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Dr. Walter D. Huyck Jr. D.Min.

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[In Acts chapter two we have seen the glorious giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have seen how the Holy Spirit moved in the Church to make them a witness to all nations and to cause them to minister to one another in love.  Now we must consider carefully the miraculous gift of tongues that accompanied the movement of the Holy Spirit within the early Church.  In addressing tongues we are dealing with one of the most widely debated issues facing the contemporary Church.  Hence, we will work diligently to discover what the Bible reveals about this incredible work of the Holy Spirit and how it applies to our Church and Christians today.] 

Of Tongues In The Bible We Discover, 

A.    The Purpose Of Tongues 

1.      To Proclaim The Message (vs 4, 6, 8, 11) [- And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. ]

[Acts 2:6 6 . . . every man heard them speak in his own language. ]

[Acts 2:8 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?]

[Acts 2:11 11 . . . we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. ]

[The Purpose of Tongues or the miraculous speaking in unlearned languages is revealed through the context of our passage.  This miraculous gift was given to aid the Church in fulfilling the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Lord Commanded,] 

[Acts 1:8 8 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. ]

[The gospel was to be proclaimed in every nation to all people and on this Day of Pentecost God reached out with the Gospel message as no one had ever reached out before.] 

[We note in our text that,] 

         [Every man heard, no one was excluded.  Likewise the salvation offered by our Lord Jesus Christ is to all people.] 

         [Every Language was spoken.  These tongues were clear dialects, or languages.] 

[Verse 11 of our text gives us the clearest definition of the intent of these spoken tongues or languages.  It states,] 

[Acts 2:11 11 . . . we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. ] 

2.      To Promote Repentance (vs 37-38, 41) [– When the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost there was the sound of the rushing mighty wind and the tongues of fire that descended upon the Church, but the people outside of the room where the Church was located did not take notice of any of those things.  What grabbed the attention of the crowd outside of the room where the Church was located?  It was the fact that the people of the Church began powerfully witnessing of Christ and God in every man’s native language.  It was the speaking of these tongues that drew attention and grew a large crowd for Peter to speak to that day. What was the end result of the tongues and Peter’s preaching?]] 

[Acts 2:37-38 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. ]

[Acts 2:41 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. ]

[God’s Goal in this New Testament Church Age is to bring the unbelieving to repentance and the New Birth found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.]

3.      To Pierce Through Prejudices (Acts 10.44-48; Acts 11.15-18; 1 Cor  14.21-22; Isa 28.11; Rom 11.11) [– Throughout the New Testament, when tongues are spoken it is used to confirm that the Holy Spirit had been given to new believers.  This does not mean that tongues was spoken every time someone was saved and received the Holy Spirit.  But when critical evidence was needed the Holy Spirit evidenced his presence.  At Pentecost the speaking of tongues evidenced the Holy Spirit empowering the newly indwelt Church.  At Cornelius’ house tongues were spoken to confirm that the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles .  The Bible reveals,] 

[Acts 10:44-48 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 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. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. ]

[When the Jewish Church Leaders doubted the conversion of these Gentiles the Bible states,] 

[Acts 11:1-4 1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. 4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, ]

[Acts 11:15-18 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.]

[This is a dynamic and important purpose of New Testament Tongues.  Paul wrote,] 

[1 Corinthians 14:21-22 21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: . . . ]

[In 1 Corinthians 14.21 Paul is quoting,] 

[Isaiah 28:11 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. ]

[Why would God speak to these Jews through tongues?  As an evidence that the Holy Spirit was given first to the Church at Pentecost, then to the Samaritans, then to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house?  The Bible says,] 

[Romans 11:11 11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. ]

[So that the Jews could never again say that Jehovah God belonged exclusively to the Jews.  God, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit had broken down the spiritual wall that separated the Jew from all other people.  Through the sign gift of tongues (1 Cor 14.22) God undeniably revealed that Salvation was given freely to all who would believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ.] 

[This sign gift of tongues would thereby stir up the Jews to Jealousy, as stated in Romans 11.11.  Why?  Because that which was once their s exclusively was now opened up to all races, every nation, and every ethnic group.  The Jewish people were no longer God’s exclusive people.] 

[Hence, through the sign of tongues God has broken down the source of the prejudices of the Jewish people.  When the Bible says,] 

[1 Corinthians 14:21-22 21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: . . . ]

[It means that tongues is a sign to those Jews who, through their religious prejudices, will try to deny that God will save and indwell those traditionally rejected by the Jews; the Gentiles.  It would be the proud Jews who would refuse to believe that salvation was given to all mankind, and that all through Christ now have open access to Jehovah God.  The Holy Spirit through the sign of tongues removed this false belief.] 

