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1 Corinthians 14:4 (NIV) reads:

4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.

How is speaking in tongues an activity that edifies the individual who practices the gift? How is it "self-edifying"?

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Man is body, soul and spirit. 1 Thess5:23

The body is a carnal/biological machine that houses the soul and spirit.

“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭14:23‬

It can also house other spirits in some cases hundreds of other spirits.

“Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:44

The soul of man is understood to be his emotions, will and mind. All immaterial but they act on the body and the body acts on the soul. This would require many verses about I’ll post three one for each

  • mind “for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭2:10‬
  • will “My soul refuses to touch them; They are as loathsome food to me.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭6:7‬
  • emotion “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭42:1‬

The spirit cannot act on the body without going through the soulish part of man. There is one exception

Speaking in tongues

The spirit of man communicates with the Spirit of God perfectly bypassing the mind of man such that he cannot understand what is being said and the mouth speaks

“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭14:2‬

In fact this is reiterated by Paul explaining either praying by engaging the mind (soulish part of man) OR praying just with the spirit. He does not speak against either but rather encourages both.

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭14:14-15

To your question why is the person speaking in tongues edifying himself? Or how Is he edifying himself?

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:16‬ ‭

There is perfect communication unhindered communication between the born again spirit of man and the Spirit of God. Therefore it is a perfect prayer. Such a prayer is the ultimate prayer for oneself because it is not impeded, overridden or hindered by rationalization of the will/emotion/mind of man.

In such a prayer you are praying a perfect prayer according to God’s will. And agreeing with God means getting the highest chance of answered prayers. Answers to prayers are extremely edifying

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:14‬

Because joy ought to be complete/full

“Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” ‭‭John‬ ‭16:24‬

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edifies
οἰκοδομεῖ (oikodomei)
Verb - Present Indicative Active - 3rd Person Singular
Strong's Greek 3618: From the same as oikodome; to be a house-builder, i.e. Construct or confirm.

HELPS Word-studies

3618 oikodoméō (from 3624 /oíkos, "a house" and domeō, "to build") – properly, to build a house (home, edifice); (figuratively) to edify – literally, "build someone up," helping them to stand (be strong, "sturdy").

Later verses provide further insights:

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, d say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

The emphasis is on the realities in the spiritual dimension. When one is truly speaking in tongues, he is communicating spiritual truths enabled by the Holy Spirit. As such, it is an exercise to strengthen his beliefs, his faith. He can praise God and increase his love for God and the gospel. He is building himself up spiritually so long as he is in touch with the Holy Spirit while doing so. It is a time of devotion.

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Question:

How is speaking in tongues a practice edifying for the own individual?


Answer: In the Spirit, Mysteries are being Revealed

NKJV, 1 Corinthians 14:2 - For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.

The text seems to state that speaking in tongues is a source of knowledge/revelation for the one speaking in tongues. It is not as though one is speaking mysteries to God that he wouldn't have known a few eon prior.

By having this source of revelation knowledge, one can edify themselves:

NKJV, 1 Corinthians 14:4 - He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself,

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The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary suggests this -

  1. edifieth himself—as he understands the meaning of what the particular "tongue" expresses; but "the church," that is, the congregation, does not.

Barnes says something similar:

Edifieth himself - That is, the truths which are communicated to him by the Spirit, and which he utters in an unknown language, may be valuable, and may be the means of strengthening his faith, and building him up in the hopes of the gospel, but they can he of no use to others. His own holy affections might be excited by the truths which he would deliver, and the consciousness of possessing miraculous powers might excite his gratitude. And yet, as Doddridge has well remarked, there might be danger that a man might be injured by this gift when exercised in this ostentatious manner.

That is, if a person is speaking and praying to God in a language unknown to the congregation, how can it be edified if what is being said cannot understood. Paul says this more explicitly in V9 -

So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

As Matthew Poole suggests:

How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? Romans 10:14. So that, though he that speaketh in an unknown tongue may (if he understand what he says) have his own heart affected with what he saith, yet it is not possible he should affect another.

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