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Why are tongues for unbelievers?

Submitted: 12/18/2006
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Question: Can you explain 1 Corinthians 14:22, which says that tongues are for unbelievers? What exactly does this mean? Kind regards, Rajkumar

Answer: 1 Corinthians 14:22 says, 'Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.' This verse is addressing the operation of the gift of diverse tongues. When a message to the assembly is given first in an unknown tongue and then followed by an interpretation in the known language of the people, the purpose of the tongues is to serve as a sign (or indication) to any unbelievers present that the message they are about to hear is coming from the Lord Himself. If no unbelievers are present, the tongues are superfluous and prophecy alone should be sufficient.