"But ye shall receive power, after that
the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in
Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part
of the earth," He pledged. Acts 1:8.
"All power is given unto me in
heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,
lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Matthew
Not until a full fifty days after His
death did the disciples begin to see the significance of His promise.
"And when the day of Pentecost was
fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there
came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all
the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven
tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all
filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the
Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:1-4.
What happened here was the speaking of
real languages—not unknown sounds. The Bible record is quite clear on
The term "tongues" (Greek glossais)
as used here, refers to both the physical organ used in the art of
speaking as well as to the sound produced by that organ. Also, the word
"other" (Greek heterais) signifies that the speech
produced by the vocal organs of the apostles consisted of sounds different
from those they normally produced. Verse 6 of the same chapter furthermore
identifies these heterais sounds
as distinct languages. The very wording, "ekouon heis hekastos te
idia dialekto lalounton auton (they kept on hearing them speaking
every one in his own language)," is evidence in itself.
This passage in Acts marks the earliest
example of glossolalia as a Christian phenomenon, and the original Greek
supplies the foundation for the viewpoint that these sounds were indeed
real languages. What is more, the remainder of the chapter supports this:
"And there were dwelling at
Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when
this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded,
because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were
all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these
which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue,
wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers
in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene,
and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do
hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were
all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth
this?" Acts 2:5-12.
This very question indicates that they
had no conception of the basic philosophy of Christianity, of its power,
or of the relationship of this unusual manifestation to the mission Christ
had entrusted to His disciples. Acts 2:5 brings their question into true
According to law, every devout male Jew
living within a 20-mile radius of Jerusalem was bound to attend the three
great yearly Jewish festivals; Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of
Tabernacles. The word Pentecost indicates that it fell on the fiftieth day
after Passover. Since that holiday had already been celebrated in April of
that year, Pentecost fell at the beginning of June, one of the nicest
months in Palestine.
Whereas only the male Jews living within
the required distance normally attended the Passover feast, Pentecost, on
the other hand, attracted many more celebrants because of the better
traveling conditions which prevailed at that time of year. There were
undoubtedly thousands of Jews, together with those of Jewish ancestry who
had been dispersed throughout the world, who returned to Jerusalem to
attend the yearly thanksgiving feast, regarding it as a special highlight.
Because of their sojourn in far distant countries, many spoke in languages
not native to the Holy Land.
Filled with amazement, the foreign
travelers now heard these strange Galileans address them in their own
language, telling them of the miraculous power of Christ. Relatively
unnoticed, unlearned, and born in a part of the world not necessarily
known for its great philosophers, these day laborers and fishermen had
suddenly turned into eloquent speakers, conversing with their listeners
about the majesty of Christ, reasoning with heavenly wisdom and divinely
inspired thoughts. It was indeed an international gathering that
surrounded the exuberant apostles who, by now, were convinced of the
awesome power of the Holy Spirit.
If this was not a miracle, nothing was,
and the impression it etched on the minds of the crowd was ineradicable.
The second example of glossolalia in
connection with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was equally as
impressive, but on this occasion it was given to the Gentiles, not to the
Jews. This signified for the first time that Christ's gospel was not
reserved exclusively as a saving gesture to the Jewish race but was
intended for the Gentiles as well.
It happened at the house of Cornelius in
Caesarea to which Peter had traveled under divine mandate (See Acts
"While Peter yet spake these words,
the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the
circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter,
because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy
Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God." Acts
That these men also used actual languages
and not a collection of unintelligible sounds is indicated by the words of
Peter when he said that they heard them "magnify God."
Referring back to this same event, in
Chapter 11:15 he relates: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost
fell on them, as on us at the beginning." So this statement
identifies their tongue experience with the original one at Pentecost.
The third time tongues are mentioned in
the New Testament is in Acts 19:1-6, where Paul had an encounter at
Ephesus with twelve disciples of John the Baptist.
"He said unto them, Have ye received
the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so
much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto
what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said
Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the
people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that
is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name
of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy
Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."
This experience also is similar to
Pentecost, as was the previous one. Taking into, consideration the use of
the word glossa in this text, which is the very same word given to
describe the other two accounts, we may conclude that this was also a
manifestation of speaking in actual languages, not unknown sounds.
As far as these three examples of
glossolalia are concerned, therefore, we are dealing with the
supernaturally supplied, God-given ability to speak foreign languages.
Because of His gift of glossolalia they were now able to preach the gospel
to the known world, providing them with the ultimate means of
communication. And the apostles and converts embraced it with enthusiasm.
Read Chapter 3—What Really happened at Corinth?