The Interpretation of Tongues

1 Corinthians

The Interpretation of Tongues

July 17th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM

1 Corinthians 14:13

Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 14:13

7-17-66    10:50 a.m.


On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues.  We have been in a very long series, far over a year, preaching on the Holy Spirit.  And in that series, we are in a series on the gifts of the Spirit.  Of these gifts, they are called pneumatika, the spirituals; they are called the charismata, the grace gifts; in English, “charismatic gifts,” gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon the members of the body of Christ; and all of us have some gifts.

In those gifts there are four sign gifts: the gifts of miracles, the gifts of healing, the gifts of speaking in tongues, and the gifts of interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:9-10].  In the nine gifts, the nine pneumatika, the nine charismata—they are called both in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians—in the nine gifts that Paul names here [1 Corinthians 12:8-10], the last are these:

The Holy Spirit gives to one the gifts of healing;

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy;

to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.

[1 Corinthians 12:9-10]


The message today is the concluding part of the message delivered last Sunday morning.  I so wish that I could preach them together.  For the one last Sunday morning is the basis and the foundation for the message this Sunday morning.  I can just pray that we keep in our hearts and minds the memory of the truth from the Holy Scriptures that was delivered last Lord’s Day.

Now the interpretation of tongues, the last of the charismatic gifts [1 Corinthians 12:10]: if the language spoken, if the tongue spoken, was an understood, understandable human speech language, then to interpret it by someone who understood it would be no charismatic gift at all; anybody could do it who understood the language.  If a man spoke in Greek, and there was somebody present who translated it into Latin, an infidel could do it, an unbeliever could do it; it would require no charismatic gift of the Spirit to translate a language into another language.

If the tongue that is spoken is a language unknown to the speaker, that’s a miracle, if he could speak a language he did not understand; and if somebody could interpret it and he did not understand it that would be another miracle.  You would have there a double miracle; someone speaking in a language he didn’t understand and then someone interpreting the language that he didn’t understand.  That would be a double miracle, which would be a rather roundabout way to edify the church of God.  If the tongue that is spoken is a series of ejaculations, meaningless, disjointed syllables and words, then the interpreter would be somebody who had the gift of taking those ejaculations, those meaningless syllables and phrases, and turning them into an intelligent and understandable speech.  And that apparently is what was happening in the church at Corinth.  For the unknown tongue that was spoken, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:2, “For no man understands it,” and in the fourteenth verse he says, “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my understanding is unfruitful” [1 Corinthians 14:14].  So the phenomenon that you’re describing in the church at Corinth is someone standing up, and in a frenzy or in an ecstasy he is speaking syllables—disjointed, meaningless [1 Corinthians 14:2]—and an interpreter places in understandable language what the speaker in the unknown tongue is saying [1 Corinthians 14:27].

Now, the interpreter could be the man who is speaking in an unknown tongue [1 Corinthians 14:5].  In the fifth verse he says, “Greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret” [1 Corinthians 14:5].  And in the thirteenth verse of the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret” [1 Corinthians 14:13].  I can see that the man who had the gift of speaking in an unknown tongue could also have the gift of interpretation.  He could say in intelligent language what he had spoken in an unknown tongue.  But there were those in the congregation of the Lord who had the gift of interpretation and somebody else, not having the gift of interpretation, might have the gift of speaking in unknown tongues.  In that event, the man who had the gift of interpretation interpreted what the other brother spoke in an unknown tongue.  For Paul writes, “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.  But if there be no interpreter,” let this man, who wants to speak in an unknown tongue, “keep silence in the church” [1 Corinthians 14:27-28].

So the interpretation, the gift of interpretation, could be possessed by the one who spoke in an unknown tongue [1 Corinthians 14:5].  Or one who had the gift of speaking in unknown tongues but did not have the gift of interpretation, somebody else would have the gift of interpretation and he would interpret what the other one said in an unknown tongue [1 Corinthians 14:27].

