Pentecostalism: Spirit-Filled Blessing ...
or Dangerous Heresy?
PART 1: Pentecostalism: What Is It?
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:
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
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 author has 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 clamour 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.
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 fulfil 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
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
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
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
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
The History of Pentecostalism
The history of the Pentecostal movement is history
that many of us have lived through and been eyewitnesses of. When I was
a college student in the late 1950s, one Sunday evening several friends
and I paid a visit to a Pentecostal church in the area of Franklin and
Eastern in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The church was an exclusively black
congregation meeting in a ramshackle storefront building. Today, the
same worship-shouting, arm-waving, falling to the ground, dancing in the
aisles, speaking in tongues—that fascinated us as college students goes
on in the mainly white, well-educated, sophisticated Assembly of God
Church in its multi-million dollar building on 44th Street in Grand
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 fervour. 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
behaviour 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,
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
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
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"
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 fulfil 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
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
The Pentecostal/charismatic movement is proved
heretical by the simple fact that it is the fruit of the theology of
Wesley, and Wesley's theology was the false gospel of salvation by the
will and work of the sinner himself (Arminianism). Wesley taught that
God loves all alike, that Christ died for all alike, and that the Spirit
wants to save all alike, but that salvation depends upon the sinner's
choosing to be saved by his own free will. In his passionate commitment
to this gospel, Wesley hated the truth of salvation by God's free,
particular, sovereign mercy. Wesley is guilty of the worst blasphemies
against the gospel of grace that have ever been uttered. His doctrine of
the second blessing, which in Pentecostalism has become the BHS, was in
perfect harmony with his basic gospel of free will. Whether one received
the second blessing depended upon a person's own will and effort.
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
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.
Vinson Synan, one of the most respected and
influential Pentecostal teachers and leaders, summed up Pentecostalism
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 honour 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
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
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
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
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).
PART 2: A Biblical Analysis of the the Gifts of the Spirit in
I was deeply involved in the sermon I was preaching.
It seemed as if the congregation was too. What happened next came
without any warning. I was cut off mid sentence by what sounded like the
howl of a dog that was being choked to death. I stopped and looked
toward the back corner of the church, from which the strange noise was
coming. My family, which was sitting in the front row, had come close to
jumping off the bench. No one else in the congregation seemed too
disturbed by the sound. They were used to it. But this was the first
time I was introduced to the gifts of the Spirit in that small,
back-hill church of Jamaica. It happened once or twice more during the
service, each time interrupting my preaching.
After the service I asked the lady who had
interrupted our worship with her outbursts why she had done this. She
told me that she could not help herself. The Spirit had taken hold of
her heart and voice and she could not hold the loud shrieks in.
Incidents of this sort led me to my first earnest study of the Holiness
and Pentecostal movements and their influence. This also led me to
examine more carefully the particular incidents of speaking in tongues,
healings, and revelations recorded in Scripture in order to come to a
biblical understanding of them.
The gifts of the Spirit (charismata, which is
Greek for "gifts") are vital to the Pentecostal religion. The bestowing
of these gifts of the Spirit on the members of the church is the one,
outstanding tenet of Pentecostal thought and worship. Though
Pentecostalism claims to believe in all of the various truths of the
Bible, nevertheless the overwhelming emphasis in its teaching and in its
worship is baptism in or with the Holy Spirit. This baptism results in
many different "charismata," gifts. Anne S. White, a writer, teacher,
and counsellor in the charismatic movement during the 1960s and 70s, in
her book Healing Adventure uses I Corinthians 12:4-7 to enumerate
what she believes to be the nine essential "gifts of the Spirit."
"... St. Paul described the nine gifts (or manifestations) as: the
utterance of wisdom ... the utterance of knowledge ... faith ...
gifts ... gifts of healing ... the working of miracles ... prophecy the
ability to distinguish between spirits ... various kinds of tongues ...
the interpretation of tongues."
Out of these nine "charismata," Pentecostals place
the most emphasis on three: speaking in tongues, gifts of healing, and
prophecy or on-going revelation. There is a proliferation of writings on
these gifts and their attainment, and they are available everywhere.
Most of these books use personal experience as the foundation for their
claim that these gifts of the Spirit are yet present in the church of
today. Though many Scripture passages are quoted by these authors, none
of the passages are carefully exegeted to discover the validity of the
"charismata" today. Rev. James Slay, a minister and teacher in the
Church of God, has written a book entitled This We Believe, in
which he attempts to prove from Scripture the presence of the gifts of
the Spirit in the modern church. Some of his arguments we will be
I. The Gifts in Pentecostal Thought
A. Speaking in tongues
We mentioned that there are three gifts of the Spirit
that the Pentecostal movement emphasizes above all the others: speaking
in tongues, faith healing, and on-going revelation. Of these three,
speaking in tongues is the most prominent.
The first recorded incident of speaking in tongues is
found in the events that transpired on the day of Pentecost. In fact, it
is in this event that the presence of the Spirit and speaking in tongues
are linked. This is also why those who today yet maintain the gift of
speaking in tongues are often referred to as Pentecostals.
We read of this event in Acts 2:1-4:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come;
they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came
a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all
the house where they were sitting, And there appeared unto them
cloven tongues like as of fire, and ii sat upon each of them.
And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with
other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
It is to this third sign of the Spirit's presence in
the church, viz., speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave them
utterance, that the Pentecostal calls our attention. He does so because,
of these three signs, this was the only one that continued after that
day of Pentecost. The miracle that was performed that day is easily
explained: when the Spirit entered into the hearts of the disciples of
Christ, they began to speak in "other tongues," that is to say, in
foreign languages. These men, who were simple Galileans and not scholars
in foreign languages, suddenly by means of the Holy Spirit began to
speak in many different foreign languages so that many who were present
from other countries could understand what they preached on that day.
Neither did this sign of the outpouring of the Spirit cease upon that
The Pentecostal directs our attention to what he
believes are four other instances in Acts that speak of this.
The first is found in Acts 8:14-17, where we find the
church of Jerusalem sending Peter and John to Samaria, where the
evangelist Philip had preached.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them
Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that
they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as of yet he was
fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the
Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received
the Holy Ghost."
