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The Interpretation of Tongues

August 13, 2019

       To another the interpretation of tongues, 1st Corinthians 12:9.  

 

 

        Corinth was an apt place to establish God's policy on diverse and divers tongues.  The biblical city of Corinth had been rebuilt by the Romans and had become a teeming metropolis in which almost any language or race known to the Roman world could be heard or seen in its markets.  Corinth had a large Greek as well as Roman and Jewish population.  That would have immediately made it a trilingual city as a whole.  Additionally, its streets and markets were filled with servants and slaves from all across the Roman Empire.  

         It is probable that enough pidgin Latin or Greek could enable any servant from a far flung province to navigate the streets and markets.  It is probable that an inhabitant of either a Latin, Greek or Jewish household could speak enough Latin or Greek to conduct commerce.   What is also probable is that unless someone was well educated, listening to and understanding the nuances of the gospel and the Pauline Epistles was very difficult for all but those who came from Greek households. 

        We are familiar with the gift of tongues as evidenced in Acts Chapter 2.  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born, Acts 2:8.  It is interesting to see how that is phrased.  They don't hear in the tongue that they currently speak, nor do they hear in the tongue that they know best.  They hear in the tongue wherein they were born. God physically divided the earth by tongues.  By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations, Genesis 10:5.

        When God made boundaries between the nations, tongues were part of those boundaries.  The Apostle Paul explained to the Athenians; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation, Acts 17:26.  When he established bounds to their habitations, tongues were part of those boundaries.  In Acts Chapter 2, God began to tear down those boundaries that divided men.  As the apostles spoke, each man was carried back linguistically to the land of his birth and heard the preaching in that tongue.  

        The next time we see a people speak with tongues is in Acts Chapter 10. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God, Acts 10:45,46.   By what artifice or device are we to believe that Cornelius and his followers did anything different than was done in Acts Chapter 2?  Cornelius and his entourage glorified God in their own tongues and those that traveled with Peter heard them in the tongues wherein they were born. 

       The idea that they spoke some heavenly language unknown to men is utterly without foundation.  At this point in the Book of Acts, tongues have been established as men speaking in one language but their hearers hearing them in their native tongue.  There is no reason to doubt that anything different happed in Acts 19:6; And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

      As we get into the Book of 1st Corinthians, it is important to remember that a tongue is a language.  When I am speaking English, I am speaking in the English Tongue.  If I know three or four languages, I can speak in three or four tongues.  That is to be distinguished from the gift of tongues.  Did you work to learn a language, or was it miraculously given to you?  If you only know one language you can be sure that you worked to learn it.  You may have been too young to remember but if you watch a toddler, he is working to learn to communicate.  My 5th grade teacher, Miss Robinson did not suffer fools gladly.  When we asked, "Can I go to the bathroom?", she would answer with another question.  "Are you asking if you have the ability to go to the bathroom, or are you asking for permission?  If you are asking for permission, say, may I go to the bathroom."  We worked to learn our mother tongue.   

    Imagine now the crowd in a Corinthian church meeting.  There were people there who became believers by sitting at Jesus Christ's feet and hearing him speak.  There were believers who heard Peter preach. Some were converted hearing the Evangelist Apollos preach.  Others were converted under Paul's preaching.   Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ, 1st Corinthians 1:12.     

      It is in the heart of natural man to draw boundaries where God has not drawn them.  Imagine then the extra difficulty of trying to teach the Old Testament as it applied to believers. Imagine trying to reason with Jews and Gentiles on the reality of Christ in you the hope of glory.  Imagine trying to get across to a room full of believers the fullness of the word of God when there is no common language.  So confusing was such a scenario that the Apostle Paul commanded that if any man was to speak in a tongue, only two or three at the most were to do it by taking turns and that could only be done if someone interpreted.  If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret, 1st Corinthians 14:27.  

       There is also the gift of divers kinds of tongues; to another divers kinds of tongues, 1st Corinthians 12:10.   Here we have a distinctly different gift than that which was exercised in the Book of Acts.  In this gift the person exercising it is able to speak in a different tongue that he did not work to learn.  It was gifted to him.  We need to recall for a moment a post which Paul Scott wrote in March of 2017.   (Click Here To Read It.)  There is a difference between "Divers" and "Diverse".  

 

Divers: More than a few, many, and some variation within the population. The variation can be slight, even deceptively slight. The stress is more about the quantity, and an unequal or slight deviation within the quantity.

 

Diverse: A significant variation in nature, in character, and in type. The stress isn’t as much about quantity as it is in differences within the population.

 

     When a person had the gift of divers tongues, by God's supernatural intervention they were able to speak so that the difference in their accent, dialect and even a similar language could be understood.  They could speak in that divers tongue.  If it was utterly a different kind of tongue such as Paul mentioned in 1st Corinthians 13 when he said that he could speak in the tongues of angels, the word would have used the word "diverse".    

 

         The reason that such a gift as divers tongues was no longer needed when the scriptures were complete is because of the far greater gift, the interpretation of tongues.  Once the scriptures were firmly completed, the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, the gift of the interpretation of tongues was used to make those scriptures available in any tongue where men were willing to exercise that gift.  To exercise that gift, the men involved must first have labored to be able to understand the scriptures in each language.  They must understand it as it was given to them, and they must understand the language in which they hope to copy it.  God will not miraculously give them another tongue.  

       The miracle is that in the words they chose to represent what was said in the original, the meaning is absolutely as clear in the new language, so much so that when a passage is complete, there is no thought nor idea that God meant to say in the one that did not come out in the second.  It is by this gift that we have a perfect bible.  It is by this gift that we have the word of God.  Machines are able to translate.  Only a conscious intellect can interpret.  Presidents do not take translators with them to speak with foreign leaders.  They take interpreters so that the conscious intellect of a man or woman who is trusted by the president can interpret each nuance of speech.  A man exercising the gift of the interpretation of tongues has the conscious intellect of God Almighty at work in his spirit.

       The greatest single difference between the King James Bible and the new translations is that a machine could have produced those bibles.  Oh, perhaps a team of men and women rounded off the edges of the speech just as a newly machined part needs to be buffed before it can be used, but the product itself is disgracefully mechanical to some extent.  The reader of those bibles is quickly disabused of the idea that the consciousness of God is active in what he reads.  The reader of those bibles has been taken one step further away from God.  

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