Home        
     
Lesson Archive Links Beliefs Recommended Books About Us

 The Pentecostal

John Hoole June 22, 2008


Several weeks ago, I taught on the explosion of the Pentecostals around the world. In that study, I mentioned a Penn. State University professor named Dr. Philip Jenkins. He wrote a book titled, "The Next Christendom - The Coming of Global Christianity." He argues in his book that the greatest movement in the 20th century was not communism or capitalism. He says, by far, the fastest growing religious element in the world is Pentecostals. In that statement, he includes Charismatics.

I showed you a chart, and made the statement that if you called the Assemblies of God a religion, they would be the 6th largest in the world, with a total membership of nearly 60 million. Almost all of the 50 largest congregations in the world are Pentecostal/Charismatic. There are an estimated 500 million plus Pentecostals/Charismatics in the world today.

Today, I ask this question: What is a Pentecostal?

How would you describe a Pentecostal or a Pentecostal group? I'm not only asking about what makes a Pentecostal different from other religious groups. Right now, I am interested in what you perceive to be the answers to these questions. I will answer them in a moment, after I ask you a few subsequent questions.

WHAT ARE SOME PENTECOSTAL DENOMINATIONS/GROUPS

• Assemblies of God
• International Foursquare
• United Pentecostal
• Open Bible Standard
• Church of God - Cleveland, Tennessee
• Church of God in Christ (COGIC)
• Pentecostal Holiness
• Apostolic Faith
• Church of God of Prophecy

Let's look at what Pentecostals believe.

Like most all Christian churches, most Pentecostals believe that God exists in three Persons, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - each being divine.

We believe that God the Son became man in the person of Jesus Christ, that He was born of the virgin, Mary - that He lived a sinless life, and that He suffered and was crucified under Pontius Pilate to make atonement for our sins.

We believe He rose on the third day from the grave and after 40 days He ascended back to heaven.

We believe He sent the Holy Spirit to be with His people on earth.

Like all Evangelicals, Pentecostals believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and the sole rule of faith and practice, and that it stands above all tradition and teachings and experiences of man.

We believe that Jesus' death provided complete atonement for sins, and that, beyond acceptance, no further works on our part is necessary to obtain salvation.

We believe that we are saved by grace alone, through faith, and when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are born again into God's kingdom.

We believe that being saved will produce works of righteousness which we ourselves could not produce.

We believe that Jesus sits now at the right hand of the Father and is our High Priest and intercessor.

We believe Jesus left earth to prepare a place for His bride, the Church, and will soon come again in the same way He left.

In addition to the above, we believe that the Holy Spirit is active in the church today.

All the beliefs mentioned to this point are identical with most Evangelicals.

Unlike most Evangelicals, we believe there is a further experience subsequent to salvation, sometimes called the Baptism in the Spirit, or the infilling of the Spirit, through which the Holy Spirit empowers His people for work and service. Most Pentecostal churches believe that this experience of Baptism in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by "speaking in tongues." That is, they speak in a language which has never been learned by the speaker.

Pentecostals also believe that all the manifestation gifts of the Spirit, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, should be active in our churches today. These gifts include:

o Word of Wisdom - impartation of wisdom not gained naturally, but supernaturally.

o Word of Knowledge - revelation of knowledge about persons or things not gained by natural understanding.

o Faith - While all of us should have faith, the gift of faith is given to some to have extraordinary confidence in the will and purposes of God.

o Gifts of Healings - supernatural ability to cure illnesses and restore a person to full health.

o Working of Miracles - the supernatural ability to alter the ordinary course of nature.

o Prophecy - supernatural ability to receive and communicate an immediate message from God.

o Discerning of Spirits - supernatural ability to distinguish between Spirit of God and the spirit of Satan.

o Tongues - ability to speak in a language not known to the speaker, and usually not known to the hearer.

o Interpretation of Tongues - the ability to translate an utterance in tongues into the language of the hearers, without knowing the language of the tongues.

