"They received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so". Acts 17:11
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. For example, if a man in gathering is praying in an unknown tongue, his spirit is praying, it means feeling find expressions which are not used in common language. However, his understanding is unfruitful in the meaning that doesn't bring any good. Gathered people don't know what he is taking about. When we will examine verse 14:19, we would meet a saying "speak with my understanding", but in a more exact translation it sounds as: "To say in the way that people could understand me."
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. And what conclusion should we make? The conclusion is easy: Paul is praying not only with his spirit, but he prays so that apostles could be understood. That's exactly what means saying "…I will pray with the understanding also…" It doesn't mean that we can pray as we understand ourselves, - rather it means that we must pray to help the others to understand. The same way Paul says that he will sing with the spirit in the way that everything would be clear to other people.
Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Despite the fact that Paul knew languages better than Corinthians, he says that for him it is better to say several words with his understanding, it means words, understandable for everyone, than to say ten thousand words in an unknown for other people tongue. He is not going to use his gift only to show it to people. The main purpose is to help God's people. That's why he decided always to speak in the way that other people could understand him. Expression "with my understanding" in original text has the form of objective genitive case. It means that Paul speaks not about his own understanding but about how other people understand his words (Greek word, which translates as "mind", means "understanding"; we can translate it as follows: "…speak five words in the way that people could understand me…"). In the commentary to 1Cor.Charles Hodge agrees with the interpretation presented by us: the matter concerns not what Paul understands himself, but how other people understand him. "It is impossible to believe that Paul did thanks to God for that he was excessively gifted with tongues, if this gift consisted of ability to use tongues not understandable for him, which couldn't give any good neither him nor other people. In this verse we see that using tongues and speaking in unconscious condition is not the same things. Overall teaching about the essence of this gift truly opens in this fragment. Paul insists that, although he can surpass Corinthians in speaking unknown languages, it is better for him to say five words with his understanding, it means in an understandable language, than ten thousand in an unknown. In church, it means in gathering, I can teach other people to share the Word (Gal. 6:6). It opens what is meant in words "with my understanding". It means: "To speak in the way that in my words sounded admonition".
Expression "to pray with understanding" doesn't bear relation to my understanding, but to understanding of the people around. I'm praying with the spirit, but I will pray with the understanding also not to understand something myself, but to bring a fruit to other people by this. Paul wants to say in church with the understanding to edify others, it means he wants others to understand, not himself! That's why before these texts Paul suggests: 13 "Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret." It is the first decision, if it is impossible - pray with your understanding to edify others, as you are edifying yourself because you understand everything.
Let's examine the next fragment of Scripture: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom. 8:26). That is one of the most favorite verses of those who use tongues. Because they think that this is the proof that someone can be under Spirit's control completely and not even know what you are praying for, because the Holy Spirit is praying instead of you. But this is the proof of the opposite: the Holy Spirit speaks to out spirit by GROANINGS WHICH CANNOT BE UTTERED, but we have to utter. And one more, this verse is not only about those who pray in tongues, but about everyone who lives by laws of the Spirit! It means that to utter unuttered groanings at first we have to understand them! (There is no ground to connect Rom. 8 with 1Cor.14).
