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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney


This week, we continue with our 1 Corinthians series, looking at some aspects of the gift of tongues from 1 Corinthians 14.

Summary: Tongues, it seems, is most often used in private prayer. The public use of tongues is to be interpreted so that everyone understands and can be built up through it.

The Bible teaches us that tongues can be used in private and public.


Tongues is described as a way of praying. Paul writes about the way that it ‘edifies’ - builds up. It’s important to note that Paul is not berating the Corinthians for using tongues for self-edification; rather he is correcting their use of tongues in public in a way that is reserved for private use.

‘Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.’ (1 Corinthians 14:4)

Mysteriously, we are taught that the private use of tongues is us praying from our spirit as the conscious mind is bypassed:

‘For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.’ (1 Corinthians 14:14)

Paul continues to speak of this mind and spirit praying and worshipping:

‘So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.’ (1 Corinthians 14:15)

To ‘pray…sing with my spirit’ is vocalising prayer and worship without formulated content. Some say that this will just be speaking nonsense - ‘gobbledygook’ - but this is Biblical teaching is it not? Sam Storms writes:

'Paul believed that it wasn’t absolutely necessary for an experience to be rationally cognitive for it to be spiritually beneficial and glorifying to God. This isn’t in any way to denigrate or impugn the crucial importance of one’s mind in the Christian life. In Romans 12:1, Paul commanded that we experience renewal in our minds. All I’m saying—what I believe Paul is saying—is that praying in tongues is eminently beneficial and glorifying to God even though it is trans-rational in nature.'

It seems that we are to regularly speak in tongues in private. We read:

‘I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.’ (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

Do you see that Paul is differentiating the use of tongues in private and public? Do you see that he, it seems, uses it a lot - ‘more than all of you? however, in public, He took a different approach as should we.


Much confusion and harm is done when we fail to recognise the different approaches we are to take when using this gift in private or public. Many still think it highly spiritual for the gathered church to all speak or sing in tongues together - the louder the better! This practice may be enjoyable to many Christians, but it is not the edifying of others, especially non-believers, that God desires.

God’s order when using tongues in public is that there is interpretation:

‘I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.’ (1 Corinthians 14:5)
For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. (1 Corinthians 14:13)

Do you see that without interpretation, the church and guests are not edified?

God’s order is that, like prophecy, there should be a limited amount of tongues so that the church can give due attention and respect to what is shared:

‘If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.’ (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)


In finishing take a moment to reflect on this passage and pray that this would be the attitude that we and our churches would have:

‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.’ (1 Corinthians 14:26)


1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


2. Icebreaker

What has God been speaking to you about from His word recently? How would you like prayer?


3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group

On Sunday, we continued in our series from 1 Corinthians looking at the gift of tongues from chapter 14.

Please read Acts 2:11; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 13:1; 14:1-2, 14:18, 14:23, 14:39-40.


The gift of tongues is praise, prayer and thanksgiving to God in a God-given language unlearned by the speaker.

i. Tongues is praise and prayer (See Acts 2:11, 1 Corinthians 14:14).

ii. Tongues is to God - Godward (See 1 Corinthians 14:2)

iii. Tongues is a language unknown to the speaker - (See Corinthians 14:14, 16)


The interpretation of tongues is the God-given inspiration to speak in the language of the hearers, the dynamic equivalent of what was spoken in a ‘public tongue’. (See 14:26-28)

i. This, I believe, ranges from translation to the sense - a paraphrase - of the revelation given in the tongue.

ii. In a public meeting, tongues must always be interpreted. Without interpretation, tongues can create confusion and fails to edify the church.

I encourage you to watch this video together:


i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii) How would you define the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues?

iii. How are tongues to be used in a public worship gathering?

iv. What is the purpose of tongues in our private devotions?

v) Do you speak in tongues and how did you start operating in this gift?

vi) Would anyone like prayer to receive this gift?

SIV - Do you have any encouraging stories of sharing your faith with your friends?

SIV - How do you plan to 'serve, invest and invite' into your friendships?

SIV - Let's pray for the Spirit to lead us in reaching our community.

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