Pentecostalism: What Is It?
Prof. David J. Engelsma
I. Characteristic Teachings and Practices
II. The History of Pentecostalism
III. Its Spirit
The movement that this booklet examines is a powerful and popular force in the Christian churches today. It is known as the Pentecostal movement, because it claims to be a "second Pentecost" at the end of history. It is also known as the charismatic movement, because it claims to recover and practice the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit that are mentioned in Acts and in I Corinthians 12-14 (Greek: charismata).
In 100 years, it has spread from a handful of people in Topeka, Kansas and in Los Angeles, California to hundreds of millions throughout the world. The latest estimate is that half a billion people are involved in Pentecostalism. The movement is regarded as a "third force" in Christendom, with Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
Pentecostalism is found in almost all churches. Many churches are founded on Pentecostal teachings and exist for the purpose of engaging in Pentecostal practices. Many of these churches are large and growing. But other churches approve Pentecostalism and welcome it within their membership and life. The Roman Catholic Church has embraced the Pentecostal movement. Rome has hundreds of thousands of charismatic members. Among the Protestant churches and preachers that have approved the charismatic movement are Reformed churches and influential evangelicals. In 1973, the Christian Reformed Church responded to the then exploding charismatic movement by adopting a report that said in part:
We call on the church to recognize the freedom of the Spirit to bestow His gifts according to His will, and that the Scriptures do not restrict the charismata spoken of by the apostolic witness to the apostolic age. Let the church be open to an acknowledgment of the full spectrum of the gifts of the Spirit ("Neo-Pentecostalism," in Acts of Synod 1973, Grand Rapids: Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church, p. 481)
Among the influential evangelical ministers and theologians who have put their stamp of approval on, and warmly welcomed, the Pentecostal movement are J. I. Packer and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In his book, Joy Unspeakable: Power & Renewal in the Holy Spirit, published in 1984, but consisting of sermons preached in Westminster Chapel in 1964 and 1965, Lloyd-Jones declared that he "believed passionately in the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a distinct, post-conversion experience"; that all the gifts exist today; that the experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is the only thing "that holds out any hope for us today"; and that whoever denies the baptism with the Holy Spirit is guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1984, pp.13, 54, 278).
So popular and powerful is the charismatic movement, blowing all before its mighty wind, that it is difficult to find a denomination of churches that has resisted it. In the recent book, The Pentecostals and Charismatics: A Confessional Lutheran Evaluation, after the authorhas mentioned a number of Protestant churches that either have embraced the movement or have caved in to it under pressure, he mentions one denomination, and one only, that has rejected it: "Not all Protestant bodies have extended a welcome to the charismatic renewal. The Protestant Reformed Churches' reaction to it has been bluntly negative" (Arthur J. Clement, The Pentecostals and Charismatics: A Confessional Lutheran Evaluation, Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 2000, pp.52, 53).
The influence of the movement has been enormous. First, it has shifted the center of gravity of the gospel from faith's reception of the forgiveness of sins on the basis of the cross of Christ to the Christian's ineffable experience of God and power for ministry, especially witnessing, on the basis of a post-conversion event known as the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Second, Pentecostalism has radically recast and revised the public worship of the church. No longer is the pure preaching of the sound doctrine of Scripture and the proper administration of the sacraments the heart of the service. Rather, the exuberant praise and the exercise of various gifts by the congregation under the influence of a freewheeling Spirit are the main things.
Third, Pentecostalism has promoted ecumenicity. It is a trans-denominational, trans-confessional movement. The authoritative Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (ed. Stanley Burgess, Gary McGee, and Patrick Alexander, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988) states that the Pentecostal/charismatic movement is "one worldwide trans-denominational outpouring of the Spirit of God" (p. 159). Members of virtually all churches, Protestant and Roman Catholic, Calvinist and Arminian, Baptist and covenantal, share this one "Spirit," regardless of doctrinal differences. Therefore, there are high-level talks and conferences with a view to organizational union; ecumenical gatherings of scores of thousands for praise and worship; and weekly meetings of members of virtually all churches for Bible study and fellowship--the "grass roots ecumenicity."