Although it is not explicitly stated, it is argued,
and that reasonably so, that, when Peter and John laid their hands upon
the Samaritans, the Spirit came upon these Samaritans so that, as a
result, they spoke in other tongues. This is why Simon the Sorcerer
wanted to buy the power to bestow this gift on others.
The second instance of the pouring out of the Spirit
on someone which resulted in speaking in tongues is that of the apostle
Paul himself and his conversion in Acts 9:17. "And Ananias went his way
and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother
Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou
camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive the Holy Ghost. And
immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he
received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized." This verse does
not necessarily establish the claim of the Pentecostals that Paul spoke
in tongues at that time, but it does establish the fact that the Holy
Spirit was poured out on him. Later too, in I Corinthians 14:18, Paul
testifies to his speaking in tongues.
The third instance of speaking in tongues is recorded
for us in Acts 10 and 11, where we read of Peter's preaching the gospel
to the household of Cornelius, a Gentile centurion. In verses 44-46 of
Acts 10 we read:
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost
fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the
circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with
Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of
the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify
In this instance there can be no debate. The miracle
of speaking in tongues indeed took place upon the conversion of
Cornelius and his household.
The fourth and final instance recorded in Acts is
found in chapter 19:1-7 where twelve Ephesian men, who had heard the
preaching of John the Baptist and were baptized by him, now heard the
gospel of Christ by the mouth of Paul. Paul explained that John had
already then preached and baptized in the name of Christ. These men were
then baptized by Paul, and the Spirit fell on them, and we read that
they spoke in tongues.
These are the only instances we read of in Acts. But
attention is also drawn by the Pentecostal to Mark 16:15-18.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world,
and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is
baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall
they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall
take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not
hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall
Our attention is drawn to the undeniable Word of our
Lord Himself: this miracle of tongues would take place with the coming
of the Spirit. Tongue-speaking, therefore, was an activity that
definitely took place in the early church. This is evident, too, in I
Corinthians 12-14, where this whole subject is addressed by Paul.
Obviously, in the churches established by Paul on his missionary
journeys, speaking in tongues also took place.
Concerning these proofs of speaking in tongues, Rev.
James Slay writes (p.90):
Of such spiritual endowments were to be for only
those who lived in Apostolic times, why would the Holy Spirit allow
such information to be included in His word? Why should we be told,
in such precise terminology, about the regulation of a gift if it
were not in the plan of God for us to be given such? Why tell the
children of a pauper how to spend the inheritance of one who has
left them nothing?
Again Slay writes (p. 91):
The Holy Spirit baptism and the tongues
phenomenon have an affinity that is unmistakable. This experience is
not the "uprage of the subliminal" nor is it "babblings" of an
ignorant population segment. We have scriptural evidence for this
remarkable spiritual manifestation, and of late the cloud of
witnesses, testifying to its reality, is becoming of such moment as
to elicit the attention of national press.
The argument that is adduced by the Pentecostal
therefore is simple: unless proof is brought to the contrary, the Bible
teaches that this gift of the Spirit is in the church today. There is no
reason to believe that this gift has disappeared. The reason it cannot
be traced into the church after early times is simply that the church
apostatized and neglected this gift.
B. The gift of healing
The same reasoning is applied to the gift of healing.
Jesus Himself, it is reasoned, spent the majority of His earthly
ministry healing people. From His example to us it is evident that He
came to heal not only our souls but our bodies too. It was this gift of
healing He has promised to His church after Pentecost. Again, we read of
that in Mark 16:17-18 (quoted above). Several different instances of
healing are recorded for us in the New Testament. Peter was given power
to heal (e.g., Acts 3:1-11; 5:15). The deacon Philip, when he preached
in Samaria, healed people who were sick of the palsy (Acts 8:5-7). We
read in Acts 6:8 that to the deacon Stephen was also given the power to
perform miracles and wonders among the people, though we are not told
just exactly what these were. The apostle Paul on many different
occasions healed the sick and cast out demons (e.g., Acts 14:8-10;
Just as with the gift of speaking in tongues, so also
with this gift of healing, the Pentecostal reasons that if Scripture
does not explicitly state that this gift has disappeared, we certainly
may not erroneously reason that it has. This gift Christ yet gives to
men today. Not everyone receives this gift, however only those who are
able to exercise themselves mightily in the faith.
In fact, together with this gift the charismatic has
developed his whole idea of the power of prayer, an idea that has taken
the church world by storm. He claims that if only one believer who has
been given the special power of faith and prayer by the Holy Spirit
prays fervently enough he can heal another. Or if this does not work,
then believers can band together in prayer groups or in prayer chains
and storm God's throne with their prayers that as a result they will be
able to heal the sick! Faith healing and fervent effectual prayer go
hand in hand with the charismatic.
C. The gift of on-going revelation
Finally, there is also the gift of on-going
revelation. This particular gift of the Holy Spirit is based on the
prophecy of Joel which Peter quoted in his sermon on Pentecost in Acts
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith
God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and
your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my
handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they
shall prophesy ...
Here, too, is a gift of the Spirit, it is emphasized
by the Pentecostal, that existed in the early church. Although the
instances of it are not as frequent as with the other gifts, they are
there. For example, in Acts 21:8, 9 we read of the four daughters of
Philip who prophesied concerning Paul's capture by the Jews. Likewise,
it is pointed out that the church in Corinth (I Cor. 12-14) was deeply
involved in prophesying. From these passages and a few others, we can
assume that the gift of prophecy still continues in the church today.
Nowhere does the Bible inform us that this gift is no longer present
with the church.
Neither is this gift to be equated with the
preaching, in the mind of the Pentecostal. This custom of some churches
leaves no room for the spontaneous work of the Spirit. There are those
in the church, however, who by spontaneous utterance of the Spirit speak
words that are extra-scriptural. They can still today predict future
events by means of the Spirit. The Spirit takes hold of the heart and
tongue of a person who is exercising himself in the Spirit and leads him
to speak things that he cannot control, just as did the prophets in the
D. How these gifts
These are the charismata, the gifts of the Spirit.
And it is on the acquiring of such gifts that the worship service in
Pentecostal churches focuses much of its attention. Frederick Dale
Brunner in his book A Theology of the Holy Spirit, writes (pp.