Pentecostals believe all of the above gifts from the Holy Spirit should be active in the church today. Because of our belief that the gifts of the Spirit are for today, you may hear people speaking in tongues or prophesying. You may see people receiving prayer for healing.

Pentecostals have a heightened sense of evangelism - taking the gospel to the lost. As Christ said, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will give you power to witness (Acts 1:8). We proclaim the same message given by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. And, like most Evangelicals, because they believe in the soon return of Christ, they possess a greater urgency to spread the gospel around the world.

Pentecostals are more apt to be literalists in their interpretation of the Scriptures. We believe there should be a balance between experience and doctrine (the Word). In that regard, we believe no experience or gift take precedence over the Word of God. But we do believe the Word should be experienced. We believe all Christians should seek holiness - after all He is the "Holy" Spirit.

Every Christian prays, but the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements has especially strengthened the church's prayer life. We believe prayer moves the hand of God. Obviously, there are many great men and women of prayer, such as Bill Bright, Kay Arthur, and Henry Blackaby who are not Pentecostal or Charismatic. But most of the writing and speaking done these days on prayer is by Pentecostal or Charismatic pastors and leaders.

Why is an emphasis of prayer so central to us? One reason is that we have a supernatural worldview. The Pentecostal and Charismatic worldview is open to God's miraculous intervention in daily events. Prayer is the means by which we invite those interventions. Pentecostals and Charismatics theology expects God to act in the here and now, and that adds fuel to one's passion to pray. Pentecostals also believe in a "prayer language." I believe praying in an unknown language enhances prayer.

In addition, the belief in spiritual warfare raises the importance of prayer. Prayer becomes hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. Intercession becomes guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines that are waged to set people free. Such prayer can defeat the demonic forces around us, as well as set people free from various addictions.

Pentecostal preachers have been known to be more animated in their delivery of the message. And some Pentecostal services last longer than most churches. The Pentecostal worship is less structured and more spontaneous.

We pray together out loud, because in the Bible we read:

"They lifted up their voice to God with one accord…" (Acts 4:24).

We lift our hands in Praise, because we read:

"Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD" (Psalm 134:2).

We sing with all our hearts, because we read:

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." (Psalm 98:4).

We clap and shout unto God, because we read:

"O clap your hands all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph" (Psalm 47:1).

We testify publicly, because we read:

"I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee" (Psalm 22:22).

We anoint with oil for Divine Healing in our services, because we read:

"Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14).

In Pentecostal churches, women have been a large factor in their beginning and continuance. Most allow women in places of leadership - pastors, deaconess, elder, etc. We believe everyone is a minister who serves God using the spiritual gifts given them by the Holy Spirit.

Every Christians believes that God speaks to us. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ, to live in an abiding, conversational relationship with a God who loves us enough to communicate with us. Evangelicals remind us that the primary means by which God speaks to us is Scriptures, And while Pentecostals also believe in the primacy of Scripture, they also remind us that God speaks to us in other ways as well.

Pentecostals believe that some of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, are revelatory in nature, where the Holy Spirit uses individuals to speak to the body. The Bible uses the word "revelation" in several different ways. Sometimes the word apokalupsis is used when referring to Scriptural revelation which is divinely authoritative. At other times the same word is used to describe a message with less authority. In such passages the word means "divinely prompted guidance or direction" (1 Corinthians 14:26; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 3:15).

No Pentecostal leader I know of believes that these revelatory gifts speak with the same authority as the Scripture. Rather, these gifts are "divinely prompted guidance or direction" that always needs to be tested and weighed against Scripture. At other times, we find the Holy Spirit speaking to God's people, in what 1 Kings 19:12 calls "the still small voice."

There are those - maybe some here today - who are concerned that engaging in prophetic ministries is spiritually "dangerous." I will say more about this issue when we actually study these spiritual gifts, but allow me to make a few comments here.

Let me quote Ken Gire and how he addresses this reasonable fear.

"It could be argued…that to open the possibility of God's speaking through other means than the clear teaching of Scripture is to let in all sorts of confusion. After all, the window lets in pollen along with the breeze, flies along with the sunshine, the cackle of crows along with the cooing of doves.