Also, it is appropriate to remind everyone who prays of a fact that a prayer without belief is no pleasing God. Everything that decides on the Earth is decided by the faith of God's children who speak to Him in prayers. A question appears: why the Lord Jesus once told the following words to blind man: What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? (Mark 10:51). Didn't Christ know what this blind man is waiting from Him? He knew, but He needed his words moved by his belief. A man is praying, telling God understandable words, receives the definite answer and knows for what to thank God. Those who use tongues are praying to God, but by whose words and whose belief? How can he thank God after such a prayer? If I don't know what I said to God then what would I wait from Him? Why for God it was not enough that Bartimaeus just said: "the Lord, have mercy on me?". He needed concreteness but not verbosity (Mat. 6:7). In Rom. 8:26 we have a great example that the Holy Spirit doesn't want to have heathens in front of Him who speak many words and think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. It is also clear how He teaches us to pray. He, unutterly working with our spirit, suggests us what should we pray about, and we transmute it into words of belief which we address to God. We don't know what to pray about, that's why the Spirit suggests us. If it was written that we cannot pray, then it would have been a hint that the Spirit completely helps me (it means that I have no possibility to pray and the Spirit prays instead of me). But here we read that the praying one DOESN'T KNOW what to pray about. If someone comes to you and say that he doesn't know where the definite place is, you would tell him how he can get there (give him a sign). If someone tells you that he cannot get to the definite place, you would help him (maybe with transport…). (One more paradoxical thought: God, wishing that I pray Him, prays to Him Himself? My role is only to wire for sound not understandable words?). The Lord always wanted to speak to a man and with a man. But in the end of XX century appears an idea which brings an understandable conversation for two interlocutors, based on an easy idea that one of them talks to himself, using the other only as a loud-speaker. Why people allow this? Maybe the only reason is that as if there is a proof of it in the Bible: my spirit prays instead of me, because I don't know what to pray about, but my understanding is unfruitful.
One of the main purposes of conversations with someone who use tongues: the tongue must be understandable for the speaker. It is proved by Paul in 14th chapter of the first message to Corinthians. If a man does not understand the tongue, this gift is not from God!
1. ("For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries." 1 Cor.14:2). In other tongues a man tells mysteries by his spirit. A question appears: for whom these mysteries are mysteries? When the speaker does not understand a tongue, everything what he says is a mystery at first for himself. Devil understands all languages (it is known that not angels built Babylon tower and God has mixed not their languages; it means that there is no language division in spiritual world, but human languages are easily understandable for devil). That's why everything what is told in another tongue is not a mystery for him. So, the Holy Spirit conceals something from us, from our neighbors and doesn't conceal from devil?! It doesn't look like the actions of the Holy Spirit. That who use tongues must understand what he says, but it is a mystery for listeners.
Also examining the word "mystery" by the Holy Scripture we understand that is mostly means something that is mystery for logical explanation. Because when Paul talks about the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16) everyone understands that it cannot be explained logically. But we can hear about it by our ears and understand that it exists. When on Pentecost they spoke about God's great actions (that can mean "about God's great mysteries") someone heard these mysteries. The listeners could not understand it with their logic, but they heard an understandable speech.
2. ("He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church." 1Cor 14:4). At present days when people use tongues and cannot understand what they say a question appears: how the speaker edifies himself? Prophesying opposes tongues in this verse. A prophesying one edifies the church, because the church understands what he is talking about. Then how someone who speaks tongues and doesn't understand them edifies himself? We can ask one more question: why the same spirit which edifies me cannot edify neighbors? The answer is evident - because he does not understand the tongue. The conclusion is that edifying is possible only with understanding of the tongue!
3. Let's examine one more verse: 1 Cor.14:5 "I would that ye all speak with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interprets, that the church may receive edifying." The gift of tongues is equal to prophesying only if the speaker will explain what he said (that the church may receive edifying). Thanks God that when someone speaks tongues he understands everything and can tell others about what he spoke with God!
4. "There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 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." 1 Cor.14:10-11. In these verses it is said about my attitude to the one who speaks other tongues, be it spirit or human. If he doesn't understand me or I don't understand him, we are barbarians to each other. If a spirit talks through me whose speech I cannot understand, then who is he for me, compatriot or barbarian? And if I think that I'm the citizen of God's Kingdom, than which kingdom's citizen is this spirit?
5. ("For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful." 1 Cor 14:14).