The Pentecostal church meeting has been described
as pew-centered, and the description is apt. In contrast to
generally pulpit-centered Protestantism and altar-centered
Catholicism, Pentecostalism finds its center in the believing
community. The Pentecostals are concerned, as one put it, that "we
never reach the point where our congregations are composed of
on-looking spectators rather than participating worshippers. To
avoid this deflection Pentecostals attempt to offer every believer
an opportunity actively and personally to participate in the
church's life. The paramount focus for this participation is the
church meeting. Here the gifts are to find their most proper and
prominent sphere of operation.
There is a certain excitement about the Pentecostal
worship service. Everyone in the church is led to feel a certain
anticipation or readiness to receive one or more of these gifts.
All kinds of means are used to evoke this high level
of emotion: soul-stirring music, a powerful speaker, testimonies,
shouted hallelujahs and amens, even laughter. Then it begins to happen.
The souls are stirred and the Spirit is said to enter the worship of the
church. People break out in tongues, others mount the pulpit and claim
to be interpreting the tongues, while still others bring a word that God
has told them personally. Some sing a song or get up and dance. Some may
fall on the floor and shake uncontrollably. At times there is even
special time that is set aside when certain men are given opportunity to
heal the sick.
This then is the Pentecostal experience. These are
the charismata—the gifts of the Spirit.
II. A Biblical Analysis of the Gifts of the
A. In general
It is important that we analyze the arguments of
Pentecostals on the basis of God's Word. The Word of God is the
objective standard according to which every teaching must be tested to
see if it is true. This means that we do not merely in a superficial way
read a few passages of the Bible that seem to say something they do not.
It means that we examine the Word of God to see what the Spirit truly
says to the church.
This booklet does not intend to analyze every aspect
of the Pentecostal's teachings on the gifts of the Spirit. This would,
no doubt, take a book. What constitutes proper speaking in tongues by
the Pentecostal can be criticized; what is behind the so-called
"supernatural" healings can be exposed; the improper use of prayer can
be refuted; the abuse and misuse of the worship service can easily be
critiqued. But the aim of this booklet is specifically to analyze
positively the biblical position on the gifts of the Spirit.
There are two criticisms of the charismatic
movement's undue stress on the acquiring of the gifts of the Spirit.
First of all, the emphasis that this movement places
on the gifts of the Spirit robs God's people of the necessary knowledge
of the Scriptures. This is not to say that the Pentecostal movement does
not quote and use many different passages of Scripture. Their writings
are full of them. Neither does this mean that there is no time at all
(though it is little) spent on preaching in the worship of the
Pentecostal church. But the stress which is placed in worship and life
on the acquisition of the gifts of the Spirit discourages any careful
study of God's Word. In the foreword to James Slay's study in doctrine
the admission is made:
The Church of God knows what it believes and
preaches, and prints what it believes, but to this point the Church
has not systematized it in a definitive work. That such a work
has not been completed does not represent a lack of interest in the
theology. Rather it probably comes from our historic dependence upon
the sheer Word as our doctrinal guide.
That is quite an admission for a Pentecostal
denomination that had been in existence for over seventy-five years at
the time of the writing of that book! There is no emphasis on objective
knowledge in the Scriptures. The Old Testament Scriptures are virtually
ignored. The New Testament is used, in the main, as a means to prepare
the members of the church to receive the gifts of the Spirit or the joy
of rebaptism. That this is true is manifest in the almost total lack of
biblical proof for their contention that the charismata still exist
today! It is also evident from the total disregard for the true work of
the Spirit taught in Scripture. Truly, what the prophet Amos spoke in
Amos 8:11 characterizes this movement: there is a famine of hearing the
Word of God!
A second critique that can be levelled against this
movement, generally speaking, is that it is man-centered rather than
God-centered or even Christ-centered. The worship of the Pentecostal
does not center in the preaching of the Word. Again, not that there is
not occasional preaching. But there is little stress placed on hearing
the voice of God through a careful exposition and explanation of His
Word by one who is called and trained to do so. The worship of the
Pentecostal is, rather, caught up in trying to prove to others that one
has the gift of the Spirit in him. Attention is called to the man who
has the ability to speak "off the cuff," so to speak, in front of
people. It is drawn to that singer with the most beautiful voice or that
one who is experienced in making sounds that might seem like he is
speaking in an unknown tongue. This breeds disappointment and despair in
the hapless souls who are trying still to find the Spirit. They begin to
feel like second-rate Christians!
There are other criticisms that can also be made of
the stress that the charismatic places on the acquiring of the gifts of
the Spirit, but we wish at this point to analyze positively the biblical
position on these gifts.
James Slay identifies correctly the point of
disagreement between the Pentecostal and those who deny his claims. He
Of this experience (speaking in tongues - WB) was
to have been for only the Apostolic period, there must have been
some logical reason for its not being extended to the rest of the
church. Did the apostles, who had all known the Lord, need this
special enduement to shore up their faith? Had the contemporaries of
Jesus need of this extraordinary sign to convince them, in spite of
the fact that they too had seen and heard our Lord?
These are rhetorical questions that Slay intends to
answer with a "no." Our answer to these questions, however, is "yes"!
Both the apostles and the church of Christ at that time
did need this extraordinary sign to convince them of the work of
the Holy Spirit in the church! This rests in the fact that speaking in
tongues is a sign! A sign! Here is the one term that very few pay
attention to in this entire discussion.
A sign is, in the very nature of the case, something
that disappears when the reality comes. When we see a sign along a road
advertising that a restaurant is coming at a certain exit, then that
sign points us to the reality that is coming. When we pass that exit,
however, there is no more sign. Why? Because when the reality comes,
then there is no more need for the sign. That is the nature of a sign.
It disappears when replaced by the reality.
Well, speaking in tongues and faith healing were both
signs. Is that not what Jesus said about them in Mark 16, that
shall follow them that believe?
This is true, first of all, of the gift of speaking
in tongues. Paul writes in I Corinthians 14:22, "Wherefore tongues are
for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not."