From what Paul has written here, I see two or three very patent things, very evident things, and one of them is this: Paul is very plain in his instruction that the interpreter of the unknown tongue is known and recognized and seated in the congregation.  “If there be no interpreter present, then this man who wants to speak in an unknown tongue, let him keep silence” [1 Corinthians 14:28].  So in the church, in that primitive church there in Corinth, the man who had the gift of interpreting unknown tongues was known.  Everybody recognized that man or those men, and no one could speak in an unknown tongue unless that interpreter were present.  He had to be there, or they had to be there before unknown tongues could be spoken in the congregation of the Lord [1 Corinthians 14:28].

Then another thing I observe: when unknown tongues were being spoken—two or three, Paul limits them—there must be one interpreter; just one must interpret [1 Corinthians 14:27].  So I know that the interpreter is able to interpret all of the unknown tongues.  If they had a dozen speaking in an unknown tongue, one interpreter could translate, could interpret the meaning, of all dozen; just one interpreter for all of those that spoke in tongues, and Paul says “three at the most.”  So there is one interpreter for however many, and Paul limited it to three who spoke in an unknown tongue.

Then I can see here why Paul has limited that interpreter to one.  He is writing here, saying, “Let all things been done decently and in order” [1 Corinthians 14:40], and in the twenty-sixth verse, “Let all things be done unto edifying, for,” he says, “when you come together, one has a psalm,” that’s good; “one has a doctrine,” that’s good; “one hath a tongue, and one hath an interpretation” [1 Corinthians 14:26].  Now if you had two interpreters in the church, why, one interpreter would stand up and he would say, “What this man said in an unknown tongue is this: thus and so, thus and so.”  Then another interpreter, if you had two, another interpreter would stand up and say, “Not so!  What that guy said, why, he doesn’t understand it all.  He doesn’t have the gift at all.  Why, what this man said in an unknown tongue is this, and thus and so, and thus and so, and thus and so.”  And you got a whole lot of divisive, unedifying occasions there in the church, for one interpreter stands up and says it means thus, and another interpreter stands up and says it means thus, and you’ve got troubles in your church.  So Paul says that when these men are to speak in unknown tongues, two or three at the most, and one interpreter, just one [1 Corinthians 14:27], because you got problems on your hands anytime you’ve got tongues.  You never escape it, and Paul’s doing everything in his power to restrict it and to control it.

Now let us see what Paul has to say finally about this phenomenon of glossolalia, speaking in tongues.  Then after we’ve looked at what our brother apostle Paul has to say about it, we’re going to look at what our brother Amos Criswell has to say about it.  This interpretation of tongues we’re going to take from two men: we’re going to take the apostle Paul first, and this will just be a little piece of it this morning, because next Lord’s Day I’m going to preach on the whole message that he writes, and then I want to conclude.  After years and years of the best study of which I am capable, I want to say some words about it in the Bible, and about it in history, and about it in this present hour.

The passage of glossolalia is 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 and 14.  The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, of course, is the great love chapter, but it was not written as a paean of love as such.  The chapter is discussing gifts, charismata, pneumatika, the gifts of the Spirit, and in his discussion of these gifts he names three.  In verses 8 and following, Paul writes, “Charity,” the Latin “charitas,” the Greek “agapē,” love, godly love, Christian love:

Love never faileth: but whether there be the gifts of prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be gifts of tongues, they shall cease; whether there be gifts of knowledge, they shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect, when the teleios comes, when the mature comes, then that which is in part, the piece shall be done away.

