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Summary: To speak in tongues or not to. Most Christians will be confronted withi this issue at some point in their lives. This sermon addresses what tongues were in the NT, their purpose in God's plan and whether God intended them to be permanent or transitory.

Tongues: What? Why? When? Who?

Series: Acts

Chuck Sligh

June 22, 2014

TEXT: Acts 2:1-13 – “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


Illus. – I remember when my cousin was stationed in England that they asked Susan and me one time if we’d keep their little son Iain for a weekend so they could have a get-away. Of course we said yes.

Susan kept him most of the time, but she needed to get some housework done, so she asked me if I would watch him for awhile. “Sure,” I said.

Iain was partial to women at that time and when I took over guard duty, he wasn’t the least bit impressed with me. I spoke to him, but he just looked away. I tried tickling, but he looked like he’d break into tears, so I instantly stopped that! I tried to sing to him…to no effect whatsoever. I even brought out the guitar, but he just turned away like I was a real nobody.

Finally, I got in his line of vision and started acting totally, insanely silly…hopping up and down, making faces, screaming out baby songs, and swaying back-and-forth. Suddenly, I HAD HIM: He looked at me and started giggling. I had finally gotten his attention, and we were fast friends from then on.

Believe it or not, that’s kind of what happened at Pentecost. God put on a pyrotechnic display the likes of which had never been seen before. But God wasn’t just “showing off”—He never does that. Everything God does, He does for a purpose, and God had a very specific purpose for everything that happened on the Day of Pentecost.

The last time we were in Acts, we investigated this passage.

• If you’ll recall, we looked at what Pentecost originally was—a feast for the Jews, bringing multitudes of Jewish males from all over the then-known world to Jerusalem.

• Then we examined what happened that day—namely the Holy Spirit came to indwell permanently believers to empower them to be witnesses for Christ to the whole world.

• In doing that, God used unmistakable signs to show the Jews—since that’s all that were present in the upper room, and pretty much in all of Jerusalem during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost—that this was a work of God with God’s approval. We saw that the mighty wind was an Old Testament symbol of God’s POWER and tongues of fire over their heads were biblical symbols of God’s PRESENCE.

What we left for another sermon was the sign of SPEAKING IN TONGUES. Well, I promised you I’d come back in another sermon and talk to you about the meaning and purpose of tongues, so that is what we’re going to do today.

So without further ado, let’s jump right in:


The word translated “tongues” in the New Testament is the Greek word, “glossa.”

Glossa has all the same uses as our English word tongue, such as…

• the actual physical organ in our mouths that we taste and talk with, or…

• anything shaped like a tongue (like a “tongue of fire” in our text), or…

• a particular manner of speaking (as in “She has a sharp tongue”) and finally…

• a “language” (as in “He spoke in a foreign tongue.”)

Obviously, when any New Testament writer speaks of “speaking in tongues” he refers to the supernatural ability to speak in a LANGUAGE the speaker had never before learned.

We see this in our text. Verse 4 says, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

There would no miracle here if they all spoke in gibberish; we could all do that. But if all of a sudden, in a multicultural atmosphere of people from many different ethnicities, people began to spontaneously SPEAK in human languages they had never learned and visitors in the congregation UNDERSTOOD what was being uttered in their language—THAT would be truly miraculous!

That is EXACTLY what happened at Pentecost. – Look at the verses following our text, in verses 5-6: “5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 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.”, and verses 7-12 list all the languages that were spoken and understood.

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