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May 24, 2015
“Gift of Languages”
Acts 2:1-7, 12; 1 Corinthians 14:13-19
PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy! Blessings.
(Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2010 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited)
“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.” That was the promise that God spoke through the prophet Joel, (2:28). How often had that been told to the Jewish people of old and how often had they waited, anticipating God’s power at work in them?
In times before, they had experienced God’s power at work in many different ways outside of their person except for a few specially imparted people. Here, the prophet promised an overall outpouring; one that would bring about great wonders and deliverances.
In today’s lesson, the time of anticipation and waiting is finally over. A mighty move of God is ready to commence. It is a new beginning for God’s people everywhere that believe and trust on Him.
The day of Pentecost ushered in that original outpouring (see Acts 2:15-18) with the evidence of speaking “with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance;” or, as today’s lesson calls it, the Gift of Languages. Paul then comes on the scene to instruct his readers in Corinth on the proper use of this wonderful gift that the whole church might benefit from it.
The Outpouring of the Gift
Acts 2:1 “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”
Pentecost was one of three major feasts in which the Jews would attend. Pentecost occurs fifty days after Passover and was highly revered by God’s people. It commemorated their time at Mt. Sinai, which was fifty days after the first Passover when God delivered His people from the Egyptians. At the mount, God sought to speak to the people Himself, yet they were too afraid, (Ex. 20:18-20). Moses became the intermediary as God’s spokesperson.
Ten days before this particular Pentecost, Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples left that scene filled with joy “and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God,” (Luke 24:53, KJV). Here, we find them gathered together again “with one accord in one place.” It is amazing the things that God can accomplish in men (humanity) when they are unified and obedient
It was a time for God’s promises to once again come to the point of fulfilling. Timing is everything with God. He has a set time for everything to happen. He did so with bringing Jesus into the world at the proper time (see Galatians 4:4); and He does so here with the ushering in of His Spirit.
Acts 2:1 describes this time as “fully come” which means the waiting is over and now is the time for the real show to begin. If you have ever attended a circus you know what I mean. There are times before the show when people can get glimpses of the animals and the working of some of the acts, but everyone is there for the main event.
Pentecost is the main event. No more glimpses to what this “outpouring” of His Spirit will look like. No more occasional side shows of the Spirit’s power working in man. They were going to be fully engulfed by God’s power to put on such a demonstration as the world had never seen before. They were preparing to be endowed and equipped with some heavenly stuff that will allow the world to see the working of God through His people.
Acts 2:2 “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”
I like the word “suddenly.” It gives the impression of happening without any warning whatsoever. Many people read and get familiar with the Pentecost experience, but for those first receivers, they didn’t know what to expect. They knew Christ had promised power (Luke 24:49), but that had not a clue when it would happen or what the experience itself would look like. All they knew is there was a shift in the atmosphere. It was one of those moments when you probably could feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. This was not going to be any ordinary day. God was up to something wonderful.
“A sound from heaven.” Let’s take a quick tour through heaven, God’s home, the place where Christ is now, and let’s see what we hear: “a great voice, as of a trumpet,” (Rev. 1:10; 4:1); “lightnings and thunderings,” (Rev. 4:5); “worship,” (Rev. 4:10-11); “angel proclaiming with a loud voice,” (Rev. 5:1); beasts saying “Amen,” (Rev. 5:14); “silence,” (Rev. 8:1); “trumpets,” (Rev. 8:6) and many more.
But, the people gathered on that Pentecost day heard “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.” The Bible doesn’t say they felt the wind, it says they heard the wind. Audibly, this was no “still small voice,” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV). This was “mighty.” It had some power and some strength to it (as does everything God gets involved with). And it “filled all the house.” Isn’t that reminiscent of when God’s glory filled the temple in the Old Testament, in the temple, (2 Chron. 5:14)? God came down and God took over the atmosphere. It’s almost as if God was reminding them, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts,” (Zech. 4:6, KJV). When God is in the building, things begins to change, as we will see.
Acts 2:3 “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.”
“Cloven tongues like as of fire.” First, they heard “a sound from heaven,” and now they saw the miraculous with their eyes: divided (cloven) tongues that appeared to look like fire. Wow! God is completely inundating their senses with His power. When they leave this place they would have heard, seen, and felt something wonderful taking over them.
“As of fire.” God has used “fire” often to symbolize His presence and power. The three examples we are most familiar with are Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:2, the pillar of fire that helped lead the children of Israel away from Egypt in Exodus 13:21 and a chariot of fire that whisked Elijah away in 2 Kings 2:11. Here, God is using the appearance of fire once again to identify that He is in the midst. This occurrence is His doing, and it has His stamp of approval on it. “Fire” is also seen as a purifying agent, (Is. 6:7).
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.”
