Lesson 4: Comparing The Principle To The Experience (Acts 9:32-11:18)
Speaking in Tongues was a miracle so to talk about tongues is to talk about the miraculous.
That partly explains why people are so bewitched by this experience. It is natural for humans to be fascinated by miracles of any kind even when they happen to others. The prospect of “experiencing” one personally multiplies the fascination. And although tongues are usually represented as something everyone can experience the Bible says exactly the opposite.
Paul rhetorically made this point when he asked, “Do all speak in tongues,” (1 Corinthians 12:30). The answer is obvious.
Tongues is defined as the ability to speak in an unknown language miraculously. That is, the person who spoke in tongues was enabled by God, miraculously, to speak a language they did not already know in the hearing of people who did. Tongues was a three-way miracle.
God miraculously enabled person A to speak in tongues in the hearing of person B. Person B was the focus not A and in every case God wasn’t revealing a truth, He was emphasizing one that had already been revealed.
Another point that is rarely made is the fact that the use of tongues was more for the person hearing than for the person speaking.
It was a miracle used to convince the hearer to accept a truth he or she had already heard but had difficulty processing. In the case of tongues, Hebrew believers were being convinced to accept the fact that God is no respecter of persons. Anyone, including Gentiles could be saved. Tongues was the mechanism used to emphasize this point.
Tongues were spoken several times in the New Testament and, according to Paul, served this very specific and short lived purpose. Once the purpose was served, tongues were no longer needed.
That is really true of all miracles. God doesn’t pass them out like Halloween sweets and they have little to do with alleviating pain or rewarding faith. They are intended to serve God’s purposes not satisfy our need to feel special.
They don’t happen just because you “want” one and it is misleading to suggest faith is the determinant factor. They serve specific purposes, they may make a point but they are always strictly under God’s control.
Of all the miracles in the Bible tongues illustrates this truth best.
- No one ever expected to speak in tongues.
- No one even knew they were possible.
- No one ever prayed for this experience.
- And after they happened no one talked about them.
The meaning was obvious to the first generation of believers, most of whom were Jewish. Tongues wasn’t an issue until years after the fact.
They happened only when God allowed and they made the same strong statement every time… [Read more…]