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1 Corinthians 14:28

ESV But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
NIV If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.
NASB but if there is no interpreter, he is to keep silent in church; and have him speak to himself and to God.
CSB But if there is no interpreter, that person is to keep silent in the church and speak to himself and God.
NLT But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.
KJV But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

What does 1 Corinthians 14:28 mean?

In this chapter, Paul has been insistent with the Christians in Corinth. He is explaining the relative value of the gift of tongues when compared with the gift of prophecy, for instance. He has warned against attempting to use spiritual gifts without love or the intention to build up others in the church. From that context, it appears that the Corinthian church was suffering from a disorderly and unhelpful application of tongues. This might have come to dominate the services of the Corinthian church, perhaps with many people speaking at once and nobody interpreting what was being said.

Paul has not condemned the use of tongues, in general. He has expressed his desire that all the Corinthians would receive the gift (1 Corinthians 14:5). He has not denied that those who practice it, even in a disorderly way, are truly doing so under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Instead, Paul is instructing them on how to use the gift in a church service, as well as how not to use it. He has written that two or three people may speak in a tongue, or unknown language, during a service. They must take turns, however, and they must be followed by someone with the spiritual gift of interpretation of tongues to described what has been said.

Now he adds that if nobody is available to interpret what the tongues-speaker said, then those with that gift must keep it to themselves. Paul forbids them to exercise the gift in the service. Instead, they should use the gift only to speak to themselves—in silence or apart from the service—and to speak to God.

As Paul wrote in verse 4, someone with the gift of tongues may use it to build up himself, but without an interpreter it will not build up the church. If the expression of any gift does not build up others, Paul rejects it as an option for the worship service.

From this command, Paul is clear that those who exercise spiritual gifts can and must remain in full control of themselves. The gift of tongues is not irresistible, and the speaker does not give up personal control while exercising the gift. In fact, the presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life brings more self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). The idea that Christians can, or should, become frenzied through the influence of the Spirit is unbiblical.
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