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The Bible on the Tongues Doctrine: 7. BRIEF REVIEW OF CHAPTER FOURTEEN

By Arthur Vess

      1. Love is to be our main pursuit and governing principle: "Follow after LOVE." Love is the fountain source of all Christian experience, as in Chapter Thirteen.

      2. To desire spiritual things or gifts: "And desire spiritual things." The tongue is a physical, not a spiritual, thing.

      3. Prophecy to be preferred above all other gifts: "But rather that ye may prophesy," or, preach the Word, in an understandable language. Prophecy is the superior gift, and tongues the most inferior, always put last in order. Why is the gift of prophecy not the proof that we have the Holy Ghost? Gifts are never an evidence of grace. Fruits of the Spirit prove our salvation to others.

      4. We cannot express ourselves to, or help others in an "unknown tongue": "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, for no man understandeth him." If no man understands us, why waste our words and their time? Answer, please!

      5. Why speak to God in an unknown tongue? God understands all languages: "speaketh not unto men, but unto God." Why not speak to God alone where others will not be disturbed and confused? (V.2.) "Let him speak to himself, and to God," not to others. (V.28.)

      6. The word "unknown" is not in the original language. The fact that it is always in italics shows that it was added by the translators. "Another tongue," would be more correct and more easily understood, and would save all this confusion.

      7. Speaking mysteries in the spirit (V. 2.) Note that the word "spirit" here begins with a small letter which does not refer to the Spirit of God, but only to the one who speaks. "Howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries." Another language is always mysterious to those who cannot understand it.

      8. No edification, exhortation, or comfort in tongues. "In the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." What edification is there in a message you do not understand? And who would make an exhortation to saints or sinners in a foreign tongue or language? And what comfort is there in a message you do not understand? There is nothing in it for you. Why do the tongues people not do all of their business, preaching, and teaching, in an unknown tongue? It might be better if they did.

      9. Speaking in tongues is selfish (V. 4.) "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself (only); but he that prophesieth edifieth (benefits) the church" (others).

      10. Prophecy is greater than tongues (V. 4). Our greatness is measured in and by our contribution and service to others, rather than by the exhibition of our own abilities and talents before others, especially when they do not understand or profit by it.

      11. Tongues to be permitted, but prophecy preferred before tongues (V. 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."

      12. Tongues useless without an interpreter (V. 5). Why use up the time of the church and employ two persons, the speaker and the interpreter, when the speaker knows the language of the church to begin with? It takes three or four times as long to speak through an interpreter as it does to speak in a language understood by speaker and hearers. There is always more or less hesitancy and confusion in speaking and hearing through an interpreter, and a possibility of misunderstandings. What court would allow a witness to speak through an interpreter when that witness already knew the language of all?

      13. No profit or benefit in speaking in tongues (V. 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?" Neither revelation nor knowledge can be imparted or understood in an unknown or another tongue, or language. What is prophecy worth in an unknown language? Who can indoctrinate others in an unknown language? Even tongues people do all their teaching in their own known language. "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." Catholicism kept its people in ignorance and superstition for centuries by using an unknown language in worship, and by keeping the Bible in an unknown language. Martin Luther put the Bible in language of the masses and liberated them.

      14. Speaking in tongues is without meaning (V. 7), without harmony. It is like beating on a harp or organ without harmonious meaning; like a sounding brass or clanking cymbal. There is no music without distinction and harmony (1 Cor. 14:7).

      15. Speaking in tongues is dangerous (V. 8). "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" Liable to give an uncertain sound and confuse and damn souls -- like the trumpeter giving the wrong signal when going to battle, causing confusion, defeat, and death. What has caused more confusion, division, and defeat among God's people than the tongues teachings? They divide others, and are split up into all kinds of isms themselves. There is something wrong. They major on minors, and minor on majors.

      16. No understanding, but only vain emptiness in speaking in tongues (V. 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." ("Talking to the winds." -- Weymouth).

