Summary: this is a topical exposition of speaking in tongues and the filling of the Spirit from Acts 2:4, from a non-cessasionist, but non-charismatic position
Text: Acts 2:4, Title: Tongues and the Fullness, Subject: Tongues and filling, Date/Place: NRBC, 6/3/07, AM
A. Opening illustration: as a brand new Christian, I was in my first year of college when I saw a sign for a bible study. So, I went and met with Cliff, and they challenged me about the avoidance of Acts 2 and the surrounding phenomena. Tell about the night that they offered to help us receive the gift. Later at UT went on a trip with another “full gospel” group. Tell about the last night…Do we have a half a gospel?
B. Background to passage: As we walk through the book of Acts, there are many things that will seem strange and different to us—Peter’s shadow, people disappearing, sheets coming out of heaven, people being struck dead, handkerchiefs that heal people, stonings, dead people coming back to life, and such. But two of the things that keep coming up are speaking in tongues and the filling of the Spirit. Both of these phenomena occur at many places in the book. And my style is to deal with things rather head on, so that is what I intend to deal with today. This will give us a little more foundational knowledge, so that we can interpret these things correctly when they come up again. Just a word of warning: good conservative bible-believing, evangelical scholars disagree on these things sometimes. But they have a right to be wrong. And so do I, and so do you. But since I believe that it is not all that helpful to you to simply provide all the opinions, I will present my convictions on these matters. However, you do not have to agree with everything I say to be a good Christian, nor a member of this church. But I do believe that my conclusions and interpretations are scripturally based, and if you disagree, and want to talk, bring a bible. I welcome good discussion.
C. Main thought: But this morning we will tackle speaking in tongues and being filled with the Spirit
D. Book endorsements and doctrine about the personhood of the Holy Spirit
A. And they began to speak with other tongues (v. 4)
1. Here in Acts 2 is the first time that we are exposed to tongues. There are isolated references to them in the OT, and one verse about them in Mark. Other than the book of Acts and 1 Corinthians, not other NT writing references them, including ones that deal with spiritual gifts. So, historically we have chosen to ignore them or chalk them up a having ceased. If we are going to claim to be biblical, we definitely not ignore, because even though rare, they exist; and if we look at the common passages cited for cessation, they are inconclusive at best, and out of context at worst when used to justify cessationism. But here in Acts 2, it is very clear that the tongues spoken as a legitimate manifestation of the gift were unlearned human languages. They function as a sign to unbelievers outside of the church that points them to divine activity and redemption. Their function is confirmed in the only didactic passage in the NT regarding tongues. However their pattern in Acts is very erratic, and specific to the “sign” part of their function. An imitation tongues was disrupting the church in Corinth, but this did not affect the legitimate tongues.
2. 1 Cor 13:8-10, Heb 2:4, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:19, 22-26, Acts 8:17, 10:44-47, 11:15-18
3. Illustration: incidents cited by Alan Cole about the miraculous signs being done by missionaries in China, reports trickle in among mission sending organizations about sudden supernatural abilities to speak the language without having studied, tell about the conversation that I had with a charismatic one time late into the night, and after much biblical debate, he reverted to experience,
4. So if it was a legitimate gift, and cross-linguistic evangelism was the purpose to point people to Jesus, and we cannot exegetically demonstrate that the bible forbids them or indicates their cessation, they must be an active gift today. However if they are active, we should see them in similar contexts with the purpose for which they were intended. They should occur upon the front lines of the gospel to expedite and authenticate a gospel witness where there is no church. They were not intended to be used for personal edification or pride, but as with all gifts, they are for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). Paul, in effect, prohibits them from the assembly of the saints by the statements that he makes in 1 Cor 14. Although he doesn’t rule them out completely. And he does give other requirements for their use in church in a cosmopolitan city where unbelievers who speak other languages will be there. He doesn’t indicate that tongues are beyond the control of the speaker, and also that there must be an interpreter present for upbuilding of the church. For everything must be done for upbuilding. Don’t allow experience to interpret scripture, but the other way around. Don’t fear the working of the Spirit. Be open on foreign mission trips to countries with no churches and a severe language barrier. What do we make of the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movement? We thank them for their contribution to evangelical Christianity of a renewal for the experiential presence of God! We count them as brothers for they are born again, but if asked we should challenge them to back up some of their more spurious practices, and align some of the less spurious practices with the scriptures. 1 Corinthians is our example of a church that gets the gifts wrong, and wrecks the whole train.