The question is, of what was the speaking in tongues a sign? Certainly,
it did not simply point to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Then
either this third sign of Pentecost would have ceased on Pentecost with
the other two, or the other two would still be prevalent in the church
today too. The meaning of the sign of speaking in tongues is found
specifically in this: it was a sign that the Spirit was poured out on
all nations, peoples, and languages of the earth! This sign of
speaking in foreign languages was meant to prove conclusively to every
one that God would now gather His church from all peoples and kindreds
of the earth. Salvation in Christ through the Spirit was no longer going
to be limited to the Jews but was going to be given to people of every
language, race, and nation under heaven. Of that, speaking in tongues
was a sign.
The apostles who had known Christ, and others who had
seen and known our Lord, needed this extraordinary sign to
convince them that salvation was no longer of the Jews! Why did the
disciples of Jesus speak in different tongues on the day of Pentecost?
In order that Jews from all over the world, Jews out of the various
nations of the world, might be brought to faith and repentance by the
work of the Spirit.
Why did the Samaritans in Acts 8 speak in tongues
after Peter and John laid their hands on them? To prove, to the
sceptical Jews who had had for centuries ingrained into them that
salvation was only of the Jews, that the Samaritans now also shared,
with the Jewish converts, in the blessings of Christ which the Spirit
pours out upon His church. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews as
foreigners to the covenant. Now God proved that the Samaritan would be a
part of that church and covenant. How? Who could deny the existence of
the Spirit in their hearts if they spoke in tongues as on the day of
The same was true when Peter went to Cornelius and
his household and preached to them and they were saved by means of that
preaching. Who would believe that the Gentiles could be a part of the
church, could be the objects of the Spirit's work in their hearts? But
when the Spirit worked in them, then they too spoke in tongues the sign
of the presence of the Spirit. And when the Jews in Jerusalem contended
with Peter about this, Peter simply said, in Acts 11:17, "Forasmuch then
as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the
Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?" To this word
the Jews then responded in verse 18, "When they heard these things, they
held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the
Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
This sign no doubt accompanied the preaching of Paul
in other places too. It did evidently in Ephesus, where the twelve
Ephesians who were first baptized by John the Baptist's baptism were now
clearly shown that they too were incorporated by that baptism into the
blood of Christ. How was the church of Ephesus, as well as Paul, assured
of this? These men spoke in tongues. Obviously, this same sign was used
in the church in Corinth. This is indeed evident in I Corinthians 12-14.
When Paul writes to this church, however, it was to admonish them for
their abuse of this once good gift. "Tongues are for a sign, not to them
that believe, but to them that believe not!" Tongues are a sign to
prove, to those who did not believe, that the Spirit could be poured out
upon the Gentiles, not to those who indeed believe that it is. Paul's
point in I Corinthians 14:22 then is this: why are you, who believe that
the Spirit is among you, still using a sign that is meant to prove this
to those who do not believe this fact?
In chapter 12 of I Corinthians, Paul places this gift
on the bottom of his list, in importance. In chapter 14 Paul places
strict limitations on the use of the gift—the women may not use it in
the worship service, neither can one use it unless there is another who
can interpret what is said. In chapter 13 Paul states literally (this
does not come out in the English translations of the Greek) in verse 8:
"whether there be tongues, they shall cease of themselves." Why? What is
the logical reason for their end? They were but a sign that God would
now gather His church from out of all nations of the world. Once that
fact, once that reality, was established, there was no more reason for
the sign. It slowly vanished. The church now knows that the Spirit works
in the hearts of all believers from every nation and kindred and kingdom
of this world. That is why there are no more tongues today. That is why
they were needed only during the apostolic period.
What about healings? Jesus tells us that these were a
sign too in Mark 16. Of what were they a sign? Well, they clearly did
not signify the same thing as did the sign of speaking in tongues. The
gift of healing was not a sign used on Pentecost to prove that the
Spirit was poured out. Paul does, however, reveal to us of what they
were a sign. Notice: II Corinthians 12:12, "Truly," Paul writes to the
Corinthians, "the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in
all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." In Acts 4:29, 30
the apostle Peter asks God to confirm the apostles by means of the sign
of healings: "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto
thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak the word, by
stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders
may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus." Here was a sign that
indicated to others apostolic authority and power. Paul used this to
prove to those in Corinth who vocally questioned his apostleship that he
was an apostle.
It was to the twelve disciples, and a little later to
seventy men who followed Him, that Jesus during His earthly ministry
gave authority to cast out spirits and heal people of their sicknesses.
After Pentecost we no longer read of these seventy men. We read only of
the apostles performing the work of healing others. There are only two
other men who were not apostles, Stephen and Philip, who were given the
authority to heal. We read of no one else receiving this power to heal
people. This was given strictly to those men who were appointed by God
to the work of establishing the New Testament church. it was given to
the apostles only, and then given by them to two others who were
instrumental in establishing the church. When these men died, this
special authority and power to heal died with them. It did so because it
was a sign! There was no more need to prove the authority of these men
and their special office in the church since they were now gone. The
church was established. Ministers of the gospel were ordained to carry
on the work of the ministry. Apostolic authority was no longer needed.
The sign was no longer needed.
3. On-going revelation
What about the gift of on-going revelation? It is not
difficult to prove the fallacy involved in the claim that men still have
this gift today. Some months ago I received in my e-mail the writings of
a man who claimed that God had spoken to him by direct revelation. He
was then burdened by God, so he explained, to share this all important
revelation with others. So, he sent me the first installment with the
explanation that the second one would be coming shortly. I could not
help but chuckle when I read some of what he wrote. Grammatically his
writings were horrific! Strangely enough, he also tried to write in the
old English, as if this lent an air of authority to what he wrote.
Evidently, God had spoken to him in old English. Besides all of this,
what he wrote was nonsense, some of it hardly understandable. I wrote
him back and told him I was not interested in the second installment.
Some years ago a Pentecostal radio pastor declared to
his audience that God had appeared to him. He said that God had told him
that if his followers did not come up with some exorbitant amount of
money (the amount escapes me) God was going to take his life. The man
soon after was able to raise that money and then some! Do you see where
the foolishness of on-going revelation leads us?
Revelation was not a sign of the work of the Spirit
in the early church. Revelation, however, was indeed given to a man by
the Spirit. The Spirit used revelation in order to establish the
objective record of God's Word. Once that canon of God's Word was
established, revelation ceased. There is no longer any need for it
today. We have contained in the Scripture, according to its own
testimony (II Tim. 3:15-17; II Pet. 1:19-21), the infallible standard of
all truth. We have there all that is necessary to know for salvation. We
do not need any on-going revelation of men.
