Q. Enjoy your site and have learned a lot.
I am confused about 1Cor 14: 22-25. It seems to say one thing then says the opposite. It says tongues are a sign to the unbeliever then it says he’ll say you’re mad. Then it says prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but them which believe. v24 says but if all prophesy and there comes in one that believes not,or one unlearned, he is convinced of all. Can you tell where I’m not getting it?
A. Remember that Paul was instructing them on the use of their gifts. It helps to understand Isaiah 28. In quoting Isaiah 28:11-12 in verse 21 He recalled a time when the Jews refused to obey God. In effect God told them, “You didn’t listen to me when I spoke to you in the language you understand that I wanted My land to be a resting place for the weary, not a school for religious works. So I’m sending the Assyrians to judge you. Maybe you’ll listen to them when they tell you in a language you don’t understand.” The Lord was obviously being sarcastic, but His point was clear.
Unbelievers have heard of the need for salvation in their own language and didn’t listen. Hearing everyone babbling away at once in strange languages certainly won’t change their minds. So, in 1 Cor 14:27-28 Paul told them how the gift of tongues should be used, 2 or 3 at the most, speaking one at a time, with an interpretation after each one. If an unbeliever heard the gift of tongues used this way, he would be impressed.
With prophecy every one can understand what’s being said. When believers stand up and speak forth messages from the Lord that clarify His word in a language everyone understands, both believers and unbelievers benefit. Again, orderly conduct is important. ( 1 Cor. 14:33)
And in both cases Paul made it clear that the gift is under the control of the recipient. If there’s no one to interpret, the one with a message in tongues should remain quiet (1 Cor. 14:28). And where prophecy is concerned, the spirit of the prophet is under the control of the prophet (1 Cor. 14:32).