the Greek word musterion, which does not mean something unintelligible, but refers to a secret made known. Leonard Coppes examines every instance of the use of this word and says, "In each instance ‘mystery' is truth made known. Unger's Dictionary says, "The ‘mysteries' are New Testament revelations of truth now contained in the written Scriptures." Charles Hodge says, "Mysteries means divine truths; things which God has revealed… To make the word mean ‘things not understood by the hearer' is contrary to the useage of the word." And my Greek Dictionaries bear this out. The NIV dictionary say, "a secret, that, with Christ's coming, is now revealed." NIDNTT says, "mysteœrion is that which is revealed" NET says, "musteœrion) can mean either (1) a new revelation or (2) a revealing interpretation of existing revelation" Louw and Nida say, "musth/rion, ou n: the content of that which has not been known before but which has been revealed to an in-group or restricted constituency"So the reason tongues without interpretation is a mystery is because the speaker understands it and it is not understood by others. If no one understands the uninterpreted tongue, it is not a mystery. According to both the secular and the Biblical useage of this term, a mystery is always known by the speaker. With that definition, look at the verse again: "For he who speaks in a tongue, does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries." His own spirit understands, but no one else does.

The second thing to notice is that this interpretation flows naturally into the next two verses which explain why a prophet edifies everyone whereas an uninterpreted tongue speaker only edifies himself. It's because everyone understands the prophet whereas only the tongues speaker understands himself: "But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church." That's why verse 5 equates interpreted tongues as equivalent in edification to prophecy – everyone understands it. And so Matthew Henry rightly comments: "What cannot be understood can never edify." Jamiesson, Fausset and Brown agree, saying that the speaker edifies himself, "as he understands the meaning of what the particular tongue expresses." Charles Hodge says, "They were edifying, and therefore intelligible to him who uttered them."

Paul insists on intelligibility throughout the passage.

First, notice the ascription of conscious speaking to both the prophesier as well as the tongues speaker throughout the entire chapter ("you may prophesy," "he who prophesies" etc and "he who speaks in a tongue," "I wish you all spoke with tongues," etc.)

Think of the analogy of how canonical prophecy came into being: Though Scripture is 100% the Word of God and never originated in the will of man (2 Peter 1:20-21), yet those "holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (v. 21). God did not bypass their minds and dictate the message. Thus prophecy used the unique vocabulary, styles and experiences of the men, and when they prophecied, they always consciously prophesied. Thus, Mark 7:10 can say, "For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother," yet Exodus 20 says about the giving of those ten commandments, "God spoke all these words" (Ex. 20:1). Both are true, just as Christ was consciously fully divine and fully human, the Scripture has both divine and human characteristics. Note well that the Scripture does not contain the word of God (that view is a heresy). Rather, every letter is the Word of God. Yet it did not bypass the minds of the prophets and therefore they could write in the first person singular ("I', "me," "my").
Notice the same language is used for the revelations spoken by the prophets in 1 Corinthians 14. Every verse in the chapter shows consciousness. Thus, though they are speaking only what is revealed by the Holy Spirit (14:30), they are the ones who speak (v. 29), who know when it is appropriate to keep silent (v. 30), who consciously take turns (v. 31) and who are in rational control of their minds when they do so (v. 32-33). Never think of a prophet as out of his mind (like pagan prophets were).
But notice the same language is used of tongues speakers. They are ascribed with the speaking throughout the passage, and are able to keep silent (v. 28), who consciously take turns (v. 27) and who are in rational control of their minds throughout the tongues speaking (vv. 27-28). This all argues that tongues speakers know what they are saying.

Paul gives permission for a tongues speaker to translate his message himself (v. 5).

Notice the rational descriptors of the tongues speaking in verse 6. (Note, that the "unless" shows that the speaker is still speaking in tongues when he engages in the giving of revelation, giving of knowledge, prophesying and teaching.)

If he is speaking a "revelation" in tongues, then this indicates understanding: "revelation, what is revealed, disclosure, to make information known with an implication that the information can be understood." (NIV Greek) to reveal, to disclose, to make fully known, revelation.' (Louw & Nida) "making fully known, revelation, disclosure" (BDAG)
If he is speaking "knowledge" by a tongue, his mind must be engaged.
If he is speaking prophecy, then the previous point shows how this must be rational.
If he is "teaching" then it is communicating information from his mind to the minds of the hearers.

Paul likens tongues to playing and listening to musical instruments (vv. 7-8)

The lack of understanding in verse 9 is with the hearers who don't know the foreign language.