The Pentecostal movement has influence even where its main doctrines and practices are officially rejected. The Pentecostal movement is the cause of widespread dissatisfaction with the preaching of the doctrine of the cross and of the shrill clamor for more emphasis on the Christian life and religious activities. There is boredom with the structured Reformed worship according to the regulative principle of worship and agitation to change the public worship, to make it more lively, to involve the people more. As for ecumenicity, people from many different denominations freely join in the praise and fellowship of Promise Keepers, which is strongly influenced by the charismatic movement in its most radical form, Wimber's Vineyard Fellowship.
Men and women are openly participating in the warm fellowship of Bible studies that are explicitly and insistently non-doctrinal (as though this were possible!) and that involve the communion of Protestants and Roman Catholics, Calvinists and Arminians, Baptists and Reformed, and, indeed, charismatics and noncharismatics.
The growth, popularity, and influence of the movement are not decisive, however, as regards the fundamental, and necessary, question, "What spirit is the spirit of the Pentecostal movement?" The popularity of the movement does not preclude the question, nor does it decide the answer automatically. For, first, Scripture forecasts great apostasy in the last days, apostasy accompanied by "all power and signs and lying wonders" (II Thess. 2:3, 9). Second, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament Scripture holds up the despised "remnant," the "little flock," as the true people and church of God (Is. 1; Luke 12:32). Third, Scripture requires us to examine, or test, the spirits, whether they are of God (Deut. 13; I John 4:1). Deuteronomy 13 warned Israel that the false prophet might produce a "sign or a wonder" on behalf of his religious movement (vv. 1,2).
This is what we are doing in this booklet: testing the spirit of Pentecostalism in obedience to the command of Scripture. The chapters that follow will test Pentecostalism's spirit regarding specific, important doctrines and practices of the movement. This opening chapter tests Pentecostalism's spirit in connection with the distinctive nature of the movement and with regard to its history.Characteristic Teachings and Practices Pentecostalism, or the charismatic renewal, is the recent movement in Christian churches that teaches a second, definite, and keenly experienced work of God in Christians after regeneration, or conversion, that is known as the Baptism in, or with, the Holy Spirit (hereafter, BHS). This event has as its purpose to give the Christian a wonderful experience of God and power for ministry, especially witnessing to others. The evidence, or sign, of this baptism is speaking in tongues, understood by Pentecostals, not as the ability to speak in foreign languages without formal, academic study, but as the ability to speak unknown, heavenly languages.
This is how authoritative Pentecostals define their movement. The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements describes the Pentecostal movement this way: "Pentecostals subscribe to a work of grace subsequent to conversion in which Spirit baptism is evidenced by glossolalia (that is, speaking in tongues)" (p. 1). The Dictionary describes the charismatic movement as follows: "The occurrence of distinctively Pentecostal blessings and phenomena, baptism in the Holy Spirit with the spiritual gifts of I Corinthians 12:8-10, outside a denominational and/or confessional Pentecostal framework" (p. 130).
Pentecostal preacher and writer Don Basham describes the BHS, which is the heart of Pentecostal teaching and practice, this way: "The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a second encounter with God (the first is conversion) in which the Christian begins to receive the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit into his life" (A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism, Monroeville, PA: Whitaker Books, 1969, p.10).
In further explanation of the fundamental Pentecostal teaching of a BHS, first, Pentecostals hold that in this act of God one receives the Holy Spirit Himself, so that he is filled with the Spirit. The Spirit Himself indwells the man or woman who is baptized. One is baptized, not by the Spirit but with the Spirit.
