Still making his point about speaking in plain language so people can benefit, Paul continues, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaks a barbarian, and he that speaks shall be a barbarian to me” (1 Corinthians 14: 10-11).
I have traveled outside this country and found it a little troubling when announcements in an airport or train station are made and I can’t understand a word they are saying. Is this a message that refers to my ride? I can’t tell what they are trying to say. They should be speaking in plain English (lol). That’s the very point Paul is making. In the church world, we should be speaking in a language others can understand.
He is spending enough time talking about this subject that it apparently was a problem in the Corinthian Church. Perhaps they had people all speaking in their prayer language all day and not winning anyone to the Lord or helping to disciple anyone. Whatever the issue, Paul clearly explains the solution: speak in the language of who is listening.
No one knows exactly how many languages or dialects are spoken in the world today. And how many have become extinct over the centuries? And what of angelic languages? We can only communicate within our language group.
Paul said in 1 Cor. 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not [agape love], I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal“. We must learn what it means to love people by caring about them enough to speak to them straight up in a language they can understand. I speak in tongues to God; I speak to my brothers and sisters in a language they can understand.