Just as a foreigner understands what he speaks to you, but you do not, so to a tongues speaker understands what he speaks, but if untranslated, you do not: Paul defines tongues as the languages of the world (v. 10), and insists that "none of them is without meaning." This makes a one-to-one parallel (see the "therefore" of veres 11) between how hearers hear tongues speaking in the church and how you might hear a foreigner speak in his language. The foreigner knows what he is saying, but you don't (v. 11)

Verses 12-13 again emphasize the importance of the tongues speaker trying to edify the church. Just as in verse 5, the tongues speaker is given permission to do his own translation, though it is recognized that such would need divine help to do properly.

Verses 13-14 do not contradict this interpretation.

If one was given the ability to speak in another language fluently, he could understand that language perfectly, yet it would still be a difficult thing to translate from that language back into his mother language. Thus the need to pray for an ability to translate (v. 13). Anyone who knows two or more languages well knows the great difficulty in getting concepts that are easily expressed in one language into the second language.

Verse 14 is the lynchpin of the charismatic belief that tongues is not understood by the speaker. It says, "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is not fruitful." It is claimed that the spirit and understanding are contrasted.

However, this would contradict Paul's usage of the term spirit completely. In 1 Corinthians 2:11 Paul said, "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" The spirit is by definition the knowing faculty. And you find this throughout the Scripture. Mark 2:8 says, "Immediately, Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts." The spirit is not the unconscious part of a man, but the rational part of the man.
It is clearly Paul's spirit that does the praying here, again implying rationality. (This is not to deny that the Holy Spirit prays through him too – that is, when there is revelatory tongues (v. 15), but Paul insists that His mind is always also engaged (v. 15).)
In verse 14 Paul says, "my spirit prays." This is a reference to his own human spirit.
In verse 15 Paul says, "I will pray with the spirit," and since the article is used here, it is likely a reference to the Holy Spirit. But Paul then insists that simply because the Spirit helps him to pray and to sing does not mean that he has no understanding. As with every other point in the chapter, it is both/and. The Spirit miraculously gives the tongues, but Paul is still praying with the understanding. And more pointedly, he wants the understanding of everyone. If his understanding bears fruit (v. 14) by being translated, then the understanding will be common to all.
Also, this would misunderstand the meaning of "unfruitful."Many commentators have pointed out that this has an "active meaning" such as is shown in Williams translation: "my mind produces no results for anyone." (see Goodspeed, Moffatt, etc.) Spicq's dictionary defines the word"unfruitful" as "the condition of that which does not produce anything." What is unfruitful in verse 14? "my understanding." He possesses understanding, but it is not producing anything. NIV Greek defines it as, "unproductive, something generally useless." In other words, the understanding he does have ("my understanding") is unproductive in the lives of others and is thus useless. We should not interpret this to mean, "my understanding has no understanding," but rather, "my understanding is not multiplying by bearing fruit in the lives of others. It is unproductive."

Verse 15 is not therefore contrasting Paul's spirit with Paul's mind. On the contrary, the spirit is so constantly linked with the mind in Scripture that one can speak equally well of the "mind of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:27) or "the spirit of your mind" (Eph. 4:23). An irrational spirit is repugnant to the Scriptural vision since God has given us "a spirit… of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7). The spirit clearly knows (Mark 2:8; 1 Cor. 2:11). Instead, we should see this as a reference to the Holy Spirit. Thus the difference between "my spirit" in verse 14 and "the Spirit" in verse 15. Paul is saying that the Spirit gives the ability to speak in a foreign language, but the Spirit always accompanies His rational work with rationality.

This is consistent with Paul's question: "What is the conclusion then?" He is concluding a long series of arguments that the speaker understood what he was saying and thus edified himself, but it is important that he speak words that lead to corporate understanding ("the understanding.") This praying with understanding honors the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.
This is parallel with verse 2 (see the interpretation given above).

This is the interpretation of many older commentaries such as Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Charles Hodge, John Wesley, etc. Wesley said, "By the power of the Spirit I understand the words myself… [however] the knowledge I have is no benefit to others." Matthew Poole says, "Nor is it here said, my understanding is dark or blind, but unfruitful, that is, though myself understand, yet my knowledge bringeth forth no fruit to the advantage or good of others."

Other indicators of rational understanding by the speaker in tongues of what he is saying

The Spirit enables you to bless, but you do the blessing in tongues.

If lack of understanding keeps the congregation from saying "Amen" to the giving of thanks, how can the tongues speaker say Amen to it if he does not understand what he has said?

For the Spirit to bless and give thanks is one thing, but for the human to bless and give thanks (v. 16-17) implies the thanks and blessing comes from him, which in turn implies rationality.

