Christianity 201

November 23, 2012

Was it a Miracle of the Speakers or of the Listeners?

Keith Brenton recently raised this question at Blog In My Own Eye.

I think folks have long and pointlessly debated whether the miracle of many languages in Acts 2 took place in the tongues of the speakers or the ears of the listeners.

My answer to the question is “yes.”

Verse four says: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

Tongues, yes.

Verses eight through eleven say: “Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? … We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.” Those in verse thirteen don’t seem to hear the wonders of God at all and decide: “They have had too much wine.”

Ears, yes.

Remember, Jesus said the Advocate would come to “convict (or prove) the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16). He didn’t limit the Spirit’s work to the speaker’s tongue or the listener’s ear. Those who say the Spirit can’t convict from within are limiting the implications of Acts 10, Galatians 5, Ephesians 2, 1 Corinthians 2 and 1 John 4 in a way that scripture doesn’t.

I worry that there’s a little bit of preacher arrogance behind the “tongues-only” position.

I’m not a preacher, but I write. If you ask me what is the most important thing I’ve ever written, I can tell you. (By the way, it’s this.) But if you ask a dozen people who’ve read what I’ve written, you’d probably get a dozen different answers — unless you go the answer “He hasn’t written anything important” more  than once. Which is a distinct possibility.

Same thing with preachers and what they preach. Some messages reach and touch and resonate deeply with some people in an audience that don’t connect with others at all. Sometimes even the speaker/writer will think a message is a total loss and a waste of time and effort … only to discover from a note or a comment that someone ini its audience was profoundly challenged or moved.

Other times, the originator of the message will look back on it and wonder … doubting if such deep truth (unrecognized as such at the time) could possibly have its ultimate origins in one’s own three pounds of sweetbread.

You see, the thing about the languages is almost irrelevant.

People heard truth in the words they heard in Acts 2. Some recognized it as such. Others refused to. For them, the miracle in their ears never happened because they were not convicted; they were not willing to accept it in faith. (Makes you think of Mark 6:1-6, doesn’t it?)

For me, that answers the “tongues-or-ears” question with an unequivocal “yes.” The Spirit works as He wills (1 Corinthians 12). There are no man-made restrictions on whom He can fall (Acts 2:17-18).

So if you speak or write and seek to do so for the Lord, keep on praying for inspiration.

And if you seek to listen to Him, to read and hear Him, do the same.

Because the Father sends His Spirit to those who ask.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~ Luke 11:13

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