The Miracle and Purpose of the Gift of Tongues

Acts 2:4-21

January 30, 2022

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland


I.     Review (Acts 2:1-4)


A.   Last Week we learned about what happened on the Day of Pentecost


1.    There were thousands and thousands of Jewish people from all over the world, gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Day of Pentecost – 50 days after Passover

2.    And a miracle occurred, with everyone in an Upper Room speaking in Tongues that were brand new to them

3.    They were all filled with the Spirit of God

4.    And the thousands of people gathered around that Upper Room were very confused

5.    We learned last week about being filled with God’s Holy Spirit

6.    Because, for the Christian, there is nothing more important than staying filled with God’s Holy Spirit!


B.   This morning we are going to continue to look at Acts 2:


1.    The Miracle of Tongues – what was it?

2.    And What Was Its Purpose


II.   Message


A.   What is the Gift of Speaking in Tongues? (Acts 2:4-11)


1.    Acts  2:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

2.    A Very Important Study


a.     We would need many hours to clear up so much confusion about “glossolalia” - the making of sounds that people believe are actually words, but have no meaning.

b.    I am going to summarize many things about this gift of tongues, so talk with me after if you have questions!

c.     I know I probably won’t convince so many who believe in speaking in tongues, but maybe the Spirit of God will open your understanding to what happened on the Day of Pentecost, and that the kind of tongues being spoken TODAY is nothing like it!


3.    What are “tongues”? (Acts 2:6-11)


a.    These ‘Tongues’ are: supernatural speaking abilities that enabled first century Christians to preach the Gospel in languages they did not already know.

b.    Tongues are a Speaking Ability


1)    Tongues mean ‘Languages’ – words you say with your tongue (Acts 2:6,8,11)


a)    Acts  2:6  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

b)    Acts  2:8  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

c)    Acts  2:11  Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

d)    Acts  22:2  (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)


2)    We all can speak with the tongue/language that we already know

3)    We say “your mother tongue” or the language you grew up with

4)    My mother tongue is English – American English

5)    2,000 years ago, there were an estimated 2,000 languages

6)    How was the Gospel going to get into all the world?

7)    By the way, there are over 3,000 primary languages in the world today, with another 3,500 dialects (English is spoken by 5.1% of the world’s population, Spanish by 6%, and Irish is spoken by .000024%)


c.     A Supernatural Speaking Ability (Acts 2:4)


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

2)    All 120 of those Christians began speaking actual words in other languages - not mystical sounds - not gibberish – but real, meaningful words!!!

3)    They spoke in languages that were foreign to the speaker


a)    Peter obviously spoke Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic

b)    But from that moment, he was speaking in other languages that he had never learned before!


4)    How? Because the Holy Spirit in them gave them the ability to, as a GIFT

5)    Acts  2:3,4  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


d.    They Are Understood Languages


1)    These believers were not speaking in mystical, heavenly “unknown tongues” like charismatics say THEY can speak

2)    These Christians were saying words in KNOWN Languages – unknown to the speaker, but known and understood by other people who heard them


a)    The Christians in the Upper Room knew what they were saying – it was not unknown to them what they were saying

b)    But every word that came out of their mouth was in a foreign language to them


3)    Illustration


a)    It would be like me sitting down with someone who only spoke and understood Latvian, and I all of a sudden began speaking perfect Latvian

b)    I don’t know Latvian!

c)    It would HAVE to be a miracle for me to do something like that!


e.     These Tongues were a Verifiable Miracle (Acts 2:5-11) – There was PROOF


1)    Jews from 15 nations, who knew at least 15 different languages heard the Gospel


a)    Acts 2:5  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

b)    Acts 2:6  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

c)    Acts 2:7  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

d)    Acts 2:8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

e)    Acts 2:9  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

f)     Acts 2:10  Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

g)    Acts 2:11  Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.


2)    Thousands of Jews who lived in foreign regions heard their own languages spoken, and confirmed the genuineness of the speakers.


B.   What Was Its Purpose?


1.    A Sign to Convince Unbelieving Jews that Christianity was from God – that the Gospel was just as much Scripture as Genesis!


a.     A “sign” is a signal from God / a miracle only GOD could do

b.    God promised the Jews signs/miracles to prove His prophets and His Messiah and His Words are true. (Deuteronomy 18:18-22)


1)    Deuteronomy 18:18  I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee [MOSES], and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them [THE JEWISH PEOPLE] all that I shall command him.

2)    Deut 18:19  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

3)    Deut 18:20  But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

4)    Deut 18:21  And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?