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” What was going on in the house was now taking up residence in each believer assembled in the building. God’s power was entering in each individual to personally endow and equip them for His service. This is the fulfilling of what Jesus Himself told the Samaritan woman. “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, worship the Father . . . true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth for the Father seeketh such to worship him,” (John 4:21, 23; KJV).
John the Baptist foresaw this moment. “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” (Luke 3:16, KJV). Jesus also told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” (John 3:5, KJV). “Cannot” means access denied. The “Holy Ghost” is essential to empower us for work here and for entrance into God’s kingdom.
“Speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” As stated in a recent, previous lesson, Jesus said to him that “believeth and is baptized,” (Mark 16:16, KJV), that these signs will follow them. One of those signs is “they shall speak with new tongues,” (Mark 16:17, KJV). Other occurrences and references to “speaking in tongues” are found in Acts 10:46 & 19:6. It’s also listed as a gift in 1 Corinthians 12:10.
Just remember the speaking of tongues was because the “Spirit gave them utterance.” They didn’t do this themselves but God’s Spirit loosened their tongues to flow in those languages they had not previously learned (Acts 2:6-8).
Acts 2:5-7 “And there dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?”
Pentecost was the climatic event after Passover. Shortly after, most would head home. But at this moment Jerusalem is filled with “devout men, out of every nation under heaven,” (vs. 5). When the Spirit filled those in the Upper Room, word got out and “confounded” the people. They were confused because they “heard them speak in his own language,” (vs. 6).
“Devout men” were in the audience of hearers to testify that something new was going on; that something had definitely shifted amongst God’s people. The ears of these holy men play a vital role in verifying the great truth of what God was doing. These men were known for their religious piety and meticulousness in observing the things of God. What a witness to this mighty move of God! The praises of God rang out in different languages and all these men stood to attest that these “Galileans,” from their mouths, could flow in speech so fluently, clearly and articulately, in their native tongue.
Acts 2:12 “And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying on to another, What meaneth this?”
“What meaneth this?” Real life physical evidence is hard to deny in any case. What they just heard was exactly that: evidence. Now, they are wondering at what it all means. Usually, it’s one’s questioning that demands evidence of an answer. Here, the evidence provokes questions that seek for answers.
Throughout the remainder of Acts 2, Peter gives a Holy Ghost sermon that relayed the answers they were looking for. The Bible tells us that about three thousand souls were baptized that day, (Acts 2:41).
The Operation of the Gift in the Corinthian Church
1 Corinthians 14:13 “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.”
Now, we have left the original Pentecost experience and have moved to the church of Corinth where we learned in the last couple of week’s lesson of how they allowed division over gifts come in and bring confusion to the church.
In last week’s lesson we left off with Paul admonishing his readers to “Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way,” (1 Corinthians 12:31). That more excellent way that we learned of is love.
Hopping over to 1 Corinthians 13 (to be the discussion of next week’s lesson), a chapter many study solely on a love stance, and rightly so because nothing outside of God’s gift of love, Jesus Christ, explains so wonderfully what true love is. Yet, this chapter that explains love so fervently is sandwiched between two chapters that deal with gifts and the usage thereof, and so should also be viewed and studied from that standpoint: love and gifts go hand in hand. In fact, love has been the overall underlying theme of all of our lessons this Spring.
With that being said, Paul opens the chapter we are studying today with this three-word exhortation, “Follow after charity . . .” (1 Corinthians 14:1, not in today’s lesson). In this chapter it appears the controversy between speaking in tongues and prophesying (arguments over gifts) were bringing confusion to the church.
Paul explains it in the verses prior to our lesson like this:
Speaking in Tongues:
|Vs. 2 – Speaks not to men, but to God.||Vs. 3 – Speaks to unto men edification, and exhortation, and comfort.|
|vs. 2 – No man understands him . . . in the spirit he speaks.||Vs. 4 – Edifies the church.|
|vs. 4 – Edifies himself.||Vs. 5 – Is the greater gift in church as opposed to speaking in tongues.|
|Vss. 5-6 – Needs interpretation. Not beneficial to the church without it.|
|Vs. 7-8 – Even instruments have distinct sounds to be understood.|
Paul encourages the one “that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret;” so that all can reap good from the experience and not just be as one that “shall speak into the air,” (vs. 9); “without signification,” (vs. 10).
Interpretation was and is necessary to be understood. This is how Paul saw and taught that the Gift of Languages should operate. In unison, building up and not tearing down. They were to use their gift to promote the body of Christ in love and not to argue over the importance of one’s gift over another.
1 Corinthians 14:14-17 “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.”
In these verses the word “understanding” appears four times in one form or another, and several more times throughout our lesson text which really opens one’s eye to the message Paul was teaching here.
If “understanding” is the heart of the message he is pushing, then “misunderstanding” had taken over and caused confusion. Later in this chapter, (not in today’s text), Paul explains to the church at Corinth, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints,” (1 Corinthians 14:33). God’s services; God’s church is to work in harmony with one another to build up, not to divide and cause misunderstanding. That’s not what the gifts are for.
