Face To Face With Tongues

A Verse by Verse Examination and Exposition On the Subject of Tongues


Acts 19

  1. The Background.

    In Acts 18:24-28, we have the background necessary to understand the purpose of laying on of the hands and speaking in tongues or languages.  This section primarily includes five people and the idolatrous city of Ephesus where this manifestation took place. 

    Apollos, 18:24, was a Jewish man, born at Alexandria and had arrived at the "capitol city of sin, "Ephesus.  His knowledge of the Scriptures and the fact that Christ had been to the cross, resurrected, and ascended back to Heaven, was obscure.  The only thing he knew was the baptism of John the Baptist, 18:25.  When at Ephesus, he entered into the Jewish synagogues and began to teach the baptism of John.

    A Jewish man and wife, Aquilla and Priscilla, heard him and recognized immediately that his message was not complete.  They knew that John the Baptist's baptism was no longer valid, for the Messiah had already come and ascended back to Heaven.  They took Apollos aside and explained to him what had taken place since John's Baptism --the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit.  The new message was not baptism as an act of anticipation of Christ's coming; but, a personal act of faith (trust) in the realization that, through the cross, Christ had already come and made our payment for sin.

    Apollos accepted this and went into Achaia to Corinth, the capitol.  The brethren were assured that Apollos had accepted the new message of grace and wrote ahead telling the disciples to receive him.  When he arrived at Corinth, he now proclaimed a different message than the baptism of John the Baptist.  He was now proclaiming that Christ had come and the Jesus they had crucified was their (the Jew's) own Messiah.

"For he (Apollos) mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." (Acts 18:28)

Thus, this earthly Jesus was none other than Jehovah, Himself, Who had taken on human flesh, as the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Apollos had also the deeper truths concerning the Church Age, for he also helped those Christians who had already believed through grace (18:27).  He, no doubt, received these truths from Priscilla and Aquilla who had received their knowledge from the APOSTLE Paul.  Paul had met Priscilla and Aquilla in Corinth and stayed with them awhile, expounding the mysteries (the truths of the Church Age) at that city.  Remember, Paul was the APOSTLE to the Gentiles as Peter was to the Jews.  This is made clear in Galatians 2:7,8:

"But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles) was committed unto me (Paul) , as the gospel of the circumcision (Jews) was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)"

We have taken time to examine the circumstances and background before arriving at Ephesus with Paul.  The background illuminates two important facts that must be recognized before one can realize God's PURPOSE for the tongues (languages) that occurred at Ephesus. 

  1. We must first recognize the fact that the baptism of John the Baptist did not save anyone, just as the Baptism of Jesus Christ did not save Himself.  He was already perfect, thus His baptism was only an act of declaration, showing symbolically then what He was going to do in the future at the cross and resurrection.  This does not mean that all who were baptized of John the Baptists were lost.  If a person believed the message of John the Baptist; that is, that God was here in human flesh, the Messiah was to be crucified as the Perfect Sacrifice for the sins of the world, and rise the third day showing that God had accepted this Sacrifice as sufficient--he was saved.  The person by faith accepted the Messiah as the Crucified One.  He was baptized by John only as a testimony of his faith that, in the near future, Christ would make the permanent sacrifice on the cross to pay for sin.  That faith would follow Christ to the cross, the tomb, the resurrection, and His ascension with His promise to return.

    Those who were baptized of John, then rejected the Messiah, were never saved to begin with, they did not really believe John's message (John 3:35,36).  Just like today, people are sometimes baptized who have never trusted completely in the payment of Jesus Christ for their sin.  Are they saved?  No!  They may even be trusting in their baptism or something else.  Whosoever is trusting in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, for salvation is saved (John 6:47).  He, then, wants to be baptized as a testimony to all without of his faith within.

