Acts 2:4 - “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.The born again Spirit-filled Christian has a desire to share Jesus and the gospel. But that desire is often outweighed or countered by a fear of sharing. This fear may be due to pride and peer pressure. It may be due to a concern to say the right thing. It may be due to a fear of not representing the Lord adequately or appropriately. And there are those who fear they will not be able to answer someone’s question or show a solution to anther’s life problem.
We need the empowering and enabling of the Holy Spirit in order to effectively share the word of God. Jesus said the Spirit would give us an appropriate and effective response to opponents (Mat. 10:20). The enemies of the gospel realized the disciples had no formal education (Acts 4:13). Paul would later write that God purposely uses those the world sees as inadequate in order to reveal His presence (1 Cor. 1:18-31). His power is perfected in human weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10). That is the way God works. When we are weak, we are therefore actually strong in Him! And that strength and boldness to speak of God comes from the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit comes He enables us to speak boldly and effectively for the Lord (Acts 4:31).
The baptism with the Holy Spirit here is described by the words, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . .” Prepositions are used to describe the Holy Spirit “with” a person prior to conversion, “in” a person at conversion (John 14:16) and that He comes “upon” a person at the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). In Acts and elsewhere the word “filled” is used as a general term to describe an experience with the Holy Spirit. The context of a passage determines whether the use of the word “filled” refers to the initial born again conversion infilling by the Spirit or the subsequent coming upon of the Spirit to empower the believer for ministry.
Oftentimes we are guilty of missing the forest for the trees. We are taken aback, confused and consumed with the speaking of tongues we find here. But the more fundamental truth of importance is that when the Spirit comes upon us He brings supernatural communication. It is the Holy Spirit that breaks through the language barriers that so often hinder communication. The Spirit cuts through cultural, financial, racial and any other barrier that might be a hindrance to communicating the truth of the gospel and God’s word. When we speak in the power of the Holy Spirit the Spirit speaks through us.
The miracle of the Spirit here is a miracle of communication. It is attested to by the phrases, “everyone heard them speak in his own language. . . . we hear, each in our own language in which we were born” (Acts 2:6-8). The Holy Spirit enabled the listeners to understand what was being said. This is God drawing unsaved people to Himself (e.g. John 6:44). This is grace in action. This is grace in outreach. This is God’s grace preveniently going before and enabling sinners to “hear” the gospel. People are saved by God’s grace (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Without God’s grace people would not be able to understand the gospel. God gives every person a chance to respond to the gospel. A person can reject or receive that gospel opportunity.
What was it that was being said? It states, “we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Very clearly they heard praises directed toward God. It was as though the Holy Spirit allowed the onlookers to overhear the disciples praising God. They were praising God for His faithfulness. They were praising God for the baptism with the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit, through the gift of tongues given to those who were baptized with the Holy Spirit, enabled the unsaved to hear praises offered to God. But when it came time to preach or teach the word of God Peter spoke clearly to the crowd. Communication is a two-way street. Communication occurs when two parties connect. Communication takes place when both speaking and listening with responsiveness occurs.
At Pentecost when the Spirit came upon the believers the Spirit enhanced the communication between God and the people by gifting the believers with tongues as a means to praise God. The spiritual gift of tongues is a spiritual gift that has been much abused and much maligned. To most the gift of tongues seems mysterious at best. This is caused when tongues are viewed predominantly on the basis of experience apart from the biblical teaching about it. Tongues speaking is a spiritual gift given to people by the Spirit that is valid for today. In order for it to be the blessing it was intended to be it must be sought and used in accord with what the Lord has revealed about it in His word.
It’s interesting that of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, just 7 chapters contain a mention of tongues (Isaiah 28:11; Mark 16:17; Acts 2:1-13; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12 and 14). Some view tongues as the sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. However, there is evidence that tongues is not the exclusive sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. For instance when the Holy Spirit came upon the Ephesian disciples they “spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). Two gifts are mentioned here. The topic of tongues has been a source of much controversy. We should not overemphasize tongues. We should not ignore tongues. We should study it and come to a scriptural conclusion about tongues.
The spiritual gift of tongues is a prayer enhancement. It enables a person to prayerfully praise God. God does not use tongues to speak to people or “give a word.” Any word given through spiritual gifting would involve the gift of knowledge, wisdom, prophecy, evangelism or teaching (cf. 1 Co. 12 and 14; Romans 12). Tongues is an intimate enablement to, by the Spirit, direct loving praises to God. Tongues enables us to speak love and praise to our Abba Father in heaven. It’s a wonderful gift that helps us express our love to God. “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God” (1 Cor. 14:2a).
Speaking in tongues edifies the tongue speaker (1 Cor. 14:4). But it does not necessarily edify the person who is within earshot of the spoken tongue. This is because the tongue language spoken is not readily understandable. Paul says of tongues heard by others, “for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Cor. 14:2b). The only way tongues can be edifying to others is if someone with the gift of interpretation of tongues interprets what is spoken in a tongue.
In a congregational setting Paul limits speaking in tongues to “two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret” (1 Cor. 14:27-28). This is an area where churches have most frequently crossed the line. There are churches where the entire congregation is invited to speak in tongues. Frequently there is no interpretation. The result is chaos. To this we cite scripture which states, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. . . . Let all things be cone decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:33, 40). This is the scripturally God-ordained pattern of the use of tongues in the church.
The other extreme that is just as unscriptural is forbidding the speaking of tongues or denying its validity for today. Paul says, “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39). There is a setting for tongues to be spoken. Tongues should not be spoken in a disorderly way where the gifted teaching or preaching of the word of God is interrupted. But there should be an opportunity for tongues to be spoken; perhaps in afterglow services. Privately, like Paul, we can “speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Cor. 14:18). Paul’s qualifier is, “yet in church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, then ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19).
The important point in all of this is that the Holy Spirit enables us to communicate when He comes upon us. If we were going to point to one particular evidence of the Spirit’s power in our speaking it would have to be God’s truth spoken in love (Eph. 4:15). When the Spirit enters our lives God’s love is poured out into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). That love compels us to reach out to the lost. That love gives us a servant’s heart. That love moves us to be God’s ambassadors calling the unsaved to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:14-21). That is what underlies the world changing, world impacting, and world reaching ministry in Acts. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). That is powerful. That is what we need today. When the Spirit comes He will revive the church. And that revival will manifest itself in praise to God and God’s truth spoken in love to the lost. O come Holy Spirit we need You! Come in Your glorious power!