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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 2 - Verse 4
To be filled with anything is a phrase denoting that all the faculties are pervaded by it, engaged in it, or under its influence. Ac 3:10, "Were filled with wonder and amazement;" Ac 5:17, "Filled with indignation;" Ac 13:45, "Filled with envy;" Ac 13:52, "Filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost."
Began to speak with other tongues. In other languages than their native tongue. The languages which they spoke are specified in
As the Spirit gave them utterance. As the Spirit gave them power to speak. This language implies plainly that they were now endued with a faculty of speaking languages which they had not before learned. Their native tongue was that of Galilee, a somewhat barbarous dialect of the common language used in Judea, the Syro-Chaldaic. It is possible that some of them might have been partially acquainted with the Greek and Latin, as both of them were spoken among the Jews to some extent; but there is not the slightest evidence that they were acquainted with the languages of the different nations afterwards specified. Various attempts have been made to account for this remarkable phenomenon, without supposing it to be a miracle. But the natural and obvious meaning of the passage is, that they were endowed by the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost with ability to speak foreign languages, and languages to them before unknown. It does not appear that each one had the power of speaking all the languages which are specified, (Ac 2:9-11,) but that this ability was among them, and that together they could speak these languages; probably some one, and some another. The following remarks may perhaps throw some light on this remarkable occurrence:
(1.) This ability was predicted in the Old Testament, (Isa 28:11), "With another tongue will he speak to this people." Comp. 1 Co 14:21, where this passage is expressly applied to the power of speaking foreign languages under the gospel.
(2.) It was predicted by the Lord Jesus that they should have this power. Mr 16:17, "These signs shall follow them that believe—they shall speak with new tongues."
(3.) The ability to do it existed extensively and long in the church. 1 Co 12:10,11, "To another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit;" 1 Co 12:28, "God hath set in the church— diversities of tongues;" 1 Co 12:30; 14:2,4,5,6,9,13,14,18,19,22,23; 1 Co 14:27,39. From this it appears that the power was well known in the church, and was not confined to the apostles. This also may show that, in the case in the Acts, the power was conferred on other members of the church as well as the apostles.
(4.) It was very important that they should be endowed with this power in their great work. They were going forth to preach to all nations; and though the Greek and Roman tongues were extensively spoken, yet their use was not universal; nor is it known that the apostles were skilled in those languages. To preach to all nations, it was indispensable that they should be able to understand their language. And it was necessary that they should be endowed with ability to speak them without the slow process of being compelled to learn them.
(5.) One design was to establish the gospel by means of miracles. Yet no miracle could be more striking than the power of conveying their sentiments at once into all the languages of the earth. When it is remembered what a slow and toilsome process it is to learn a foreign tongue, this would be regarded by the heathen as one of the most striking miracles which were ever wrought in the establishment of the Christian faith, 1 Co 14:22,24,25.
(6.) The reality and certainty of this miracle is strongly attested by the early triumphs of the gospel. That the gospel was early spread over all the world, and that, too, by the apostles of Jesus Christ, by men of Galilee, is the clear testimony of all history. They preached it in Arabia, Greece, Syria, Asia, Persia, Africa, and Rome. Yet how could this have been effected without a miraculous power of speaking the languages used in all those places? Now, it requires the toil of many years to speak in foreign languages; and the recorded success of the gospel is one of the most striking attestations to the fact of the miracle that could be conceived.
(7.) The corruption of language was one of the most decided effects of sin, of pride and ambition, and the source of endless embarrassments and difficulties, Ge 11. It is not to be regarded as wonderful if one of the effects of the plan of recovering men should be to show the power of God over all evil; and thus to furnish striking evidence that the gospel could meet all the crimes and calamities of men. And we may add,
(8.) that from this we see the necessity now of training men who are to be the missionaries to other lands. The gift of miracles is withdrawn. The apostles, by that miracle, simply were empowered to speak other languages. That power must still be had if the gospel is to be preached. But it is now to be obtained, not by miracle, but by slow and careful study and toil. If possessed, men must be taught it. They must labour for it. And as the church is bound (Mt 28:19) to send the gospel to all nations, so it is bound to provide that the teachers who shall be sent forth shall be qualified for their work. Hence one of the reasons of the importance of training men for the holy ministry.
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