    The only difference between John the Baptist's preaching about faith and baptism and ours today is, John the Baptist's was pointing forward to the cross and ours is pointing backward at the cross.  John's message was that Christ was coming, and our message today is that He has come.  No one has ever been saved outside of faith, and faith alone, no matter which side of Calvary they are on!  Faith in the promise of His coming to die on one side of the cross; and now, faith in the fact that He has come and the payment for sin is complete.
  2. Second to be recognized is the authority of Paul's message and his apostleship.  Apostles had the power to perform miracles as authentication of their apostleship and message.  Paul, being the Apostle to the Gentiles and chosen of God to reveal the mysteries of the church, had to continually defend his right of apostleship.  This is evident from the writings of the New Testament, as we search the greetings that begin the 14 epistles which Paul authored.  He constantly reiterates, "Paul, an apostle."  We believe Paul is the author, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, of 14 of the 27 epistles, including the book of Hebrews. 

    Paul's message was new.  "There is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile) ... all are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit the same as the Jews, God had set aside dealing with Israel as a nation and was calling all, both Jew and Gentile, to believe on His name.  This new message needed authentication along with proof of his apostleship, especially among the Jews.  Paul had the same power to work miracles and do mighty signs and wonders as the other Apostles.  This he did, proving his message for the Church Age was that of God.  This must be kept in mind as we now come to the meeting which Paul encountered at Ephesus.
  1. The Meeting.

"And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.  And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism." (Acts 19:1-3)

"And all the men were about twelve." (Acts 19:7)

In Verse 1, these men were called "certain disciples"; but, this does not mean they were saved.  The word, "disciple," basically means "one that follows."  When used, the word does not always refer to a saved person.  Those that follow Mohammed are his disciples.  In the occult there are those who worship Satan and they are his disciples.  In John 9:28, the Jews claimed Christ was not of God and stated "...we are Moses' disciples."  Something caused Paul to inquire further about the salvation of these twelve, for he knew that all believers in Christ, from Pentecost to the Rapture, are now indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

"...Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Romans 8:9b)

Paul then asked them,

"...Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" (Acts 19:2a)

The Revised Standard Version has it correctly translated and reads, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?  and they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." ( Acts 19:2 RSV)

These men were not entirely honest in their answer, because John the Baptist did mention the baptism of the Holy Spirit when he baptized.  John remarked in Matthew,

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance...but he (Christ) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." (Matthew 3:11a,c)

These twelve men had just heard Apollos preach this, as in Acts 18:25 the Lord says Apollos, while in Ephesus,

"...taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John."

Since this Church Age had it's birthday at Pentecost, Christ gave us believers two ordinances to observe.  The first being to partake of Christ's baptism and the second being the Lord's supper.  John's baptism was no longer valid after the cross.  Those who were baptized of John the Baptist should have trusted that the Christ on the cross was Jesus, the Messiah.  They should have been baptized again in obedience to the new ordinance Christ gave for this new dispensation, the Church Age.  So...Paul asked them,

"Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism." (Acts 19:3)

Their testimony confirmed the fact that they were not saved; for, if they had been they would have been baptized unto Christ's baptism as a declaration of their faith that He had come as promised.  This leads us to the message in Verses 4 and 5.

  1. The Message. (Acts 19:4,5)

    Whatever caused Paul to sense these men were not saved proved vital to his intuition.  Paul now reminds these men of the meaning of John's baptism in Verse 4,

"Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should (future tense) believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." (Acts 19:4)

"Repent" means "a change of mind."  That is, do not be as the Scribes and Pharisees and hypocrites who mock at Jesus' claim to be the Messiah; but, change your mind and accept Him as Savior.  Remember, John said "...they should believe on Him which should come after him, ...Christ Jesus."  Paul proclaimed to these men, as he did everywhere, that Jesus was the Christ on the cross, that did come! (Acts 16:31; 17:3; 18:5)

It is important to believe the right message.  These men were like some who say, "Someday I will trust Christ as my Savior," but never do.  Or like many Jews who say, "I am looking for the Messiah," but reject the fact that He was here over 1900 years ago.  Believing the right message is the difference between eternal life and eternal Hell!

These men believed Paul's message that Christ was the Savior, crucified.  This is evident from Verse 5,

"When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:5)

Not unto John's baptism, but unto Christ's ordinance of baptism, in His name (Matthew 28:19).  These were not baptized to be saved; but because they were now saved by believing.  Paul never baptized any unbelievers.

