Category Archives: tongues

Wait, Paul! Do You Want Us to Speak in Tongues or Not?

Acts 2:1-4. When the day of Pentecost came. Pastel & pen. 26 May 2012.

by Scott

The tongue – Scripture tells us it can be a great blessing and a grave problem (James 3:1-12). And don’t we, especially I, know this truth.

But still, the tongue can be used for blessing. And I believe one way it can be used is not just through kind words of encouragement and comfort, but also through the oft-misunderstood gift of tongues.

We don’t really have much detailed instruction by way of Scripture of how this gift works. We have a some directives in 1 Cor 14, as well as examples throughout the book of Acts. But there definitely isn’t a guide that says: this is exactly how you do it!

And, again, I wouldn’t expect Scripture to give exhaustive commands about this gift, since it is not some kind of guidebook listing detailed instructions on the how to’s for everything it touches upon.

But here is where things get a bit sticky with the gift of tongues: In reading 1 Cor 14, it seems Paul tells us this gift is a beneficial gift to be utilised amongst God’s people. But on the other hand, it seems we’re told almost the opposite. It’s going to cause problems for non-Christians, so don’t use it.

Which is it? Continue reading

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Archbishop Welby and Speaking in Tongues

Justin Welby

by Scott

Just over a week ago, I was made aware of an interesting article about Justin Welby, the recently appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, being the main leader of the Anglican Church worldwide.

In this piece, from the British news-site The Telegraph, Welby was interviewed by a former schoolmate, Charles Moore. There are a wide range of items discussed in the featured article – from his upbringing to his conversion at age 19.

However, I found one point of discussion very interesting. In particular, we read: Continue reading

Terms of Empowerment

by Marv

What is the general subject of 1 Corinthians 12-14?

Spiritual gifts“? That seems to be the received rubric for the aspect of Christian life and ministry that Paul discusses there. I offer a mild objection. This is the phrase and concept people tend to use, but I wonder if it is quite adequate, and not a bit misdirecting.

Why do I say this? Well, for one reason, the phrase “spiritual gift(s)” occurs nowhere in 1 Corinthians 12-14. It occurs nowhere in 1 Corinthians at all.

Sure it does, you say: 1 Cor. 12:1 and 1 Cor. 14:1. All right, sure, but what I am referring to really is the underlying Greek phrase χάρισμα πνευματικὸν (charisma pneumatikon), “spiritual gifts.” It’s not there in 1 Corinthians. We do have “spiritual” and we do have “gift,” but not together as a phrase.

In fact that phrase only occurs one time in Scripture: Romans 1:11, and there I think it has a rather different meaning than we usually associate with “spiritual gift”:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—

Perhaps it does correlate closer than I am thinking, but that’s not my point today. I want to look at the terminology that does actually occur in 1 Cor. 12-14, and see what this can tell us.

1. Pneumatika

Here are the two verses I referred to above, as they read in the ESV:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Corinthians 12:1)

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

As I observe above, the underlying Greek here for “spiritual gifts” is not the phrase charisma pneumatikon, but a single word, the adjective pneumatikon, used substantively in the plural: pneumatika. This is the rendering of the ESV, NIV, NASB, and KJV, though this has “gifts” in italics.

The supposition behind this rendering, I take it, is that the bare neuter plural adjective modifies an elided neuter plural noun, which being resupplied by the translators, turns out to be charismata, “gifts.” Maybe–I guess–if we do assume that “spiritual gifts” was the ready phrase in Paul’s day that it is in ours. I’m not so sure of it, however.

One note: in 12:1 this word appears in the genitive plural, the form being penumatikōn. Ostensibly this could be any of the three genders, though feminine being difficult to account for (sorry, ladies) that generally masculine and neuter are in the running. Paul does use the term in the masculine for “spiritual people” (of either sex). He even uses both masculine and neuter forms in the same sentence earlier in the epistle:

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths (pneumatika, clearly neuter) to those who are spiritual (pneumatikois, clearly masculine). (1 Corinthians 2:13)

However, the 14:1 reference is unambiguously neuter: pneumatika.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (ta pneumatika), especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians)

In the context, I think it is reasonable to take these two instances, when he introduces the topic in 12:1 and reintroduces it in 14:1 as the same usage. Thus the latter informs us that the former is indeed neuter plural. That’s what the translation “spritual gifts” understands anyway.

