Video of this message is also available on YouTube: The Apostles Spoke With Forked Tongues – Acts 2:4-13
“Cloven” (v. 4) means divided. The Spirit divided their tongues by giving them the power to speak in other languages as part of the “taste” of the kingdom that He was giving Israel (Heb. 6:4,5). It would be heavenly not to have to worry about serpents, poison or illness (Mark 16:17,18). But what’s so heavenly about the gift of tongues? Well, Jewish disciples will need the gift of tongues when the Gentile nations look to them to teach them about God (Zech. 8:23).
When it says, “every man heard them speak in his own language,” it sounds like the disciples spoke their language, but people heard them in their language. But that would be the gift of ears, not tongues. The disciples were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4), not the Jews to whom they preached.
“Confound” (v. 6) means amazed (v. 7,8). The people of the lands in Acts 2:9-11 all spoke known human languages, and not the gibberish that passes for tongues today. Since there are more than 12 tongues mentioned, this suggests all 120 believers spoke in tongues (Acts 1:15), not just the 12.
If you could speak in tongues, wouldn’t you preach the gospel? Instead, the disciples talked about “the wonderful works of God.” They might have done that to draw a crowd so they could hear Peter’s message. Or it could be that they were being sneaky! That exact phrase “wonderful works” is only used 8 other places in the Bible, and half of them are in Psalm 107, where it says God stills the wind and waves (21-31). Aren’t those the wonderful works of God you’d talk about, ones that would identify Christ as God (Mark 4:36-39).
When it says some thought they were “full of new wine,” wine is a type of the Spirit in the Bible. The Lord taught that the new wine of the Spirit couldn’t be put in the old bottles of the apostate leaders in Israel (Lu. 5:37,38), it had to be put where God put it, in the new bottles of the new leaders in Israel, the little flock of the Lord’s followers (Lu. 12:32).
Our Pentecostal friends know they can’t speak in legitimate languages, so they insist that they speak in the tongues of angels (I Cor. 13:1). But angels in Scripture are never said to have their own language. An “unknown tongue” (I Cor. 14:2) is just a language that someone didn’t “know” (cf. Jer. 5:15).
We know the tongues in Corinth were the same human languages they spoke at Pentecost because Paul says that if they didn’t interpret their languages that “learned” men couldn’t understand them (I Cor. 14:13,16). That means that learned men could understand them. Learned men can often speak more than one language, but they can’t speak angel.
Tongues in Corinth were also given for a different reason. At Pentecost they were given to the Jews as a sign that God was about to offer them the kingdom in which they’d teach the Gentiles in their own languages. In other words, it was a sign of God’s blessing. But once the Jews rejected their kingdom, tongues were given to the Gentiles as a sign God was judging Israel, not blessing them.
To explain the gift of tongues to the Corinthians, Paul quoted Isaiah to say, “with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people” (I Cor. 14:21). That’s not a gift of tongues that God gave to the Jews to teach the Gentiles. That’s a gift of tongues He gave the Gentiles to speak to the Jews. That’s what Isaiah meant. God had spoken to Israel in Hebrew through the prophets, and they didn’t listen, so He threatened to speak to them through the Gentiles by letting the Gentiles conquer them (Isa. 28:11).
That’s what God was doing in Corinth. He gave the Jews’ gift of tongues to the Gentiles next door (Acts 18:11) as a “sign” (I Cor. 14:22) He was judging them for rejecting Christ
Doesn’t God still want the Jews to know that He is judging their nation? If so, why isn’t He still giving the gift of tongues? The answer is that God is using His Word to tell them this today, in the dispensation of grace. That’s why tongues and prophecies ceased when the Bible was complete (I Cor. 13:8-10). God no longer needed prophets to speak through, He had His Word to speak through.And He no longer needed to give the Gentiles the gift of tongues as a sign He was judging Israel. He now has His Word to do that too.