Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church


003white  Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church       >       Literal Doctrines of Demons   >       Index To Tongues   >    Part II


  Part II - Tongues in The Gospels and Acts

 Carol Brooks

Edited by Vicki Narlee

Index To All Six Sections

Ch. 1. Tongues - Introduction: Deception in The Church. The Holy Spirit in The Old and New Testaments. The 'Second Blessing' and the 'Initial Evidence' doctrine. The Controversy and It's Importance

You Are Here 001orange Ch. 2. Tongues In The Gospels and Acts: The Purpose of Tongues in The New Testament. Mark 16:17. Speaking in Tongues in The Book of Acts. Pentecost - Distinguishing Factors. What All Three Occurrences Had in Common. Not Everyone Spoke in Tongues On Pentecost. Was the Spirit Given Before Pentecost?

Ch. 3. Tongues In Corinthians: The overall message of 1 Corinthians 14. Disregarding Most of What Paul Said About The Gift of Tongues. How Important Were Tongues in The New Testament?

Ch. 4.  Tongues - A Known Language?: A Known Language or Unintelligible Utterances on and after Pentecost. Unknown Languages or Ecstatic Speech?. Tongues of Angels? Ignoring Matthew 6:7

Ch. 5. Tongues - What Spirit?: Neither Tongues nor Erratic Movements are Restricted to Born Again Christian Believers. How Did a Different Spirit Infiltrate The Church? - A Brief History of Pentecostalism May Provide The Answer. Voodoo. Circumstantial Evidence? Common Signs of Demon Possession. Comparing the Lwa with New Testament Demonic Possession.

Ch. 6. Tongues - Conclusion: According to The Bible Who Receives God's Holy Spirit? According to The Bible How Does One Receive God's Spirit? What It Means To Have The Spirit of God Dwelling In Us. The Gifts of The Spirit. Why People Don't Speak In Tongues?



The Purpose of Tongues in The New Testament
What the reason was that people spoke in tongues in Acts and Corinthians?

The Proof Texts - Introduction

Mark 16:17
Even if they weren't a later addition to the Bible, the text very clearly states that five signs will follow believers

Speaking in Tongues - In The Book of Acts
Pay close attention to the two groups and, possibly a third, that was given the sign of tongues

Pentecost - Distinguishing Factors
The several factors unique to Pentecost makes it difficult to see how Acts 2 can be used as a perpetual blueprint
for receiving the Holy Spirit.

What All Three Occurrences Had in Common
if we want to be true to the pattern of Acts, then we have to consider the several factors that were common to all three occurrences

Not Everyone Spoke in Tongues On Pentecost

Was the Spirit Given Before Pentecost?


The Purpose of Tongues in The New Testament
The two questions we should ask is why people spoke in tongues in the first place, and was there any difference between the tongues in the book of Acts and the tongues Paul gave so much instruction about in the book of Corinthians.

If one actually reads the relevant verse without the dubious benefit of someone else's opinion or denominational teaching, the answers are quite clear cut.

There are two distinct differences between when people speak in tongues. However, in both cases, the intention behind the phenomenon is that the speaker uses tongues to speak to God, not man.

1) When A Person Receives The Holy Spirit.
It is commonly believed that on Pentecost the disciples were preaching to the crowd in tongues, which is not true.

As the account says, the disciples were "speaking of the mighty deeds of God" in the various languages of the multitude present. What the multi-national crowd heard was the disciples glorifying God. In complete contrast, when Peter stood up to preach to the crowd in verse 14, he did so in Greek - the one language common to everyone present..

Similarly, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius and his household in Acts 10, verse 46 reads "For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God". The Romans were magnifying God in languages that they had never learned, but the Jewish disciples present understood.

From this we can deduce that when a person speaks in tongues after receiving the Holy Spirit, they are communicating with God in the form of prayer, praise etc. It is therefore no wonder that tongues are a 'sign' that an individual has received the Holy Spirit, thus not necessarily ever repeated. Those people who speak in tongues unconnected with receiving the Holy Spirit have, at that time or even later, received the 'gift of tongues'

2) When A Person Receives The Gift Of Tongues
The 'gift of tongues' is when a person is moved by the Father to speak in tongues, either privately or in a public church service or other Christian gathering. Note very carefully that Paul makes a clear distinction between whom a person is speaking to when they prophesy, and whom they are speaking to when they speak in tongues.