"For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified." (v. 17) This implies that no one else knew it was given well. But that in turn implies that the speaker does know that he gave thanks well.

Verse 20 calls us not to be children in understanding. Tongues as modernly practiced is even worse – no understanding.

Everyone admits that the tongues of verse 21 was understood by the speakers, yet Paul builds his theology of tongues upon that passage in Isaiah 28 (see 1 Cor. 14:22).

The accusation of being out of your mind (v. 23) is the same kind of accusation made in Acts 2:13, since drunkenness is a state of losing control of one's mind. Yet it is clear that Acts 2 was speaking of a true language. Someone talking for a long time in our congregation in Arabic might be thought to be crazy – especially if there were no Arabs present.

Verse 28 indicates that a tongue speaker who is not translating is just talking to himself and God. To talk to yourself implies that you understand what is being said.

Just as tongues was a sign in Acts 2 that God would judge Israel through the Gentiles if the Jews did not repent (70 AD) and would give the kingdom to the Gentiles (see especially Acts 2:20-21ff; 3:14-26), Paul indicates that the tongues of Corinth was fundamentally a sign of His judgment on unbelieving Israel (1 Cor. 14:21-22) as well as His reaching out in favor to the Gentiles (see previous point).

Just as tongues in Corinth could make people (who didn't know the language) think that the Corinthians were crazy (1 Cor. 14:23), so too Jews who didn't know foreign languages thought that the apostles were drunk (Acts 2:13).

In Acts, it was not the foreigners who needed an interpreter (Acts 2:6-8,11), but the locals (Acts 2:13). The same was true in Corinth. The foreign language of 1 Corinthians 14:11 could be understood by a foreigner, but when benefiting that foreigner by praying in his language or speaking briefly in his language, it is essential that one "interprets, that the church may receive edification" (1 Cor. 14:5).

The major difference between Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12-14 is that Acts describes tongues in an evangelistic setting outside the church whereas Paul is describing a church setting with only an accidental unbeliever who happens to come in. It is "in the church" (1 Cor. 12:28), and when "the whole church comes together in one place" (14:23) that these rules are so important because Paul wants to make sure that"the church may receive edification" (1 Cor. 14:5).

THE RULES FOR TONGUES IN THE CHURCH. Just because God has given you the ability to speak in Swahili or some other language, does not give you permission to speak that language in the church (whether you have a miraculous or non-miraculous ability to so speak). Such tongues ability would be welcomed if we had a foreigner who did not understand English in our midst. But even then, translation would be needed to make sure that the church itself understood what was being said. While speaking in a foreign language would be a tremendous asset while engaging in personal evangelism, it could be easily abused (by way of showing off) within a church that did not speak that language. So the following nine rules were laid down by Paul.

In the church worship service we are to do only that which is profitable to the whole congregation (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:6,9,12,16,17,19,26). While it would be tempting to edify myself by being able to communicate beautifully in another language (see 1 Cor. 14:4), Paul consistently argues that self-edification is not enough reason to speak in a foreign language.

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule

Never speak in another language in the congregation unless there is a person in that congregation who understands that language. This is a logical deduction from the following evidence. Verse 2 (in context of what we have already seen in following verses) rules out any speech that only God can understand. Paul says that it is never right to "be speaking into the air" (1 Cor. 14:9). Even with a translator, you would be speaking into the air while speaking the foreign language if no one in the congregation knew the foreign language. But if there was a foreigner and an interpreter, someone would at all times be understanding what is said. Paul says that every word we utter must be understood by someone (1 Cor. 14:16-17 with 26b). If "no one understands him" except for God (1 Cor. 14:2), it is pointless to even pray in the foreign language and Paul commands us, "let him keep silent in the church, and let him speak to himself and to God" (1 Cor. 14:28). Speaking to oneself is not mumbling quietly, but is speaking in one's head silently ("keep silent") where only God can hear. God's goal is for people to always be able to "say ‘Amen' to your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say." Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:6 says that speaking in tongues does not profit unless the tongues communicates "either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching". This indicates that tongues must always communicate something to someone.

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule

No more than two or three people are allowed to speak in any given service (1 Cor. 14:27,29). This rule for speaking in foreign languages also applied to prophecy (1 Cor. 14:29) and to other areas of worship (1 Cor. 14:26 – see below). This kept the worship service formal and prevented it from turning into a circus. Some have objected that 1 Corinthians 14:26 contradicts this rule since it allows all to speak in tongues and all to prophecy. But Paul is rebuking them in that verse[2] for violating the rule that few should lead. Paul is quite clear that "if anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret" (1 Cor. 14:27). This means that churches that take verse 26 to mean that all can bring a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation and an interpretation are unbiblical. Verse 27 contradicts that interpretation. Having the ability does not give the right to speak in church.

