Biblical guidelines for tongues in public settings:

(1Peter 4:10 -11 NIV) Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms…….. so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

Most of the passages about tongues are in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.  Paul had spent 18 months helping to establish this community of believers only a matter of months previously (possibly around 50-52AD) and is probably writing from Ephesus (maybe around 54-55AD) having heard that there have been some  problems.  Although Paul is writing to encourage and bless the Corinthian believers it is clear that there has been some falling out amongst some of them, some competition and some compromise.  We get the impression that their meetings, even with non-believers present, were rather rowdy with lots of tongues and possibly some of the women chatting.  Perhaps our gatherings are more refined but it is helpful to understand the context of Paul’s comments.

(1Cor14:from between6-13 NKJV) If I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?….unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand how will it be known what is spoken?…There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance…..Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.

(1Cor 14:26-29 NKJV) Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.  If anyone speaks in a tongue let there be 2 or at most 3, each in turn, and let one interpret.  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and God.  Let 2 or 3 prophets speak and let the others judge.

(1Cor 14:18-19 NKJV) I thank my God I speak with tongues more than all of you; yet in the church I would rather speak 5 words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than 10,000 words in a tongue.

(1Cor 14:39-40 NIV) Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

It seems that Paul would place no restriction on tongues in private or in a group of people all praying in tongues or in a context of praise and worship where no interpretation would be needed. Also, if there’s no-one to translate, a preacher could, in the power of the Holy Spirit, deliver a sermon in tongues and be understood.

In general: in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is talking about order in the public gathering where there may be newcomers and unbelievers; in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is speaking about Ministry gifts that keep the groups of believers functioning well together for the good of eachother. When Paul says that not all speak in tongues he may be referring to a ‘ministry of tongues’ with interpretation such as used in public settings by a married couple known to Kenneth Hagin – the husband spoke in tongues and the wife spoke the interpretation, accurately describing the person’s predicament and the solutions and blessing, often a creative word that caused circumstances to change.