What does 1 Corinthians 14:27 mean?
ESV: If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.
NIV: If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.
NASB: If anyone speaks in a tongue, it must be by two or at the most three, and each one in turn, and one is to interpret;
CSB: If anyone speaks in a tongue, there are to be only two, or at the most three, each in turn, and let someone interpret.
NLT: No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say.
KJV: If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
NKJV: If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.
Verse Commentary:
Paul is delivering instructions to the church in Corinth for how they should conduct their church services. He has described something like an open-microphone format, in which believers take orderly turns. In this way, those who wish to do so may present a song, a lesson, a revelation, or some speaking in tongues with a follow-up interpretation.

His bottom-line rule in all cases is that whatever is presented must build up those who are present.

Now he further limits what is allowed. Only two or three people should be allowed to speak in a tongue, and only one at a time. In each case, they should be followed by someone with the spiritual gift of interpretation explaining what was said in clear language for all to hear. Paul will add, in the following verse, that nobody should speak in tongues during the service if nobody present is able to interpret. This restriction follows directly from his prior teaching that uninterpreted tongues are not edifying (1 Corinthians 14:13–19).
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 14:26–40 includes specific instructions to the Corinthians on an orderly worship service. These meetings should reflect the character of God. Everyone should have an opportunity to bring a hymn, a lesson, a prophetic revelation from God, and even to speak in a tongue if someone is able to interpret. Each must happen one at a time, in turn, and only two or three tongues-speakers or prophets should contribute during a single service. Wives must remain silent and be in submission to their husbands. Only that which builds up the church should be included.
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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