The Unknown Tongue
What really is the unknown tongue referred to? Is it the tongue now where most Pentecostals are babbling, which we cannot understand?
This topic is addressed in 1 Corinthians 14. It is clearly NOT the babbling of the Pentecostals. How do we know that? Well, verse 22 tells us that "tongues are for a sign." This ties tongues to the Jewish people for 1 Corinthians 1:22 say, "FOR THE JEWS REQUIRE A SIGN, and the Greeks seek after wisdom." If you think about it, the first time that the gift of tongues occurs, it is during a Jewish feast-Pentecost (Acts 2). Not only that, but we are also told in 1 Corinthians 14:22 that tongues are "not to them that believe, but to them that believe not." Again we note that the first time the gift of tongues occurs, a bunch of unbelieving Jews trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. No one was speaking some heavenly language that no one could understand. Peter wasn't babbling.
Back in 1 Corinthians 14, we can easily see that the unknown tongue is a language that is unknown to the members of the congregation. If someone stood up in our church and preached a sermon in the Chinese language or gave a word of testimony in Russian, no one would have a clue what was said. That is why Paul laid down a rule for tongues that is completely ignored by most, if not all, Pentecostals. That rule states: "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." (1 Corinthians 14:27). Paul is emphasizing the fact that he wants folks to understand what is being said. It is important to both believers and unbelievers that the message be clearly understood. This is why Paul says, "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:19).