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Spiritual Gift Series

Spiritual Gifts: The Interpretation

of Tongues

Category of Gift: Revelation

1 Corinthians 12:10

“to another the interpretation

of tongues, . . . .”

An updated version of this study is found in the following free E-BOOK for download:

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   Section One

The Link between The Spiritual

Gift of Tongues and the Spiritual

Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues

1.1 Corinth and The Spiritual Gifts. As we have seen, the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus had ascended to heaven. Those Apostles began to speak in foreign languages, and Peter preached a great sermon resulting in the salvation of three thousand souls. Later in the New Testament, we read about the use of the Spiritual Gift of Tongues at the church in Corinth. As Paul expressed his teaching about the proper use of spiritual gifts within the local assembly of believers, he linked together The Spiritual Gift of Tongues with a separate, but related, spiritual gift, The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues. Paul stated clearly that during the meetings of the congregation of believers at Corinth, believers should not use The Spiritual Gift of Tongues without an interpreter being present. The interpreter was a believer with The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues. Without interpretation, the person seeking to speak in tongues was to remain seated and silent during the service. (1 Corinthians 14:26-33).

1.2 Foreign Languages. At Pentecost, the Apostles spoke in different tongues, so that people from many different countries heard them speak in their own languages (Acts 2:5-13, pages 1700-1701). As discussed more fully in The Spiritual Gift of Tongues, the best evidence points to The Spiritual Gift of Tongues always producing foreign languages which require interpretation through The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues. Some people argue that at Corinth, many different languages were spoken, and so it would seem likely that an interpreter would be present. In order to understand the nature of the interpretation, we must remember that The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues requires the person to be a believer, being led by the Holy Spirit to produce the correct interpretation of the mystery delivered through The Spiritual Gift of Tongues. Providing an interpretation of a foreign tongue will not be a mechanical process, but rather the Holy Spirit leads the individual to produce an interpretation of the mystery spoken by use of The Spiritual Gift of Tongues so that interpretation perfectly reflects in the common language the message the Holy Spirit intended to communicate. Please recall that the Holy Spirit is never surprised or hindered that another believer with The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues is not present to interpret. The Holy Spirit always has a divine plan for every meeting of believers.

Section Two

The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation

of Tongues Required

2.1 Requirements. The Spiritual Gift of Tongues may be exercised privately without interpretation, but such use only edifies the person  using The Spiritual Gift of Tongues. Because Paul repeatedly emphasized the importance of edifying the entire congregation through the use of all the spiritual gifts, Paul warned the Corinthians not to allow believers to use The Spiritual Gift of Tongues in the assembly without first being sure a person with the The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues was present and ready to interpret (12 Corinthians 14:26-27, pages 1799-1800) .

2.2 The Interpreter. The believer gifted with The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues has a supernatural ability to understand the tongue spoken (a foreign language) and the ability to present a divine translation of that message in the common language. At Corinth, The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues apparently allowed on believer to interpret many different languages spoken through the different believers with using The Spiritual Gift of Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:26-28, pages 1799-1800).

Section Three

The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation

of Tongues and Verbal Inspiration

3.1 Verbal Inspiration. God communicates revelation through works and words. With words, God reveals His verbal messages to mankind. Every word revealed by God means something in particular. As God told Jeremiah the prophet, “Do not omit a word” (Jeremiah 26:2, page 1227). Every word of God stands both the test of time and the test of truth. God means every word He gives through revelation. Therefore, as The Spiritual Gift of Tongues produces a known language, communicating a mystery, it must be translated into the common language of the audience so that they may be edified. Just as the New Testament authors quoted, interpreted and applied the Scripture of the Old Testament,  so also the The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues produced the inspired interpretation of the message delivered through the The Spiritual Gift of Tongues.

3.2 Interpretation. Interpretation can be distinguished from translation. The Greek word for interpretation (“ἑρμηνείαν”), giving rise to the term Hermeneutics (principles of interpretation), means to provide not only a translation, but also the meaning of the words. The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues means that the gifted interpreter can provide the authoritative meaning of the mystery proclaimed through The Spiritual Gift of Tongues.