If that were your argument, I would have to agree. But if we want fresh air, we have to be willing to live with a few flies. Of course, we can shut out the flies and the pollen and the cackle of crows. And if a clean and quiet house is what is most important to us, perhaps that is what we should do. But if we do, we also shut out so much of the warmth, so much of the fragrance, so much of the sweet songs that may be calling us."

I suspect most of us would prefer risking a few flies over enduring the stale air that comes from a closed house.

Earlier I spoke about Pentecostal and Charismatic worship. Let me add a few more comments. This is one of the areas where we have greatly impacted other evangelical churches in their worship. The upbeat - sometimes loud - songs began in Pentecostal groups and have been assimilated into the worship of many other churches. Pentecostal worship invites everyone into the worship process. It is whole-hearted and sometimes exuberant. The congregation is the choir - and God is our audience. Each individual member, whether gifted musically or not, is invited to praise God audibly.

In addition, Pentecostal and Charismatic worship has in many churches recaptured a historic Jewish element of worship. A quick glance at the Psalms finds worshiping people who danced, bowed, leaped, waved banners, and raised their hands before God. Today these same expressions of worship are being restored to the church.

To summarize, the Pentecostals get their name from what happened on the Day of Pentecost, as mentioned in Acts 2. They believe that what happened on that day has been given to all the church through all generations following that day.

Acts 2:38-39 (NKJV) tells us:

38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

Peter tells us that what happened that day was not only for those 120 in the upper room, but was available to all that "the Lord our God will call." That invitation extends to us today, and should be normative for all believers.

Pentecostals call what happened in Acts 2 the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. And most of them believe the first sign, or "initial physical evidence," of this baptism is speaking in tongues - that is, in a language unknown to the speaker.

As Pentecostals, we sometimes emphasize the speaking in tongues that happened on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. We need to read the rest of the book of Acts. The initial, physical evidence of the baptism may have been speaking in tongues, but the on-going evidence was a life focused on evangelism. After all, Christ said the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was to give us power in our witnessing.

In addition, Pentecostals believe all the gifts that operated in the Apostles can, by faith in our Lord, be operable in our lives and churches today. Peter tells us that we have the same faith in us that he and the apostles had.

2 Peter 1:1 NIV

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

So, by faith in our Savior Jesus Christ, we believe all that was available to them, is now available to each believer by the power of the same Holy Spirit. Therefore, we believe that all the Spiritual Gifts available to the New Testament Church should be operational in the Christ's body today. None of them ever ceased their power or importance to the body.

As a title for groups of Christians, the label "Pentecostal" has been a fairly recent designation. I believe God has always had a remnant of people that believed in what today's Pentecostals do. But they did not call these groups Pentecostal. Pentecostalism, as we know it today, got its start a little over a hundred years ago. But all Pentecostals believe the support for the Pentecostal experience is genuinely rooted in the Word of God, from the first century onward.

In the mid to late 19th century, there were some major changes occurring in science, religion and politics. As an outgrowth of the Holiness, which began more than a century earlier, with John Wesley, new organizations were forming to send missionaries around the world. At the same time, in some areas of science, the theories of evolution began to be taught as fact. With the expansion of Darwinism and the thought on the origin of man and beast, the reliability of the Bible was being brought into question.

The idea that science has all the answers caused some theologians to try to synchronize their biblical theology with science. At the same time, some philosophers and theologians advanced the ideas labeled "Higher Criticism," and began to put forward doubts as to the reliability of Scripture. If Genesis and the origin of man is being questions, what confidence do we have in the miracles mentioned in the Bible.

It didn't take long for new trends in theology to emphasize man himself as the authority of his beliefs and religious experiences. The older Scriptural views about the fallen nature of man, his need of salvation through the work of Christ at Calvary, the need for evangelizing the world, and the coming return of Christ for His church, were redefined, along with the other Christian doctrines.

