The whole matter of Pentecostalism has troubled us for quite some time. Many of us have studied it either on our own or in societies and generally we understand it. We know that Pentecostalism is wrong, but that is yet negative. What is this Spirit baptism of which they speak? How is the power of the Spirit manifest in our lives? What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Are we yet today to expect visible concrete evidences of the presence of the Spirit in our lives as it was manifest in the early New Testament church?
It is not my purpose in this article to trace the history of Pentecostalism, nor even to show the error of the movement as a whole. It is my purpose to show that as children of God we do have the Holy Spirit with all its power in our lives, and we have its fruits as they are set forth for us in Scripture. It is also my purpose to show that the Pentecostal’s teaching with respect to the baptism of the Spirit is incorrect in the light of Scripture.
We as God’s children have the Holy Spirit. In all His fulness and power He is operative in our lives. As members of the Body of Christ we are partakers of His fulness by the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit as poured out on the day of Pentecost is the Spirit of the exalted Christ. Jesus promised His disciples that He would pray the Father and that He would give them another Comforter that He may abide with them forever, even the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16). Christ would actually be present with His disciples and with the church of all ages through the Holy Spirit. That we do indeed have the Holy Spirit can be seen from what happened at Pentecost. RecalI how the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120, and how Peter, immediately upon receiving the Spirit, was able correctly to interpret Pentecost in the light of the Old Testament Scriptures, and in the light of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Upon hearing Peter’s sermon as many as were ordained to eternal life believed, and asked Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them. Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38). The promise is that ye shall receive the Holy Spirit! Sovereignly, graciously the Lord God bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon believers and their seed.
Pentecostals do not teach that when Cod quickens the dead sinner and bestows faith upon him that the regenerated sinner then has, in principle, the fulness of Christ and His Spirit with all His gifts and fruits. Rather, in harmony with the Arminianism that characterizes most Pentecostal groups, they teach that when a person “accepts” Christ he receives the Holy Spirit as a potential power in his life, yet he needs more; he needs the baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to develop into a vital Christian and to receive the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. The only way that a person can receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and tap the potential power in his life is by an act of his own will. He must consciously, actively seek it. He must meet certain requirements, such as earnest prayer, the complete yielding of oneself and cleansing his heart from all known sin. Then and only then can and does Cod bestow the Holy Spirit. In order to retain the Spirit in his life as a vital power he must continue to fulfill these requirements. (Various Pentecostal groups differ greatly in their idea of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and in the requirements to be met for His reception.)
Nowhere does Scripture present the reception of the Holy Spirit as do the Pentecostals. Christ, before he ascended, commanded His disciples to wait for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). Peter told the repentant Jews, “ye shall receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), and the apostle Paul in all his contact with the churches assumed that all the saints had the Spirit in all His fulness, as can be seen from Galatians 4:6, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” We find in Scripture no initial seeking on the part of the recipient. The Pentecostal view is a distortion of Scripture and must be rejected.
Most Pentecostals today say that following upon the baptism of the Holy Spirit one may expect such unusual gifts as the gift of tongue speaking, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy and so forth. We must establish, first of all, that these gifts did indeed accompany the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. However, since that time many of the more spectacular gifts have passed away with the close of the apostolic age and the completion of the canon of Scripture. God bestowed unusual gifts upon the early church to show them, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the promised Spirit was come, and to show the miraculous nature and power of the Spirit. Since that time, however, those unusual gifts are not necessary, for we have the infallible record of God’s Word, and the Spirit in our hearts as a sure testimony that we are God’s children, and, therefore, possessors of the Spirit of Christ.
In the nearly two thousand years that followed the apostolic age there never has been, in the orthodox church, any evidence of tongue speaking, or of the other unusual gifts. Not even at times of great spiritual strength, such as times of persecution, or the Great Reformation of the 16th century, were these gifts evident.
It is also important to note the position that Scripture gave to the unusual gifts at the time when they were legitimately in use in the church. Consider the gift of tongue speaking, since it is given so much prominence today, and notice that according to the apostle Paul it should be given a very small place. The Spirit gave utterance in unknown tongues and not all could interpret them, therefore, it was only to the individual’s edification, and perhaps to a few who could interpret them. Paul rather, emphasized the use of the spiritual gifts that edified the whole church rather than a few individuals. He says in I Corinthians 14:4, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself, but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” Also in I Corinthians 14:18 and 19 Paul writes, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” That shows the relatively small place Scripture gives tongue speaking; yet the Pentecostals today have elevated it to prime importance.
One of the attractions of Pentecostalism today is its emphasis on the sensational, the emotional and the unusual. Such emphasis has caused them to overlook or at least give small place to what might be called the more common gifts of the Spirit, such as those listed in Romans 12:6-8: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling and showing mercy. It is these gifts, among others that God bestows, in varying degrees, upon members of His church. It is these gifts that we should expect and cultivate, and not a few spectacular ones, for it is by means of, and in connection with such gifts that the fruit of the Spirit is manifest.
The fruit of the Spirit is one, yet with many aspects, and that one fruit is love. The apostle Paul admonished the Corinthians to “covet earnestly the best gifts and yet show you a more excellent way” (I Cor. 12:31), and that more excellent way, as seen from I Corinthians 13, is love. That can also be seen from Galatians 5:19ff where the works (plural) of the flesh are compared to the fruit (singular) of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is set forth in nine words the first of which is love. That obviously means that joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, are all encompassed in the one word “love.” In that one word is the whole law fulfilled. First of all we must love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind. That implies, of course, that we have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them (Eph. 5:11). This is the way in which we are to walk. This is the fruit we must seek and expect.
The Pentecostal with their seeming zeal and sensationalism make everything sound so nice and easy. Beware! They disregard the authority of Scripture and make their own subjective experience the standard of what to expect as fruits of the Spirit. In harmony with their Arminianism and Perfectionism they are often very superficial in their understanding of sin and its consequences. They emphasize the miraculous as evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit whereas Scripture does not.
Walking according to the Spirit is not an easy way, for it requires prayer, self-denial and a daily struggle against our sinful nature, which never seeks to walk after the Spirit. In that way, however, there is the joy that comes from knowing that we are God’s children, and the peace that comes through the consciousness that our sins are forgiven through the blood of the cross. By grace let us steadfastly continue in the way of love, which is the chief fruit of the Spirit. Let us not be attracted by the way that is sensational, empty and vain; the way that cannot stand the test of God’s Word.