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At the present time in these studies on the gifts of the Holy Spirit we are dealing with what we call the vocal gifts, that is, the three gifts that operate through the human vocal organs: tongues, interpretation and prophecy. We define tongues generally as “the ability given to a believer by the Holy Spirit to speak in a language not understood by the speaker.” Interpretation we define as “the ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak in a language understood by the speaker the meaning of words previously spoken in an unknown tongue.” And prophecy we defined as “the ability to speak in a language understood by the speaker words given by the Holy Spirit.”
We pointed out that these three vocal gifts differ from the other six gifts that we’ve already studied in this respect that in some measure these three vocal gifts are placed under the control of the believer and believers are therefore responsible to use them aright and not misuse them. For this reason there is quite an extensive section in Paul’s writings given to instruction on how to use these vocal gifts and how to avoid misuse.
We began to deal with the gift that is generally called tongues and we pointed out that there is a very important distinction between the singular and the plural—in the singular, an unknown tongue and in the plural, kinds of tongues.
Now, in this present study we’re going to go on to the plural gift which is kinds of tongues. Both words are in the plural. Kinds are in the plural, tongues are in the plural. If you look at 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 you find that this is in common with several other ways in which these gifts are spoken of. In verse 8 we have a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge. In verse 9 we have faith and then the gifts of healings where both parts are plural. Verse 10 we have workings of miracles. Again, both parts are plural. Then we have prophecy and then discernings of spirits where both parts are plural. Then we have divers kinds of tongues. This is the King James translation but if you have a translation in which words put in by the translators are printed in italics, I think you’ll find the word divers is in italics. Can anybody confirm that? In other words, it’s supplied by the translators. What the Greek says literally is “kinds of tongues.” That’s why I’ve chosen that as the correct title for this particular gift.
However, leaving out the divers [or diverse or various], which is an Old English word, we still have both parts plural. Kinds of tongues. Actually, I think you’ll find there are five of the gifts in which both parts are plural.
Now, turn on to verse 28 of the same chapter, 1 Corinthians 12, and we find this list of different ministries sent by God in the public assembly. I think in chapters 11, 12 and 14 of 1 Corinthians where Paul uses the word church, in most places we have to understand “the public assembly.” The word church has different shades of meaning according to the context. Sometimes it means “the whole body of Christ,” sometimes it means “the body of Christ in a certain area” and sometimes it means “the body of Christ met in official, public assembly.” That’s mainly how Paul uses it in chapters 11, 12 and 14 of 1 Corinthians here.
For instance, to come to something we may touch on later, he says that a woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered “dishonereth her head.” I think this is obvious that this doesn’t refer to a woman at home in her bedroom. But, this is in the public assembly that these statements apply. I believe this is true also of verse 28. When we come to verse 28 of 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is speaking about the public assembly of God’s people met together in fellowship to minister to one another.
One thing that strengthens me in this opinion is that there is here no mention of the ministry of the evangelist. Whereas, in the total body of Christ you could not omit the ministry of the evangelist and in Ephesians 4:11 it’s one of the main ministries listed. But, the ministry of the evangelist, as such, has no place in the public assembly of God’s people met together because the ministry of the evangelist is to the unbeliever. It is assumed there are no unbelievers present in a meeting of the church. The church is the body of believers. This, I think, is further evidence that I’m correct in suggesting to you that where we use the word church in 1 Corinthians 12:28, it’s the public assembly. Reading it that way, we have this statement: “God hath set in the [public assembly]... .” And then there’s a list of different kinds of ministries that operate within the public assembly of God’s people. And, they’re listed, more or less, in order of seniority, which is unusual. In most places Paul doesn’t put an order. There’s nothing to suggest in verses 8, 9 and 10 of 1 Corinthians 12 that he’s listing the most important gifts first. There’s no suggestion of that. In fact, there are various passages that might suggest that the most highly prized gift is prophecy which is listed quite near the end of that list.
But, here we have a definite order.
“... first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings...”
At least the first five are listed apparently in order of seniority. I always think it’s significant to point out that the ministry of the Word takes precedence over all other forms of ministry because the final authority is in the Word. So, it’s those that have the ministry of the Word that are listed first. Apostles, prophets and teachers. Then the supernatural ministries that come by the exercise of gifts of the Spirit of miracles and healings follow after that. It is also significant, I think, that miracles are placed before healings and I believe that this is not an accident.
Then we have helps, governments—which I said in another study means “steering”—and then, in the King James Version, the last one listed there is “diversities of tongues.” I cannot answer for all the words used by the King James translators, they’re out of my reach. I can’t get to them and question them. But, I don’t know why they changed this translation because in the Greek exactly the same phrase is used in verse 10 and verse 28. In each case it means, literally, “kinds of tongues.” In verse 10 they’ve translated it “divers kinds of tongues.” You leave out the divers and you have the correct, literal translation. And, in verse 28 the Greek has exactly the same, there’s not a change of any kind. So, I prefer to say there “kinds of tongues.”
