The Gift of Tongues
A sermon manuscript on Acts 2:1–4 by Brian Mann
The sermon using this manuscript was preached on this date Sunday, August 14, 2022 and is available at sermonaudio here.
In the beginning of human history Adam and Eve were given rule over creation, yet their kingdom was taken by Satan, as they willingly gave it up. This ultimately led to a time that mankind sought to reconstruct their own kingdom by arms of flesh, but in order to protect them, God scattered them. It would only be what Jesus did that could restore the kingdom to mankind. And it will have to be led by a man who is also God. As a result of our ascended conquering Lord, the gift of tongues was caused by the Spirit of God coming from heaven to reconstruct the kingdom of God on earth.
I. The Gift of Tongues Was Caused by the Spirit
The Spirit writes
“And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (v.3–4).
John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).
The word “divided” speaks of the individual allotment or distribution (cf. 1:26; Matt. 27:35) to those present including all of the 120 not excluding women (1:14) and the young sons and daughters (2:17). The simile of fire is metaphorical for judgment. The Spirit writes in Isaiah 5:24,
“Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as the dry grass sinks down in the flame…”
Therefore, if those upon whom the Spirit rested here were not spared of God they would have been destroyed. They are like a burning bush here with fire upon them yet not being consumed! Nor are they themselves fearful! It is a sign of judgment, not on them, but through them. This fire that heaven causes represents the light the apostles should impart, the purity, holiness, and zeal with which they shall preach the gospel, and the extent and power for which this shall spread throughout the entire world and prevail over all errors! (cf. Matthew Poole).
The Spirit writes in v.4,
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
The gift here was given to “all” not just the apostles. Their ‘beginning’ to speak in other tongues indicates that there is more to come of this sort of thing in regards to this testimony to the world (Matthew 24:14). “Other tongues” means they spoke a language that was not their own. This fulfilled the words of Mark 16:17 which read,
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues.”
But what is perhaps most vital here are the words “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The word “utterance” αποθεγγεσθαι means a remarkable and pithy speaking. In other words, this is a miracle; and like any other miracle it proves the supernatural source was from God and heaven, not man and earth. Babel is here being undone, and Babylon is foreseen to be destroyed. The Kingdom is being reconstructed. Only the Spirit of God could do this. He is the cause of this sign miracle called the gift of tongues.
II. Coming Down From Heaven
The Spirit writes in v. 2
“And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”
The main word here is “sound” which is metaphorical for God’s fame translated by the same writer Luke as “report” in Luke 4:37. This sound or report is said to come “from heaven.” The whole phrase “a report/sound from heaven” is modified by several other descriptions. First, “suddenly” which also occurs in 16:26 speaking of a sudden earthquake. Second, a simile using the word “like.” The sound was “like a mighty rushing wind.” The word “mighty” here speaks of a violent and judging force of wind like that of the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14:21. The word “rushing” is descriptive of God bearing something or carrying it. It is descriptive of an involuntary motion caused by a superior power (NT Word Study Dictionary). Isaiah 59:19 predicted that,
“So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD.”
The description here of this sound is a description of “a powerful tempestuous commotion of air from an extraordinary cause” in Latin “advenientis spiritus vehementis”(J.A. Alexander, 42). The point here being this was a fearful event that was attached to the holiness and justice of God. This is further stressed in v.2b
“and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”
The house they were in was likely the same mentioned in 1:1, 13, the Upper Room on Mount Olivet. At the end of Exodus the glory of the LORD fills the temple so no one can enter, but here, the Spirit of God fills the house with everyone in it! Before the glory of God was unable to be with man, but now the glory of God is with man.
When Jesus came down to earth from heaven, he did so in becoming a human being. His resurrection and ascension made it possible for God to dwell with man forever. The source or location from where this manifest sign of the reconstruction of his kingdom is heaven itself. This did not come from man or earth, but from God and heaven.
III. To Reconstruct God’s Kingdom On Earth
The Spirit writes here
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.”
This day is called by Greeks “Pentecost” is the second of three yearly festivals called by Jews “The Feast of Weeks” (the first being Passover and the third Booths). The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost was established clearly in Exodus 34 where Moses makes new tablets, where God descends and proclaims his Name, and the covenant was renewed. Exodus 34:22–24a says,
“You shall keep the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders…”
Thus, the forming of the church on Pentecost took place corresponding to conquest. The eschatological anticipation of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks relating to harvest was the reconstruction of God’s Kingdom on earth. It ushered in the last days of a superior conquest to that of Israel. Israel was sent forth to take the land of Canaan, but the Church is sent forth to take the world, proclaiming the kingdom of God.
The word “arrived” in the text further confirmed this anticipation as the original reads more clearly “fulfilled” or “fulfilled completely.” The word (συνπληρονσθαι) is an intensification of the word translated “filled” (πλερο) in v.2 and v.3, and is portrayed where the disciples boat was filling with water (Luke 8:23; Mark 4:37). Then the disciples were full of fear, but there the disciples are full of faith. God’s Spirit coming down on Pentecost was fulfilling, or coming to fill the world with God’s glory! The Spirit began this great sign of reconstructing the Kingdom of God on earth by doing what these men clearly could not do on their own.