In Acts 16:14,15, Paul baptized Lydia and her household after they had believed.  In Verses 30-33, he baptized the Philippians jailer and his household after they had heard the Word and believed.  These twelve had believed the Gospel (1st Corinthians 15:1-4), the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and were baptized as evidence of their faith in Christ.  This now brings us to the messenger.

  1. The Messenger (Acts 19:6)

"And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues (languages), and prophesied." (Acts 19:6)

Remember, God does not do things without a purpose, so there must be a reason why Paul laid his hands on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  As we have found from our study of the Scripture, the purpose of tongues in Acts 2 was to give evidence of the Messiah.  That is, that the Messiah had come to the cross and returned to Heaven, for the Holy Spirit would not come until He departed (John 16:7).  In Acts 10, we found the purpose of tongues was to give evidence to the Jews that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, the "like gift," the same as they.  In Acts 19:6 we are going to see that God's purpose for tongues (languages) was evidence to the truth of Paul's message and his authority as an apostle.

Christ performed works, or miracles, to prove His Messiahship.

"Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." (John 14:11)

He also gave the Apostles the power and right to perform works, or miracles, as proof that their message was of God. 

In Matthew 10:1-8, the Apostles were given this power by the Lord; but commanded to go only to the nation of Israel, telling them their Messiah was here, the Kingdom was at hand, and verifying their message was authentic by the sign miracles they performed. 

When the Jews rejected this message and crucified the Savior, He arose and returned to Heaven.  This ushered in a new dispensation, the Church Age.  Now God had chosen Paul to reveal the mysteries (that which had been kept secret before) to the church.  God had chosen Paul to be the Apostle to replace Judas.  Therefore, being an Apostle, he was given the power to perform signs and wonders as proof his message was authentic.

Even the other eleven Apostles did not accept God's choice of Paul to be the Apostle to replace Judas.  This is evident from Acts 1:23-26.  They chose two, then cast lots which singles out Matthias as their choice.  God rejected their choice as Matthias is not even mentioned in the rest of the Bible.  God made it clear that His choice of Paul as the Apostle to replace Judas would stand. 

Paul continually had to defend his right of apostleship, as seen in his writings.  The following quotes illustrate this:

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God." (Romans 1:1)

"Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God..." (1st Corinthians 1:1)

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth..." (2nd Corinthians 1:1)

"Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ..." (Galatians 1:1)

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus..." (Ephesians 1:1)

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God..." (Colossians 1:1)

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour..." (1st Timothy 1:1)

Remember, Peter's message in Acts 10 was authenticated by their speaking in tongues (languages).  Paul's message was the same as Peter's, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."  When these at Ephesus heard Paul's new message and believed, he laid his hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (languages).  This was God's proof that Paul's message was authentic.  Thus, it was the right message for the right age.  God, at His will, gave the tongues or languages as a sign that Paul's message was God's Word.

Then, are tongues needed as a sign today of God's message being true?  To this we answer, "No!"  These signs were necessary only until God's Word was put into writing.  If Paul could have pulled out a New Testament, he would have showed them God's written Word, the same as he told them orally.  They would have believed the written Word, inspired of God, without any additional proof--just as we do today.  Today, we judge if a man is of God by comparing his teaching to the Bible.  If his words agree with God's Word, then we can conclude he is speaking by the Holy Spirit and not by a false spirit.  These twelve men did not have the New Testament, as it was not yet completed, to use as a discernment of the validity of Paul's message.  Therefore, the sign of tongues and prophecy served as proof that they had heard and believed the right message.  The sign miracles given to the Apostles in Matthew 10 passed off the scene with the completion of God's Word in 96 A.D., with the book of Revelation (This will be discussed further in our section on 1st Corinthians 12:-14).

With God's written Word completed, we need no signs and wonders to prove God's Word is authentic.

"For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness." (1st Corinthians 1:22,23)

I pray that God's Word will be sufficient to you.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

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