1 Corinthians 14:6-9 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
Paul could speak with tongues more than any of the Corinthian church members, (vs. 18). Yet, he says that he would not be profitable to them unless he spoke to them either by:
- “Revelation” – Something God showed him.
- “Knowledge” – Something he knew.
- “Prophesying” – Telling the future, preaching or instructing in the Scriptures.
- “Doctrine” – Some truth from the Word of God.
When you help the saints out, you help them out by giving them something God showed you or something you know to be true or something about the future or Bible doctrine.
To clarify his meaning, Paul uses the illustration of the sounds given by things without life; like musical instruments. Everyone knows that unless they give a distinction in the sound they make, no one will be able to know what is going on; they will produce confusion, NOT edification, meaning or purpose. How does a person receive edification by just banging on the piano? Just banging on the keys has no distinction of sound. You can’t say that anybody is edified by that.
If a person only had 1 Corinthians 14 down to verse 7, what would they think Paul is trying to say? It is amazing how people hop, skip, and jump around the Bible to get the meaning they want it to say. But, what if we just had these seven verses concerning tongues? Would there be any doubt about what Paul thought concerning tongues? Is it possible that Paul might be trying to get something across to us? These seven verses tell us to look out for tongues, and especially tongues that nobody understands. If a person can read, that is what they should have gotten out of these seven verses so far. But, Paul goes on in giving instruction concerning tongues in particular.
To elaborate on his illustration, Paul appeals to the application of a trumpet being used in military service. He asks if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? Of course, nobody would. If the sound is uncertain, then nobody will do anything certain. There will be confusion. In the military, there is a trumpet call to wake the soldiers (revelry), a trumpet call for going to sleep (taps), a trumpet call to charge, a trumpet call of retreat, a trumpet call for just about everything. If the trumpet blows with distinction and certainty, the soldiers will obey with distinction and certainty. But, if the trumpet call is uncertain, the soldiers won’t know exactly what to do. Once there was a bunch of cavalry horses that were trained to dance as show horses. One time they got involved in a battle. When the trumpet started, the horses thought they were supposed to dance and didn’t charge. That’s an “uncertain sound.”
Paul says that we are to give a distinct sound. The lesson they teach officers in the Army is to give a clear command. The Army would stress this to the point that they said, “I don’t care if you give the wrong command, but be sure to make it plain.”
The “uncertain sound” in verse 8, not only causes confusion for Believers, but also causes confusion for the unsaved. Most “tongues” speakers are trying to escape persecution by concentrating their “witnessing” efforts on other Christians. They are trying to get out of witnessing and persecution by talking only to Christians. Not only that, most of their message focus’ on trying to talk other Christians out of their salvation by influencing them to depend on WORKS. They mask this by displaying a “lovey dovey, love me, I love you, we love everybody…” testimony while becoming liberal in their theology and overthrowing the Word of God by trying to get rid of it and replace it with Bibles that contain Alexandrian doctrine. Their message is so uncertain that nobody knows what in the world they are saying. Nobody is going to prepare themselves for battle listening to something like that.
Verse 9 is the core of Paul’s message. Like the instruments played without distinction, a person who speaks using words that are not easily understood is like a person who is speaking to the air. In other words, they are speaking to nothing. It doesn’t matter what significance the speaker may imagine the message has, if the receiver cannot understand what is being said, there is no purpose. Paul didn’t just say that a person needed to be understood, but that the speaker should choose words that are EASILY understood. This is a far distance from someone who claims that they are speaking in a “special” language that only God knows what is being said. The Bible indicates that there should be a meaning in the voice.