Baptism of the Spirit, Tongues of Fire and the Beginning of the Church

Acts: Jerusalem

This week, Todd continues our series through the book of Acts. Teaching from Acts 2:1-13, Todd unpacks the miraculous beginnings of the Church at the day of Pentecost.

Todd WagnerMay 15, 2016Acts 2; Matthew 3:13-17; Isaiah 28:7-13; Acts 2:3; Acts 2:1; Acts 2:2; Acts 2:4; Acts 2:5-6; Acts 2:38; Acts 8, 10, 19; Acts 2:7-12

Good morning, Plano and Fort Worth. Hello again, Dallas. We are going to dive into Acts 2 this morning. If you haven't been with us lately, we have been studying through the book of Acts, which is a historical narrative. It is a snapshot in history of God beginning to work through his spiritual body, the church, in the same way he worked through the physical incarnation of God, who is in the person of the Son.

We saw God glorified and people's lives changed through the body of the Son and his ministry, which the Spirit worked in and through. Now we're going to see, in the book of Acts, if Jesus was correct in saying, "It's better for you, people who now know God and are reconciled to him through me, if I leave, so you can have the Spirit of God work in and through you. I will be the head of the church, and you will be my spiritual body. We're going to get busy, folks, and lives will be saved, changed, and transformed through me as I work in you to love others."

That's the book of Acts. We are in chapter 2. It is one of the most exciting places in all of history. God is going to begin to do something. It is a one-time event which you are about to see. It is just as impossible to recreate as the beginning of the world. It is just as unnecessary to recreate as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That was a one-time event that accomplished something for a purpose that God used for his glory.

What you're about to see is descriptive of what happened in history. It is not prescriptive for what should continue to happen in history. When the creation of the world happened, it was descriptive. It doesn't need to be recreated all the time. When Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of the world, that event is descriptive, not prescriptive for what we're doing. The church doesn't die for the sins of the world. The church points people to the Savior.

You're going to see God is going to do something that never has to happen again and really doesn't need to happen again, because it's the beginning. It can't happen again. The beginning happens once. It's the beginning of the church. You're going to see something miraculous happen. That shouldn't surprise you. Whenever God is going to do something and say, "I'm in this and working through this," he typically authenticates the new means of his work with some sign, some authenticating work.

When we were studying the gospel of John, we talked about a signet ring. It was something a king had that was only in the king's possession. It was unique, distinct, and easily recognizable. When the king wrote a letter, he would roll it up and drop a piece of wax on it, and he would take the unique, easily recognizable ring and mark it. When you go that letter, you would go, "This is from the king."

In Scripture, God does that whenever he is beginning to show you, "I'm going to work in and through this group of people, Israel, to bless the nations. This man Moses is my servant. He is going to be a means through which you can know about my righteousness. If you want to be my people, you have to know I'm a holy God. I want you to be holy, and this is what holiness looks like." Early in Moses's ministry, you'll see a lot of authenticating signs.

After the law comes, you'll see some guys come along who are called prophets, and they point people back to what Moses told them was God's righteous standard. Those prophets told them, "If you don't pay attention to that righteous standard, it's not going to go well with you." They go, "How do we know you guys are from God?" "Through Elijah and Elisha."

Early in the life of the prophets, there were a lot of authenticating signs, miraculous, non-normative events. They're not called normicles; they're called miracles. The reason they're not called normicles is because they don't normally happen, and when they happen, you go, "Well, I'll be. That looks like something is going on that only a divine one could participate in, and I recognize that."

Thirdly, here comes this guy, this little two-bit, whispered-about, illegitimate kid born in Bethlehem to some virgin out of Galilee up in Nazareth, and he says he is very God of very God. Jesus goes, "If you don't believe me, believe the works I do. They are authenticating signs."

Early in Jesus' ministry, he does things that make people go, "Well, I'll be." There's something about calming the wind and the waves, walking on water, raising people from the dead, and giving sight to the blind that ought to make you lean in and go, "Let's give this guy a second run-through before we just write him off."

Later in Jesus' ministry, he said, "There are going to be no more signs. I'm not here as a carny act. I'm not here to always do things that make you want to hang around me. I'm here to show you who I am so you can hang around God. I am God's provision for you, that you can come back into relationship with God." It says in Romans, "Therefore, we are justified by faith, and we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord." We have faith in the provision of God.