[1 Corinthians 13:8-10]

If you have the whole, why should you think of the piece?  “When I was a child, I spake as a child,” tongues; “I understood as a child,” prophesying; “I thought as a child,” gifts of knowledge; “but when I became a man, I put away childish things” [1 Corinthians 13:11], all of these belong to the babyhood of the church, and when a man becomes mature, he no longer needs the rattler, or the sugar-tit, or the pacifier.  If you were to see a man going around with a pacifier in his mouth, you would say he ought to grow up—that is, I would think you would say that.  “He ought to grow up.”  So Paul says about these sign gifts: they belong to the immaturity, they belong to the babyhood, they are infantile, and when we come to maturity, we no longer see or look for the sign.  Then he writes that here in the eighth verse [1 Kings 13:8].

You could read the King James forever and not see what Paul has written here, for he has a use of verbs that let’s look at now: “Love never ekpiptō,” piptō is the Greek word for fall, and ek is “away from.”  So he’s emphasizing ekpiptō, “to fall away from,” to disintegrate, to cease, to die, to perish; “Love never ekpiptō,” love never fails, never fails [1 Corinthians 13:8]—lives, abides, endures forever.  “But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail” [1 Corinthians 13:8]: now in the King James Version, you would think he was using the same verb there, for the King James Version translates “Love never faileth” and “prophecies, they shall fail” [1 Corinthians 13:8].  So King James Version uses an English verb “fail” for both verbs here that Paul wrote.  Now I want you to listen to the difference in the verbs: “Love never ekpiptō.”  Now, “but whether there be prophecies, they shall katargethesontai” [1 Corinthians 13:8].  Now can’t you see the difference between ekpiptō and katargethesontai?  I think anybody could do that, couldn’t you?  Now there’s an altogether different thing here Paul is writing than you’d see in this King James translation.  “Love never ekpiptō [1 Corinthians 13:8] . . . but whether there be prophecies, they shall katargethesontai; and whether there be gifts of knowledge, they shall katargethesontai[1 Corinthians 13:8].  Same word: katargethesontai, prophecies katargethesontai; knowledge katargethesontai; but tongues pausontai.  Now can’t you tell the difference in katargethesontai and pausontai?  Altogether different.

Now we’re going to look at those words: katargethesontai is the future passive of katargeō, katargeō, and katargeō means “to make useless,” to make useless.  So “whether there be prophecies,” passive voice, “they shall be made useless” [1 Corinthians 13:8].  What in the world would a prophecy be of any account that had already been fulfilled?  In the Old Testament one of those prophets said to an enemy, “Tomorrow thou shalt die,” and the next day he died and the prophecy was fulfilled [2 Kings 7:17-20]; it was over with, it had done its work, it had fulfilled itself and had no more pertinency.  Prophecies, katargethesontai, they shall be made useless; just don’t need it anymore when the things come to pass.  Same way with the gift of knowledge [1 Corinthians 13:8]: now, the gift of prophecy and the gift of knowledge were gifts to the church when they didn’t have any Bible [1 Corinthians 12:8-10].  And what should the church do and what should it believe?  So the Lord gave to some members of the congregation a gift of propheteuō, a gift of understanding and a gift of saying to the church the prophēmi: to speak out what the church should do [Ephesians 4:11].  But after you had the New Testament, you don’t need that gift any longer.  And if a man were to stand up in the congregation here or anywhere else and he were to say, “I have the gift of prophecy, and I’m going to add a twenty-third chapter to the Revelation.  I have seen visions, and I have heard voices, and there has come to me a great doctrinal revelation, and I’m going to add the twenty-third chapter to the Revelation!”  Why, we would say, “My brother, my brother, the Bible is complete, and it closed with: ‘You are not to add to it, and you are not to take away from it’ [Revelation 22:18-19].  And the gift of propheteuō has ceased [1 Corinthians 13:8].  There are no more Scriptures to be added to the Bible.  There are no visions and no revelations to be written down in the sacred Book.  It is done with, katargethesontai; it has served its purpose, and it no longer ceases to be.”

