Spiritual Gifts: Interpreting Tongues

Close up of two hands connecting with sun.
Tim Robberts

Spiritual Gift of Interpreting Tongues in Scripture:

1 Corinthians 12:10 - "He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said." NLT

1 Corinthians 12:28-31 - "Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages. Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all." NLT

1 Corinthians 14: 2-5 - "For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified." NIV

1 Corinthians 14: 13-15 - "For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding." NIV

1 Corinthians 14: 19 - "But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue." NIV

Acts 19:6 - "Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied." NLT

What is the Spiritual Gift of Interpreting Tongues?

The spiritual gift of interpreting tongues means that the person with this gift will be able to translate the message coming from a person speaking in tongues. The purpose of interpretation is to be sure the body of Christ understands what is being spoken, as it is then a message for all. Not all messages in tongues are translated. If the message is not interpreted, then it is believed by some that the words spoken in tongues are for the edification of the speaker only. It should also be noted that the person interpreting the message most often doesn't know the language being spoken, but instead gets the message to present to the body.

The spiritual gift of interpretation is often sought out and sometimes abused. It can be used to dupe believers into doing what the person wants verses what the message from God presents. Since this spiritual gift of interpreting tongues can not only be used to give an edifying message, but can also be used at times for prophecy, it is easy for people to abuse the belief that God is presenting a message for the future.

Is the Gift of Interpreting Tongues My Spiritual Gift?

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to many of them, then you may have the spiritual gift of interpreting tongues:

  • Do you find that, when people speak in tongues, you get a clear idea of what is being said?
  • When you understand what is being spoken, do you feel a connection to God?
  • Does the message seem natural and unforced?