Sunday, 24 October 2021
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. Acts 2:3
In the previous verse, it was noted that the sound of the rushing mighty wind filled the house where the people were sitting. It is at this time that Luke next records, “Then there appeared.”
The idea seems to be that within the house, and without any known, visible source, something new came forth. The thought is not unlike what happened as is recorded in Daniel 5 –
“In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” Daniel 5:5
Seemingly, and out of nowhere, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared. Likewise, Luke records that to these disciples there appeared “to them divided tongues.” The verb is actually a present participle. The thought is something like, “dividing tongues,” or “parting tongues.”
The word “tongues” is glossa. It signifies a tongue, a language, or even a nation which is distinguished by its language. Even before getting to the next verse, the idea is clear. A language is being presented “as of fire.”
Here the Greek is specific. It is not necessarily fire (although it could be), but that the tongues appeared and acted as would tongues of fire. Their appearance brought to mind how a tongue of fire would look and act as it divided from the main source. In the Old Testament, the term “tongue of fire” is found only once, in Isaiah 5:24 –
“Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes the straw, and as dry grass shrivels in the flame, so their roots will decay and their blossoms will blow away like dust; for they have rejected the instruction of the LORD of Hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 5:24
There, it signified the disapproval of the Lord towards the people of Israel and the judgment to be rendered upon them. The exact opposite is seen here in Acts. The display is one of favor upon the Lord’s people as is clearly seen in the next words, which say, “and one sat upon each of them.”
The tongues of fire came to rest individually upon those who had accepted the “Lord of Hosts,” meaning Jesus (see James 5:4 where he uses the same title and ascribes it to Jesus). Instead of judgment, as in Isaiah, it is a sign of divine favor.
Life application: It should be noted that the Day of Pentecost is held to be the exact same day of the calendar year that the Law of Moses was received at Mount Sinai. This can be affirmed by looking at the account found in Exodus. As such, there is now a contrast being made between the law which brings judgment and condemnation (as in Isaiah above) and the New Covenant which brings divine favor and a baptism (of fire – see Matthew 3:11, etc.) by the Spirit of God.
Having noted that, it must be remembered that this account in Acts is a descriptive passage. It prescribes nothing, and it cannot even be inferred that such a demonstration is normative. Rather, it is simply a confirmation that the Spirit approved of the faith of these believers and has given a manifested display of that approval. This is similar, but not identical to, two other accounts in Acts –
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Acts 10:44-46
“Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all.” Acts 19:4-7
These two descriptive passages are given to complement the account in Acts, and for very specific purposes. The first was to confirm that the same gospel message that brought the Spirit upon the Jews of Acts 2 also brought the Spirit upon Gentiles in Acts 10 (Peter was the apostle who was present in both instances). The tongues confirmed the acceptance of those who were saved in Acts 10.
In Acts 19, it was Jews that received the message of Christ, but this time it was Paul who presented it. In like manner to the gospel presented by Peter, the message was received, and it was confirmed by the speaking of tongues. These are the only times that such tongues are noted as coming upon believers in the book of Acts, and the giving of the accounts is purposeful.
What is being clearly revealed is that the exact same gospel is being conveyed by Peter and by Paul, and that the gospel presented by Peter is intended for both Jew and for Gentile. Likewise, the gospel presented by Paul is both for Jew and for Gentile. The demonstration of the speaking of tongues is the surety of this fact.
In other words, the word clearly and unambiguously reveals that the teaching of hyperdispensationalism that says the gospel of Peter is not the same as the gospel presented by Paul is a heretical teaching. As there is only one gospel, the teaching is anathema –
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-8
And again –
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Be sure to avoid getting caught up in this heresy and be sure to let those know who are caught up in it that what they teach is anathema. There is one, and only one gospel message, and that same message was proclaimed by all of the apostles, and it was confirmed by the giving of the Holy Spirit in an outward display of approval. We now have the record of that in the Bible, and such a display is no longer necessary.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of the Spirit that You have graciously given to us because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Now, through the gospel, we have peace and reconciliation with You. You have given us the Promise, and we await the day when we are brought into Your presence forever. May that Day be soon! Amen.