Second, the BHS is distinct from, and later than, the first saving work of God in a sinner, namely, regeneration, or conversion. It is basic to Pentecostal teaching that there are two distinct works of grace in one's life and experience. The first work is performed by the Holy Spirit and gives one Jesus Christ and His salvation, especially the forgiveness of sins. The second work of grace, upon which Pentecostalism puts the emphasis, is performed by Jesus Christ and gives one the Holy Spirit.
Because the first work--the work of salvation--is signified by the sacrament of baptism with water, Pentecostalism teaches two baptisms. This at once raises the question, "What about Paul's teaching in Ephesians 4:5 that in the church there is 'one baptism'?" The seriousness of this question for Pentecostalism is that Ephesians 4:5 makes "one baptism" the basis of the unity of the church. Pentecostalism, on the other hand, has a church is which some have only the first baptism, while others have also the second baptism, which is supposed to bestow on them more wonderful experience and much greater power. In addition, Pentecostalism as an ecumenical movement makes the second baptism the ground of the unity of the church, whereas Paul made the baptism with water the basis of the unity of the church.
According to Pentecostalism, the second work of grace--the BHS--is for all Christians. God wants all to have it. It is available to all, but we must seek it and fulfill certain conditions in order to obtain it.
Only the teaching of a first and second baptism is the 'full gospel." Whatever message omits the BHS as Pentecostalism conceives it is less than a "full gospel." Only Pentecostalism has the "full gospel."
Third. the BHS is a mysterious, wonderful event in one's own experience. Often, there are physical effects and manifestations, such as a feeling of tingling all over the body, or falling down "slain in the Spirit," or laughing uncontrollably (the "holy laughter" of the Toronto blessing), or making noises like an animal.
Fourth, the purpose of the BHS in modern Pentecostalism is three-fold: more wonderful experience of much closer union with God, more desire and ability to praise God, and power for witnessing. Emphasis falls on the feeling of union with God. Not an unlettered "holy roller," but Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "It is the most wonderful and glorious experience a man can ever have in this life. The only thing beyond the experience of the baptism with the Spirit is heaven itself" (Joy Unspeakable, p. 141). The BHS does not increase one's holiness, or strengthen one's faith, or give one growth in doctrine, or deepen one's knowledge of his misery, redemption, and gratitude.
Fifth, the invariable and necessary evidence, or sign, is tongues: the utterances of peculiar sounds and noises, which are said to be unknown, heavenly languages. In view of Pentecostalism's claim that the BHS is for all Christians and in view of the fact that tongues are the necessary evidence of the BHS, all Christians can and should speak in tongues. But the apostle asks in I Corinthians 12:30: "Do all speak with tongues?" clearly implying that even in the apostolic age not all the saints spoke in tongues, or were intended by God to speak in tongues.
The BHS is one fundamental Pentecostal doctrine and practice. Another teaching that obviously is essential to Pentecostalism is that all the gifts of the Spirit that were present in apostolic times are present in the church still today. Pentecostalism rejects the classic Christian and Protestant position that the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were for the time of the apostles only and that they ceased after the death of the apostles. This was the position of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and the Lutheran and Reformed churches. B. B. Warfield argued this position convincingly in his book, Miracles: Yesterday and Today, True and False.
Plainly, there were in the apostolic churches the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles of healing, casting out of devils, and the like. I Corinthians 12-14 establishes the presence of the extraordinary gifts in the church at Corinth beyond any doubt. Pentecostalism argues that since the special gifts were present in the church then, they must also be present today. This argument is an implication of the still more basic Pentecostal belief, namely, that there can and must be a repetition for churches and Christians today of that which happened on the Day of Pentecost according to Acts 2. Just as there were two distinct saving events for the apostles, conversion to Christ prior to Pentecost and the BHS on the Day of Pentecost, exactly so must our experience be today. Pentecost must be repeated over and over for churches. Each believer must have his own "personal Pentecost." Whatever happened in Acts can and should happen now.
