What is an orderly way of speaking/interpreting tongues during a service?

For example: In our Sunday service someone speaks in tongues and then tells us what was said, would this be correct? 

1 Corinthians 14:13 - 17

ESV - 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.

Clarify Share Report Asked February 12 2015 Mini Rodney Cannon

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Mini Aurel Gheorghe
Paul is addressing the Corinthian church, a seaport with people from all over the Roman Empire, Romans, Greeks and others from all the world converted to Christianity. The result was a church where its members or visitors were speaking many foreign languages. 

People were getting up during the church services and were praying and testifying in their own language that the rest could not understand. They were praying in tongues and dialects unknown to those in the church. Paul is addressing this issue and tells that praying and testifying in languages that no one could understand is not a good idea unless someone is able to translate and others could understand what it was said. 

In the same chapter, Paul says: It’s the same with you. You must speak words that people understand. If you don’t, no one will know what you are saying. You will just be speaking into the air. It is true that there are all kinds of languages in the world. And they all have meaning. But if I don’t understand what someone is saying, I am a stranger to the person speaking. And that person is a stranger to me. It’s the same with you. You want the gifts of the Spirit. So try to do your best in using gifts that build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:9-12). 

Then later on Paul explain it even more clearer what he meant: "I thank God that I speak in other languages more than all of you do. In the church, I wouldn't want to speak 10,000 words in an unfamiliar language. I’d rather speak five words in a language people could understand. Then I would be teaching others (1 Corinthians 14:18-19). 

For example, if a visiting Chinese pastor would preach in my church in Mandarin, most likely no one would understand much of what it was said and be unfruitful no matter how powerful his message was; however, if a translator (interpreter) was present, the whole church would benefit from his sermon; that is what Paul is talking about in the above mentioned verses.

February 13 2015 12 responses Vote Up Share Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
The spiritual gift of tongues is uttering a mystery by the Spirit (I Cor 14:1-2), or the gift of speaking a foreign language one does not personally know (Acts 2:1-4). Interpreting tongues is the Spirit-given ability to translate that into a language any believers present will understand.

If someone speaks in tongues during a service, there should be a few basic things in place to keep it orderly and proper:

#1 The message in tongues must be accompanied by an interpretation. This could be by a separate person with the gift of interpreting tongues, or by the one who gave the message if they have the gift of interpreting tongues. (I Cor 14:13-17, I Cor 12:29-31, I Cor 14:1-5, I Cor 14:27).

Without interpretation, the tongues will be unintelligible to most, distracting, and unedifying. (I Cor 14:13-17) 

#2 The tongues/interpretation should be for the edification of the church.

"What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up". I Cor 14:26

"Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?" I Cor 14:6

That is, it will not be a personal message to one person, and will probably have some substance that is useful. It may address a matter of the local church, such as an exhortation to stand firm through a trial, or a call to peace over a disputable issue.

#3 The tongues/interpretation should not contradict scripture in any way.

For example, if someone claims 'Jesus is returning this month!', this would be an obvious false claim. Yet lesser falsehoods could creep in as well, such as messages that seek to divide the church and not build it up, or call into question what scripture says. This is because tongues, like any gift (teaching, healing, exhortation, etc) can be misused by believers or even faked to a degree by unbelievers pretending to be Christian.

#4 Similar to #3, everything said should be weighed carefully (I Cor 14:27-33). If someone is found to be giving false, nonsensical, or unedifying messages, then they should be asked to stop speaking in the assembly.

#5 The tongues/interpretation should be given at a proper time in an orderly fashion. (I Cor 14:39) It appears that no more than 2-3 messages in tongues is the ideal during a meeting. By implication, there should be time given during a meeting of the assembly for believers to share hymns, words of instruction, revelations, tongues, interpretations, prophesies, etc. [As above, all these should be weighed by other believes]. 

If the church group does not give this time, then there will not be an orderly place for speaking in tongues and interpreting. [However, never allowing such time can put an over-burden on pastors and teachers, while minimizing the gifts and fellowship of all believers].

"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." I Cor 14:39

Following this, people should take care if they speak in tongues during worship time or prayer time that it is inaudible to others.


Tongues is a gift from the Spirit, but it can easily be abused. It is not the only gift that is abused. Some pastors misuse their gift to drive people out for disagreeing with them, or otherwise abuse the power/authority given to them. Teachers can slip in pet views and elevate them to the level of scripture, or play favorites. Those with the gift of healing can misuse it out of pride. Those with exhortation or knowledge can become bullies. Etc. Though the gifts are good, in our flesh we can distort them. 

Yet tongues is generally very obvious one when being used wrong. The incorrect use of tongues will lead to disorder, conflict, errant belief, nonsense, pride, etc.

February 13 2015 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

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