● Please tell me how to explain 1 Corinthians 14:2.—J.M., United States.
The verse in question reads: “For he that speaks in a tongue speaks, not to men, but to God, for no one listens, but he speaks sacred secrets by the spirit.” This text is to be understood in the light of 1Co 14 verses 13-19 of the same chapter, which read:
“Therefore let the one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may translate. For if I am praying in a tongue, it is my gift of the spirit that is praying, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is to be done, then? I will pray with the gift of the spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing praise with the gift of the spirit, but I will also sing praise with my understanding. Otherwise, if you offer praise with a gift of the spirit, how will the man occupying the seat of the ordinary person say Amen to your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? True, you give thanks in a right way, but the other man is not being built up. I thank God, I speak in more tongues than all of you do. Nevertheless, in a congregation I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might also instruct others verbally, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
In other words, anyone that speaks in a tongue speaks to God rather than to men if he has no one to interpret the meaning of his speech to men who are listening. The speech is meaningless to the listeners who do not understand the foreign language of the message as given by the miraculous power of God’s holy spirit. For that reason the apostle Paul says, “No one listens,” because no one understands. It may be also that even the speaker of the foreign tongue does not understand his own message; otherwise why would the apostle Paul state that one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may translate? He, then, would not even understand what he himself is saying by spirit without another to translate it for him.
So without anyone to translate or interpret his message he certainly would be speaking only to God rather than to men. That is why the apostle Paul says that if interpreters are not present, then the one who speaks in a foreign tongue should pray that he may also translate and thus by his translation be able to speak also to men in an edifying manner and to the praise of God.
How different the apostle Paul is from the modern sects that claim to be able to speak in tongues! They are not at all interested in having their hearers understand what they babble but merely want them to be impressed by their unintelligible speech. Further, Paul foretold that “whether there are tongues, they will cease.” And so they have. The miraculous gift of tongues was needed, together with other miraculous manifestations of the holy spirit, to establish the Christian congregation. The Christian congregation having reached maturity, it has “done away with the traits of a babe.”—1 Cor. 13:8, 11.
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WHY GO TO THE MOON?
Men are seeking every means of “controlling” space and “colonizing” its planetary systems. But this generation has a far grander prospect of “peopling” a new world—one that is overlooked by the world’s rulers, yet a way that is far more realistic and rewarding. Would you like to know what part you can have in it? Then send for the beautiful and revealing book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. Act now and receive also the booklet After Armageddon—God’s New World. Send only 75c.
“WATCHTOWER” STUDIES FOR THE WEEKS
June 11: Appreciating the Power of Discernment. Page 264.
June 18: Training Your Perceptive Powers. Page 270.