Then, Jesus says, "I'm going to leave, and I'm going to continue my work through the church." Guess what happens early in the life of the church. A lot of authenticating signs. There was never a time between Moses and Elijah that God couldn't have done miraculous things, and there were times when he did.

Between Jesus and the early church, there was never a time, or, really, it wasn't long (about 10 days), when God couldn't have done miracles. There's never a time between the authenticating works, which were familiar to everybody who observed what was going on in the early church, and today when God can't do miraculous things.

It doesn't look like those authenticating works are happening in some of the same ways they happened, like people being raised from the dead or the lame being healed. The early church did something it appears it's not doing anymore. It's what happened on the day of Pentecost. This is interesting, because it happened during a major Jewish festival. God always takes advantage of what's going on in the world to accomplish the best he can for his people, to help them see that he wants them to know who he is.

There are three major yearly Jewish festivals where all devout Jews would make a hajj, a pilgrimage, to Jerusalem. One of them was called Passover, wrapped up in the Feast of Unleavened Bread. If you were a righteous Jew, you would go. Jesus was there during the Feast of the Passover when he offered himself up as a sacrifice.

The second one is the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Pentecost. It's called Pentecost because pente- means 50, and it's called the Feast of Weeks because it happens a week of weeks after the previous festival. A week of weeks is seven times seven. That's why, sometimes, the Feast of Pentecost (50) is called the Feast of Weeks.

That's the second time all devout Jews would come and show up, and it was during this moment that something amazing went down. Let's read it and find out if there's something for us today. We aren't going to have this experience happen to us, but there's something that happened in this experience that had better be happening in us. I'll get to that in a minute. I think we should pray.

Father, that was a lot right there. We just want to listen. We may have to go over this several times. We admit we are that evil, perverse generation that always seeks a sign. We always want to see when the King is doing something miraculous. You have told us the miraculous thing the King is doing is saving people out of darkness and calling them into a marvelous light.

He's taking selfish people and making them selfless people. He's making folks who are concerned about advancing their own kingdoms and bringing them subject to yours. You're taking people, Lord, who are constantly at war with one another and bringing them to peace with one another, because they've come to peace with you. This spirit of peace dwells in us so we can learn to love one another and be lights in a dark world.

We're going to pray that you teach us this morning and that we're not confused with what's happening here, but that we'd also be sharpened, encouraged, and strengthened. We pray we'd jump in, and you would work in us, your spiritual body, to do your spiritual work by the power of your Spirit, which we absolutely need if we're going to be of any use to you. Would you teach us now? In Jesus' name, amen.

Here we go. Let's read Acts 2. "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place." If you go back and read chapter 1, the they will trace you to the disciples, the believers. About 120 people is all we have. They were probably gathering in some upper room, which you'll see show up here in a little bit. They were doing what Jesus had told them to do.

Jesus had said, "You go and wait, and when the gift I've promised you would come, the Holy Spirit, comes upon you, you will be my witnesses, and you will receive power to be able to do what I'm leaving you here to do. It's not going to be you doing it. It's going to be me doing it through you, and you can't do it without me."

Remember when Jesus said in John 15, "Apart from me, you can do nothing"? After the resurrection, Jesus hung out with them for about 40 days, the ascension happened in Acts 1, and 10 days later (40+10=50), at the Feast of Pentecost, we have an event happening that is the fulfillment of what Jesus said he would do.

It's not just what Jesus said he would do, but what John the Baptist said Jesus would do when he showed up. People said, "Are you the Messiah?" He said, "No, I'm not the Messiah. I'm not worthy to untie his sandals. I'm going to baptize you with water, but he's going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." You're about to see that prophetic statement by John the Baptist fulfilled right here in Acts 2.

These men and women are in the upper room, and they are praying and waiting, just like Jesus told them to in Acts 1:5, where he said, "Go, and wait." Verse 2: "And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting."

It's not surprising the Holy Spirit came like a locomotive, a train, or a tornado. If you've ever been in a tornado (I have), that sound that happens around a tornado feels and sounds like a locomotive is coming. We don't know there was a tornado here, but a mighty, rushing wind came in.

Jesus equated the Holy Spirit to that. "You don't know where the Holy Spirit comes and goes." He's like the wind. You don't know where it comes from or where it ends up, but here he comes: a fulfillment of the promise. The Holy Spirit is not an it. He's not a force. That's something you tap into. The Holy Spirit is eternally equal to yet distinct from God the Father and God the Son, and he has a very specific purpose in the Godhead.

