Written on January 26th, 2006 - 5:36PM
Last Updated: January 27th, 2006 - 4:54PM
Coupled with a message in other languages by the Holy Spirit, this manifestation enables a believer to supernaturally interpret a language they do not naturally know.
and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages. (1 Corinthians 12:10)
The word used for "interpretation" (ερμηνεια) has a rich history in the Greek language. It derives from the word for the Greek god "Hermes," who was their deity of language or speech ("Mercury" to the Romans).
The apostles Barnabus and Paul went to Lystra to preach the word. Paul healed a man who had been lame since birth, causing him to rise up and walk. The Greeks who saw this miracle called Barnabas "Zeus," but Paul they called "Hermes," because he was the chief speaker (Acts 14:7-12). This reflects the meaning of this word ερμηνεια ("interpretation"), that it comes from the name embodying speech.
The interpretation of languages, then, is a full and complete expounding of the meaning of words spoken. When the Holy Spirit manifests this in a child of God, we may not hear an exact translation, word for word, of what was spoken; however, what comes from the Spirit will be a true and exact "interpretation." It will be the heart of the meaning, the spirit behind the words.
The most obvious use of this manifestation is to interpret the manifestation of different kinds of languages; when a believer is used by the Spirit to give a message in that way, the Spirit will also give either that same person or another listening the interpretation of what was said. The interpretation will be in the listeners' native language, so that even though the original message was in another language, its true meaning and interpretation will be given in the native language.
The combination of these two manifestations is an obvious counterpart to the manifestation of prophecy. Yet, the Holy Spirit may choose to use either one, depending on His will (1 Corinthians 12:11). Regardless, those who listen and discern what is spoken will be those who benefit and are built up through this ministry, as God intended (1 Corinthians 12:7).
Paul warns that to prevent a meeting of believers becoming a time of unbridled speaking in other languages out loud with no regard for the benefit of others, there should be an order to this ministry.
Only two or three people, at most, should give a message in another language before an interpretation is given.
If any man speaks in another language, let it be two, or at the most three, and in turn; and let one interpret. (1 Corinthians 14:27)
If one person speaks in another language, but no one has the interpretation from the Spirit, then that person should keep quiet in the assembly; he should speak to himself and God (i.e., private prayer in another language, not the public manifestation).
But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the assembly, and let him speak to himself, and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:28)
This is to prevent the gathering from becoming a stumbling block to unbelievers or the unlearned Christians by everyone speaking aloud in other languages with no interpretation.
If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages, and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won't they say that you are crazy? (1 Corinthians 14:23)
The place for believers speaking aloud one after the other is prophecy, which is in the native language so that the unbelievers might hear directly.
But if all prophesy, and someone unbelieving or unlearned comes in, he is reproved by all, and he is judged by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed. So he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed. (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25)
As believers operate out of love—seeking to edify each other when gathered together, and not just themselves—the Assembly will be built up through Christ Jesus, as a holy habitation for God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:17-21)(Ephesians 5:15-21).
for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints, (1 Corinthians 14:33)
The Early Disciples
Paul teaches the Corinthians about how this works. When gathered together, believers may be speaking to themselves and God in other languages when they believe it is not to be interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:28), in order to build themselves up and seek prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).
During that time they may feel as though the Spirit is intending part of that message in another language to be shared with those around them. Then he should give the message in the other language and see whether either he or another person receives the interpretation from the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:27). If no interpretation comes, then he should return to speaking to himself and God (i.e., quietly) (1 Corinthians 14:28).
Perhaps, as mentioned in the teaching about the manifestation of languages, there will be an unbeliever who speaks this language natively, and needs no interpretation (as in Acts 2). In that case, the message has already been given to the right person and they may do with it as they will.
The ideal is that each person will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and as they all come together, each will be used differently in order to build up the entire assembly (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Therefore, be open to the work of the Holy Spirit; if you feel He is wanting you to share a message in another language, do so. If no interpretation is given to you or another, consider that it was meant to be either private prayer to God, or ministered to someone else directly who understood the language naturally. Regardless, seek the things of the Spirit, in order to build yourself and others up in Christ's Body.
