Paul Proclaims Tongues to be a Sign to Unbelievers
1 Corinthians 14:20-25 “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe. Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” NKJV
Paul now shifts the focus of his letter from the proper use of tongues “in the church” to the design, intent, or purpose God the Holy Spirit even gifts and enables men or women to speak in tongues. First, Let us note that Paul refers to these Corinthian believers as brethren here again in his letter as he urges them and implores them to grow up into spiritual maturity when it comes to their understanding and the Greek word Paul uses this time for understanding (different from 1 Corinthians 14:15) is phren and this is the one and only time this word is used in the entire New Testament and it means the midriff or diaphragm, the parts of the heart or the mind or the faculty of perceiving and judging. Paul has already earlier on in this same letter referred to them as “babes in Christ” because of their jealousy, envying, and striving against one another as Paul said it in this manner, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Paul continues and carries on his characterization of them as immature as he now urges them to be discerning and not to allow themselves to be carried away into extremism in their use of the gifts of tongues, for then they would be potentially opening themselves up to be deceived by satan and one of his seducing spirits or demons that would carry them off into some form of mysticism that is an aberration of the true “gift of tongues” and find themselves making shipwreck of their faith such as was the case with Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19-20). However, on the contrary Paul wanted them to be full grown spiritual adults when it came to malice and this English word is translated by the Greek word kakia which means malignity, malice, ill-will, desire to injure and commit wickedness, depravity and wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws and do evil, and cause trouble. Paul writes here of satan’s influence in this world (worked out in and through the lives of lost people) that daily sets out to operate in this manner. Paul wants these Corinthian believers and us today to be far removed from evil and wickedness and here Paul is taking his cue from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself when He said this to the early disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
The entire premise or idea is for them and us to have our understanding and our perception, judging and discerning toward being an offense to other believers in the kindergarten school in our walk with Christ, but we must be full grown spiritual men and women when it comes to our conclusions of what is true and false or good and evil. Matthew Henry had this to say concerning Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians 14:20, “He adds a plain intimation that the fondness then discovered for this gift was but too plain an indication of the immaturity of their judgment: Brethren, be not children in understanding; in malice be you children, but in understanding be men, 1 Corinthians 14:20. Children are apt to be struck with novelty and strange appearances. They are taken with an outward show, without enquiring into the true nature and worth of things. Do not you act like them, and prefer noise and show to worth and substance; show a greater ripeness of judgment, and act a more manly part; be like children in nothing but an innocent and inoffensive disposition. A double rebuke is couched in this passage, both of their pride upon account of their gifts, and their arrogance and haughtiness towards each other, and the contests and quarrels proceeding from them. Note, Christians should be harmless and inoffensive as children, void of all guile and malice; but should have wisdom and knowledge that are ripe and mature. They should not be unskillful in the word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:13), though they should be unskillful in all the arts of mischief.”
Paul who was so versed in the Old Testament Scriptures now references the Words our Lord Jesus spoke through the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 28:11-12 when he said, “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me.” Paul writes to them documenting these words from Isaiah to affirm the Holy Spirit’s work of gifting men and women with this ability to speak in tongues but tongues was never meant by God for use as a form of communication “in the church”, for this passage of Scripture from Isaiah was spoken to the people of Israel as a rebuke to them for their unbelief and likewise God the Holy Spirit’s giving the gift of tongues to believers was done so for the same purpose to convict and convince unbelievers of the Manifest Presence of the One True God as we recall from the words documented by Dr. Luke (who by the way was one of the 120 in the upper room) when he wrote, “And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? ‘And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” (Acts 2:6-8).
Now after these other disciples were heard speaking in other languages, the Apostle Peter stood up boldly and preached to the crowd and here is the result as Dr. Luke documents with these words, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:37-41).
“The passage in Isaiah has no reference to the miraculous gift of tongues and cannot have been used by the Apostle as containing any intimation that such miraculous gifts would be imparted. It seems to have been used by Paul, because the ‘words’ which occurred in Isaiah would ‘appropriately express’ the idea which he wished to convey (see the note at Matthew 1:23), that God would make use of foreign languages for some ‘valuable purpose.’ But he by no means intimates that Isaiah had any such reference; nor does he quote this as a fulfillment of the prophecy; nor does he mean to say, that God would accomplish ‘the same purpose’ by the use of foreign languages, which was contemplated in the passage in Isaiah. The sense is, as God accomplished an important purpose by the use of a foreign language in regard to his ancient people, as recorded in Isaiah, so He will make use of foreign languages to accomplish important purposes still. They shall be used in the Christian church to effect important objects, though not in the same manner, nor for the same end, as in the time of the captivity. What the design of making use of foreign languages was, in the Christian church, the apostle immediately states; 1 Corinthians 14:22-23.”
“When men or women are speaking in tongues which no one can understand (not even the speaker) what is being spoken, but the unsaved man or woman hears clearly and distinctly his or her language being spoken fluently declaring the wonderful works of the One True God and His Message of Christ death, burial, and resurrection from the dead for their sins, some will be pricked in their hearts just as 3,000 men and women were in Jerusalem as recorded for us by Dr. Luke in Acts Chapter 2.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…