We live in the last days. John tells us that in these
days there are going to be false prophets claiming that what they say is
the truth. John tell us in I John 4, the first few verses, that we must
try these spirits! How do we do that? By judging what they say over
against the objective Word of God.
III. An Admonition Concerning the Gifts
There are two warnings that we must heed when
considering the error of Pentecostalism. First, it is not enough to know
what is not the work of the Spirit. In this booklet we have only
exposed the error with respect to the work of the Spirit. As believers
we are also obliged to know what the proper work of the Spirit is. Take
time out to study that. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ who reveals
to us the work of Christ for us on the cross. It is that Spirit that
works in our hearts, quietly and powerfully, the blessings of salvation
that Christ has merited for us in His death and resurrection. Study
One other warning: let our worship and our lives in
this world be theocentric, God-centered. Much of the church world has
caved in to Pentecostal influence. Perhaps many have not embraced the
extremes of this movement, but many have given in to the reasoning
behind this movement. The face of worship is changing, the idea of
prayer is altered, the need for doctrine is belittled. Feeling has
replaced objective truth! We must be careful that these trends not creep
into those churches where we are members! May we stand on the Word of
God. May God's name be glorified. May He be the beginning and the end of
all our lives and of our worship. To God, who sent His Son to die for
sinners, be the glory.
PART 3: Pentecostal View of the Christian Life
Charles J. Terpstra
The movement known as Pentecostalism continues to be
very popular and powerful in this country and, indeed, throughout the
world. It is considered to be part of mainstream Christianity and has
been accepted as such by most churches and Christians. Pentecostalism
has had its critics, but it seems to have weathered the storm of protest
that initially came against it. It still has its critics, at least of
its extreme forms, but by far the majority of the church world approve
and even laud what it represents and has brought to the church.
But we in the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) are
not part of that majority. We belong to a minority that is still highly
critical of this movement and its fundamental teachings. We find
Pentecostalism seriously defective, not just in its practices, but also
in its principles; not just in its doings, but also in its doctrines. We
posit that it is at odds with the Scriptures and with the historic
Christian faith, with Protestantism and the Reformed faith. Hence this
series of papers.
Pentecostalism is as varied and diverse as
Protestantism and modem Evangelicalism. It has many sub-streams running
off its main river. Yet some basic themes and teachings have been
established. Some of these have already been dealt with in the preceding
papers. In this presentation, we want to examine a few more of these as
they relate specifically to Pentecostalism's view of the Christian life.
Pentecostalism has developed a distinctive view of
the Christian life too. That stands to reason. Doctrine and life,
principles and practice, always go together. What one teaches by way of
Christian doctrine will always produce a certain way of life, a form of
practical Christianity. That is certainly true of the Reformed faith.
The doctrines of sovereign grace we believe and teach bear the fruit of
a distinctive view of the Christian life. So too does Pentecostalism.
Because of her emphasis on the Holy Spirit and special gifts and
blessings, Pentecostalism in general promotes a Christian life that is
marked by spiritual experience—deeper, higher, fuller, richer
spiritual life. In a word, Pentecostals crave more through the
Holy Spirit. And the life Pentecostals live is marked by the seeking of
and the striving for that "more" of the holy Spirit.
There are many areas we could go into in connection
with this subject of the Christian life: charismatic worship, prayer,
spiritual warfare, guidance, etc. But we will limit ourselves to three
areas: First, the idea that there is a special post-salvation blessing
called the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which Christians are to seek
and strive for. Second, the element of perfectionism, i.e., that
Christians should be and can be perfectly holy (sinless) in this life.
And third, the Pentecostal concept of what true Christian joy is. We
will put these in the form of three questions, which we will then answer
in the light of the holy Scriptures, and in the tight of the historic
Reformed, Christian faith as summed in the church's great creeds.
I. Should Christians Seek the Second Baptism?
The first matter to consider is a vitally important
one. It lies at the very heart of Pentecostal teaching. It controls and
colors their whole view of the Christian life. It is the doctrine of the
baptism in the Holy Spirit. According to them this is the
blessing to be sought, the experience to strive for, the
greatest and highest achievement of the Christian man and woman.
What is this great spiritual blessing? It is a
special post-conversion gift and experience in which the Holy Spirit is
poured out on you in all His fullness, with special power to enable you
to have things and do things you cannot have and do otherwise.
Pentecostals teach of course, as we do, that all
believers have the Holy Spirit. You cannot be saved without His
indwelling and inward work (cf. Rom. 8:9). According to them,
all Christians are regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit when they
But there is something better and greater than this
for the believer, a blessing higher and deeper— the baptism of the Holy
Spirit! A special outpouring it is, like that which came on the
disciples at Pentecost, filling them and empowering them in a special,
It is then a tremendous spiritual experience,
available to all who seek it and strive after it. And according to them,
that's what you must do. As one Pentecostal has put it, "Most Christians
have the pilot-light burning; I want to run on all the burners."
The problem is that only some actually attain to and receive this
blessing. And according to them, the initial evidence of this baptism is
speaking in tongues.
It would be good at this point to quote from some
Pentecostal documents on this supposed great "extra" blessing which some
believers obtain. Let us hear first from the Assemblies of God Churches,
a major Pentecostal denomination. This is taken from their home page (www.ag.org),
Point 7 on "The Baptism of the HG":
All believers are entitled to and should ardently
expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in
the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus
Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early church.
With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the
bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry.
Second, we quote from the Pentecostal Assemblies of
Canada, as also set forth on their web page:
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is an experience
in which the believer yields control of himself to the Holy Spirit.
Matt. 3:11; Acts 1:5; Eph. 5:18. Through this he comes to know
Christ in a more intimate way, John 16:13-15, and receives power to
witness and grow spiritually, 2 Cor. 3:18; Acts 1:8. Believers
should earnestly seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit according to
the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8. The
initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in
other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, Acts 2:1-4, 39; 9:17; 1
Cor. 14:18. This experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, the
experience of the new birth, Acts 8:12-17; 10:44-46.
