Pentecostalism and its Relation to Montanism

The history of the Ante-Nicene Church tells of the rise of many cults or Sects within the church. These groups opposed the pure doctrines of the church of Christ by denying the doctrines con­fessed in the Creeds of the church. Montanism is only one of the many groups which arose during this early period of the church. Although Mon­tanism arose some eighteen centuries ago, there is still some evidence of it today. Pentecostalism of today seems to be a basic form of Montanism.

The origin of Montanism can be traced back to the second century in Asia Minor to a small village in the Province of Phrygia about 157A.D. This movement was started by a man named Montanus who considered himself the inspired organ of the promised Paraclete or spirit of truth. Thus, many were led to believe that Montanus was that spirit of truth promised by Christ in John 14. It is said, that Montanus and two prophetesses, Priscilla and Maximilla, went forth as prophets and reformers preaching that the age of the Holy Spirit and the millennial reign, which was to take place in the small village of Phrygia, was soon to come.

Montanism, however, was soon con­demned by the Catholic Christian Church and church councils. They said that Montanism was mystical, unorthodox, and denying some of the cardinal doc­trines of the church. About 177 A.D. Montanus and his followers were excom­municated. Montanism seemed to gradu­ally decline about 200 A.D., however several different forms of this heretical group continued to exist. Even now, today, evidences of Montanism are once again creeping up in Pentecostalism.

Montanism was rooted in Christianity, but its great exaggeration of Christian ideas caused it to fall into error. The most distinguishing characteristic of Mon­tanism was their strong faith in Montanus whom they believed to be the promised paraclete or comforter which Jesus promised in John 14:16. The Montanists believed that there was a continuance of the miraculous gifts of the apostolic church. Prophecy and speaking in tongues were the gifts which they believed every man had the ability to obtain.

This prophecy related mostly to the approaching heavy judgments of God and coming persecution. The Montanists preached and prophesied that the second coming of Christ would occur at any time. Many taught and believed in a millennial reign to take place in the small village of Phrygia, in which Christ would rule on earth for a thousand years.

The Montanists believed that the emphasis being placed on the appoint­ment of bishops and leaders in the church was much too great. They believed that the church should rather be concerned with the priesthood of believers. They looked for the guidance of direct inspiration and would not recognize those spiritual gifts which are conferred by ordination.

The true followers of Montanism were required to turn from all the enjoyments of life. All virgins were required to be veiled, second marriage was considered adultery, hiding or fleeing from persecu­tion was considered a denial of Christ, and fasts and other ascetic exercises were very important within the lives of the Montanists. Anyone who disobeyed the laws of the Montanists, or committed any of these deadly sins could not be restored to the fellowship of the church by any human authority.

One of the basic errors of Montanism is their view of the Scriptures. For the most part they took an allegorical view of the Scriptures instead of letting the Scrip­tures speak and then letting the Spirit apply this word. The Montanists were wrong in teaching the continuance of miraculous gifts of the Apostolic Church. These miraculous gifts ceased with the apostles for the Scriptures were then completed. In continuing the teaching of miraculous gifts they deny the complete­ness and sufficiency of the Word of God. The Montanists were part of the Chiliast Movement which was looking for the immediate return of Christ. They were also wrong in teaching that a millennial reign was to take place in the small village of Phyrgia. Christ will never set up a kingdom and rule on earth.

The Montanists also fell into error when they refused to recognize those spiritual gifts conferred in ordination. They looked only for the guidance of direct inspiration. Ordination, however, is prescribed in the New Testament by Paul in his many letters to the various churches. In Acts 14:23, we learn that the disciples, “ordained them elders in every church”.

Montanism resulted mostly in false doctrine. The only good aspect of Mon­tanism is its emphasis on the Holy Spirit, which the early church often neglected. This emphasis of the Holy Spirit however, resulted only in a misinterpretation of the work of the Holy Spirit and its effect upon those inspired by it. Montanism also aided in bringing about later trends which were concerned with the Holy Spirit such as Pentecostalism.

The Pentecostal trend did not become prominent in the United States until the early 1900’s. Its history however, can be traced back to the New Testament church. In the books of Acts and I Corinthians, especially, we find much evi­dence of tongue speaking and other prac­tices which the Pentecostals teach. From about 100 A.D. to 1900 A.D. there is very little evidence of tongue speaking except for that which arose for a short time among smaller groups such as the Montanists.

Pentecostals for the most part, believe in the Trinity, Man’s original sin, and man’s salvation through the atoning blood of Christ. They further believe in the virgin birth and deity of Christ. Con­cerning the Scriptures they believe in both the divine inspiration and infalli­bility of the Scriptures. Many Pentecos­tals are Premillennialists. The belief how­ever, that is most characteristic of the Pentacostals as with the Montanists, is that concerning the work of the Holy Spirit.

The basic idea of Pentecostalism is the idea of baptism in or with the Holy Spirit. They teach baptism in or with the Holy Spirit in distinction from regenera­tion and conversion. They further believe that the Holy Spirit brings to us the gifts and powers that we need, by coming into our hearts personally. The sign which shows that one has been baptized in or with the Holy Spirit is that of the ability to speak in other tongues. Pentecostals strongly hold to the fact that the experi­ence of Spirit baptism and its result, tongue speaking, must be sought by all believers. Before this can happen, how­ever, certain conditions must be met, for the believer will have to fulfill all these conditions before the Spirit will come upon him.

Although this is only a brief summary of the beliefs of both Montanisism and modern day Pentecostalism, it is fairly evident that there are many likenesses between the two. Both of them stress the work and importance of the Holy Spirit. They both emphasize the miraculous happenings as evidence that the Holy Spirit is dwelling among them. Scripture does not teach this. Speaking in tongues, for both the Montanists and Pentecostals, is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit. They both teach the continuance of miraculous gifts and signs. Both put much emphasis on the emotional and unusual. This caused them to overlook the true gifts of the Spirit such as; ministry, teaching, exhortation, showing mercy, and others listed in Romans 12:6-8.

As for basic doctrinal ideas, they both believe in the Trinity, man’s original sin and salvation through Christ, the virgin birth, and deity of Christ, divine inspira­tion and infallibility of the Scriptures, and most other Reformed Christian teachings concerning Christ.

Both Montanism and Pentecostalism hold to the belief in a millennium. They both teach that Christ will reign and set up his kingdom on earth. They both fall into error by taking a mystical and allegorical view of the Scriptures. Actually, they are forgetting the authority of the Scriptures and making their own experiences as a standard of belief.

In conclusion, let us look at Galatians 5:22 and 23 where Paul writes to the Galatians, and all of us, this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” It is these gifts which God bestows (to each differently) upon his people. It is these gifts that we must look for and use, not just a few spectacular ones. The fruit of the Spirit is manifested through such gifts as these. Walking in truth according to the Spirit is not easy, but we must not let ourselves be attracted by this sensational and emotional way which is only a means of escape from the truth of God’s Word.