The biblical basis for these two main teachings of Pentecostalism with their corresponding practices is the book of Acts and I Corinthians 12-14. If these passages are not the exclusive biblical text for Pentecostalism, they are certainly the predominant and decisive text.
One other passage is of great importance: Joel 2:23. Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter in Acts 2 to explain the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost: "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh," etc. In verse 23, a few verses before the passage that Peter quoted, the prophet said, "[The Lord your God] hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain in the first month." Pentecostalism has to explain why the Christian church did not teach or experience Pentecostalism's BHS from the time of the death of the apostles until about A.D. 1900. Pentecostalism explains this by appealing to Joel 2:23. The rain of Joel 2:23 is symbolic of the BHS and the extraordinary gifts accompanying the BHS. Pentecost was the "former rain," and the present-day Pentecostal, or charismatic, movement is the "latter rain," just before the end of the world.
This raises the question: 'What is the history of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement?
I was pastor of a Protestant Reformed congregation in Loveland, Colorado during most of the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s in the midst of Protestant churches that exploded with the charismatic movement. I had to struggle to understand and judge the movement, whether it was friend, foe, or neutral to the Reformed faith.
Later, in the second half of the 1970s in South Holland, Illinois, I witnessed in the village the dramatic playing out of a valiant effort to combine the Reformed faith and the charismatic movement. Circumstances dictated that the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland take a stand on the question, whether the Reformed faith and the charismatic movement are compatible and whether a Reformed Church may accept charismatic members. (The valiant effort in South Holland to combine the Reformed faith and the charismatic movement was a failure. The gifted Reformed minister began by insisting that he would complement Reformed orthodoxy with charismatic fervor. He ended by offering his "dusty books of Reformed doctrine for sale cheap" and by trying to raise the dead.)
The history of Pentecostalism is astounding. Whether one is for the movement or against it, he must be amazed at the fact that a movement that began only 100 years ago among a handful of lower-class people (I intend no disrespect; I am deeply conscious that God always delights in the base and no-account) has engulfed Christendom, has become the "third force," and has captivated Roman Catholic cardinals and evangelicals such as Packer and Lloyd-Jones.
The history of Pentecostalism is not only interesting and informative. It is also decisive for determining whether the movement is of God. This is not sufficiently reckoned with in analyzing the movement. The history of Pentecostalism--the history!--is decisive, whether Pentecostalism can possibly be accepted as a movement of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, as it claims, or whether Pentecostalism is of the devil. This, it must be remembered, is our concern in this booklet in obedience to the command of the apostle, "Try the spirits, whether they are of God."
As I relate the history, the reader should keep in mind my assertion at the outset, that the history of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement decides our judgment of the movement. To paraphrase the German philosopher, the history of Pentecostalism is the judgment of Pentecostalism.
My account of the history is not controversial. It is based on the accounts given by Pentecostal scholars themselves, including the Dictionary of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Donald W. Dayton, Vinson Synan, and others.
The Pentecostal movement was conceived in the womb of Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas on New Year's Day, 1900. The movement was born into the world on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California in 1906.
Conception is first. Late on the last day of 1899, or early in the morning of the first day of 1900, the itinerant preacher Charles Fox Parham laid hands on Agnes Ozman, so that she would receive the BHS as a second work of grace. Agnes received the baptism and spoke in tongues as evidence of it. This is known in Pentecostal circles as the "second Pentecost."