Now, he changes the voice of the verb when he uses “tongues” [1 Corinthians 13:8].  Why didn’t he use katargethesontai when he wrote about tongues?  He said, “Prophecies katargethesontai,” he says, “the gift of knowledge katargethesontai.”  Why doesn’t he say the same thing about tongues?  But he changes the verb, and he changes the voice.  [Tongues] pausontai, Paul means “to be made to cease” [1 Corinthians 13:8].  And instead of using the passive as he does in the other two verbs, he changes to the middle indicative, the future middle indicative.  Pausontai is future middle indicative; and it means “They shall cease of themselves”; or as I would translate it, and I think it would be an exact translation, “They shall automatically cease of themselves.”  “Tongues shall automatically cease of themselves” [1 Corinthians 13:8], that is exactly what Paul wrote.  And in the next verse, he leaves it out: “We know in part,” the gift of knowledge, “we prophesy in part” [1 Corinthians 13:9], the gift of prophecy, “but tongues have already ceased” [1 Corinthians 13:8].

Phillips translates this passage, and I’ve copied it:

For if there are prophecies, they will be fulfilled and done with; and if there are tongues, the need for them will disappear; and if there be the gift of knowledge, it will be swallowed up in the whole truth; for our knowledge is always incomplete, and our prophecy is always incomplete, but when the complete comes, that is the end of the incomplete.

So Paul writes in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians and the eighth verse that tongues automatically of themselves will cease; the sign will cease to exist [1 Corinthians 13:8].  And it did so early, very early.  I haven’t time to preach the sermon last Sunday morning, Why the Sign of the Gift of Tongues; it’ll be all written in a book and you can have it together.  And I have had men from all over this world ask me, “When that book comes, place it in my hands.”  All of it will be carefully written out, is being written out.  The sermon last Sunday morning, now the sermon today; the gift of tongues shall cease [1 Corinthians 13:8], and early it ceased.

This 1 Corinthian letter out of which I am preaching, this 1 Corinthian letter was one of the earliest letters written by the apostle Paul; it is only preceded by 1 and 2 Thessalonians.  After Paul wrote this word, saying that tongues shall cease, after that, Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans, and he never mentioned speaking in tongues.  He wrote 2 Corinthians, he never mentioned speaking in tongues; he wrote Galatians, he never mentioned speaking in tongues; he wrote Ephesians after this, he never referred to speaking in tongues; he wrote Colossians and he wrote Philippians, but he never referred to speaking in tongues; he wrote the pastoral epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, he never referred to speaking in tongues; he wrote Philemon after this, he never mentioned speaking in tongues.  “Tongues shall automatically cease of themselves” [1 Corinthians 13:8], and they did.  In my humble judgment, as I read the Bible, these first signs, the first charismatic sign that ceased to exist in the early church was the sign of the gift of speaking in tongues.

Now in the little while that remains, may I sum up this glossolalia that we see in every part and corner of this world today?  And I say again, these are [my] judgments, and persuasions, and observations that have been made after years and years of study and of reading and of looking, the best I know how.  First and foremost to me, the doctrine of speaking in tongues, the glossolalia of today, is based upon a deep, wrong misconstruction of the Word of God.  The doctrinal basis is basically wrong.

All right, it is this: the doctrinal basis of modern glossolalia, speaking in tongues, is that the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues; if you do not speak in tongues, you have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  If you have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you speak in tongues.  That is the basic doctrine of glossolalia.  Now it is contradicted by the Word of God.  First Corinthians 12:13, Paul says to the members of the church in Corinth, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.”  We have all been baptized, placed into the body of Christ.  All of us who have been saved, and regenerated, and born again, all of us have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, all of us.  Now I turn the page and Paul writes, “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?” [1 Corinthians 12:29-30].  No.  Yet in that same chapter Paul has avowed, “But we all have been baptized by the Holy Spirit” [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Therefore the basic doctrine of glossolalia is basically wrong; it contradicts the revealed and inspired Word of God.  Every member, every born-again believer, every Christian in that church in Corinth had been baptized by the Holy Spirit, but they did not all speak with tongues, so I know that speaking in tongues is not a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The two do not go together, no; not according to the Book.