In what meaning my understanding is unfruitful? And in common, what is the fruit of understanding? Understanding brings fruit when it produces ideas, but if it only listens to some information it stays without personal fruit, taking it from another source. Some people say that, when I pray in tongue, my spirit prays but my understanding doesn't take part in it. This scheme would be ok in case of not understanding the tongue. Let's look from the other side. When I pray in tongue, words come from the Holy Spirit and through my spirit are expressed by my mouth, and my understanding edifies itself, understanding the tongue, but it stays without fruit because the fruit of understanding are thoughts, born by this understanding. And the other tongue is, as we know, thoughts, born not by my understanding but by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 1 Cor.14:14 is the favorite argument of those who use tongues, by which they prove not understandability of the tongue. But as we say above, words "understanding stays unfruitful" are connected not with my understanding but with understanding of "he that occupies the room of the unlearned" (1Cor.14:16). It means that everything is clear for me when I pray with the spirit. But by praying with my understanding I give "him that occupies the room of the unlearned" the possibility to say "Amen" on my prayer. And if I can make the unlearned to understand my prayer, then of course it is understandable for me.
Let's imagine that "understanding is unfruitful" means that there is no fruit in my understanding (the word "fruit" in the Scripture carries the idea to bring it for another, not for you). Let's imagine that it proves that the tongue can be not understandable for the speaker. But it is possible only for several seconds because the next verse refutes such an admission. Paul asks: What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. It is the exit from situation "understanding without fruit". That's why even if Pentecostals and charismatics are basing a not understandable for themselves tongue by the previous verse, then Paul himself offers them the exit: pray with your understanding and the fruit will appear, and everyone who stands near will understand you.
Praying "with the understanding" means to praying, understandable for the unlearned. That means that praying is not in tongues because the unlearned has no gift of interpretation the same as the praying one. It means that whether you keep silence if there is no interpreter, or you pray the way the others could understand you.
(So, any meaning that you have about words "Understanding stays unfruitful", it doesn't justify the lack of understanding of the speaker).
6. ("For if you give a blessing with the spirit, how will the man who has no knowledge say, So be it, after your prayer, seeing that he has not taken in what you are saying?" 1 Cor.14:16). In this verse we see that we cannot say "Amen" after something was said if we don't understand the tongue of the speaker. However, it also related to the speaker. It means that if a man is praying in another tongue and does not understand what he is saying, he has no right to say "Amen" ever after his own words.
Those who use tongues does not agree with the arguments above because as if someone has this gift he is supposed pray for the gift of interpretation (1Cor.14:13), it means that he does not understand anything. If his own using tongues was understandable for himself, that he wouldn't need any gift of interpretation? It is a good counterargument, but at the same moment it is an argument against them. Let's start with the following, it is offered the speaker to pray for the gift of interpretation, but for whom? For himself? It would be interesting to see how it looks like in practice. Someone speaks tongues and interprets at once. If it was told to the speaker to pray to gain this gift of interpretation right after the gift of using tongues, then Paul wouldn't tell the speaker to keep silence in the church (if there is no interpreter), but he would repeat that it's time to have the gift of interpretation. Paul says: "to another different sorts of tongues; and to another the power of making clear the sense of the tongues". (So, we need to accept that God gives an imperfect gift which needs to be completed and perfected? James says: "Every good and true thing is given to us from heaven, coming from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change or any shade made by turning.") And even if we agree that the gift or interpretation is needed for the speaker, we would see an interesting argument that once in life of a speaker comes the moment when he starts to understand his tongue. Also, the following fact is interesting - God replies to their prayers and they get baptizing with sign in tongues (when it is for unbelievers) but doesn't reply to Paul's offer (praying for the gift of interpretation). There is no place where we could read that we should pray for the gaining of the gift of using tongues, but everyone prays about it and have it. But the clear command - pray for the gift of interpretation - passes unnoticed for the spiritual life of those who have the gift of using tongues. (Of course, this command is given to pray for the gift of interpretation for someone else, because simultaneous using tongues and interpretation is impossible. There is another possibility for this which is called explanation. It means that after someone speaks tongues, he can explain the words he told in another tongue in his own words to edify church.): "He who makes use of tongues may do good to himself; but he who gives the prophet's word does good to the church. Now though it is my desire for you all to have the power of tongues, it would give me more pleasure to be hearing the prophet's word from you; for this is a greater thing than using tongues, if the sense is not given at the same time, for the good of the church" (1Cor.14:4-5). The prophesying one edify the church, the speaking one cannot do this because he cannot be understood. But after he gains edifying himself, he can edify others by explaining of his words. It is written before the offering of a prayer for the gift of interpretation. So, it is confirmed once again that the gift of interpretation is needed for the others, who don't understand the speaking one. Let's imagine for a moment as if the offering for the speaking one to pray for the gift of interpretation is addressed to himself, not to someone from the church. It would be a great egoism, because this gift is edifying the speaker already, but as if he must gain one more gift to understand himself. Also, this sign is not for believers and it appears that a believer who got the sign, not assigned for him (but which he uses for himself) must gain something more and again for himself!! The gift of interpretation is needed for someone from the church for the church to get edifying while the speaking one speaks.