The Pentecostal arguments defending this special
blessing are interesting and important. They refer first of all to the
biblical passages that speak of this baptism, namely, John the Baptist's
words about the work of Christ, Matthew 3:11 (cf. the parallels in Mark
1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33): "I indeed baptize you with water unto
repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes
I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and
Then they go to the book of Acts and the promise
Jesus gave His disciples just before His ascension. For John truly
baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not
many days hence" (1:5). From there, they point to the accounts of the
pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the 120 disciples on Pentecost (Acts
2:4) and on various people after Pentecost (8:1 4ff., Peter and John
with the Samaritans; 10 & 11, Peter and Cornelius; 19:1 ff, Paul and
about twelve Ephesian believers).
In all these cases, Pentecostalism argues, people
received the baptism of the Holy Spirit after believing, as a separate,
special gift and experience. And in addition it says that all these
cases are normative for today. This is still the way the Holy Spirit
works. This is what every Christian may receive, i.e., if
certain spiritual conditions are met.
In fact, Pentecostals even argue from the life and
experience of Jesus Himself! They say that He too received His special
baptism after He trusted in God, prayed, and obeyed (cf. Matt.
3:16,17). Besides, they also make appeal to the experience of the
believers in Corinth, namely, to the special blessings these Christians
received even after they were already converted. And for further proof
they refer to Ephesians 5:18, "... Be filled with the Spirit."
Therefore, because this is its teaching, this is what
Pentecostalism tells its followers to seek. They are really taught not
to be content with "ordinary" salvation. "Seek this, pray for this, do
all you can to obtain this baptism of the Holy Spirit! Get to the next
level of blessing and experience! If you truly want to have it all, go
Now this teaching concerning what is to be expected
in the Christian life has gained wide acceptance in Protestantism, even
in the Reformed camp. Most of the mainline churches endorse and allow
this view: Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist; even the Roman Catholic
Church. And some Reformed denominations have shown great sympathy for
The family of the Rev. Martyn Lloyd-Jones did not do
the Reformed faith any favour either when they published his defence of
this doctrine in Joy Unspeakable (Shaw, 1984). That has proved to
be very influential in many Evangelical and Reformed circles.
What must we say about this doctrine by way of
evaluation? Should Christians be seeking this second blessing, this
baptism with the Holy Spirit? Is there something more for us? We say a
resounding no! This is emphatically not something to be sought, because
it is not a blessing God has promised His people! This Pentecostal
teaching is a deception of the most serious sort! It has confused,
misled, and shaken the faith of many. It is to be condemned and
Why? First of all, because the Bible simply does not
support this position. What John the Baptist promised in connection with
the work of Christ was promised to each and every believer, not to a
select few. When the elect are saved, they are all baptized with the
Holy Ghost and with fire. That is their one and only baptism with the
Holy Spirit. At that moment they are purified and empowered to lead
sanctified lives and to serve God for whatever He calls them to do and
wherever He places them. At the moment of conversion, believers are
filled with the Spirit, fully equipped with all they need for living the
Christian life of holiness. They are in need of no second blessing; no
further, greater, better salvation; no other baptism to seek for. They
are complete in Christ, Colossians 2:10; they are given "all things that
pertain unto life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3).
To be sure, they must "be filled with the Spirit"
(Eph. 5:18), but that's not to obtain something they do not have. That
is to live in accordance with what they already have received through
the Spirit of Christ. This is similar to every other admonition the
believer receives. The imperatives of Scripture are always based on the
indicatives. That is, we are admonished to do something based on what
the gospel says we have been given in Christ. So we are called to be
holy, because we are holy in Christ (cf. I Pet. 1:2 with vv. 15,
16). So we are called to walk in the Spirit, because we already live in
the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).
But what about those instances in Acts? We must
understand these in connection with the once for all event of Pentecost.
Pentecost was the fulfilment of John's promise concerning Christ, and
of Christ's own promise in Acts 1:5 (as well as in John 14-16).
On Pentecost Christ baptized His church with the Holy Spirit. Through
His other Comforter He filled her with all the blessings of salvation He
had purchased for her. And that Holy Spirit and those blessings came on
not on some only.
Let it be remembered, that that great baptism of
Pentecost can never be repeated, any more than Christ's death and
resurrection and ascension can be. The things that happened to those
special groups of people following Pentecost were simply further
manifestations or applications of that once-for-all event. These were
indeed special events, because it needed to be demonstrated outwardly
and visibly that the Spirit had indeed come. And it needed to be shown
that others besides the Jews were now to receive the fullness of the
Holy Spirit and the blessings of salvation (hence, the coming of the
Spirit on the Samaritans, Cornelius, the Ephesians, etc.).
Therefore today, whenever a person is saved, the
Spirit of Pentecost comes to dwell in him and fill him with all the
blessings of salvation and service that are in Christ. Such a wonder of
grace is not a repetition of Pentecost, but an application of it! And
again we emphasize that this blessing is for all of God's people. This
is what the Scripture declares with unmistakable clarity in I
Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,
whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have
been all made to drink into one Spirit." Hence also Ephesians 4:5 speaks
of the church receiving "one baptism." This is all the experience and
blessing they need!
Interestingly, the Christian Reformed Church at one
time took this strong position too. In a 1973 Synodical Statement she
Synod affirms and testifies that according to the Scriptures
a believer receives the baptism in or with the Holy Spirit at the time
of his regeneration-conversion, as the apostle Paul declares ..., I Cor.
12:13, so that in Christ we all 'have access in one Spirit to the
Father' (Eph. 2:18) and 'are builded together for a habitation of God in
the Spirit' (Eph. 2:22).
... Synod rejects, therefore, the teaching that the
baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second blessing
distinct from and usually received after conversion, and
declares that this doctrine is not to be taught or
propagated in the Christian Reformed Church.
In this connection, there are other points of
argument we might raise against the Pentecostal teaching. For example,
if this is just an important teaching, why is it not found throughout
the epistles, which set forth all the fundamental doctrines of the
church? Why are there no plain explanations of this second blessing and
no clear admonitions to seek for it? The obvious reason is that this
doctrine was not revealed to the apostles. It simply is not the truth of
God in Jesus Christ. Therefore our confessions say nothing of this
either. Read the ecumenical creeds of the early church, and you will not
find this doctrine. Read the great Reformed and Presbyterian
creeds of the age of the Reformation, and you will find nothing of this
teaching. It simply is not the historic teaching of the church.