Last week's Real Truth. Real Quick. was on the Trinity. We said, "If I told you there were three gods who were one god, that would be a logical contradiction. That's true. If I told you there were three persons in one person, that would be a logical contradiction. But there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are one God." That's the revelation of God's Word. Go look at that Real Truth. Real Quick. The Holy Spirit is a he, and he is showing up. The Son told them he would get him, and he's going to get him.

He shows up like a violent, rushing wind, and he filled the house where they were sitting. It's interesting: That word filled is going to show up a little bit later in our time together this Sunday. The word filled there does mean something came in and occupied what wasn't currently there. It's confusing to people, but that same word filled is going to be used later, and it's not going to be used the same way. It's not like something empty is now occupied.

That's one way the word filled is used: "My car is out of gas. I have to go fill 'er up." Another way you use the word filled is this: "I just filled my car with gas, and I got on the highway. I merged maybe a little too quickly, and this guy was flying, so I didn't see him, and he went crazy. He started yelling at me, cussing at me, and giving me all kinds of American Sign Language symbols. It was nuts. He was filled with rage."

You don't think that guy was drinking a cup of rage, that he was out of rage and drank something that occupied what wasn't there. What you're talking about there is the issue of control. Even in the English language, we use the word fill two different ways. The word filled here means something is coming which hasn't been there. A little bit later, you're going to see something is operative. Here we go.

"And there appeared to them tongues as of fire…" Again, this is an interesting word. Sometimes you sit around a campfire, and you're toasting a marshmallow. If you get too close, maybe, what happens when a little piece of that fire comes shooting out and licks you? What do people call that little piece of the fire that comes out? It is called, sometimes, a tongue. That little flame is a tongue that comes out.

This here is a metaphor Luke used to describe what a piece of fire look like in a big fire. There's a little flame that shoots out, a tongue of the fire, and he's equating it to the physical organ which is the tongue. Tongue is not just used of the physical organ I could, right now, reach into my mouth and grab, but it's often used of a language.

You use it that way. "With what tongue do you speak?" You're not talking about what three-ounce piece of flesh you use, because we all know I use this little three- or four-ounce piece of flesh. I have no idea what my tongue weighs. I've never weighed it, but it's somewhere in there, I'm guessing.

When you hear somebody say, "He speaks with a foreign tongue," we don't believe there's an actual German piece of meat. We believe there's a German language, a German tongue. All that's going on right here is it's saying a little lick of the flame came and distributed itself, and it rested on each one of them. Here comes an audiovisual, like, "This is it, boys and girls."

This shouldn't surprise us, but the Holy Spirit, and God himself, is often equated with fire, especially to a Jew. Back in Genesis 15, when the original Abrahamic covenant was made, it says he came like in a burning oven. In Exodus 3, to Moses, he was in a burning bush. In Exodus 13, he led them through the night with a pillar of fire. In Exodus 19, when Moses went up on Sinai, there was a mountain of fire that was up there. In Exodus 40, there was a constant burning in the temple. Matthew 3 says, "Jesus will baptize you with fire."

The idea of power and this all-consuming presence is consistent with who God is. Here comes this visual, audible presentation that he, the Spirit, is here. Watch what happens. It says he rested on each one of them. I'll read verse 4, and then I'll make a comment. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…" You're going, "Which is that, Todd? Is that because something that was not occupied became filled, or is it something that was there started to control them?" The answer is, both. This is the first time in human history that God is imparting his Spirit.

I'm going to get to teach you next week that this is a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophet named Joel, who said, "This is going to happen: All your sons and daughters are going to speak with a new tongue and are going to be transformed and live in intimate relationship with God. Not just Moses and Elijah, or Isaiah and Jeremiah, but everybody is going to have a relationship with God. Can you imagine that?"

There could have been no greater promise offered to a Jew than that. He said, "There's going to be a day when everybody can be reconciled to God. I won't have to come and work in and through certain spokespeople to reveal to you who I am. You're going to all know me, because you're going to find the fullness of God revealed in Jesus, and you're going to find the fullness of God's wrath poured out on Jesus."

God can be a mercy-giving God because his justice is satisfied through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. People who deserve sin could have their sin covered (atoned for) so they could be forgiven, and God could be both just and the justifier of those he loves. Everybody can be close to God and have fellowship with him.

