I found it interesting that when I looked up the subject of interpretation of tongues on the internet, that most of the explanations come bouncing off of the screen with a fair degree of legalism.
It has to be said that rules and regulations grip the heart of many, even those who are moving in the gifts of the Spirit.
With that in mind, I want to share with you my take on the gift of interpretation – I’m not going to defend my position, but I will let you decide. This is a more casual approach than I normally take on this site, but then, the issue really is not that critical, even for Pentecostal/Charismatic churches there are not always supernatural manifestation of tongues that need interpreting. In some Churches to have just one person give a message in tongues with an accompanying interpretation, is considered to be a good day!
And there we have it, our beginning point is contained in that superb word, ‘supernatural’. Just because you have been baptised in/by or with the Holy Spirit, does not mean that every utterance you give is what that bible speaks of as, ‘a message in tongues’.
[Now, before some smart, spotty Greek-enabled theology student comments below about the word ‘gift’ not being in the Greek, and some of the other nuances included here, I want to say, I know! Relax, and breathe!]
I have to point that out because if you have the idea that you just ‘speak out’ in tongues that that is what Paul calls a gift of tongues, then you also are free to say the same about interpretation.
Paul makes a distinction that ‘to one’ is given this gift, and to another something different. Not everyone has this gift of tongues that is going to be used to build up and edify the Church. Please God, don’t let tongues or interpretation be everyone’s primary gifting! There are fantastic gifts of the Spirit available and rarely seen, workings of miracles being one of them. (Seek it!)
Weighing it all up
Tongues with interpretation does not equal prophecy. I used to believe that, but then it occurred to me, if we are told to weigh prophecy, then how comes we are not told to weigh interpretations?
My guess is that any interpretation that speaks about the goodness, kindness and greatness of God, that blesses God or brings thanksgiving to Him, hardly needs weighing! The Bible gives us an insight, the man speaking in an unknown tongue, speaks not to men but to God! He’s not prophesying to or at God, he’s praying, blessing, thanking and marveling to Him and about Him.
Here’s the reason that interpretation is supernaturally enabled; no one has a clue what the person speaking in tongues is speaking about! Not even the one doing it, even though they may add various tones, dramatic pauses and inflections to what they say. Don’t listen to those inflections as to a clue to what is being said, they are not inspired and are generally as reliable as asking a foreigner who has never visited London for directions to Westminster Chapel!
Mysterious? It should be – the one who speaks in an unknown language speaks not to men, but to God – and he speaks mysteries! The enabling of the Spirit in the message in tongues (it is after all a message) carries with it the capacity and ability to express mysteries that the speaker is not aware of! That is reflected in the interpretation (we’ve finally arrived!).
Interpretation is a SUPERNATURAL gift of God by His Spirit. It is not simply ‘pray a prayer that you think reflects the tone of the person who prayed’! It has depth, life, hope, passion and vision about it! Something that is beyond visual range is being seen here.
My feeling about the gift of interpretation is that sometimes the prayers that it interprets will produce some of the astonishing insights that Jesus own prayers had. Over my 30 years as a Christian I have heard many tongues and interpretations, some of them good, some like David Fellingham are astonishing. There are times when I have thought naughtily, “If that is the interpretation I can pray better in English!”, but regardless of our experience, we need to press in to God for the authentic.
You have to seek the gifts, they are freely available, but you get them by seeking. If you have been used by God to interpret then you have had a breakthrough, go back to God and ask Him to develop that gifting in you.
We don’t want to hear the prayer that anyone can pray, we want to hear from someone speaking to God about mysteries of grace, kindness and favour with a thankful God-blessing vigour that sets our hearts on fire for our wonderful God.
God is good.