In Defense of Pentecost
Recently I saw a link to a website that was entitled, “Pentecostalism is of the Devil”. I am Pentecostal and I clicked on the link to see what this was all about. What I found was a long list of people that are “crackpots” (the Biblical term for them would be “Broken Cisterns”) and a few facts about each of them. As I perused the list I agreed that most of the people on this list were heretics and worse (with a few exceptions). The problem that I have with this website is that this list of failed and fringe individuals, fails to prove that “Pentecostalism is of the Devil”. What it does prove is that there are “False Teachers” among the Pentecostal movement and the same can be said of any movement, religion, and denomination.
I want to say this first: the only judge of men and movements is the Word of God. The Bible is the only perfect rule of faith and conduct. All things, and all people, must be examined in light of the Word of God. There is no other criterion for us to judge by. Often Christians are accused of being judgmental, but the fact is we are only taking what we have read in the Bible and viewing all of life by means of what it teaches. People alone are not the criteria that we judge any movement by, for there are failed examples in all, only the Word of God is big enough to decide whether or not something is “Of God” or “Of the Devil”.
If we follow the reasoning of the said website then we can prove that anything is “Of the Devil”. Just so we can understand their reasoning, we need to see if their criteria can be applied to other movements and what the results would be. For example, let’s say that we are going to judge the Baptist’s by this example. Can you find Baptists that have failed? Can you find Baptist preachers with moral failures in their lives? Have any Baptists ever fell into heretical teachings? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “Yes”. If you follow their line of reasoning then you could say, “Baptists are of the Devil”. How about Methodists? Presbyterians? Or any other denomination? I live in a small community and it is very common to see a drunk Baptist staggering in the street on a Friday night – does that mean that all Baptists are drunks?
Why, you could apply their faulty reasoning to any group. By the way, this is exactly how prejudice is formed. Has anyone ever heard of a cheating husband? Well then, I guess all “Husbands are of the Devil”. Has there ever been any crooked lawyers (I may be stretching here), if there has been, then we could say that all “Lawyers are of the Devil”. As you can tell by now, singling out failures in Pentecostalism does not prove their argument. All it proves is that Pentecostals have “tares among the wheat” just as others do.
Let me take the faulty reasoning of this website one step further. Please bear with me. If a human failure or deceiver proves that Pentecostalism is “Of the Devil” then you could say that Christianity is “Of the Devil” (please bear with me, I know as well as you that it is not!) for Christianity has had failures, false prophets, and deceivers as far back as the New Testament, for example, Ananias, Sapphira, Demas, Hymenaeus, and Alexander, to mention just a few. And to top that off, we must ask the question, where did the false doctrine of the Nicolaitans come from? It came from a man! So, again, we see that their supposed proof actually proves nothing!
There is only one criterion that we can use to judge whether or not “Pentecostalism is of the Devil”, or if any other thing is “Of the Devil”, and that criteria is the Word of God. Next I want to examine whether or not “True Pentecostalism” can be found in the Bible and if it is endorsed by the Word of God.
Some people tend to get hung up on the word “Pentecostal” so right at the outset I want to look at the origin of this word. The word “Pentecostal” was derived from the word “Pentecost” that appears in both the old and new testaments of the Bible. Pentecost was a Jewish feast that occurred on the fiftieth day after Passover and the word literally means fifty, fiftieth, or fiftieth day.
It so happens that our God has a very complex mind and He had it all arranged to pour out His Holy Spirit on the 120 followers of Christ in the upper room on that particular day, the Day of Pentecost. You can read all about in Acts chapter two, which, of course, is the most famous use of the word “Pentecost” found in the Bible.
The term “Pentecostal” was most likely coined in the late 19th Century in America and it was at first applied to the “Holiness Movement”, which was a non-tongues speaking group. Their main doctrine was “Sanctification as a second definite work of grace” – I do not want to get into all of the explanation of this doctrine but will sum it up by saying this: they believed the evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost was a holy life.
Around the turn to the 20th century the Holy Ghost was poured out on people in different places around the world but primarily in America. Most of those people in this initial outpouring were people from the Holiness Movement. The term Pentecostal that had previously been coined made the transition with them and it was not long before this term was applied to people that “spoke in other tongues”.
Today the word Pentecostal is known all over the world and its connotative definition is: A people associated with the events of Acts chapter two and speaking in other tongues. We do not use the word in its original meaning of fifty days but as an identifier of the people associated with the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Some today use the term in the legal name of their particular denomination but as a general rule the term applies broadly to anyone that believes in the Baptism in the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in other tongues. This is how I primarily use this word.