Birth followed six years later in revival meetings in a dilapidated building on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The preacher who brought Pentecostalism to the birth--Pentecostalism's obstetrician--was the Rev. W. J. Seymour. He laid his hands on the people in his little group, and they received the BHS and spoke in tongues. Seymour was an amusing fellow. The revivals went on night after night for several years. Seymour would mostly sit behind the pulpit with his head in an empty shoebox as the lively meeting raged in the room before him. The meetings were wild: tongues, rolling on the floor, falling and lying prostrate, crying, laughing, convulsing, and even levitation. Vinson Synan, himself a Pentecostal and a historian of the movement, gives this description of the meetings on Azusa Street, and of the peculiar behavior of Rev. Seymour:
A visitor to Azusa Street during the three years that the revival continued would have met scenes that beggared description. Men and women would shout, weep, dance, fall into trances, speak and sing in tongues, and interpret the messages into English. In true Quaker fashion, anyone who felt "moved by the Spirit" would preach or sing. There was no robed choir, no hymnals, no order of services, but there was an abundance of religious enthusiasm. In the middle of it all was "Elder" Seymour, who rarely preached and much of the time kept his head covered in an empty shoe box behind the pulpit At times he would be seen walking through the crowds with five- and ten-dollar bills sticking out of his hip pockets which people had crammed there unnoticed by him. At other times he would "preach" by hurling defiance at anyone who did not accept his views or by encouraging seekers at the woodplank altars to "let the tongues come forth." To others he would exclaim: "Be emphatic! Ask for salvation, sanctification, the baptism with the Holy Ghost, or divine healing" (The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971, pp.108, 109).
The relation between the conception of the Pentecostal movement in Kansas in 1900 and the birth of the movement in Los Angeles in 1906 is that Seymour had learned the BHS from Parham at a meeting in Texas.
Soon, people were flocking to Azusa Street from all over Los Angeles, from all over California, from all over the United States, and from all over the world, to get the BHS and bring it home. The direct result was the formation of the Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) Churches in 1914 and the worldwide spread of Pentecostalism.
From 1900 to about 1960, Pentecostal teaching and practices were confined to Pentecostal churches. The established churches looked down on these Pentecostal churches as "holy rollers." This would change in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The 1960s saw the spread of Pentecostal doctrine and practices into all the established denominations: Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and even the Roman Catholic Church. This is the charismatic movement, or charismatic renewal, in distinction from Pentecostalism. The charismatic movement is simply Pentecostalism in the previously non-Pentecostal churches. The name "charismatic," which the established Protestant and Roman Catholic churches prefer, suggests that in these churches the special gifts, the "charismata," are emphasized more than other aspects of the old Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism in the established churches is also known as "neo-Pentecostalism."
Largely responsible for the penetration of Pentecostalism into all the churches were a man and an organization. The man is Dennis Bennett, Episcopal clergyman in Van Nuys, California, who told the story of his own BHS in the book, Nine O'clock in the Morning. The organization is the extremely influential Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (FGBMFI). One effective method of FGBMFI to spread the message of Pentecostalism and gain converts to the movement has been their breakfast meetings. Professional people and leaders in various churches are invited to a breakfast at which a charismatic pitches the message of the charismatic movement.
Pentecostalism became respectable. It crossed all doctrinal and ecclesiastical boundaries and divides. All the churches accepted Pentecostalism and approved the Pentecostal spirit as the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
One later development of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement demands mention: the "signs and wonders" movement of John Wimber and his new denomination, The Vineyard Fellowship. This phase of the charismatic movement claims to possess the power to perform mighty miracles, which promote "church growth." Related is the infamous "Toronto Blessing," characterized by "holy laughing" for hours on end. Wimber's church and movement are not an unseemly aberration. They are part and parcel of the Pentecostal movement as the movement develops the extraordinary gifts. Pentecostals call this development "the third wave" of Pentecostalism.
If the history of Pentecostalism following the birth of the movement in 1900/1906 is astonishing, the history leading up to Pentecostalism's birth is decisive for our judgment, whether Pentecostalism is of God. Pentecostalism derives directly from the theology of the 18th century English preacher John Wesley, particularly from Wesley's teaching of a "second blessing" in the life and experience of the Christian. According to Wesley, there is a second work of grace in the Christian after conversion that brings one to a higher level of salvation: the level of "sinless perfection." This second work of grace is a dramatic act in one's experience at a certain moment. The second blessing is more important than the first, which "merely" gives the forgiveness of sins. Wesley taught that this second blessing, which he also referred to as "entire sanctification," must be sought by every Christian. If the Spirit is to grant this glorious experience, the Christian must fulfill certain conditions.
