1 Corinthians 14:2-19
Paul continues his comments on what should be happening when the church gathers. This is a long section of his letter that specifically addresses the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. I can not imagine what the Corinthian gatherings were like given the apparent desire of everyone to speak in tongues.
I admit that I have never spoken in tongues and never had a desire to do so. I visited a charismatic congregation on a trip to Malaysia and during the service one of the people up front began speaking in tongues. He was apparently praying, but I had no idea what he was saying and there was no interpretation. Even though most of the people in attendance were Chinese the service was in English, so I was able to understand everything else that went on.
I can understand the desire to speak in tongues. It might be a sign of the Holy Spirit working in me, but only I would have any chance of knowing that for sure. There is no guarantee that the noises coming from my mouth are from the Holy Spirit since my mind can cause a wide variety of noises to come out of my mouth.
Meaningful communication is valuable. One of the frustrations in China was my inability to understand the language, either spoken or written. One day I went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, turned on the tap, and discovered that there was no water flowing. Gas and electricity are metered and prepaid, so I wondered if there was a bill that we had forgotten to pay. After talking to others in the apartment complex we were quite certain that the water was shutoff for the entire building. There was a high probability that a notice was posted on the door of the building the previous day letting everyone know that a shutoff was coming. There were often notices posted on the doors and near the elevator. They were all equally meaningless to me since they were all in Chinese. The water came back on soon and this became just one more Chinese adventure.
What about those who join us for a gathering on Sunday morning? We may not be speaking in tongues, but how often does our vocabulary reflect our shared experience in words that mean nothing to those who are new. Words have power and we use words like sanctification and justification because what they mean to us would take us many sentences to describe in words anyone can understand. Unfortunately, when we do this we not only make the newcomer feel like an outsider, but we may not be communicating what we really mean since we do not have a shared understanding of the word we think is there.
When we speak, we should seek to say something that builds up those who are listening in simple words that are clear and understandable.