Tongues with Interpretation - 1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 14:26-28; 39
This subject freaks out some people—but there’s no getting around the fact that Paul included these twin gifts in his list of positive blessings from the Holy Spirit.
There’s a clear difference between the tongues described in the book of Acts (chapters 2, 10, 19, and probably 8) compared to the tongues of 1 Corinthians. In the Acts stories, no interpretation into the common language is mentioned. (The multilingual crowd on the Day of Pentecost didn’t need it; they already understood what the 120 disciples were saying.) In the Corinthians passage, Paul insists that public tongues in a church gathering be followed by an interpretation, so people aren’t left scratching their heads. Same phenomenon, but different applications.
An expression of public tongues in a service seems to be God’s red flag, his way of getting everyone’s attention—Excuse me, I have something to communicate now. Then comes the interpretation in English (or whatever the group’s main language is). Through the combination, all who are present get to hear the divine message and benefit from it.
That is what happened to a young businessman named Ron whose wife, a TV news reporter, had come to accept Christ and attend a church in Marquette, Michigan. Ron didn’t think he needed that religious stuff. He asked his wife what the church was like, and upon hearing a little description, followed up with “Is that the kind of place where they do that speaking-in-tongues thing?”
“Well, actually,” she replied honestly, “I’ve heard that a few times in some services.”
That ended the conversation for the time being. But some weeks later, Ron was curious enough to investigate further. One Sunday morning when his wife was out covering a news story, he ventured to the church alone. On the way, he put God to something of a test: “Look, if this tongues thing is for real, let it happen today.”
The service began with some singing of songs he didn’t know. This gradually morphed into an unscripted time of praise and worship. Then … an older woman in Ron’s row suddenly began to speak out in an unfamiliar language, loudly enough that everyone could hear. He glanced sideways; she didn’t look like “the type” to make a spectacle of herself. After 60 or perhaps 90 seconds she stopped. The sanctuary was quiet.
Then someone across the way in a different section began to give a message of encouragement in English. The phrasing was unique, as if God was channeling his communication through this person—only nothing was written down. It was all impromptu. Then the pastor gave a brief explanation of what had occurred.
Following the sermon and closing prayer that day, Ron drove home with much to think about. God had even heard his challenge a few hours earlier and promptly responded to it. In the following months, this couple began attending church together. Ron decided to follow Christ just as his wife had done. They began inviting other young couples to their home for Bible study. Soon the two of them were baptized.
All because a church was willing to welcome the spiritual gifts of tongues and interpretation—on a Sunday morning no less. Holy Bible App.