There is no greater promise than that. Folks, this is an amazing moment. It is showing you Jesus has accomplished what he said he could accomplish. He can bring men near to God. They can come boldly before the throne of grace. They can be one with the Father. It says they began to speak with other tongues. It doesn't mean Mary goes, "Peter, take mine!" It doesn't mean Bartholomew goes, "James, give me your tongue!" Of course not, that's silly.

Now, we're going to have the exact same word, glossa. That word is where we get the English word glossary. A glossary is, if you will, a compendium of known words in a specific tongue. It's a glossary of the English language. It says these guys started to speak with a different glossa, a different glossary, a different set of words from a language that wasn't theirs. Why would God do that? Let's find out.

It says the Spirit was giving them utterance. The Holy Spirit was there and began to control them. The Holy Spirit was doing this through them. This is really important. Whenever the Holy Spirit comes on somebody, there is a radical transformation, but there is one exception to that. Look with me at Matthew 3:13-17.

"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John [the Baptist] , to be baptized by him." This is to identify with sinful humanity and the need to repent. John tried to say, "Hey, man, I know who you are. I need to be baptized by you. Do you come to me?" "But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'" So John permitted him to be baptized.

"After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [Jesus] saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him…" That's a really interesting phrase. Lighting doesn't just mean a spotlight came on him. The word lighting also means to gently rest upon. As he came up out of the water, Jesus saw the Holy Spirit gently rest on him.

It didn't change Jesus. Jesus didn't at that moment become God. Jesus was already walking in fellowship with the Father, but Jesus now saw a visual representation. "The Spirit you have been yielding to, the Father you've been living in obedience to, is going to continue to show himself through you."

This is when Jesus' public ministry began to really be noticed by others. Why? Jesus was already God. He never stopped being God. We know from the Scriptures even though he was with God in the beginning, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself. "What do you mean by, 'He emptied himself,' Todd? Does that mean he stopped being God?" No, Jesus never stopped being God.

This is Philippians 2. He said, "I'm going to put aside my right to do what I've always done as the sovereign, eternal God, who can create and do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. It's always good and perfect, because God is good and perfect. I'm going to only do what the Father wants me to do. Just like every other human-kind, I will only have breath if God gives me breath, and I will only have power if God gives me power, and God gives power through the Holy Spirit."

Jesus, already fully God, was able to not sin. Because he was God, he was not able to sin, but as a man, he was able to. Because he was the perfect man, he did not sin. Now the Spirit of God gently rested on him. I'm telling you all this because it's important for your theology. If you believe Jesus somehow, here, all of a sudden, started to be God, you are a heretic. You are violating the revelation of Scripture.

Here's a point I really want you to understand. It's part of what makes Acts 2 so wonderful and easy. It's what should be a teaching to us Here's the way I would say it. If the Spirit doesn't produce change in you, it means you are either Jesus or you don't know him. I say that because there are lots of people who sit here and go, "I'm all down with Jesus. I love Jesus." You have a demon's faith. I'm just going to come right out and tell you.

You believe God is one, you shudder at the idea of the holiness of God, but you're not changed by God because you don't have a relationship with God. You have information about God. The purpose of information is for you to respond to it. Information is not there just for you to know. It is there for you to be transformed by it. The purpose of teaching is not information, it's transformation.

Some of us in this room are like, "I know all about Jesus. I'm down with Jesus. I'm not a Muslim, atheist, Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, or agnostic. I would answer the question with, 'I'm a Christian.'" But do you know him? Do you believe? Are you trusting in him? When you trust in him and have faith (that word faith is pistis) and believe in him, you have a relationship with him, and he will change you.

If you aren't changed, you're either Jesus (I would recommend you scratch that off the list) or you're deluded, which I would ask you to consider. At the very least, there's a possibility that you have known him, there was a change that was there, and the new things have come. You now know God is good, and you know God saves, but you are quenching and grieving the Spirit in you. I'm going to get to that in a moment. Here we go.

They're all filled with the Holy Spirit, and because they were filled with the Holy Spirit, there was transformation and change. In this case, they had other glossa, other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Verse 5: "Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven." They were living there, not just permanently, but we know this was one of the three times when all devout Jews, people who were God-fearers and took God seriously, would come to Jerusalem. They were there, and this event happened.

