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Why I am a Pentecostal

By Jonathan Srock
Pentecostals in History

Pentecostalism was renewed in the early 1900s when a professor in a little Bible school in Topeka Kansas charged his students with researching the book of Acts to discover the meaning of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. After searching the Scriptures, they found that Spirit baptism was the fulfillment of John the Baptist's prophecy that Jesus' disciples would be baptized with the baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11; cf. Acts 2:1-4).

After looking through the book of Acts, they discovered that the Spirit baptism, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, happens in Acts 2, 10, and 19. They also concluded that the initial sign or evidence that someone was baptized in the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues. In 1901 the first person studying these things was baptized in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues.

Scripture Versus Experience

Although Pentecostals have been accused of putting the cart before the horse, of operating more from experience than Scripture, this was not the case in 1901 and it is not the case today. While experience of the Holy Spirit is near and dear to Pentecostals, it happens out of an understanding of the Scriptures.

While emphasis is placed on speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of Spirit baptism, the Spirit-filled life does not center on speaking in tongues. As a Pentecostal, I would point true Pentecostalism to demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the gifts of the Holy Spirit and a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

Most Pentecostals have a firm grasp of Scripture and are people of the Word and of the Spirit. The two go hand-in-hand, for the Holy Spirit inspired and illuminates Scripture to believers. The Scriptures illuminate our understanding of what it means to be a Pentecostal and to be ruled by Scripture and the Spirit to be effective.

This worldview often receives scorn by others who are not Pentecostals because it sounds arrogant, suggesting that other Christians are not effective. The intention does not concern effectiveness but rather the amount of impact every Christian should want to demonstrate. Every Christian should strive to be more effective for God, and operating in the Spirit-filled life provides the power to serve God more effectively.

The Meaning of Pentecostalism

In my opinion, being Pentecostal means a Christian is open to every possible gift that God desires to bestow upon the believer. The Holy Spirit has a huge role in salvation and sanctification. Before a person becomes saved, the Holy Spirit draws that person to Christ. Every person who does not know Jesus Christ is spiritually dead, and the Holy Spirit regenerates a person so that person can hear the gospel. The Holy Spirit breathes life into the spirit of a person to respond to the gospel.

But as salvation is only the first step in knowing Christ, so also the Holy Spirit is not finished at salvation. He then begins to enhance relationship with Jesus by testifying about Jesus (Romans 8:16). Through sanctification, the Christian grows into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-14), in which the Holy Spirit has a vital role.

He not only convicts of sin (John 16:8) and comforts us in our walk with God as the Helper.(John 14:16), but he also wants to use believers in a number of ministries, including witnessing to others, encouraging fellow believers, serving one another in love through the gifts, demonstrating the character of God through the fruit of the spirit, and overall growth into Jesus.

A Pentecostal seeks the gifts of the Holy Spirit because they are a powerful way for God to minister through believers, not to feel super-spiritual or better than others.. The Pentecostal seeks all that God has to offer the Christian and wants to live in God's power rather than read about it. Pentecostals are about experiencing God's power, not for power's sake but to be used by God.

What Pentecostals Believe

Although there are several denominations that claim and demonstrate Pentecostal doctrine and experience, most are united in preaching, teaching and operating in the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fivefold ministry and being led by the Holy Spirit. There are different views among Pentecostals on many of these subjects. For instance, some Pentecostals teach that baptism in the Holy Spirit is a work of salvation while others teach that it happens after salvation as a second work.

Pentecostals believe in the major doctrines that evangelical Protestants believe in, such as God's existence, Jesus' divinity and others. Like any other denomination in Christianity, Pentecostals hold a doctrinal distinctive concerning the Holy Spirit. Each denomination has their own distinctives or specializations, focuses on minor doctrines unique to them.

In particular, I belong to the Assemblies of God which teaches that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of a baptism. This means that when a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit, that person will display the sign of speaking in tongues, not of their own ability from a known language, but the Holy Spirit will speak through them. Because Pentecostal doctrines must be grounded in Scripture, here are some Pentecostal perspectives.

Evidence in Scripture for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The baptism in the Holy Spirit was prophesied by John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and fulfilled in the disciples 50 days after his resurrection. Pentecost is a Jewish festival that refers to 50 days after Passover, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples as they waited for his arrival.