Section Four

The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation

of Tongues: Pray that You May Interpret

4.1 The Need for Interpretation. Without interpretation, the message delivered in a foreign language through The Spiritual Gift of Tongues would not edify the church. Therefore, the believer enjoying The Spiritual Gift of Tongues pouring forth within himself may be glorifying God, but the message delivered to him would be of no value to anyone else unless they understood the message. Therefore, as noted above, Paul required a believer with The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of tongues to be present and ready to interpret the tongue. In Paul’s case, he possessed both spiritual gifts, so that he could interpret the message delivered to him through The Spiritual Gift of Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:13-19, page 1799).

4.2 Self-Interpretation. Paul himself apparently possessed both spiritual gifts, so that he could interpret the message delivered to him through The Spiritual Gift of Tongues. Self-interpretation of tongues seems implied in 1 Corinthians 14:13, page 1799. According to Paul, the one who speaks in a tongue is commanded to pray that he may interpret. Remember, without interpretation, the message remains a blessing to the speaker, but the audience is not edified. So, if a believer has a desire to speak in tongues during a meeting, and he knows that another male has The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues, then he may proceed, provided that he follows the rules and no more than two or three speak, and then only with interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:27, pages 1799-1800).

 Section Five

The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation

of Tongues and Prophecy

5.1 Prophecy and Tongues: Separate Gifts. Paul used different Greek words to separate into three groups the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.   He separated the groups with the word “another of a different kind” (hetero–“ἑτέρῳ”) and distinguished between the gifts of the same group with the word “another of the same kind” (allo–“ἄλλῳ”). You can review that list in the article on The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom. So Paul grouped together the spiritual gifts of Faith, Healing, Miracles, prophecy and distinguishing of spirits. In another group, all by themselves. Paul placed The Spiritual Gift of Tongues and The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues. Therefore, we may expect that some differences remain between The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy and The Spiritual Gift of Tongues and The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues.

5.2 Prophecy and The Interpretation of Tongues. Some people argue that the interpretation of tongues amounts to prophecy. If you understand that prophecy always concerns the revelation of knowledge otherwise unknown to mankind, then you may see the interpretation of tongues as a subset of the gift of prophecy. So, let us look at the differences between The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy and The Spiritual Gift of Tongues.

5.2.1 Prophecy Explained. Every prophecy was designed to edify the believers hearing the prophecy. In one way or another, every prophecy revealed knowledge that would immediately edify the entire congregation. For the prophet, the mind immediately comprehended the message because the Holy Spirit communicated in a language known to the audience. It required no special gift of interpretation. Of course, the prophet may not have understood the meaning of the prophecy, but may be spurred to make careful searches and inquiries seeking to know the details of a prophecy and its application (1 Peter 1:10-11).

5.2.2 Tongues Explained. The Spiritual Gift of Tongues revealed mysteries. Furthermore, the one speaking in tongues spoke not to men, but to God. No one understands what he speaks, because he speaks mysteries. Please recall that the term “mysteries” has a special meaning in the New Testament. The term mysteries means something previously hidden (or not as fully revealed) and now revealed through the prophets and apostles of the New Testament. Therefore, the scope of tongues does not include the mindful comprehension of the believer. Furthermore, the believer does not understand the content of the tongue itself, but speaks mysteries.

5.3 Affinities of The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues with other Spiritual Gifts. While The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues stands in a group by itself with only The Spiritual Gift of Tongues, it does have some affinity with other Spiritual Gifts.

5.3.1 Affinity with Prophecy. As we have seen above, The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy also concerns revelation. Prophecy involves the mind, so that the revelation requires no special gift of interpretation.

5.3.2 Affinity with The Word of Wisdom. The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom, as shown above, also concerns the revelation of mysteries. The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues also concerns the revelation of mysteries, but it involves speaking them to God and bringing a blessing upon the gifted person only, without interpretation.

Hallmarks of The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues

♦  Interpretation-of-Tongues gifted believers interpret the language of the believer speaking with The Spiritual Gift of Tongues.

♦  Interpretation-of-Tongues gifted believers depend upon the Holy Spirit working within them to produce the perfect interpretation.

♦  Interpretation-of-Tongues gifted believers may interpret their own messages provided by their use of The Spiritual Gift of Tongues.

♦  Interpretation-of-Tongues gifted believers provide interpretation of mysteries revealed through The Spiritual Gift of Tongues.

Conclusion

As with The Spiritual Gift of Tongues, The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues may have passed away with the completion of the New Testament. Therefore, if it is still present today, any use of The Spiritual Gift of The Interpretation of Tongues must follow the Scriptural requirements for its use.

 

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