by Andre Watson.
Now, let’s deal with the scriptures that people commonly misinterpret. 1st Corinthians 14:2 says:
For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God: for no man understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
Just so that we are clear, I will address these scriptures as if we were referring to tongues as earthly languages. I will talk about why a little later. The first thing that we must understand about this scripture is that is most King James Versions of the bible, the word unknown will be in italics. What does this mean? It means that the word, and any word, written in italics has been added by the King James translators. They added the word because they figured it would make the scripture more fluent. However, some of the bible translations that were translated more recently will not have the word unknown added. This is because it is not found in the original manuscripts. I said all of that to say this, there is no such thing as an unknown tongue. The unknown tongue is what most people are calling they “heavenly language”. I’m going to go into that a little later as well.
Contrary to popular belief, Paul in this scripture was not giving instructions to the people. This is a rebuke, or a correction. So, Paul was not instructing people to use tongues to speak to God. This goes against earlier teachings that spiritual gifts are used the the benefit of all, and not the benefit of the individual recipient of the gift (1st Corinthians 12:7). John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says this about 1st Corinthians 12:7:
to profit withal; not to make gain of, as Simon Magus intended, could he have been possessed of them; nor to encourage pride or envy, or to form and foment (to promote the growth or development of) divisions and parties; but for profit and advantage, and that not merely private, or a man’s own, but public, the good of the whole community or church, to which the least grace or gift, rightly used, may contribute.
So, for people to use this or any other gift for a private use goes against the purpose in which God has sent the gift to be used. What was taking place at this church was that people that had the gift to speak in other languages was speaking whenever they wanted. They were speaking, for instance if it were today, Spanish when there was no Spanish speaking people around. Or they may have been speaking Russian when no one that speaks the language was with them. Worst of all, since they were unable to translate for themselves, no one understood them, except God Himself. The purpose of the gift was not to speak to God, who doesn’t need a special language for you to communicate with him, but to a man who may need that special language. Ever tried to tell a Japanese cook that you are allergic to an ingredient he’s about to use in your food? Well, try telling someone that doesn’t understand your language that God loves them. It will be just as frustrating.
Have you ever been walking down the street and heard two people talking in another language? Maybe they were looking at you or in your direction and you say to yourself “I wonder what they are saying”. In essence, these people are speaking mysteries, or hidden things, hidden from you. How is that possible? Because you have no clue what they are saying!! These people at the Corinthian church spoke mysteries all the time because no one knew what anyone was saying. Since no one was taught the language, and there was no spirit-filled interpreter among them, they spoke hidden things, hidden from themselves. Paul was all about understanding because if everyone had an understanding, they were learning something. This is why there had to be an interpreter or no tongues can go forth. So, you are not speaking anything super mysterious when speaking in tongues. It was only a mystery because they didn’t understand what they were speaking.