Posts Tagged With: tongues

Before We Debate About the Spiritual Gift of Tongues, How About This…

Amazingly, while many people speak about the gift of tongues, whether they exist or don’t exist, one aspect we tend to forget is how we use the language (i.e., tongue) that God has given us now?

Jump with me to 1 Corinthians 14:23-25:

23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Tongues, Paul says, are a sign for unbelievers.  When Peter, skeptical that God would send his Spirit to all the nations to show them His glory and His work through Jesus, we read in Acts 10:44-47:

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

What’s the point? The point is that God used this sign (not the gift, the sign) to show the world that God was moving forward in bringing His message of the Gospel through the Spirit to the whole world.  And, friends, we are the recipient of that.  God used His messengers through the Spirit and the gifts that He bestowed to take the message of the gospel, of which we are a recipient.

Dear Christians, unbelievers will enter into your life and your church.  So how are we using the language God has given to us?  Let me show you how some use them.  In Romans 1:28-32:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

How many times have we seen Christians come together, and use their tongues not for the purpose of building up believers in the faith, but to tear down other believers and leaders that God has put in their path. Rather than going and speaking directly to the person, they gossip and slander and become insolent, arrogant, boastful!  Many of these sins in place are right up there with the flow of the argument—God giving people over to their desires, their sexual sins.

Alan Redpath calls us to think when it comes to what we’re getting ready to say.  It’s an acronym:

T–Is it true?
H–Is it helpful?
I–Is it inspiring?
N–Is it necessary?
K–Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!

But really, it’s not just about what we shouldn’t say, it’s about being clear regarding the person and work of Christ both in private, and in this case in public.  Prophesy and preaching and teaching about Jesus and His death and resurrection as the only hope for the forgiveness of sins and eternal must be crystal clear.  Intelligible.  Distinct.  Do we have that?  When we tell people phrases we’re used to like, “Ask Jesus into your heart” or “Won’t you walk the aisle?”

You see, I fear that many in our churches in America believe that the church exists for them.  The spiritual gifts exist for them.  God in heaven simply exists to meet our needs.  We can only worship if the music is just right, the curriculum is just right, if the money is spent just right.  Do you see what’s happening?  Everything can come down to the fact that many believe that everything exists for them!  But vv 24-25 shatter that.  Clarity about the gospel, about Jesus’ person and work will convict as worked by the Spirit.  We want to be clear to call everyone to repent and believe the gospel as Jesus said.  We want to be clear to our family and friends about the gospel—and that our words and our actions match!

The entire point of 1 Corinthians 14 is that of clarity so that the church would be built up!  Outward love toward others always trumps simply building up oneself, whether it’s speaking in tongues or in any other aspect of our Christian walk. But we all speak in a language–how are we using that for God’s glory and building up the church?

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SERMON: Taming the Tongue: It Only Takes a Spark (James 3:1-12)

(To listen to this sermon, go to our ARBC sermons page.)

At my former church, we would take one Sunday a month during the singing time in our evening services to ask for requests of favorite hymns. The music minister’s daughter would always pick one of two songs: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” or “Pass It On.” You may know that song from the 1970’s:

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it, you spread his love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

We praise God that He gave us words to communicate so many great things. Primary to that is His Word! He used words to show us who He is, what He has done, and what He aims to do in us through Christ. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Even Jesus was described in John 1:14 as “the Word made flesh.”

And Christians are to use their words to build up, encourage, correct, and challenge in Christ! In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, we see:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

I used to have a shirt that had a quote on the back of it that said, “Preach the gospel at all times—if necessary, use words!” That sounds good, doesn’t it? That is until you realize that it’s not mere actions that do it—for the gospel is words! It’s like in the days before cell phones and telling someone, “Make a phone call—if necessary, use the numbers.” We have something to say, not just to do. But what we say is our calling card. What we say clarifies what we are doing!

Words wield a positive influence to be sure! But words can also be weapons! In reference to the song sung earlier, could we not change the words to this?