      17. "Unknown" is without meaning (V. 10). "There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them without signification," or "meaning," except the unknown tongues.

      Even the animals, birds, beasts, insects, and all creatures have voices for the purpose of understanding each other, and making themselves understood. Let us not stoop below the animal and insect world in the Church of the living God, where truth is so important and must be understood.

      18. Speaking in an unknown tongue is barbarian heathenism (V.11). "Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice (language), I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian (or heathen), and he that speaketh shall be a unto me." We must know the language of the heathen in order to get the truth to him. Then why stoop below the heathen in our own churches at home? Tongues intentionally withholds the truth from people.

      19. The purpose and mission of gifts must be for the edification of the Church. The Church must understand before it can be edified. They were more zealous for the exhibition of their gifts, than they were for the instruction and edification of the Church, then and now. "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church" -- not its confusion and division.

      20. We are not to pray in an unknown tongue, language. It is unfruitful. "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful." I understand, but others do not -- unfruitful (not using common sense). "I will pray with the spirit, and . . . with the understanding also," said Paul (V. 15), and I say "Amen!"

      21. Not to sing in an unknown tongue (V. 15). "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." I say "Amen!" What about you? How could we all sing together with more than one language, accent, and syllable -- no vocal, mental, or spiritual harmony?

      22. Cannot say "Amen" or give thanks in an unknown language. This makes fellowship in worship impossible. "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?" If he does not understand, how shall he say Amen at the right time and place? We notice that the languages spoken could be learned. It was not an imaginary, unearthly language. "He that occupieth the room of the unlearned."

      23. Not to testify in an unknown tongue (V. 17). "For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified." How could he be when he does not understand what is spoken? -- "Vain repetition" -- emptiness.

      24. Paul refused to speak in tongues. Paul knew more languages than all the Corinthians, but he refused to speak in a language not understood by those present (V. 19). Why should he? He was highly educated, but did not care to make a show of his learning or gifts (V. 18).

      25. Paul had rather speak only five words in a language understood by all, than 10,000 words in another (unknown) tongue (V. 19). It is 2,000 times more important, intelligent, and edifying to speak in a known rather than in an unknown language. This sums up all his other arguments in an overwhelming majority, 2,000 to one. We must understand and teach others if we would be of any value or help.

      26. It is childish to speak in tongues. "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." Speaking in tongues is like a little child jabbering, when neither it nor others present know what it is saying because it is saying nothing. You may be filled with malice, envy, and jealousy and speak in tongues. God forbid!

      27. Those condemned under the law were to be sold out to and spoken to by strange nations and languages as a punishment for their sins (V. 21). Sin causes confusion of languages, as it did at the Tower of Babel-babble. (V. 21).

      28. Tongues are not for a sign to believers. "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, NOT to them that believe, but to them that believe not." Then how can it be a sign or evidence that believers have the Holy Ghost if it is not a sign to believers? "Prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe." How can we believe anything unless we understand it? What are languages for, anyway, if not to be understood? How can it be a language if it is not understood? A language is a means of expressing thoughts and feelings; a medium of communication. See Webster's dictionary.

      29. It is insane to speak in an unknown tongue (V. 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 (or insane)?" What else could they think and say, and tell the truth? How can we instruct the unlearned or convert the unbelievers to salvation, unless we speak in their own language, as they did on the day of Pentecost, when 3,000 souls were saved? Prophesying convinces the ignorant and unlearned, and leads them to God. Thus they fall down on their faces and worship God, and report that God is with you in truth. Whoever heard of a revival produced by speaking and preaching in a language that none understood? Such is impossible. Why do missionaries have to know and speak in the language of the heathen?

      30. Confusion was the regular order of the Corinthian Church.(V. 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." Can you imagine any edification in such confusion -- each one trying to show off his singing, doctrine, language, revelation, and interpretation? Does this remind you of anything today?

