We’re on our last tract of the nine spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 – the utterance gifts. These are the gifts that SAY something. They are: tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy. Now before we continue, I want you to understand that these gifts are not essential for salvation For example, you can be a powerful accurate, godly believer without speaking in tongues. This is demonstrated in the life of Apollos in Acts 18:24-25: And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. Knowing only the baptism of John (as opposed to the Holy Spirit baptism, he had eloquence, great knowledge, fervency in spirit, and diligence – but no power. Because of this, Aquilla and Priscilla had to teach him the way of God more perfectly (v26).
Seeing this, there must be an additional impartation when we come to Christ! Apollos was not wrong. Neither was he bad. His understanding was just incomplete. In the next chapter, they ran across some disciples and asked the question, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” (Acts 19:1-2). Their answer was that they had never even heard of the Holy Ghost! Again, they were not bad people. They simply didn’t know. Still, two things had to happen for them to know: teaching and impartation. When these two things happened (v4-6), they received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Right now at First Love Fellowship, we’re currently in the teaching phase.
Receiving the Holy Spirit is not just speaking in tongues. It is power to be a witness (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit brings credibility to the witness that Jesus is alive in His church. That credibility comes through the demonstration of the Spirit’s power in miracles, signs and wonders. Those signs include tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy.
Yes, it’s the praying that sounds like gibberish. Here’s what the Bible says: For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:13-14). This gift of God enables the believer to pray in a language that is unknown to them. It is heavenly language or the “tongues of angels” described in 1 Corinthians 13:1. This is different from what happened in Acts 2, where they spoke in languages that were understood by those around. In this case, no man understands him, but in the spirit, he speaks mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:1). So, the purpose of speaking in tongues is to declare in prayer, the mysteries of God without the filter of our own understanding. Also, see Romans 8:26-27, where Paul is speaking of prayer with, “…groanings which cannot be uttered” from those who “do not know what (they) should pray for as they ought.”
Interpretation of Tongues
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? (1 Corinthians 14:13-16).
This gift is different from tongues, as it involves understanding. The gift of interpretation of tongues can be the Spirit-led speaking of a known language that can be understood by unconverted listeners. It can also be the Spirit-led interpretation of an unknown tongue by a person who is gifted in that area. Again, this is not the mere understanding of a language. It is the declaration of the will of God, based on the utterance given. A person can speak in tongues to God in prayer without interpretation. However, if a person is addressing those around them in a tongue, there needs to be an interpretation, or the person should stop addressing everyone in tongues, as it does not edify anyone unless there is an interpreter. Still, if there is an interpreter who can declare what the Lord is saying through the speaker, then the church can receive the gift. The person with this gift of interpretation of tongues will generally not speak unless a tongue goes forward.
But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. (1 Corinthians 14:3-5)
Did you see that? It says, “…he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless indeed he interprets.” This is why we cannot limit ourselves to speaking in tongues. The importance of praying the mysteries of God cannot be understated. In prayer and intercession, this is a vital gift of God. However, if the church is to be edified, utterance must be given to the hearers in a way that can be understood. The gift of prophecy is an utterance gift that edifies the church. It does not require a tongue to go forward. It is the Spirit-led declaration in a known language that brings edification, exhortation and comfort. Yes, those who prophesy should be doing so in a way that builds the church (if indeed, they are hearing from God). To prophesy is to speak forth in teaching, refuting, reprove, admonishing, and comforting by diving revelation. It is to “to break forth under sudden impulse in lofty discourse or praise of the divine counsels.”
When one is filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the demonstratable power of God so that the credibility of our witness can be established. In Acts 2, the gift of interpretation of tongues was given because that is what was needed at the time. The whole known world was there, and they needed to know that Jesus was alive in the church. Soon after, you begin to see healings because the need was there. After that, miracles, prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom – it all depended on what God wanted to do at that moment to demonstrate the power of the risen Christ.
Bonus: Watch this video of a verifiable miracle. I know this woman. I used to carry her up the stairs of the bookstore at my former job in Queens, NY. She was paralyzed, but is now able to walk. When I knew her, her legs were shriveled. Today, she can walk normally.