The Gift of Tongues and Interpretation

     Early in history the different languages came into being (cf. Gen. 11:1-9).  This has always been a hinderance to man’s progression and ability to have unity with clarity.  The event at acts is a reversal of events at babel.  This event at Pentecost has been confused to be linked with the type of language Paul addresses.  They tongues of acts and the tongues of Corinthians though are very different.


     Jesus had promised that the coming of the Spirit would fall on them. On the tenth day of waiting they found themselves gathered together on the day of “Pentecost,” the feast commemorating the giving of the ten commands to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The disciples were praying being in “one accord.”

     Without any prior warning there was a noise as a “rushing mighty wind” (vs. 2) and the whole room was filled with a strong presence. Perhaps a showing of the Spirits strength and power.  Jesus had told the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Ghost had came (cf. Acts 1:8).

     At the same time appearing above their heads “cloven tongues like as of fire” (2:3) were set.  Fire indeed represents a purging and cleansing along with illumination of Christ’s teachings and the light of the gospel. 

     Lastly the disciples begin to talk to each other and found themselves speaking with “other tongues.”  The recognized the feat and attributed it to the Spirit enabling them.  They were unlearned men and many were unable to speak the Hebrew language of their families because the primary language was Greek.  Yet they found themselves speaking with ease in different languages.

     Pentecost was one of four festivals that required the presence of male Jews.  These “devout men” (vs. 5) were Jews that had been scattered and had acquired the culture and languages of other native lands where they dwelt (cf. 2:7-11).  There would have also been non-Jewish converts and pagans. 

     Once the disciples and those with them had filed out of the place where the Spirit came into the streets it did not take long for crowd to notice.  It wasn’t the just the commontion but what was actually taking place.  They were confused because they heard every man’s “own language” (vs. 6) coming from this small group of people.  Indeed this would be confusing.

     Those at Jerusalem at that time were the witnesses that seen the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Christ’s disciples.  It would be something that they would not forget as they were all “amazed and marveled.”  The Lord made Himself known through vessels of clay and would soon speak through the mouth of Peter in the first post-Pentecost sermon with over 3,000 converts (2:41).

THE GIFT OF TONGUES (I Corinthians 14:13-17)

     The interpreters supplied the word “unknown” (vs. 13) to help us understand the nature of gift of tongues that Paul addresses.  Compared to the known languages spoken with on the day of Pentecost the apostle shares that without interpreting themselves they also will not understand and their mind be “unfruitful” (vs. 14).  It would appear that even without the supplied word “unknown,” these tongues of the spirit is unknown even to the natural minds without interpretation.

     Paul pushes the issue of praying and singing “with the spirit” and there also being a praying and singing “with the understanding.”  In Acts the tongues were known and therefore in the mind.  The tongues Paul addresses here is not of the mind and solely of the Spirit.  Some have linked this with Paul’s writing in Romans 8:26-27.

     If there is no interpretation then how will anyone benefit?  If someone does not understand then how will they know “what thou sayest” (vs. 16)?  It is impossible and wrong to “Amen” someone that you cannot understand.  No one is “edified” (vs 17) because no one knows what was just said.

TONGUES AND PROPHECY (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).

     Prophecy is better than tongues in public worship (14:18-19).  Paul spoke Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrews so no wonder he spoke “tongues more” than others.  Yet, Paul would rather share with clear “understanding” (vs. 19) than confusing sounds.

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