This word that we translate in English “kind” is the Greek word which gives us the Latin word from which we get the English word “genus,” which is a well known kind of scientific word. Genus and species, it’s exactly the same in Greek. So, if you want to get a kind of feeling of the significance of the word, really, it means genus. A different genre of tongue.
Now, as I see this, it’s clear from the context, and the other things that are listed together with this, that we are no longer dealing with an unknown tongue used in private communion with God. This is not what we’re dealing with at all. We’re dealing with something that is not singular and it’s not for use in private. These are the two obvious differences. What we’re dealing with now is something that’s plural in both parts, kinds of tongues, and it is set in the public assembly for ministry in the public assembly. If we don’t understand that, I think we shall not be able to relate the various different things that Paul says about the different aspects of tongues. It is most important to understand that in verse 28 of 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is speaking about something that gives a public ministry in the assembly just as the other things do: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, steerings. They’re all related to the ministry of the public assembly. I’m sure this is true of kinds of tongues.
However we understand it, we’ve got to understand it in such a way that it fits in as a ministry in the public assembly. We’ve got to distinguish it completely in our minds from the private use of a tongue when Paul says a person who uses that is “not speaking to men but is speaking to God, nobody understands him, he’s speaking mysteries.” The two things are completely distinct.
Now, I’m going to offer you my personal opinion and understanding of what is meant by kinds of tongues. I can only say that it’s my own opinion, that I’ve arrived at it out of years of study and meditation and prayer and on the basis of observation and experience in many different groups and in many different countries. However, it still remains my opinion, and I do not wish in any way to force it upon anybody who might feel differently. Personally, I do not believe that this word means different languages as, for instance, sometimes Russian, sometimes Greek, sometimes French, sometimes Sanskrit or something like that. I don’t believe that’s the meaning. I believe that the word is “kind” in the sense that I’ve already said—it’s related to the English word genus and that if you’re to define the difference in “kind” you’d do better to define it on the basis of the use or the purpose for which it is given. And, that it corresponds to the different kinds of prayer that we find active in the life of the believer. There are many different kinds of prayer; we’ll deal with some of them in a few moments. I believe the different kinds of tongues are tongues given for different kinds of prayer in the public assembly, basically.
Let’s notice something from 1 Timothy before we go into a detailed study of this. First Timothy 3:15 and then go back to 1 Timothy 2:1. First Timothy 3:14–15, Paul says this:
“These things write I unto thee [Timothy], hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and the ground of the truth.”
So, the primary purpose for which this epistle was written was to instruct Timothy in correct behavior in the church, which is the house of the living God. That is, the local church.
With this in mind, turn back to 1 Timothy 2 and I think we get a very important point of emphasis.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men…”
You’ll notice there Paul again gives us a specific order. First of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks. In other words, the primary ministry of the local congregation is prayer. This is the basic ministry of a local congregation. I believe if we do not see this, we fail to understand many things and we cannot enter into the experience of many things that God has for us. If we bypass prayer, we don’t get the results that the New Testament speaks about because prayer is the generator that generates the power that operates the other aspects of life in the assembly. If you bypass prayer and simply go into some kind of program, you’ll find that you don’t have the power to operate the program. It’s like having a building wired for electricity with light and heat fixtures and sound fixtures but no connection to a generator. Nothing works because there is no power. That’s how I understand the place of prayer in the local assembly; it is the generator that generates the power that operates the other things that have to be operated.
And so, writing to Timothy about the correct conduct of a local assembly Paul says first of all, supplications, prayers. And you’ll notice that Paul in that particular verse mentions four different kinds of praying: Supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks.
Now, let’s try and relate different kinds of tongues to different kinds of praying. I will offer you four which I believe the Holy Spirit has made clear to me. I am not by any means seeking to suggest that these are the only four. In fact, the whole subject of prayer and of tongues is such a rich one that I don’t believe even one or two studies such as this would by any means exhaust it. It always grieves me to hear people speak about tongues as if it was a small and insignificant subject because to me it’s a tremendous subject. It’s rich, it reaches into many different aspects of Christian living and after studying it and considering it and meditating on it for almost thirty years, I have not come anywhere near to the depth of it. As a matter of fact, this particular gift, kinds of tongues, I think in many ways is one of the hardest to understand and to enter into, of all the gifts. It’s one of the most rich and one of the most effective when it’s rightly operated.
