“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 NKJV).
Among the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the book of 1 Cor. 12:4-11, three can be classified as Inspirational or Vocal Gifts because they primarily operate or manifest through the speech organs of the believers.
Having examined one of the Vocal Gifts (the gift of prophecy) in the last piece we shall proceed to examine the other two: Different Kinds of Tongues and the Interpretation of Tongues.
First, Different Kinds of Tongues:
This is not the Holy Spirit speaking with tongues, but the believers speaking in a tongue or language unlearnt as the Holy Spirit gives them utterance. The Holy Spirit supplies the divine utterance or transmits the language to your spirit, but you must open your mouth to do the speaking. This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost to the early Disciples of Christ.
The Scripture testifies, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4 NKJV).
The gift of tongues is the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign tongue or language not previously learned, studied, or known by the believers. When this gift is in operation, although your mind or understanding is unfruitful, yet you are speaking to God and speaking mysteries in the spirit.
Apostle Paul states, “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 Cor. 14:2 NKJV).
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” (1 Cor. 14:14 NKJV).
Speaking with new tongues is one of the most obvious first signs of baptism with the Holy Spirit. The Scripture testifies that when the 120 Disciples of Christ in the upper room were baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit, they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4 NKJV).
Speaking with new and unlearned tongues is also one of the miraculous signs that the Lord Jesus Christ promised will follow the believers.
Before He was received up into heaven, the Lord Jesus promised in Mark 16:
17 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
18 “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (NKJV).
However, speaking with new and unlearned tongues as one of the first obvious signs or evidences of baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the same as the gift of different kinds of tongues.
There are basically two kinds of tongues mentioned in the Bible: the tongues of men and the tongues of angels (1 Cor. 13:1).
The Holy Spirit can inspire and empower a believer to speak in a tongue or language known to his audience, but which the speaker has no knowledge or ability to speak on his own. This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples spoke with the tongues of men.
The Scripture testifies that the multitude of devout men that gathered to them from every nation under heaven each heard them speak the wonderful works of God in their native language without them having the gift of interpretation of tongues.
Therefore, they were all amazed and said to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? “And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?” (Acts 2:7-8 NKJV).
However, when a believer speaks in an unknown tongue (the tongue of angels or the heavenly language); it is impossible for any man to understand or interpret without having the gift of interpretation of tongues.
The Scripture testifies, “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” (1 Cor. 14:2 KJV).
When the Holy Spirit gives you the supernatural ability to speak in an unknown tongue that no man can understand or interpret, it is for your personal edification, spiritual refreshment, victory in spiritual warfare, effectiveness in intercession and supplication, and for you to worship God and pray in the Spirit.
This kind of tongue often becomes your personal, private, prayer language that you can use in prayer whenever you want or desire (1 Cor. 14:4, Jude 1:20, Rom. 8:26-27, 1 Cor. 14:14-15, John 4:24, Eph. 6:18).
But, when a believer’s supernatural or inspired tongue is understood and interpreted through the gift of the interpretation of tongues, it becomes a prophecy which edifies, strengthens, exhorts, encourages, instructs or corrects the Church (1 Cor. 14:5-6).
Paul instructs the Church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 14:
5 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.
6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?
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.
13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 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. (NKJV).
Second, the Interpretation of Tongues:
This is not a supernatural ability to translate every tongue or language you hear or that is spoken to you. But, it is a supernatural ability given to the believers by the Holy Spirit to understand, interpret or reveal the meaning of a divine message that is given in an unknown tongue for the edification of the Church.
It is important to note that the gift is not “translation of tongues” but “interpretation of tongues.” It is therefore not a word to word translation of what is said in an unknown tongue, but an interpretation or revelation of its meaning so that it can edify the Church.
While the message in tongues may be long, the interpretation may be short, or vice versa. In every case, the interpretation is always inspirational, supernatural and spontaneous; it is never learned or studied by the interpreter.
In some cases, the believer speaking in an unknown tongue can also give the meaning in a known language to his audience. In that case, there is supernatural verbalization and subsequent supernatural interpretation of the tongues.
The purpose of this dynamic gift is not to go about seeking to understand or interpret what every believer is saying when praying privately to God in unknown tongues. It is only for the purpose of understanding and interpreting prophecies or divine messages proclaimed in unknown tongues, so that the Church can be edified, strengthened, exhorted and comforted.
Beloved, while the Scripture encourages speaking in tongues in the public meetings, however, when there is no interpretation of the tongues you must control the volume and speak moderately to God.
In order to avoid disorder or confusion in the Church, the Bible allows a maximum of three utterances in tongues with interpretation.
Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 14:
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.
28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (NKJV).
Find out more about other gifts of the Holy Spirit in the next piece.
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me with the gift of different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. I receive divine wisdom for the maximum use of these gifts for my personal edification and that of the Church, in Jesus’ name. Amen.