But if the plural adjective pneumatika modifies an understood charismata, and so “spiritual gifts,” can we say that in the singular, a single spiritual gift would be a *pneumatikon? The asterisk is a linguistic convention to indicate a hypothetical form never actually found in the data. Of course, the adjective in that form does occur as we saw in Rom. 1:11, and elsewhere, but as a lone substantive, meaning a “spiritual gift” it occurs nowhere. In other words we have no evidence in the text of a “pneumatikon” being used to refer to prophecy or tongues or such.

Now not having an example does not disprove anything, but it also doesn’t confirm that we are on the right track with the rendering “spiritual gifts” for pneumatika.

Let me suggest something else. In both 12:1 and 14:1 the word is reasonably understood as a general category term. Greek has a well established usage which resembles these forms exactly. That is, frequently an adjective (especially formed with -ik-) in the neuter plural has an abstract sense which indicates a general subject or field of inquiry.

This is the origin of several of our English subject terms as well, those ending in -ics:

“Physics” from ta phusika. Not because of of some thing called a “phusikon,” but because it concerns things of phusis “nature.”

“Ethics” from ta ēthika, concerning things of ēthos “custom.”

“Politics” from ta politika, concerning things of the polis, “the state.”

Following in this line, ta pneumatika would simply be a general cover term for things concerning pneuma, “the Spirit,” rather than referring to a set of abilities or the instances of their use. I don’t know if “Pneumatics” has a future as a rubric here, especially as it is already used as a term for physical effects and related technology. But this would be consistent with similar terms.

2. Charisma, Diakonia, Energēma, Phanerōsis.

These four occur as rough synonyms in a sequence of four verses: 12:4-7, translated as follows:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

a. Charisma means “gift,” as in an object that someone gives you. Our sense of “gift” as a talent, as in a “gifted musician” presumably derives from the use here. I’m not sure it had that sense in Greek prior to this concept. It can also be an untangeable gift, a favor, as in “do me a favor.”

It is frequently tied to charis, grace, and indeed this is true, but it is more parallel to charis than derived from it, I think. Let me explain the derivation:

Both are derived from the verb charizomai, which has a variety of uses meaning to grant to give freely or generously, most especially to forgive. The etymology of this verb is also pretty clear, with the –iz– suffix (our –ize, Brit. –ise), suffixed to the root chara “joy.” To “joy-ize” someone is to perform an act which will immensely please or gratify them for its generosity. Thus charizomai (some kind of deponent middle voice).

The act of charizomai or quality of one doing it, is thus charis, “grace” as we ususally render it.

The ending -ma signifies a result or object of an action. So take –omai off chariz-omai and you get charis-ma (mutatis mutandis): thing given: gift.

b. Diakonia is a very general word for service, and a diakonos is a servant. This has become transliterated and technicalized in our word deacon. In the NT we do see it used for this office (Phil. 1:1 ESV), but probably never really dissociated mentally from the menial sense of “servant.” Deacon has nothing of this feel. Much less does minister, also a frequent translation of diakonos (e.g. Col. 1:25 ESV). Our word minister, meaning either a professional clergyman or a state official has moved far afield from what the Greek would convey.

c. Energēma has at its base ergon “work” (an actual cognate, originally wergon). With the prefix en– “in” it is obviously the source of our word energy. The verb energeo means “to be operative, at work, active.” Therefore, with the suffix –ma, it signifies and effect, operation, or activity.

d. Phanerosis indicates that which is normally invisible becoming seen or otherwise perceptible to the senses, i.e. becoming manifest, a manifestation.