I was in New Zealand about two years ago teaching in a series of meetings on the things related to the Spirit and I had come to the place in my series of messages where it was my intention to teach next about kinds of tongues. I had already seen the fact that both parts are plural and that it does not really mean different languages. I woke up one morning without any process of reasoning or without having prayed, I just woke up with this phrase in my mind as clear and distinct as anything: “Kinds of tongues—praise, intercession, rebuke and exhortation.” And that stayed with me through the day. I preached on it and it has stayed with me until now. In other words, I feel that the Holy Spirit was showing me at least a part of the meaning of kinds of tongues, different kinds of prayer, given in a tongue that suits the type of prayer. I hope I’ll be able to make this real to you.
I have just lately myself, even in the last few days, I feel I’ve got into a higher realm of prayer than I’ve been in before, partly through having to pray through certain very difficult situations. Out of the difficulties has come a blessing. I must also say that I’ve learned a lot over the years from listening to my wife pray. In fact, anybody who hasn’t heard my wife pray just really doesn’t know what it could be like. I have to be careful I don’t give people the wrong impression but it is an education praying with my wife; it’s very, very unusual. I’ve never heard anybody else pray quite like she does, although I’ve heard some pray in a fairly similar way. She sometimes turns to me and apologizes for the way she prays. I say, “It’s all right. Keep it up; I’m with you.” When I preach she stands behind me and when she prays I stand behind her. It’s really a remarkable experience. It’s absolutely real, it’s moving out into a realm that is real, it’s dealing with things that are real, it’s exercising power that’s real. There’s nothing imaginary, there’s nothing super-spiritual in all of it. I must have heard my wife in the course of the years pray in at least fifty different languages. You probably have noticed that she has some little difficulty with the ordinary English “r” in her daily pronunciation and various other words like the English “th,” which the Danes don’t really want to bother themselves with. When she prays in some of these tongues, the R’s come rolling out in rivers, the TH’s are no problem at all. Even that by itself is really entirely supernatural.
So, let’s consider for a moment these four kinds of prayer that I have listed here in your outline. I want to say again emphatically: I’m in no way suggesting that this exhausts the possibilities, it’s just a few suggestions.
The first one I have listed there is praise. We’re talking about a public assembly. A public assembly doesn’t need to be very large. The smallest one is two or three gathered together in the name of Jesus. Many times this is one of the most effective prayer groups. A very small group really committed to the Lord in prayer and not out to play spiritual games or get spiritual thrills but really out to do business with God. Sometimes when a prayer group gets larger, the motives of some of the people in it are questionable and there isn’t the same unity and power and spiritual impact. People are always looking for their prayer groups to get bigger but I think many times that’s the wrong direction to look in. It isn’t really the number of people; it’s the degree of unity and purpose that’s going to make prayer effective. One of the key words is purpose. When people say there’s another prayer group formed in such and such a place; isn’t that good? I say, “It depends on the purpose for which they’re coming together.” Some groups come together for the better and some for the worse. But, at any rate, that’s just by the way.
Well, we have a group, two people, three people, fifteen people, fifty people, five hundred people. And they are in the presence of the Lord ministering to the Lord. That’s a phrase that many Christians don’t understand, it’s “ministering to the Lord.” Many Christians’ idea of prayer simply is to come together with a list of things they want God to do. There’s no sense of ministering to the Lord. But experience shows that if we minister to the Lord, when His time comes, He’ll minister very rapidly to our needs. We don’t need to do a lot of begging and pleading most times with God.
So, we picture this group—as I said, it may be a very small group or it may be a larger group—and somebody is given a tongue. The kind of tongue is a tongue of praise. When you hear it, you know there is a human spirit adoring, exalting, worshiping the Creator. It’s thrilling. What happens? It liberates the group. They all begin to join in in praise and worship. The purpose of that particular tongue was to lead the whole group into worship and praise. It fulfilled its purpose without interpretation. Interpretation wasn’t necessary. Though, sometimes interpretation of a tongue that is purely praise and worship does come and it can be very, very beautiful.
Or, let’s consider another situation under the heading of intercession. A group is praying about a person, about a situation or about some such thing and they can’t get through. Or, they don’t know which way to pray or they don’t know which way the meeting should go. God the Holy Spirit gives someone an intercessory tongue. This may be the specific prayer that that particular person needs, that that particular situation needs or, it may be a prayer for the group as a whole to be directed aright and find the mind of the Lord.
I’ve noticed quite often after what I would call an intercessory tongue you get an utterance in prophecy. And yet, the two are not directly connected. Some people say that couldn’t be the interpretation to what we heard because the tongue was long and the prophecy was short or, the prophecy was long and the tongue was short. I say no. It wasn’t the interpretation. It was a tongue of intercession that liberated the prophecy that God wanted brought forth. I’ve seen this happen so many times I’m sure it is right. Do not relate those two things as tongues and interpretations. That isn’t the way they’re related. An intercessory tongue was given forth on behalf of the whole meeting to liberate what God wanted to do. The next thing that comes forth is a prophecy. It’s not the interpretation of what was given before in the unknown tongue.