Now I want to examine the main tenets of the Pentecostal faith so we can see if they are in the Bible. Before I do, I want to say that there are many different “kinds” of Pentecostals today and there is no way that I can address all of the different beliefs in each group. I will stick with the foundational, or the Classical Pentecostal’s beliefs, and let the others deal with their own. I will not deal with all of our doctrine, for times sake, but let me examine a few key teachings.
The Inerrancy of Scripture: Classical Pentecostals believe that the Word of God, both the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God and not the words of men and that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We believe that men were moved on, inspired, by God to write the scripture.
2 Peter 1:20-21
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
We do not believe that there are any new revelations that can be added to the Word of God. We believe that God has given us a complete revelation of His will through the Word of God and that we should not add unto this revelation nor take away from it.
We believe that any message preached, any prophetic utterance, or any other verbal or written communication must be compared to the Word of God. Any utterance that does not agree with scripture must be rejected.
We in English speaking countries believe the King James Version of the scripture is the actual words of God and not just the ideas of God. We reject most modern translations because many have been corrupted.
The One True God: Classical Pentecostals believe that the one true God has revealed himself as the eternally self-existent “I AM,” the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind. He has further revealed himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10,11; Matthew 28:19; Luke 3:22).
The terms trinity and persons as related to the Godhead, while not found in the Scriptures, are words in harmony with Scripture, whereby we may convey to others our immediate understanding of the doctrine of Christ respecting the Being of God, as distinguished from “gods many and lords many.” We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God, who is One Lord, as a trinity or as one Being of three persons, and still be absolutely scriptural (examples, Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 14:16,17).
Christ taught a distinction of persons in the Godhead which He expressed in specific terms of relationship, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but that this distinction and relationship, as to its mode is inscrutable and incomprehensible, because unexplained (Luke 1:35; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Matthew 11:25-27; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 John 1: 3,4).
Accordingly, therefore, there is that in the Father which constitutes Him the Father and not the Son; there is that in the Son which constitutes Him the Son and not the Father; and there is that in the Holy Ghost which constitutes Him the Holy Ghost and not either the Father or the Son. Wherefore the Father is the Begetter; the Son is the Begotten; and the Holy Ghost is the One proceeding from the Father and the Son. Therefore, because these three persons in the Godhead are in a state of unity, there is but one Lord God Almighty, and His name one (John 1:18; 15:26; 17:11, 21; Zechariah 14:9).
We recognized that there are Pentecostal Groups that differ in their views on the Godhead from the traditional Trinitarian view and hold no ill-will towards them, though we do differ greatly in doctrine.
The Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ: We believe the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. We further believe that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, worked miracles, died on the cross for our sins, rose bodily from the dead, and has been exalted to the right hand of God on high.
We believe that Jesus is both the Son of God and the Son of Man – He is Very God and Very Man – He is Emmanuel: God with Us.
The Fall of Man: We believe that man was created in the image of God. We believe that man was created good and upright but through voluntary transgression and sin brought physical and spiritual death upon the human race. We believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:17; 3:6; Romans 5:12-19).
The Salvation of Man: We believe that man’s only hope of redemption is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God. All must be born again in order to be restored to Fellowship with God. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).” “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21)” “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).”
Salvation is obtained at the time of repentance and is an act of faith towards God. All that truly repent of their sins and pledge their lives to Jesus Christ will enter into the “Born Again” experience. The Holy Ghost is active throughout this process of cleansing and once this cleansing has occurred, the Believer will now be a candidate for the Baptism in the Holy Ghost.
Now, this will give you an idea of some of the main doctrines of the Pentecostal Church. This is sound doctrine and it is clearly the Word of God. Some of these same doctrines are believed by non-Pentecostals.
Next I want to examine the doctrines that make us different from other denominations and religions, namely, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in other tongues. Here are the questions that we need to answer: Is the experience of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost found in the Word of God? Did the believers in the New Testament speak in other tongues during this Baptism, or infilling? Does the scripture teach that this Baptism (infilling) is for believers today?
The Baptism in the Holy Ghost: Classical Pentecostals believe that all believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian 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 (Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth (Acts 8:12-17; 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9). With the baptism in the Holy Ghost come such experiences as an overflowing fullness of the Spirit (John 7:37-39; Acts 4:8), a deepened reverence for God (Acts 2:43; Hebrews 12:28), an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work (Acts 2:42), and a more active love for Christ, for His Word, and for the lost (Mark 16:20).
We believe that all believers must be filled with the Holy Ghost. We do not believe that we have the option to reject the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. For the scripture commands, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)”. We do not teach that the Baptism in the Holy Ghost is redemptive but we do teach that this baptism is commanded and must be entered into willingly by each believer.
The baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance (Mark 16: 17, John 15:26, Acts 2:4, 10: 44-46, 19: 1-7). The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-10, 28), but different in purpose and use.
We believe that all who are filled with the Holy Ghost will speak in other tongues. These tongues are as “the Spirit giveth the utterance” and cannot be taught by man.
Is our doctrine of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost scriptural? Is it found in the pages of the Word of God? Let look and see what the Word of God says.
Biblical Evidence for Initial Evidence
(Note: This section is also a part of my article “Be Filled with the Spirit”)
How can I know that I have been filled with the Spirit? How can I know that I have been baptized in the Holy Ghost? God has given a scriptural method in the New Testament that was consistent and normal and that evidence is still viable today.
I want to look at the New Testament pattern of the “infilling” of the Holy Ghost as found in the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts is the first record of the exploits of the Church. All of the events occurring in this book are a part of the age of grace that you and I are now a part of. The Book of Acts has not stopped but is still ongoing today!
The Book of Acts begins with the early disciples having obeyed the command of Jesus to tarry in Jerusalem until endued with the promised outpouring of power. Over and over in His ministry, Jesus made it clear that He was going to equip His followers so they could do what He had called them to do.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Jesus made it clear to His disciples the He had to leave them, but after doing so He would send the Holy Ghost back to earth as their comforter. First the physical then the spiritual. The physical form of Adam was formed first from the dust of the ground then God breathed the spiritual into him and made him a living soul. This progression was maintained in Christ first coming in the flesh, leaving, and then sending back the Holy Ghost. While on earth the devil had to deal with Christ in one location but now the Holy Ghost is everywhere that the Church is.
Jesus' final words before He left this earth concerned the importance of the Church being equipped with the "Power" of the Holy Ghost(Acts 1:8) and Jesus commanded his disciples to tarry "until they were endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). This is what the disciples did and on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was outpoured. The initial evidence of this occurrence was speaking in other tongues.
Just as Jesus had promised, the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, had arrived. The first outpouring of the Holy Ghost is recoded in Acts chapter two.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
There were several supernatural evidences that occurred in this initial outpouring, but as you will see in further study, there is only one that is associated with all the other outpourings of the Holy Ghost found in scripture.
In the first outpouring there was: 1) “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind” 2) “cloven tongues like as of fire” and 3) speaking “with other tongues”. In all subsequent outpourings of the Holy Ghost you will not find the sound of a rushing wind or visible flames over the heads of the seekers, but you will find speaking in other tongues. It is not to say that those events cannot take place but they are not the prescribed Biblical evidence – speaking in unknown tongues is. As a matter of fact, tongues are not only endorsed in the Book of Acts but in the writings of the Apostle Paul. My friends, speaking in other tongues is Biblical, and whether you like it or not, is a part of the New Testament Church.
The word used in Acts chapter two for “Tongues” is the Greek word “Glossa” and it is interpreted correctly in the King James Version Bible as “Tongues”. It is not “Ecstatic Speech” as some theologians have tried to suggest but it was tongues/languages that had been previously unknown to the speakers. This is bore out by the response of those that witnessed this supernatural event.
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
If this would have been “Ecstatic Speech” or the enthusiastic babbling of a group of people caught up in a religious frenzy then there would not have been this response from the onlookers. Saying this brings up the other claim by some that speaking in unknown tongues was a real event but it was only for that one time in history to help spread the Gospel to the crowd that was present. The Word of God alone dismisses such claims for twenty five years after Pentecost in a closed meeting of twelve men at the Church at Ephesus the Holy Ghost is poured out:
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
7 And all the men were about twelve.
If speaking in unknown tongues was purely for missionary service then God would not have bothered to produce this type of an experience in a group of likeminded individuals. No! The pattern had been set at Pentecost and it continues in each case either by direct mention or implication. Before I get too far ahead of myself we need to go back to the chronological order as found in the Book of Acts.
The next mention of group of individuals being filled with the Holy Ghost is in a gathering of the original believers not long after Pentecost. This group was made up of many, if not all, of those that had originally experienced the first filling in Acts chapter two and no mention of tongues need be mentioned as this is a re-filling.
Acts 8:14-17 (KJV)
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
After reading this you may be thinking, “It says they received the Holy Ghost but tongues is not mentioned”. You are correct. This passage does not mention speaking in unknown tongues but something visible did happen. Look at the next verses that follow.
