Face To Face With Tongues

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


Acts 2

  1. Time of the Holy Spirit's Coming Defined.

    In examining the speaking in tongues in this chapter, we find that it took place on the Day of Pentecost.  There were three feasts that Jewish men were required to observe in Jerusalem, each once a year.  They were: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (called Passover), the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Pentecost.

    Pentecost literally means "fifty" and was to be celebrated fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits.  This was fulfilled by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In 1st Corinthians 15:20 we read...

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."

Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks as we read in Deuteronomy 16:16,

"Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty."

Since Pentecost came 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits, it was on this day, as promised by the Lord, that the Holy Spirit would come and a new dispensation would begin.  Christ had told them to wait at Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came,

"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me." (Acts 1:4)

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." (Acts 2:1)

The Holy Spirit had been promised to come after Christ returned to heaven.

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:16-17)

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26)

"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me..." (John 15:26)

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (John 16:7)

"Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen." (Acts 1:2)

Christ's last instructions to His Apostles were:

"And, behold, I send the promise (Holy Spirit) of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)

"For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be BAPTIZED with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." (Acts 1:5)

Israel, nationally, had rejected Christ as the Messiah (John 1:11), and the Church Age was about to be ushered in with it's "birthday" on Pentecost.  In Acts 1:4, Christ commanded "...them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father."

Notice carefully that those which were baptized and filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit spoke with other tongues (languages).  But, this was not the result of ASKING, PRAYING, SEEKING, or BEGGING for the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came at the appointed time to fulfill God's promise; that, after Christ ascended back to Heaven, He (Christ) would not leave them comfortless (John 14:17,18).

Remember, the Feast of Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits.  Christ fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits when He arose from the grave (1st Corinthians 15:20,23).  He then walked forty days with them (Acts 1:3) before ascending back to Heaven (Acts 1:9).  They were to receive the Holy Spirit as PROMISED.  The Holy Spirit would not have come any sooner or later; but, only at the APPOINTED TIME, set by God.  The Holy Spirit was not the object of man's will by PRAYING, BEGGING, or SEEKING; but, the object of God's will by PROMISE.

  1. Tongues Defined.

    In Acts 2, the words, "tongue" and "tongues," come from two Greek words.  In 2:8 the word, "tongue," is from the Greek word, "dialektos," and means "dialect or language."  In Chapter 2, Verses 3, 4, and 11, the Greek word for "tongues" is "glossa" and also means "a language."

In acts 2:4 we are told,

"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues (languages)..."

These were not ecstatic utterances of "jibber-jabber"; but, actual, known languages.  At the celebration of Pentecost "...there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, men, out of every nation under Heaven" (Acts 2:5).  In Chapter 2:9-11 we are told that different nationalities and languages were represented by the "...Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians..."  The proof that these tongues were known languages is the fact that, "...every man heard them speak in his own language" (Acts 2:6).  "And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" (Acts 2:8).

Pentecostalism and most tongues advocates claim Acts, Chapter Two, to validate their "jibber-jabber" and ecstatic sounds as true experience of speaking in tongues.  One can easily see, by comparison, that tongues advocates today are not exercising the same manifestations of the Spirit as did those on Pentecost.  Of the various Pentecostal meetings I have attended, most all end up with every one standing, hands raised, and various individuals supposedly talking in tongues at the same time.

If the tongues movement is motivated by, and their experience is that of the Holy Spirit, then they will coincide in every respect with the manifestations of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  When God does something, there is a purpose behind it.

Therefore, tongues were for a purpose:

  1. To show that those speaking were speaking by the controlled power of the Holy Spirit.
  2. To show that the Holy Spirit had come as promised.
  3. As evidence that their Messiah had already come and ascended back to Heaven (John 16:7).
  4. To show that a miracle by God had taken place.  It is certainly a miracle when a person can speak and many nationalities understand, each in their own language at the same time.