There are no other stated instances of this specifically as a manifestation of the Spirit in the New Covenant. However, because of what it is, it could be used for many other things.
As it is an interpretation of a language, the Spirit could use it to let a person more deeply understand something in his own native language(s). There is one example of this happening in the Bible, using a form of the same word for "interpret:"
Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
This was following Christ's resurrection. He had met the disciples as they were walking on the road, but they did not yet recognize Him. As He spoke about how the Christ had to suffer, as they still did not understand why Jesus had to die, He "interpreted" (διηρμηνευεν) to them in the scriptures: from Moses and to all the Prophets, all things concerning Himself.
Here we see an instance of "interpretation" being applied to understanding something in one's native language. The disciples read Hebrew and had both read and spoken aloud the scriptures in that same language, yet still did not understand their meaning. It took the Lord Jesus "interpreting" them before they truly understood. Later we are given a synonym for this experience of the scriptures being "interpreted."
They said one to another, "Weren't our hearts burning within us, while he spoke to us along the way, and while he opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)
In this recalling of the experience to each other, they exclaimed that Christ had "opened" (διηνοιγεν) the scriptures to them. This verb comes from root words meaning "open" and "among." In that sense, it almost has the meaning of "to unfurl" or to spread out something in front of another so that it can be totally seen. This experience is equated with Jesus "interpreting" the scriptures to them.
There was also an occasion of this happening with a disciple of Christ and a proselyte (Gentile who had converted to Judaism). Philip had just brought many people into the Kingdom of God through preaching the Name of Jesus Christ, and was told by the Spirit to go into a desert area. Not knowing the reason, he soon discovered it was to witness to a man of great authority, who was seeking the truth:
29The Spirit said to Philip, "Go near, and join yourself to this chariot." 30Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31He said, "How can I, unless someone explains it to me?" He begged Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:29-31)
In Greek, this was a beautiful play on words, as the word for "understand" (γινωσκεις) was a more basic form of the word for "read" (αναγινωσκεις). Again we see the preposition ανα ("among" or "between") so that Philip is asking:
"Are you understanding the thing you are distinguishing between (reading)?"
Philip knew that to physically distinguish between the letters and words, to know what they said, was not enough; one had to know the thing itself, rather than only what it said. They needed the "interpretation" to get the spirit behind the words. It needed to be unfurled (interpreted) to be understood.
The eunuch confessed that he could not understand, unless someone showed him the way; this mirrors the ministry of Christ with His disciples, as He "opened" and "interpreted" the scriptures concerning Himself to them. That verb "show the way" is another rich Greek word (οδηγηση) coming from words meaning "leader" and "way:" or, in other words, a guide; someone who shows the way by going in front.
This would seem to be a mirror of what Christ did, interpreting the scriptures to someone else. In both cases, God manifested this wonderful ability of interpretation of languages (whether by the Spirit through Philip, or directly by the risen Son of God).
The Spirit as Guide to the Scriptures
This shows that the scriptures, by themselves, often do us no good. We do not often get the real meaning of the language. We may be able to translate the words, but the "interpretation" is beyond our capabilities. This is the ministry of Christ through His Spirit.
Through the Holy Spirit's ministry in our lives, as He has come to live with us now that Jesus has returned to heaven until the Day comes, we may experience this same thing as we read the scriptures. Through this manifestation of the Spirit, we may have the scriptures interpreted to us.
If you have been baptized in the Spirit and are thus open to His work in your life, I encourage you to seek this manifestation from Him as you read the Bible. Ask Him for the interpretation of languages as you read either in your native language, or even in the original languages of the scriptures. As you seek and as He wills, you will be given the insight that only He can bring, and the Assembly will be built up as you come to a greater knowledge of Yahweh. Then, as you congregate with other believers, you will be able to share what you have learned from the Spirit in private, that many might be built up.
What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
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