Face To Face With Tongues

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


Acts 10

  1. Preparation of Peter.

    We would encourage you to read this chapter completely through to familiarize yourself with the entire course of events preceding the speaking in tongues in Verse 46.

In Chapter 10 we find Cornelius, a Gentile, a religious person, praying to God always and giving away much money to the poor.  Cornelius was religious, but lost--sincerely lost, without the truth!  Cornelius wanted to know the truth (John 14:6), so God made provision for Cornelius to have the truth.  Remember John 7:17,

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

God was fulfilling His Word.  An angel instructed Cornelius to send men to the house of Simon, the tanner at Joppa, and ask for a man named Peter.  He obeyed and sent two servants and a soldier.  When the men arrived at Joppa, Peter had gone on the housetop to pray.  Peter, you will recall, was a devout Jew.  To the Jew the Law had been given with it's many restrictions, including the dietary restrictions, prohibiting the eating of certain foods and animals that were classified as unclean.  The Jews also considered the Gentiles as the "Goy" ("dogs"), or unclean.

The Law, with It's ceremonial, civil, and moral ordinances was perfect.  It revealed to Israel their need of a Saviour.  The blood of the sacrifice was a covering for sin (an atonement) until the perfect Sacrifice, the blood of Jesus Christ shed on Calvary, took away sins.  Then the Law was abolished...

"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." (Romans 10:4)

Peter knew this, but was like so many Christians today.  In God's eyes, they are positioned in Heaven (Ephesians 2:6) and placed into the Body of Christ (1st Corinthians 12:13) the moment they believe in Jesus Christ (John 6:47).  However, not all of the worldly habits are taken out of them.  Peter was saved and he knew Christ "was the end of the law"; but not all of the Law was taken out of Peter.  While Peter was on the housetop...

"...he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.  And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.  But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.  And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.  This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven." (Acts 10:10b-16)

The Jews considered themselves superior, since unto them were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:2).  The Gentiles became Jewish proselytes and were baptized into the Jewish faith, thus identifying themselves with the Jewish faith.  Since the Jewish nation had rejected the Messiah, the glorious Kingdom reign was postponed and a new dispensation ushered in.

In this dispensation of Grace, also known as the Church Age, the Law is not in effect.  Christ is the end of the Law; therefore, Gentiles do not have to be baptized into the Jewish religion and partake of its ordinances.  God looks upon Jews and Gentiles as equal,

"There is neither Jew nor Greek... for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28a,c)

"What then? are we (Jews) better than they (Gentiles)? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin." (Romans 3:9)

This is one of the lessons God was teaching Peter.  Peter, himself, testified to this when he said,

"...but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:28c)

Then God instructed Peter to go to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, and present the Gospel.

God was preparing Peter in three different areas:

  1. Dispensational.  God was taking the Law out of Peter.
  2. Divisional.  God was showing Peter there was no division between Jews and Gentiles, but all were one in Jesus Christ.
  3. Doctrinal.  God was showing Peter the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit the same way the Jews did (Acts 10:45).

Knowing the Jews would hesitate to put away the Law, accept the Gentiles as equals, and believe the Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit, is an essential background to understanding the purpose for the Gentiles speaking in tongues as set forth in Acts 10.

  1. Performance of Peter.

    We view Peter's performance in three different areas:
  1. Obedience of Peter.  Peter is now traveling from Joppa to Caesarea, the home of Cornelius, a Gentile.  Peter was to take the Gospel to a lost Gentile and was performing what God had previously prepared him for.  Peter knew the truth and declared the Gospel to all that were present there.  Peter testified,

"And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." (Acts 10:39-41)

At the close of Peter's sermon the invitation was clear...