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
And soon all those around, can burn up in its blowing!
That’s how it can be with our tongues,
Once you’re unleashing it, you can spread hell’s death with every breath;
You must not pass that on.

Our words are the calling card of our lives. Not just to times we speak in public, saying what we are expected to say. But even in private, when we think no one hears our words. In Romans 1:28-32, when Paul was mentioning the fact that there were some that God gave over to that debased mind, he goes on to list other characteristics of those who worship creation rather than the Creator:

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

So being a ‘gossip’ and ‘slanderer,’ using those words as weapons, are numbered among the malicious, evil, haters of God, and the like. Words matter! Washington Irving once noted, “A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows [sharper] with constant use.” God’s Word reveals His nature—so do our words! Our words set a pattern for our lives. Our words cause damage! Our words need redeeming because, as Jesus said, out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

1. God must tame our tongue’s direction.

Join me in reading James 3:1-5a:

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Every word we speak puts forth our view of God! Christian’s actions and speech show the world what our hearts hold. And if Jesus will hold us accountable for every word we as Christians speak (Matthew 12:36ff), this will hold doubly for those who teach.

In the early church, teachers were crucial! Remember, the NT wasn’t completed (and wouldn’t be completed for another 40 years until the apostle John and the inspired Book of Revelation). The letter by the apostle James was likely the earliest NT book we have. Given how young Christianity was at this point, having able teachers was critical for a strong church.

How critical are teachers even today! The nature of individuals is to surround themselves with people they want to hear. Paul warned young Timothy that:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wonder off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Some are not interested in truth. They are interested in personality or presentation. The evangelist Dwight L. Moody was preaching at a church in a prominent city, and many were in attendance. Now, one thing about Moody’s preaching was that he, as some say, “murdered the King’s English.” One rather sophisticated listener was sitting there disgusted at how Moody spoke. Finally, when he couldn’t take it anymore, he took out a piece of paper, wrote something on it, gave it to an usher to take up to Mr. Moody. When he took the paper, only one word was written on it: “Fool!” Moody stopped, then said, “Now this is an amazing thing! There have been many times when people have written a letter without signing their name. This is the first time someone signed their name, and forgot to write the letter!”

This is why teaching is judged with “greater strictness.” It’s not simply about your relationship with God—but what we teach affects other people’s relationship with Christ. Jim Jones’ view of God caused the murder of 38 people. Joseph Smith’s vision led a movement that believed that God was once a man, that we could become God and that salvation is by what we do in keeping with the LDS code. Charles Taze Russell taught that Christ is an archangel and not God the Son—even putting out a ‘translation’ of the Bible that denied such. Mormonism and JWs now have millions of followers worldwide—all started by the deviant teaching of those who hated Orthodox Christianity.

Our words give direction and demonstrate power. Horses are 550 pounds of raw power and can run ¼ mile in 25 seconds. But put a bridle in them and a person ¼ their size who has the skills can make that horse do anything. Rudders that are small in comparison to the entire ship can change the direction of that ship. So can words—the words of Adolf Hitler can start an entire movement. The legislation of the words written in Roe v Wade determined the legalization of 54.5 million unborn children since 1973. Words spoken in the corner of a church building and take off and split churches, harm friendships, and lead those astray from God!

2. Tame the tongue’s damage (James 3:5b-8).

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

It only takes a spark, doesn’t it? Many of you have heard of the great Chicago Fire of 1871 when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern as she milked—blackening 3 ½ miles of the city, destroying over 17,000 buildings before it came under control. Two days, and 250 lives later it still lives in our collective memory.

We’ve heard of wildfires started by a cigarette flicked out the window. We have heard of houses being burned down by electrical shorts. Fire is different from water. With water, you can just pour it out, and it stays the same amount in the same area. Fire spreads and causes great damage—even destruction!

So it is appropriate that James uses the object lesson of fire! Seldom do words stay put. And isn’t it sad that with human nature, it’s only the bad things that spread fast.

