Interpretation of Tongues
By: Donna J. Kazenske

1 Cor. 12:7-10 - "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom, through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another the gift of faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues."

The gift of interpretation of tongues is the least gift of all the utterance gifts because it has to depend upon another gift in order to operate. It does not operate unless the gift of tongues has been in operation.

The gift of interpretation of tongues is the supernatural showing forth, by the Spirit, the meaning of an utterance given in tongues. It's not a translation of tongues; it's an interpretation of tongues. The word translate means: word for word, or as near to exact meaning as is spoken.

The word interpret means: to paraphrase the meaning; to give the sum and substance of; or to bring out the gist of the meaning of what is being said.

Some of you may not understand what the word "gist" means, so I will give its meaning to you as well. Gist means: the central idea of a matter - or main message/theme.

Have you ever heard someone give a very short message in tongues, and when the interpretation came, it seemed much longer. Your mind probably began to work overtime trying to figure out if the person giving the interpretation "missed it". We must remember that an interpretation is a paraphrased meaning of what has been spoken forth. It's not a word for word translation.

Have you ever been with someone who is a "detail" person? They explain their going to the grocery store experience giving very minute details of every single thing that happened on the way. It takes them 15 minutes to tell you they went to the grocery store to get a chicken. :-) Other people are very quick and to the point (that's me). We don't mess around with details, we get to the point immediately. I like these kinds of people. :-) We are all made differently. We all have different personalities. Our personality characteristics can come into the interpretation of a message making it either flowery and descriptive, or concise and to the point. So, the final interpretation of the message given will depend upon who interprets the message. It won't change the meaning of the message, because it's the Lord who is giving it. But, it will come across through each interpreter in different ways.

Some messages in tongues may be very long and the interpretation very short. It doesn't mean that the individual interpreting missed it. It just doesn't take them as long to say what needs to be said. They have "paraphrased" the tongue in a "nut shell".

If you are used quite frequently to give messages in tongues, you should ask the Lord to give you the ability to interpret tongues. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have given a tongue in a service, and you find out that no interpreter is present to bring forth the interpretation, you need to be able to interpret the tongue that you have given. Otherwise, you will need to remain silent and give no further messages.

1 Cor. 14:13- Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.

1 Cor. 14:27-28 - If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

Paul was speaking some needed instruction to the believers in Corinth. The Corinthian church was misusing and abusing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This was bringing much confusion into their midst and Paul was attempting to instruct them of doing things decently and in order. In verse 33 of this same chapter, Paul says, "for God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." He was telling them that their misuse and abuse of the gifts was creating confusion instead of peace. There are times when we all need to be corrected and instructed by those who are more knowledgeable regarding spiritual things. We shouldn't allow their words to offend us, but we should receive their instruction with a right heart attitude. What they speak could change our lives for eternity.

Interpretation of tongues is the only one of the nine gifts of the Spirit that is dependent upon another gift in order to operate. It cannot operate unless the gift of tongues has been spoken forth.

What is the main purpose of this gift?

The main purpose of this gift is to make the gift of tongues understandable to the hearer, so that the church will be edified.

1 Cor. 14:12 - Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to be used to bring edification to the body of Christ. They are not to be used to bring glory and honor to those bringing forth the message or gift. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not "our ministry". They are the ministry of the Holy Spirit flowing through imperfect vessels who need the Lord.

Another purpose of the gift of interpretation of tongues is to lay the groundwork and set the theme for the service and the ministry of the word.

I've been in many services when a prophetic word was given, and as a result of that word, the Lord changed the message that I was about to bring forth to the church. If I would have continued to give the message that "I" had prepared to give, it would not have been as effective as the message that Holy Spirit wanted to bring forth. We must learn to be sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. If the Lord desires to change what we have spent ten hours preparing, we must be willing to lay that message down and give "His" message.

We have much to learn regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that we will continue to ask the Lord to use us and allow the gifts to flow through us.

I pray this short teaching will give you more insight to this wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit.

If this teaching has been a blessing to you, we'd love to hear from you.