In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist proclaims that he baptizes with water but Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This baptism was so important that Jesus taught his disciples to wait in Jerusalem to be baptized with this power in Acts 1:4-5. These verses also look back to what was said by John the Baptist, confirming the prophecy and promise to the disciples.

As proclaimed by Luke at the beginning of Acts 2 the disciples waited to receive this gift promised by Jesus. During a prayer meeting, they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1--13). Several signs of Spirit baptism occurred, including a great wind, tongues of fire on their heads, and speaking in tongues.

Later in Acts 10:44-47, Peter is preaching in a Gentile's house about the gospel. The Jewish Christians with him are amazed when these Gentiles begin speaking in tongues. Peter wants to water baptize them immediately, affirming that they are already saved. Water baptism confirms their salvation and is a public witness to others. Acts 10:47 links this experience of speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of Spirit baptism to Acts 2:4, the common denominator of speaking the tongues.

Further in Acts 19:1-7, Paul meets the Ephesian elders who experienced water baptism fashioned after John the Baptist's ministry. But they have not experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Paul places such importance on this experience that he explains the difference between John's baptism and baptism into Jesus. After being water baptized in Jesus' name, Paul laid hands on them and they received Spirit baptism with the evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 19:6).

Pentecostals observe the common denominator between these three experiences I see(tongues of fire, wind, laying on of hands and speaking in tongues) to be speaking in tongues. Because of this evidence, Pentecostals regularly teach and practice Spirit baptism with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues. Just as a person becomes wet when water baptized, a person will speak in tongues when baptized by the Holy Spirit.

Some Pentecostals also point out that the episode in Acts 8 were Simon the Magician offers to buy the gift that John and Peter brought to the Samaritans. In Acts 8:16, Luke takes great pains to explain that they were only water baptized into Jesus' name. The apostles laid hands on the Samaritan believers, demonstrated in Acts 19, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17).

In verse 18 Simon's reaction to what he "saw" when the Holy Spirit was imparted on the believers, must have been a physical sign of Spirit baptism. Pentecostals associate this physical sign with the common occurrence of speaking in tongues in the other episodes. While the Scriptures do not specifically say that they spoke in tongues, this is the normative response to Spirit baptism in the book of Acts.

Evidence in Scripture for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Pentecostals also believe, preach, teach and experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are ministry gifts used either individually or corporately by which the Holy Spirit utilizes a Christian to reprove, encourage and build up believers. Partial lists of these gifts are found in 2 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:4-8. The fivefold ministry is given by the Spirit in Ephesians 4:11-14. Hebrews 2:4 also testifies that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts among believers. These gifts are not natural talents but bestowed by the Holy Spirit to minister to and through his people.

Living by the Spirit

The Spirit-filled life consists of being led by the Spirit through the fruit that he cultivates within Christians. Galatians 5:16-26 lays out the comparison between the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit. Paul describes the Spirit's opposition to the flesh. He then catalogs the works of the flesh in a list of examples.

Directly following his outline of sinful acts, Paul explains their opposite, the nine fruit of the Spirit. The whole fruit demonstrate the character of God to other Christians and the world, designating that Holy Spirit dwells inside of them and has control of them. For Pentecostals the gifts of the Holy Spirit without the Fruit of the Spirit is not fully operating in the Holy Spirit's power. Pentecostals must exhibit both of these attributes.

Opposition to Pentecostalism

A number of theologians and Christians have issues with Pentecostalism. Some, called Cessationists believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit stopped after the first generation of Christians received them. They point especially to 1 Corinthians 13:8 and claim that the "perfect" refers to the Word of God. Paul states that when the perfect comes, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will cease. Pentecostals believe the "perfect" refers to the second coming of Christ, the perfect one. Thus, Pentecostals believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation today.

Another issue others concerns "bad actors" who abuse through doctrine, teaching or practice what the Bible teaches about Spirit baptism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and practices those who claim to be Pentecostal exercise. In both of these examples, it is prudent to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. While bad actors may operate among Pentecostals, these great truths and doctrines of the Bible should not be dismissed.

Conclusion

Pentecostals believe in a vibrant, active and powerful relationship empowered by the Holy Spirit and relevant to today's world. This vital tool in ministry and personal growth in Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary! This gift from the Holy Spirit must be cherished, guarded and stewarded properly. Let us not quench the Holy Spirit nor anger him with misuse, abuse, denial or ignorance of his fruit, gifts and baptism.