Second: in my reading through the years and the years and the years—and I’m not referring alone to my reading in the last two years since I have been preparing and delivering these messages on the Holy Spirit—in my reading, through the years and the years of my ministry as a student and as a seminarian and as a preacher, I have never yet, in all of my reading, I have never yet come into the life of any great man of God, who had an experience with God, I have never yet met, in that man’s life, speaking in tongues.  Not one time in all of the years and the years of my studying.

I think of John Wesley, whose Aldersgate experience in London changed the course of empires and delivered England from the bloodbath of a French Revolution.  And in that holy and heavenly and devout experience that made John Wesley, and Charles his brother, and George Whitefield his friend, flaming evangelists to move the whole English-speaking world God-ward—in all of my reading of that Aldersgate experience, not one time have I ever stumbled into a hint that Wesley spoke in tongues.

In the immortal autobiography of Charles G. Finney—and there’s not a preacher that stands in God’s pulpit but who ought to read the autobiography of Charles G. Finney—he describes in minute detail the infillings, the visitations of the Holy Spirit of God upon him.  And yet, in all of those minute, autobiographical delineations of those holy experiences that turned the frontier of America God-ward, not one time will Charles G. Finney ever suggest, or approach the thought, that he spoke in an unknown tongue.

I think of the greatest of all of our American city evangelists, Dwight L. Moody, praying for the infilling, for the visitation from above.  Walking down Wall Street in New York City, where he had come to collect money to help the work that had been destroyed by the great fire in Chicago; walking down Wall Street in New York City, he was suddenly smitten by the love and presence and overwhelming baptism of God and went into a room of a friend, and the waves of God’s love so overwhelmed him that he prayed, “O God, stay Thy hand lest I die.”  And Moody returned to Chicago in the power of the Spirit.  And as he said, “I used to preach and they didn’t come; now I preach and they come.”  He turned this whole nation God-ward, and he turned all of England God-ward, yet I never read in the most minute biography of Dwight L. Moody anything that approaches speaking in a tongue.

R. A. Torrey, who writes on the baptism of the Holy Spirit—he should have called it “the filling of the Holy Spirit,” but he discusses at great length, and he discusses glossolalia—never does he approach in his own life, or in anyone to whom he would speak of the presence of the Holy Spirit, never does R. A. Torrey speak of speaking in tongues.  Nor do I find it in any of the saints anywhere; not once, not once.

Now I am not saying these things except just briefly for all of us to remember.  There has never been a time in the history of the Christian church in Christendom but that glossolalia has been looked upon as a heresy.  Wherever it appears, anytime, in any age, in any country, in any place, the churches of Christendom, the theologians, the scholars, the preachers, the great mass of Christendom, Bible-believing people look on the phenomenon as heresy.

Now, of my own spirit, I am bewildered, I am bewildered by the phenomenon, the modern phenomenon of glossolalia, speaking in tongues.  I am astonished before it.  I am bewildered by it.  I received a few days ago this tract:

How can I receive the Holy Ghost?  All you have to do, if you are saved, is to raise your hands up toward heaven, and turn your head up to heaven, and begin praising God just as fast as you can and let your tongue go, and let the Holy Spirit come in.  Thousands of people receive the Holy Ghost this way; you can receive it too, if you will just let the Holy Ghost speak through your tongue.

And I didn’t have an opportunity—it’s in a book; one of the leaders of glossolalia today describes in his last chapter how to receive the Holy Ghost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  And he says,

Raise your hands high, and raise your eyes upward, and raise your head upward, and then begin speaking just as loud as you can, just as fast as you can, and … faster, faster, faster, louder, louder, louder, and then you’ll soon receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

And in one of the authentic reports of a great Christian scholar, he said—I have not seen them do this, but he said,

I observed the after meetings where the inquiries, the seekers after the baptism of the Holy Spirit were told how to do it, and the man who directs the inquiring session, the seeking meeting, he takes the seeker by the jaw and loosens his jaw.