3. Pneuma

You will recognize here the common word for “spirit,” which has a range of uses, such as:

a. God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

b. the human spirit

c. another spiritual being, i.e. an angel

d. an evil spirit, a demon

I submit there is an (e) sense of pneuma which refers to an instance of one of these gifts, services, effects, or manifestations, not so much the potential or ability (as we tend to think of a gift) but its actual use. We can see this in comparing two similar statements from ch. 14:

1. Pursue love, and earnestly desire (zēloute) the spiritual gifts (pneumatika), especially that you may prophesy. (v. 1)

2. So with yourselves, since you are eager (zēlōteai) for manifestations of the Spirit (pneumatōn), strive to excel in building up the church. (v. 12)

Note that the Greek underlying the ESV’s “manifestations of the Spirit” is not phanerōsis as in v. 7, but simpy the single word pneuma (in the genitive plural). Now this is translated “spiritual gifts” by such versions as NIV and NASB and KJV, just as pneumatika is, but with rather less justification. This is particularly true if we conceive of “gift” as an ability rather than an act or perceptible phenomenon.

Based on what follows then, examples of a “spirit” in this sense would be an utternce in tongues or a spoken prophecy. Or v. 26 may be a list of such:

…a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.

Now based on this usage of pneuma, I’d like to look at a couple of exegetical applications.

1 Cor. 12:10 makes the following reference: “to another the ability to distinguish between spirits.” Frequently this has been understood in terms of demonology. In other words, the ability to have supernatural insight into evil spirits that may be afflicting someone.

The underlying Greek is diakriseis pneumatōn, often rendered “discernment of spirits” and the word for “distinguishing” or “discernment” here corresponds exactly with the verb in 14:29:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh (diakrinetōsan) what is said.

“Discernment of spirits” then would not be so much identification of demons as it would be evaluating prophetic utterances. As such “distinguishing of spirits” in 12:10 would be the same as the “weighing” of prophecy is in 14:29.

This also impacts on our understanding of 1 John 4:1-3:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

(1 John 4:1-3 ESV)

I think this makes sense out of something that has bothered me. John says not to believe every spirit? We ought to believe the Holy Spirit, of course. What, are there a few others we should believe? Surely he doesn’t mean we might encounter an occasional demon who might be trustworthy.

But if “spirit” (pneuma) here be understood, for example as a prophecy, I think it makes rather more sense. And it explains why he mentions false prophets. So he’s not telling his readers to believe some demons and not others, but not just to accept every utterance of prophecy that someone speaks.

This may mean that the phrase which the ESV renders as “the Spirit of God” is not here actually a reference to the Holy Spirit. The phrase is to pneuma tou theou, and certainly does look as if it refers to the Holy Spirit, I grant. But John goes on to explain, referring to “every spirit” (pan pneuma), which certainly sounds like he means a plurality of spirits. And if this spirit confesses Jesus it is–now John doesn’t say THE Spirit of God, but “from God” (ek tou theou). By the flow of argument it seems to me he is rather saying:

By this you know a spirit (prophetic utterance) coming from God: every spirit (prophetic utterance) which agrees that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God. Every spirit (prophetic utterance) which does not confess Jesus is not from God. It’s a spirit (prophetic utterance) from antichrist which (neuter!!! i.e. antecedent is “spirit”!) you have heard was coming and is in the world already.

Understand, this is by no means my discovery (granted there’s even any truth to it), but I don’t think it is a well-known option.

I suspect though this is what lies behind the use of “private spirits” in the Westminster Confession. There is some controversy with this term. Some suggest it simply means “opinions.” Others do take it to refer to individual revelations, either accepted, tolerated, or else simply recognized as a claim by the Confession.

The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture. (I.X.)

…with which I heartily concur.

Turkish De-light

By Marv

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.  (1 Thes. 5:19-21)

Is there any book of the Bible we could do without? For example, would Christian doctrine suffer from the omission, say, of Proverbs? What about 1 and 2 Chronicles? Aren’t they largely redundant, not to speak of some tiresome genealogical material? And Revelation–apart from that curse thing–what if it were just to disappear completely, instead of having to be Docetized into docility as so many are wont to do?

While we’re at it, what animals could we vote off the island? Whole classes, perhaps. Got to go with reptiles, I think. I’d be sorry to say goodbye to the cute gecko who sells me insurance, but to get rid of snakes…! Insects, maybe: no cockroaches, fire ants, hornets. No butterflies either, but I’d get soon over it.

