And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on 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 utterance.
Can you imagine the chaotic climate of the clamoring confessions of Christ? I doubt it was like that at all, despite the current culture and climate of clamoring confessions in our charismatic collectives. The majorities of modern day methods of speaking in tongues, in no way resemble what happened in this first-century gathering. Lord willing, we will discuss this more in the future, nevertheless, we should understand the difference between xenoglossy and glossolalia. We also should certainly consider the context, aspiration of author, genre, examples and divide rightly the word of truth to see what Luke saw. Not a chaotic frenzy of people shaking and shimmering, stammering strange sayings, but people prophetically pointing towards Jesus, in languages that those there could understand. Let’s look at and consider the context.
“And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” “Pentecost,” literally; “fiftieth day;” is the Greek name for the Jewish celebration of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. One of the three pilgramage festivals, originally Shavuot was the celebration of the wheat harvest, the in-gathering and first fruits, celebrated by the counting of the omer from Passover–7 weeks. And if this sounds complicated enough, the Hebrews also celebrated the anniversary of the giving of the Law, from the Lord to Moses, on Mount Sinai. Pentecost, or, Shavuot was significant for several reasons yet it is the least understood of the three pilgramage festivals, probably because it is quite confusing.
Briefly: Exodus 34:22; “You shall observe the festival of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year.” Leviticus 23:15-17; “You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the LORD.” In Deuteronomy we read, “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name. And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.” All of these passages beg the question, how did the Feast of Weeks, First Fruits and the in-gathering morph into the celebration of the giving of the Law? Simple, it is what we as humans do. We take that of which God says and turn it into our traditions based on our own values and beliefs. It seems reasonable to us that the Israelites added the giving of the Torah to the Shavuot celebration, but did God tell them to do it?
Which brings us back to the irony of today’s text–The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the celebration of the giving of the Law, made up by men and taught as tradition. And rather than explain or read the Torah, the Spirit came an made the men speak in different tongues. “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on 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 utterance.” But this doesn’t resemble our modern culture of tongues, does it?
First; “there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” I have seen and heard people “speaking in tongues,” or glossolalia, which is speaking in an unknown or unrecognizable dialect. These people are usually standing, not sitting, which is fairly irrelevant but odd, based on the context. Nevertheless, I have never heard the noise of a violent rushing wind proceeding the speaking in tongues. Yes, I am being dogmatic to the letter and not to disprove speaking in tongues. If I prove that one doesn’t need to speak in tongues to the dogmatic Pentecostal, that’s a bonus but my reasoning and purpose is that we all see the coming of the Holy Spirit and exactly how it happened, based on the context and promise of Jesus.
Second; I have never seen flaming tongues distributed among those speaking in tongues. Notice the context. “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.” Why would Luke write this? Right, because it happened. Luke uses a simile to describe what they saw, but he is narrating what they saw, not making a metaphor. What exactly it looked like and how it happened are not nearly as important as the fact that it happened. It sounds very elementary but it is the type of thing which we will either gloss over or put too much emphasis on. What is important is that the Holy Spirit came with many a convincing proof. Don’t open the book of James and read, “the tongue is a fire,” and try to force the two passages together to promote some strange doctrine. James uses a metaphor and the Holy Spirit came with signs, and on the anniversary of the giving of the Law.
Why tongues then? Why did they speak in foreign languages? Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, ‘BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,’ says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.”
What was Paul quoting? Isaiah 28:11, notice its context; “Behold, the Lord has a strong and mighty agent; As a storm of hail, a tempest of destruction, Like a storm of mighty overflowing waters, He has cast it down to the earth with His hand. The proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim is trodden under foot. And the fading flower of its glorious beauty, Which is at the head of the fertile valley, Will be like the first-ripe fig prior to summer; Which bone sees, And as soon as it is in his hand, He swallows it. In that day the LORD of hosts will become a beautiful crown And a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people; A spirit of justice for him who sits in judgment, A strength to those who repel the onslaught at the gate. And these also reel with wine and stagger from strong drink: The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; They reel while having visions, They totter when rendering judgment. For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, without a single clean place. To whom would He teach knowledge? And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? For He says, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’ Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, ‘Here is rest, give rest to the weary,’ And, ‘Here is repose,’ but they would not listen. So the word of the LORD to them will be, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,’ That they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared, and taken captive.”
Oh if we only spoke Hebrew, there would cease the speaking in tongues and a clear understanding of Biblical prophecies would ensue. The Hebrew, for “Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,” transliterates to, “Sav lasav, sav lasav, Kav lakav, kav lakav, Ze’er sham, ze’er sham.” It would be the equivalent to “blah blah blah blah bling bling blah” in English, if this actually meant something. Isaiah, through the Holy Spirit, is mocking the false prophets of Israel. Yet it digs much deeper than that. Today’s dogmatic dispensationalists argue that the rapture is right at the door because the scoffers have come. But scoffers existed in Isaiah’s day, and God dealt with them by scoffing and mocking them yet at the same time, predicting the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost. I wish we had the time and attention span to read and consider all of Isaiah 28 and 29 but to those who doubt the contextual connection, please read Isaiah 28 and 29 for yourselves. For those who could not care less, consider the context of Paul’s quote and claim. “He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue.” Fulfillment is found in today’s text in the form of xenoglossy and not glossolalia. The apostles spoke in unfamiliar to them, foreign languages, familiar to those in attendance. But I am getting way ahead of myself, again.
I can’t help but see the contextual contradiction between the dogmatic “one must speak in tongues,” and today’s text and prophecy thereof. When the Holy Spirit came, as promised, he gave the apostles the ability to speak in tongues that were not babbling but clear and concise words, understandable to those present–xenoglossy. They didn’t speak with indistinct chatter but in actual foreign languages and dialects, the opposite of our modern day speaking in tongues. It’s actually quite ironic that some brothers babble, like Israel. Nevertheless, tongues are for the unbelieving, specifically the nation of Israel.
Rather than only pick on the dogmatic tongue speakers, I will also divert our attention to the dogmatic dispensationalists. The Holy Spirit came in judgement of the nation Israel. Paul could not be more clear, Jesus told this to his disciples and the Pharisees. Think also of the irony of the Holy Spirit coming on Pentecost, the celebration of the giving of the Law. Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than that. The Dogmatic dispensationalists are scrambling, screaming, “scoffers!” Because they are questioned as to how they came up with the doctrine that Israel replaces the church. The irony is that they are in dispute with the replacement theologians who say that the church replaces Israel. But there has been and now is and will be, the remnant of Israel who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Beginning with those in the house when the Holy Spirit came–all Jewish. Nevertheless, the speaking in xenoglossy was indicative of the prophecy to which Paul quoted and others, such as, “Then it will come about in that day That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.” Their is no replacement but Jesus. I will write it another way; Jesus is our replacement. Jesus changed the Passover and his Spirit changed Pentecost. Not that we should speak in tongues but that we might be a witness to the nations. All who believe are one in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Paul writes that the “two are made into one.” Where is the oneness that Jesus prayed for in John 17?
Application: do we do tradition or walk in the Holy Spirit? Consider the gut-shot of the context. Pentecostals, you don’t look like Pentecost. Dogmatic dispensationalist, consider the context. Spirit or traditions? The dogmatic dispensationalists wonder why people are not following their teachings. Perhaps it is time for the dogmatic dispensationalists to refocus on Jesus, the true replacement and the true Israel and not the nation Israel. Jesus said, “I am the way.” To achieve oneness, let’s focus on that and consider today’s text. The Holy Spirit came to speak of Jesus to the nations as the first fruits. See the intricately interwoven sublime string.