He goes on to say a ‘world of unrighteousness’—meaning that it’s an entire system of evil. Kent Hughes says, “The tongue contains and conveys all the world system’s wickedness. It is party to every evil there is, and it actively obtrudes its evil into all our lives.”

Our entire ‘course of life’ is set on fire—everywhere our life takes us! And the uncontrolled tongue is connected directly to hell itself! The word ‘hell’ is that of Gehenna. This word connects with the Jerusalem city dump (the Valley of Hinnom) where criminals, dead animals, and the garbage would go. As a result of the incoming refuse, the fire that burned in that place burned continually. This is another image to show that not only is our heart fueled by our sinful nature, but it’s fueled by hell itself!

Do we see how our tongue, set among the members of our body, stains the entire body? John MacArthur one time told of a time when he was in seminary and needed a sports coat in order to preach in some of the church in the area. So we went to a local thrift store and bought a $9 sport coat and suited his needs. Soon after, however, numerous people asked him if he was a heavy smoker. Why? Apparently, no matter how many times he dry-cleaned this jacket, a cigarette smell overwhelmed people wherever he went.

This is the affect of our tongues. And it doesn’t take much. Think about this: suppose as I’m preaching along I let slip a profanity. Now, even though I’ve only been here two months, and along with the fact that I’ve been in the ministry for 20 years—if I let that word come out of my mouth, it’s over! I’m done! Like any type of word, once that word is out, you cannot reel it back it. It perpetually stains you. Even if you have been forgiven, that impression remains.

So if you read this, I hope you don’t read this like I often read it a million times before when I was younger. I thought verse 8 read that ‘no one can tame the tongue.’ Animals can be tamed—just go to a circus! The trainer can stick his head into the gaping, powerful jaws of a lion, no problem. Jockeys that weigh 100 pounds can guide a horse that weighs 5x or more his weight. But, again as I read, no one can tame the tongue.

But is that what it says? No—it says “no man can tame the tongue.” While no man can tame the tongue, there is One who can. Only God can tame the tongue. It serves as a poison! It is verbal cyanide. You can commit arson just by a hell-fueled tongue.

3. God must tame the tongue’s distinctions.

Look with me at verses 9-12:

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

So James again draws from his box of object lessons and brings us to water and vegetation—and where each of these things originates. Sin pollutes even the good things that come from us. If you have a spring that has both fresh water and salt water, how will that water be? Here’s a hint: it won’t be fresh. If you advertize yourself as a fig tree but you bring forth something else—oh, say, olives—will you be believable?

We saw this firsthand in the news this week. Earlier in the week, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation released a statement that they were stopping funding to Planned Parenthood (the nation’s largest abortion provider) for breast cancer screenings. The reason they offered was due to the fact they were under investigation for allegedly using federal money for abortions. But the reaction was very polarizing.

The pro-life groups praised the decision, seeing it as a consistency that life was being seen as valuable not only to the mom but also to the unborn child. The pro-abortion groups reviled the decision, even from it’s own affiliates. Even 26 senators (I won’t say from which party) signed a letter calling for Komen to reconsider.

And reconsider they did. On Friday, the news said they had reversed their decision and offered an apology.

Wherever you fall on this matter, this is an illustration of how words work and how they have an affect on you. The backlash now from many is that the Komen Foundation can be pressured from the outside which affects their convictions (if any) on the inside. Now, both sides of this discussion will always wonder if this organization can be bullied—if their convictions really come from a moral center or just from who yells at them the loudest.

Dear friends, we are here this morning in a church building as the church. This time has been given over to the body of Christ and I pray that everyone of us has surrendered to Jesus Christ as well. We have sung songs with the lines, “Beautiful One, I love; beautiful One I adore,” “I will open up my heart and let the healer set me free; I’m happy to be in the truth and will daily lift up my hands,” “Now I belong to Jesus; Jesus belongs to me” and “open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you.” As for me, there is nothing better than singing and hearing God’s people sing praises to Him in this place.

