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1 Corinthians 14:2

ESV 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.
NIV For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.
NASB For the one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.
CSB For the person who speaks in a tongue is not speaking to people but to God, since no one understands him; he speaks mysteries in the Spirit.
NLT For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious.
KJV For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

What does 1 Corinthians 14:2 mean?

Paul has urged Christians in the church at Corinth to desire to be given spiritual gifts by God. Especially commended is the spiritual gift of prophecy. In this context, prophecy meant speaking on behalf of God something He revealed specifically to the person with this gift. Now Paul begins to explain why the gift of prophecy is more beneficial to the church than the spiritual gift of tongues.

The gift of tongues, as described by Paul in this chapter, involved the God-given, supernatural ability to speak in a language not known to the speaker. This could take various forms. As on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit may cause those who don't understand the speaker's language to hear the message in their own language. Others may speak in a foreign language and either interpret what they just said in their own language or have their message interpreted in that way by someone with the spiritual gift of interpretation.

Or, as Paul describes it here, a person with the gift of tongues might pray, talking to God only for the purpose of communicating directly to God through the Holy Spirit. This person "utters mysteries," meaning even he likely does not know what he is saying to God.

Paul does not dismiss this gift or discourage its practice in this way, but he will show why the gift of prophecy is more helpful for the church. Later, he will also provide restrictions on how the gift of tongues should be used during worship services in the church.
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