Posted by: matthewharri | July 16, 2008

Tongues: Private vs. Corporate

Most people that think tongues aren’t for everyone quote Paul from 1 Corinthians 12:29-31 when he says, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” The obvious answer to these rhetorical questions is, “no”.

However I want to suggest that Paul here is only listing gifts that have a public, corporate expression. There is a corporate expression of tongues and a private one, and here he is referring to the corporate one. Any time tongues are given in a church-type setting, there needs to be an orderly presentation of them and there has to be an interpreter with an interpretation. Otherwise, no one will be edified at all. They will not understand what they hear and will therefore walk away unchanged.

This is what Paul is getting at all through 1 Corinthians 14 and Romans 8. Let me try to break it down:

Private tongues:
– Speaking to God, not to men (1 Cor 14:2)
– Does not need an interpretation (implied in that the person is “speaking mysteries”, or things that are unknown in the mind)
– Speaks mysteries in the Spirit (1 Cor 14:2)
– Edifies himself (1 Cor 14:4)
– The understanding of the mind is unfruitful (1 Cor 14:14)
– Is a pure expression of the prophetic prayerfulness of the Holy Spirit through the man, especially in our weakness & unknowing (Rom 8:26)
– Prays always according to the will of God (Rom 8:27)

Corporate tongues:
– Is as speaking into the air without an interpretation (1 Cor 14:9)
– Is an expression of zeal for spiritual gifts which are unto the edification off the church – this is a good thing (1 Cor 14:12)
– Is an acceptable and holy way to expression giving thanks and blessing the Church (with an interpretation) (1 Cor 14:16-17)

I hope this helps bring clarity a bit into the realm of praying in the Spirit. Paul exhorts believers to zealously pursue spiritual gifts () and says that he is glad that he prays in tongues more than everyone else (1 Cor 14:18), but even more so, he is zealous that people pursue them in order to edify and build up one another – this is why the infamous “love” chapter is squeezed between Paul’s coaching them through the right expressions of Holy Spirit manifestations.

Let ALL things (manifestations of the Spirit) be done…
…to add a little spice to boring church meeting?
…to exercise your spiritual giftings so that you can be looked at as super cool?
…to get your 5 seconds of fame?

Let all things be done for edification! (1 Cor 14:40) Let the exercising of spiritual gifts always be for the betterment and building up of everyone else, not just the one exercising the gift!


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