5)    Deut 18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

6)    That’s why the Apostle Paul said in 1Corinthians 1:22  …the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom

7)    So, THEY get the miracles, the signs, the wonders


c.     God promised He would speak to them using other tongues than Hebrew


1)    Isaiah 28:11  For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people [GOD’S PEOPLE].

2)    1Cornthians 14:21  In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

3)    Notice 1Corinthians 14:22, Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not [UNBELIEVING JEWS]: but prophesying [PREACHING] serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.


d.    These Jews needed to know four things:


1)    That what Jesus had taught about the kingdom of God was true!  That Christianity was the fulfilment of the Jewish faith

2)    That His crucifixion was necessary to save them from their sins, and was planned by God from the beginning of time!

3)    They needed to know that judgment was coming on all who rejected Jesus

4)    And there is only one way to be saved – through believing that Jesus saves!

5)    OH HOW THESE VERY DEVOUT AND RELIGIOUS JEWS NEEDED TO FOLLOW JESUS! Their own righteousness was not good enough!


e.     So God gave those hateful, religious, lost Jews a sign, the miracle of uneducated, stammering Galilean fishmen and carpenters speaking in over a dozen different languages the wonderful works of Jesus, just as He promised He would! So that THEY could believe!

f.     Unbelieving Jews, who resisted Christ and clung to Moses, would find the Word of God being preached to them in barbarian, Gentile languages!

g.    Therefore…


1)    Tongues are NOT for Christians/Charismatics to pray to God with

2)    They were to win the Jewish people with

3)    And to be able to go into all the world with the Gospel in one generation!

4)    Remember Acts 1:8? But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


2.    Secondly, A Gift to enable believers to go into all the world and preach the Gospel in every language (Matthew 28:19)


a.     Jesus meant it when He said GO into every culture and language and preach

b.    Matthew 28:19? Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost

c.     And at the beginning, during the age of the Apostles, He empowered them with a supernatural gift so that the entire world heard of Jesus in less that 50 years


C.   Can Christians Speak with Unknown Tongues Now?


1.    No.

2.    The gift of speaking with languages you don’t already know has ended (1Corinthians 13:8)  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

3.    The Apostle Paul spoke in tongues more than everyone else…


a.     1Corinthians 14:18  I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all

b.    Because he was preaching the Gospel in dozens of different languages every day of his life!


4.    Paul declared that TONGUES WOULD CEASE / STOP – When? (13:9-11)


a.     Look at verse 9, 10, and 11


1)    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [IN BITS AND PIECES]

2)    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  [SOMETHING PERFECT WAS COMING – NOT JESUS, BUT THE COMPLETION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT]

3)    When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:but when I became a man, I put away childish things.


b.    Paul compared TONGUES and the gift of PROPHECY to childish things that when we grow up, we put away, and don’t play with anymore!

c.     So, when the word of God was COMPLETED, Paul knew that all the PARTS of revelation would be put away – like childhood toys

d.    And we would no longer need prophets, and prophecies, and tongues!

e.     It served its purpose


5.    So, that gift is finished – and every Charismatic Christian should know this!

6.    The only thing charismatics claim now is the ability to speak gibberish, and they call it worship, and speaking in unknown, heavenly tongues – speaking not to men, but to God (or so they think)


a.     But it is gibberish! Not a language at all


1)    A real language actually communicates information – is not just sounds and syllables – but carefully constructed sounds and syllables that make sense to both the speaker and the hearer!

2)    Examples of people supposedly speaking in “tongues” should embarrass you


a)    “Ha la la la la shan nu buna ha daha las”

b)    Do you know what I said? I don’t know what I said

c)    And if someone says they know what I said, how can I know they actually did, or just made it up?


3)    I actually searched for a written document of what someone said using unknown tongues, to see if it was an actual language


a)    If someone was speaking supernaturally, wouldn’t you expect people to be furiously writing down what they said for everyone to read and believe?

b)    Do you know what I discovered? NO ONE writes down what these Charismatics say – because everyone KNOWS it is not a language!

c)    It is gibberish


b.    In reality, modern speaking in tongues is self-induced, and a learned behaviour


1)    It is NOT miraculous, and is NOT anything like recorded in Scripture

2)    Tongues-speaking today is not done in the presence of doubting Jews – it is mainly done as a show to other believers

3)    It is psychotic, and an open door for demonic oppression.