B.     The Problem With Tongues [– Clearly in our day we understand that there are problems with the contemporary tongues movement.  The tongues spoken in Churches in our day have become a source of division within Christianity as a whole.  But are these problems new to the Church?  And are these problems addressed in the Bible?  The problems we face today have been around as long as the Church of our Lord.  We find them clearly addressed in 1 Corinthians 14.  In our study we will diligently compare the Tongues of Pentecost with the Unknown Tongues of 1 Corinthians 14.] 

[In order to see the distinctive I am about to show you, you will need a King James Bible; for only in the King James Bible will you find the unknown tongues that I believe are essential to our understanding of biblical Tongues.  As you look at 1 Corinthians 14 you will find that in places the word Unknown appears in italics before the word tongues.  The fact that the word unknown is in italics means that the word was added by the translators for the sake of understanding, but the word was not in the original text.  You should notice that not every occurrence of the word tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 has this word unknown preceding it and this is equally significant.]  

[Some scholars would argue that this word unknown should not precede these occasions of the word tongues, for they feel there is no distinction between these words.  However, when I consider that the translators of the King James Bible were masters of the Biblical Greek language, because they memorized it all their lives, and read it in Greek every day of their lives, for they had no reliable English Bible in their day, I tend to trust their judgment more than I do modern scholarship in Biblical Greek.  As one digs into these linguistic distinctions one discovers that there are undeniable differences.]   

[Spiros Zodhiates notes,] 

[One observation only needs to be made.  In the three historical occurrences of speaking in tongues in Acts 2.4,6,8;10.46 and 19.6, these were dialects as specifically stated in Acts 2.6,8. or languages (heterai, 2087) other than the ones known by the speakers.  Also in Mk. 16.17; 1 Cor 12.10,28,30; 13.1,8; 14.5,6,18,22, when the word glossai is used in the plural with a singular pronoun, reference is made to ethnic languages.  When the word “tongue” is used in the singular, glossa as in 1 Cor 14.2,4,13,19,26,27, it refers to the Corinthian ecstatic utterance.  In 1Cor 14.9 it refers to the physical tongue of man, and in 1 Cor 14.23; being in the plural with a personal pronoun, it refers to the Corinthian ecstatic utterances.[1]] 

[While Spiros Zodhiates represents the distinction between tongues and unknown tongues well, He does not stand alone.  Many have noted these distinctions; notes at the end of this outline list some of these supporting references and comments. ]  

[To help us see the distinctions between the two types of Tongues lets do a simple comparison in the Bible.  After all, the Bible is the best commentary on the Bible. 


Unknown Tongues

Acts 2.4  – The Holy Spirit Spoke through them

1 Cor 14.26 – Every man speaks

Acts 2.6,8 – The Bystanders Understood

1 Cor 14.2,13-14 – No man understands, not even the speaker.

Acts  2.6 – Those hearing were unified

1 Cor 14.23 - Casued division.  The Church in Corinth was a divided church.

Acts 2.11 – God was glorified

1 Cor 14.26 – Edification is more important than tongues

Acts 2.14-36 – The gospel was preached

1 Cor 14.2 – A spiritual work between a man and God, but no earthly understanding.

Acts 2.37-38 – Many were saved

1 Cor 14.33 – Unknown Tongues causes confusion.

1 Cor 14.18 – Paul Spoke with tongues

1 Cor 14.19 – Paul did not speak in unknown tongues.

1 Cor 14.23 – Tongues can be confusing

1 Cor 14.13 – Unknown tongues are confusing to the speaker.

1 Cor 14.5 – Paul encourage the speaking of tongues for edification.

1 Cor 14.27-28 – Paul, in essence, ruled out speaking in unknown tongues

 [It is clear to me from this comparison that there is a distinct difference between the tongues of Acts and the Unknown Tongues of 1 Corinthians 14.  I am convinced that the tongues we see in churches today are the unknown tongues of 1 Corinthians 14 and, like Paul, I have no desire to experience them because I agree with Paul that they will cause confusion and division and benefit no one but those speaking in them.  Edification, understanding, and clarification are far more important than any unknown, mystic, spiritual language that no one can really understand.] 

C.    The Period of Tongues (1 Cor 13.8-10) [– By the period of tongues I mean the time frame of tongues and the end of the tongues of the Apostles.  Without any doubt what occurred at Pentecost and at other times in the history of the New Testament Church, as recorded in Acts, no longer occurs in our day.  Is God able to cause people to speak in languages they have never learned?  God is able to do anything He desires to do.  However, our missionaries today spend years learning the languages of the people groups they desire to serve.  We do not see the type of tongues spoken by the Apostle in our world today.  I believe that this is in fulfillment of,] 

[1 Corinthians 13:8-10 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.]

