Troublesome Topic: Precepts about Tongues from Acts 10:44-47

Acts 10:44


While PETER was still speaking these words,

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the Holy Spirit fell upon

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all of those hearing the spoken manifestation of truth.

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While SOLID AS A ROCK was explaining these matters, the Holy Spirit pressed Himself upon them and seized their minds and their inner beings, taking temporary control of all those who heard the manifestation of the truth which answered their question and uncovered something that had been concealed form them up until that moment.

Acts 10:45


Then as many of the persuaded ones

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from the circumcision who had come with Peter were thrown out of position

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that the free gift of the Holy Spirit had even been poured forth upon the Gentiles,

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Then all of the circumcised, faithful believers who had accompanied Peter were so astonished they almost went out of their minds because the free gift of the Holy Spirit had gushed forth even upon the non-Jewish nations.

Acts 10:46


for they were hearing them speaking in [_________] tongues

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and making THEOS great. Then PETER gave his conclusion,

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for they heard them speaking in [foreign] languages and magnifying THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS. Then SOLID AS A ROCK expressed his conclusion of the matter,


From the precedent set at Pentecost, the gift of speaking in languages unknown by the speaker was employed by the Holy Spirit when there were people present who needed spiritual truths communicated in their mother tongue in order to fully understand them.

Most of our knowledge of ancient cultures and their languages comes from people who could write, not the poor classes that could not read or write. It is likely that the poor people could only get along for basic needs in the type of koine Greek used in their region, much less understand spiritual concepts and matters of the heart.

The fact that the Holy Spirit used other languages/dialects to communicate with people who came from other lands for the feast of Pentecost demonstrates the fact that not everyone understood koine Greek well enough to properly understand God’s message about salvation, even if it were communicated in Greek rather than Aramaic.

There was the need for foreign languages to be spoken occasionally in a church service in that part of the world. If some of those present could barely understand the trade language (koine Greek) and if no one else present could translate things into their language for them, they would be at a disadvantage. Those were the situations in which God used public tongues in the early church. Some missionaries report that God still uses proper public tongues in similar situations today, although it appears to be very rare.


Notice that verse 46 says they were “magnifying God” which is a form of closure or completion. They were not stuck in the stage of asking God a burning question and never getting an answer. They received the illumination they were seeking (Urim) and praised God for it (Thummim).

Acts 10:47


“Perchance is anyone able to refuse water to baptize these who have received the Holy Spirit just as we also have?”


“Is it possible that anyone is able to deny the opportunity to be baptized to these who have received the Holy Spirit with the same evidence of His presence that we experienced?”


From what I see in Acts chapter 2, Peter did not speak in tongues on Pentecost, rather he gave the interpretation of the message for the sake of the Jewish doubters. You may also recall that Peter’s response to those accusing Peter’s companions of drunkenness was communicated in the third person, “these are not drunk as you imagine.” Not “we” but “these,” meaning “they.”

Yet at the house of Cornelius, he included himself in the statement “as we also have.” Peter was rightly able to include himself because he was involved in the process by which God reached out to people who needed special help grasping the message of salvation.


In this instance, Peter and the Jewish Christians with him, were the “doubters” in one specific way. They did not believe that God wanted to treat the Gentiles the same as the Jews. God used the miracle of unknown tongues to communicate His message of salvation to some present who would have trouble understanding it any other way because of a language barrier, and He used the same miracle to convince the hard-hearted Jews present that He really did accept Gentiles as freely as He did Jews.

It is interesting that the message to the ones who did not understand the common languages of Aramaic or koine Greek, were communicated by those who had given their lives to Jesus instants earlier, not by Peter. This was probably because Peter did not want that to happen, or did not want it badly enough. On the day of Pentecost, he had preached to many who were converts to Judaism, but that was different. These were outright Gentiles. He went because God didn’t give him much of a way out, and he preached to Cornelius and the other Gentiles present because he had to. But he did not have a burning desire, a burden, for Gentiles, much less for Gentiles who were so far removed from him that he couldn’t even communicate with them effectively. They were the most Gentile of all Gentiles.

But those who gave their lives to Jesus immediately sensed the burden of guilt lift from their shoulders and the next thought was for the family and friends gathered there who were less likely to believe because of a language barrier. Unlike Peter, these brand-new believers were given a burden by God for the most Gentile of all Gentiles. Then God gave them the gift of grace which enabled them to communicate across that language barrier and not just in a bare-minimum way; they communicated heart to heart in the most effective way possible.


Do I live as if God really does care about everyone equally?

How hard does God have to work to convince me to accept those who are very different from me?

How difficult is it for me to give of my time, energy or money to those who are different from me?

The next lesson in the Full and Mid Length Series on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from Acts 19:1-5

The next lesson in the Shortest Series on Tongues is Precepts about Tongues from Acts 19:6-7



This is the Greek word for “words” and was considered “a sound uttered by a living voice, having definite meaning;” it was used of “a matter, a topic, a report, a business dealing, a command.”


This word means “to fall upon, to press upon, to seize, to take possession of.” “Fall” is the key idea behind this word.


This is a form of the word applied to Jesus in John 1:1 where He is called “the word,” i.e. the manifestation or revelation of God. This is the second time that this verse uses a word meaning “word,” but they are different Greek words; the first one is general and means “to cover a topic,” this one is specific to revealing something that needs to be revealed, something that has been hidden or held back up until this moment.

The Septuagint’s rendering of verses in the Old Testament Law that speak of the Urim and the Thummim uses a form of this same word for the breastplate, or the pouch (e.g. “the pouch of decision” in Ex 28:20). It is an interesting usage because the word means “a divine communication or revelation” but in those cases it was used of something that housed the means for acquiring a revelation from God, a decision about an hidden matter, and then the proper action.

4: “persuaded ones”

This word can be translated “faithful, trustworthy, believers, full of faith.” But the root word behind these ideas is “persuaded.” Therefore, I have rendered it “persuaded ones” in my translation and “faithful believers” in my paraphrase.


This verb comes from the preposition “out of” and the verb “stand.” Thus, it points to someone who has been “removed from a fixed position” either by going crazy or by being overwhelmed with amazement.

6: "Gentiles"

This is the word for “the nations” but it was used of the non-Jewish nations. It is the Greek word from which we get our English word “ethnic.”


“A tongue” meant a language. The phrase “speaking in tongues” always begs for the insertion of an adjective, and the most natural adjectives are “unknown” or “foreign.” If someone is speaking to another person in a language they both understand we never say, “they are speaking in a known language,” or “they are speaking in a language they both understand.” It is unnecessary to say that because communication assumes comprehension and comprehension assumes a common medium. When this phrase is used it strongly implies that there is no common medium.

8: “conclusion”:

This is a compound Greek word coming from the preposition “from” and the verb “to judge,” hence, “to judge from.” It carries the following meanings, “to separate, to be separated, to conclude, to give forth a legal sentence (as a judge), to give forth one’s decision, to respond, to answer.” It was always preceded by something which needed some kind of conclusion or response.