It says, "And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language." This is a different word. See if you can figure out where we get this word in English. The Greek word is dialektos. These men are speaking with a different glossary. Folks from all over the world would come to Jerusalem at this time. Jews who have been dispersed from Rome to Babylon, east and west, up north past Turkey and Syria, down south past Egypt…

A Galilean had a very distinct accent (think Deep South or Cajun). It would be like an Englishman to an American. In fact, when Peter was around the fire during the time when Jesus was being tried by Caiaphas, he was asked by two servant girls if he was one of the disciples, and he denied it.

Then it says a group of bystanders, the third group, came up to him and said, "Surely, you are one of them, for even the way you talk gives you away. We know where you're from, dude. We can hear you speak. That's an Aussie accent," or, "That's a Galilean accent." All of a sudden, not only are we hearing no Galilean accent, but we're hearing perfect dialektos. They are not just speaking with their glossa, their glossary, but they're speaking with their dialect.

I remember when I got one of those Spanish deals you can put on your computer and talk into, and it would allow you to learn different words. You'd get on the microphone and say it, and it would go from turista to native. My wife and I laughed all day long. I could not say gracias outside of anything that was even close to turista. I was like, "Come on, I'm saying it just like you." I'm yelling at the computer, and I'm trying to say it, and it just goes, "Turista. Turista."

I'm like, "Give me an easy word. Give me taco or bueno or something so I can get over to native." I never got it done. My wife would sit there and laugh at me hysterically. Here's what I would tell you. When these guys were speaking, it went right to native, because that would catch your ear.

When you hear me speaking really poor Spanish, if you're Spanish, you'd be like, "That guy doesn't know the language." Have you ever been that way? Have you ever been in a foreign country, and all you have is French around you, and all of a sudden you hear English? You're like, "Whoo. Who can I talk to? Who was that Englishman over there?" You're locked in, like, "Whoa, what is that?" That's what's going on.

We'll do this quickly, because we have to get to the meat. It says, "They were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?'""How can they speak in these tongues?" "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language [dialektos] to which we were born?"

"Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia [Turkey, northeast of Israel] , Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia [northwest, Asia Minor] , Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene [southwest] , and visitors from Rome [way northwest] , both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs [west and southeast] …"

In other words, people from all around Jerusalem are going, "These guys are speaking in our exact dialect." Watch what happens. "…We hear them in our own [glossa] speaking of the mighty deeds of God." Spirit-filled people, when they speak, today, always still speak of the mighty deeds of God.

That's what a Spirit-filled person does, and it's what these men did in the early church. The gospel was going to go into all the world. This wasn't just for the Jews anymore. Here it comes. It says, "And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?'"

That's where I get to pick up next week. I'll tell you what it means. It means love has come and Jesus is the Savior of the world. Everybody can know of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The reason he blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is so all the nations of the world would be blessed through the relationship they have with God, who has made himself known and dealt with the sin of human-kind through Jesus. Folks, this is an amazing moment in history.

I want to say some things right here. There is a lot of confusion about what happens. I've already mentioned this is normative. This happens three more times in the book of Acts, and we're going to get there. It happens in Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19. "What happens, Todd? I thought you said this is a one-time event."

What happens is people who have an understanding of who God is or who want to know who God is… After they have clarity about the person of Jesus Christ, they, then, are baptized in the Spirit. In your entire Bible, these are the only individuals who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, right here in Acts 2, who, separate and subsequent to their relationship with Jesus Christ, receive this thing called the baptism of the Spirit.

From this moment on, even right there in Acts 2:38, when Peter starts to preach, and the guys get done listening to him, and they go, "Oh, my goodness. What must we do, then, to be saved?" he says to them, "Repent. Identify yourself with Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…" That's what the word baptism means. "…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Even right after this moment, everybody who comes into a saving faith with Jesus, at that moment, immediately is baptized in the Spirit.

In Acts 8, Philip is dealing with Samaritans. Samaritans were half-Jew and half-Gentile. They're responding to Philip proclaiming the mighty deeds of God. They send some more apostles up there, and when they trust in Jesus, they, too, are baptized in the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, they don't speak in tongues, but they are, in that moment, baptized with the Spirit, right when they believe in Jesus.

Acts 10 talks about Gentiles with Cornelius and his household. God has them send for Peter, who makes his way to Cornelius's house. Cornelius said, "We had a vision we were supposed to send for you, and you were going to tell us something." Peter said, "I only have one thing I want to tell you about: the mighty deeds of God."

Cornelius and his household believe, and at that moment they are baptized in the Spirit, at the moment of their belief. Guess what they do. They do speak in tongues. Watch this. Jesus isn't slowly cutting people in. Anybody who has a relationship with him has all the ability to do everything Jews do.

