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  Part II - Tongues in The Book of Acts
What we need to consider is what the
purpose of Tongues in Acts was, what factors were unique To Pentecost, and what all occurrences of Tongues speaking had in common,

Carol Brooks

Index To All Five Sections

Two Questions
What the reason people spoke in tongues in Acts?

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

The Purpose of Tongues in Acts
A 'Sign' To Unbelievers ie. The Jewish Unbelievers (Pentecost), The Gentiles (Cornelius),
and Possibly The Samaritans.
In a manner of speaking Peter did hold the keys to the Kingdom.

The Ephesian Disciples
Not unbelievers but not believers either

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

Should Modern Believers Speak In Tongues When They Receive The Holy Spirit?

Was the Spirit Given Before Pentecost?

Two Questions
The two questions we should ask is why people spoke in tongues in the first place and whether, as some claim ,there was any difference between the tongues in the book of Acts and the tongues Paul gave so much instruction about in Corinthians.

Although we commonly assume that the book of Acts was written first, it was actually written a few years after Paul's epistle to the Corinthians. Thus Luke who was also Paul's traveling companion, had to have read or at least been familiar with Paul's first letter to the Corinthians in which the word glossa was used some 21 times.

If Luke knew that the manifestations of tongues on Pentecost were different from those Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians, why didn't he give even the slightest hint that this was the case. Much to the contrary, he used the Greek glossa to describe the phenomena in Acts 2 - which was exactly the same word Paul used in his letter to the Corinthians. 

As said in the introductory chapter, in the absence of unambiguous Scriptural guidance those who believe the initial evidence doctrine have reached their conclusions based on their interpretation of the historical evidence. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, that interpretation is often slanted in favor what they have been led to believe.

What often goes unrealized is sound conclusions cannot be reached on a shallow and superficial reading of the text, without taking numerous factors into consideration. These include context, the words used in the original language, the culture of the time etc. etc. etc.

For example, one of the commonly used passages to support tongues is...

Mark 16:17
This verse is often quoted in support of the doctrine of tongues. It reads,

    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. (Emphasis Added)

    "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." [01]

Even if these verses were part of Mark's original writings 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)

Note that the text very clearly states that five signs will follow believers with absolutely nothing 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 nor 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 has ended in tragedy. A few years ago the 43 year old pastor of a small church in Appalachia died of a snake bite - as did his father before him. In any case, Paul's encounter with the viper was an accident. He didn't go looking for deadly snakes to prove anything.

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

The Purpose of Tongues - A 'Sign' To Unbelievers in Acts
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 just as dark clouds are a sign of bad weather.

So what were tongues a sign of?

This question is very easily answered if you look very carefully at who was given the sign ie. The Jews, the Gentiles and the Samaritans - all three groups unbelievers at the time. Tongues was also a sign to those who hadn't got the complete message thus were not yet converted.

Pentecost - The Jewish Unbelievers
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, obeying our Lord's instructions, they did. 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. (More about this below)

On this day the disciples were all together in one place when God descended on them with a sound like a mighty rushing wind  filled the whole house where they were sitting. Tongues as of fire rested on each one of them ...  

    And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (Gk. glossa), as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language (Gk. dialektos). (Acts 2:4-6 NASB)

As Acts 2: 11 tells us the disciples were "speaking of the mighty deeds of God" (glorifying God) in the various languages of the multitude present. In fact, the use of two different Greek words (glossa and dialektos) indicates that the Jews who came together in Jerusalem from all over the Roman world not only understood what the disciples were saying in their own language, but in their own dialect.

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 but what they preached and taught was very definitely of God.

The Gentiles and The Samaritans
There are ONLY two other occasions when baptism with the Holy Spirit accompanied by tongues is specifically said to have taken place. Note that this was not just two random groups of people who spoke in tongues.

The Gentiles - The Romans in Caesarea
The tongues phenomenon occurred again in Caesarea several 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".

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius and his household the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed - "For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God" (Acts 10: 46) The Romans were magnifying God in languages that they had never learned but the Jewish disciples present understood - a very similar situation to what occurred on Pentecost.

After Peter related what had happened to the Jerusalem Council, they realized that the Romans speaking in tongues was a sign that eternal life was offered to the Gentiles as well as to them. (Acts 15:7-20). Without it would any Jew  have believed in their wildest dreams that the Gentiles could also be offered salvation and eternal life?

The Samaritans
were descendants of the people who had been left behind when the Assyrians carried off most of the inhabitants of Samaria - the Northern kingdom. See more in Footnote I However, 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.  They also accepted only the five books of Moses and ejected the writings of the prophets . Thus they were universally despised by the Jews who went to great lengths to avoid them and probably why Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan..

