The gift of speaking in diversities of Tongues is the special grace to speak mysteries, prayers and praises to God in languages strange to and unknown to the speaker for personal spiritual edification. Act 2:11; 10:46; 1Cor 14:2-4, 14-15.


The gift of Interpretation of Tongues is the special grace to explain or translate what is spoken in Tongues strange to the interpreter for the general spiritual
edification of the whole Church. 1Cor 14:13-14.

1CORINTHIANS 14:7-25. Limitations of Tongues in Church worship

Tongues is one of the signs that follow the Church (Mar 16:17-18) and a piritual gift given to SOME believers by the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:10, 28-30) but together
with Prophecy (and even celibacy 1Cor 7:7) was wished and urged by the Apostle
for ALL (1Cor 14:5, 39). It was the most common sign-gift that was manifested together by the Church, the first time they were filled with the Holy Spirit in a fellowship (Act 2:4; Act 10:44-47; Act 19:6; & possibly Act 8:14-18). However, this was regulated and not practiced as a routine mode of worship, apparently to avoid childish and mocking misrepresentation of the Spirit’s fullness as a frenzy of confusion, insanity or drunkenness (Act 2:13; 1Cor 14:23, 33).

Tongues enable us to sing or speak mysteries and thanksgiving to God but not to humans (1Cor 14:2, 15-18). Tongues, as spiritual utterance could be angelic or human language (1Cor 13:1). When filled with (i.e. gripped under the control of) the Holy Spirit, we could either speak in Tongues to God or we could sing and speak intelligibly with biblical wisdom to the Church (Eph 5:15-21; Col 3:15-17). Praying in the Spirit is not always in uttered Tongues, but could also be in unutterable inward groan or ‘spiritually burdened heart’ (John 11:33, 38; Rom 8:23, 26-27; Heb 5:7). Tongues will eventually cease (obviously at Christ’s second coming) together with prophecy and knowledge (1Cor 13:8-10). Why?

In both liturgical and extempore services, there are two ways to pray in the Church: either one person leads by saying the prayers for others to say Amen (1Cor 14:16) or one person leads by bidding the prayers for others to sing and pray by themselves in one accord (unison) either audibly (Act 4:23-31; Act 16:25) or quietly as directed by the coordinating bidder. For the both modes (saying and bidding), Tongues by the prayer leader for the congregation needs interpretation, while for the second mode, Tongues by the congregation to themselves needs not to be interpreted to anybody. For either of these forms of conducting prayers, Apostle Paul still remained cautionary in 1Cor 14:18-20, advising orderly turns (1Cor 14:27) and interpretation of Tongues (1Cor 14:27) to the fellowship for general edification (1Cor 14:5-12, 26); but if no interpretation, then controlled Tongues (1Cor 14:28, 32-33) for personal edification (1Cor 14:4, 14). This is at variance with the common practice encouraged in some Churches today.

In private or closet prayers, speaking in Tongues is not regulated in any way,
except to desire and pray for the gift of Interpretation (This applies to bidden ‘unison’ prayers to some extent). The gift of Interpretation could be discovered in privacy and then made known to the Church (1Cor 14:12-15).

Strictly in accordance with the Apostolic Scriptures: while Prophecy is for divinely inspired speech from God to man — NOT man to God (1Cor 14:1-3), Tongues is for divinely inspired utterance from man to God — NOT God to man (1Cor 14:2). Tongues could be either doxological (as praises Act 2:11; Act 10:46; and songs 1Cor 14:15) or supplicatory (as prayers 1Cor 14:15-17). When Tongues is interpreted we are able to know what praise or prayer is said or sung to God and when to say Amen (1Cor 14:16). Notice that the Apostle apparently grouped Tongues with other “spiritual upload protocols” (like prayers and praises 1Co 14:14-15) as against Prophecy which he joined with other “spiritual download protocols” (like oracular teaching, knowledge and revelation 1Co 14:6). However, the Church of today mainly thinks or hopes the contrary even  though there is no biblical basis for this.

Outside the Scriptures some people believe that Tongues serves for hidden prophetic utterance to the Church which needs further interpretation. Though we have no Scriptural basis for this ‘prophetic’ Tongues being a good sign for the Church (1Cor 14:20-22), yet it might be possible if God so wishes.

Speaking in Tongues is self-centred, edifying only the speaker while the others have neither mental nor moral benefit from it. Craving for un-interpreted Tongues is often accompanied with desire for selfish experience while exercise of un-interpreted Tongues is often accompanied with an air of pride and ostentation.

1Cor 14:26-33a: Orderly exercise of the Gifts in worship

Prophesying, interpreted Tongues, songs and prayers should be decently coordinated, ONE BY ONE, without disorder or confusion, when Christians gather together (14:26-33, 39-40).



Ordained Gospel Minister and practicing Physician
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  1. You did a great job with speaking in tongues as I have always believed that we have to have an interpreter in the room in order for it to be said or read or understood. I speak in tongues to my cats, it just came naturally. Sounds crazy but I do it every day. I wonder if you think that is odd?

    • CHAPLAIN says:

      Thanks for the compliments and finding time to read my write-up. Oh that? Not really as odd as it is funny. But we speak to our pets with understanding too.

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