Wesley's teaching of the second blessing resulted in the "Holiness Movement" in the 1800s both in North America and in England. Revival meetings were held at which the Spirit would grant this second blessing of perfect holiness and a higher Christian life. One of the leading evangelists preaching up this supposedly more wonderful work of the Spirit was Charles Finney. At these revivals, the reception of the second blessing was accompanied by all the strange phenomena that later attended Pentecostalism's BHS.
All that Pentecostalism did was to call Wesley's second blessing the BHS and to insist that the one necessary evidence is tongues, with one notable exception. When Pentecostalism baptized Wesley's second blessing, that is, took it over as the BMS, it changed Wesley's second blessing in one, fundamental respect. Pentecostalism denied that this second blessing, now known as the BHS, consisted of holiness, indeed perfect holiness. Pentecostalism teaches that the BHS has nothing to do with holiness at all. The BHS has instead to do with mystical experience and with power and gifts for ministry. Wesley would have been appalled at this hijacking of his second blessing.
This history, which is Pentecostalism's own account of its history, conclusively proves that Pentecostalism is not of God, proves that the spirit of Pentecostalism is not the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The theology of Charles Finney, who as a leading preacher of the "holiness movement" was the link between Wesley and Pentecostalism, was the same as that of Wesley. Finney was originally a Presbyterian. But he detested Calvinism. Deliberately and aggressively, he went up and down the land preaching salvation--and the second blessing of perfect holiness--by the free will of sovereign man.
Pentecostalism is the natural outgrowth of that gospel. It is the fruit on Wesley's tree of salvation by man's will. In every respect, Pentecostalism is a message and movement of free will. The first baptism in Pentecostal-charismatic teaching--the saving of a man from sin, his conversion--is due to one's accepting Jesus by free will. The second baptism--the BHS--likewise is dependent upon a man's will and work, for he cooperates with the Spirit by fulfilling the necessary conditions.
That Pentecostalism is Arminian through-and-through is the open, clear, unashamed testimony of the Pentecostals themselves. Don Basham has written:
The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He works in our lives only to the extent that we are willing. He prompts and leads and woos and persuades but He does not force. To become a Christian a person must will or want or accept Christ, and he can. To be filled with the Holy Spirit a Christian must will or want to receive, and he can. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is available for every Christian (Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism, p. 35).
Vinson Synan, one of the most respected and influential Pentecostal teachers and leaders, summed up Pentecostalism this way:
Although the Pentecostal movement began in the United States ... its theological and intellectual origins were British. The basic premises of the movement's theology were constructed by John Wesley in the 18th century. As a product of Methodism, the holiness-pentecostal movement traces its lineage through the Wesleys to Anglicanism and from thence to Roman Catholicism. This theological heritage places the Pentecostals outside the Calvinistic, reformed tradition.... The basic pentecostal theological position might be described as Arminian, perfectionistic, premillennial, and charismatic (The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States, p. 217).
This is why Pentecostalism is acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church. The gospel--the message of salvation--of Pentecostalism is Arminianism, and Arminianism is semi-Pelagianism, which is the gospel--the message of salvation--that Rome proclaims.
But the gospel of free will is a false gospel. It is another gospel that is no gospel. Scripture declares it so in Romans 9:16: Salvation "is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." The one, true gospel is the good news of salvation by God's grace alone, apart from man's will, which is in the bondage of sin. Ephesians 2:8 clearly proclaims the gospel of grace: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." The source of this gracious salvation is God's eternal election, as the apostle teaches in Ephesians 1:3, 4: "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. .. hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him."