If those today claim their gift of tongues is that of Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost; then, why does not every one of every nationality understand?  One may contend there are not various language-speaking people in the local congregation; therefore, we do not see the manifestation of the gift.  On the Day of Pentecost, Greek was the commonplace language, and God says that each understood in their own language (Acts 2:6,8,11), including those who only knew Greek

At one meeting I attended, I did not see any foreign language-speaking people; but, when they began to speak in so-called "tongues," I did not understand a word they were saying.  If this had been the same working of the Spirit as that on the Day of Pentecost, then I would have understood in English also.  When we have in our congregation those speaking only English, there is no need for this miracle.  Why not just speak God's Word and praise the Lord by testimonies in the ENGLISH LANGUAGE with words EASY TO BE UNDERSTOOD (1st Corinthians 14:9).

There are four reasons the tongues of today cannot be that of Pentecost:

  1. Wrong Motive.  The languages spoken on Pentecost were spoken for God's glory.  You do not find in Acts 2 where any of those that spoke in tongues (languages) ever used this to judge the spirituality of other persons or themselves.  Tongues advocates claim this for their glory as a sign of their mature spirituality.  Yes, they say it comes from God--praising Jesus!  But, in reality, they glory in their own manifestation of speaking in tongues as "evidence" of the Spirit's working in them.
  2. Wrong Purpose.  On the Day of Pentecost, God wanted His Word preached so that all would understand, regardless of nationality.  That was God's purpose and He accomplished it.  Is this the purpose of tongues speakers today?  If so, why do they not go to the foreign fields with God's Word, and not waste time training in the language schools.  If they want all nations to hear, as the Lord did, why are they not preaching in tongues to the various nationalities abroad? (I understand those who actually try this are soon home again!).  No, their purpose is not that of the Lord's, nor do their activities match what took place on Pentecost. 
  3. Wrong Manifestation.  Of all the nationalities present on the Day of Pentecost, each one understood.  I have never been in a tongues meeting yet where anybody understood, let alone those speaking a foreign language.  Something is wrong.  The problem: It is not the same thing that took place on the Day of Pentecost.
  4. Wrong Spirit.  It is either the Spirit of the Lord or the spirit of the Anti-Christ.  You may say, "This is too narrow-minded."  Do you remember what the Lord told the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:15,16...

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."

In 1st John 4:1 we are told to...

"...believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

If what is being done in the name of the Holy Spirit coincides with the working of the Holy Spirit as portrayed in the Bible, then I can be sure it is of the Holy Spirit!  If it does not coincide, then we can rest assured that the working is that of a foreign spirit trying to counterfeit the working of the Holy Spirit.

God told Isaiah to warn Israel about going after familiar spirits...

"And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?"

The "familiar spirits" were those doing things by some spirit other than the Holy Spirit.  Wizards that "peep and mutter" is actually "to chirp faintly, by ventriloquism."  The soothsayers caused a low sound to proceed as from a grave or a dead person.  They were the mediums of today.

In Verse 20, God tells us how we can tell the True Spirit from a false, or counterfeit spirit.  Remember, speaking in tongues is today accredited to the Holy Spirit, yet the true manifestations of the Holt Spirit do not coincide with the tongues speakers' activities, motives, or purposes.  Thank God for the Bible, His Word, to which we can go to find the truth.  This is exactly what God tells us to do in Isaiah 8:20,

"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."

The Word of God is the Final Authority to determine the true from the false.

"It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man." (Psalm 118:8)

  1. The Two Workings of the Holy Spirit Defined.
  1. The Holy Spirit's Baptism.  There are several baptisms mentioned in the Word of God.  To imply that baptism is always water baptism or always Spirit baptism would not be "rightly dividing the Word."  In each case, the proper interpretation may be found by reading the whole context and letting other passages shed light on it.  For example, let us look at three:
  1. Baptized unto Moses.

    " Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;" (1st Corinthians 10:1,2)

    This has to do with Israel's deliverance from Egypt, as Christ has delivered us from the bondage of the law.  "Baptism" means "to dip in, plunge under, put into"; and is used descriptively of passing through the Red Sea.  Israel, God's chosen people, was dipped into and put under the protective care of God.  He divided the Red Sea, providing a highway for Israel and a graveyard for the Egyptians.  The cloud was shining on one side to light the way for Israel, while dark on the other side to protect them from their enemies.
  2. Baptism for the Dead.

"Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (1st Corinthians 15:29)

The whole chapter is written in military terms, for in Verse 23 it says, "every man in his own order."  This is speaking of the Resurrection when all the dead pass in review, just like a great army passes for inspection.  In battle, when those in the front lines die, their gap is filled by those following behind.  The picture is the same with the Lord's army; which is pitted against it's archenemy, the Devil.  God's front line soldiers of the faith, that have fallen in battle, leave a gap to be filled by those following; thus, they have been baptized and will fill the places left vacant by dead Christian. (N.T. Survey by Cambron).

  1. Christ's Baptism.

    "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?  But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:49,50)

    This was Christ's baptism on the cross.  In Luke 3:21, Jesus had already been water baptized for the purpose of showing, symbolically, His death, burial, and resurrection (Also see Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11).  In Luke 12:49-50, Christ refers to the cross as a baptism.  He plunged Himself in the sinner's place, suffering the wrath of God for all mankind.

The Holy Spirit baptism is that by which each believer is placed into the spiritual Body of Christ.  In Ephesians 1:22,23 we are told,

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.  Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."

The church is not any denominational organization; but an organism, composed of all born-again believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation.

The Body of Christ is also referred to as the Bride of Christ in Ephesians 5:23-32 and as a Building in Ephesians 2:19-21,

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord."

A foundation is always laid first.  The Apostles and New Testament prophets were the first to trust the Lord and transmit the gospel.  In 1st Peter 2:5 we read,

"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

The Body of Christ is further elaborated upon,

"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Romans 12:4,5)

"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1st Corinthians 12:13)

When a person trusts Christ as his Savior, the Holy Spirit baptizes that person into the spiritual Body of Christ.  Some say we are not a member of the Body of Christ until we are water baptized, then we have put on Christ.  To settle this, all one has to do is take God at His Word, instead of what some read into His Word.  Notice carefully, the Holy Spirit is the Baptizer, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body..."  The Baptizer is not a minister or a body of water.

"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:27)

Again, God's Word speaks for Itself.  We are not baptized into water, but into Christ.  This also means that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not into tongues!

In Galatians 3:26 we are told how we become a child of God,

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

" But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:12)

If Galatians 3:27 is referring to water baptism, we then have a contradiction in God's Word.  John 1:12 says we become HIS CHILD when we receive Christ as Savior, in perfect harmony with Galatians 3:26.  Galatians 3:27 tells us how we are placed into the SPIRITUAL BODY of Christ, also known as the Bride, the Building, or the One New Man.

Remember, the details of the Church Age were not known in the Old testament, but revealed after Pentecost.  This is why you find the great doctrines of the Church in the Epistles of Paul, written after Pentecost to the various churches.  The Church Age and the working of the Holy Spirit in baptizing all believers into His Body was a mystery before Pentecost.  A "mystery" is "a truth revealed at the proper time."  The mystery of the Church Age, the age in which we now live, (with it's beginning at Pentecost and it's end at the Rapture, and the doctrine and workings of the Holy Spirit) were all revealed at the proper time.  As Paul says...

"Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power." (Ephesians 3:7)

"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).  Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and (New Testament) prophets by the Spirit." (Ephesians 3:2-5)

This is why Galatians 3:27 gives the added information about all believers being baptized, spiritually, into Christ's Body.  Also, this is why the Apostle John did not mention this.  He had no knowledge of this particular working of the Holy Spirit.  He did not know the Holy Spirit would indwell all believers, permanently, after Christ returned to Heaven (John 16:7 and 14:16,17).  He, perhaps, assumed that the Holy Spirit would indwell at times of needed special strength, departing later, as He had always done during the Dispensation of Law.  He did know that faith--and faith alone--makes one a child of God (John 1:12).  He did not know that at salvation, the Holy Spirit would indwell each believer permanently and simultaneously place that person into the spiritual body of Christ.  This is the Holy Spirit's baptism and is universal of all believers in Christ.

In Acts 1:5, Luke records that,

"...ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."

At Pentecost, not only those believers in Jerusalem were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and baptized into Christ's Body, but all believers everywhere in the world.  The Church Age had it's "birthday" on Pentecost and every Christian from then until the Rapture has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Romans 8:9)

The speaking of tongues was not the result of being baptized by the Spirit, but the result of being filled (controlled) by the Spirit.

