On the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter 2:1-11.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 310 - March 1882


Chapter 2:1-11.

The death of Christ, as the paschal lamb, took place punctually to the day; so did the resurrection as the wave sheaf; yet no saint knew the significance of either till they were accomplished facts. Nor have we proof, notwithstanding the marked intelligence displayed in the use of scripture since the resurrection (Acts. i.; cf. Luke xxiv. 47), that any entered into the meaning of the feast of weeks, with its wave loaves, till it was being fulfilled. They were together, however, in their true place of dependence and expectation. "And when the day of Pentecost was in coarse of fulfilment, they were all together1 in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of a mighty blast rushing, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues parting asunder as of fire, and it2 sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them to utter " (Ver. 1-4).

This was the baptism of the Spirit, though neither the mighty cause is here unfolded, nor are the effects as yet traced out. But the promise of the Father was now fulfilled. The Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven according to the word of the Lord to abide with His own for ever, that other Advocate who answers on earth to Christ in heaven, the Divine manager of all our affairs according to the will of God. As being a wholly new thing there were accompanying signs, and these of a twofold character; not only the violent blowing which filled all the house, but the disparted tongues as of ire which sat upon each. Thus was manifested the presence of the Spirit in a general way for alb the house, in a special way as power of testimony for each, a distinction of importance found in other forms elsewhere also.

But testimony is the predominant point here; for if they were all filled with the Spirit, they began also to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Hence the aptness of the form in which the Spirit manifested His action: not a dove as with the Lord when sealed on earth, emblem of One holy, harmless, undefiled, but tongues wherewith now to make known the wonderful works of God, in the new creation every way far beyond the wonders of the old. But the tongues were not one, but parting asunder. The Gentile must hear, no less than the once favoured Jew. Now the mission of grace was to go forth indiscriminately as became a dead and risen Saviour, whom God exalted on high after man, especially Israel, had rejected Him as their own Messiah on earth. Further, the tongues were as of fire, that set forth Divine judgment intolerant of evil, as just new demonstrated in grace to man in the cross of Christ.

But the languages were as real as they were different from their mother tongue or any naturally acquired one. The fact is as clearly stated, as the gift itself was eminently significant and seasonable. What could be so clear a testimony that if God gave His law to Israel, though in itself the expression of man's moral duty, He was now about to make known His grace in the gospel to every race and tongue? His grace not only forgives all offences, but quickens together with Christ, so as to be a new and everlasting ground for the energy of the Spirit to produce in a new life the fruit of righteousness which is by Jesus Christ to God's glory and praise. This witness of divine love, efficacious through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, in direction toward all, in effect upon all those that believe. It was not the extirpation of difference in language, not yet the power which will make once more the whole earth of one lip and the same speech, but grace lifting its objects and instruments above the effects of that judgment at Babel, which by diversity of language confounded the pride of the race, when it sought to combine and exalt itself in a union of human will which forgot God altogether. But God remembered guilty and miserable man, and in His wisdom and mercy availed Himself of the chosen people's hatred of Himself and of His Son, (John xv.) to go out in the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and to mark this in a way most touching to every nation under heaven.

"Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, pious men, from every nation under heaven, and when this re. port [or, sound] was made, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because they each one heard them speaking in his own dialect. And they were all amazed and wondering, saying,3 Behold, are not all these: that speak Galilean? And how hear we, each in our own dialect in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and those that dwell in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and the Roman sojourners, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty things of God" (Ver. 5-11).

If any words were needed to make the nature of the wonder plain and precise, it might have been supposed that these could not fail. But men of this world's science and learning, though bearing the name of Christian, manifest no less incredulity now than the Jews did of old, who foolishly sought to treat it as mere excitement. Some have tried to find in the account the same sort of senseless jargon, or (as Meyer) an entirely new language as its favourers allege,4 which was revived a half century ago among the Irvingites; others (as Bleek, &c.) contend for a highly excited or ecstatic style of speech suitable to the communication of the marvels of grace, or (Olshausen) for so low a thought as a magnetic relation between speakers and hearers, or (Wieseler, &c.) for mere inarticulate ejaculations of praise! The older rationalists, as Paulus, &c., supposed no other than their native tongue; others, from Gregory of Nyssa and Cyprian to Erasmus and men of our own day, had grafted on this the strange idea that the multitude of foreigners were caused by the Spirit to hear each his own tongue! But Gregory of Nazianzus rejects the notion as making the marvel lie with the hearers rather than the speakers, contrary to the cleat statement of scripture, as indeed are all these vain hypotheses.

The truth is that all these ideas, though maintained not only by preachers, but by theologians of the highest rank, are swept away at the first touch of the written word, ever the standard of truth, and never more needed than in this day of active and daring intellect. The disciples were enabled in the power of the Spirit to speak the various languages of the earth; and it would seem that there were different measures in this gift as in others. The Apostle thanks God that he speaks with tongues more than all the Corinthans, so ostentatious of these sign-gifts; but he also insists en the subordination of them all to prophecy, as a gift characteristically for edification, encouragement, and consolation. The great end in the assembly is building up, to which a tongue without interpretation contributed nothing; as their frequency, if not simultaneous also, was an evident offence against older, both of which he corrects as the commandment of the Lord.

Tongues therefore played a very inferior part in the assembly. That they were conferred for the dissemination of the gospel is the supposition of many in ancient as in modern times. They were certainly used to arrest the Jews from foreign countries, who flocked to Jerusalem for this feast, or were otherwise staying there. What confounded these strangers from so many lands was, that they each one heard the disciples speaking in their own language, and, whatever may have been the prevalence of Aramaic, Greek, and Latin over the then known world, it is idle to tell one who believes this careful and varied enumeration from the N. E. to the W. and S. (which seems to be the reason why Judaea comes between Mesopotamia and Cappadocia), that the inspired writer does not mean to convey more than a few distinct tongues. Not so judged the residents and the sojourners in Jerusalem, whose piety gave them weight, yet least of all disposed to religious innovation. To them the evidence was irresistible, an impossibility if the variety of languages had not been a plain and sure reality of which they were competent judges. " Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans? And how hear we, each in our own dialect in which we were born? Parthians, and Medes and Elamites, &o. . . . we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty things of God."

Still those who heard and believed the gospel that day were Jews and proselytes only. But the wondrous form of testimony prepared the way for those who glean the mind of God from the mighty workings of His gracious power, as well as from the words of the Lord, in His varied commissions to the disciples, the wide-reaching activity in witnessing His love to which they were called. His bands which had been stretched out in vain to a disobedient and contradictory people were already pointing to ell the nations, who also would hear. But the Lord had to use, as we shall see in due time, fresh means to reach the ears and quicken the hesitating feet of His own, in that grace that tarrieth not for man, and waiteth not for the sons of men.

(To be continued.)



1) Text. Rec., followed by the Authorised Version "with one accord," has ὀριοθυμαδόν with one or two uncials and most cursives; but ὁμοῦ, "together," is the reading of א A B C, &c.

2) Some read with אp.m. DGr., some ancient versions and fathers "they"; but A B C E, the cursives, and other ancient versions support the singular. The plural is probably to suit "the tongues" just before.

3) Text. Rec., with Authorised Version, adds πρὸς ἁλλ., "one to another," with pretty good authority, but not the best.

4) There can be but little doubt that the interpolation of the word unknown in the Authorised Version of 1 Cor. xiv. 2, 4, 13, 19, 27, gave occasion to, and helped to consecrate, the delusion of the enemy. It is no small proof of the evil of those unwarranted additions; but I find another has anticipated me in remarking what had occurred independently to my mind.