He That Speaks In A Tongue Edifies Himself

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Hi J____,
You ask how a person speaking in a tongue which he does not understand edifies himself?

The answer is, he edifies himself just as a child who is loud and unruly just naturally seeks to draw attention to himself and to edify his own selfish flesh. That is a spirit which preys upon many sincere but deceived people such as me for the first few years of my own spiritual experience. Speaking in English to an English speaking church makes a lot of sense. Speaking in gibberish and faking a translation is demonic, and that is the spirit behind the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements which actually, in some cases, teach classes on how to get the so called ‘gift of unknown tongues’.
Paul tells us to speak the Truth in the language of the congregation, not in some other language which is neither understood nor needed. If you have the gift of speaking in Spanish, but there is no one in the room who understands Spanish, why in the world would you show off your Spanish in front of a room full of people who speak only English? Anyone who did such a thing would only be edifying his own flesh… “edifying himself”.

Here it is as the spirit inspired it.

1Co 14:3  But he that prophesieth [ speaks in the language of his congregation] speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
1Co 14:4  He that speaketh in an [ unknown] tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

The brackets are there to let us know that the word unknown was added, and is not in the Greek. Christ in us is not into edifying oneself. It is rather intent upon “edifying the church.”

1Co 14:5  I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

In this chapter Paul is dealing with a real gift which was being abused by babes in Christ who are “yet carnal”.

1Co 3:1  And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
1Co 3:2  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [ to bear it], neither yet now are ye able.
1Co 3:3  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [ there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
1Co 3:4  For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [ am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

That was the state of this church in Corinth. It was not a pleasant thing for Paul to have to say these things to this congregation. But it is even more needed today where a counterfeit gift of tongues has replaced the true gift of being supernaturally granted the ability to speak in various foreign languages without the benefit of formal training to do so. Even if the gift is real, it is not given for the purpose of edifying the individual. It is given only for the purpose of being a sign to an unbeliever and for the purpose of edifying the church by watching as the unbelieving foreigner in their midst is being convicted and convinced by the miracle that is taking place in the speaking of the wonderful works of God from the mouth of a person who is not educated in that language.
If there is no such person in the congregation, then there is no need for such a display of the flesh.

1Co 14:11  Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
1Co 14:12  Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

It is good to be “desirous of spiritual gifts”. But it is not good to desire those gifts for any personal edification of oneself. Our desire ought always to be to “seek to edify the church”, and not to be “barbarians” who cannot understand each other.

1Co 14:13  Wherefore let him that speaketh in an [ unknown] tongue pray that he may interpret.
1Co 14:14  For if I pray in an [ unknown] tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

These two verses do not contradict this verse.

1Co 14:22  Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying [ serveth] not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

“Tongues are for a sign… to them that believe not not to them that believe“. In spite of that plainly stated Truth, one of the statements of belief of the Pentecostals is “We believe that the gift of speaking in unknown tongues is the initial evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost.” So the “carnal babes in Christ” who are sincerely “zealous for spiritual gifts” are ignorant of this verse, or else they have an “idol of the heart” which comes before the Word of God, and they are bowing down to that idol instead of bowing their hearts to the Word and will of God.
I hope this all helps you to see that we are to seek to edify the church and not try to impress each other with a false, counterfeit, “the initial evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost”, by displaying our fake gift before other “carnal babes in Christ”.

Your brother in Christ,

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