Then again, there’s another type of tongue which most of us, I suspect, have experienced and sometimes people find it rather surprising and even upsetting and that is tongues in the form of rebuke. We read several times in the gospels that Jesus rebuked situations. He stood over Peter’s wife’s mother and rebuked the fever. You don’t rebuke, as far as I understand it, a purely physical condition. If you rebuke something, there’s a person or a personality behind it. On the way across the Sea of Galilee when the storm was about to sink the ship that He was in He stood up and He rebuked the wind and the waves. He said to them, “Be muzzled!” in the Greek. He was dealing with a personality behind a situation or a sickness.
And, the Holy Spirit in you and me will sometimes do the same. When we begin to pray for a particular physical need or a mental need or something like that, the Holy Spirit will seem to rise up within us even in anger. I don’t know whether you’ve heard this but I have many times. It comes out in a torrent like a damn bursting and a river sweeping down carrying away the boulders, the debris and all the rest of it before it. This is the Holy Spirit turned loose against the presence and the operation of the devil in some form or another. People that are not familiar with this get scared and say, “How could the Holy Spirit sound like that?” But, we’ve got to learn that the Holy Spirit has got the infinite wisdom of God and He sees behind the thing that we’re praying about, the situation that we’re dealing with, and He turns God’s power loose against the devil in that situation.
I have seen my wife pray for the sick many times this way and it will come out like a roar. But, the person gets healed. See? That, to me, is the thing that matters. We were praying in a basement once somewhere in Ohio and there was a man who had arthritis. It was a rather quiet meeting, the people were not very free. This man was sitting there on the stool and he said, “Would you pray for me? I’ve got arthritis.” My wife laid her hands on his back and I was standing there, too. Suddenly there came out this really loud, fierce roar. The man went up in the air about two inches and came down. He said, “My, you frightened me! But, my arthritis is gone.” I said, “As long as your arthritis went, it didn’t matter being frightened a little bit.” This is tongues for rebuke. See, there was no need for any interpretation of that. It would have been out of place to give an interpretation.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing. But, if you shut off the embarrassment, you shut off the gift. I know one man, I won’t mention his name, had this gift and people would go out by the scores and by the hundreds. I’ve seen two hundred people in Africa on their backs at one time. He said to us one day, “I asked God if I couldn’t do it without people going on their backs because it provokes so much criticism and opposition. The people didn’t go on their backs after that, but they didn’t get healed either.” After awhile he said, “God, You heal the people whatever way You want to do it.” We are not to dictate terms to the Holy Spirit. All we’ve got to do is yield ourselves and cooperate with Him.
There’s one other kind of tongue that I want to speak about and that is what I call exhortation. In this, as I understand it, the Holy Spirit speaks to the group of believers gathered. He has something to say to the group. Obviously, if this is given in an unknown tongue as it often is, its purpose will not be accomplished unless it is followed by interpretation into the language understood by the group present. Here is an example where the purpose of God in an unknown tongue in the public assembly will not be fulfilled unless the unknown tongue is followed by interpretation.
Let’s notice a few points in connection with this before we go on to the gift of interpretation. First Corinthians 12:30, we have had in verse 28 this statement “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,” and so on. Then Paul clearly implies that not all have all of these ministries in the public assembly. He asks the questions and does not give the answers but I think everybody would agree the way the questions are asked implies the answer in each case is no. “Are all apostles?” No. “Are all prophets?” No. Are all teachers?” No. “Are all workers of miracles?” No. “Have all the gifts of healing?” No. “Do all speak with tongues?” No. “Do all interpret?” No. I believe it’s clear that in each case the implied answer is no.
Some people deduce from this that speaking in tongues is not necessarily the result of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe the two are related. Paul is here talking about the gift of “kinds of tongues” for a ministry in the public assembly just as he’s talking about the gifts of healing or the ministry of an apostle. He says in the public assembly do all have the operation of the gift, kinds of tongues? The answer is no. This is true in experience. I know many, many people baptized in the Spirit, able to communicate regularly with God in an unknown tongue who never exercise this gift in the public assembly. This is, I believe, the correct relationship between the two. Paul is not talking here about the result of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It isn’t in his mind. He’s talking about different types of ministries in the public assembly. And, many that are baptized in the Holy Spirit who communicate with God personally in a tongue do not have this ministry in the public assembly.