Are there really two kinds of using tongues? Is using tongues different to speaking on the Pentecost? For this we should scrutinize and understand the Scripture in relation with words: sign and tongues.
The gift is given to believers, the sign affects several times and is related with unbelievers (also it can be related with believers in connection with some sides of his life), repeating of a sign is connected with perseverance of some unbelief. Also we understand that any sign is made by God directly or through His children. For example, Gideon and Jonah. They got signs from God in their lives. One of them even asked twice. Another one explained the sign, assigned to him (the flower), that God will destroy Nineveh. But God talked to him by this sign, saying that He loves Nineveh, because there are the same people as he is (But Jonah didn't want to permit that God of Israel also loves heathens). Of course, repeating of the sign would say that people are stubborn in their unbelief.
A sign was shown to Peter three times to strongly record this lesson in his mind. Ii would be inconceivable, if the sign continued repeating constantly in his life and activities. In the same way using tongues becomes apparent in Acts three times (2, 10, 19) for the church of the first apostles, the same as for all other churches. Until this truth was learnt and not more. If using tongues was so actual today, as many people think, then also visions shouldn't be less actual. Who from the church made of all nations, tribes and languages need a sign that Christ's body is made of all nations, tribes and languages? Briefly: Through seeing vile animals, Peter taught Israelites the same things that using tongues taught. Israelites didn't want to believe that the way of salvation, entrance to God of Israel is opened for heathens also, whose tongue was miraculously expressed by the Holy Spirit.
Let's follow several arguments of the Scriptures which prove that there is the only one kind of using tongues:
1. "In the law it is said, By men of other tongues and by strange lips will my words come to this people; and not even so will they give ear to me, says the Lord. For this reason tongues are for a sign, not to those who have faith, but to those who have not: but the prophet's word is for those who have faith, and not for the rest who have not." 1 Cor.14:21-22. The argument is given by Paul himself - he says that tongues are signs (because there is no separate gift of tongues and sign of tongues)! So, tongues are sign which carries a revelation for people relating to their unbelief. That's exactly what we said above. The sign is related to someone's unbelief. It is given to believers as a gift which is the sign but not two separate things.
2. Paul quotes the Old Testament: "In the law it is said, By men of other tongues and by strange lips will my words come to this people; and not even so will they give ear to me, says the Lord." 1 Cor.14:21. Where did it take place? On Pentecost! And where Paul says about it? In his message to Corinthians, not in Acts. The explanation of events from Acts goes to Corinthians. That's why the tongues of Acts and messages are the same. Enumeration of the gift of tongues along with other signs doesn't double it. Charismatics refer to Mark 16 where is written: "And these signs will be with those who have faith: in my name they will send out evil spirits; and they will make use of new languages; They will take up snakes, and if there is poison in their drink, it will do them no evil; they will put their hands on those who are ill, and they will get well." Enumeration of the gift of tongues along with signs mentioned above is the conclusion that there is the gift of tongues, mentioned in Cor.12 and the sign, got by a believer in the moment of baptizing by the Spirit, mentioned by Mark. There are also tongues of Pentecost which were understandable for many people and tongues of Corinth, not understandable for anyone (even for the speaking one). If we make such conclusions only because somewhere enumeration of tongues goes separately only with signs, then we may uphold Jehovah's Witnesses. With the same argument they refute the Personality of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit is enumerated along with lifeless things. Somewhere it is said that you'll be baptized by the Holy Spirit, somewhere by the Holy Spirit and fire. Such an enumeration doesn't double the Holy Spirit and He stays the same. Mentioned on a level with Father and Son He doesn't become another when mentioned together with fire!