In other words, they did not adhere to Judaism but were not Gentiles either

When Philip was preaching the Gospel in Samaria the crowds heard and saw the signs which he was performing. Philip healed many who were  paralyzed and lame and cast out demons (Acts 8:6-7). 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 tell us 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. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17 NASB)

Although Luke didn't specifically mention that the Samaritans spoke in tongues they must have because how else would Peter and John have known that they actually received the Spirit. (Acts 8:18). And it would make perfect sense that God gave the Samaritans the same 'sign' He gave the Romans at the moment each group 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 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.

Peter and The Keys

When Jesus told Peter that He would give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven it meant that Peter would be the instrument that opened the door of faith to the world.

And that is exactly what happened.

Peter was the first to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles - the Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2) and the Gentiles when God sent him to preach to Cornelius and his household. Remember also that it was he along with John who prayed that the Samaritans would receive the Holy Spirit.

In a manner of speaking Peter did hold the keys to the Kingdom.

The Disciples in Ephesus

The only other incident of tongues speaking 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. However, when he heard that although these disciples had been baptized into John's baptism they knew nothing about the giving of the Holy Spirit. It was Paul who told them John's message pointed to Jesus had them baptized in Jesus' name, then laind hands on them causing them to speak with tongues and prophesy.

    Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in 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 Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. (Acts 19:4-6 NASB)

They were not unbelievers but although they trusted what John the Baptist said and were baptized by him, they hadn't got the complete message. Thus they were not exactly believers either. (Although they were called disciples that may just have meant that they were disciples of John).

As David Guzik says in his commentary on Acts

 One can imagine that these Ephesian disciples heard about the coming of the Messiah through John's message, and they heard of their need to be ready to receive the Messiah and to ready themselves through repentance. Yet they actually do not seem to have heard that the Messiah had in fact come, and had not heard of their need to trust in His specific person and work. [02]

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, 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 attempts to lie to God as Ananias and Saphira did (Acts 5: 1-11) should be immediately struck dead.

In any case, 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 or 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)

Christ commanded His first followers to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8) because God planned to bestow His Spirit on Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) that celebrated the completion of the harvest season. Shavuot, occurred on the fiftieth day after the festival of First-fruits which was when the Messiah was resurrected (the Greek word pentekoste means fiftieth) Shavuot was and was merely a 'type' of the Day of Pentecost.

But very importantly, Shavuot was one of the three annual feasts on which it was mandatory for all males to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This ensured that Jews from all around were in Jerusalem that day and heard what Peter had to say in their own languages - a miraculous sign that caused thousands to believe.

See The Seven Feasts of Israel
The most complete description of the Jewish feasts is found in Leviticus 23, each of which have both a historic and prophetic significance. They celebrate a historical event in Israel's past, but also are a prophecy of future events four of which have already come to pass. . it is important to note that the Feasts that symbolize a sequence of events, were given by God in a set chronological order. Therefore the events that they symbolize will take place in the same exact order. I have read way too many interpretations of the Feasts that jump backwards and forwards between them in an effort to make them fit into pre-conceived end time scenarios. What we need to do is make the order of the Feasts our guideline to coming events, instead of scrambling them to fit our ideas.

and Typology for a more detailed treatment of this intriguing subject.

2) The Spirit Came Suddenly and Unexpectedly
It was not 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 neither knew what was to happen nor when it would.

    Note: although the word 'tarry' is rarely heard today, it simply means to delay or linger. The disciples were told to "tarry" in Jerusalem which simply meant... to wait there. It does NOT imply a "tarry meeting" held at many Pentecostal churches which are often highly 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, 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".

Besides which, the begging and pleading with God to send His Spirit makes me 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.

    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 (Gk. aiteo) Him?"  (Luke 11:13 NASB)

Note: in the verse above "ask" does not mean plead, beg, or work oneself up into a highly emotional state. Aiteo is used some 70 times in the New Testament and although Strong's lexicon says it can mean ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, or require. there is only one instance where it actually means beg - and that is when a lame man was begging alms at the gate of the temple (Acts 3:2).

On the other hand, virtually every other verse indicates a straightforward request. For example,

    Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request (Gk. aiteo) of Him. And He said to her, "What do you wish? (Gk. aiteo) " She *said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." (Matthew 20:20-21 NASB)

    and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask (Gk. aiteo) me for whatever you want and I will give it to you." (Mark 6:22 NASB)

    And he asked (Gk. aiteo) for a tablet and wrote as follows, "His name is John." And they were all astonished. (Luke 1:63 NASB)

Look it up for yourself.

