Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week our study is 1 Corinthians 14 which
highlights the spiritual gift of tongues.  Speaking in tongues is
the subject of much controversy in the Christian churches. Once
again, let's turn to the Bible to discover what Paul says about the
gift of tongues and what role it should play in our church!


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-5.  What is Paul saying about the
     gift of tongues v. the gift of prophecy? (The gift of prophecy
     is a far better gift.)

          1. Why? (To put it bluntly, Paul seems to say it is a
          "self-centered" gift: it only benefits you (v.4).
          Prophecy, on the other hand, benefits the entire church.

     B. Let's read "between the lines" here. Imagine that you are
     a parent writing Paul's lines (vv. 1-5) to your child.  Why
     would you write something like this? What problem would you be

          1. Would this be a fair "modern" parallel: "Johnny,
          when you play video games it only improves your eye-hand
          coordination.  I would rather that you study your
          mathematics book so that you can learn important lessons
          that you can share with others."  Does this "feel" like
          what Paul is writing?" (The Corinthians are evidently
          "caught up" in the gift of tongues, much like Johnny is
          evidently "caught up" in video games.)

     C. Does Paul have anything negative to say about the gift of
     tongues? (No! Verse 5 says he "would like every one to speak
     in tongues...." He is not saying there is anything wrong with
     the gift, he is just saying it is a "lesser" gift because it
     is limited in the scope of those benefitted by it.)


     A. Describe for me the gift of tongues that was given to the
     disciples at Pentecost? (Read Acts 2:1-8. Verse 5 tells us
     that Jews from every nation were present. Verses 6 and 8 tell
     us each heard the word of the disciples in his own language.
     This leaves no reasonable doubt that the gift of tongues in
     Acts 2 was the ability to have others understand you in their
     own language.)

     B. Look at verse 2 of 1 Corinthians 14 again. Does this seem
     to describe the gift of speaking (or being understood) in a
     foreign language? (Just as the gift of Acts 2 is beyond
     reasonable doubt, so this verse seems clear: this is not a
     foreign language.  If you disagree, can you explain from vv.
     2 and 4:

          1. What foreign language "does not speak to men but to
          2. What foreign language is not understood by anyone?
          (This is the premier difference. The gift in Acts 2 was
          a "communication" gift. It aided others in understanding
          the gospel. Paul's evaluation of the gift in Corinth is
          that it is not a "man to man" communication gift.)

          3. What foreign language edifies only the speaker?

     C. Do you remember last week I asked you to contemplate during
     the week what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 13:1 "If I speak in
     the tongues of men and of angels...."

          1. What "tongue" do angels speak?

          2. Is it different from the tongue of men? Does Paul mean
          only one tongue when he says, "the tongues of men AND of
          angels?" (It certainly seems that he is talking about two
          kinds of tongues.)

               a. Someone read Romans 8:26. Do you find it hard to
               pray?  Are you uncertain what you should pray

               b. If you put the concept of Romans 8:26 together
               with 1 Corinthians 14:2 is it possible that the
               gift of tongues helps you with your prayers to God?
               (Consider whether Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 1:20 are
               also pertinent to the idea found in 1 Corinthians
               14:2 of "utter[ing] mysteries with his spirit."
               Note, however, that some commentators believe that
               the "his spirit" of 1 Corinthians 14:2 refers to
               the spirit of man and not the Holy Spirit.)

          3. What if there is a special prayer language of the
          Spirit?  Would you want to have that gift? Would you like
          to speak that language to God? Let's read on!

     D. Read 1 Corinthians 14:6-9.  Any one here play a harp, flute
     or trumpet? If so, what does Paul mean when he says you cannot
     tell the tune "unless there is distinction in the notes?"

          1. Anyone who plays an instrument want to take a shot at
          answering this?

          2. When Paul says in v.9 "So it is with you," he is
          drawing a lesson, right?  What lesson are we to draw from
          this analogy to playing instruments? (What allows you to
          tell one song from another is that the notes are played
          in a distinctive pattern.  If this pattern does not
          exist, you cannot recognize what is being played! For
          example (v.8) a trumpet that plays "taps" can be
          distinguished from a trumpet playing "reveille.")

               a. Does this suggest that speaking in tongues
               involves a "pattern-less" means of speaking?  Does
               it mean that the normal distinction between words
               is gone? (Sure seems that is what Paul is saying.)

     E. Read 1 Corinthians 14:10-19. Paul speaks of "languages" of
     the world in v.10, but in v. 13 he talks about interpreting
     your own tongue.

          1. Does this mean, unlike Pentecost, that no one else
          present understands this tongue?

               a. Does the speaker understand the tongue he is
               speaking?  If you say, "yes," what does v.14 mean?

          2. If you are speaking a foreign language with no
          foreigners around, would that be helpful?

          3. Is Paul teaching us a principle that goes beyond
          speaking in tongues? When we teach the gospel to others,
          should we try to speak in ways that they will understand?
          (Paul says that if the other person does not understand
          us he is like a foreigner (v.11). I recently reviewed a
          letter in which a Christian was trying to convey his
          religious beliefs to fellow employees. The letter sounded
          like a philosophical dissertation.  His audience was
          unlikely to have many college graduates (much less
          philosophy majors!) When I told him that I did not think
          that most judges wrote at the "level" he was writing his
          letter, I think he took it as a compliment.  I meant it
          as a criticism.  The goal of writing is to communicate,
          not "show off" your vocabulary skills. That is the goal
          in spreading the gospel. If you are just "showing off"
          your vocabulary, how are you different from the Pharisee
          of Luke 18:11-14?)

               a. If it is a Biblical principle that we should do
               our level best to be understood, how does that fit
               into my never-ending attempt to get you to throw
               away your King James in favor of a modern
               translation? (Sorry, I could not resist that!)

