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Tongues, Interpretation & Prophecy
In 1 CORINTHIANS 14:1-25 Paul distinguishes between two spiritual gifts of speaking which the Corinthians had been abusing and which had been causing division within the fellowship.
Over the centuries problems have arisen for several reasons:
• Abuses of the gift of prophecy in Church history
• Failure to understand the different roles of prophecy and tongues
• Failure to distinguish between tongues as a prayer language & tongues with interpretation
• A belief that the gift of tongues confers some special status on the tongues speaker
• The idea that if you do not speak in tongues, you have not been born again by the Holy Spirit
The gift of prophecy is particularly open to abuse because it claims to be God speaking to men and women. Because of this, Paul points out the need for every prophecy to be weighed and tested very carefully by other Spirit-filled Christians exercising the gift of DISCERNMENT.
The Different Roles of Prophecy & Tongues
Paul makes a clear distinction between the roles of Prophecy and Tongues in 1 CORINTHIANS 14:2-4
1 Prophecy is God speaking to men & women.
Tongues (as private prayer language) is men & women praising God
2 Prophecy is God building up believers.
Tongues (with interpretation) is God speaking to unbelievers.
Prophecy is God speaking words of encouragement, rebuke, instruction or warning to his children. It includes both forthtelling and foretelling.
Tongues + interpretation is God speaking to unbelievers in a language they can understand, if it is interpreted for them.
It usually involves God speaking through a believer about some fact known only to the unbeliever and God, which causes surprise and wonder in the person and the realisation that God is speaking to him/her.
It may be in a language known to the hearer but unknown to the tongues-speaker, or in a language unknown to either. The effect is the same - amazement that God loves sinners and can and does speak in ways we recognise as his invitation to put our faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and LORD.
For more about PROPHECY, go to PROPHECY.