Receiving the Holy Spirit
Studies in Acts

Acts 2: They Spoke In Tongues

Living Abundantly 
According to God's Word Series

Read Time: 10 Minutes

Acts 2
:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
    and began to speak with other tongues,
        as the Spirit gave them utterance.

They, the twelve apostles, were filled (pletho - filled to overflowing) with holy spirit, the gift, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit, the Giver, God, gave them the words to speak.

The twelve apostles were filled to overflowing with the gift of holy spirit. The KJV adds the article 'the' before Holy Ghost which is pneuma hagion. They were not filed with "The Holy Spirit" they are filled with the gift of holy spirit and began to speak as God, the Spirit, gave them utterance. It is important to note that the gift we have been given is holy spirit from God and of God.

Who began to speak in tongues? The twelve apostles, as God gave them the words. Their holy spirit didn't do the speaking, they weren't overtaken and possessed; they spoke, by their own free will, the words given to them by God. God spoke to the new creation in them, the gift of holy spirit, and their holy spirit gave them the words to speak as they opened their mouths, moved their tongues, their throat, and their lips; they formed the words and spoke forth the wonderful works of God. 

Once a person is given the gift they can manifest the holy spirit by speaking in tongues. The apostles had to tarry or wait in Jerusalem for the gift to be given but now it is immediately available to all who believe. It is available to all who make Jesus Christ lord in their lives and believe that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9 & 10).

Acts 2
:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews,
    devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
:6 Now when this was noised abroad,
    the multitude came together, and were confounded,
    because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
:7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another,
        Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
:8     And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
:9     Parthians,
        and Medes,
        and Elamites,
        and the dwellers in Mesopotamia,
        and in Judaea,
        and Cappadocia,
        in Pontus,
        and Asia,
:10   Phrygia,
        and Pamphylia,
        in Egypt,
        and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene,
        and strangers of Rome,
        Jews and proselytes,
:11   Cretes
        and Arabians,
        we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

The question arises, why were there such a diversity of people in Jerusalem? This time of Pentecost is also called the "Feast of Weeks", "Feast of Harvest," and the "Day of First Fruits"; it is the fiftieth day after the weekly Sabbath that occurs during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover). God required that all males come to Jerusalem and celebrate the wheat harvest (Deuteronomy 16:10-17). There was a great gathering at the temple during this time. That is why there were people from all over there.

They were all amazed and marveled because the apostles were Galileans whose native language was Northern Aramaic. They wouldn't know those other languages. When they spoke in tongues they spoke the words that God gave them to speak. The miracle here is that they spoke in languages understood by the crowd even though it was not understood by the apostles. The crowd marveled that they heard them speak in their own language, the wonderful works of God.

Speaking in tongues is the external evidence in the senses realm of the internal reality, presence, and power of the gift of holy spirit. When the apostles spoke in tongues they spoke the wonderful works of God. When we speak in tongues we do the same. The Judeans that heard them and marveled that they spoke the wonderful works of God in their own language did not hold the Galileans in high regard yet they gave forth this undeniable testimony.

:12 And they were all amazed and were in doubt,
        saying one to another,
            What meaneth this?

The translation from the Aramaic Peshitta renders verse 12 as:

:12 And all of them were amazed and wondered,
        saying one to another,
            what is this event?

The word "wondered" has the same root word as "wonderful" in "the wonderful works of God."

Picture the situation. You are in quiet prayer in the temple, like you have been many times before, surrounded by numerous men, more than usual since it is Pentecost, and suddenly there came the sound of a rushing mighty wind that filled the house and these Galileans began speaking the wonderful works of God in a language you understand. These words came from the Galileans, how could they do this? You had never heard anything like this before, you marvel and wonder, are in awe, at their words and are amazed that they speak in all these languages. The natural result is for this to be noised abroad (vs. 6).

Then there are those that have to belittle the acts of God; their intention was to make the apostles look ridiculous. They are unbelievers, even though they are at the temple they are there in appearance only. The truth does not live in their hearts.

:13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

But Peter, now filled with the holy spirit, stood up boldly to silence the naysayers. The inspired words he spoke caused the derisions to lose its impact.

:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven,
    lifted up his voice, and said unto them,
        Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem,
        be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
:15   For these are not drunken, as ye suppose,
            seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

The accusation of the men being drunk was empty ridicule since it was only about 9 am according to western reckoning. In that culture it was their custom to not eat or drink until noon on feast days. (Freeman, 44)

Peter then quotes Joel 2:28 - 32 in Acts 2:16 - 21.

:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
:17   And it shall come to pass in the last days,
    saith God,
        I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh:
        and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
        and your young men shall see visions,
        and your old men shall dream dreams:
:18   And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy:
:19   And I will shew wonders in heaven above,
        and signs in the earth beneath;
            blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
:20   The sun shall be turned into darkness,
        and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
:21   And it shall come to pass,
whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Dr. Wierwille explains the use of this quote by Peter.

The question naturally arises as to what is "this" and what is "that." [verse 16] A literal and accurate translation according to context usage would be, "But this is like that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." The word "but" sets what follows in contrast. The word "this" is emphatic, indicating that the quotation from Joel 2:28-32 is used to prove that the charge of drunkenness would not stand concerning the present receiving of the pneuma hagion any more so than a charge of drunkenness would stand against Joel's prophecy of the future outpouring. The word "afterward" in Joel 2:28, translated "in the last days" in Acts 2:17, indicates that Joel's prophecy is not quoted to prove that this present experience was the fulfillment of it. Rather, it is quoted to show that as the prophesied future scene could not be attributed to drunkenness, so this present scene could not be ascribed to drunkenness either.
(Wierwille 95-95)

Peter boldly stood before the people, some of which were instrumental in the death of Jesus Christ. Fifty five days ago1 he was denying that he was with Jesus Christ; since then he had spent time with the resurrected Christ but what really made a difference was receiving of the holy spirit. He had received the power that Jesus Christ promised would be given. Now he speaks forth words that turns the hearts of people, words that God inspired him say.

:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words;
    Jesus of Nazareth,
        a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs,
        which God did by him in the midst of you,
        as ye yourselves also know:
:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
    ye have taken,
        and by wicked hands
    have crucified and slain:
:24 Whom God hath raised up,
        having loosed the pains of death:
            because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
:25 For David speaketh concerning him,
        I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
        for he is on my right hand,
            that I should not be moved:
:26 Therefore did my heart rejoice,
    and my tongue was glad;
    moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
:27   Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,
        neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
:28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;
    thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
:29 Men and brethren,
    let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David,
    that he is both dead and buried,
    and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
:30 Therefore being a prophet,
        and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him,
            that of the fruit of his loins,
                according to the flesh,
            he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ,
        that his soul was not left in hell,
        neither his flesh did see corruption.
:32 This Jesus hath God raised up,
        whereof we all are witnesses.
:33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted,
        and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,
    he hath shed forth this,
        which ye now see and hear.
:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens:
    but he saith himself,
        The LORD said unto my Lord,
            Sit thou on my right hand,
:35       Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly,
    that God hath made that same Jesus,
        whom ye have crucified,
    both Lord and Christ.

Peter boldly stated that by their wicked hands they had slain the Messiah, but the prophecy was fulfilled that Christ would not see corruption but be raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God. These words had the power of the Word of God behind them, the result:

:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart,
    and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles,
        Men and brethren, what shall we do?
:38 Then Peter said unto them,
        Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
        and ye shall receive [lambano - receive into manifestation] the gift of the Holy Ghost.
:39   For the promise is unto you,
        and to your children,
        and to all that are afar off,
as many as the Lord our God shall call.

God was at work within Peter to say the right words at the right time and the result was about 3,000 were added unto the church that day. (vs. 41). God works within us as well. It is the same God; it is the same holy spirit; it is the same power. Take time to put on the mind of Christ and talk with God. Ask for knowledge and wisdom, you shall receive.

About 3,000 received into manifestation the holy spirit; what did they manifest? They spoke in tongues; the external manifestation of the internal reality, power and presence of the holy spirit from God. The apostles were not the only ones that spoke in tongues that day, the birthday of the Christian Church had a big party.

I exhort you to speak in tongues much.


1 Pentecost is 49 days plus one from the weekly Sabbath that occurs during Passover, which was Saturday the 17th of Nisan. Jesus Christ was crucified Wednesday before sunset on the 14th of Nisan, Jesus Christ was taken and tortured the 13th of Nisan, through the night of 14th of Nisan. 13th - 17th of Nisan is 5 days plus 50 from the Sabbath to Pentecost. Reference Jesus Christ Our Passover by Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille, American Christian Press, New Knoxville, Ohio, 1981. pp 380-381.
Return to text

Freeman, James M. Manners and Customs of the Bible, Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1972.

Wierwille, Victor Paul. Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, American Christian Press, New Knoxville, Ohio, 1972.