The Bible mentions the gift of tongues in several places, both in the Book of 1 Corinthians and the Book of Acts. However, the gift to interpret tongues appears only in the Book of 1 Corinthians.
Tongues are unknown languages. In other words, a person is speaking in a language that he does not know. It may be a language that other people can understand (Acts 2:4-11). It may be one of the languages of heaven (13:1).
A person can speak in that language because the Holy Spirit gives him the words to say. The words do not come from the personís mind, but from his spirit. Perhaps it is a prayer (14:14-15). Perhaps the person is giving thanks to God (14:16-17). Perhaps the person is declaring the good things that God has done (Acts 2:11).
Especially during private prayer, it is not necessary to interpret the words that a person speaks in tongues. The personís spirit is praying, and that is a good and proper way to pray (14:14; 14:17). However, because the mind cannot understand that prayer, the person should also pray with his mind (14:14-15).
However, it is different at church, especially during public meetings. Then, if a person gives a message in tongues, someone should interpret it. It is a message from God, and the people need to understand it. However, when the language is unknown, people cannot understand. But the same Holy Spirit, who gave those words, can give someone the power to interpret them. So, after a message in tongues, people should pray for this to happen.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.