4)    Watch people speaking in tongues today… they are out of control, swaggering like drunken people, uncontrollable laughter and quacking like ducks, and shaking uncontrollably

5)    Did you know that unsaved, atheistic people in hypnotic trances do all those things

6)    Hindu gurus work their followers into such a state of mind that they too go out of control and speak gibberish for hours on end

7)    I have seen all kinds – went to many Pentecostal churches when younger


c.     No modern Christian has the gift of tongues

d.    How do I KNOW???


1)    If tongues was a gift for today, missionaries would be able to go from Alabama to France and be able to start speaking and preaching in French
THAT has never happened

2)    If tongues was a gift for today, missionaries would be able to go from Barcelona to Beijing and be able to start speaking and preaching in Mandarin Chinese

3)    It never happens folks!

4)    You will never meet a Gospel missionary going into the jungle and speaking in tongues to anyone, and they understanding him/her perfectly – every Missionary who goes to a foreign field to preach the Gospel ALWAYS has to go to school, and painfully, patiently learn the language of those people.


e.     But on the Day of Pentecost, Peter, James, John, Mary, Thomas, had no problem speaking in languages they did not already know!

f.     And guess who got saved? 3,000 JEWS!


D.   Why would God describe and show us a gift we can’t enjoy today?


1.    Because it wasn’t for us (Romans 15:4)


a.     Romans 15:4  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

b.    Not everything in the Bible is for us. It was written for us to learn from, but some things are for the Jews exclusively. And THIS Gift was one of them.


2.    We need to remember…


a.    The day of Pentecost was a Jewish feast day

b.    That this book is a Jewish book

c.     That Jesus was a Jew

d.    And He came to the Jews first

e.     And that the gospel is always to be preached to the Jews first, because they are God’s special people.

f.     And then we Gentiles come in next in line!

g.    That does not mean the Jewish people are already saved, or righteous with God. It just means they are the centre of God’s plan and work in this world, and that He always starts with THEM – not US!


3.    So don’t hijack the gift of tongues and think they are all for you!

4.    There are OTHER Gifts of the Holy Spirit that are for us Gentiles!


a.     Not as exciting or flashy as tongues and healing… But are more needful

b.    The gift of eternal life to everyone that believes on Jesus Christ – born of the Spirit

c.     The gift of power, and love and of a sound mind – THAT is a spiritual gift

d.    The gift of ministry – the gifted ability to humble ourselves and just serve other people, even though they walk all over us and take advantage of us

e.     The gift or preaching, teaching, giving

f.     One of these Sundays we will learn about the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are available to every believer still today!


E.   Just Use the Tongue You Have - We need to speak loud and clear with the one we have got


1.    Use it for the glory of God, and the winning of souls!


a.     If you are gifted with nothing else, God probably has given you at least ONE tongue

b.    Are you using that little member of your body to tell anyone that Jesus saves sinners? That He is soon coming back and people need to get ready?

c.     The world still needs to hear the Gospel (Romans 10:14) shall they hear without a preacher?


2.    Help get Bibles translated and published, and distributed in other languages

3.    Someone here should ANSWER God’s call to go as missionaries somewhere far away and learn a language and preach the Gospel there!

4.    And every one of us can PRAY for and help financially give so that others who are going as missionaries can keep preaching the Gospel where you and I can’t


III.         Conclusion


A.   Pentecost was…


1.    A once-off event in history


a.     It happened exactly 50 days after Passover, after the death of Jesus Christ

b.    And that was it

c.     The cloven tongues of fire have never happened again

d.    The Gospel spread into all the world


2.    The Coming of the Holy Spirit of God – He is still here today, but not for much longer

3.    The Signal that the Day of the Lord is nearly here


B.   The Gift of Speaking in Tongues was for the Jews

C.   It was a real, verifiable miracle – and it served its purpose

D.   There is No speaking with Unknown Tongues Now

E.   Just Use the tongue you have!


1.    The world still needs to hear the Gospel – start telling someone, anyone that Jesus saves

2.    Help get Bibles translated and published, and distributed

3.    Answer God’s call to go as missionaries somewhere far away and learn a language and preach the Gospel there!

4.    Pray for and help financially give so that others who are going as missionaries can keep preaching where you and I can’t


F.    Especially to Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus to save you


1.    I have done my best with the stammering tongue that I have today

2.    Will you respond – by faith?

3.    Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

4.    Will you Call upon the name of the Messiah to save you? Bow your head, and close your eyes, and with all your heart admit you are a law-breaker, a sinner, and will never be good enough for heaven!

5.    And then believe that Jesus is all you need to be made right, and ask Him to save your soul! He promises that He will – the instant you believe!