Further, from a practical standpoint, consider what
this two-level or two-tiered view of the Christian life results in!
People searching and seeking for something that is not there! A chasing
after the wind! Vanity of vanities! Such teaching also creates pride,
envy, and competition among the saints. And it leads in many cases to
false manifestations of the Spirit, as people pretend to get what they
think is promised them.
What a different picture the Scriptures give to us of
believers and the church! All baptized with the Holy Spirit of Christ,
all equally blessed, all sharing in Christ's great salvation, living
together in love and humility and holiness to the glory of God. That's
the practical fruit of the truth concerning the baptism of the Spirit.
II. Can the Christian Be Perfectly Holy?
The next Pentecostal teaching we wish to examine is
that of perfectionism. At first glance, this may not seem to be all that
significant. And it must be admitted that perfectionism is certainly not
stressed very much in modern Pentecostalism. It is not a foreground
matter for them, and therefore we might be tempted to say that it should
not be a foreground issue for us. This teaching has become buried under
the rug of the baptism of the Spirit and the seeking with tongues and
other special gifts.
But the fact is that perfectionism remains part of
Pentecostal teaching, and it does surface in Pentecostal writings to
this day. The writer also remembers a personal incident of this teaching
in a former church member who became Pentecostal and within a short time
claimed to go through periods of sinlessness.
This issue is important because it also touches on
the heart of the Christian life, what we call sanctification or the life
When we deal with this teaching in Pentecostalism, we
must go back to its historical roots, because the doctrine of
perfectionism was imbedded in Pentecostalism from the very beginning.
Any historical study of Pentecostalism brings this out. Vinson Synan in
his book, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1997) traces this quite clearly and extensively. He sees John
Wesley, the eighteenth century Anglican minister and founder of
Methodism, as "the spiritual and intellectual father of the modern
holiness and Pentecostal movements" (p.1). This is significant because
Wesley taught the doctrine of Christian perfectionism. As Synan sums his
view, perfectionism was the second blessing or experience of the
believer. The first was conversion, and the second was sanctification.
The first blessing took care of one's actual sins but still left him
with "inbred sin." The second blessing purified the believer of this
indwelling sin and enabled him to have perfect love for God and the
Synan points out what Wesley meant by this: not total
sinlessness, but nevertheless "perfection of motives & desires."
"... The sanctified soul, through careful self-examination, godly
discipline, and methodical devotion and avoidance of worldly pleasures,
could live a life of victory over sin." And this blessing could be
achieved "instantly" by a second work of grace, or by "gradual growth in
grace" (p. 7). This was known as "entire sanctification."
This perfectionist doctrine of Wesley has been one
major influence on Pentecostal teaching and practice. But it is not the
only one with respect to this doctrine. Synan goes on to point out that
this same teaching of perfectionism was brought into Pentecostalism by
the American evangelist Charles Finney in the eighteenth century.
According to Finney, "After a true experience of conversion a person
could achieve the coveted state of Christian perfection or
sanctification simply by exercising free will and cultivating 'right
intentions.' Sin and holiness ... could not exist in the same person"
(p. 15). Interestingly, Finney is also the first one to tie this special
blessing of perfectionism to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, Synan traces the Pentecostal roots of
perfectionism to the Keswick movement, another eighteenth century
holiness movement that stressed the believer's ability to attain to full
sanctification of life, to consistent and continued victory over sin.
This then is what has found its way into the
Pentecostal teaching concerning the Christian life. And this stream of
perfectionism is still found. For example, we find this in the
Assemblies of God statement of faith: "Sanctification is realized in the
believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and
resurrection, and by faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union,
and my offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy
Spirit (emphasis mine, CJT). This last clause at least implies that
the believer is able to attain to this at times in his life here and
We find this perfectionist statement from the United
Pentecostal Church International: "After we are saved from sin, we are
commanded, 'Go, and sin no more' (John 8:11) ... We must present
ourselves as holy unto God (Rom. 12:1), cleanse ourselves from all
filthiness of the flesh and spirit (II Cor. 7:1), and separate ourselves
from all worldliness (James 4:4) ... No one can live a holy life
by his own power, but only through the Holy Spirit. Ye shall receive
power, after the HG is come upon you (Acts 1:8)." Again, it is at least
implied, if not explicitly expressed here, that the Christian is able to
live sinlessly in this life.
Out of this teaching, then, comes the practical
pursuit of the people. For this perfectionism becomes something they
must seek and strive for. Pentecostalism says to them, "Aim for this
special blessing too. Seek perfection, for it too is within your reach!
With special power from the Holy Spirit you can also attain to this
level of spirituality! Surrender to the Spirit completely and be without
sin; yield to His power and you can be perfect!"
Of course, those who held to this doctrine always
claimed that they had biblical support. They argued from the examples of
Noah and Job and Hezekiah, whom the Scriptures describe as "perfect"
men. They reasoned from the commands of Scripture to be perfect (Matt.
5:48; II Cor. 7:1). And they claimed that the perfect work of Christ and
the power of the Holy Spirit demanded it.
What must be said about this teaching on
sanctification? This doctrine too we must reject as being unbiblical as
well as contrary to the historic position of the church as expressed in
her creeds. The perfectionism of Pentecostalism is nowhere taught in the
Word of God.
It is true that there is a sense in which the
believers are already perfectly holy. Because of the work of Christ and
by virtue of their position in Him, the elect are indeed already made
perfect. They may be said to have the full victory over sin in Jesus
Christ. But they are not personally and practically perfect in holiness.
The holiness we are given and are able to practice through the presence
and power of the Holy Spirit is always placed alongside of the sin that
remains in us until we die. This remaining sin is what the Bible calls
the "flesh" and the "old man of sin," and it is with every believer to
the end of his life.
For this reason our life of sanctification is always
described as a great struggle, conflict, and battle (cf. Gal.
5:16,17; Rom. 7:14ff.; Eph. 4:22-24; I John 1:8-10; the Heid. Cat., LD
44, Q&A 113-115). And this is the real spiritual experience of
God's people as long as they live. Not perfection, but imperfection.
