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Interpreting Holy Spirit Tongues

Interpretation of supernatural tongues:

Suppose you receive a Swiss Army knife for Christmas. How many gifts do you receive? One. But how many uses (manifestations) might it have? Maybe it has a big blade, a small blade, a screwdriver, an awl, a corkscrew, a chisel, scissors, a file, and a toothpick—nine ways to use the one gift. That is just about the perfect analogy to the gift of holy spirit and its nine manifestations, ways the gift can be used to benefit the believer himself and those he reaches out to in Christ’s love.[1]

I love this illustration. There are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit described for us in Scripture, but this book is written to help us accurately hear the voice of God, and last chapter we discussed the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.  I see three purposes of supernatural tongues described in Scripture.

  1. Personal Prayer

One purpose of speaking in tongues is personal prayer. Here is some of the Apostle Paul’s teaching on this from 1 Corinthians 14:

“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.”
-1 Corinthians 14:2

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”
-1 Corinthians 14:14-15

“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
-1 Corinthians 14:18

Paul obviously spent a lot of time praying in tongues, but most of it was done in private–outside of the public church setting.

Scripture indicates that praying in tongues can be a form of praise and thanksgiving to God. It can also be a powerful means of intercessory prayer. Not only can this bring worship to God and breakthrough for others, praying in tongues edifies the one who does it (see 1 Corinthians 14:4). If you have this gift, I encourage you to spend time praying in tongues often.

I add, Romans 8:26 TLB

And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words.

 

  1. Corporate Word

Speaking in tongues for personal prayer is perfectly good and right. But in the church setting, we must be aware of the corporate body and strive for the edification of the whole church.

“I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.”
-1 Corinthians 14:5

When believers are assembled together there must be proper order so that the whole church can be built up; not just a few individuals. Paul was correcting the Corinthian church for using tongues in a disorderly way in the corporate setting. He strongly encouraged tongues—“I wish you all spoke with tongues”—but he was concerned about the whole church being strengthened. And he did not want there to be confusion.

In a corporate setting, the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues can work together. When this happens it is the same as a prophetic word coming forth that edifies the whole church. “…he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (1 Corinthians 14:5). Prophecy is more profitable in the church setting, unless there is interpretation.

Could this gift of supernatural tongues, and interpretation be the fulfilment of the promise God made in Isaiah 28:11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.?

Here is how this works: Someone in the congregation gets a stirring to give a corporate word in tongues. They speak it out loud, and then wait for the interpretation to come forth. Either the person who spoke the word or someone else in the congregation will receive an interpretation of what was spoken in tongues.

(Here is an article on the nine manifestation gifts of the Spirit)

I am reminded of this statement by Oral Roberts:

“I not only speak in tongues by the Spirit…, but I also pray to interpret what God is saying back to me. This is what the Apostle Paul tells us to do in 1 Corinthians 14:13, ‘Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.’ [2]

 

  1. A Sign for Unbelievers

1 Corinthians 14:22 says, “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers.” Speaking in tongues can be a sign that points unbelievers to Christ. This is what happened on the day of Pentecost. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Many outsiders heard and said, “we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). Peter preached the gospel, and the result of this event was 3,000 souls added to the kingdom.

There are many testimonies of God using the gift of tongues to be a sign to unbelievers. Most of the testimonies I have heard are from the mission field and go something like this: the Holy Spirit will prompt a believer to speak in tongues to a person, and though the one speaking had no idea what he was saying, the one listening understood it completely. It was a message from the Lord or the gospel message, leading a person to Christ.

Hopefully this brief overview has brought insight and cleared some confusion. I hope that one day the whole church will embrace this gift from God and use it according to His purposes.[3]

In other words, the person speaking in tongues, spoke a language known to the hearer, but unknown to the speaker.

Just like we read here in Romans 8:26 TLB

And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words.

 

Conclusion: What God speaks, it blessed. We must always seek to hear Him accurately. May this book be a guide to accurately hearing Him for yourself and whatever place you are called to serve.

 

 

[1] https://spiritandtruthonline.org/what-is-interpretation-of-tongues/

[2] Unleashing the Power of Praying in the Spirit! by Oral Roberts on pages 37-38.

 

[3] https://jakekail.com/3-purposes-speaking-tongues/

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