"To him (Christ) give all the prophets witness, that through his (Christ's) name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:43)

We can draw several practical applications from this:

  1. Peter was willing to be prepared by the Lord.  You may be the one that God wants to prepare as a missionary, a youth worker, pastor, evangelist, Sunday School teacher, bus ministry, etc.  Peter was willing.  Are you?
  2. Peter was ready to go from Joppa to Caesarea to do the Lord's service.  How anchored are we to the world?  Would you be ready to move for the Lord?  Peter now has learned God's lesson and is ready to take it to the lost.  How many Christians know the truth, but would not walk around the corner to share it with a lost person?  Peter walked from Joppa to Caesarea, about 40 miles.  How many Christians have ever been next door?
  3. Peter was in the presence of many people in the house of Cornelius (vs. 27), but was faithful to witness.  Have you been faithful to witness when there is a crowd around?  The whole house of Cornelius was saved as a result of Peter's faithfulness.  How many more would be saved if we were only faithful to witness?
  1. Obeying the Gospel.  Cornelius is a picture of many people today.  He was a leader of a group of men, a devout man, he feared God and he prayed always to God.  Cornelius was a religious man, but lost.  In another sense, Cornelius was different from many today.  Many people today claim to want to know the truth, but when it is revealed to them, they will not lay aside their cloak of self-righteousness for the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8,9).  We are told in John 7:17,

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

Cornelius wanted to know the truth and God sent a messenger, Peter, with the Gospel.  Peter had just said,

"...whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." (Acts 10:43c,44)

The second Cornelius heard the truth, he believed it and was saved!

  1. Obtaining the Holy Spirit.  In Verses 43 and 44 we see that Cornelius received the Holy Spirit after he believed in Christ.  Notice carefully.  He did not have to pray for the Holy Spirit or plead for the Holy Spirit, but only believe in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is given to indwell a person the moment he believes in Christ. 

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also AFTER THAT YE BELIEVED, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13,14)

One does not have to plead for the Holy Spirit, as He was already promised to be given to all that believe in Christ.

"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)

Any person today who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit is not saved!

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

In Verse 46 we read, "For they (Jews) heard them (Gentiles) speak with tongues ("glossa" or "languages") and magnify God..."  We have seen that all these in Cornelius' house believed in Jesus Christ, they were all indwelt with the Holy Spirit and they spoke with tongues (languages).  One may honestly question whether we are to speak in tongues today.  If this is not for today, there must be a reason why not.  If they spoke in tongues, then, what was the purpose?

  1. Purpose of Tongues.

    God does not do things without a purpose.  He formed the earth.  Purpose: for mankind to dwell on.  God created men and women.  Purpose: to love Him.  God allowed men to sin.  Purpose: "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7).  God sent the flood.  Purpose: judgment.  God instructed Noah to build the ark.  Purpose: to save those that believed.  God gave the Law.  Purpose: to show Israel they needed a Savior.  God sent His Son to die on Calvary.  Purpose: to take away the sins of the world. 

    God also gave the gifts of tongues (languages) to the Gentiles in Acts 10 for a purpose.  Those who claim Acts 10 as their foundation and doctrine for speaking in tongues today must measure up in duplication of those that were spoken that day in Caesarea.

"For they (Jews) heard them (Gentiles) speak with tongues, and magnify God." (Acts 10:46a)

The word translated "tongues" here is the Greek word, "glossa," and means "a known language."  These tongues were not the "jibber-jabber" and ecstatic utterances that so characterize the activities of tongues advocates today.  These Gentiles had believed in Jesus Christ, received the Holy Spirit, and then spoken in known languages.  These languages may not have been known to those who spoke, but they were definitely known to those who heard.  How else would the Jews know that those speaking (the Gentiles) were magnifying God?  The men that accompanied Peter from Joppa to Caesarea were Jews.

"Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren (Jews) from Joppa accompanied him." (Acts 10:23)

"And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren (Jews) accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house." (Acts 11:12)

These Jews were probably of different regions, each knowing the language wherein they lived.  No doubt they were with Peter in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, for we read in Acts 11:17,

"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?"

The words "like gift" show us this was the same manifestation of speaking in known tongues that took place on Pentecost.  The record,

"And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language."