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule

Only one person may speak at a time - "each in turn" (1 Cor. 14:27,31). It doesn't matter how important you think what you have to say might be, wait till others are finished speaking. And even if someone else interrupts what you are saying, stop speaking for the sake of church etiquette (1 Cor. 14:30). This rules out not only the common practice of everyone "speaking in tongues" at the same time in many charismatic churches, but it also rules out the Korean practice of everyone praying at the same time in their own language. Only one person may speak at a time.

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule

No one is ever to speak in tongues (a foreign language) unless there is an interpreter (1 Cor. 14:12-17,27,28), since what cannot be understood is of no value to anyone (1 Cor. 14:6-12,15-17,19,20,28) and may lead to a bad testimony to unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:11,23).

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule

Women must not speak in church (1 Cor. 14:34-35). Paul is not ambiguous in the least. He says, "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for women to speak in church."[3] This rules out tongues, interpretation of tongues or anything else that is done "solo." To speak "solo" involves one in leading.

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule

"Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). People who claim that they can't help their excesses since the Spirit is moving them to the strange behavior, need to realize that Paul holds individuals responsible to control their gifts (1 Cor. 14:32) and holds leadesr responsible for maintaining order.

Meaning of the rule:

"Decently" means, "in a becoming manner, decently, with propriety" (Louw & Nida). "Having a good schema could mean appearance, outward bearing, correct moral conduct, or high social class. The emphasis is sometimes on decent behavior, sometimes on order and beauty, sometimes on respectability and nobility. " (Spicq)

"In order" means, "an arranging, order: —good discipline(1), order(7), orderly manner(1). (NAS) Another dictionary has, "an arrangement of things in sequence, fixed succession…a state of good order, order, proper procedure."

Who defines decently and in order? God. (See Deut. 12:31-32.)

Application of the rule\

Everyone who has the gift of tongues should be willing to be used (and should be used) in some capacity or another, whether inside or outside the church worship (1 Cor. 12:21).

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule

If all the above rules are kept, "do not forbid to speak with tongues" (1 Cor. 14:39). We would welcome a person who could translate for us to so translate our sermons, prayers and other portions of the sermon when foreigners are present. That would be a tremendous blessing.

Meaning of the rule

Application of the rule


  1. They base this on a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:14: "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful."While this could be taken to mean that the speaker does not have understanding, such an interpretation violates the whole context of Paul's argument that nothing is edifying that cannot be understood. Paul says, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church" (1 Cor. 14:4). The reason prophecy edified the church is because the church understood it. The reason tongues edified the speaker is because he understands what he is saying. And even the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 14:16 demands such an interpretation.Paul insists, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding… Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say ‘Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified."

  2. "How is it then, brethren" sets up a confrontation. Then comes the description of what they are doing (not what they should be doing): "Whenever you come together each of you has…has…has…" Then comes the solution to their bad practice: "let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret… "etc. Rather than everyone trying to get in on the act in selfish ways, each should be thinking about what others need.

  3. Sadly, many evangelical writers prefer to believe their subjective "revelations" on this subject rather than to submit to inspired revelation. Shockingly, Gordon Fee says that these two verses cannot be Scripture. He knows what they say, he just disagrees with them. He says this: "These two verses together have a singular concern, that women ‘remain silent' in the congregational meetings, which is further defined as ‘not being permitted to speak' (v. 34) because it is ‘shameful' for them to do so (v. 35). The structure of the argument bears this out. It begins with ‘a sentence of holy law,' the absolute nature of which is very difficult to get around…"

    "Despite protests to the contrary, the ‘rule' itself is expressed absolutely. That is, it is given without any form of qualification. Given the unqualified nature of the further prohibition that ‘the women' are not permitted to speak, it is very difficult to interpret this as meaning anything else than all forms of speaking out in public. Someone apparently was concerned to note by way of a gloss that all the previous directions given by the apostle, including the inclusive ‘each one' of v. 26 and the ‘all' of v. 31, were not to be understood as including women."

    "…it is surprising that he should add it here, yet allow them to pray and prophecy in 11:5 and 13…"

    "The author of this piece seems intent on keeping women from joining in the vocal worship of the churches. The rule he wishes to apply he sees as universal and supported by the Law. It is difficult to fit this into any kind of Pauline context…"

    "Thus, in keeping with the textual questions, the exegesis of the text itself leads to the conclusion that it is not authentic. If so, then it is certainly not binding for Christians." Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), pp. 7-5-708.


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