If you recall though in Genesis 1 that God has created plants and animals to function “according to their kind,” he has also created us as Christians to function after our kind as well—to function as Christ has called us to function to speak and live the Word by for teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness.”

But yet some turn right around from blessing God to cursing those made in his image! In James’ day, a king or emperor would erect a statue—and anyone who curse that statue would be treated as one who did that to the king or emperor himself!

The next time we murmur something under our breath or shout it loud, whether against an authority figure or against our neighbor, that is a tear-down is as if you were saying it to God’s face!


As you leave, consider the importance of words! God used words to communicate to those who bear His image the glorious wonder of who made creation, and who came to rescue us so we could become a new creation! Words matter! They can be used for well-being, or as weapons!

Consider also the importance of our words! Everything we say reflects on our view of what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf and how we view the resurrection! Words matter! Do we use them to build up in Christ, or to tear down?

Consider the importance of these words: repent and trust! Only God can tame the tongue. Only God can forgive the sin that separates you from Him! And He did so through Christ! “All that the Father gives to me will come to me; and whoever believes in me I will in no ways cast out!” There is no faith in Christ without repentance from sin. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. Repentance comes by using words from our hearts to confess our sin and turn to Christ alone!

Words matter! The Word matters! Does it matter to you this morning?

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How Pentecost Reversed the Tower of Babel: The True Point of Acts 2:1-13

Jesus’ last words outlined his strategy for the generations of churches that would follow. In the Great Commission, He establishes authority over all things—and by that authority He says to ‘Go and make disciples.’ He called the apostles to be witnesses from their neighbors to the nations! And with all this, how would they accomplish this? Empowered and fueled by the Holy Spirit of Christ.

Those of you who have driven and suddenly run out of gas understand how important fuel is to any vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you have a moped or a $150,000 Lambourghini, if you run out of fuel, little matters how sweet the design of the car or the engine is—you’re not going anywhere. That car turns into an overweight, beautifully designed paperweight.

Fuel makes the engine go. The Father sent the Holy Spirit as a promise to the church to make it ‘go’ and make disciples. As we will see, the Holy Spirit fuels by the power of the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

[2:1] When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [3] And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

[5] Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? [9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, [11] both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” [12] And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [13] But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:1-13 ESV)

See how the Holy Spirit fuels by fulfilling God’s plans from of old

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

For ten days, the disciples and followers of Jesus (120 in total) sat in the upper room in Jerusalem in one accord, staying continuously in prayer. While they were not sure of what this “promise of the Father” would look like, they did know that they needed to fulfill Christ’s demand and desire for there to be 12 apostles, not eleven. Jesus chose one to take Judas Iscariot’s place by the name of Matthias.

Now Pentecost had arrived! Luke is always thorough in giving the reader milemarkers to help them track the timeline. Jesus stayed with the disciples for 40 days. When is Pentecost in relation to this? And is there any importance to why God chose Pentecost to send His Spirit down?

Turn with me to Leviticus 23:15-22.

You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present your grain offering of new grain to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made to two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leven, as firstfruits to the LORD. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And you shall offer one male goal for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priests shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

In the Old Testament Feast of Weeks would soon be known in NT times as Pentecost, a derivative of the word ‘fifty.’ So God instructed the people of Israel to could seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath—seven weeks from the beginning of their year, which marked the Passover when God delivered His people from Egypt, and spared them from the sentencing of the angel of death that destroyed the firstborn of all Egypt—not even sparing Pharaoh’s son. God’s people were spared by the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings.

This second harvest festival was set aside to recognize and remember the LORD as the provider of all the harvest that God brought in by His power—and as such to bring back to him the firstfruits of that crop. How does God make this happen? Just go back to Genesis 1 and the pattern of “And God said … and it was so… and it was good.” He created all things by the word of his mouth.

