Useful Bible Studies > 1 Corinthians Commentary > chapter 14

The proper use of tongues at church meetings

1 Corinthians 14:27-28

Paul approved of the use of tongues during church meetings. That fact may surprise us when we read 1 Corinthians 14:1-25. However, in that passage, Paul was not telling people to avoid use of the gift of tongues. He was simply warning them about the problems that the wrong use of this gift could cause.

So, Paul would not speak in tongues when he ought to teach about the Bible (14:19). If nobody interpreted it, it would not be right to give a message in tongues in church (14:6-13). It would be wrong for a group of Christians to speak in tongues in front of people who were not Christians (14:21-23).

Tongues are unknown languages that a person speaks by the power of the Holy Spirit. For Paul, the main use of this gift was during private prayer (14:15; 14:18). However, Paul also believed that God could give a message to the church by means of the gift of tongues.

For that to happen, of course, someone would need to interpret the tongues. That, too, is a gift of the Holy Spirit (12:10). Like everyone else, that person would not understand the words; but God would show him the meaning. People must pray for that (14:13).

If nobody has the gift to interpret tongues, then people should not give messages in tongues at church. It would not be right to give a message that nobody will ever understand. However, the person with the gift of tongues should not neglect that gift which God has given him. He should use that gift quietly, during prayer.

Next part: The proper use of prophecy at church meetings (1 Corinthians 14:29)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.