He explained, “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” Even on a personal level, without interpretation one’s own “understanding is unfruitful;” meaning there is nothing intellectually gained that can contribute to their spiritual growth. God is not in the business of keeping people in the dark about His will.
Whatever one does in the church; be it to “pray” or “sing” – all of it needs to be done with “understanding.” How can the individual, let alone the Church be served by these gifts without it?
Another example Paul gives is “when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” If one is speaking strictly in tongues, without interpretation, it leaves people for a loop on how to properly respond to what is being said. Therefore, one should never be high-minded about his/her gift. Just because one speaks in tongues, Paul is saying, it means nothing without the other gifts in operation, such as interpretation, to serve the church.
One could be in the church, blessing God with the best possible thanks in the world, but if no one understands what is being said they can’t give a shout of “Amen!” they can’t get into agreement with what was said because they don’t know what was said. It’s kind of like worshiping in the dark with eyes wide open; looking for an opportunity to respond and get with it but can’t due to lack of understanding. “For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” Gifts should never leave others in the dark of God’s blessings.
1 Corinthians 14:18-19 “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
Paul believes in the gift of languages; of speaking in other tongues. He testifies, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.”
But, what Paul was essentially getting at and saying is, “Give me a choice to how I would like my operations in the church to be and I will tell you this: “In the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
As a teacher of God’s Word, Paul knows that “five words with . . . understanding” far outweighs “ten thousand words” that no one can understand.
Why? “Understanding” enlightens everyone and everyone should benefit from the gift. There is universality in the church, among God’s people, that support and are supported by the gifts of others. Languages are no different. A few lesson back we talk about how gifts are to “profit withal” (1 Corinthians 12:7), meaning for the common good of all. They are for the benefit of everyone, not just one’s self. The advancement of God’s business and the church as a whole should benefit from what He has blessed inside of you; not just you.
Every gift God has given us is to be used in love and for the profit of the whole church, including the Gift of Languages. I urge you to continue reading the rest of 1 Corinthians 14.
(Click here for PDF: Gift of Languages Sunday School Lesson, or simply click the print button below. Enjoy!)
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: Gift of Languages Draw the Scene
Speaking in Tongues Collage:
This craft is perfect if you have old newspaper comics laying around. Just cut them out and glue onto construction paper to make a collage (I prefer the ones with word balloons on them to demonstrate speaking). In the middle, attach our cut-out printable Acts 2 Verse 4 Printable Page. There you have it. Enjoy!
Here are some additional activities I came up with:
Paper Bag House: Since our lesson occurs in a house, in an upper room, I adapted this craft from the book “Disney Family Fun Crafts” to meet the needs of this lesson (any paper bag house will do – check Pinterest). I have illustrated mine (very roughly, I admit), to look like you can see the people with the tongues of flames through the windows. Your students can decorate their house any way they want, but should still show the scene of Pentecost through the windows. Directions below on how to do this craft.
This is an easy crafts that requires little effort on the part of the teacher. You’ll need two paper bags (lunch). Have students decorate the one bag as the house. After it is decorated fill the other bag with crumbled up newspaper. Slide the bag that is decorated over top the newspaper bag and there you have it. A house that stands on its own. Enjoy!
Tongues as of Fire Activity:
The effects if this craft is done with crumbled up tissue and/or construction paper (I used both). Simply print out the flame from Primarygames.com and glue it onto construction paper. Put plenty of glue on the inside lines of the flame and apply the crumbled tissue and/or construction paper. Last, attach our verse for Acts 2:3 with this printable: Acts 2 Verse 3 Printable Page. There you have it. Enjoy!
Below are more Activities/Links/Resources for this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Pentecost Coloring and Puzzles” from Calvarycurriculum.com
“The Day of Pentecost” Craft from Emmanuel.org
“Receive the Spirit” Activity from Sermonsuite.com
“Pentecost: Birthday Party for the Church” from Worshiping With Children
“Feel the Wind in Your Face” Activity from Sermonsuite.com
“Pentecost Ideas” from Worshiping With Children
“New Wind Blowing” Group Activities from Sermons4kids
“Day of Pentecost” Coloring Page from Sermons4kids
“A New Wind Blowing” Sermons and Activities from Sermons4kids
“The Holy Spirit Comes” Coloring Page from Calvarywilliamsport.com
“The Day of Pentecost” Coloring Page from Calvarywilliamsport.com
To Demonstrate Wind you could also print out and make kites for the children. Let them write or draw something about today’s lesson on it. Enjoy!
“Kite Craft for Kids” from DLTK
“Simple Paper Kite” from Skiptomylou.org
“Paper Dove Kite” from Griffith.edu.au (This one is especially good because the dove is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Enjoy!)