The unknown tongues of 1 Cor 14:2 are languages.
People who have experienced speaking in tongues, either by speaking in tongues themselves or by hearing others speak in tongues, generally rely upon their experience more than on the Bible for an explanation of tongues. We are not going to deny that the experiences are real, but we are going to show you that tongues in the Bible were not what people are experiencing today.
Tongues occur three times in Acts. You will find them in Acts 2:4-11, 10:46, and 19:6. In every case, the people were speaking a language or languages that others could understand because in none of these references is there an interpreter of the tongues. The Jews [1 Cor 1:22] who were listening could understand them in their own languages.
So, when you get to 1 Cor 14, it is interesting, to say the least, that people suddenly want to make the unknown tongue of 1 Cor 14:2 some sort of strange unknown language reserved only to those very spiritual people who are gifted to speak something that no one on earth can understand. If a person truly had the gift of tongues in 1 Cor 14:2, then his audience would be able to understand what he was saying as in Acts. But in verse 2, Paul tells you that no man understandeth him. So, he is not gifted the way that men in Acts were gifted. As a matter of fact, what he was saying was a mystery because they couldn’t understand him [1 Cor 14:2].
Frankly, if I were to ask you “Parlez-Vous Français,” you could not answer me if you did not speak French because I would be speaking to you in an UNKNOWN tongue. You would not be able to understand me without an interpreter [1 Cor 14:27], without me translating what I had asked you [1 Cor 14:5, 13], or without LEARNING the language yourself [1 Cor 14:16, 23, and 24]. And if I kept speaking French to you and you couldn’t understand me, you and I would be barbarians to each other, according to Paul [1 Cor 14:11]. What a rebuke!!
Furthermore, if God were to give me the gift of speaking Italian without learning the language, I would be able to speak to Italians though I could not understand what I was saying [1 Cor 14:14, 19]. What would be the use of me speaking Italian to a congregation of people who cannot understand Italian? The only benefit would be that I could show them that I have a gift [1 Cor 14:5-6]. I wouldn’t even be able to interpret what I had said to edify them [1 Cor 14:13]. I would just be a show off. There was a problem with that inCorinth.
Now if God had given me the Italian tongue and there were Italians in the congregation that day, then I could edify them in Italian. And so that the rest of the congregation would be edified, one person would have to interpret [1 Cor 14:27] for the benefit of everyone else. Or to look at it another way, if a Frenchman happened to be in the congregation that day who wanted to preach, as long as there was someone there who could interpret for him [1 Cor 14:27] then he could preach. And if there was not someone there who could interpret for him, then he would just have to sit there quietly [1 Cor 14:28].
Corinthwas a sea port, so there were people from all over theMediterranean Seathat sailed there. In the church, there may have been people speaking 20 different languages at any one service. Imagine the chaos when they all wanted to say something at the same time while the show offs with their gifts were trying to speak their tongues [languages] which were unknown to the rest of the audience. Paul said it would have been a mad-house, literally [1 Cor 14:23]. Reminds you of a modern day Charismatic church service.
Paul never gives you any indication that the tongues of 1 Cor 14 are some sort of private unknown prayer language. They are languages that are the native “tongues” of the speakers which they can understand but which others cannot understand without an interpreter. Or else, they are languages that were given as a gift for the spread of the gospel [1 Cor 14:22] that were to be spoken to those who could understand them without an interpreter and not to a congregation who could not understand them. No one in the congregation is going to start suddenly listening to God just because some man starts speaking in tongues [1 Cor 14:21].
To bring decency and order toCorinth[1 Cor 14:40], Paul laid down rules for speaking in tongues in 1 Cor 14:27-34. They are as follows: one, “at the most by three” [no more than three men in one service can speak in an unknown tongue]; two, “by course” [each man speaks one at a time]; three, “let one interpret” [since the tongue is unknown to everyone but the speaker (notice that he can speak to himself in v. 28), there needs to be an interpreter]; four, “if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church;” and five, “let your women keep silence in the churches” [women are not to speak in an unknown tongue or interpret in the church].
Truly, these rules are violated by modern day tongue talkers all the time. Think about it, the Holy Spirit is not going to violate scripture [Jn 16:13]. So, those who teach that gibberish is a gift of the Holy Ghost and that disobedience of the scripture is allowed in their cases are wrong. Why not just speak English to an English speaking congregation or Spanish to a Spanish speaking congregation rather than speak something that requires an interpreter? That’s what Paul said in 1 Cor 14:19.
We’re going with Paul, not with scripture violating show offs who are not concerned about edifying the body of Christ [1 Cor 14:12]. If you want to stick to the modern day tongue movement, that is your prerogative. Like Paul said, “If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Amen!!
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder