What does 1 Corinthians 14:2 mean?
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.
NKJV: For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 14:1–25 describes why the gift of prophecy is superior to the gift of tongues in church services, especially when nobody with the gift of interpreting tongues is available. Prophecy benefits everyone in the room with a revelation from God. Praying in a tongue, when nobody can interpret, only benefits the one praying. In fact, displaying the gift of tongues without interpretation may do more harm than good—it generates confusion and division. In contrast, the use of prophecy provides the opportunity for unbelievers to hear from God, be convicted about sin, and come to faith in Christ and genuine worship.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages the Corinthians to desire the gift of prophecy, especially, among the other gifts. He shows why its use in the church service is superior to the use of the gift of tongues if nobody is available to interpret. Prophecy benefits everyone; praying in tongues with nobody to interpret benefits only the speaker. Only two or three tongues-speakers should contribute to any service, and only then one at a time and followed by interpreters. The same applies to prophecy and the gift of discerning spirits. Orderliness and building up the church are guiding principles for any worship meeting. Modern churches are divided on the extent to who which these gifts are given, or should be practiced.
Chapter Context:
1 Corinthians 14 concludes Paul's teaching on the spiritual gifts begun in chapter 12. Between them, chapter 13 declared that Christlike love matters most of all. The gift of prophecy is better than the display of the gift of tongues in worship services unless someone with the gift of interpreting tongues is available. Even then, only those things which build up the church should be included in any service, and everything should be done in an orderly way, reflecting the character of God. The final two chapters of this letter discuss the resurrection of Christ and Paul's concluding remarks.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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