1 Corinthians14:23

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Therefore, if the whole assembly comes together in the place, and if it were to happen that everyone speaks in [unknown] tongues, and on top of this some who are their own person

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or  faithless

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ones come in, will they not say you are raving mad?

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Therefore, if the entire church comes together at the place of worship, and if everyone present were to speak in strange tongues according to the type of speech you made up for public demonstrations, and on top of this if a clueless  person were to come in to join you, or if a person came in who was opposed to believing in Jesus, would they not say that you have lost your minds?


1: "their own persons”:

This word literally means to “be one’s own self.” However, although we use that idea to mean an independent person, which we see as a good thing, the Greeks of that time used it in a negative sense, of someone who “lacked education, status, refinement; a person who was uncultured, unskilled and illiterate.”  “Clueless!” We get our word “idiot” from this word, and it sounds a bit like our word “idiot.”


This word means “without faith.” We get our word “apostate” from this Greek word.


“to rage, to rave, to be mad, to be full of fury, to be out of one’s mind with anger,” also “temporarily deranged.” We get our English words “mania, maniac and maniacal” from this Greek word.


Just prior to this verse Paul said that tongues served to persuade the unbeliever, but here he contradicts that – unless the first one was talking about true public tongues as seen at Pentecost, and here he is addressing the counterfeit form of tongues, which is also public, but which lacks the power of the Holy Spirit.


Notice that the counterfeit does not convince unbelievers to trust in Jesus, rather it convinces them of, well, something extremely embarrassing.

After setting them up by putting the picture of a clueless person into their minds (we get our word “idiot” from that Greek word), he hit them with the harsh truth that they, the Corinthian believers, were the “clueless idiots!” Even a person that was considered clueless (an idiot) had enough sense to evaluate the situation and determine that “These people are worse off than I am – they’re raving mad.”

If it seems like Paul was really hard on the Corinthians, he was!


If you can turn something on and off at will, it is not from the Holy Spirit. We cannot control Him; He must control us!

True tongues is something that cannot be learned by repeating a phrase. If it can be taught by one human to another, it is not from the Holy Spirit. I have had people explain to me how to speak in tongues, and I have had someone try to teach me how to do it. True tongues is not something that can be coached.

Let’s compare this to other gifts for ministry. We try to teach people how to preach, teach, evangelize, serve, give, etc, but one can usually tell the difference between one who has been trained in something, and one who has been gifted by God in that area.

While there are varying degrees of Spirit empowered preaching and evangelism, a miniature version and a full-ledged version, if you will, public tongues has no secondary, or small-scale iteration. Public tongues in Acts was always a miracle, it was not a case of someone gifted in speaking several languages. Although there had to have been such people back then, God did not choose any of them; He chose to communicate His message through a miracle.

Private tongues, as I define it, is also a miracle, it is something God does. However, I believe there is something that gets close to private tongues and that is occasionally groaning or weeping in prayer. But we cannot call groaning or weeping in prayer true tongues unless the Holy spirit takes over and all we have left is unintelligible utterances. Then again, when someone today offers to teach you how to speak in tongues, it is not groans and tears that they are talking about.

If someone says or implies that everyone should speak in tongues, he is violating the principle that everyone does not receive the same spiritual gift. Most of chapter 12 of I Corinthians (vv 8-30) is dedicated to this principle. Such a strong emphasis on this principle may indicate that some of the Corinthians were trying to convince the entire congregation that everyone should speak in tongues.

The problem comes from not handling our gift in love. If we are anointed by God, no one should remember very much about us, they should remember what God did; It is about Him, not us. We are only the messengers; God wants them to focus on the message, and so should we.  They should remember the ONE the message came from, but not the one it came through.

Ignoring the topic of tongues does not unite, it only unites those that already agree with those ignoring tongues.

As a side-note – In the Scriptures we never find someone falling backwards when confronted by the Holy Spirit, only falling forward before God.

We respect the power and effectiveness of a gift of the Holy Spirit and honor God’s sovereignty over such gifts by staying as far as we can from any counterfeit of those gifts, be it false generosity, staged healings, helping others for the wrong reasons, redefining of prophecy, or speaking in tongues in a way that violates the rules for spiritual gifts.


Have you had experiences or heard stories about times that God seems to have honored the modern use of tongues by granting healings or other miracles? Is this proof that the modern use of tongues is not a counterfeit? For now, I encourage you stay focused on what the Bible says about this topic; do that by continuing to move through this study. After we have a full picture of what the Word of God teaches on the matter, we can reconsider this question (I will do so after verse 40).


In my spiritual life, do I sometimes choose one of Satan’s many counterfeits because it looks easier than the other options? How can I more accurately discern Satan’s counterfeits?

Do I trust and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in my life, even if it’s unpleasant and hard?

Am I happy to be God’s messenger without getting any credit or attention? What can I do in my life to serve more frequently as God’s messenger?