How about colors? I’m not overly fond of orange. Sunsets would be the losers, but how practical are they anyway?

Fortunately, authority in such matters have not been given over to the likes of us. What God has given–what He has provided by the good pleasure of His will–exists for His own purposes and according to His manifold wisdom.

The apostle was speaking on a particular subject, but his words must certainly have a general application:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4).

If this principle holds in regard to foodstuffs, how much more does our Lord mean us to receive His bounty in regard to the vital interworking among the members of Christ’s body? Paul instructs us in no uncertain terms in this regard:

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Cor. 18-20)

Who of us will venture to say that God has chosen ill? No one, surely. Or we should hope. And what are these parts, specifically, that the apostle is referring to? He gives us a few examples:

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Cor. 12:8-11)

The Spirit wills. God chooses.

What about me? Don’t I get a vote? Well… no, in fact. We have not been consulted. We only work here.

Still, isn’t there quite a bit of this we really could do without? Can we not have a perfectly healthy church while making some strategic omissions from this list? Let’s say in my opinion some of these “gifts” have outlived their usefulness, are now more cumbersome than useful, more problematic than practical. Are these–less desirable bits–really necessary?

Well, I’m sure I don’t know, but I do have the Word of God to guide me:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:21-26).

Is it too much of a stretch to conclude that if we cannot say “I have no need of you” that we do have need? Perhaps the Spirit was wise after all in willing, God in choosing.

How comes then Mr. Frank Turk of Pyromaniacs with his Open Letter to Mark Driscoll, which is a response to Driscoll’s Resurgence video post Four Points of the Movement (highly recommended), in which Driscoll attributes (hard) Cessationism to “worldliness.” In Mr. Turk’s open letter he responds with  a series of affirmations and denials? Observe, please, how many times and in how many different ways he can say “I have no need of you.”

I deny that this work [the personal action of God the Holy Spirit for the life of the Church] necessarily includes speaking in tongues (as in Acts 2 as well as in so-called “private prayer langauges”), healing the sick or raising the dead by explicit command, prophecy in the sense that Isaiah and John the Baptist were prophets, or any other “sign-and-wonder”-like exhibition. That is: I deny that these actions are necessary for the post-apostolic church to function as God intended. (emphasis mine).

Now a number of misconceptions are evident here as shown by his use of such words as “exhibition,” but from Paul’s list quoted above, Turk explicitly says “I have no need of you” to gifts of prophecy, healing, working of miracles, tongues. Lest we misunderstand:

I deny that this activity [“signs and wonders”] is common, normative, necessary, or in the best interest of God’s people to been seen as common, normative and/or necessary. God in fact warns us against seeking signs rather than the thing signified repeatedly in the OT and NT. (emphasis mine)

Not “in the best interest of God’s people” is Turk’s evaluation. Paul, on the other hand says “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7). Whose advice shall we take here?

What about “common” or that magic word “normative”? Let’s say we take it above even the apostle’s pay grade for some indication of how common we ought to expect works of power to be:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:12-13)

These are the words of our Lord, in His farewell address on the eve of His crucifixion. The works in question are those overt acts of God’s power that achieve the Father’s goals, under His authority, in the Spirit’s power, and engender faith in those who see:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (vv. 10-11)

Do not miss Jesus’ stated goals of our doing His works: “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (13)

Just a word about Mr. Turks reference to “sign seeking.” In the body of his open letter he proclaims himself to be well versed in “what actual Cessationists believe.” Evidently, this includes one very hackneyed and spurious misapplication of Matthew 16:4, which I have pointed out elsewhere falls more to the charge of Cessationists than Continuationists. Far from requiring miracles to overcome disbelief, we may join with the early church in their well-received prayer:

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31)

Apparently, God was pleased to do so, even if Mr. Turk would rather not:

 I deny that explicitly-supernatural outworkings, or events the Bible calls ‘signs and wonders’ (e.g. – Acts 2:1-11, Acts 3:3-7, Acts 5:1-11, Acts 9:32-35, etc.) are either normative or necessary for the on-going life of the church.

