Mike, all good questions! I want to first express my gratitude for you reading those chapters in 1 Cor. Thank you! So….now let us discuss them. (I am bolding things for emphasis…not to seem like I am yelling or anything.)
First, I want to distinguish between 2 types of tongues:
1) One type of tongue is a PERSONAL PRAYER language directly to God. It is not meant for prophecy but to worship God instead. This type of tongue serves you in your prayer life. It is for your own edification. It is between you and God alone.
2) The second type of tongues is a MINISTRY just like teaching and administration is a ministry. Ministries serve the people. This type of tongues is the one that you stand up in front of a congregation and speak your tongue and then an interpreter follows. This tongue edifies the whole church.
Also, just so you know these two can blend together as well. Sometimes one will be speaking in private tongues to himself and will get a prophecy in tongues for the congregation that will need an interpretation. (Also for your own knowledge there is actually 4 kinds of tongues total but I will only address these two for this conversation.)
“Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit,…”
In this verse Paul is talking about a personal prayer language in tongues. This type of tongue is NOT spoken to men but to GOD. “For no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” This is a tongue that does not need an interpreter because the point is not to prophecy but worshiping God. To further my point Paul states this, (14:4) “On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their up building and encouragement and consolation. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself (personal tongue), but he who prophesies (ministry of prophecy in tongues) edifies the Church.” He makes the distinction by staying that tongues is equal to prophecy when it can edify the church through a prophetic interpretation. Tongues is the least of all the gifts because it only serves to edify you in your personal prayer life with God. Which is good!..Just not a greater good than the ministry of tongues with an interpreter.
“And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance.”
We also see on Pentecost that there were not interpreters yet people understood them in their own language. So interpreters are not always necessary. And speaking in a tongue that is understood by man is not always necessary or else Paul would not make the distinction of speaking in the tongues of man and speaking in the tongues of angels.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Cor 13:1
Paul goes on to talk about how he wants to see the Ministry of tongues proceed. He wanted order in the church by having a few (max 3) people go up one by one who have the gift of MINISTRY of tongues followed by an interpreter. He also asks for the prophets to have order as well. He then says, “If there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God.” He is basically saying, “What is the point of going up and ministering tongues in front of the whole congregation without an interpreter? That would just be disruptive and pointless!” This isn’t really condemning someone from speaking in a personal paryer tongue to God, but he is directly speaking to those who would be ministering in tongues. Paul just wants order and not to scare away the unbelievers.
We know that when one prays to God, even in tongues that is not interpreted, that it is of a holy nature and not a demonic one because, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” When you are praying your intention is to pray to our Lord. You’re spirit cannot praise God but then praise the devil at the same time. Those who pray in an anti-tongue due so with the intention for evil.
Arnie, I just want to say thank you for this excellent description of the gift of tongues. It is clear, concise, and really delineates the difference between the private gift of tongues and the ministry gift of tongues. I found it extremely helpful. I have very limited experience with the Charismatic Church, but as I've stated earlier in this thread and in other threads, I have not experienced the excesses or apparently off-course actions of some Charismatics in this country. All of my experiences have been prayerful, holy, and fully in line with the Magisterium of the Church - these experiences include a Charismatic conference, a Charismatic Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, and my participation in a Charismatic prayer group for several months. I found these only increased my spirituality in terms of my relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit! Thank you again for your explanations here!