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)

The physical manifestations that accompanied the bestowing of the Holy Spirit were unique to that day and that day only. No one since has heard the sound of a mighty wind nor observed anything that looks like fire over the heads of the recipients. (Joseph Smith did claim the same manifestations (See Footnotes in Chapter 5) but that claim can be taken with the proverbial grain of salt like virtually everything else he ever said or wrote.) Section on Mormonism

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 we have to consider the several factors that were common to all four 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 was 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 the Ephesian disciples did so in Acts 19.  

None of these factors are present in modern day Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. Much to the contrary all the original apostles are long gone, the supposed infilling of the Holy Spirit most often happens to individuals, and there is plenty of instruction and awareness of what is supposed to transpire.

All of which leads to the big question ...

Should Modern Believers Speak In Tongues When They Receive The Holy Spirit?
Although as said in the introduction, there is no question that the indwelling Spirit is necessary for salvation and we can count ourselves as sons of God only if we are led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14, 11) Pentecostals and many Charismatics claim that every single person who hears the Gospel and turns to Christ must speak in tongues when the Holy Spirit comes upon them

And here is why this is not true.

Never once does the book of Acts mention that the Spirit filled any individuals. Much to the contrary the Spirit was only poured on groups of people and not just random groups of people. They had something in common. All the initial groups - the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Samaritans were all unbelievers.

The speaking in tongues was a 'sign' that accompanied the first proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews on Pentecost, the first proclamation of the Gospel to the Gentiles beginning with Cornelius, and the first proclamation of the Gospel to the Samaritans.

In other words, a 'sign' was given to unbelievers.

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.

When the Bible says Jesus breathed on them we do not know exactly what this meant. However, there are several very good reasons to consider Jesus' actions as being strictly symbolic, or a "type" of an event to come when the Spirit came permanently upon them. 

    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 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
Israel (Samaria)
Israel and Judah were the Northern and Southern kingdoms respectively. Note: Israel was also called Samaria. When Omri became king over Israel he bought a hill and built on it a city which he built Samaria after Shemer the man he bought the area from. (1 Kings 16:23-24)

Both Israel and Judah were taken in to captivity albeit at different times and by different invaders. The ten tribes of Israel was overrun by Assyria who took most people into captivity and resettled their lands with people from other parts of the empire “from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim” (2 Kings 17:24) The foreigners who obviously brought their pagan idols with them did not fear the LORD. They also intermarried with those Israelites that were still in and around Samaria. (Ezra 9:1-10:44; Nehemiah 13:23-28 ).

As David Guzik writes in his commentary

This shows that there was not only something special about the kingdom of Israel, but also something special about the land of Israel. God demanded to be feared among the people of the land, even if they came from other nations. [03]

But the Lord sent 'lions' among them which they supposed it was because they had not honored the God of that territory. Eventually the king of Assyria allowed one of the exiled priests to teach the settlers "the custom of the god of the land.

However, Israel had already rejected God's statutes, forsaken His commandments and made for themselves molten images, even two calves and an Asherah, worshiped all the host of heaven,  and served Baal.Therefore the priest brought back from exile was himself corrupt and did not tell the new inhabitants of the land that they must only worship the LORD God of Israel. So although they feared the Lord (because of the wild beasts) they didn't distance themselves from their gods whom the worshipped alongside the God of Israel (2 Kings17:29-41).

 In other words, not only did the Samaritans embrace a religion that was a mixture of Judaism and idolatry but the fact they had intermarried with the foreigners caused the monotheistic Jews to despise and avoid them.  

    Therefore the Samaritan woman *said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:9 NASB)

In 600 B.C. I  the southern kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon and its people were carried off into captivity. But, after the proscribed period of 70 years that the Lord had decreed they would be exiled for a remnant were allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem. However, the Samaritans (the people who now inhabited the former northern kingdom) vigorously opposed the repatriation and tried to undermine the attempt to reestablish the nation.

    Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the LORD God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' households, and said to them, "Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God; and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here."

    But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers' households of Israel said to them, "You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us." Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:1-5 NASB)

In spite of the irreconcilable difference between the two parties Jesus  preached the gospel to the Samaritans (John 4:6-26), and the apostles later followed His example,

    So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.  (Acts 8:25 NASB) {PLACE IN TEXT}


Continue On To Part III - The Gift Of Tongues in Corinthians - Disregarding Much of What Paul Said About The Gift of Tongues. How Important Were Tongues in The New Testament? Unknown Languages or Ecstatic Speech? Tongues of Angels? Inexpressible Words? Ignoring Matthew 6:7 - our prayers should be short and meaningful. HERE

End Notes

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

[02] ©2018 David Guzik https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/

[03] Enduring Word. David Guzik. 2 Kings 17-18 – The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.


Tongues - Introduction