Always fighting, fleeing, falling back, and then going forward. O, they
long to be perfect! They strive to be! But they never can or will be
here. Only when they die, and their sinful nature dies with them, will
they be perfect. Only when they arrive in the perfection of the life to
It is also true that we find commands to be perfect
in Scripture and examples of saints who were said to be perfect. But
this must be properly understood. Of course God is going to set
perfection before His people and call them to it—for the reason that
He is perfectly holy and cannot lower His standard of holiness because
of our imperfection. We are His children, recreated in His image through
the Holy Spirit; we ought to be like Him. Therefore He calls us to this:
"Be ye holy as I am holy."
As far as the saints being described as perfect is
concerned, the word itself does not point to sinlessness, but to their
being complete, whole, sound; people who were true, sincere, and full of
integrity. In addition, the word points to the maturity of their faith,
something we must all seek to develop. Yet, let us not forget that at
the same time the Bible records the sins of these saints, showing us
that they were not perfectly holy. As our catechism puts it, "even the
holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this
obedience" (Q&A 114).
III. What Is the Nature of Christian Joy?
The third and final matter to be dealt with in
connection with Pentecostalism's view of the Christian life is that of
the nature of true Christian joy.
Most are aware that much is made of this fruit of the
Spirit by Pentecostals. It is not too much to say that they elevate this
virtue to the primary spot. For Pentecostals, as for Reformed
Christians, joy is a deep gladness in the Lord because of salvation.
There is joy in the assurance of what the Lord is to us and has done for
But, typical of Pentecostalism, the emphasis falls on
joy being yet another spiritual experience and emotional state you reach
in the Holy Spirit by working yourself up into it; another higher,
special state you attain, not a normal everyday condition. And therefore
the emphasis falls on the outward manifestations of joy. This is evident
from the way Pentecostals act in their assemblies as well as in every
For example, in worship Pentecostals display carefree
exuberance, clapping, shouting, singing, etc., all supposed evidence of
their joy in the Lord and their life in the Spirit. Some of them even
have such joy that they exhibit "holy laughter" (the Toronto blessing)!
But they also try to demonstrate this joy in their everyday lives.
Pentecostals tend to be always smiley, apparently carefree, as they
speak their "Praise the Lord's" and "Hallelujah's."
Pentecostalism also applies this concept of joy to
other areas involving the Christian life, for example, suffering. Many
(not all) Pentecostals teach that God does not want His people to
suffer, especially physical ailments. According to them, suffering does
not come from the Lord but from the devil. Therefore believers do not
have to be content and joyful in afflictions. Rather must they fight
suffering and find joy in seeking to be delivered through some miracle
Prosperity is another area where this teaching is
applied. Many Pentecostals argue that if you want to find real
happiness, seek material blessings, because God wants you to have them
and they are available for you. You can claim them in the name of Jesus
and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Such is the health and wealth
gospel promoted by many Pentecostal TV preachers, most notably Paul
Crouch and his TBN network.
But with this Pentecostal teaching we must also take
issue. We reject their concept of joy and its application to the
Christian life. It is our contention that this is not true Christian
joy, not the real fruit of the Spirit.
According to Scripture, the Christian's joy is not in
external things. It is not based on our outward circumstances. Nor is it
a mere emotion and experience. Neither is it a special 'high' attained
only by some believers. Rather, true Christian joy is first of all an
objective state the believer is in because of the grace of God to him in
Jesus Christ. And then secondly, this joy is a condition of his heart
because it is given to him and worked in him by the Holy Spirit. And
therefore, thirdly, this joy is also the Christian's personal,
spiritual, and, yes, emotional experience. It is so for all Christians.
Galatians 5:22 shows this is a fruit (blessing) given to every believer.
Every Christian has joy in the Lord because of his saved position in
This true joy then is the Christian's state of being
glad in the Lord because of salvation, because he is a forgiven sinner,
a justified sinner before the face of God, an adopted child of the
heavenly Father! It is the joy of the personal assurance of salvation.
It is gladness in the comfort and peace of the sovereignty of God at
work in all his life and walk, such that all is well with his soul
because Father's hand is always working all things together for his
Such joy is present and real no matter what one's
outward circumstances may be, whether he is healthy or sick, whether
rich or poor. Just call to mind Paul's beautiful expression of the
believer's joy in his epistle to the Philippians. As he sits in prison,
withheld from the regular work of his ministry, he is not sad and
gloomy. No, he is rejoicing because of what he has personally in the
Lord and because the Lord's work goes on through others! And he keeps
instructing these believers to be joyful too, for the same reasons!
Because this is the nature of Christian joy, we must
also criticize the Pentecostal practice of joy. True joy is certainly
expressed in outward actions and words. But not by the out-of-control,
wild, chaotic behaviour displayed by many Pentecostals. Nor is its true
expression found in artificial smiles and superficial phrases. We must
remember that joy is in harmony with all the other aspects of the fruit
of the Spirit, including temperance (self-control). True Christian joy
is expressed in the believer's normal, sanctified activities as he lives
and moves in the various spheres of his walk. He rejoices in his
worship, in his singing to the Lord, in his prayers to Him, in his
fellowship with Him day by day. The Christian rejoices in his daily work
and service to the Lord. He is glad in his marriage and home life. And
he shows this gladness in his godly attitudes, sanctified emotions, and
In the midst of his great joy in the Lord, the
Christian also experiences real sorrows. Joy and sorrow are often mixed
together in this life. That's reality too. And therefore he looks
forward to the day of perfect joy when all sin and suffering and sorrow
is past, when every tear is wiped from his eye.
In this series of articles, we have tried the
Pentecostal movement in its basic roots and tenets. We have considered
its history and origin; its emphasis on the special gifts of the Holy
Spirit; and now its view of the Christian life. And in every case,
having been weighed in the Bible's balances, it has been found wanting.
It fails the test of what constitutes orthodox Christianity.
Therefore our conclusion has to be that this movement
is not a great blessing for the church, but a dangerous heresy. This we
say not lightly or hastily, but carefully and humbly. For we know that
there are many professing Christians deceived by and ensnared in this
Yet we also state this boldly—so that we warn
Reformed church members, including our own, to be aware of and flee from
these serious errors. And so that we call those caught up in the
movement to examine it biblically and confessionally, and to return to
the historic faith of Protestant Christianity. May God be pleased to
shed the light of His truth on all our hearts and paths.