1.      A Distinction In Gifts

[Notice some important word distinctions in these verses,] 

[Fail, Vanish Away (vs 8)  Prophecies . . . shall fail; Knowledge . . . shall vanish away καταργηθήσονται (gk) -  from kat (2596), an intens., and argō (691), to be idle. To render inactive, idle, useless, ineffective, trans.[2] ] 

[Cease (vs 8)Tongues . . . cease παύσονται (Gk) - To stop, pause, make an end. Used chiefly in the mid. paomai, meaning to come to an end, take one’s rest, a willing cessation (Luke 5:4). . . . used in an absolute sense, to cease, come to an end (Luke 8:24; Acts 20:1; 1 Cor. 13:8; Sept.: Ex. 9:33, 34).[3] ] 

[There is a lot of debate about what that which is perfect refers to.   I simply believe that this refers to the coming kingdom of God, following the Rapture, and Tribulation Period when the perfect Kingdom of God is set up.  Then all prophecy, or proclaiming of the Word of God, and knowledge will fade away.  Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is with mankind and mankind will hear directly from Him.] 

[However, the word cease used in conjunction with tongues denotes a definite and distinct end.  It is not in the same category as prophecy and knowledge as a distinct word is used.  So when did tongues cease?  It ceased when the purpose for tongues ended.]  

2.      A Definitive End 

[Tongues, as we studied, was a sign used to provoke the Jews to jealousy by revealing that the Gentiles were accepted by God as indicated by their baptizing, and filling by the Holy Spirit.  In 70 AD Titus vanquished Jerusalem, dispersed the Jews, and destroyed the temple.  When the temple was destroyed in essence Titus removed the Jews access to God.  They no longer had a holy of holies to meet God in, and therefore Israel no longer had an exclusive claim to God.  Hence, there was no more need to try and convince the Jews that the gentiles had been accepted by God.  If the Jews would come to God, there is now only one approach to God, that is through the Lord Jesus Christ.] 



Notes on Unknown Tongues: 

From both these expressions must be carefully distinguished the simple phrase lalen glssiav, glssiav lalen, lalen glss, glss lalen (and prosecesqai glss, 1 Co. xiv.14) to speak with (in) a tongue (the organ of speech, to speak with tongues; this, as appears from 1 Co.xiv.7 sqq., is the gift of men who, rapt in an ecstasy and no longer quite master of their own reason and consciousness, pour forth their glowing spiritual emotions in strange utterances, rugged, dark, disconnected, quite unfitted to instruct or influence the mind of others: Acts x.46; xix.6; 1 Co. xii.30; xiii.1; xiv.2,4-6,18,23,27,39.[4] 

A special problem is posed by the t.t. glssai, gvh glwss (-aiv) lalen 1 Cor 14:1-27,39;12:10,28,30;13:1,8;Ac 10:22; 19:6.  Always without the article (in 1 Cor 14:22 a is anaphronic; vs. 9 belongs under mng. 1a). There is no doubt about the thing referred to, namely the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy.[5] 

In this inspired utterance the nov is swallowed up (14:14,19), so that the mysterious words, obscure both to the speaker and to the hearers, are spoken in a void (14:2,911,15 f.).  There is an unarticulated sound as of an instrument played with no clear differentiation of notes (14:7 f.). . . . In Corinth, therefore, glossolalia is an unintelligible ecstatic utterance.  One of its forms of expression is a muttering of words or sounds without interconnection or meaning.[6] 

Leon Morris in commenting on 1 Corinthians 14.2 writes, “No man understandeth him makes it plain that the gift spoken of here is different from that in Acts ii, where all men understood.”[7]  Bringing to light the tendency for many to view the tongues spoken of in Acts as a different type of tongues than that spoken of in 1 Corinthians 14.  It appears that the intelligibility of the tongue spoken is the main reason for the differentiation between the various accounts. 

Wayne Grudem takes another approach to the study of the distinctive types of tongues found in the Bible.  He studies the plain literary context of the most controversial passages in this debate.  He notes that in Acts chapter two we see the disciples speaking in tongues at Pentecost and those present from varying countries heard them speaking in their own languages, and specifically notes that the passage states these languages were unknown to those speaking in them.  Grudem then compares the occurrence recorded in Acts chapter two to Paul’s discourse concerning tongues in First Corinthians fourteen.  Grudem stresses that the fact that tongues were spoken in a known language in the acts passage does not indicate that this is always so, for Paul is clear when he says that “no one” will understand the one speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:2,16).  Grudem writes, “Sometimes this gift may result in speaking in a human language that the speaker has not learned, but ordinarily it seems that it will involve speech in a language that no one understands, whether that be a human language or not.”[8]  Hence, the distinction between the tongues recorded in Acts and the tongues recorded in 1 Corinthians 14.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, (Chattanooga, AMG Publishers, 1984) pg1405 

[2]Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G2673). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[3]Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G3973). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[4] Grimm Wilke, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm's Wilke's Clavis Novi Testmenti, trans. Joseph Henry Thayer (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892), 118.

[5] William F. Ardt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 161.

[6] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittle, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), 722.

[7] Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (London: The Tyndale Press, 1958), 191.

[8] Wayne Grudem, Sytematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 1072.

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