Bent Out Of Shape – Acts 2.4

Some may point to Acts 2.4 as a prooftext for believers being given the miraculous ability to speak in tongues, maybe a prooftext to see how spiritual you are. Honestly, I think many misunderstand what ‘tongues’ actually are. 

“Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven residing in Jerusalem. When this sound occurred, a crowd gathered and was in confusion, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”

(Acts 2.1-6)

Verse 4 says that the believers present were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. Other Bibles will translate v.4 as the believers speaking in “other tongues”. The word we read as languages (γλῶσσα) can be read as ‘tongue’ literally and physically, but can also describe speech and language. Context dictates that the first time we see this word in the passage,

“…tongues (γλῶσσα) spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them.” 

we picture some tongue-shaped manifestation of the Spirit. ‘Languages like fire’ doesn’t make much sense there, does it? 

Then, the second time we see this word used, context dictates we think of speech and language:

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages (γλῶσσα) as the Spirit enabled them”.

What is the point here, then? The point is not that believers are filled with the Spirit and given the ability to babble incoherently, as you may have seen before. Notice with me v.6 of the passage:

“When this sound occurred, a crowd gathered and was in confusion, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”

These miraculous abilities to speak in others languages weren’t for the benefit of those who received the gift, they were for the benefit of others (Acts 2.9-11). 

Acts 2.4 isn’t a prooftext to see if we are super-spiritual because we speak in tongues. It is, however, a great verse because it shows us that the miraculous gifts of God are given to us for the benefit of others, to allow them to hear of His wondrous works (Acts 2.11), and to experience His great love for them (1 Corinthians 13-14.1-25).

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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