I would have thought this included the “word of knowledge,” but then Mr. Turk makes a negative assertion which would seem to require omniscience on his part to make:

I deny that there is any man alive today who is gifted to perform miracles as Christ and the Apostles where gifted to perform miracles.

I will not presume to point to such a person either, though by our Lord’s own words in John 14:12, if I believe Jesus Christ, I ought not strongly doubt that He knew whereof He spoke.

How are we to account Mr. Turk’s denials, which–not to put too fine a point on it–would seem to run directly contrary to the Scriptures, apostolic authority, and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ?

In the topsy-turvy world of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, firemen no longer put out fires but start them. What are we to say of this world, which sees a “Pyromaniac” with no qualms against quenching? Farbeit from me to resort to Driscoll’s W-word, but it seems to me that the Church really does need all the good gifts that the Father has chosen, the Son promised, and the Spirit willed, since there’s still some “world-tilting” to do.

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 8)

by Scott

Here is my next-to-last article on the subject matter of the gift of tongues. If you want, you can see the previous seven posts by clicking here. This particular post will deal with the gift of interpretation of tongues. The ninth and final article will share a unique account of some ministry friends of mine and their first ever experience with the gift of tongues.

I don’t believe I need to spend as much time on this gift, knowing that I covered some of its aspects in my thoughts on the gift of tongues. Hence one article. But, to begin, I give this summary definition to ponder: The gift of interpretation of tongues is the Spirit-enabling to interpret a message in tongues into the known language of the people so that they may enter into the meaning of the message and be edified.

When we get down into the few practical details Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 14, I believe this a helpful and clarifying definition for the gift.

Now we do read about the function of tongues in the book of Acts (i.e. the 120 disciples at Pentecost in 2:4, 11; Cornelius and household in 10:46; and the Ephesian disciples in 19:6). But we really don’t read about the function of the interpretation of the tongues in these 3 accounts. All we can do is speculate.

Some do try and differentiate between the tongues occurrences in Acts and the instruction for the local gathered church in 1 Corinthians 14. But I think such dichotomises things too much, quite like trying to distinguish between prophecy in 1 Cor 12-14 and prophecy Rom 12:6. The two are one and the same gift of prophecy. The tongues of Acts and of 1 Corinthians are one and the same gift of tongues (though, no doubt, the practical outworking of prophecy and tongues can be recognised, i.e., specific factors to consider between a large congregational gathering and a home group, etc).

Now, what we have going on in Acts 2, following the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, is an understanding of the tongues (differing languages) by the observers that were spoken by the 120 disciples. Luke records:

6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (2:6-11)

What is happening is that either 1) those who were speaking in tongues were speaking in the languages of the onlookers without ever learning those languages or 2) those who were speaking in tongues were speaking in their own language but the miraculous aspect was that the onlookers were hearing these people speak in their own languages. I have heard arguments for both, but I lean towards the former, #1.

And I think this links in with Paul’s explanation of how the gifts of tongues and interpretation function in 1 Cor 12-14. Hence why Paul says if the people only speak in tongues, people will not know what is being said. Plus, Paul implores the Corinthians to interpret the public messages in tongues.

Now, I don’t want to be so stringent as to say the latter, #2, cannot take place. I am sure it has happened. And it’s possible this is what took place at the Pentecost event recorded in Acts 2. But it seems scenario one that I mention above is the more likely option.

Now, here is a huge question we have to consider – Who can interpret the message in tongues?

There are two possible options: 1) anyone in the congregation, except for the one who spoke the message in tongues or 2) anyone in the congregation, including the one who spoke the message in tongues.

Some people might have a problem with option #2.

Why?

Well, it’s very possible that if #2 is an option, then these two gifts can be faked quite easily. I mean, think about it. You have a person who raises their voice in the midst of the congregation and speaks forth a public message in tongues. No one, in ‘the natural’, knows what has actually been said. Then, lo and behold, a moment later, that same person speaks forth the interpretation.

Could this not just be a fraud?