Acts 8:18-19 (KJV)
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
There was a man named Simon present that watched as Peter and John laid hands on the Samaritans. The Bible says he “Saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given”. There was some type of visible, tangible, manifestation that occurred to make a carnal man like Simon understand that something supernatural had occurred. What was it? In this particular passage we are not told. But if we follow the New Testament pattern we must assume that what he saw was speaking in unknown tongues. Why would God venture beyond what he had already established as evidence? The Apostles understood this evidence and so did some sinners. Oh, it could have been a rushing mighty wind, or tongues of fire sitting on top of the heads of the Samaritans but in no other passage in the Bible do we see those two phenomenon repeated. What we do see repeated is speaking in tongues. Brothers and Sisters, I submit to you that unknown tongues is what Simon saw that day in Samaria. Even Paul said this about unbelievers witnessing the Holy Ghost being manifested:
1 Corinthians 14:22 (KJV)
Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not:
In this case tongues were most definitely used as a sign to the unbelieving Simon that something supernatural had taken place.
Next we come to the conversion of the Apostle Paul.
Acts 9:17-18 (KJV)
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 thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
The question is this: Did the Apostle Paul speak in tongues when he was filled with the Holy Ghost? The historical account in the Book of Acts is very brief and no detailed explanation is offered. Fortunately for us the Apostle left us with other writings that shed light on his experience in the Holy Ghost.
1 Corinthians 14:18
I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
1 Corinthians 13:1
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
The Apostle Paul makes it clear in these scriptures and many others that he was a part of the tongue-speaking experience. He uses the same language that is found in the book of Acts to describe his experience, “I speak with tongues more than ye all”, and no, Paul is not referring to being fluent in several foreign languages, for the context of his statements are about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Ghost. Paul mentions “Tongues” at least twenty five times in his Epistles. This was an important subject to the great Apostle and should be to us as well.
The next time we read about the Holy Ghost being poured out on a group of new believers is found in Acts chapter ten. This passage is very important to us because this is the first time that Gentiles were filled with the Holy Ghost.
Acts 10:44-47 (KJV)
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 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.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
Again we see the same pattern repeated. This time the account clearly states that the Gentile believers spoke in tongues. The Jews that were traveling with Peter were astonished that God was pouring out His Spirit upon the Gentiles in the exact same manner as he had been doing upon them. What was the visible evidence that convinced these Jewish believers that God was pouring out his Spirit upon the Gentiles? It is found in verse forty-six, “For they heard them speak with tongues”. The statement alone in verse forty-six makes it clear that tongues were the expected sign to look for when a person was baptized in the Holy Ghost. The New Testament Church had their benchmark to compare everything to and this is exactly what they did: “which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Folks, it cannot get much clearer than that.
When Peter was asked to explain what happened at the gentile home of Cornelius he replied with this statement:
Acts 11:15 (KJV)
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
Peter tells the Church at Jerusalem that God was continuing what He had started in the beginning. God was pouring out upon the Gentiles what he had at first poured only upon the Jews. Speaking in unknown tongues was the irrefutable evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost. Peter reaffirmed this position again in Chapter fifteen at the council in Jerusalem with these words:
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
It is important to note that Peter recognizes that the pattern was established in Acts chapter two at the Upper Room and that the early Church continued to look back on that experience to judge all subsequent baptisms in the Spirit. This reinforces speaking in other tongues as the normative evidence expected in every Spirit baptism. Evidence such as this would stand up in any court!
Now we come back to Acts chapter nineteen and the Church at Ephesus. Remember that I stated earlier that this occurred some twenty-five years after the initial outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Again speaking in other tongues is the evidence associated with the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. Speaking in tongues is not an aberration, as some would have us to believe, but it is the normal experience of each person that is baptized in the Holy Ghost.
I have covered all of this in a previous article entitled “Be Filled with the Spirit”. The fact of the matter is this: Pentecostalism is clearly scriptural, Biblical, and sound doctrine. Only the Word of God can judge something to “Of the Devil” and in this case, the Word of God clearly backs up Pentecostalism.
I had a Baptist woman ask me once, “Where did all you Pentecostals get that speaking in tongues stuff from?” My answer to her was, “In your Bible”. Folks, we did not invent “Speaking in Tongues”. We did not invent “Lifting up holy hands” in worship. We did not invent clapping hands, singing, shouting, or even “dancing before the Lord” – all of these things come from the Word of God. Pentecostal people seek to follow what the Word of God teaches and we do not ignore and avoid certain scriptures that do not fit our doctrine. We build what we believe on all of the scripture and not just one portion.
In conclusion, I want to make it clear that Pentecostalism is NOT of the devil. There may be false teachers in our midst that are and false movements that claim to be Pentecostal that are, but Pentecostalism that is based on the Word of God is very much “Of God”.