Prior to my encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ towards the end of 2007, I always assumed, from my then little understanding of the Bible, that speaking in tongues was a gift exclusive to a few within the Church.
The first church at which I found a home soon after my spiritual rebirth never taught about these things, although it significantly contributed to my spiritual maturation.
It was only a year later, after having been called into my current church in 2007, that I had my first experience of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues which, in the ensuing years, was to become a critical spiritual exercise in my life.
When I came into this church, almost the entire congregation prayed in tongues during intercession.
This did not make sense to me until later when someone explained that anyone who has been filled with the Holy Spirit can speak in tongues if they choose to.
From that moment onwards, I desired to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and this dream would come true on January 1, 2008 on a rainy evening in Marondera when a mighty man of God ministered to me through the laying-on of hands.
I was gloriously filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the first time.
Today, however, there are many denominations that do not believe in speaking in tongues, and others go to the extent of claiming that it is demonic.
But the scriptural basis for speaking in tongues is very solid, beginning in Mark 16: 17 where Jesus explained to the twelve that, among the signs that will follow believers, “ . . . they shall speak with new tongues . . . ”
Here, Jesus was very unequivocal.
He did not say they “might”.
Neither did he say priests, pastors, apostles or the grey-haired men in the church.
But he said those that believed.
So the question is: do you believe?
And if your answer is yes, is this sign following you?
The Bible says speaking in tongues is a gift, so one does not have to pay for it.
You don’t have to spend many years in the church first either, but the very moment you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you automatically receive this gift and it’s up to you to activate, and use, it.
There are basically four diversities or categories of tongues, and these are:
Tongues for personal edification
Tongues for interpretation
Deep intercessional groanings
Tongues as a sign to the unbeliever
I will now address these separately to show when and how they come into operation as well as their different functions.
1. Personal Edification
In I Corinthians 14: 4, Paul says: “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself.”
Edify is derived from the Greek term, oikodomeo, which means to “build up”.
These tongues will do for you what no teacher or preacher will do for you.
As you fellowship with the Holy Spirit, He will impart to your spirit divine mysteries about the Kingdom, and edify you through building into your spirit godly traits such as love, divine insight into God’s Word and wisdom to distinguish right from wrong or falsehood from truth.
A believer can speak in these tongues anywhere and at anytime for as long as they want to, one hour, two or three hours and even more.
These tongues have no need for interpretation because the Bible says when one is speaking them, they are speaking to God and not to men (I Corinthians 14:2).
Some Christians believe that tongues should not be spoken unless there is going to be an interpretation.
But, as indicated earlier, not all tongues are supposed to be interpreted.
But there is a diversity of tongues that lend themselves to interpretation.
It is important, however, to note that this does not happen as men wills, but only as God wills.
Unless the Holy Spirit gives you the interpretation, then you will not be able to decode them.
This happens normally when a message meant for the body of Christ (Church) is given in tongues, then they are interpreted for the edification of the Church — not the individual.
Paul however exhorts us to pray for interpretation (I Corinthians 14:13).
When this happens, Paul explains they has to be order in the church, with people giving each other time to speak and, if there is no interpreter, then there is no reason why one should speak these tongues because they will not benefit anyone as indicated in I Corinthians 14: 19 where it reads:
“Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
3. Deep Intercessional Groanings
While we can pray for things that we know in our understanding, how best can we offer a precise, specific and spot-on prayer for things we don’t know?
Writing to the church at Rome, Paul said:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:
for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:
but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26, KJV).
Sometime in 2008, my younger brother and sister were at a church meeting in the evening and while the congregation was caught up in prayer, my siblings started crying and groaning, much to the amazement of the other people in the congregation.
After realising what was happening, the pastor said there was an attack looming, and the rest of the church had to intercede with these two who were groaning in the spirit.
It was only later, after my siblings had returned home, when they understood that they, probably, had just prevented our father’s death.
When all this had been happening, our father was being attacked by robbers who beat him up along the Harare-Marondera highway, drew him into the forest, tied him to a tree with the car’s fan belt and drove away, taking with them his service pistol.
What remained a mystery to all of us, at least for some time, was:
why didn’t they shoot him dead and how did he untie himself from that tree?
How did he survive that attack?
Why my siblings didn’t know what was happening, in the realm of the spirit nothing is hidden, so the Holy Spirit used them to intercede for something they didn’t know was happening.
This clearly indicates that while we may not know what we are praying for, results are guaranteed.
4. A Sign to the Unbeliever
Imagine a pastor preaching in a foreign country with the aid of an interpreter to overcome a language barrier, then his interpreter collapses!
In this kind of a scenario, the Holy Spirit can make available the grace for you to slide into that language and continue with the message, and this would be enough to convince the believer.
This is just a variation to the scenario in Acts Chapter
2 when the apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost during Pentecost and strangers had them preaching in their own languages.
Shedding light on the gift of tongues during that experience, the Bible says after Peter had explained what had happened, “Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about THREE THOUSAND were added to the church that day.” (Acts 2: 41, NKJV) Many people have used this portion of scripture to justify that all tongues have to be interpreted when this was just one manifestation.
In fact, this operation is rare, while the first three are common experiences.
An Act of Faith
Receiving the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues are part and parcel of a single act of faith.
If you study the book of Acts, you discover that several times when believers received the Holy Spirit, they also received the gift of tongues (Acts 2:4, Acts 10:44 –46, Acts 19: 6).
Certain church doctrines, however, have taught people that tongues are not for today, and that perhaps just a few, exclusive church elders can speak in tongues, but this has no biblical foundation.
I always dare anybody who does not believe that anyone who receives the Holy Spirit can’t speak in tongues to prove it.
The beauty about the Word of God is that it can be proved and for me, this is a lived reality.
I have ministered to so many people who wanted to speak in tongues, including those who have been told that they could not for one reason or another, and they were able to do it by the grace of God.
While some have spoken instantly, others took a long time.
Food for Thought
For a long time, I wondered why Paul ever said:
“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.” (I Corinthians 14:18, KJV)
Then when I looked at his ministry, and the successes he scored for the gospel, I understood why.