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February 7, 2024

The Afterglow: Interpreting Tongues: What Did He Say?

Passage: 1 Corinthians 12
Service Type:

Here in 1 Corinthians 12, apostle Paul's exhortation to the Corinthian church resonates with timeless relevance: "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant" (1 Corinthians 12:1). This call to enlightenment is crucial, as misinformation, abuse, and doubt often shroud the gifts in confusion and disbelief. Indeed, traditions and personal experiences sometimes overshadow the clarity of scripture, yet the Bible stands as the ultimate authority guiding our understanding and employment of these gifts.

Within the Corinthian congregation, the use of tongues and interpretation of tongues emerged as a focal point. While tongues serve as a vehicle for personal edification—akin to a private dialogue between the individual and God—the interpretation of tongues serves to edify the entire body of believers (1 Corinthians 14:4). This distinction underscores the importance of true interpretation, which should always be characterized as a message towards God and executed in accordance with His will.

In the context of congregational gatherings, Paul outlines guidelines to ensure order and edification. Tongues are to be spoken only in settings devoid of unbelievers, such as believers' meetings or afterglow services, not within the public arena where they might cause confusion (1 Corinthians 14:23). Furthermore, the principle of edification guides the use of spiritual gifts, determined whether the body or the individual are edified from their exercise.

The contrast between tongues and prophecy elucidates their respective purposes: tongues, a form of worship expressed in an unknown language, ascends from man to God, while prophecy, a divine message, descends from God to man (1 Corinthians 14:2). However, the use of these gifts must be regulated to prevent chaos, with tongues limited to two or at most three speakers, each taking turns, and always accompanied by interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:27-28).

Central to the proper functioning of spiritual gifts is the absence of confusion. Paul emphasizes this by admonishing those without interpretation to remain silent, lest disorder ensues (1 Corinthians 14:28, 33). Indeed, maturity in understanding is paramount, guarding against doubt, self-aggrandizement, and misuse of these gifts.

Drawing from the teachings of Jesus, who withheld His mighty works in the face of unbelief, the call to repentance resounds (Matthew 13:53-58). Repentance paves the way for a sincere pursuit of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the manifestation of spiritual gifts. Preparation involves worship, repentance, and fervent prayer, while practicing the gifts requires boldness and faith, trusting in the Holy Spirit's empowerment.

Among the diverse array of spiritual gifts, from revelatory to spoken to power gifts, each serves a distinct purpose within the body of Christ. Through wisdom, knowledge, discernment, prophecy, tongues, interpretation, miracles, healings, and faith, believers are equipped for service and edification.

As we navigate the intricacies of spiritual gifts, let us heed Paul's counsel, embracing understanding, maturity, and a reverence for God's order. In doing so, we honor the diversity of gifts bestowed upon us, enriching the church, and glorifying our Creator.

Calvary Chapel West Jacksonville, under the leadership of Pastor Allen Victor, seeks to foster a community grounded in biblical truth and empowered by the Holy Spirit. For more information, visit our website at If you'd like to support our ministry, you can give online at

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