The same thing happens in Ephesus through the ministry of Paul in Acts 19. Disciples of John, who had received the baptism of John the Baptist, had not heard about or been identified with Jesus. When they do identify with Jesus, these Ephesians are baptized in the Spirit, and they, in Acts 19, also begin to speak in tongues.

All throughout the early part of the church, there were people who spoke in tongues: glossa, a glossary, and dialektos, known languages. This is what's so confusing. Please listen to me. When you hear most people today talking about the gift of tongues, 99 percent of them are not talking about what we just studied.

I'm going to ask you a question. We just read Acts 2, and we heard about these guys God was going to work in and through to proclaim the mighty deeds of God to the entire world that was gathered there. People there were going to receive forgiveness for their sins at their repentance. They were going to be yoked with Jesus and the Spirit.

Some of them were going to go back to Rome and start a church. Before Paul ever got to Rome, he wrote a letter to the church in Rome. Where did that church come from? Right here. These guys who were equipped fully to do everything God wanted them to do would go back to Rome, and the church prospered there because they were given power by God to be his witnesses.

Let me ask you this question. You guys just read your Bible. What was going on when they spoke in tongues in Acts 2? What were they doing? They were speaking in known languages. When you talk to people today about the gift of tongues, almost 100 percent of them are going to be talking about this thing called a prayer language God has given them.

Too many times, it's going to be something God gave them separate and apart from their coming to faith in Christ. They cried out for a relationship with God they would call a baptism of the Holy Spirit, and when the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes on them, they begin to speak in tongues. What they mean is not a glossa of a different dialektos. What they mean is glossalalia.

That's a different word, and it's exactly like it sounds. It's not a real glossa. It's a bunch of words nobody understands. They go, "Isn't that cool? Look at what God is doing. I can sit here and speak in all this gibberish." I'm not making fun of them. I'm just telling you that doesn't, to me, show the power of God.

It's not even what's in the Bible. Paul and Luke ran together, and when Paul is writing to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, he uses the exact same words. He doesn't use glossolalia. He uses the word glossa, known tongues. Paul is saying, "Some of you guys are abusing this gift. You really do speak in a known dialektos with the tongue God has given you, but you guys are a bunch of Corinthians, and some of you guys are speaking in Phrygian. That doesn't help anybody. We go, 'Wow, that dude has that gift. That's an impressive gift.'"

I can remember when I was first hanging around this idea, and I got around believers. I was taking honors French at the time. I earnestly prayed God would give me the gift of tongues. I said, "If you don't mind, make it French." I did. My grade would tell you he did not answer my prayer.

Let me say this to you. I knew, even then. "Give me that one." There's nothing in Scripture… Some of you guys are going to go, "Wait a minute, Todd. I've had this experience. This guy I really love and trust, this mighty man of God who loves Jesus, says he really does that." I'm going to say, "Okay. I'm not going to argue with his experience. I don't even want to argue with your experience, but I will argue with you about what you make of that experience."

I'm going to drop in one more little thing for you here, and I'm going to do it quickly. When you are a Jew and you hear about foreign tongues, it should tell you something big is going down. Do you remember when I started the book of Acts a few short weeks ago? I spent the entire first week telling you why we got to where we were in God's redemptive history, why he was going to use the church, made up of Jew and Greek and Gentile, slave and free man, male and female. He was going to use us all.

I talked about the fact that even in Acts 1, at the very end, Judas was not faithful, so he was subbed out, and somebody faithful was put in. Let me show you what's going on here in Isaiah 28. This is the purpose of tongues in the Scripture. I'm going to read it to you in the New Living Translation, just because it's so stinking clear that it'll be helpful to you as I do that.

In Isaiah 28 and following, this is what's going on. It says, "Now, however, Israel is being led by drunks." Next week, in Acts 2:14 and following, they're going to go, "These guys are drunk." Watch this. "The priests and the prophets reel and stagger from beer and wine. They make stupid mistakes as they carry out their responsibilities. Their tables are covered with vomit, and filth is everywhere."

