At the tower of Babel, the confusion of tongues was the judgment of God on man’s pride and his vain objective to reach the heavens by his efforts (Gen. 11;1-9).
When the Lord Jesus had finished the work of redemption and had ascended up to glory God sent down His Holy Spirit to persuade men and have them believe the gospel of their salvation. In order for all men to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, He gave, along with other gifts, the miraculous gift of tongues, a merciful overriding of the confusion of Babel to reach the hearts and consciences of all men. With this gift of the Spirit in exercise, all could hear in their own language the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:6).
When we read of tongues in the first epistle to the Corinthians (the only epistle who mentions these) we find the apostle Paul instructing these believers as to the use and exercise of this gift of which many were abusing and using to put themselves forward in pride of gift. The epistle is corrective in its teaching – this needs to be remembered or else we will take the correctives as positive instruction to imitate the same.
You will notice in chapter 14 the apostle compares tongues and prophesying. He describes what those who were speaking in tongues were doing – not what their gift was intended for- but what they were doing with it and contrasting how prophesying was better. For example: talking to God, verse 2; tongues were given for God to communicate with man, not the reverse; or praying to God without their intelligence (14:14-19) – but the apostles says to pray and sing rather with intelligence. Some were pretending also, as we read in chapter 13, they were speaking the tongues of angels – the apostle says if there is not love that was just making noise (v. 1). They were uttering mysteries (14:2), that is, things no one could understand because of the strange language; tongues were given for the edification of those who could not understand the local language – one cannot justify using it if no one understands – this is contrary to its purpose. This is why the apostle insists on an interpreter in the assembly (14:27-28) that there might be profit from what had been uttered. If there was no interpreter then they were to be silent in the church – simply because it was not to any edification. Some use verse 4 of chapter 14 to say that the one who speaks in tongues edifies himself – notice this is put in contrast also with prophesying which edifies the church (verse 4). The object of the gift is to edify the church; it has been given to profit withal (1 Cor. 12:7); some Corinthians were using it in an unprofitable manner which the apostle seeks to correct without forbidding its use – as it was most likely very useful when used properly. Those using it improperly or disorderly were acting as barbarians v. 11, speaking into the air v. 9 and sometimes passed as being mad v. 23.
It says if any man speak in tongues (27-28), it was something that might not happen at all and not absolutely needed. But if it happened there was an order in which it as to be done so that there would be profit in edification.
NOTE: All Bible references are from the King James Version unless otherwise specified. All unsigned material is in the spirit of Ecc. 12:11. Send all correspondence, comments, suggestions to: email@example.com
Last update 2013/12/06