Then, in 1 Corinthians 14:18–19 we notice another thing that should be said in this connection. Paul says:
“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
It’s a strange thing about some people who are critics of tongues. They know verse 19 but they haven’t read verse 18. They’ll say, “Didn’t Paul say he would rather speak five words in a known tongue than ten thousand in an unknown tongue?” “Yes,” we may say, “but didn’t he also say, ‘I thank my God I speak with tongues more than all of you put together’?” And, when you form a picture of how much the Corinthian church spoke in tongues it’s obvious that the apostle Paul did it a great deal. It is equally obvious that he did not do it normally in the church. Here again it is obvious here that “the church” means the public assembly. So, where did Paul do all his speaking in tongues? Clearly it was in his private communion with God. The two things are quite distinct. In the public assembly he said it would be no good for me to stand up for half an hour or an hour or an hour and a half and speak to you in an unknown tongue. It wouldn’t edify or bless or help anybody. The place to do that is in my private communion with God. But when I come to the assembly my aim it to bless and to minister to others. I’ve got to operate on that basis. Consequently, to speak in the public assembly in an unknown tongue in the way that I would communicate with God in private is out of place.
If it’s one of these ministries of a tongue which we just mentioned like praise or intercession or rebuke or exhortation, then that doesn’t apply. But apart from a particular type of ministry to a kind of tongue, speaking in an unknown tongue out loud in the public assembly is out of place because our aim there is not to communicate with God but to communicate with our fellow believers. So, we have to speak in a way that reaches them and that they can understand.
We have seen this happen many times in Pentecostal assemblies in the past. Somebody would speak in an unknown tongue out loud, there would be no function, it would fulfill no ministry, it would not be followed by interpretation; it would disturb and confuse and maybe frighten those that didn’t know. This is a misuse of an unknown tongue. We have to bear in mind that in the public assembly the primary aim to which everything else should be subjected is the edifying and blessing of our fellow believers.
However, let’s read also in 1 Corinthians 14:28 just to see that even here there is an alternative. Paul says:
“If there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church...”
Not speak in an unknown tongue. Notice again “the church” means the public assembly because if it meant the universal church then we’re always in the universal church. So, here is another case where obviously Paul has in mind the public assembly.
“If there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the [public assembly]; and let him speak to himself, and to God.”
All right. You feel you want to pray, you feel you want to pray in an unknown tongue, you’re in the public assembly and it isn’t going to be interpreted. What do you do? It’s very simple. Do it under your breath. Speak to yourself and to God.
I have known people baptized in the Holy Spirit for ten years who didn’t know they could do it under their breath. So, you want to speak in tongues all the time? Do it all the time. Sit in the church, sit in the assembly; speak in an unknown tongue. But don’t do it out loud, that’s what Paul is saying. I always mention this because I’ve discovered many believers baptized in the Holy Spirit that did not know they could do it under their breath. Then whom are they doing it to? To themselves and to God. But, don’t do it out loud in the public assembly if it isn’t a ministry. If it doesn’t minister to the body as a whole it’s out of place in the public assembly.
Now let’s look at the gift of interpretation which we have defined as the ability to speak in a language understood by the speaker the meaning of words previously given in an unknown tongue. It is obvious that if this is the correct definition of interpretation then interpretation has relevance only to an occasion where an utterance has previously been given in an unknown tongue. If there have been no unknown tongues then there can never be any logical or reasonable use for an interpretation. Without the unknown tongue the interpretation has no significance and no purpose.
If you work through these nine gifts I believe you’ll find that all the other seven gifts are exemplified in the Old Testament. In various different parts of the Old Testament you’ll find examples of all the other seven gifts. But, you’ll find no example of the unknown tongue and no example of interpretation. Why? Because the unknown tongue and therefore interpretation stand in a special relationship to the baptism in the Holy Spirit and were never manifested or came into operation before the baptism in the Holy Spirit was experienced, which was on the Day of Pentecost. So, these two gifts, tongues and interpretation, stand in a special relationship to the baptism in the Holy Spirit and are never found amongst God’s people before the time when the baptism was given, that is, from the Day of Pentecost onwards. Interpretation must not necessarily be understood to mean word for word translation but rather a rendering of the general sense. I don’t know if there are any here that have preached through an interpreter in a foreign language. It’s a very useful experience. I have sometimes said that everybody who is going to preach in his own language should be made to preach through an interpreter for at least six months before he’s turned loose because it would trim an awful lot of preaching. You see, it’s no good trying to make jokes because they’re usually impossible to translate. It’s no good piling up a lot of bombastic words because they just floor the interpreter and get you nowhere. It’s no good using excessively slangy expressions because they can’t be translated. In other words, when you preach through an interpreter all you can give is the meat and all the frills just fall away. I think if every preacher that preached in his own language had to start through an interpreter, we’d get a lot less wasted time in preaching. The only thing that will get through to an interpreter is something that’s real, that has meaning and is helpful.
