It Is Wrong to Speak in Tongues When It Is Inappropriate
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul tells us of two purposes for speaking in tongues. Firstly, there is the use of this gift for personal spiritual edification (vv. 4, 18). Secondly, there is a corporate use, in which one person speaks out loud in a tongue in a church service, and someone else (or sometimes the same person) interprets the words into intelligible language (vv. 13, 27).
It is important to note how Paul instructs us that if there is no one with a gift of interpretation present, those with an ability to speak in tongues should not use this gift in church services; he tells us too that even if there is someone present who has a gift of interpretation, speaking in a tongue should only be for the purpose of having the tongue interpreted (vv. 6-12, 27-28). What was clearly happening in Corinth was that people who could speak in tongues were speaking out loud in tongues during church services without anyone interpreting what was said. It was leading to disorder and also had a real danger of putting people off the gospel (vv. 23, 40).
Exactly the same fault frequently occurs in church services and meetings today. Many Christians either seem unaware of Paul's instruction on tongues here or else they are not prepared to obey it. However, we need to submit to the biblical instruction: tongues should be avoided in church services unless there is interpretation. We also need to be sensitive and be aware of how 'weird' the whole concept of speaking in tongues is to non-Christians. Paul aptly remarks in v. 23 that if non-believers or Christians unacquainted with tongues go to a church service and everyone is speaking in tongues, they will say that the Christians there are mad. The same is surely true today. It will not help advance the cause of the gospel if we put people off in this way.
It is true that there may be occasional times when God, exceptionally, leads Christians to speak in 'personal' tongues while in a church service. However, given the teaching of 1 Corinthians 14, we would expect these times to be relatively few and far between. If in a service you think that God is leading you in this way, ask yourself whether it is really His voice that you are hearing. If you are sure that it is, try to speak in the tongue as quietly and under your breath as possible, in such a way that no one else around you even knows what you are doing.
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