Interpretation of Tongues by Chuck Smith

…Now as we have moved through the first eight manifestations, we have come to the ninth one which is the interpretation of tongues. Paul said, “To another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:10).

Now this is a companion gift to the gift of speaking with tongues. It is, interestingly enough, the only gift that a person is told to pray for specifically. And that is, as Paul said, “If a person speaks in an unknown tongue.” That would be a reference to speaking in church or actually before the church, in an unknown tongue. He is speaking to God, but before the church in an unknown tongue. Then he needs to pray that he might interpret in order that the whole church might be edified by his praise and giving of thanks.

Now I do not believe that this verse applies to the private use of the gift of tongues. And as we pointed out in the last three studies, when we studied in detail the subject of speaking in tongues, we pointed out that definitely the Scripture is encouraging the use in a believer’s personal devotional experiences. But it limits and restricts the use of the gift of tongues in the church. It can be used in the church, preferably when just the church is gathered together with no unbelievers present. But if it is exercised in the church then it is under definite restrictions and limitations.

Paul said that he personally would rather not use his gift of speaking in tongues in church. He reserved it for his own personal, private devotions, preferring to speak five words in a known tongue, than ten thousand in an unknown tongue when he is gathered together with the body of Christ. So in the use of tongues in your own private devotions, there is no need for interpretation. The only time the need for interpretation arises is if there is an exercise of tongues within church.

The Greek word that is translated interpretation is hermeneia, from which we get our word hermeneutics. This is the science of scriptural interpretation. Hermeneutics or hermeneia is the interpretation. Now this same Greek word hermeneia, in other places is translated translation. But it would seem that the gift is properly referred to as an interpretation. Now we realize that there is a difference between a translation and an interpretation. A translation is a word-for-word kind of a transferring from one language to the other….

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