I’ve had the experience of preaching through interpreters in quite a number of different languages. I’ve discovered that the interpreter makes a lot of difference. It’s hard to preach something you believe effectively through someone who doesn’t believe it. Their unbelief will largely shut it off. I’ve preached the baptism in the Holy Spirit through a Baptist interpreter who didn’t believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was the hardest thing; it was like squeezing something through a channel that was too narrow for it.
One time when I said “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” he was speaking Swedish which I understand but don’t speak, he said “filled with the Holy Spirit.” I said, “That isn’t what I said; I said, ‘baptized in the Holy Spirit.’” I got him back to what I said. I sometimes catch my interpreters because I can understand a good deal of what they say even if I can’t speak it. When they go wrong I stop them. Of course, my problem was with my wife when we were in Denmark first she began to interpret for me into Danish but having heard me preach many times before she would get ahead of me. She would say the thing I was going to say next! If I hadn’t known it, it wouldn’t matter but when I knew it, it paralyzed me because I would think, That was what I was going to say next. What was I going to say after that? By mutual consent, we decided to drop that.
I must tell you tell you this story. After that, I decided I’d preach in Danish. Believe me, I’ve never learned Danish, I’ve just listened to interpreters so long that I thought, I can do good enough to get by. I got along all right; I preach many times in Danish. But there was one time I was going to preach on people that get filled with the Holy Spirit and leak out. We just returned from Palestine at the time, where we always spoke Arabic. I went to my wife before the sermon and I said, “Listen, I’m going to preach on this and I can’t remember what the word is, I don’t know what the word is for “leak.” Would you tell me?” She told me so I built up to this, which was the climax of my message and gave it to them, they looked at me and I looked at them, there was no communication whatever. I said it all over again very carefully and still no communication. I thought, I can’t go on; this is getting nowhere. I closed the message and it was something of a flop. I went to my wife afterwards and I said, “I wonder if you gave me the right word? You know, nobody seemed to understand it.” She said, “What word did I give you?” I said, “?De-seal?” She said, “Oh, that was Arabic.” That really happened, I mean I’m not—see, a good deal depends on the interpreter.
Now, in other places, like in East Africa, I preached in English through a man who interpreted into Swahili, which is the sort of common language in East Africa. I had two of the best interpreters in the country. But they were absolutely different. One would use at least twice as many words as the other. The other one was rather blunt, brief and to the point. But, in some ways he got it across better. This really brought home to me that interpreting is not exactly translating; it’s conveying the meaning in a way that can be understood. And, all interpreters had an individual personality of their own.
I believe all this is true of the gift of interpretation. It may be a literal word for word translation. There are occasions when a person has given an interpretation out of a language which he did not know which was verified by someone present as an accurate word for word translation. But I think you’ll find if you listen to people exercising the gift of interpretation you’ll find everybody has their own personality which is still perceptible even when they exercise the gift.
In New Zealand in the same time when I was speaking on how God showed me something about the kinds of tongues, we had a meeting which was televised and went on the main news channel or the main news time on the one channel of TV in Auckland. The man that televised it was not a Christian but he was extremely interested in speaking in tongues. This is what he wanted to get. We had a worship meeting and the cameras were all there and directional microphones and we began to lead out and there was a Baptist minister, a Presbyterian and an Anglican on the platform with me. I spoke on the tongues and then we did it, we worshiped God and praised Him in tongues. They gave it 20 minutes on the peak news time in Auckland. Friends told me later it was so popular that they repeated it later that year as the most interesting newscast of that particular period.
But, a group of Fundamentalists in the city listened and said, “Oh, there you are, you can see it wasn’t real because even when Mr. Prince spoke in tongues you could recognize his voice and his accent.” But you see, that’s silly. Because, in any case nothing will ever set aside my personality, it always remains. Even in the operation of the gifts. The same is true with interpretation. You’ll find if you’ve heard many people give interpretations, everybody has his own particular style.
Some people say, “Why is interpretation always given in King James English?” I say, “It isn’t, it depends on the interpreter.” One person will know King James English; he’s got it in his heart, it’s part of his spirit, he’ll naturally do it. Another doesn’t. He’ll do it in modern English. That isn’t the important thing.
So, let’s understand that there are different kinds of interpreters. The gift operates according to the personality of the person through whom it operates. This is true about the prophets of the Old Testament. If you stop and think, you compare the utterances of Amos, Hosea and Isaiah who were more or less contemporaries. You couldn’t mistake an utterance of Amos or an utterance of Isaiah. That’s totally unlikely. Or even Hosea. Yet, they’re all inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, the Holy Spirit loves and delights in human personality. He never makes a human being a rubber stamp; he never sets aside human personality and uses a person like a robot or a machine.
