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The meaning behind 'speaking in tongues'

Published:Thursday | May 5, 2016 | 12:00 AMShanique Samuels

Speaking in tongues is said to be one of the many gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is referred to as a heavenly or spiritual language, which is God's gift to believers as the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

As recorded in the book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost, Jesus' apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other tongues. Those who heard this speech each heard it in his own language, even though they were from many different countries (Acts 2:1-13).

Christopher Brown of Apostolic Ark in Brown's Town, St Ann, noted that "our spirit language enables us to have a spirit to spirit communication with God. The Holy Spirit gives us a language so that we can communicate with our Heavenly Father because the enemy does not understand it. First Corinthian, 14:2 reads: "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God for no man understandeth him; but he utters mysteries in the spirit.' This portion of scripture is evidence that speaking in tongues builds a spiritual communication between the believer and the Master to help to understand and deal with things on the spiritual side of life."


Brown told Family and Religion that sometimes a believer will get an interpretation for utterances made in the unknown tongue. "There are times when the speaker is speaking directly to the Lord for personal gain, so at that point there will not necessarily be an interpretation. However, when it comes in the form of a prophecy, there has to be an interpretation because a prophecy is meant to edify the Church. In its operation as a gift of the Spirit, it comes definitely to edify the Church, therefore, believers must be able to understand what God has communicated to you, the prophet, so the message can be passed on."

Pastor Eric Graham of the International Evangelical Mission (IEM) Church in Race Track, asserted that speaking in the unknown tongue can happen at any time. "The word of God says we are to walk in the spirit, and once the believer lives in the spirit and they are doing something concerning the Lord, He will make His presence be felt."

He added that believers also speak in tongues for thanksgiving. "The Holy Spirit will speak through you, and you don't understand. The Holy Spirit will also enable you to pray or sing in an unknown tongue. Once the believer becomes mature in the gospel, they will understand how the spirit works and move upon them, so some amount of control can be exercised whenever the spirit gives utterances."

The Reverend Michael Hammond, in his book The Power Realm: A study in the Holy Spirit, remarked that many question why Pentecostals single out speaking in other tongues as the initial evidence when there was also the wind and the fire on the day of Pentecost. "It is true that all three occur on the same occasion, but it is only the speaking with tongues which happened at other times, which is recorded in the book of Acts."