The end result was a watered-down form of Christianity that emphasized the essential goodness of mankind. They taught of the brotherhood of man, and the progress of the future through human and scientific endeavor would be great.

Biblical Christianity did not lack for defenders during this time. Those preachers and theologians who defended the basic doctrines of the Bible, the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word, the virgin birth, the resurrection and deity of Christ, and the Second Coming were known as Fundamentalists. These are not synonymous with the term Evangelical you hear me mention. But the line between them is blurred in places.

Even though many fundamentalists later rejected the Pentecostal outpouring, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their often scholarly efforts to uphold the Bible. But the seeds of irrelevancy by the proponents of "Higher Criticism" was causing a vacuum in many areas of the church.

Ever since the church was founded on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Church has had a challenge of being relevant to people and their daily lives. Part of that challenge was how do Christians stay relevant without becoming like the world system? And in the late 1800's, just asking the question of relevancy injected doubts.

But when the floodtide of Pentecostal power surges into the vacuum, it settles with finality the question of relevancy. The Holy Spirit will always make the Bible and Christ very real and relevant. There is a vital connection and close relationship between the mission of the church and the needs of men and women. The truth of the gospel become important, practical, helpful, timely and expedient.

On the day of Pentecost there were 120 in the upper room. None of them were prophets, none of them were priests, none of them were kings,but they were recipients of the fullness of the Holy Spirit on that day. They were ordinary people such as fishermen and tax collectors.

Just like the original Day of Pentecost, the Pentecostal outpouring in the early 20th century turned inadequate men who had little talent for leadership into men of power. Pentecost multiplied an obscure group of believers into a throng of aggressive witnesses. Pentecost became a force that impacted the entire world. What happened in Jerusalem is now happening in modern cities and villages around the world.

Pentecostal Roots

Pentecostalism usually traces its beginning to a revival that started in Topeka, Kansas on January 1, 1901. This does not discount the significance of other occurrences which took place earlier, or about the same time in other locations. It was this revival, however, which made a decisive impact on the events that followed. In Topeka, students at the small Bethel Bible School searched the Scriptures for the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As a result of their studies, they concluded speaking in tongues according to the pattern in Acts 2 was the evidence for this experience. Charles Parham was the minister/teacher in charge of this study.

The first of the 35 students to receive the fullness of the Spirit was Agnes N. Ozman. I recalled the event, Miss Ozman states:

"On watch-night we had a blessed service, praying that God's blessing might rest upon us as the new year came in. During the first day of 1901 the presence of the Lord was with us in a marked way, stilling our hearts to wait upon Him for greater things. A spirit of prayer was upon us in the evening. It was nearly 11 o'clock on this first of January that it came into my heart to ask that hands be laid upon me that I might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. As hands were laid upon my head the Holy Spirit fell upon me, and I began to speak in tongues, glorifying God. I talked several languages. It was as though rivers of living water were proceeding from my innermost being."

This revival which began with its association of speaking in tongues with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit proved to be the spark that ignited the modern Pentecostal movement. From this time on, Pentecostals would associate the baptism in the Holy Spirit with tongues as being the initial physical evidence. Charles Parham coined the term, "Apostolic Faith." He used that term to designate getting back to a New Testament church. He felt the Methodist Church that he was a member of was becoming too liberal.

A few years later, the ministry of Charles Parham took him to Houston, Texas. He as several associates were conducting a short-term Bible school there. William J. Seymour, a black pastor of a Holiness church, listened in on the classes. After listening to Parham, Seymour embraces the notion of the Spirit baptism which was distinct from salvation and evidenced by tongues.

A Holiness church in Los Angeles sent an invitation to Seymour to hold meetings in their church. After speaking at this church on tongues being the initial evidence for the Spirit Baptism, the leaders of the Holiness church locked him out of their building. The meetings in Los Angeles moved to a house at 214 Bonnie Brae Street. The word got out about the great meetings, the home became too small. They eventually moved to a livery stable that had earlier been a Methodist church. The address was 312 Azusa Street. Their first meeting at this location occurred on April 14, 1906.

