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Tongue-Tied? The Spiritual Gift of Speaking in and Interpreting Tongues

Updated: Feb 3

September 19, 2021- For the past few months, I have been writing articles about the spiritual gifts we have access to through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). I have written and posted articles on all spiritual gifts except speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues. This article will conclude the spiritual gifts blog posts. If you have missed the earlier posts on these spiritual gifts, you can access them as shown below:

Before I get into this spiritual gift, you must understand why there are different languages on earth. Therefore, let's start with the book of Genesis. Genesis translates to "in the beginning," which this book is about. There are 50 chapters in Genesis, and by chapter 11, we learn about the confusion of languages.

After God created Adam and Eve and mankind began reproducing and moving from the East, there was only one language. When people came and dwelt at a plain in the land called Shinar (modern-day Iraq), they spoke with one another. They decided to make a city and a tower so high that it would reach "unto heavens" (Genesis 11:4). God came down to see the city and said, "Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language: and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined doing. " (Genesis 11:6 KJV). So, what does God do? He says, "let us go down there and confuse their language" so that "they may not understand one another's speech." (Genesis 11: 7).

What I find interesting is that God could limit our imagination, but He does not do that. Instead, he confuses our speech. We can create and invent many things, but there will be some hiccups when trying to converse with diverse groups and cultures. After God confused the language, He scattered the people all over the earth. The name of that tower is Babel. This translates to confusion "because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth." (Genesis 11:7).

Now that you know why there are different languages, it's time to explain this spiritual gift and why you should seek it. In Isaiah 28:11 -12, the prophet tells us, "For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people. To whom He said, 'This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest', And ‘This is the refreshing' Yet they would not hear."’ Paul cites this passage in 1 Corinthians 14:21, and by verse 22, Paul says that tongues are a sign for the unbelievers.

Read the book of Acts, chapter 2, about the Day of the Pentecost, and you will understand why this is a sign for the unbelievers. On that day, the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, and each apostle spoke in different tongues. The Holy Bible says that a multitude (or a crowd) came together and were confused. Earlier that day, the apostles spoke in a Galilean dialect, so the public wondered why they were now hearing different languages. The Holy Bible tells of eighteen diverse groups of people who listened to their respective languages during the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Bible says that the crowd was "amazed and perplexed” (Acts 2:12), and they were wondering what this could mean. Then, Peter gave his sermon. The Holy Bible says about 3,000 souls were saved on that day! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

The Challenge with Speaking in Tongues

However, what good would it do if you speak in tongues but can't, or no one near you can understand it? Thus, you need the final spiritual gift: interpreting tongues. This is particularly true when someone speaks in the tongues of angels. Good luck finding a translator for that. Paul said that someone who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, except for he who indeed "interprets, that the church may be edified." (1 Corinthians 14:5).

My husband speaks three languages, and his first language is Portuguese. I only speak English, but our church is in Portuguese, and it's always frustrating that I need a translator. Sometimes, the translator is absent because life happens, and they can't attend church. I end up missing the point of the sermon. Sometimes, I preach, and a translator is needed. Most of the time, a translator is present, but when they are not, the message God gave me for that night is mine to keep. When that happens, I wonder what that means for those who attended church that evening and for those who missed church that evening.

To be completely honest with you and to be faithful to God, one day, when I was at my church, God told me that I needed to learn Portuguese. I thought, "Yeah, no kidding," but I also thought this would come to me practically overnight in a divine manner. God must have been laughing at me, as you must be, too. Now I realize something: God will tell you what you need to do, and He'll give you the tools you'll need, but the effort, practice, and implementation need to come from you!

For these reasons, speaking in tongues is wonderful, but I also relate to the downside when interpretation is absent. If you pray for these spiritual gifts, pray for both because they complement one another and are necessary. It is worth noting some tongues are not of this world, so pray also for discernment on these matters.

Speaking in tongues, different languages
Our church during the COVID 19 Pandemic. The woman pictured here speaks in tongues. I wish I had taken a video for you to hear this.

What Jesus Said

After Jesus was resurrected, He went into Galilee, appearing first to Mary Magdalene, of whom He had cast out seven demons previously. Mary Magdalene had told His disciples about her encounter. Mary Magdalene explained that Jesus had risen, but they doubted her. The Hole Bible tells us that after this interaction, Jesus appeared to two disciples who were on their way into the country, and just like Mary Magdalene, they would tell the other disciples, but the other disciples didn't believe them. Jesus then finally appeared to the 11 disciples. (Judas Iscariot committed suicide after he turned in Jesus, and his spot had not been replaced then). Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief. He then instructed them to preach the gospel to the world, and every creature (Mark 15:16). Jesus said that “many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16), and "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Jesus concluded His time on earth with them by explaining the signs of a believer. One of these signs is that by using Jesus's name, the believer will "speak with new tongues." (Mark 16:17).

A Critical Message about Spiritual Gifts

If you have read about the spiritual gifts within 1 Corinthians 12, and you have been praying for these gifts, but you haven't received them yet, then you are missing something. It could be that you need to fast and pray. Perhaps you are in sin and need to repent, or it could be something else. If you have read the earlier articles, you probably think of prophecy. Beloved, I'm telling you no.

Right now, I want you to consider what Jesus said to the scribe who asked which is the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:37). But Jesus did not stop there; he went on to say that the second one is similar to it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22: 37).

Now, consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:3: having these spiritual gifts without having love "profits me nothing" (verse 3). Paul tells us, "love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself; is not puffed up; does not behave rudely; does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. " (1 Corinthians 13: 4- 7 NKJV). Paul tells us that "love never fails" (verse 8). He concludes this chapter with, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13).

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if you are praying for these spiritual gifts and find yourself missing love, pray also for love. I confess to you that I have not loved enough, and I pray to be filled with love and to exercise love.

My Prayer for You

In the name of Jesus, bless the ones who seek You and love You with all of their heart, soul, and mind. May the Holy Spirit manifest within them for the spiritual gifts of speaking in and interpreting the tongues of this world and the spiritual world. May they be forgiven of their sins, and may You guide them through this life. Fill them with love, and may they love their neighbor as they love themselves! Hallelujah! I praise the Lord, and the glory is His! Amen!

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