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The Bible on the Tongues Doctrine: 2. THE DAY OF PENTECOST

By Arthur Vess

      The first reference to speaking in tongues is recorded in the Book of Acts on that marvelous, prophetic, and historical day known as The Day of Pentecost, which resulted in the launching of the Christian Church there, and throughout the world. Let us read and study it with open hearts and minds.

      "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Lord, let it be so today.) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. (Before they were filled with the Holy Ghost.) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues (or languages), as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

      "Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, (because no one understood anything they said?? No!) because that (1) every man heard them speak in his own language."

      "And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And (2) how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?"

      Then the Divine writer gives the names of the many nationalities who were present, and continues, (3) "We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine."

      Here we have the record of the first great outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Church, with the result that thousands of sinners were also saved, or converted. If they had not understood, could they have been saved? Now let us check the relation and meanings of the tongues on this miraculous, historic occasion.

      1. "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them."

      First, we note that they did not speak with their own natural, fleshly, material tongues, but from the heavenly word there appeared unto them miraculous tongues "like as of fire (fiery tongues), and it sat upon each of them." Those present saw those flaming tongues come from Heaven and sit upon them. We do not know whether those tongues sat on their heads, shoulders, or hands, but they were not their own tongues. Who has ever seen such miraculous tongues appear out of the heavenlies and sit upon anyone in our world, in our day and generation?

      Secondly, we note that the great marvel about the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost was that they were understood by all present in their own language. When others speak in a language known to all present, none can deny its reality and existence. But when men speak in a language unknown to all present, none can prove that it is a language. We requote: (1) "Every man heard them speak in his own language." (V. 6.) It was a language, and a known language. (2) "And how hear we . . . in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" (V. 8.) It was not only their own language, but the language they had learned and spoken all their lives. Was there anything unknown about this? Nay, verily, it was marvelously known and clearly understood by all present. The miracle was that all understood the language. (3) "We do hear them speak in our tongues (or languages) the wonderful works of God." (V. 11.) Why did the multitudes come together, and were confounded, and amazed? Was it because no one understood, or because every one understood? This was a great miracle that God performed so that all nations under heaven might hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and take the message back home with them, and tell the world that Jesus Christ had come, and that the Holy Ghost had been poured out. It was the greatest missionary miracle and utterance of all time.

      Be honest, now, and suppose that no man had understood a word said -- what would have been the result? Why, every man and every nationality would have gone back home confused, unsaved, and disappointed because no one knew anything about what was going on. Is it not high time that the modern tongues movement get away from their confusion, and go out and tell the world, in their own language, that Jesus Christ still lives to break the power of sin and to set men free? With that saintly and scholarly Apostle Paul, we cry out, "So . . . except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air," (into empty space). Again he says, "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." -- 1 Cor. 14: 9, 19. Five into ten thousand goes two thousand times. He plainly declares that speaking to others in their own language is two thousand times more important and effective than speaking a language they do not understand.

      We do not deny the fact that God did, and may yet, enable one to speak in the language of another people in order to preach the Gospel to them as on the Day of Pentecost; but we do refuse to believe that you may know a thing that is unknown, or be edified, instructed or helped by a thing that no one understands. No modern Tongues missionary has ever been able to speak in the language of a foreign nation. Why? Those who believe in the "unknown tongue" certainly have no right to be called "Pentecostal," for the marvel and miracle of Pentecost was that every man heard them speak in his own language. The marvel was not that no one understood, but that every man present heard them and understood them. Again we say that when everyone understands a language, no one can deny that it is real, and is being spoken. And it is just as true that when a language is "unknown," no one can prove that it is a language. Let us note that the gift of tongues was given as a witness, or means of communication, to those present and not to the one speaking. It was a witness to those hearing, not to the speaker.

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