[forthright] The Gift of Interpretation

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 07:07:01 -0800 (PST)
Forthright Magazine 
Straight to the Cross

When troubles come, no one knows better than Job. 'In
Search of Perfection: Studies from Job,' by Michael E.
Brooks. Click here:


The Gift of Interpretation
 by Michael E. Brooks

   "Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue
   pray that he may interpret. . . . I thank my
   God I speak with tongues more than you all;
   yet in the church I would rather speak five
   words with my understanding, that I may
   teach others also, than ten thousand words
   in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:13, 18-19

My work as a missionary is dependent upon the existence
and presence of translators. I have not yet been able
to learn the languages of the peoples to whom I speak
sufficiently for me to be able to communicate with
them, and I certainly cannot teach and preach in their

Conversely, relatively few people in the countries I
visit understand English well enough for them to learn
from my lessons without interpretation. I thank God
that he has given to his people those few who know both
languages well enough that teaching and understanding
can take place.

Though our modern practice of translation by those
schooled in multiple languages is not the ancient
miraculous gift of tongues, it is a gift. God has
blessed some with talent to learn languages
(unfortunately I do not seem to have received this
gift). Their presence facilitates preaching, teaching
and learning. It also promotes understanding,
friendship, and fellowship in Christ.

In Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts he places great
emphasis upon the importance of understanding. Prophesy
was to be desired more than tongues, because the
oracles of the prophets could be understood by all.
Consequently, all could be edified.

Tongues, without interpretation, did not contribute to
understanding, or knowledge, or edification. They
caused amazement, but without subsequent understanding
that ultimately did not lead to a beneficial end. For
example, in Acts 2 the apostles drew an attentive crowd
by speaking in tongues, then taught and converted
thousands through comprehensible teaching.

Paul concludes this point by asserting, "For God is not
the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians
14:33). This statement is interesting in this context
and especially so when contrasted with Genesis 11:1-9.
In this story, set at Babel, the Lord thwarts the
ambition of mankind by "confus[ing] their language,
that they may not understand one another's speech" (V.

This is not a contradiction. God is the God of peace
and unity. Though he has used man's sinful tendency
toward strife and division to accomplish his purpose
more than once in the past (2 Kings 3:20-25; 19:36-37),
God's desire and intent is for humanity to come to a
knowledge and understanding of truth, whereby they may
achieve salvation (John 8:32).

God wants us to understand. He wants us to learn and to
know. Towards this goal he has given us the inspired
Word of Truth (Romans 10:17).

It was desirable for New Testament Christians to seek
the gift of prophesy that others might be edified. It
is also desirable for us today to seek the ability to
explain and interpret truth to those without
understanding (Acts 8:3). We are neither tongue-
speakers nor prophets. Yet we can be interpreters and
teachers. Let us assist all whom we can to know and
understand God's message of salvation.

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