    For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. (1 Corinthians 14:2-3 NASB)

Disregarding this verse has led people to believe that tongues is a  miraculous method of communicating with our fellow humans, rather than God.

Because this gift is given strictly for the building up of the church, there are very strict but largely ignored guidelines governing how it is used which is covered in the next chapter.

The Proof Texts
Pentecostalism teaches that since some groups spoke with tongues upon receiving the Holy Spirit, all believers, even centuries later, should do the same thing.

 However, it is simply not the case that every historical incident is necessarily an unchangeable and permanent blueprint for all future generations. If it were, then every believer who lies in similar circumstances as Ananias and Saphira did, could be seen as lying to the Holy Spirit and immediately struck dead. (Hmmm! Should this happen, there might be a marked reduction in the number of people in our church).

As always, when faced with a controversy, we have to turn to the Bible for answers, and ask 'what saith the Scriptures'?

The problem being that in this particular case (as in a few others) the answer to that question is 'nothing specific'. In other words, the Scriptures do not make any clear pronouncements regarding the "second blessing" and the "initial evidence doctrine", which brings up an obvious question - If the 'second blessing' is such an important doctrine, why isn't there even one single clear instruction to seek this blessing in any of the Epistles?

Anyway, in the absence of unambiguous Scriptural guidance, both sides have come to their respective conclusions based on the historical evidence - particularly events related in the book of Acts, Paul's teaching on tongues in his first letter to the Corinthians, and Mark 16:17.

Lets begin with the third.

Mark 16:17
Mark 16:17, often quoted in support of the doctrine of tongues, says

    These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;  (Mark 16:17 NASB)

However, the last few verses in Mark have long been the subject of much controversy, many scholars strongly convinced they are a later addition to the Bible. As said by Bruce Metzger - professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, Greek scholar, and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society.

    "Today we know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark (xvi. 9-20) are absent from the oldest Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian manuscripts, and that in other manuscripts asterisks or obeli mark the verses as doubtful or spurious." [10]

Even if these verses were part of Mark's original writings (which they probably aren't), proponents of this doctrine are very, very guilty of cherry picking. Read it for yourself in context.

    And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:15-18 NASB)

There are two points to be noted.

    1) The text very clearly states that five signs will follow believers

    2) There is absolutely nothing in theses verses that distinguishes tongues from the other four signs, nor the slightest hint that tongues is more important.

Yet, Pentecostals have somehow decided that just one of the listed signs identifies Spirit baptized believers. Any attempt to prove one is a believer by swallowing strychnine or by handling a venomous snake would be seen as extreme foolishness at best. We handle both poison and deadly snakes with extreme caution, and do not go looking for sick people to heal, or demons to cast out in order to prove we are true disciples of Christ.

Sadly, snake handling is still practised by some small groups in remote areas of states like Tennessee and W. Virginia. I guess they assume that because something happened to someone in the Bible centuries ago, it automatically becomes a pattern for all believers in all subsequent ages. This is simply not the case. Just because Paul suffered no ill effects from being bitten by a viper, doesn't mean that every other, or even any other, believer will escape all consequences. In fact, it is no surprise that this kind of unbiblical practice ends in tragedy. In a fairly recent incident the 43 year old pastor of a small church died of a snake bite - as did his father before him. SEE

In any case, Paul's encounter with the viper was an accident. He didn't go looking for deadly snakes to prove anything at all.

Although the Gospel of Mark was written very early, a later scribe apparently added the last few verses largely based on what Jesus and the disciples did and Paul's encounter with the viper. I guess he threw the poison bit in for good measure.

Speaking in Tongues - In The Book of Acts
The book of Acts records only three occasions when people spoke in tongues. The first time was on Pentecost.

Recorded by Luke in the book of Acts, we know that Jesus commanded His disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to "wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4), which they did. For the ten days following Jesus' ascension into heaven, the disciples, Jesus' mother and brothers, His women followers etc., obeying our Lord's instructions, gathered together in Jerusalem.

They did not have long to wait. The coming of the Holy Spirit occurred on the next Jewish holiday when Jews living in several different countries came to Jerusalem for the completion of the harvest season celebrated on the fiftieth day of Passover.