"And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  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, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God." (Acts 2:5,6,8-11)

Since it was the "LIKE GIFT" that took place on Pentecost, then every one of these Jews in Acts 10 understood their own language.  Remember, these Jews could not conceive the fact that there was no difference between the Gentiles and themselves and that the Law had come to an abrupt end, and that the Gentiles could and had received the Holy Spirit the same as they.  This is evident from Acts 10:45,

"And they of the circumcision (Jews) 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."

" And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning." (Acts 11:15)

"When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18)

If I know only English and a person stands up and speaks German, I would have no idea if he was giving God the glory or speaking about something else.  But if he spoke in my language the wonderful works of God; then, I could attest to the fact that his words were magnifying God because I could understand what was being said.  This is exactly what happened at the house of Cornelius.  "For they (the Jews) heard them (the Gentiles) speak with tongues (languages) and magnify God..."

We, therefore, conclude that the purpose of tongues (the known languages) spoken by the Gentiles in Acts 10 was for the sole purpose of teaching the Jews.  This showed them that during the Church Age the Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ receive the Holy Spirit the same as they.

Can we, then, conclude that all Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ today should speak in tongues?  To this we answer a resounding "No!"  The New Testament was not completed until the last book, Revelation, was written around 96 A.D.  The great doctrines of the church were written by the Apostle Paul and were not revealed in the Old Testament (Ephesians 3:1-10).  Those Jews of Acts 10 could not go out and buy a Bible in the market, turn to 1st Corinthians 12:13 and read,

"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body..."

or Galatians 3:28,

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

or Ephesians 1:13,

"...after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise."

Since these Jews had been present in Jerusalem at the Feast of Pentecost, they had witnessed these men speak in one language so that all nationalities could understand in their own language (Acts 2:6).  The same thing happened here, in Acts 10, these Jews understood each in their own language, which was proof to them that the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit.  Had the New Testament been completed, this miracle would not have been necessary.  God's purpose had been accomplished/

"And they of the circumcision (Jews) 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." (Acts 10:45)

We conclude the following:

  1. The word "tongues" is the Greek word, "glossa," and literally means "languages" and is not "jibber-jabber," mumblings, or ecstatic utterances.
  2. They are the "like gifts" of Acts 2; therefore, everyone understood in his own language.
  3. This was not a sign of spirituality or of a closer walk with the Lord; but, a sign to show the Jews that the Gentiles were not unclean, but equal; thus receiving the Holy Spirit the same as they (Acts 10:45).
  4. Receiving the Holy Spirit was not the result of seeking, begging, or praying through; but, of simply receiving Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13,14).
  5. If the tongues advocates of today dare to claim legitimately Acts 10 as their foundation, they must measure up to all which the context sets forth:
  1. They must admit that salvation is by faith in Christ alone (Acts 10:43,44).
  2. They received the Holy Spirit by promise alone (John 7:17; 2nd Corinthians 1:20-22).
  3. They would not speak in languages unless only saved Jews were present (Acts 10:45, "circumcision" meaning those Jews present)
  4. The Jews present would be of different nations and languages.
  5. Then and only then, would they speak in languages ... not asking to, but only if God willed it.
  6. If they spoke in languages by God's will, then every Jew present would understand in his own language (Acts 10:46, How else would they know if they were magnifying God?).
  7. Those that spoke in languages must be in accord with God; i.e., to show these saved Jews that Gentiles have received the "like gift," even as they had (Acts 10:45).

In conclusion, anything short of this is not the tongues spoken of in Acts 10, but a counterfeit.  Someone trying to "work up" in the flesh what those who are saved have received by the promise of God's Word.  Eternal life is not based upon emotions and feelings, but God's Word alone.

If you need additional proof when God says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life," you are not fully trusting in God's Word alone.  You are saying, in reality, "I cannot take God at his Word."  God is not a liar and anything short of complete trust in His Word is not pleasing to the Father.

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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

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