They say, "Who does the Lord think we are?" They're saying this because Isaiah is talking to them. Isaiah is God's prophet, and he is going to God's people, the priests, and he is saying to them, "Boys, you are not ministering the way God wants you to minister, and I'm going to lay it out for you, line by line, the way you talk to a child. Listen to me, this is very simple. We're going to go here, and here…"

The prophets and priests who were not rightly related to God were offended by this. Watch what they say. "Why does he speak to us like this? Are we little children, barely old enough to talk? He tells us everything over and over again, a line at a time, in very simple words." This is Isaiah speaking now: "Since they refused to listen, God will speak to them through foreign oppressors who will speak an unknown language."

Tongues are going to show up in Jerusalem, specifically, Assyrian tongues and Babylonian tongues. Think 1940s Paris with German tongues. It is not a sign of blessing when you are in Paris in 1940 and folks are talking about bratwurst and Hitler. Judgment has come to that land, in effect. Somebody who wants to rule them has come.

Verse 12 says God's people could have rest in their own land if they would only obey him, but they would not listen. Watch this: "The Lord will spell out his message for them, repeating it over and over, a line at a time, in very simple words, yet they will stumble over the simple, straightforward message. They will be injured, trapped, and captured."

In other words, it basically says, "God's going to tell you to do and do, rule on rule, line on line…" They're mocking Isaiah's message. They're saying, "Isaiah, why do you talk just like kids?" Isaiah says, "Let me tell you something. If you're not going to listen to simple, clear instruction, you're going to hear a different tongue, and you aren't going to recognize it." It was a sign of judgment.

What is really going on here in Acts 2 is a judgment to the Jews. "You guys didn't take the gospel to the end of the earth the way you wanted to, so I'm going to bring the tongues of the world into relationship with me. They're going to declare my mighty deeds, because you didn't do it."

Tongues, it says, are a sign of judgment. They're always for the Jew. Every time tongues show up in the book of Acts, it always happened in the presence of a Jew. "Hey, Jew, guess what. These Galileans are speaking to everybody in the world about Jesus. We're going to go speak to everybody in the world about God."

Acts 10: "Hey, Jew, guess what. These Gentiles are going to go speak to everybody in the world about God and the person of Jesus and his mighty deeds he did through him." That's a form of judgment to the Jews. Acts 19: "Hey, Jews who are present here, these Ephesians are going to start declaring, in dialects they don't even know, by my power, the goodness and mighty deeds of God, because you didn't do it."

Tongues are never a gift for the believer. They're a sign of judgment for non-believing folks who think they believe, and they are used to declare the mighty deeds of God, not as a personal, private prayer language. When people ask me, "Do you believe in the gift of tongues today?" I always ask them, "What do you think the gift of tongues is?"

I believe, if God wanted to, I could speak fluent French, and if you know me, that would be a miracle. I have zero problem believing that, but it's just not the mark God says he's going to use today. What he says he's going to use today is, "Todd, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to speak a universal language through you, and the language is love and selflessness. The ongoing mark of the church of Jesus Christ is love. You don't sit around and wait for me to let you speak in Farsi to go minister to people in Persia. You go love Persians."

Part of loving them is, when you're with them, laugh at yourself as you try to learn their language, which I always do. Guess how I speak the very first few times I'm around Persians, Turks, Arabs, and others. Line by line and little word by little word, not as a form of judgment, but in humility.

"Teach me something, because I desperately want to build a relationship with you. I'll learn your language so I can tell you about my God." By the way, the one language I don't even need to speak for you to know is the language of love and selfless surrender, showing up and taking anything I have that might be a blessing to you and giving it to you. That's the ongoing mark of the church.

Tongues were a sign of judgment to the Jews. Tongues were never given to individuals for their own personal spiritual edification. When people say, "Todd, do you believe in prayer language?" I go, "I don't think the Bible believes in prayer language."

"Didn't Paul say, 'Pray at all times in the Spirit'?"

"Yes, and he also says all of you need to speak in tongues. Whatever praying at all times in the Spirit is, it must not be speaking in tongues, or Paul never would have said that."

I could go on, but I want to close with this, because this is what we need to understand right here. If the Holy Spirit is not actively at work in and through Watermark, Watermark is nothing worth offering anybody. Not only should we not be afraid of the Holy Spirit; we should be continually being filled with the Holy Spirit.

What did I just say? The moment you believe in Jesus Christ, you're baptized, identified with him, sealed, regenerated, fully appropriated, and given everything you need by God, lacking in nothing. The Scripture says, "Be continually being filled by it." It's a passive, present perfect verb that's imperative. That means, "Todd, you allow God to work in and through you for his glory all the time. It's not like you're empty and need something. You take the Spirit of God, which is in you, and let it control you."