    (Note that there were three annual feasts when it was mandatory for all males to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This particular one was Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks - Pentecost in Greek). See The Seven Feasts of Israel

On this day God descended on those first-century believers with a sound like a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire, and other demonstrations of the Holy Spirit...

    When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4 NASB)

The Other Two Occurrences
However, there are ONLY two other occasions when baptism with the Holy Spirit accompanied by tongues is specifically said to have taken place. If you are paying very close attention, you will realize that this wasn't just two random groups of people who spoke in tongues.

Remember what Paul said to the Corinthians in 14:22 - "tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers". A "sign" is something that points to or suggests the presence or existence of something else. For example, dark clouds are a sign of bad weather. However, very few pay attention to the word in the context of tongues.

So what were tongues a sign of? This question is very easily answered if you look very carefully at who was given the sign - the Jews and the Gentiles.

The Jewish Unbelievers - Pentecost
Tongues on the day of Pentecost was given to empower and enable a few ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. However, to the thousands of Jews gathered in Jerusalem that day, tongues was the sign that Jesus and the disciples were not just full of hooey -  what they preached and taught was very definitely of God.

The Gentiles - The Romans in Caesarea and The Disciples in Ephesus
The tongues phenomenon occurred again in Caesarea some 30 + years after Pentecost - this time in the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius. Acts 10:46 clearly states that those Jews who accompanied Peter to Cornelius' house were amazed to hear the Gentiles "speak with tongues, and magnify God" which, the Jews in Jerusalem understood to be a sign that eternal life was offered to the Gentiles as well as to them. (Acts 11:15-18). 

The only other incidence of tongues speaking recorded in the book of Acts took place several years later when Paul went to Ephesus and, upon meeting some disciples of John the Baptist, asked them whether they had received the Holy Sprit when they believed. Upon hearing that although these disciples had been baptized into John's baptism, they knew nothing about the giving of the Holy Spirit, Paul had them baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul then laid his hands on them, at which time the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. (Acts 19:1-7)

In other words, tongues, the sign of God's involvement, was given first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. Without it which of the Jews would ever have believed that the Gentiles could also be offered salvation and eternal life. When they too spoke in tongues it was a sign of the presence of the Spirit.

This might also apply to the Samaritans

The Samaritans??
If you read of the time the Gospel was first taken to Samaria, please note very carefully what the account does and does not say.

When Philip was preaching the Gospel in Samaria, he healed the sick and cast out demons.

    The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. (Acts 8:6-7 NASB)

These signs caused many men and women, including Simon the sorcerer, to believe Philip and be baptized (Acts 8:12). The account goes on to say that "when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit". Which is exactly what happened when the apostles laid their hands on the Samaritans (8:14-17)

However, since Luke didn't specifically mention that the Samaritans spoke in tongues, we simply cannot assume that they did so as a sign of the presence of the Spirit.
However, I personally, tend to lean towards the fact that they did because I am not sure how else Simon would have known that the Spirit was being bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 8:18).

Although one cannot be dogmatic about it, it would make perfect sense that God gave the same 'sign' that the Samaritans had also received the Spirit. Just as it was very important that the Jews understood that Gentiles had also been offered a share in eternal life, it seems to me that it would also have been important that they were aware that the same offer had been made to the Samaritans, who were neither Jew nor Gentile, but a separate group altogether. Descendants of the people who had been left behind when the Assyrians carried off most of the inhabitants of Samaria, their belief system had significantly changed over time. For instance, they rejected all the books of the Old Testament except for the Pentateuch, and had built their own Temple on Mt. Gerizim which they claimed was the true Temple.

So, quite obviously, there was a great amount of enmity between the two groups - which is exactly why Jesus told the parable of The Good Samaritan..

Pentecost - Distinguishing Factors
Pentecostals hold that Acts 2 gave us the pattern established by God for all believers in all subsequent ages. The disciples had the Holy Spirit descend on them in a separate event, so we must as well. They spoke in tongues, so we have to as well. 

However, the several factors unique to Pentecost that never ever occurred again makes it difficult to see how Acts 2 can be used as a perpetual blueprint for receiving the Holy Spirit.

1) Pentecost Occurred On a Specific Pre-Determined Day
The wording is very important here. When used in reference to time, the Greek word sumpleroo means that it is fulfilled, it is accomplished. The King James version gives more of this sense than does the NASB. 