Frank Bartleman, who was at the Azusa Street revivals, chronicled what happened there. Four months after the revival started, He makes this almost prophetic statement: "The revival will be a world-wide one, without doubt." Could he have imagined just how world-wide it would one day be. The revival would explode and last for 3½ years.

HOW WERE THE PENTECOSTALS RECEIVED IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY?

It wasn't easy, even among Christians, to be a Pentecostal. For several decades, we were known as the "tongues people," and "holy rollers." Some labeled us as being of the devil or demon possessed. I have had some tell me that "tongues is of the devil."

In the early years, the Pentecostal movement was experiencing opposition from main-stream churches. Particularly painful was the opposition from many within the Holiness groups. Especially those holding the view that "entire sanctification" was the second act of grace. Pheneas Bresee, founder of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene in 1895 opposed the Azusa Street. In 1919 they would drop the word "Pentecostal" from their name in order not to be confused with the Pentecostals.

I suppose it was inevitable that such a vigorous movement would suffer controversy in its formative stages. Within the ranks of those who identify themselves as Pentecostals, there are very small sects which are known for more extreme or even bizarre views. I have in mind here those who practice handling of snakes. Those holding these views are very small in number, but they get much publicity.

Even the apostles had critics. At times they were called "unlearned Galileans." On the Day of Pentecost, the 120 were accused of being drunk

I pray that God will deliver us from the day when the church has no critics and it is at peace with the world. The times when the church has been most faithful and powerful have always been the times of disturbance and criticism. Every great revival has had its critics. The devil is never content to let God's power go unchallenged.

Some of the greatest critics come from within the church. Norman Vincent Peale once observed in a sermon that the watchword of upper-middle-class Protestantism was, "Don't do anything to rock the boat." Anything new or different is automatically suspect.

A man or woman willing to give their life for their country is a patriot. But let the same person confess a willingness to die for Jesus Christ, and they are now called a "fanatic."

Pentecostals today refer to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as being a second work of grace. By that, this baptism occurs following, or subsequent, to one's salvation. Within the Holiness movement at this time were those who definitely believed in a second work, but they called it "entire sanctification." They believed there could be a moment in the growth of a Christian, where they are cleansed from all inbred sin (no longer a sinful nature) and would have much less, or no. temptation to sin. Some believed "perfection" was possible in this life. Unless you have some questions about those who believe this and still do, I am not going to spend time on this theological topic.

Most Pentecostals, as do almost all Evangelicals, take the theological position that sanctification is a process that continues through the entire life of a Christian. The Assemblies of God hold that position.

DO YOU KNOW WHEN THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD WAS FORMED?

94 years ago - it was in 1914 - in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Many other Pentecostal groups began shortly thereafter, and most of them used the model of the Assemblies of God. They included the Pentecostal Church of God, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, and the Open Bible Standard Church in 1919 in Eugene, Oregon. (called Bible Standard Conference at the time, later to merge in 1935 with Open Bible Evangelistic Assoc. founded in 1932 in Des Moines, IA)

Conclusions

To close our lesson today, I want to say that a Pentecostal is more than a tongues speaker. From the earliest days of 20th-century, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was only one of four cardinal doctrines. Salvation - healing - imminent return…rounded out the cornerstone of Pentecostal belief.

We should not respond to a question about our beliefs by only speaking of tongues or the Baptism in the Spirit, no matter how precious that experience may be. We must always be ready to give a complete answer for the beliefs that energizes us as Pentecostals. And in practice, the Spirit-filled life should be seen in a continuing walk in the Spirit. And, through the work of the Holy Spirit, our lives should become more Christ-like.

But I also know that what happened in the past is still taking place. What happened in Jerusalem is still happening in modern cities. That which has set dead churches on fire is still kindling such a flame. What changed a vacillating Peter into a human dynamo is still doing the same for men and women now.

   
New Life Church Website
   
Questions, comments & suggestions to John Hoole

Last Updated: Thursday September 08 2011
©2001 John's Notes