O For a Thousand Tongues


Pentecôte, Jean II Restout, 1732 (via Wikipedia).

Acts 2:1-22
For Sunday, May 27, 2012
Pentecost Sunday 

I caught part of a television sermon last weekend in which the preacher mentioned that if the Holy Spirit wanted to make an impact by having everyone “speak in tongues” who are we to question his method?  The problem with this really stems from the translation that the New International Version (NIV) uses when it reads, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  A better translation would be “… speak in other languages …”  The context makes this clear: the point is that Jews from many nations who were gathered in Jerusalem were hearing a group of Galileans speaking these expatriate Jews native languages when there was no practical way for them to have known these languages.  I will grant that the NIV at least translates consistently the same Greek word used in vv. 3 and 11, but to translate it as “tongues” given what this word connotes at least within Christian circles might be considered dubious.

The Holy Spirit’s method was not as obtuse as the television preacher was suggesting.  What was happening on Pentecost was not a bunch of people clambering, “Yabba Dabba Doo, I want that too!”.   Rather, God himself was announcing in the person of the Holy Spirit that the gospel, the good news of forgiveness through Christ, was not just for the Jews, and not just for others living within national Israel, but that it was for every tribe, tongue (read “language”), and nation on earth.

There is hope for your people and my people not because we’re number one or your number one, but because God is number one and he’s not giving up on any of us.  Good news for us, yes?

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