Listen, I have no doubt that these two gifts have been faked plenty of times. But we cannot let fear of fraud dictate our belief about these gifts (or anything God desires). What I find from some people is an extreme cynicism towards these gifts, questioning every thing that might have anything to do with mystery. But unless someone is present who knows the language of the tongue given (and that is not always, or normally, the case) then we cannot be 100% sure of whether it has been faked.

And I am glad we cannot have that 100% certainty. It strips the reliance upon the Spirit and his work, even his mysterious work. There is a measure of faith needed when functioning in any gift of God. And we find ourselves in such a case with these two gifts.

Now, those with the gift of discerning of spirits might be very helpful in such situations, as well as wise and seasoned leaders. But it is not always fool-proof. Still, I believe 99 out of 100 times, there will be a sense of God’s true and gracious presence when these gifts are put into practise in the way God meant for them to be.

But back to the focus of the question – Can the one who gives the tongue also interpret? I believe the answer is unequivocally a yes. I come to this conclusion from both Scripture and experience.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives this statement right in the middle of his instructions on the gift of tongues and interpretation – Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret (1 Cor 14:13).

I actually believe the first responsibility for interpretation lies with the one who speaks in the tongue. Paul desires edification. And so if someone wants the responsibility of sharing a message in tongues to the body, they need to also be willing to take up the sobering responsibility to ask God for the interpretation, and then speak forth the interpretation as He makes clear.

And I am confident that if a true message in tongues is given, then God will be faithful to give the interpretation that there might not be confusion.

That is my biblical backing for why I believe the tongues-speaker can also give the interpretation. But, if interested, I also share a very good example in my second article of how one person was used in both the gift of tongues and interpretation in the same gathering, also having the interpretation confirmed by someone else in the midst of the congregation who spoke the language that the tongue came in (Hebrew). And I also have been used in giving a tongue and soon afterwards bringing forth the interpretation as well. It’s not that odd or out of the question.

I want to make one final practical side note before closing out this post, one that might be disagreeable, but I see it as important to consider.

I believe we are called to not take on board some rigid view in regards to the practical function of interpretation following the message in an unknown tongue. What I mean is that, if the person giving the message in tongues speaks for a certain amount of time (i.e. 45 seconds), the interpretation does not have to be the same length of time.

This would be the same if, in our local church context within Belgium, I were to preach-teach in English and we chose to offer a translation in Dutch or French. Every half-minute or so I would look to pause for the follow-up translation. But, while my English statement might have taken 30 seconds, the Dutch or French translation might only come forth in 15 or 20 seconds. This is simply a practical reality when moving from one language into another.

In all, I would say the main purpose of the interpretation is to communicate the thrust of the message being brought forth in the tongue.

Now, this might seem overly ridiculous to consider. But I do know it is easy for some to move into a very extreme and stringent approach not only with the function of tongues and interpretation, but for all gifts of the Spirit. It must be this way and no other way. It must happen like this and not like that.

While I believe there are some generally helpful instructions on the gifts, especially starting in the New Testament, we have no detailed rulebook regarding all the in’s and out’s. And I believe God meant it that way, lest we try and dictate to Him when and how and who and where and how much and why things must function in a specific way, no questions asked. Like the Pharisees, we can easily apply more rules than God Himself.

Again, I believe the purpose in bringing the interpretation of the tongue is that we communicate the core of the message. Of course, if someone waxes eloquent for a couple of minutes in tongues and someone comes forth with the interpretation and simply says, ‘Jesus saves,’ then I would assume we have a problem. But I have not yet seen such happen. Still, I don’t think we are to sit around counting seconds or syllables, straining a gnat. Thankfully, wise leadership will be able to help practically facilitate the function of these two gifts, all for the edification of the body.

No doubt the gifts of tongues and interpretation are not the easiest gifts to consider nor allow people the freedom to function in them. Hence, the continued title of my posts – The Tongues Conundrum. The two gifts can be and have been faked (just as every other gift can and has been). But we cannot let this steer us from these two gifts that can and have been used for the building up, edification and strengthening of the church, and as I will share in my last post, even being used to draw people unto God Himself.