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Speaking in Tongues—Part 2

Speaking in Tongues Part 2In , we began our study with an encouragement to meditate on 1 Corinthians 14:21-25 (AV):

21In 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.
22Wherefore 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.
23If 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?
24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on hisface he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

In meditating on these verses, I first defined the term “prophesying” as it applies to these verses so we would all be on the same page. Then, I asked you to consider the following two questions:

1. Is prophesying (preaching) for believers…or unbelievers?
2. Are tongues for believers…or unbelievers?

In today’s study, we’ll tackle these question, but let’s start with the first question, “Is prophesying (preaching) for believers…or unbelievers?”

The answer to this question lies in verses 22 and 24:

22Wherefore 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.

According to verse 22, prophesying (preaching) is for “them which believe.”

In verse 24 we read, “24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:”

According to verse 24, prophesying (preaching) is for them “that believeth not” because it convinces them of the truth.

So which is it then, is prophesying for believers or unbelievers?

Likewise, let’s look at the second question, “Are tongues for believers…or unbelievers?” This time the answer is in verse 22 and 23.

22Wherefore 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.

According to verse 22, tongues are a sign “to them that believe not.”

23If 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?

According to verse 23, tongues are not a sign for unbelievers.

So where does this leave us, so far from this passage of scripture we learn:

  • Prophesying (preaching) is for them that believe.
  • Prophesying (preaching) is for them that believeth not.

And…

  • Tongues are for them that believe not.
  • Tongues are not for them that believe not.

Apparent contradictions like these are the very reason why we must very carefully study Scripture. God does not make mistakes and His Word is perfect. There are no mistakes or contradictions in His Word. If that’s true, then apparent contradictions must be the result of our lack of understanding. So let’s dive more deeply into God’s Word to see if we can make sense of these apparent contradictions.

First, verse 21 begins, “In the law it is written…” As Paul writes to the Corinthian church, he is quoting the Old Testament. “The law” here refers to Old Testament Scripture. Where can we find Paul’s quotation in the Old Testament? We can find the portion of Scripture Paul is quoting in Isaiah 28:11. For context, let’s read Isaiah 28:9-11:

“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, andthere a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.”

Next we have to ask ourselves, who is the audience addressed in Isaiah 28? We find the answer in Isaiah 28:1:

“Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!”

The audience in Isaiah 28:1 is national Israel (all Jews) as represented by Ephraim. When we understand the audience as addressed in context, 1 Corinthians 15:22 takes on a whole other meaning.

22Wherefore 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.

“Wherefore” means because of what is written in Isaiah to the Jews, we understand verse 22 to say,

Tongues are for a sign to Jewish unbelievers and prophesying (preaching) is for Jewish believers.

In 1 Corinthians 15:23, Paul addresses a different audience. He is no longer quoting Scripture addressed to the Jews, he is addressing the New Testament church at Corinth. The New Testament church at Corinth is comprised of Gentiles, so Paul is now addressing the Gentiles. Understanding that Paul is addressing the Gentiles brings verses 24 and 25 into a brand new light. In the New Testament church, Paul says that tongues are not for Gentile unbelievers and prophesying (preaching) is for Gentile unbelievers. Laid out side by side as we did earlier, we see there is no contradiction at all.

  • Prophesying (preaching) is for the Jews that believe.
  • Prophesying (preaching) is for the Gentiles that believe not.

And…

  • Tongues are for the Jews that believe not.
  • Tongues are not for the Gentiles that believe not.

Why is this important? Because once we understand that the Bible teaches tongues are a sign for Jewish unbelievers, we’ll more easily understand what God’s Word teaches about the proper use of tongues which we’ll cover in .

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