Jan 10

Tongues on Sunday Morning

Resource by Jake LeFave

On Sunday, January 9th I preached a sermon that walked through 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. Included in that section of Paul’s Epistle to the church in Corinth are some instructions as to how tongues (and their interpretation) are to be practiced, “when you (church) come together” (1 Cor. 14:26).

During our time in 1 Corinthians 12-14, we defined tongues as:

The Spirit-empowered ability to speak a language not previously known or learned by the speaker.[1]

As a gift to be used for private edification, the gift of tongues requires no interpretation (1 Cor. 14:2). However, 1 Corinthians 14 makes clear that, for tongues to be used in a way that “builds up” the body in our public gatherings they must be interpreted. Additionally, 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 shows us that:

  • Like prophecy, tongues are not to crowd out the other spiritual gifts on a Sunday morning. Paul writes that, “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three…” (1 Cor. 14:27)

However, while Paul’s command to, “Let two or three prophets speak” (v.29) is qualified by what he continues to say in verse 31 (“For you can all prophesy), there exists no such qualification for tongue-speaking in a gathering in 1 Corinthians 14.[2]

  • Tongues should not be shouted out uncontrollably or while another element of the gathering is taking place (such as the sermon, worship in song, or partaking in the Lord’s Supper). Again, Paul writes, that tongue-speakers should use their gift, “each in turn” (1 Cor. 14:27). Further, Paul states that, “if there is no one to interpret”, the person with the tongue is able to “keep silent” and simply, “speak to himself and to God” (1 Cor. 14:28).

So, what does this look like in our Sunday morning gatherings? Before we look at the practicalities below it is worth remembering that we don’t have a ton of biblical literature on tongues or their interpretation, let alone how to best practice them.

However, informed by the Scriptural commands and priorities, below is our best attempt as Elders to create a structure where the gift of tongues and its interpretation can be a regular occurrence in our Sunday gatherings.

  1. Before we gather, ask that The Lord would give you either a tongue or an interpretation to be shared during our gathering for the building up of the body. (1 Cor. 14:26)
  1. If, during the gathering, you sense you have a tongue to share with church, come speak to an Elder(s) at the front.[3]
  1. Not wanting to, “forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39), together we’ll discern when is the appropriate time is to share the tongue, and then the tongue-speaker will present it to the church.
  1. And then we’ll wait for God to bring an interpretation. We will not wait forever, as this would seem to contradict Paul’s desire that tongues not dominate the gathering.

May God be glorified as we seek to be obedient to His Word in practicing the gift of tongues and interpretation in an orderly manner in our gatherings.

On behalf of the Elders,



[1] For a more robust treatment of how we, largely, understand tongues as a spiritual gift see this article written by Brandt Van Roekel. Also, this sermon preached by Paul Papworth.

[2] The conclusion I articulated in the article, “Prophecy on Sunday Morning” is that Paul is limiting the amount of consecutive prophetic words in order to allow time for the church to weigh them.

[3] In time we hope to raise up a team of spiritually mature men and women to act as the point-people for both those with a prophetic word or a tongue to share with the church.