How does this connect? As God would use His people to bring in the harvest of crops, He would use His people here in Acts to bring in a grand harvest—not of crops, but of souls—by the Word of His mouth. More on this later.

How Would the Harvest Be Brought In?

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke tells of an event that happened “suddenly”: “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).

Rushing wind? Tongues of fire? Speaking in other tongues? In some ways, it sounds like a trailer for a scary movie. And to be honest, it may have been scary a bit—this was certainly outside the norm of usual activity.

Yet we are seeing that God would operate like this in order to bring about a revelation from him—using these times to reveal something extraordinary about His nature. Consider in Ezekiel 1 when the prophet Ezekiel was approached by the living God, who was getting ready to show him in the wonders of heaven. In verse 4, Ezekiel says, “As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal.”

More recognizable to some of you in Job 38 when, after Job and his three friends spent a considerable amount of time pontificating about God and why Job was suffering such calamity, verse 1 says, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind.”

What about these tongues of fire? Great confusion exists. Churches have split and been created over this issue. Friendships have formed and been broken over this issue. What are these tongues? Do they still exist, or are they truly still in place? Is it un-Baptistic to believe it? Are they simply a heavenly language, or is it something more?

The issues I’ve raised are not new. Even the apostle Paul dealt with them in 1 Corinthians 14, which we will deal with more tonight. But for now, let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 14:1-6:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (1 Cor 14:1-6).

Verses 4 and 6 make it clear what the purpose of speaking is in the church: to build up the church—that is, to build up Christians! He says this again in verse 12, 17, and 26.

So as we return to Acts 2, what’s the significance of tongues here? Fire in the OT was meant to purify, but also signified the presence of God—as did the fire by night when God led His people in the wilderness. But remember in Isaiah 6 this passage:

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:5-7).

Isaiah had seen the thrice-holy God whose glory filled the earth and whose hem of the robe filled the entire Temple. Isaiah recognized his sin and his shortcomings, and expressed it. He could tell he was doomed because he recognized the condition of his heart (“lost”) but also that his condition came out in his actions (“I am a man of unclean lips”). The seraphim took the coal from the altar of sacrifices and touched his mouth.

Fire purifies, but also shows the presence of God. Isaiah began to preach. And soon, the disciples would begin to preach. For, dear friends, in preaching the Word of God is bringing in the presence of God. The tongues as of fire landed on them, which represented the presence and purity of God and the message He would have them to preach.

So these tongues show that God is present and ready to bring in the harvest of Pentecost to build up the church with tongues of languages already established and existing on earth.

It must be asked, how did all of these languages come about? To answer this question, we must return all the way back to Genesis 11. In this chapter, we see a monumental turn in history.

[11:1] Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. [2] And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. [3] And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. [4] Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” [5] And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. [6] And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. [7] Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” [8] So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. [9] Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9 ESV)

Do you see what is happening? Look again at Acts 2:5-13:

[5] Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? [9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, [11] both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” [12] And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [13] But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

The parallels are striking:

  • All the world came into one place for a specific reason;
  • God came down in both instances (Acts 2:2-3).

The reversals are just as striking:

  • The peoples of the earth came to Babel with one language; the peoples in Israel during Pentecost heard the gospel with one language.
  • Everyone left the Tower of Babel not being able to “understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:7); but they left the Temple understanding the disciple’s speech;
  • The Lord dispersed those in Shinar in confusion, but dispersed those at Babel with a unified message to their own peoples.
  • They sought to build their own building, but only Jesus can built a true building, “not built with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Dear friends, please understand the role of not only the tongues mentioned in Acts 2, but also of the feasts, the Tower of Babel and everything else God revealed in the Old Testament: God aims to present Christ clearly, and thus this should be our aim as well.  Sure, there may be the hard work of seeing why God decided to include the feasts, dietary laws, and many of the other civil rituals and laws in the OT.  But they all foreshadowed one who would ultimately fulfill the purpose of these things.  God through Christ is moving things back to the way He began it all. 

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