Pentecostalism and the Power of the Holy Spirit
The Pentecostal churches are the youngest of the main Protestant denominations. And Pentecostalism had its beginnings in1902 during a time of revival in the United States. Pentecostals and Charismatics hold to the basic truths that all other Christians hold to in the Nicene Creed. Pentecostals believe they should have a strong personal relationship with Christ as their Savior and they place a strong emphasis on the emotional dimensions of one’s relationship with Christ. There are approximately 600 million Pentecostals or Charismatics worldwide today
All the new Protestant denominations got their start because their members were trying to get back to the Bible and back to living as the early Christian church had lived. Each Protestant denomination had its beginnings because people were trying to follow Christ’s teachings more faithfully. And the Pentecostals were no different. Pentecostals claim to preach the “full gospel” implying that the other denominations are leaving something out and are only preaching part of the gospel. Do they have a point?
The part of the gospel that Pentecostals believe other Christians have forgotten are the Scriptures that call on believers to receive the power of the Holy Spirit into their lives. All the main Protestant denominations and the Catholics believe that Christians receives the Holy Spirit into their life when they believe in Christ or are baptized or confirmed into the faith. But Pentecostals and Charismatics believe that there is a “second work of grace” after the believer accepts Christ or is baptized when the Holy Spirit completely immerses believers, giving them power. And Pentecostals and Charismatics also believe that when a believer is baptized into the Holy Spirit that he or she will speak in tongues
Pentecostals get their name from what happened at Pentecost according to Scripture. When Jesus left the disciples and went back to heaven He instructed them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the power of His Spirit to come upon them. The disciples obeyed Jesus and other believers joined them to wait for what Jesus promised would be theirs. There were over a hundred followers of Christ praying and waiting together when the Holy Spirit fell upon all of them. There were tongues of Holy Spirit fire over each of the believers’ heads and they all began to speak in tongues. This was the miraculous birth or beginning of the Christian Church and it happened on the day of a Jewish festival called Pentecost.
Here is how the Bible describes this wonderful event. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.” (Acts 2:1-4)
A Pemtecostal or Charismatic person is a person who believes and wants to experience the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” the way those early Christians experienced it at Pentecost. Other early Christians we read about in Scripture also experienced this Holy Spirit baptism. They remind us that when John the Baptist was ministering he said: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but One (Jesus) who is more powerful than I is coming after me: I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” ((Matthew 3:11)
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus and his mission was to go before Jesus, the Messiah and introduce Him. Here in Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist was prophesying that when people repented of their sins they would receive his baptism which was with water. But soon Jesus the Son of God would baptize believers with the Holy Spirit and with fire or with power. Power in their lives to be used by God.
Jesus spoke these words: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Pentecostals believe that as in those Bible days of old when the early Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in other languages or tongues, that today we will also speak in other languages like they did back then. And Pentecostals believe that the evidence that one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit is the speaking in tongues.
This is where Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals (most other Protestant denominations and most Catholics) don’t completely agree. Non-Pentecostals believe that those first Pentecostals were given the ability to speak foreign languages by the Holy Spirit probably because there were many Jews living in Jerusalem at that time who were from other countries and who spoke other languages. When the Spirit filled Christians at Pentecost spoke in tongues, they were speaking to the travelers from other countries who could understand them. And because these foreigners miraculously heard about salvation in their own language they were amazed and believed in Christ and were saved. Scripture says that about three thousand persons believed in Christ soon after Pentecost when Peter preached to them and many of them heard him speak in their own language! (Acts 2:38-40)
Non-Pentecostals believe that foreign languages were used by the Holy Spirit after Pentecost to spread the word of Christ and bring many people to salvation. But they also believe that the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is not necessarily speaking in tongues or foreign languages, because we aren’t in the same situation as those early Christians were with unbelievers all around who spoke other languages. Non-Pentecostal churches believe that the Holy Spirit gives us gifts perhaps to match the situations we will be facing. And non-Pentecostals believe that having the fruit of the Spirit is an evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit into our lives. Scripture says that the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, long suffering, self- control, goodness, patience, gentleness, faith, . .as described in Scripture. (Galatians 5:22)
And non-Pentecostals believe that God also gives each believer a gift or gifts through the power of the Holy Spirit as also described in Scripture: (1st Corinthians 12:4-11) The speaking in tongues or in foreign languages is just one of the many gifts the Holy Spirit can give a believer. The gifts listed in this passage in 1st Corinthians that are given through the Holy Spirit are words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, the gift of healing, helping others, performing miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, teaching, the interpretation of tongues and speaking in different kinds of tongues. These are special abilities and talents that God gives us through the Holy Spirit as He sees fit. He gives us power to live a Christian life.
Even though the Pentecostals have sometimes only emphasized the gifts of the Holy Spirit that seem more exotic, we don’t need to shy away from those gifts. My husband and I were once in a church where the congregation would sing praises for thirty minutes or more. Often, while we were all praising God we could feel the presence of God in our midst and it was a warm and wonderful feeling. Often during these worship services a person sitting in the congregation would speak a message in tongues and then we would wait a minute and another person would give the interpretation of the first message. These gifts of tongues and interpretation were usually messages of love and comfort or guidance from the Lord. I really miss being in these charismatic groups now.
Each of us should find out which gifts we have been given by the Holy Spirit and learn to use them. When we use them for God’s glory we will find great joy in our faith. It is amazing to see the various gifts people have and to know that God planned it that way so we can all fit together as one body and serve God and each other. Some people have been given gifts of music to glorify God and some have gifts of helping others. Others are given the gift of administration and finance and others leadership talents. And some have the gift of tongues and interpretation, or prophecy and healing. (I Peter 4:10-11)
God has put us together in the body of Christ and Christ’s body is not all eyes or hands or legs. You may be a foot and I am an elbow. But what would a body be without a foot and an elbow? In His wisdom God has given us our special gifts to fit into His body. Let us find out what our gifts are and use them. Our Pentecostal friends challenge us to be bold in prayer and to ask God for help and for healing. And to repent of our sins. They remind us to listen each day for guidance from the Holy Spirit and to ask for it.
The Pentecostals insist that we be bold in our praying and look for God to do wonderful things. We have a loving God and Father whose mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) Our prayers do accomplish so much good. Let us listen to the Pentecostals and invite the Holy Spirit into our lives and our work. Let’s be aware of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power in our lives and listen every day for His still small voice in our daily activities. And count on Him to guide us.
Pentecostals encourage us not to be luke-warm Christians. (Revelations 3:16) But to be hot! Go all the way! With the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives we can do all of that! We can be “on fire” for our Lord!