One of my favorite authors of all time was a pastor who lived about 60 years ago named A.W. Tozer. He wrote this amazing couple of paragraphs. We'll close with this. "I think we are going to have to restudy this whole teaching of the place of the Holy Spirit in the Church, so the Body can operate again. If the life goes out of a man's body, he is said to be a corpse. He is what they call 'the remains.'

It is sad, but humorously sad, that a strong, fine man with shining eyes and vibrant voice, a living man, dies, and we say, 'the remains' can be seen at a funeral home. All the remains of the man, and the least part about him, is what you can see there in the funeral home. The living man is gone. You have only the body. The body is 'the remains.'" He is without the animation of the pneuma, the Spirit. There is no life in him.

"So it is in the Church of Christ. It is literally true that some churches are dead. The Holy Spirit has gone out of them and all you have left are 'the remains.' You have the potential of the church but you do not have the church, just as you have in a dead man the potential of a living man but you do not have a living man.

He can't talk, he can't taste, he can't touch, he can't feel, he can't smell, he can't see, he can't hear—because he is dead! The soul has gone out of the man, and when the Holy Spirit is not present in the Church, you have to get along after the methods of business or politics or psychology or human effort." It is dead.

Watermark, listen to me. When people ask me, "Are you a Spirit-filled church?" I'm like, "If you aren't a Spirit-filled church, you're not the church." "How do we know we're a Spirit-filled church? Do we speak in tongues?" "Yes." The mark of being a Spirit-filled man is not that you speak in some dialektos nobody understands unless there's an interpreter. The mark of being a Spirit-filled man is you control the tongue you have.

You use it to speak with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; you express gratitude to God; and you use it to be subject to one another in love. The mark of a Spirit-filled church is love, not some closet prayer language that never existed in the Bible. If the Spirit of God is not in us, we have nothing to offer the world. We had better be a Spirit-filled church, because if we're not a Spirit-filled church, we are not the spiritual body of Jesus Christ; we are a dead church, a false church, and the world should be warned against us.

We also are not going to be people who walk around acting like we need something so we can do something on our own, that we feel like we're ministering to God and being mistered to by God. No, we minister to God by being faithful and using the tongue we have to declare his excellency, to learn the Word of God and to speak it to other people.

Here's the truth: If the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church today, I really believe about 95 percent of what the church in America does today would continue, as if nothing had happened. That's a problem. If you took the Holy Spirit out of the early church, about 95 percent of what they did would have been absolutely stymied.

We'd better align ourselves back with that church who knew they needed the Holy Spirit. Don't be afraid of the Holy Spirit. It's just the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Christ. He's revealed his Word to you in the Word of God. Read it. Read it through. Pray it in. Live it out. Pass it on for the glory of the mighty, mighty name of God. Amen?

Father God, would you help us be your church? I have nothing to offer my friends apart from your Word. I have nothing to offer my friends except that I might decrease and you might increase, that I would be continually being controlled by the Spirit of God. Help us, Father, to be humble.

We're not mad at people who think they have the gift of tongues. Lord, if there's something for you to show us that we don't see, would you show us? Lord, we see very clearly what was going on here, and we don't need to be distracted by difficult things to understand that have been misinterpreted, to the church's harm.

Meanwhile, we want to lift up Jesus. We want to run hard after you. We want to exhort and encourage people. We want to help them rightly divide the Word of Truth so they're not confused, but we want to love. We know when the Spirit is present love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, and self-control are here.

We also know, Lord, the power of God for salvation is here. You're still letting lame men walk, blind men see, and dead people come to life by faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Men who used to walk in error toward selfishness and death now walk in righteousness. People who couldn't see your goodness now see it. People who were dumb and unable to talk about your love and goodness now sing that song, and people who were dead in their trespasses and sins are now alive in Christ, and I thank you.

I pray that would increase here, and all glory would go to Jesus, apart from whom we can do nothing. If there is one here today who does not know that, Lord, who doesn't know that King, Jesus, I pray they'd come. I pray they'd hear me tell them Jesus died for them that they might be set free.

I pray they would be baptized by faith into a relationship with you through Jesus Christ, that they might receive the forgiveness of the sins and immediately begin a relationship with Jesus, a relationship with the Father and the Spirit, even as your Scripture teaches. We pray this in Jesus' blessed name, amen.

See you next week. May God bless you, and have a great week of worship.