An evil spirit will do that. Here’s one great difference between the Spirit of God and satanic spirits. God created human personality, He esteems it, He appreciates it, He cultivates it. But, the devil overrides it and tramples upon it. This is one of the ways that you can sometimes know whether it’s the Spirit of God or another kind of spirit that’s at work. If it’s a spirit that enslaves and sets aside the normal human personality, it cannot be the Spirit of God.
Now let’s consider some ways this gift operates. If you turn to 1 Corinthians 12:6, in verse 4 it says “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” And in verse 6 it says:
“There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
In other words, two men may have the same ministry but it may operate very, very differently. For instance, to take two well-known examples which will not offend anybody. We have two men with an obvious ministry of an evangelist, Billy Graham and Oral Roberts. Each has the ministry of an evangelist, yet there is a very definite, conspicuous difference between the ministry of one and the ministry of the other. So, though the ministry is the same, there are diversities of operation. The same is true with gifts. One person has a gift of healing that operates one way; another person has a gift of healing that operates completely differently. The same gift but a difference of operation.
This is true also with the gift of interpretation. It does not operate in exactly the same way through each person. In your outline I suggested various different ways that I have actually experienced and found that this gift sometimes operates. For instance, one person may be given just an introductory phrase and launch out in faith. This is what usually happens to me. When I receive interpretation, I will receive the first sentence very clear and forceful in my mind. If I were to say, “Lord, if You’ll give me the whole message, I’ll speak it,” I would never get it because you cannot set aside the principle of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Everything that we do for God has to be done in faith. So, God gives me the first sentence. If I begin to speak it out in faith and with authority the rest will follow. But if I say, “Lord, I’m not quite sure that anything else is going to come and I’ll look rather silly if I just speak out this sentence” and hold it back, nothing more comes.
I think this is true of many people. I’ve talked to people who said, “I think the Lord gave me the interpretation, but I only got one sentence.” I said, “You’ll never get more till you start to use the one sentence you have.” It’s like people who say, “I believe I got the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I only speak one word.” I say, “Go on speaking that word. Don’t cut out with the one word. Be thankful for what you have and God will give you more.” Use what you have and you’ll get more. This is a principle with God in everything and it’s true with interpretation.
I think the most common way that interpretation comes is: an utterance is given in an unknown tongue and many times a person will say after that, “I felt butterflies in my stomach” or “I felt a sort of pressure” or “I felt God wanted to do something and then some words came in my mind.” Sometimes it’s a verse of Scripture. Well, you’ll never get anything better than Scripture, it’s the highest. Give out that verse of Scripture and then you’ll launch. After that things will follow that you didn’t plan, you didn’t conjure up and sometimes you’ll be very, very surprised at what you hear yourself saying.
I remember an interpretation I gave that shocked me and it still scares me when I think about it. It was in a meeting of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Chicago chapter in Chicago. It was an evening when they’d invited some of the newly Spirit-baptized Roman Catholics to the meeting. I was there just as an invited guest. When they were going to start the real part of the meeting they got me up to say a word of introduction or something. I got behind the microphone. It was a big room and about four or five hundred people present in the meeting. The Lord had me behind the microphone, I don’t think He was interested in my words of introduction any more than I was, but He wanted me there for another purpose. When I got behind the microphone, a sister stood up and gave out a very clear, authoritative utterance in an unknown tongue. There was no bubbling and gushing, it was beautiful, clear and articulate. I knew the interpretation was coming and, what’s more, I knew it was coming through me. I began to speak, and I didn’t know what I was going to say beyond the first sentence. I’ll tell you what I said because it was scary. It was about the nearness of the Lord’s return and these two things I said. They registered with me as I said them, and they didn’t proceed from my mind at all. The first was, “The natural mind of man has no way to calculate how close the return of the Lord is.” The second was, “There is no one here tonight who might not be alive when the Lord comes.” That was the one that shocked me. I began to look around that congregation and there was quite a number of people with gray hair. I said to myself, That’s rather a tremendous statement to make. You see, it did not say who would not be alive, it said “who might not be alive” when the Lord comes. I believe that. I believe both those statements are true. I believe if we try to reason with the natural mind how close the coming of the Lord is we will not be ready for Him. I believe it’s very, very close.
Those of you that have read the recent article in Look on the Jesus movement amongst the hippies, you’ll find out there’s one thing they’re all agreed on, Jesus is coming. Believe me, friends, they’re right. The theologians and the ministers and all the rest better wake up to the fact that God has spoken to us through those young people. Jesus is coming and He’s coming very, very, very soon.
Incidentally, I’ll also mention this. There’s a verification of this gift. Over the last ten or fifteen years I’ve been in many different continents and different countries, amongst different groups of people baptized in the Holy Spirit. Some of them didn’t know there were other groups anywhere in the world with this baptism. All these groups at different times I’ve heard utterances in tongues followed by interpretations which have told and warned the believers the coming of the Lord is very close at hand. This is not something that’s been pressured into them by some particular teacher, it’s not because they associate with some particular group that holds this doctrine, it is the warning of the Holy Spirit.
