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What Does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues Without an Interpreter?
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What Does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues Without an Interpreter?

Introduction

Speaking in tongues is a common practice in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian worship services. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit that is bestowed upon believers, as referenced in Acts 2:4.

However, there are times when tongues are spoken without an interpreter, and this raises questions about the role of interpretation in the church. What does the Bible say about speaking in tongues without an interpreter?

How can we ensure that our use of spiritual gifts is in alignment with God’s will and brings edification to the church?

In this blog post, we will explore the biblical basis for the gift of tongues and the importance of interpretation in the church. We will examine the teachings of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, where he addresses the issue of speaking in tongues without an interpreter.

We will also consider the role of interpreters in the church and the practical applications of these teachings for our worship and prayer lives.

As we delve into this topic, it is important to remember that speaking in tongues and the gift of interpretation are not simply theoretical concepts. They are practical aspects of our Christian walk that have the potential to impact our personal prayer lives and our corporate worship experiences.

By examining the biblical teachings on this topic and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can ensure that our use of spiritual gifts is in alignment with God’s will and brings glory to His name.

Tongues in the church

The Gift of Tongues

Before we delve into the issue of speaking in tongues without an interpreter, let’s first establish what the gift of tongues is. In 1 Corinthians 12:10, the apostle Paul speaks of “different kinds of tongues” as a spiritual gift.

In 1 Corinthians 14:2, he explains that “he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”

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Essentially, speaking in tongues is a form of prayer or worship where a believer speaks in a language that is unknown to them. It is a way to communicate with God on a deeper level, with the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf.

The gift of tongues is often a controversial topic, with some Christians believing that it is no longer necessary or relevant in modern times. However, it is important to remember that the gift of tongues is a biblical practice that was experienced by the early church.

In fact, in Acts 19:6, we see that when Paul laid his hands on a group of believers, “the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

This shows that the gift of tongues is not something that was only experienced by the early church, but is something that can be experienced by believers today.

Speaking in Tongues Without an Interpreter

Now, let’s look at the issue of speaking in tongues without an interpreter. In 1 Corinthians 14:5, Paul says, “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.”

Here, Paul is saying that while he desires for all believers to speak in tongues, it is more beneficial for the church if there is an interpretation of what is being said. Without an interpretation, the church cannot be edified or built up.

In 1 Corinthians 14:13-17, Paul goes even further, saying that if someone speaks in tongues without an interpretation, they should keep quiet and speak to themselves and God.

He 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. 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? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.”

In other words, if someone is speaking in tongues without an interpretation, it is not benefiting anyone in the church. The person may be communicating with God on a deep level, but if no one else can understand what is being said, it is essentially meaningless.

The Importance of Interpretation

So, why is interpretation so important? As we’ve seen from the above verses, without interpretation, speaking in tongues does not benefit the church. In fact, Interpretation also helps to bring unity to the church.

In 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, Paul says, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.”

This shows that speaking in tongues should be done in an orderly fashion, with only a few people speaking at a time and with an interpretation present. This helps to prevent chaos and confusion in the church.

Additionally, interpretation helps to confirm the authenticity of the message being conveyed through tongues.

In 1 Corinthians 14:29-33, Paul says,

“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”

This passage shows that there should be discernment and judgment exercised in the church when it comes to prophetic messages or messages conveyed through tongues. Interpretation helps to confirm the validity of the message and prevent false teachings or confusion from spreading.

The Role of Interpreters

In light of the importance of interpretation, it is necessary to consider the role of interpreters in the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul lists “various kinds of tongues” and “interpretation of tongues” as spiritual gifts that are given to believers.

This shows that interpretation is a gift that is bestowed by the Holy Spirit and is essential for the proper functioning of the church.

However, it is important to note that not everyone who speaks in tongues is necessarily gifted with the ability to interpret. In 1 Corinthians 14:13, Paul says, “Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”

This shows that interpretation is something that can be sought after and prayed for, but it is not necessarily a given for every believer who speaks in tongues.

Furthermore, interpretation is not a matter of personal opinion or subjective interpretation. In 1 Corinthians 14:29, Paul says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” This shows that interpretation should be judged and confirmed by other believers in the church.

The interpretation should align with Scripture and the message of the Gospel, and it should be confirmed by other believers in the church before it is accepted as valid.

Practical Applications

So, what does this mean for our worship services and personal prayer lives? First and foremost, it means that speaking in tongues should always be done with the edification of the church in mind. If there is no interpretation, speaking in tongues should be done privately, between the believer and God.

It also means that interpretation is not something that should be taken lightly. Those who believe they have the gift of interpretation should seek confirmation from other believers and should ensure that their interpretation aligns with Scripture and the message of the Gospel.

Finally, it means that we should always be seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our use of spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians 14:15, Paul says, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding.”

This shows that while speaking in tongues is an important form of prayer, it should not be done at the expense of understanding or edification. We should always seek to use our spiritual gifts in a way that brings glory to God and builds up the church.

Conclusion

In conclusion, speaking in tongues without an interpreter is not beneficial for the church. While the gift of tongues is an important aspect of our worship and prayer lives, it should always be done with the edification of the church in mind.

Interpretation is necessary for the message to be understood and for the church to be built up.

Interpretation is not something that should be taken lightly, and those who believe they have the gift of interpretation should seek confirmation from other believers and ensure that their interpretation aligns with Scripture and the message of the Gospel.

Ultimately, we should always seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our use of spiritual gifts. As we do so, we can be confident that our worship and prayer lives will be pleasing to God and beneficial to the church.

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.