‘In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 (NAS)
The Holy Spirit moves the apostle Paul to quote from the scroll of Isaiah as part of his discourse on speaking in tongues in the assemblies.
The quote is located in Isaiah 28, verses eleven and twelve: “Indeed, He will speak to this people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, ‘Here is rest, give rest to the weary,’ and, ‘Here is repose,’ but they would not listen.” Isaiah has been lamenting the fact the priest and prophets have been polluted by their addiction to strong drink, being intoxicated, they are unable to properly declare God’s will or teach the people (Isa. 28:7-8). Compounding the problem is an arrogant people who despise the simplistic, orderly, repetitious and understandable precepts of God as laid out by the true prophets of God. They did not like being taught basic truths over and over like they were children (Isa. 28:9-10) even though they behaved as children, having not learned the necessary lessons. Upon this foundation, Isaiah warned the nation of Judah that since they wouldn’t take “repose” in the “elementary teachings” of the true prophets of God, the LORD would speak to them through a foreign tongue and stammering lips by means of the judgment of the Babylonian captivity, a “language” they would come to understand, recognizing they forsook the teaching God had prepared for them. In the context of 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14, one should be able to see that those with the gift of speaking in tongues were lauding their gift as greater and more beneficial than others within the assemblies. The Spirit working through Paul seeks to place the correct understanding of this gift in reference to the edification of the church. Speaking in tongues was a gift given by the Lord with its primary purpose intended to be used for unbelievers. “In what way?”, you may ask. As the gospel was going into all the world, the message of Jesus Christ had to be understandable in the language of the land in order for individuals to be converted, thus the need for the gift of tongues. Once a body of believers has been established in a particular locale, the need now becomes the edification of that body. Demonstration of the ability to speak in tongues is not the primary focus but rather edification through prophesy and particularly, as the apostle Paul notes, that which “instructs others” (1 Cor. 14:19b) Humble servants were to recognize it’s not about demonstrating their spiritual prowess by somehow adding to the power of God’s word by speaking in tongues. Rather, it was in instructing the brethren in their native tongue, which can be understood, revealing God’s will under the New Covenant. In so doing, the church would be built upon the word of the Lord through the New Testament apostles and prophets, following the pattern of “Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there.” (Isa. 28:10) And just like with the nation of Israel, there was the understanding they would need to be reminded often, as Paul through the Spirit wrote was “no trouble for me and a safeguard for you.” (Phil. 3:1) Once the foundation is laid and the lessons learned, it’s clear we are to move from the milk to the meat (Heb. 5:12-14) That is the purpose of the assembly-to equip the saints, build up the body, unify the faith through knowing who Jesus is that we may be brought to the measure of maturity that personifies the fullness of Christ, right? (Eph. 4:11-13) The present charismatic movement that intoxicates many among the religious marketplace of today is nothing more than a distraction. How can that be? Paul says so through the Spirit: “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me.” If unbelievers enter an assembly and people are babbling away in some unknown tongue they claim is a gift from God (which it’s not) are they edified to understand God’s will? Paul says they will think those people are crazy! One of the greatest gifts given us today is the completed written word of God that can be published in any language. No need for tongues anymore. It is the word of God spoken plainly in an assembly that offers the best chance for an unbeliever to be convicted of his condition and called to account before God. That’s what He wants! Amen?