      31. Not more than two or three to speak in tongues in any one service, and that one at a time (V. 27). "IF . . . let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret." What sensible instruction! When several jabber at a time they are disobeying the Bible, grieving God and His true saints, and disgusting sinners.

      32. In no case is anyone to speak without an interpreter (V. 28). Why should they? "But if there be no interpreter (present), let him keep silence in the church." All this jabbering without an interpreter in the Church is wilful, reckless disobedience to God, and a curse to man. There is just one thing worse, and that is lying ,while they pretend to interpret when there is nothing to interpret; when neither the speaker nor the interpreter know what they are saying because they are not saying anything -- lying hypocrisy.

      33. The prophets were to prophesy one at a time that all might hear, learn, and be edified (Vs. 29-32). Imagine two or three persons preaching at the same time; or the choir singing two or three songs at the same time, and in different languages!

      34. Tongues cause confusion: God is not the author of confusion, but of peace in all the churches of the saints (V. 33). These poor Corinthians, only recently converted from heathenism, are not worthy examples for others to follow, then or now. Anything which brings confusion, in or out of the church, is not of God. Only that which produces clear understanding and harmony is of God. God has order in all His created universe, from the suns and planets to the human order. Above all, there should be such in the house of God and in the worship of God, where all other persons and things must be in Divine order or they will cause confusion, irreverence, and divisions.

      35. Women not to speak in tongues in the church, if at all.(V.34). "Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak" (in tongues), if at all. They were converts from heathenism, and not yet prepared to speak in the churches. If they were not permitted to speak at all, they certainly were not to speak in tongues. Most of our modern tongues speaking is by women, in disobedience to the Word of God.

      36. Were the Corinthians the only source of truth and the Word of God? (V. 36). "What? came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?" (They were the only ones emphasizing tongues.) If so, why were they the only church confused and mixed up with tongues? They had ignored all other churches, persons, and sources of truth. In their corrupt heathen religion they spake in tongues and were now trying to bring the same heathen practice over into their Christian Church.

      37. The proof of sincerity, spirituality, and correct understanding (V. 37). "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." God, not themselves, is the source of all truth and final authority. If they ignored God's commandments, and His instructions through Paul, they were not spiritual nor obedient to God's commandments. Such is just as true today.

      38. Only wilful ignorance would make them hold on to their wrong emphasis on the tongue question (V. 38). "But if any man be ignorant, let him be (remain) ignorant." They had been sincerely ignorant concerning spiritual gifts, particularly concerning the meaning and use of the gifts of tongues, as we see in chapter 12. "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant." All through the three chapters-12, 13, 14-Paul used great sympathy and allowance for their ignorance on the tongue question, not forbidding them to speak in tongues, but carefully informing them that such was not necessary or important, but useless and confusing. If anyone will read these three chapters, along with the other New Testament references to the tongues question, there is only one of two courses or attitudes possible, namely: To put no emphasis on the gift or use of tongues, except where and when those present understand them. All other teachings and usages were to be a sign of self-importance, expressing itself in wilful ignorance and rebellion against God and His Word.

      39. The final reference (V. 39). "Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues." While he did not forbid them to speak in tongues under the certain prescribed rules, he did not encourage it in any way in any case. He did not say, "Wherefore, brethren, covet to speak in tongues, but forbid not to prophesy, as some seem to do." Instead of openly forbidding them to speak in tongues, he used every argument and exhortation to turn them from their error, giving them time to think the matter over for themselves. It takes time to train those just converted, especially from heathenism.

      If our precious Tongues people would have heeded these admonitions in time, their confusion and divisions would have been prohibited. If they will yet heed them, they may be healed and united with all God's true saints.

      40. Paul's final admonition (V. 40). "Let all things be done decently and in order." Let everything have its due place, order, and purpose, to the profit and advancement of all. No more patient, loving, and considerate instruction could have been given, than is here given by Saint Paul, with one purpose -- to turn them away from tongues to more practical and helpful things.

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