Monday, 1 November 2021
Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:11
Note: You can listen to today’s introduction courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
Luke now finishes his list of the various locations where the people had gathered from. He first notes “Cretans.” Again, as before, the words of Albert Barnes will be quoted, “Crete, now called Candia, is an island in the Mediterranean, about 200 miles in length and 50 in breadth, about 500 miles southwest of Constantinople, and about the same distance west of Syria or Palestine. The climate is mild and delightful, the sky unclouded and serene. By some this island is supposed to be the Caphtor of the Hebrews, Genesis 10:14. It is mentioned in the Acts as the place touched at by Paul, Acts 27:7-8, Acts 27:13. This was the residence of Titus, who was left there by Paul ‘to set in order the things that were missing,’ etc., Titus 1:5. The Cretans among the Greeks were famous for deceit and falsehood. See the notes on Titus 1:12-13. The language spoken there was probably the Greek.”
Barnes notes that Crete was later called Candia. Today, however, the name has returned to “Crete.” Luke finishes his list with “Arabs.”
Today, what we consider Arabia is quite different than before. At the time, there were three places considered Arabia. The first is Arabia Petraea. This was bordered by Egypt on the west; Judea, and Syria to the north; the Red Sea to the south and then Arabia Felix on the east. Arabia Felix was bordered on the north by Petraea, Arabia Deserta, and part of the Persian Gulf; the Gulf of Arabia on the west; the Red Sea on the south, and part of the Persian Gulf on the east. The third is Arabia Deserta, which was bordered on the north by some of Mesopotamia; by Babylonia on the east; on the south by Arabia Felix, and by part of Syria and Arabia Petraea on the west.
With all of these people groups and locations named, Luke next records what they called out, saying that “we hear them speaking in our own tongues.” Now, the term glóssa, signifying “language,” is used. Therefore, these disciples were speaking both the foreign languages, but also the particular dialects within the languages. Whatever was needed to accurately speak to the ears of each person was fluently conveyed. And the substance of what they proclaimed was “the wonderful works of God.”
Here is a word found only once in Scripture, megaleios. It comes from the word megas, or great. Thus, it signifies “great things,” or “mighty works.” What the great things of God are is left unstated, but we can reasonably speculate that their words were centered on the great works of God in Christ.
In the speaking of the tongues, it was evidence that their message was truly from God, who alone could cause the tongues of Galileans to speak fluently as they did.
Life application: As previously noted, what was spoken by these people were actual languages, and they were fluently spoken for their targeted audience. What occurred here is a descriptive passage and is not to be considered normative for the church age. Paul says elsewhere –
“If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.” 1 Corinthians 14:27, 28
Paul’s words are prescriptive. They were given through inspiration by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Any supposed “tongues” uttered in a church that do not meet these requirements are not of God. As Paul wrote these instructions, and as they do not match what occurred in Acts 2, it is plainly evident that what occurred in Acts 2 (and elsewhere in Acts) were one-time events intended for the early establishment of the church. They are descriptive only and are not to be used as a basis for doctrine within the church.
Understanding the purpose of the book of Acts allows the student of the Bible to see how things came about. Being careful to not misapply what is stated in Acts, many unsound doctrines that have arisen within the church will be avoided. Read Acts, enjoy its contents, praise God for how He got things going, and then proceed to the epistles to obtain proper doctrine within the church – to the glory of God who purposed it to be this way.
Lord God, how precious is Your word, and how wonderful are the things it reveals, explains, and teaches. Help us to apply right context in our evaluation of it and help us to properly apply the things You prescribe in that right context. To Your glory we pray. Amen.