     F. Let's just stop a minute and take account.

          1. First, As you consider what Paul has written so far in
          this chapter, what "situation" is he addressing in the
          Corinthian church? (This is something we touched on
          earlier: they must be "hog wild" on tongues!)

          2. Second, tell me what you have learned so far about the
          gift of tongues? (The "speech" is addressed to God, not
          man (v.2); It is not understood by man unless it is
          "interpreted" by someone with the gift or the speaker
          (vv.2, 13); It "bypasses" the mind (vv. 13-14).)

               a. What is the practical good of this gift? Surely
               we would not have a "gift" which is of no earthly
               good? (Verse 2 indicates that it is speech to God
               that edifies the speaker. This strengthens my
               belief that this gift is most important for

     G. Paul did not say that being "hog wild" about tongues was a
     sin, it was just not "good sense" (see discussion below). How
     about your church? Are you at the other extreme?  Is the gift
     of tongues absent? Is it feared?  If someone spoke in tongues
     in your church would they be thrown out? Marginalized?

          1. Would that be the reaction of your church to the
          manifestation of any other spiritual gift?

               a. Should tongues be treated differently?

          2. Some Christians believe, not without some Biblical
          basis (see, Mark 16:17; Acts 10:44-46; Acts 19:2-6;) that
          speaking in tongues is the initial evidence that you have
          been baptized by the Holy Spirit. Other churches would be
          shocked to have someone speak in tongues.

               a. After studying 1 Corinthians 14 up to this point,
               is either "extreme" correct?

               b. Are both equally "incorrect?"

               c. Does the truth lie somewhere between these two

(My church is not charismatic, not by specific doctrine, but by
practice and informal teaching. (See, e.g.,Rene Noorbergen,
Glossolalia (Pacific Press, 1973) (debunking the idea of speaking
in unknown tongues).)  There is evidence that the church has not
always been like this.  Instead, early on it was involved in
"unconventional" spiritual experiences. (17 Spectrum 37-50 (1987)
(discussion of Jonathan Butler, Ronald Graybill and Frederick
Hoyt).) Frankly, it worries me that one of the prominent (but
lesser) gifts of the Spirit is not only never "heard" in our
churches, it is probably feared. Is that consistent with being a
"Bible-believing" church?)


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 14:20-25. What does Paul mean when he
     asks the Corinthians to "stop thinking like children?" (Be
     logical. Use your common sense.)

          1. Paul's "common sense" says (v.22) that tongues is a
          sign for unbelievers, while prophecy is for believers.
          How can that be true? How does that "square" with my
          suggestion that tongues is a prayer gift? (Perhaps,
          because it is "mysterious," it attracts the curious
          unbeliever to see what Christianity is all about.
          Prophecy, on the other hand, strengthens, encourages and
          comforts because it appeals to the mind. (v.3) It is not
          surprising that a gift could have more than one facet:
          attract curiosity and aid the prayer life.)

          2. What is Paul's "common sense" argument about an
          unbeliever visiting a church full of those speaking in
          tongues? (Verse 23 tells us that if all are speaking in
          tongues at once, the unbeliever will go from being just
          curious about the gift to thinking the whole church is
          filled with nuts!)

     B. Do we have a moral obligation to consider how our worship
     will impact on unbelievers who visit?

          1. If you said, "yes," has your church done any analysis
          of this kind?


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-33a. Paul seems to set an
     overriding goal for worship (at least for the Corinthians).
     What is it? (Order. He gives clear details on the how the
     service should be structured, even to the point of telling
     someone not to speak in tongues if there is no interpreter
     (v.28) and a speaker to sit down and shut up if someone else
     has a revelation. (v.30))

          1. Why? What is so good about "order" and "structure?"
          (Peace and order are God's nature (v.33) and order in
          worship allows the church to be strengthened. (v.26))

          2. As you consider these verses, is your church worship
          modeled after them?

               a. If not, why not?

          3. What basic elements do you see in Paul's suggested
          church worship? (A period of time when anyone can speak
          or share (v.26), and a period of time when a limited
          number of prophets can speak. (v.29)  A church that had
          both a "sharing time" and a "sermon time" would seem to
          fit within Paul's basic model.)

               a. Is Paul's suggestion for worship cultural? Or are
               these eternal principles for worship?

     B. Finally, let's read in closing vv. 39-40 (and we will skip
     right over vv. 33-38!) (Give me a break here.  I had the
     courage to discuss with you the gift of tongues. Should I also
     have to take on in the same week the issue of women speaking
     in church?!)

     C. As you think about your church and your personal worship,
     are you missing one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit?  Are your
     personal prayers missing an important ingredient? Does your
     church worship include the fundamentals set forth by Paul?
     What can you do to insure that your worship tracks Paul's

Corinthians 16. Study! you missing one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit?  Are your
     personal prayers missing an important ingredient? Does your
     church worship include the fundamentals set forth by Paul?
     What can you do to insure that your worship tracks Paul's

Corinthians 16. Study!