"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues ("glossa" -languages), as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4)

There is a vast difference between the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit, a topic we shall deal with next.

  1. The Holy Spirit's Filling (or Controlling).

    The late R.A. Torrey, noted Bible scholar and expositor, recognized the utmost importance in distinguishing between the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit.  In later years he made the statement that "he was sorry that in his writings he had not clarified the difference between baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit, and regretted the confusion it had caused."

    As we have noted, we are nowhere commanded in Scripture to be baptized with (or in) the Holy Spirit.  It is simultaneous with salvation.  We are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)

To be filled with the Spirit literally means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.  This is evidenced by the Verse, Itself.  Notice the comparison that is used.  When one drinks in excess, he becomes drunk.  When one is drunk, he is not in control of his actions.  The influence of the wine controls his actions.  So it is with the Holy Spirit, and God commands us to be controlled by the influence of the Spirit.

When one believes in Christ, they receive all of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is not dealt out by measure.  This is not to be confused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit may provide gifts and talents to each individual as He wills to.

"But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (1st Corinthians 12:11)

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." (1st Corinthians 12:4)

"But covet earnestly the best gifts..." (1st Corinthians 12:31a)

Someone may have the gift of singing, then they are to pursue that gift to the fullest of God's glory.  Another man may be lacking in the vocal area, but have a gift to teach.  They should pursue their best abilities for the Lord, as these are the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

As we have noted, to be filled by the Holy Spirit is to be controlled or dominated by the Holy Spirit.  One does not have to pray to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, but must yield himself to the will of God.  A Christian never has to pray for God's will if God has already revealed His will in His Word.

A person once expressed to me that he would pray to find out whether God wanted him to go to church.  God will never give an answer to a prayer that contradicts His Word. 

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is..." (Hebrews 10:24,25a)

God will not answer a prayer, "No!", in respect to attending church, when He has already commanded us to "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together."  Since we are commanded to be filled (or controlled by) the Holy Spirit, we never have to pray for it.  It now becomes a matter of obedience and yieldedness.  It is not a matter of getting more of the Holy Spirit; but, of yielding more of ourselves for the Holy Spirit's use!

When we are saved we get a new nature, in the person of the Holy Spirit, Who indwells each believer permanently.  We still have the old nature which seeks to control our lives. 

"This I say then, Walk (controlled by) in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Galatians 5:16,17)

In Romans it is reinforced that we have two natures, one against the other, and are admonished to yield to the new nature--the Holy Spirit.

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." (Romans 6:11-12)

Some "holiness" groups teach that, when we are saved, our old nature is eradicated.  As we can see, this is not so.  How could we be able to "reckon ourselves dead to sin," if it were not present with us?  In Verse 12 we are told not to "let sin reign in our bodies"; i.e., "take up residence in our daily lives."  These groups say Paul was not saved yet; but, Paul said in Romans 7:22,

"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man."

No lost person delights in the law of God, only a saved person (with the "inward man") does this.  Yes, Paul was saved when he wrote this!

When we yield to the Holy Spirit, we are controlled by the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit will prevail.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22,23)

When a Christian is filled, or controlled by, the Holy Spirit, they are sending ahead their works for which they will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ. 

"If any man's (Christian only) work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward." (1st Corinthians 3:14)

If a Christian yields to the old nature, his works may parallel that of a non-Christian and at the Judgment Seat ("Bema Stand") of Christ, he will suffer loss of rewards, but not loss of salvation.

"If any man's (Christian only) work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1st Corinthians 3:15)

One may be controlled consistently by the Holy Spirit, which is God's will.  Let me ask you, "Who has been controlling your life?  The Holy Spirit or the old nature?  Are you storing up works that will be burned or works that will receive a reward at the judgment Seat of Christ?"


Baptism of the Holy Spirit Filling of the Holy Spirit
Builds the Body of Christ Builds the Believer
Once and for all Many fillings
Is our standing Is our state
Depends on God's faithfulness Depends on our faithfulness
Is a relationship Is fellowship
Is our position Is our power
Never commanded Is commanded
Is external Is internal

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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

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