And then he says, “Repeat after me, hililusasayada, repeat after me, la la, la la, aba, aba, ababeta, ala, alabeta beta, alabeta, there it is, speak louder, speak louder, faster, faster, louder, faster, faster, louder!”  And finally, they have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

I am bewildered, and I am astonished that the divine, holy Third Person of the Trinity, the Deity of heaven, should thus be characterized and delineated; that this is the unction from heaven, the mark and the sign of the Holy Spirit among us.

Now, tape recordings, many of them, have been made of glossolalia.  One set of recordings was taken to a gathering of the Toronto Linguistic Institute, and they were played there and studied there before those linguists.  And after they had studied them and heard them, the best human ear could understand, they said, “This is no human speech.”  Christianity Today, which is a modern bi-monthly magazine and one of the finest ever published, Christianity Today, in studying glossolalia, made tape recordings of the speaking in tongues and gathered a group of governmental geniuses in linguistics in Washington D.C. and placed those tape recordings before those governmental linguists.  And when they had studied them to the best of their ability, they said, “This is no human speech.”

What is my own experience with it?  And these things have to be said so briefly. This last February, for instance, I went to a great state in the North and the East, in its capital city to preach through the state evangelistic conference.  The very meetings were held in a beautiful and spacious Baptist church.  And when I stood up to preach, in my first sermon I said, “I am delighted.  My heart overflows with gratitude to God.  I never thought that in this state that our Baptist people would have so magnificent an edifice, so spacious an auditorium.  And I am told,” I said, “this is our first church in the state, and this is our first church in the capital city, and I rejoice with the people of God.  And it is a harbinger,” I said, “an earnest, a portent of the glorious conquest that lies ahead.  We shall preach the gospel, we shall win souls to Christ, we shall build a light for Jesus in this great state and in this capital city.”  I was encouraged by what I saw.

After the service was done, a deacon in the church, with his wife and little family, took me to dinner, and the deacon said to me, “Preacher, you haven’t heard about our church?”

“No,” I said, “I just see it and rejoice with you.”

He said, “Our church is a shell, our church is hollow, for,” he said, “speaking in tongues has come into our congregation, and it has swept away our pastor.  And our church is decimated, it is fragmented, it is atomized, it is in pieces, it is destroyed, it is killed.”

“Oh,” I said, “oh, oh, no!  Up here in this world of paganism, where hardly anybody attends church, drowned in a sea of infidelity and rejection and hedonism, you mean our lighthouse has been destroyed and the light has ceased to shine?  Oh, oh, oh!”

Wherever it goes, it is divisive and destructive, and there is no exception to it.  It was a problem that was tearing the very heart of the church in Corinth, and Paul said, under God, “It will cease of itself” [1 Corinthians 13:8].  And wherever that phenomenon is reconstructed, and those disjointed syllables of ejaculation are spoken, there is the church torn asunder, and the fellowship ruined, and the light dies.

I can describe for you—it’d take me so long—one of the tragic disillusions I saw of a great Christian endeavor and dedication among our Baptist people.  And it was destroyed by glossolalia, and the leader of the movement came to Dallas to visit me.  He was the scion of a rich family, a gifted young man.  And I said to him, “Had you driven all these miles up here to Dallas to say to me, ‘Pastor, I have been baptized with the Holy Ghost; I have received an anointing from heaven, and from this day forward I am going to take ninety percent of all I have and give it to Jesus, and I’m going to live on the ten percent that remains,’ I would have said, ‘Glory to God!  Hallelujah, praise the Lord!  The baptism of the Holy Ghost has come upon him.’”  I think he uses the wrong nomenclature,.  He should have said the “filling of the Holy Spirit,” but we’ll use his words.  I said to him, “Had you gone all these miles up here to Dallas to say to me, ‘Pastor, I’ve been baptized by the Holy Ghost; from now on I’m going to spend six hours a day on my knees interceding for the lost of the world,’ I would have said, ‘Praise God, hallelujah!’  Had you come up here to Dallas to say to me, ‘Pastor, I’ve received the baptism of the Holy Ghost; I’m going to win three souls every day to Jesus,’ I would have said, ‘Thank the Lord!  Praise God, hallelujah!’  But you drive these miles up here to Dallas and say to me, ‘Pastor, I’ve been baptized by the Holy Ghost; I’m speaking in tongues.’  I say, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’”  I said, “It’s the most divisive thing that has ever happened among the churches.”

