1 Corinthians 12:10, “…to still another the interpretation of tongues.”
The ninth and last spiritual gift is the “gift of interpretation of tongues.” The gift of interpretation of tongues is, “a supernatural ability to interpret a message given in tongues.” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:5, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.” In other words, the message in tongues that is interpreted spiritually is equivalent to prophecy.
Whenever a message in tongues is given to the congregation, it should be interpreted for all to benefit from it.
The Bible teaches that there should be order with tongues and prophecy in the church service. Here are some of the guidelines that are to be used to ensure peace in the church gathering; (1) There should only be two to three spiritual messages given in a service (1 Cor. 14:27), (2) The leaders of the church should approve the words given (1 Cor. 14:29) and (3) The one being used in the spiritual gifts always has the ability to be in control of their actions and compliant with the church’s order. If the person acts disruptive while operating in the gifts and says, “The Spirit is making me act this way and I cannot stop it,” they are either influenced by an evil spirit or being rebellious in their own spirit (1 Cor. 14:32).
The Lord will never give a person a message in tongues without someone present with the gift to interpret it. If no one interprets the message given, the one who was given the message in tongues, should pray and ask for the gift of interpretation to ensure the message is given to God’s people. Like with the message of wisdom, knowledge and distinguishing of spirits; the message of tongues and prophecy will never contradict Scripture or lead to sinful behavior. Therefore, the end result of all the sign gifts is to bring people closer to God and godly living.
Concerning how the message is actually interpreted Lester Sumrall wrote, “The interpretation of tongues is not a translation. If one person gives forth a message in tongues and two different people have the interpretation, each interpretation will be different. The essence of the message, the deep root of it, will be similar; but the phrasing of it will be different because it is not a word-for-word translation. A translation is an exact rendering from one language to another in precise grammatical terms; an interpretation reveals what God wants us to know. This explains why at times a message in tongues might be long while the interpretation is short.”
Oddly, there is no clear example of the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues in the Bible. We see examples of tongues being understood by the hearers on Pentecost, but it doesn’t say they were given a gift to understand spiritual languages. And Luke is clear that the actual languages of the disciples were spiritually spontaneous to them (unlearned), but known to the people. Acts 2:6-8 records, “6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?”
As a result, either this gift is not given as an example in the Bible or the above account in Acts involved this gift but it is not mentioned. Some think the hearers might have been given the gift to understand the unknown languages that the disciples were speaking, just as if they were speaking their own language. However, I do not agree with this because it stretches the plain reading of the text too much. Also, many like myself, have been used in a similar way. On two separate occasions, while I was speaking in tongues, people from India have received messages in their dialect. I had never learned their language but I was able to speak it clearly while being used in the gift of tongues.
What we do know for sure is that the gift of interpretation of tongues is taught and given place in Scripture. We should then take it serious and be open to God using us in this powerful gift!
- Recall a time you were used in today’s gift or heard it.
- Ask God to give you the gift of interpretation of tongues.
- Whenever you hear a message in tongues ask God for the prophetic meaning!