Spiritual Gifts Series Part 10- The Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues

Episode 66

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Carl Joseph

Carl is a biblical scholar, minister, husband, father and life coach. In his mid-twenties he had a powerful encounter with God and saw miraculous healings as a result. He passionately shares these stories and empowers others to fulfill their God-given potential.

The gift of interpretation of tongues is the last of the three utterance gifts. Interpretation of tongues is ‘the showing forth by the Holy Spirit, the meaning of the utterance in Divers tongues.’ It’s not a translation, but an interpretation and there’s a difference. All gifts operate by faith and one person’s interpretation may differ from another, as God uses imperfect vessels to transmit His message. Some contend this gift is the least of the utterance gifts because it requires another person to relay the message. Let’s join Carl now as he shares the scriptural usage of this unique gift…

Here is a complete transcript of the podcast (below)…

Let’s complete our study today of the nine spiritual gifts. I will now discuss the final gift, which is the interpretation of tongues. Let’s read our key passage once more, 1st Corinthians 12:7-11:

 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”

Friend, this is our last of teaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and we will cover the interpretation of tongues right now. We now finish our study of the three utterance gifts or better known as the inspirational gifts, i.e. the three gifts that say something, namely the gift of prophecy, Divers tongues and interpretation of tongues. As I said previously, there has been a lot of misunderstanding concerning the spiritual gifts down the years and hopefully in the previous days, I’ve clarified some of these misunderstandings. If not, you can always send me a question about the spiritual gifts and I will do my best to answer them. You can shoot me an email at info@carljosephministries.com, any time about the gifts or any other question for that matter.

Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:1, “Concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you ignorant“. If God didn’t want the early Church to be ignorant concerning the spiritual gifts, then neither should we, as we are that same Church. Some people have wrongly surmised that the Spiritual gifts are not for us today, or others believe some of the gifts are for today and others are not. However if any of them are for us today, then all of them are! Nothing has changed friend, except the lack of faith man has directed toward their operation. If we don’t apply our faith concerning the spiritual gifts then they’ll wane because they function by faith. If Pastors fail to teach on these gifts to their congregation, then people will lack knowledge concerning them and you cannot believe further than you have knowledge.

So, let’s get back to this gift of the Interpretation of tongues. The interpretation of tongues can be defined as the supernatural showing forth by the Holy Spirit, the meaning of an utterance in other tongues. Also, it’s not a translation of tongues, but an interpretation and there’s a difference. Therefore, based on the individual, who is interpreting, there can sometimes be a slightly different interpretation from another person, who’s operating in the same gift. If it were a translation, all the messages would be precisely the same but there can be subtle differences between interpreters because we see through the glass darkly remember and God is working through impure vessels like us. If we prophecy in part and tongues and interpretation are the equivalent of prophecy then, the interpretation is also a small part of the bigger picture, in what God’s trying to reveal through these utterance gifts. So because it’s an interpretation, and not a translation, the interpretation may be much shorter or longer than what is said in tongues. There are no requirements that an interpretation has to be the exact same number of words or number of sentences, as the utterance given in tongues. This is a common misconception.

One could argue that interpretation is the least of the three spiritual gifts because it relies on another gift i.e., divers’ kind of tongues in order to be manifested. i.e., it doesn’t operate unless tongues have been spoken, especially in a public setting. The purpose of the gift of interpretation is primarily to render the gift of tongues understandable to the hearers, so the whole church congregation may know what’s been said. Let’s remind ourselves what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians about interpretation of tongues, in 1st Corinthians 14:5, “I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”

As you can see, once tongues are interpreted, they edify the church as a whole. But if they’re not interpreted it can cause confusion. So is the interpretation of tongues the only way the Holy Spirit can speak to the church for edification? No of course not. The gift of prophecy is another way. It should be noted that psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are also given by the Holy Spirit through the gift of prophecy and this is discussed in Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. Remember it takes two people to edify the church via tongues and interpretation but it only takes one person to prophecy. Therefore it takes more faith for one person to prophecy than give a tongue or interpretation because he’s acting alone instead of having to rely partly on someone else to edify, comfort or exhort those present. When we pray in tongues privately by ourselves, we don’t need to interpret because the scripture makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 14:4, He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself.” If however we speak in tongues in a public setting without the interpretation, no one is edified except us because no-one else understands the message.  

God does not desire this in a public setting because He wants everyone to be edified, not just the person praying in tongues. If one person in a congregation prays in tongues without any interpretation then only he’s edified, and the rest of the Church is no better off. Hence the reason we should interpret the tongues message for the benefit of all. Now on occasion it’s possible to interpret your own tongue privately, it’s happened in my life a few times. However, this not a common occurrence, but I will not say it cannot happen.  When it comes to the protocol of interpreting the message in a public setting, Paul gives direction on this also in 1 Corinthians 14:27, ” 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. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. “When ministering tongues publicly in a Church service, Paul is saying, that it should be done by two or at most, three people and never more.

