1 Corinthians 13:1
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
Note 1 at 1Co 13:1: There are different kinds of tongues. That's why Paul spoke of "divers" (i.e., different) kinds of tongues (1Co 12:10). This verse mentions two kinds of tongues--those that are human languages and those that are angelic languages.
"Tongues of men" simply refers to known languages that are in use here on earth. This is the type of tongue that the believers spoke on the Day of Pentecost (Ac 2:1-11). They spoke in the native tongues of the people who had come from foreign countries to Jerusalem for the feast. The believers who spoke in these tongues had not learned these languages, and they did not understand what they were saying as they spoke. Still, those from the different countries understood them perfectly.
"Tongues of angels" simply refers to the languages that angels speak. Some might see a benefit in speaking in the "tongues of men." After all, that was quite a testimony to the multitudes, and many were saved as a result. But what benefit is there to speaking in the tongues of angels?
One of the great advantages of speaking in tongues is that when we speak in tongues, we are praying from our spirits and not our heads (1Co 14:14). Speaking in this heavenly language bypasses the brain and its limitations, which can sometimes be a real hindrance to communication with the Lord. The spirit is the part of us that has the mind of Christ (see note 6 at 1Co 2:16), and praying from the spirit is much more powerful than praying from our limited wisdom.
Also, as we pray in tongues, we are praising God with perfect praise (1Co 14:17). We have often been frustrated in our finite attempts to adequately praise an infinite God. That's the feeling behind songs like "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing." The Lord has given us the ability to praise Him beyond the limitations of our minds through giving us this heavenly language that knows no limits.
Speaking in the tongues of angels promotes spiritual growth (1Co 14:4). It builds us up on our most holy faith (Jude 20). It allows us to draw on the infinite wisdom of God that has been deposited on the inside of us (see note 18 at 1Co 14:14).
Note 2 at 1Co 13:1: The Old English word "charity" has lost some of its meaning in modern English. Most people today associate this word with non-profit organizations or fundraisers for worthwhile causes. However, at the time of the King James translation, this word was used to denote a specific kind of love--a brotherly love that expressed itself in actions, not just words. That's why non-profit groups such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill, which specialize in helping others, are called charities.
The English word "love" expresses a wide range of emotions, many of which do not even come close to the God kind of love Paul was describing here. Therefore, if the translators had translated this as just "love," it would not have conveyed the total meaning.
So, "charity" really is descriptive of the God kind of love that Paul was describing here. God doesn't love people just in word, but in deed and truth (1Jo 3:16-18). It is this "AGAPE" (see note 3 at Ro 12:10), God kind of love that Paul was referring to throughout this chapter.
Note 3 at 1Co 13:1: Paul was saying that if he didn't have the God type of love that produces actions, then it wouldn't matter how much he spoke in tongues; he would only be making noise. The motive behind the actions determines whether those actions are anointed or just dead works (Heb 9:14).
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