Dialogs and Commentary

Pentecost Tongues vs. 1 Cor 14

An email from Dean VanDruff concerning the difference between tongues at the day of Pentecost and the tongues spoken of in 1 Corinthians 14.

Yes, the oracle at Delphi was an experience of ecstatic utterance, as many Pagan and occult groups still do experience. And many use this to reject the spiritual gift of glossa (tongues) given by the Holy Spirit. But a careful read of 1 Corinthians 14 shows that what happened on Pentecost has little in common with gift of tongues. While the same word is used to describe both, there are significant differences in context.

1 Cor 14:4-5 (NIV) He who speaks in a tongue [glossa] edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues [glossa], but I would rather have you prophesy...

"Prophesy" here includes "preaching" as we popularly think of it. Preaching has sort of replaced prophecy in our vocabulary, but prophecy is more than just preaching. Prophesy is "forthtelling what God wants said"--or "preaching" if this turns out to be a message. But I stray from the point.

If the glossa mentioned above is for self-edification, then it is hard to see how this could be the same thing as at Pentecost. And this is Paul's whole point--since it is edifying to self (and God seeks to edify us [build us up] with His Spirit) it is a good thing, but it would be even better to prophesy since more than one person is being edified--like with the "prophetic tongues" of Pentecost that caused others to repent.

1 Cor 14:2 (NIV) For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

Note the difference, again, between this and what happened at Pentecost:

Acts 2:11 (NIV) "... We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"

At Pentecost, the speech was understood versus "no one understands him". Get it?

This is why if the supernatural gift of tongues is to be used in an assembly, then Paul instructs that someone else ought to have the supernatural gift of interpretation of glossa. This was not needed at Pentecost, where we were dealing with "our own tongues". With me so far?

1 Cor 14:13-14 (NIV) For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

Thus, the supernatural gift of tongues given by the Holy Spirit turns out to be a lot like what the pagans do by imitation--more so, it would appear, then like what happened at Pentecost.

The gift of tongues is a personal expression of praise to God in our spirits. It is often referred to as a "prayer language" since--and this is the important point--it is in no human language, unlike Pentecost, again.

1 Cor 14:16-19 (NIV) If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Again, in stark contrast to Pentecost tongues. At Pentecost, the whole purpose and effect was exactly opposite--"others" were edified in a prophetic (preaching) way.

The gift of interpretation is a supernatural gift, not of "naturally" knowing a language. It comes by prayer... not by language studies... It comes by the will of the Holy Spirit, not by the will of man. Thus, Paul lays down these guidelines:

1 Cor 14:28,39-40 (NIV) If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God... Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and DO NOT forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

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