The Spiritual Gift Of Interpretation Of Tongues

This study is part of a more extensive series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to make you aware of this entire resource before getting started.

The Gift Of Interpreting Tongues

In this final teaching on the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are going to look at the interpretation of tongues .

As I made clear in the last teaching on the proper use of tongues, the gift of tongues must be interpreted in a public meeting. If it is not interpreted, then it is out of order, and the uninformed or unbelieving person will think everybody is crazy. No one will be blessed by this gift.

The gift of interpreting tongues is a pretty straightforward gift.

In lesson 14 I define the gift of tongues. As with the gift of tongues, the interpretation of tongues is a gift where you hear somebody speak in an unknown tongue, and you are given the meaning of that tongue.

Both the one who speaks in tongues, and the one who interprets did not have this given to them by a natural ability, but by a supernatural gift that is provided at the time.

It does not mean that you have a knack for picking up languages, but it means that by the grace of God you were given the ability to understand the meaning of the tongue at the time given.

image of a man speaking in tongues

What Is An Interpretation of Tongues?

According to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:6, an interpretation of tongues can be a revelation, prophecy, word of instruction, or knowledge.

From this passage, we can see that the goal of the gift of interpretation of tongues is to speak to the people, in such a way that they will understand the mind of God. It is not limited to the interpretation of a prayer language.

That is what is done when you speak in tongues privately to yourself and God. In a public setting, they are used to bring revelation, knowledge, prophecy or a word of instruction. It is one of the methods that God can use to speak to His people and unbelievers.

There is no clear-cut case that the interpretation of tongues is the word for word interpretation of what is being spoken. Just as in translating from one language to another language with natural ability, the goal is not to literally translate each word, but to convey the same thought,

I believe that the interpretation of tongues is a gift where you give the meaning of what is being said, not a literal word for word translation.

Even in our English translations of the Bible, they are not word for word translations, because of the language differences, but they are meaning for meaning translations.

Examples Of Interpretation Of Tongues In The Bible

As with the gift of tongues, the gift of interpretation of tongues is not recorded during the life of Jesus. This gift came into operation along with other nine gifts of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them.

There are no specific instances where they record this gift in operation other than in the book of 1 Corinthians.

However, there is a possible occurrence of this gift in Acts 10 when the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentile believers at Cornelius’s house. It says there that they spoke in tongues and prophesied. The prophecy there could have been the interpretation of those tongues.

The majority of the instruction concerning this gift is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. This gift is tied in tandem with the gift of speaking in tongues thus the guidelines that are given to the gift of speaking in tongues applies to the interpretation of tongues.

It is supposed to be done so all can hear. It is supposed to be limited to 2 or 3 times during a service at the most. It is supposed to be done in an orderly and non-confusing fashion.

When done in this manner, then it becomes a blessing to everyone and fulfills the law of love that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13 which is supposed to motivate any spiritual gift.

Interpreting Tongues In The Modern Day Church.

Just as Paul admonished the Corinthian church to use these gifts in a decent and orderly fashion, the scriptures still admonish us to do the same. Although our format and our technology have changed, the motivating factors of love and order still apply. If this gift is to be used, it should not interrupt another gift in operation.

Whether it is the gift of leading people to worship, the gift of teaching during a sermon, or any other gift that may be operating at the time. If a person has a tongue, and another has the interpretation, they should wait for an appropriate time to exercise this gift.

Now that makes it pretty tough for those people who have this gift that attend churches that schedule every part of the service in advance down to the minute.

That makes it tough for a person to have an opportunity to use the gift of tongues and even tougher for someone to interpret a tongue because the first has to happen before the second can interpret.

In those cases, I suggest that you if God has given you a tongue, or an interpretation, that you quietly and without drawing attention to yourself, approach your pastor or worship leader and inform them that you have a gift to offer.

Allow them to decide when would be appropriate to make room for this gift. If they choose not to, then that is between them and God. You were obedient to be available to be used with your spiritual gift.

If you attend a church that is less scheduled and more open to the operation of spiritual gifts within the public church service, then wait for a time when there is a pause and people are focusing on allowing the gifts to operate.

In my church, I always allow a time for the gifts to operate after the worship portion of the service. We will wait on the Lord.

Now that doesn’t mean we always see tongues and interpretation. It has only happened a few times, but we regularly see gifts in operation, sometimes it is healing, sometimes it is prophecy, and once in a while, it is tongues and interpretation.

How To Receive The Gift Of Interpretation Of Tongues

When a person gives an utterance in tongues, everyone starts praying for interpretation of tongues. It is not a natural ability, it is a spiritual gift, and God gives gifts to anyone He desires.

How do you know if you can interpret tongues? You will sense the presence of God welling up on the inside of you, and you will know in your innermost being the first few words or the idea that God wants to get across.

Don’t be afraid. It is a step of faith. You won’t have it all. Just enough to step out on the water. Don’t be concerned; God will meet you there.

Can you interpret your own tongue? Yes, but be careful. There is nothing in scripture that prohibits or prevents you from interpreting your own tongue. However, doing this comes with a couple of risks.

The first risk is that by interpreting your own tongue, you prevent God from using another member of the body in a spiritual gift. Remember it is not about us.

Interpreting your own tongue could also be seen as covering for when you missed the timing or leading of God in giving the tongue in the first place. We should always be transparent enough to admit when we blow it.

The second risk in interpreting your own tongue is when you are praying in tongues privately in your prayer life. If you are not careful, you can lead yourself into wishful thinking or foolish assumptions. It is best to have interpretations of tongues done publicly and not privately.

Making Room For Tongues And Interpretation Of Tongues In The Church

The model I use works well in a smaller church, but, in a larger church, you may want to screen those that may have a gift to offer. We do live in a pretty crazy world, and it may not be wise to allow anyone to use a speaking gift without first knowing he or she is sound. We do have the admonition of knowing those that labor among us.

So in a larger church setting, you may want to talk to your leaders or mature saints in the Lord and release them to operate their gifts. If someone who you don’t know or is immature gets it wrong and messes up, don’t panic. Use it as a teaching time to instruct the congregation in the proper use of spiritual gifts.

Anytime I have a tongue and interpretation happen in my congregation; I take 10 minutes to explain what just happened briefly. That way the weird and scary factor is eliminated, and everybody understands. If a person makes a mistake in the use of this gift, don’t crucify them. Just take them aside and share with them how they can better use their gift.

All of us have fallen off a bicycle before. Aren’t you glad that you weren’t ridiculed and prohibited from riding again? The zeal for spiritual gifts is good. Just be wise and channel it so that it can be a blessing for all.

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Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of L.I.F.E. Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988. Pastor Duke specializes in healing hurting churches and bringing revival, renewal, and restoration of the presence of God to the body of Christ in America to make the church spiritual again. Pastor Duke has a few limited dates available to speak in other churches. If your church needs a fresh move of the Spirit of God or has gone through a painful and wounding season, click here. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world. He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center.

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  1. Explaining Spiritual gifts is a rather challenging topic, although I don’t agree with everything mentioned in this article. The Lord does not stop functioning in one believer in order to be effective in another – meaning that Jesus love is simultaneously. In the Bible the context of unity in the church is explained in various scriptures. For context a person should try to also understand why. Spiritual Paul spoke to the Corinthian church, he didn’t speak to every church about the problems which the house of Chloe brought to his attention. These gifts are Spiritual, meaning also for context that the order of things are in the Lords context, when or if we believe that He does know everything. Perhaps a context of understanding, all authority is already given to Jesus.


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