    When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1 NASB)

    And when the day of Pentecost was fully come (Greek sumpleroo), they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1 KJV)

In other words, there was a very specific day when Pentecost was predetermined to take place. God planned to bestow His Spirit exactly on Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, an annual feast that came fifty days after Passover and which celebrated the completion of the harvest season. (In fact, Shavuot was merely a 'type' of the Day of Pentecost).

This is why Christ commanded His first followers to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).

 See The Seven Feasts of Israel
and Typology for a more detailed treatment of this intriguing subject.

2) The Spirit Came Suddenly or Unexpectedly
It was not gradually worked up by noisy, frenzied, and highly emotional people. The disciples knew that something was to happen since Jesus had already told them that they were to "tarry" in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49-50) but they did not know what was to happen, nor when it would.

Note: although the word 'tarry' is not used very much today, it simply means to delay or linger. The disciples were told to "tarry" in Jerusalem which simply means... to wait there. It does NOT imply a "tarry meeting" held at many Pentecostal churches which are often emotionally charged gatherings where people "tarry," and agonizingly "seek" the Holy Spirit...

3) They Were Sitting When the Holy Spirit Came
Did Luke include this interesting detail to emphasize that they were not doing anything to induce the Spirit to come?

There was a distinct absence of chanting, repetitious prayer, hand clapping, jumping up and down, waving of hands, etc. Also note the absence of speakers urging the people on to higher and higher levels of ecstatic behavior. Also missing was the repeated beseeching for God to send His Spirit, that takes place in modern "tarry meetings".

In fact, they couldn't have done any of the above because all they know was that Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit to help them and (John 14:26) and they would be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49-50). Who can doubt that they had absolutely no idea what form this power would take, nor when it would come?

All they did was wait without knowing exactly what they were waiting for.

Besides which, the begging and pleading with God to send His Spirit that takes place in modern "tarry meetings" makes one wonder why God has to be literally cajoled to send His Spirit when the Bible says God will give His Spirit as willingly as we give gifts to our children. Note: in the following verse, "ask" does not mean plead, beg, or work oneself up into a highly emotional state.

    If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"  (Luke 11:13 NASB)

4) The Spirit Came With Supernatural Manifestations
The account says that when the Spirit came,

    ... suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. (Acts 2:2-3 NASB)

Neither the sound nor the fire originated with man nor were they ever repeated.  Never again was there the sound of a mighty wind. Never again were fire like tongues ever again observed over the heads of the recipients.

What All Three Occurrences Had in Common ...
As shown, there were several factors that distinguished Pentecost from the two other recorded occasions in the book of Acts when believers were baptized and spoke in tongues.  However, if we want to be true to the pattern of Acts, then we have to consider the several factors that were common to all three occurrences. For example

    1) No prior instruction was given before people received the Holy Spirit, no one was taught how to be fully Spirit-filled, and no one repeatedly beseeched God to send His Spirit. Also absent was the all too common strange and bizarre behavior that we see today. 

    2) Since there is no record of the Spirit coming upon individuals, we should only expect groups of people to receive the Spirit simultaneously. If there has ever been a modern Pentecostal meeting when several people received the Holy Spirit at the exact same moment, it would be the exception rather than the rule..

    3) An apostle must be present... All the original Apostles were present at Pentecost, Peter was present when the Romans received the Spirit in Acts 10, and Paul was present when some unnamed disciples did so in Acts 19.  

Note: Regarding the third point above - Although Philip performed many signs and wonders, the eunuch he converted and baptized did not speak in tongues possibly because the account is speaking about Philip the evangelist, not Philip one of the original twelve disciples (Matthew 10:3). See Footnote I for the difference between an apostle and an evangelist.

It was exactly the same when Philip baptized new believers in Samaria. They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but the Holy Spirit did not fall on anyone. It was only after Peter and John came from Jerusalem and prayed and laid hands on the new believers that they received the Holy Spirit.  Acts 8:15-17 NASB) 

Also, why are we missing the fact that ...

Not Everyone Spoke in Tongues On Pentecost
Speaking in tongues did not always accompany belief and baptism.

Pentecost: What is commonly ignored is that there were two different groups mentioned in Acts 2.

    1) The approximately 120 people gathered in the upper room.

    2) The three thousand souls who received the Gospel and were baptized.

