The Practical Use of Tongues

Paul did not discourage speaking in tongues, as we will see in today’s passage.

On the other hand, Paul placed guidelines around the exercise of this spiritual gift.

1 Corinthians 14.13-15Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret.

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive.

What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also.

Prayer and praise in tongues involve the human spirit relating to God, while the mind is barren. The Greek word “unproductive” is “barren.”

Paul is simply saying that prayer and praise in tongues by-passes the mind. There is no negative connotation to his remarks, but just a statement of how it works.

Paul practices prayer and praise that involves both understandable language and unintelligible speech.

When tongues are used to communicate in a church service, interpretation is needed.

1 Corinthians 14.16-19Otherwise, if you say a blessing with the spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say the “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since the outsider does not know what you are saying?

For you may give thanks well enough, but the other person is not built up.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you; nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Before we engage in Paul’s guidelines for corporate worship, let’s note that he speaks in tongues more than anyone in the Corinthian church.

The status-seeking leaders of the church, who thought they were more important than others because they spoke in tongues, had to reckon with the fact that the Holy Spirit had given this gift to Paul.

People who deny the usefulness of tongues as a language of prayer and praise need to recognize that this is one of the Spirit’s gifts.

Bible students wonder who the “outsider” is in verse 16. Most assume this person is interested in the faith, but not yet a follower of Jesus.

The person who spoke in a tongue without an interpretation may be built up in their spiritual life, but the “outsider” would be left out.

Jesus seemed to be continually surrounded by outsiders. He was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners by the religious authorities (Luke 5.30-32).

Speaking in tongues keeps “outsiders” outside of the faith. If the church uses religious jargon, the effect will be the same.

I occasionally attend another church as a guest speaker. There have been times when the fellowship of the faithful has been so good (for them) that I, too, felt like an “outsider.”

The church needs to be sensitive to the “outsider.” We are called to include the excluded.

Our language, customs, worship style, and many other aspects of church life will either tell people they are welcome or not.

“Everyone needs a home for the soul,” said the seminary president during the first chapel service where I was present.

Outsiders need to feel welcome in every aspect of the service. For many of the “outsiders” the church only gets one chance to help them meet Jesus. Let’s not fail them.

Prayer for Ukraine

Please join me in praying for the church in Russia, Ukraine, and surrounding nations around Ukraine.

Please pray that the love of God will overcome nationalism in the church. There is a Jesus-kind-of-life that the nations need in the face of a horrific war.

The principal leader of the Russian Orthodox Church supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine in a nationally televised message. Ask God to reveal his plans to this leader and give him the grace to repent.

Pray for Christian aid agencies to reflect Jesus in the care they are giving to refugees. Ask that those who receive help see Jesus in the actions of these people.

Hate is a powerful emotion. Love is the most powerful emotion of all. Pray that God will grant the supernatural power of love to prevail.

Please email your prayer request to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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