3. (Testimony of the book's author) With help of symphony I put down all verses, related to using tongues and didn't miss any. I've found about 30 of them. Then I took Greek text. In all these verses is used the same expression. It is completely clear that if using tongues from messages was different to using on Pentecost, they would have different designations. But they didn't. Luke, the author of the book of Acts in the second chapter use the same words as Paul in 12th, 13th and 14th chapter of message to Corinthians. I think that if these two kinds of using tongues were different, Luke would designate them with two different words. In fact, Acts were written after the message to Corinthians. This message of Paul circulated among churches and was familiar to Luke. Also, Luke was Paul's fellow traveler in many of his journeys. So, if using tongues about which speaks Luke was different to using tongues about which speaks Paul, Luke would definitely marked it out to avoid any mess. But it is not so. The same as Paul, he uses one and the same word, speaking about the same. In both cases this word is "glassa".
In Charismatic an Pentecostal circles there is an opinion that baptizing by the Holy Spirit must be accompanied by the sign of using tongues or other outer display like fallings (because how can we know that someone is baptized by the Holy Spirit?). Somewhere people approach this question fundamentally, somewhere not. The main proof is that in several places of the Holy Scriptures is written that everyone used tongues, what proved that they received the Spirit. Today relating to baptizing by the Spirit new indications were added - fallings. Concerning tongues, when we scrutinize this question we can make a conclusion that they were given to "this people" (Jewish) relating to their unbelief that salvation have all the tongues. Of course, this is a controversial point for some people, but the fact that even in apostles' times as if indication of baptizing by the Spirit started to cease to be the indication is clear from Paul questions: is everyone a prophet? No. Does everybody use tongues? No. One is a prophet, another one use tongues, the third one explains tongues. All these outer displays say that something supernatural happens to a man. Can we today consider fallings or the sign of tongues a God's indication? We can make a conclusion after examining of God's acts.
The problem is that some of those who like to quote that in later times God will give more grace and more shedding of the Spirit and forget to quote one more verse: (antichrist and his servants) will give such signs that even the chosen will be charmed. The problem of as if baptized is that other denominations of Christianity which are not definitely with Christ (Catholics, Orthodox) take away from them strong proof , but they also use tongues and FALL!
Paul says: "FOR WE ARE WALKING BY FAITH, NOT BY SEEING…" 2 Cor.5:7. Let's recall Thomas who said: If I don't see I will not believe. You stand in front of a man and say: "Prove that you're baptized by the Spirit". And of course, you want him to start using tongues. You cannot do as Thomas did? He saw and believed. We have the truth in the Bible and God who speaks to His children and opens secrets. If you have doubts whether a brother by the Spirit stands near you of a liar, you have the way of belief: MY SHEEP GIVE EAR TO MY VOICE, they won't listen to other voices. You say that you have the Spirit, but if the Spirit is in you, what for do you need a sign that He is in someone else? Or we are the same unbelieving Israelites who cannot permit that other people who don't have something that I have or not "falling" cannot get salvation?
Tongues are not a sign for believers! Especially fallings. When Jesus healed possessed ones, people understood that those came to themselves. But here people from the world can understand the opposite, someone becomes beside himself.
1 Cor. 14:32
A very important principle is expressed here. If we read between lines we can suppose that Corinthians had incorrect idea that the more a man is controlled by the Holy Spirit, the more he cannot control himself. Under influence of the Spirit they entered condition of heightened delight and thought, as God marks, that the more spiritual they have, the less they give account of their activities and words. They thought that a man under the influence of the Spirit is in condition of a certain drift, that's why he cannot control contents and duration of his speech, his activities. In this verse we see a well-founded disproof if this idea. The spirit of the prophet is controlled by the prophet. It means that the prophet never loses his consciousness and doesn't go against his will. He cannot deviate from admonitions stated in this chapter on a simple base that he just can do nothing with himself. He is in condition to determine when he can speak and how long.