Why, he said, “Not so.”

I said, “Look at your own self, and look at this great evangelistic campaign on a university campus for a great section of a great state, all of it destroyed now on account of you, you.  Yet you say it’s not divisive.”

That sweet, that beautiful psalm that you read:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is as the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.  As the dew that destilled on Mount Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there God commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.

[Psalm 133:1-3]


In the unity of God’s people; and what destroys that fellowship sows discord among the brethren and destroys the testimony of Jesus.  My brother, if we have something to say good for Jesus, say it plainly, intelligently, knowledgably.  Say it so I can understand it; say it so a little child could praise God in it.  Make it plain, preacher, make it plain, and when we do, God will honor it.

Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give himself to Jesus this glorious Lord’s Day [Ephesians 2:8].  A family you to come into the fellowship of the church; however the Lord shall lead in the way, shall open the door, shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now.  If you’re in this balcony round, there’s time and to spare; come.  On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Pastor, I give you my hand.  I give my heart to God,” or “This is my wife and these are our children.  All of us are coming today.”  As the Spirit shall open the door, shall lead in the way, come.  Make it now.  On the first note of the first stanza, when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming: “Here I am, preacher.  Here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

Corinthians 14:13


I.          The gift of interpretation of tongues

A.  If
the tongue spoken an understandable language, then to interpret it by someone
who understood it would be no charismatic gift

B.  If
the tongue spoken is a language unknown to speaker, that’s a miracle

1.  If someone could
interpret it who did not understand it, that’s a miracle

C.  If
the tongue is a series of meaningless, disjointed syllables and words, then the
gift of interpretation consisted of turning what seemed to be meaningless
utterance into words easy to understand

1.  This was happening
at Corinth(1 Corinthians 14:2, 14)

The interpretation could be made…

1.  By
the speaker himself, if had the gift (1 Corinthians
14:5, 13)

2.  Or,
if he lacked the gift, by one who possessed it(1
Corinthians 14:27-28)

E.  Three
things are evident

1.  The
interpreter was known and recognized in the congregation – and if not present, no
exercise of tongues was permitted

2.  One
interpreter competent to interpret any tongue(1
Corinthians 14:27)

3.  Interpreters
did not always agree; therefore the limitation to one (1 Corinthians 14:26)

II.         Paul’s interpretation of the whole

A.  Passage
on glossolalia is 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14

B.  Chapter
13 not written as a paean of love as such; but discusses gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

1.  Paul
says the sign gifts belong to the immaturity

2.  Love
never ekpipto, fails, falls away, disintegrates, ceases

3.  Prophecies,
they shall katargethesetai, be made useless

4.  Tongues
shall pausontai, automatically cease of themselves

a. By verse 9, already
ceased; only prophecy, knowledge mentioned

b. Phillips’

First Corinthian letter one of Paul’s earliest – tongues never mentioned after

III.        My interpretation, observations

A.  That
speaking in tongues is the necessary evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit
is contradicted by Scripture(1 Corinthians

B.  I
do not meet it in the lives of the men of God He has so mightily used

John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles G. Finney, Dwight L. Moody,
R. A. Torrey

In history, wherever it has appeared, it is looked upon as heresy

Modern glossolalia a bewildering development

E.  My
own experience – it isalways hurtful, divisive(Psalm