This one fact, namely, that Pentecostalism is the development of Arminian theology and is itself consciously, avowedly, and thoroughly Arminian--this one fact all by itself conclusively proves that the entire Pentecostal/charismatic movement is not of God and of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ will not give His Spirit as a fruit of the lie of the false gospel. The Spirit Himself will never work a grand, glorious work of salvation in history (as Pentecostalism claims that it is) by means of a false gospel. The Spirit will not honor a movement that hates the gospel of God's grace and glory and that promotes a gospel exalting man, by gracing that movement with His presence and power.
Can the Spirit who inspired Romans 9:16 work a work in the world that stems from, and proclaims, a gospel of salvation by man's own will? Can the evil tree of a false gospel bear the good fruit of a genuine movement of the Spirit of Christ?
To judge the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, it is not necessary to explain why the believers who lived through the event of Pentecost did have two distinct spiritual experiences, namely, conversion to Christ prior to the day of Pentecost and then the BHS on the day of Pentecost. It is not necessary to debate whether the extraordinary gifts ceased with the apostles or continue to the present. It is not necessary to carry out a careful exegesis of I Corinthians 12-14. This is not to say that these things should not be done, or that they are unimportant. I have myself explained why there were two distinct works of grace in those who lived through Pentecost and demonstrated that the extraordinary gifts have ceased in my booklet, "Try the Spirits: A Reformed Look at Pentecostalism" (South Holland, IL: The Evangelism Committee, repr. 1988).
But one thing is necessary, and every believer can do this necessary thing: knowing the gospel of the Bible, compare Pentecostalism's gospel with the gospel of Scripture. If the gospel of Scripture is the message that man must save himself by his free will, Pentecostalism may possibly be a genuine movement of the Spirit. If the gospel of Scripture, however, is the message of sovereign grace--Calvinism--Pentecostalism is a spurious religious movement. Since the gospel is, in fact, the good news of grace, Pentecostalism is exposed as part of the great apostasy at the end of history that unites all the false churches and leads to Antichrist (II Thess. 2; Rev. 13).
The Spirit of Christ, who gives Himself to His own, through the gospel of God's grace, does not demand faith of us as a condition for salvation. Rather, He gives us faith as a free gift on the basis of the death of Christ that earned faith for us. That faith, the apostle says in Ephesians 2:8, is "not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." Through this faith Christ gives us Himself in His indwelling Spirit. This saving work of Christ by His Spirit is the biblical baptism with the Holy Spirit, which all believers have and the sign of which is baptism with water.
Faith in Jesus Christ does all the things that Pentecostals look for in their BHS.
Is tongues-speaking supposed to be the evidence of Spirit baptism? Faith and its confession that Jesus is Lord is the real evidence of salvation and Spirit-baptism (I Cor. 12:3).
Is Pentecostalism's BHS regarded as wonderful communion with and experience of God? Faith is the real communion with and experience of God (Eph. 3:16-19).
Is Pentecostalism's BHS desired as the power for witnessing? Faith is the real power that loosens our tongue, to confess and witness (Rom. 10:9, 10).
Is Pentecostalism's BHS boasted of as the ability to do wonderful deeds, for example, laughing for hours, barking like a dog, or falling on the floor? Laying hold as it does on the risen Christ, faith is the real power to perform truly wonderful works: repenting of sin, enjoying peace with God through pardon, lighting sin in one's own life and in the world, obeying the Lord, bearing one's burdens patiently, enduring trials, and overcoming the world (Heb. 11; I John 5:4).
Let the Pentecostal repent of his confession of a false gospel and, by God's grace, believe the true gospel. In this way, he will enjoy peace with God and possess power to carry out his Christian calling.
Let those who are tempted by the charismatic movement test Pentecostalism's message, its gospel, by the standard of Scripture's teaching, not primarily on gifts and experiences, but on the gospel.
And let us who do believe the gospel, and thus believe in Jesus Christ, be assured that by faith in Jesus Christ, by faith alone in Jesus Christ, "we are complete in him," for "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9, 10).
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