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6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all.

 

Acts 19:6 is the third and last occurrence of speaking in tongues in the book of Acts (Acts 2, 10, 19).

19:6

And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them,

John’s disciples received the Holy Spirit after Paul laid his hands upon them. The reception of the Holy Spirit does not follow any particular pattern. He came upon believers before baptism in Acts 10:44, during and after baptism in Acts 8:12-16; 19:6, and by laying on of hands in Acts 8:17; 19:6. As noted in the Introduction to Acts, since Acts is a transitional book from the nation Israel to that of the church, it does not follow a doctrinal pattern for receiving the Spirit.

and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

The disciples prophesied in “tongues” of foreign languages. The purpose of the sign gift of “tongues” was to reach non-Christian Jews (1 Co 14:22). This Pentecostal experience was an extension of the Acts 2 Pentecost.

19:7

Now the men were about twelve in all.

The number of disciples baptized in Jesus’ name was about a dozen.

PRINCIPLE:

 Speaking in foreign languages without studying for them was not designed for the church today.

APPLICATION:

The occurrences in the book of Acts were not to be normative for the church to come. The passages about tongues were narrative, not doctrinal in their purpose. To put doctrinal constructs on Acts is to create something of one’s own making. The experiences in Acts were not equivalent to the doctrine later developed by the Apostles. We obtain their teaching primarily from didactic books such as the epistles. The argument of Acts is that a new economy had begun, the church age, and that God had set aside the nation Israel for a period.

Our verses do not demand that every person who becomes a Christian speak in tongues and prophesy in association with their salvation. The 12 who followed John the Baptist were not Christian believers but still operated under the Old Testament economy. Their particular background as followers of John the Baptist required them to receive a “sign” to prove the New Testament era of the church had started at Pentecost. They needed to receive the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit at their salvation.

Unique gifts fell upon entire groups in each of the four Pentecostal instances (Pentecost itself, Samaria, Caesarea, Ephesus). Also, the last three of these groups asked for these gifts. There was no agonizing in prayer to receive the baptism. Every instance of speaking in tongues in Acts and receiving the Spirit involved Old Testament believers. These people needed convincing that God had changed economies from the Old Testament to that of the New.

The purpose of tongues in Acts was to be a sign showing the Jews that the transition from Old Testament Israel to that of the church was valid. Tongues were especially a sign to unbelieving Jews (1 Co 14:22) to ratify the message of the New Testament as true. Tongues among the Samaritans and Ephesus demonstrated that the Holy Spirit incorporated people into Christ.

All three instances of speaking in tongues in Acts demonstrated the shift from the Old Testament economy to that of the New Testament. The book of Acts is a transitional history from Israel to the church. We cannot use these passages in Acts as a model for the church today. The canon of Scripture was not complete. Revelation of complete doctrine was not fulfilled until later in the development of the church. 

At Jerusalem, God gave the gift of tongues as a sign to unbelieving Jews, in Acts 10 to convince Jews in Judah and Samaria through Cornelius and later in Jerusalem that Gentiles have equal standing with Jews, and finally in Ephesus to the Jews who believed the message of John the Baptist: that to believe in John’s message was not adequate because it was fulfilled in Christ.

Paul affirmed in 1 Corinthians 12:30 that not every believer can speak in tongues. “Do all speak with tongues?” implies a negative answer. Not every Christian should expect to speak in tongues. Thus, the gift of tongues is no evidence of the baptism of the Spirit.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES IN ACTS

PASSAGE

Acts 2:1-4

TONGUES SPEAKERS

The 12 Apostles and other Jews

AUDIENCE

Unsaved Jews

RELATED TO SALVATION

After salvation

PURPOSE

To validate (for Jews) the fulfillment of Joel 2

 

PASSAGE

Acts 10:44-47

TONGUES SPEAKERS

Gentiles (Cornelius and his household)

AUDIENCE

Saved Jews (Peter and others) who doubted God’s plan

RELATED TO SALVATION

At the same time as salvation

PURPOSE

To validate (for Jews) God’s acceptance of Gentiles

 

PASSAGE

Acts 19:1-7

TONGUES SPEAKERS

About 12 Old Testament believers

AUDIENCE

Jews who needed confirmation of the message

RELATED TO SALVATION

At the same time as salvation

PURPOSE

To validate (for Jews) Paul’s message

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