Tue, Jan 29, 2013

Use of Tongues in the Church Community

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(Written by Tammy Dao on 1/30/13)

Confronting ideology: tongues are only meant to be used when you’re by yourself like when you’re at home rather than in the church unless someone interprets.

SUMMARY: One of the dangers of holding onto this ideology is that it hinders the development of a corporate community in building faith and transformation of the heart to be used for God’s purpose. The main passage that tends to be misinterpreted is found in 1 Corinthians 14. I would like to elaborate on this passage so that God’s people may walk in the freedom of the gift with God’s order without unhealthy restrictions in the Church that it may be edified, with a short teaching about women teaching in the church.


In 1 Corinthians 14:26, the context is about building the Church in a way that will edify the corporate Church, rather than just an individual; however, it also does not prohibit an individual to pray in tongues within the public place (1 Cor. 14:28). For them to each be able to have a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, and an interpretation can mean that they are in a small setting. For them to be able to do all of this can mean they pretty much spent many hours doing this together if it was in a large setting. It is difficult to have this type of order of service if we imagine it with the typical church size today. The smaller church setting may make a difference, especially if you desire to build the church up to be able to see the church also walk in revelation, tongue, and with interpretation.

In 1 Cor. 14:27, the context of the speaking (psalm, teaching, tongue, revelation, and interpretation) is in a way of publicly addressing the community to edify the Church. In our typical church setting today in America, it can look like someone coming onto the microphone and begin to do a psalm and a teaching. However, we typically do not see a revelation being shared by another person in the church setting, and we typically do not see anyone going up with a tongue and another person going up with the interpretation. This can change if we begin to humbly ask God to lead us to build it up for the purpose of edification of the church holistically. I encourage that this would be done in a small group setting, and I can teach how to build that if needed to see it become a reality in a bigger church setting.

1 Cor. 14:28 is the primary passage that believers tend to use to discourage tongues being used within the context of the community. However, if we look at this passage carefully, we see that Paul encourages that the person speak to himself and to God. At first glance, it seems like Paul is not making up his mind about whether this person should speak in tongues. First, he instructs the person to not utter any noise. Afterward, he instructs that the person should “speak to himself” or to speak in tongues audibly to himself. When we look at this context, we see that Paul is not confused but he is emphasizing how to edify the church. “Speaking to himself” while being “silent in the church” in its whole context signifies that the person is quietly doing this without overpowering the audible voice of the one that is sharing. In the context of a prayer and worship meeting with other believers, the order will be governed differently. If the prayer leader leads us into praying in tongues to edify ourselves in faith or for other reasons, there is still order in that context. We should walk in unity together that God will be glorified.


The next few passages governs how we should edify the church using the gift of prophesy, and Paul begins to also address the same thing, it seems at first glance, with the conflicting ideas about women not being able to share. It seems at first glance that Paul doesn’t like women prophesying or sharing in the church. However, if we look at a few passages before this in 1 Cor. 11:5, the woman is permitted to prophesy. Paul is also not confused in this context but he was addressing the culture of the Corinthian and Ephesian female-believers where they used to worship authoritarian goddesses named Artemis/Diana located in Ephesus (Acts 19:35). The new believers needed to learn how to lose that type of heart that disrupts the service when the women would overpower the audible voice of the person edifying the church when they would question their husbands in the church (1 Cor. 14:35). Looking through history, we can see that the pagan belief in Artemis/Diana encourages women to be autocratic toward the men, which is a very conflicting ideology to the kingdom of God. Corinth and Ephesus was a trading route, and Ephesus was a place of cultural influence into all of Asia (Acts 19:26). We can also see that this is true biblically by looking at the maps of the missionary tour that Paul took on his second trip with Silas and third missionary trip. There were several times that Paul would go back and forth between Corinth and Ephesus, and he also sent people to Corinth while he was in the region of Ephesus. Like I mentioned before, I think that their church setting was probably smaller, not like the majority of our churches that have 120 members today that have singles and married couples. Because of that, he told all of them to speak to their husbands at home. Also because of that, I think he said that it is shameful for all of those women who have husbands to speak in the church (1 Cor. 14:35). (He has also commended Phoebe, Priscilla, Aquila, Mary, Junia, Timothy’s grandma either and other women in Romans 16:1-7 and 2 Tim. 1:5.) Just like how Paul’s heart is not to forbid people to speak in tongues in the context, he is also not trying to forbid women in all churches to prophesy or to share the word of God. Paul’s heart, I believe as we look into the context, was to address the prideful hearts of the women that was domineering their husbands.

In 1 Cor. 14:36, we can see that Paul is emphasizing to the women that the word of God did not come originally from them (but from Jesus Christ) to confront the prideful hearts that disrupt the flow of the service. They still needed to be transformed in the renewing of the minds and let go of ideologies that influenced their culture. In the very end of it, Paul wraps it up in conclusion that everyone, men and women, should desire earnestly to prophesy and to not forbid to speak with tongues while in the context of the church community (1 Cor. 14:39). If we forbid either one being used in the church, we wouldn’t know that it exists either still today.

Let us hold onto these words that Paul calls as commandments of the Lord. Let people speak in tongues in the community but quietly without disrupting the flow of the service. Let the women prophesy but not with a heart that thinks that the word of God only reached or originated from them (1 Cor. 14:36). Let us desire earnestly to prophesy, speak in tongues, interpret the tongues, and share a revelation to edify the Church.

[image of Paul's Second Missionary Trip With Silas]

(1Picture above: Logos Deluxe Map Set of Paul’s Second Missionary Tour with Silas, c. A.D. 49-52) Paul establishes the church at Corinth during Second Missionary Tour at number 11 (Acts 18:1–18).

(Picture above: Logos Deluxe Map of Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians)

1. Paul establishes church at Corinth during Second Missionary Tour (Acts 18:1–18).

2. Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, comes to Ephesus; is taught by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:24–26).

3. Apollos goes to Corinth (Acts 18:27–28).

4. On Third Missionary Tour Paul labors at Ephesus about three years (Acts 19:1–10), possibly paying a visit to Corinth during this time (2 Cor. 12:14).

5. Paul writes a letter (now lost) to Corinth, warning against keeping company with the profligate (1 Cor. 5:9).

6. Apollos returns to Ephesus after rise of dissensions; declines to return to Corinth (1 Cor. 16:12).

7. Members of Chloe’s household bring report of factions in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11–12).

8. Paul sends Titus to Corinth (2 Cor. 12:17–18; cf. 2 Cor. 2:12–13; 7:6).

9. Paul sends Timothy to Corinth via Macedonia (Acts 19:22; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10).

10. Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8) to meet problems arisen and to answer various questions.

11. Paul leaves for Macedonia after an uproar in Ephesus (Acts 19:22–20:1).

12. At Troas Paul hopes to meet Titus and to learn of effects of his letter (2 Cor. 2:12–13).

13. Paul meets Timothy and Titus in Macedonia; Titus reports favorable reception of 1 Corinthians; Paul writes 2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:1; 7:6–7, 13–16).

Norris, D. T. (1997). Logos Deluxe Map Set. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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