There is in Revelation a statement “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’” That’s what’s happening now. The Spirit is saying and the bride is taking up the message. The bride is the church but it originates with the Spirit, not with the bride. You’ll find the closer we get to the coming of the Lord the true spiritual church will have the same testimony whatever part of the world they’re in. It’s one Spirit moving in one body preparing that body for the climax of this age. Let’s look at some other ways in which a person might receive interpretation. I’ve heard all these actually testified to at one time or another. Another person may hear words or see them written on a scroll. I’ve met people that got it like this. Another person may be given a general thought which he clothes with words of his own choosing. That’s different, again, where God doesn’t give the exact words but gives a series of inspired thoughts and leaves it to that person to express it in words that he has to choose. Then there’s another in which a person may see a vision or a mental picture and then relate what he sees.
About six or seven years ago a Lutheran pastor came to me and said, “We’ve had an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our Lutheran church. About fifty or sixty people received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at the altar rails of the church. We are having the gifts of the Spirit in operation. We have what we believe to be interpretation.” But, he said, “We get it in a way that I haven’t met or haven’t heard about elsewhere. One person will speak in a tongue, somebody else will get a kind of mental picture or a vision and they’ll start to describe what they’ve seen in the picture and it seems to be the interpretation of the tongue.” But he said, “The funny thing is all the people in my congregation get it that way. Why is that?” I said, “There’s things I can’t explain, but I’ll tell you one thing. People have faith for what they see happen. And, ‘According to your faith,’ Jesus said, ‘be it unto you.’ If you believe you’re going to get it one way, that is normally the way you’ll get it.”
This is why it’s so important to demonstrate things because most people don’t believe things till they see them. The moment people see it happen, they believe it’ll happen. For instance, the same with lengthening legs. A year ago most people would never dream that somebody’s legs would grow out visibly. Now because so many people have seen it happen, they have faith for it to happen and it happens. The way we think, to a certain extent, determines what we experience. If we believe it’s going to happen that way, it will happen.
Let’s look at just a few other facts about this gift in the last few minutes. First Corinthians 14:5 says this:
“I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
Notice “the church” is the assembled company of believers again. Paul says speaking with tongues by itself is not so helpful to the church, not so edifying as prophesying, unless the speaking with a tongue is followed by an interpretation. In that case, apparently, a tongue of exhortation followed by interpretation is equivalent to prophecy. It accomplishes the same purpose and it must obviously be judged by the same standards. In that case, that kind of interpretation has to be judged just as prophecy would be judged.
It is obvious that a tongue of this kind does not contain merely a mystery addressed only to God because if it were a mystery that could not be understood then it could not be interpreted. So, it’s obvious that whatever Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:2 about an unknown tongue communicating with God does not apply to a tongue that is followed by interpretation in the public assembly as he speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 14:5. They are two different things; we have to keep them separate.
In 1 Corinthians 14:12–13 Paul goes on to say this:
“Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying [or building up] of the church.”
This is the motive which should actuate all the gifts—that we desire to edify the body of believers. Paul says if the tongue when followed by interpretation is more edifying—if you speak in an unknown tongue, pray that you may interpret.
“Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.”
I have learned by experience that if you can teach people this is God’s will and cause them to act upon it, they will invariably receive interpretation.
Let me give you Luke 11:11–13. Keep your finger in 1 Corinthians 14, we’re going back there in a moment. Notice what Jesus says in Luke 11:
“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
In other words, Jesus is saying: “If you are a child of God and you are prompted and stirred to ask for a certain gift of the Holy Spirit, you ask for it, you will get what you ask for. If you ask for bread you’ll not get a stone, if you ask for an egg you will not get a scorpion.” So, you have that assurance, you’ve spoken in an unknown tongue, you desire to interpret. You pray for the interpretation, what do you do? The next thing you do is just interpret. How do you know you’ve got the right thing? Because you asked for the right thing and God guarantees that if you ask for the right thing you’ll never get the wrong thing. This is faith.
I believe it’s within the revealed will of God for God’s people both to speak in tongues and to interpret. Let me show you this in 1 Corinthians 14:5. Paul says:
“I would that you all spake with tongues,... [not some but all. And in verses 13–14:] Let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.”
As far as I’m concerned, those two Scriptures put together indicate that it’s within the revealed will of God for all believers to exercise both these gifts if they will.
Then one final warning given in verses 27–28, tongues plus interpretation should not be overdone in any one meeting any more than prophecy shouldn’t. No one meeting should be taken over and used exclusively for the operation of any particular gift. God has got a varied diet; He does not want a one course meal on the table for His children.