Therefore, only two or three people should participate in the tongue and interpretation. The NLT provides us greater insight, 27 “No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. 28 But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.” In other words, we shouldn’t all speak at once, but let it be in succession. It also implies that the same person might speak more than once. It should be noted that it does not exclude the person who spoke in tongues from interpreting the message himself, which is possible but not common. There’s also the possibility that more than one person could interpret the message in tongues. We must remember operating in these gifts is always done by faith. If someone spoke with tongues in a public setting and there was no interpretation given, it could be that the interpreter wasn’t listening to the Holy Spirit as he should have. Yes friend, it’s possible we can miss the opportunity if we’re not careful, just as we could miss the opportunity to minister the Gospel to someone in English if we’re not careful, despite the Holy Spirit giving us the unction to do so. It also states that tongues are a sign for unbelievers and scripture expressly states this because it’s a very powerful manifestation of God’s spirit that can greatly encourage the hearers. But if the gift is abused, then people can become misguided and the Apostle Paul warns of this also in 1st Corinthians 14:22-23:

Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?”

Here Paul mentions the term, ‘unlearned’. This term applies to Christians who are ignorant of the gifts of the Spirit and have not been baptized with the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues. Unfortunately, the majority of Christian denominations fall into this ‘unlearned’ category, and they remain ignorant of the spiritual gifts or have been taught wrongly that they’ve passed away long ago. So what Paul is saying here in this passage, is if everyone speaks in tongues in a church setting with no interpreter and an unlearned person or even non-believer in Christ, is present in the room, they will think everyone is mad because they’re all speaking in different languages or tongues. Of course, this makes perfect sense and this erroneous practice has led to much wounding down the years by Pentecostals or Charismatic’s, who did not follow the protocol laid down by Paul for tongues and interpretation. Friend, I apologize sincerely to anyone on their behalf, if you fall into this category and have run from the gifts because of their misuse. Further down in this chapter, in verse 33 Paul reminds us that God isn’t the author of confusion but peace and everyone praying in tongues for the sake of it, without proper interpretation, can lead to a lot of confusion, as I’ve witnessed also.

Many people forget that the Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph 4:30). The abuse of the gifts can grieve the Holy Spirit certainly, but even more grieving to Him is people who claim the gifts have passed away or are attributed to the works of Satan. Some people also don’t like the fact that any gift of the Spirit is operating through an impure vessel, a human being. They don’t always manifest the gifts as best they should and this can appear awkward on occasion for a Pastor that is insecure. As a result, he won’t allow the gifts of the Spirit to move in his congregation for fear that he might lose people if things go wrong or if someone gets offended by the inappropriate usage of the gift. The bottom line is there are many ways the Holy Spirit can be grieved, but most often I believe He is grieved because he wants to manifest himself in a service and He wasn’t permitted to do so. This is the real problem we have in 80% of churches today. But like I said, it also grieves the Holy Spirit when His gifts are misused and we don’t follow the protocol laid down by God’s word for the appropriate conduct of the Gifts manifestation.

The bottom line is the Holy Spirit needs to be invited into our services. People need to be trained in the spiritual gifts so they have knowledge of how they work. This avoids bad conduct and confusion when they do manifest. God moves in the gifts of the Spirit as He wills but He still uses earthen or broken vessels to manifest these gifts and the person through which these gifts are manifested, has a part to play in the successful outcome of Gods desire for their operation. If the person has never operated in the gifts before, they might be nervous and those nerves could impact the quality of the message, or the delivery of it or even the message itself, so we need to operate in the love of God when these gifts are working though the congregation and not be overtly judgmental! We do however need to judge whether the Spirit in operation is the Holy Spirit and not some other spirit. Above all, the message must line up with God’s word so we certainly don’t throw all judgment out the window either. 

Friend, if you’d like to learn more about the nine spiritual gifts in detail then I highly recommend Kenneth E. Hagin’s workbook entitled, “The Holy Spirit and His gifts“. This is a very thorough exposition of all nine gifts and as I said this will help you enormously in your personal studies. Once again, that’s Kenneth E. Hagin’s workbook entitled, “The Holy Spirit and His gifts.”  Remember friend, if you want to see the gifts manifest in your life, you’ve got to want them to, you must desire them as Paul said. 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts.”  Ask the Lord today to see them manifest in your life or lead you to a church that will teach you about these gifts and permit their usage for the benefit of all present.

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