On to 1 Cor 14:6-19
v6: Brethren: Paul is still speaking to believers.
- What shall I profit you: Paul is making a strong statement here. Tongues BY THEMSELVES (without “accompaniment”) are of no value to the church. They are not desirable, nor allowed in a Biblically based assembly, unless they are accompanied by intelligible words – prophecy, teaching, etc.
v7: Paul gives us an example to help us understand what he is talking about in regard to tongues.
- Without life: Without a soul (ie inanimate objects – like a flute or a harp).
- Give a sound: They are able to make themselves heard. There is a problem if a harp sounds like a flute when it is played. There has to be a distinction between the sounds of the different instruments – they can’t all sound the same. If we don’t have discernment (the ability to be able to make a distinction between things) we won’t be able to perceive or understand things and therefore we won’t know what G-d’s will is for our lives – our calling will not be clear.
v8: Here is another example: A trumpet also needs to have a recognisable call if it is going to be responded to correctly.
v9: Just like the harp, the flute and the trumpet need to “speak” discernible sounds, so to do we. If we are not speaking in a discernible way, then we are not speaking appropriately in the house of G-d.
- Speaking into the air: An idiom for wasting your time. It is a fruitless exercise to speak into the air as it will not respond to us, and neither will it serve any purpose. In the same way if tongues are spoken in the congregation without interpretation, then they too are fruitless and serve no purpose.
v10: Languages: This is not the word for languages but is the word for ‘sounds’(a variety of different sounds).
- None of them is without significance: The crickets chirping, the dog barking (happy barking, angry barking – even this is discernible), the human speaking – each sound is significant.
v11: Meaning: In Greek this is a word that is related to force or power. A sound has the ability to cause an action – someone says something and there’s a response. Thunder cracks and we respond etc.
- Foreigner: The word literally means barbarian. If there’s no discernment, if there’s no understanding, if there’s no meaning conveyed by the sound then Paul is saying that it is like two barbarians who don’t have the ability to discern or respond appropriately to each other.
v12: This is a cracker of a verse! Paul is not emphasising the ability to speak in tongues, but he is elevating prophecy, the ability to communicate G-d’s revelation to people in a clear and distinct way.
v13: It is the interpretation that brings edification.
v14: Understanding is unfruitful: The mind is unfruitful or idle. Paul is not against tongues (“my spirit prays”). Tongues do have some spiritual benefits in a believer’s life. But Paul wants every aspect of our being to produce fruit. Discernment (understanding with our minds) is fruitful, as it allows us to understand how we are meant to behave/respond in order to have behaviour that is pleasing to G-d.
v15: What is the result: This is the summary statement or conclusion of what Paul is saying. We need to pray (sing) with our spirits, but at the same time we also need to pray (sing) with our minds. This is how we will be the most effective/fruitful. We should not have one without the other. It would not be beneficial to us and nor would it edify us (or others).
v16: Bless with the spirit: ie give the blessing in an unintelligible tongue.
- Uninformed: Someone who doesn’t have this same ability, he is unlearned in this.
- Say ‘Amen’: He cannot believe it and he cannot agree with it as he doesn’t know what is being said. It leaves him empty, unfulfilled, outside the “group”. This is not a loving and kind way to act toward him, but is in fact a violation of the command to love others as we love ourselves.
v17: Not edified: Not built up. We want to see all people edified, at all times.
v18: Paul had the gift of tongues.
v19: In this verse Paul is emphasising instruction – he wanted people to be taught when they assembled. Speaking in tongues, in a public manner, was not edifying – and if tongues with interpretation was brought within the context of the assembly there was a limit set on it (1 Cor 14:27). Meeting together as a congregation is for the purpose of edification, discernment, revelation, encouragement, comfort, teaching, doctrine. There is a place for tongues – but limited in this setting.