The Bible tells us that the first group was filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues. However, all that is said about the second group is that they were baptized (2:41), and thereafter they continually devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer (2:42). They also had all things common (2:44), sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all as needed (2:45) and continued "with one mind in the temple" broke bread together "with gladness and sincerity of heart' (2:46).

However, there is not one word about this very large group of people ever speaking in tongues, which bring up one very important two part question....

    1) Why do we exclusively use the experience of the Apostles on Pentecost as the pattern for all believers?

    2) Why don't we use the experience of the three thousand who were converted on Pentecost?

Was the Spirit Given Before Pentecost?
John 20:21-22 is often pointed to as evidence that Pentecost was not the first and only time that the  Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. The verse reads

    So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21-22 NASB)

This incident has been understood as

    Jesus actually imparting the Holy Spirit at this time. Breathing on the disciples (the giving of life) would be familiar imagery to men very familiar with Genesis 2:7. Since the disciples went through a second experience at Pentecost, those who have God's spirit must also receive the "Baptism of The Holy Spirit" in a separate experience.

    Jesus temporarily bestowed the Spirit upon His disciples until Pentecost when the Spirit came permanently upon them.

When the Bible says Jesus breathed on them we do not know exactly what this meant. However, unless we believe that the Holy Spirit was in Christ's breath, there are several very good reasons to consider Jesus' actions as being strictly symbolic, or a "type" of an event to come. 

    1) Thomas was not present at the time (Verse 24). Why was he left out?

    2) The advent of the Holy Spirit was clearly predicated upon Jesus' return to the Father. In John 16:7 Jesus told the disciples that it was to their advantage that He go away, for unless He did so the Comforter would not come to them. But if He went, then He would send the Comforter. At the time when He breathed on the disciples, He had obviously not yet left, so the Holy Spirit could not have come just then.

    3) If the Holy Spirit was indeed given the disciples when Jesus breathed on them, the results were rather disappointing - The disciples were not transformed, as they would be at Pentecost. In fact, the next thing we see them doing is going fishing (John 21:3). This was a far cry from the results of the Holy Spirit being given at Pentecost, when the disciples showed great boldness (Acts 2:14, 4:13 and 31), manifested many signs and wonders (Acts 2:43), unceasingly preached the Gospel in spite of being flogged (Acts 5:40-42) etc. etc.

Footnote I - Apostles and Evangelists
The New Testament speaks of three different Philips. 1)  Philip, Herod's brother (Matthew 14:3).  2) Philip was also the name of one of the 12 disciples (Matthew 10:3). 3) Finally, there was a third Philip who had much to do with the spread of the Gospel. He was not an apostle, but the only person in the Bible to be called an evangelist (Acts 21:8). Ephesians 4:11 makes it clear that there is a difference between apostles and evangelists.

    And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (NASB)

As Barnes says, The word evangelist properly means "a messenger of good tidings" However, the precise office of the evangelist in the primitive church is now "impossible to determine". As the name suggests, the evangelist's main business must have been preaching, but he may not have been particularly engaged in the "government" of the church. On the other hand, the apostles who received their commission directly from Christ and were witnesses of the resurrection had supreme authority in the early church..

The evangelist Philip was one of the seven deacons "full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" who was appointed by the twelve to superintend the distribution of food because the Hellenists believed the Hebrew widows were receiving preferential treatment, and their widows were being partially neglected in the common daily ministration (Acts 6:1-7)

    Note: The Hebrews were those Jews who were more inclined to embrace Jewish culture and were mostly from Judea. The Hellenists were those Jews who were more inclined to embrace Greek culture and were mostly from the Diaspora (all over the Roman Empire). For the most part, Hebrews tended to regard Hellenists as unspiritual compromisers with Greek culture, and Hellenists regarded Hebrews as holier-than-thou traditionalists. (David Guzik commentary)

Interestingly, Philip was also the only known person in the New Testament to have been supernaturally transported from one place to another. He later lived in Caesarea with his family (Acts 21:8) and had four unmarried daughters who were prophetesses. [PLACE IN TEXT]


Continue On To Part III -  Tongues in Corinthians HERE

End Notes (Accessed November 2016)

[10] Bruce Metzger. The Canon of the New Testament: its Origin, Development, and Significance
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp. 269-270


    Index To Tongues