The Pentecostal/Charismatic Teachings on the Holy Spirit

Wikis > The Pentecostal/Charismatic Teachings on the Holy Spirit
The Pentecostal and Charismatic branches of Christianity teach that there is a subsequent (after already having been born again and having the indwelling Spirit) experience with the Holy Spirit that brings improvement to a Christian’s life. This experience is called by a variety of names, but usually is just called the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”. These groups claim that they have “rediscovered” a truth that was present in the apostolic period but was then lost until recently. More accurately they teach that God restored a truth to the Church that had been lost since apostolic days.

This “restoration of lost truth” view of Church history would cite many other truths that have been “restored” by God, for example, justification by faith, adult conversion and believers’ water baptism. Although initially discovered through prayer and subjective experience, their teaching is that the truth about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was in the Bible all the time but that blinded eyes could not see it. Part of “restoration” is God revealing obvious but “hidden” biblical truths (like justification by faith) as history moves forward.

So, let us examine their claim. A good starting point is the preaching of John the baptist: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Next we note these quotes of Jesus, recorded in Acts Chapter 1: “I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. ‘This’, He said, ‘is what you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”… “You will receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you will be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth”.

Two features in the above quotes are part of the Pentecostal teaching: first, “wait in Jerusalem” and second “You will receive power”. One of the Pentecostal teachings is that a person must “wait on the Lord” as part of seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit (the Charismatic version minimizes seeking and waiting and teaches that a person need only ask for the filling of the Spirit). This waiting period is marked by the person “devoting themselves to prayer.”  Another Pentecostal (and Charismatic) teaching is that the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit allows a Christian to receive power and operate in the gifts of the Spirit. The Pentecostal/Charismatic formulation of operating in the gifts of the Spirit is that such operations will be supernatural and powerful.

A description of the supernatural nature of the gifts of the Spirit is beyond this encyclopedia. Here is one example that hopefully will give the flavor of the claims: A man was visiting a Pentecostal church and responded to an invitation to receive prayer after the service. No one at the church had ever met this man before and they didn’t know anything about him. His appearance and dress were normal and didn’t suggest anything. The pastor prayed with the man and began with a silent period to hear what the Holy Spirit might be saying. The pastor “saw” a vision of a gun sitting in the corner of a closet and realized inwardly that the man was contemplating suicide. The pastor described the gun in detail and asked the man if that meant anything to him. The man broke down and wept and said that he was going to use that very gun to kill himself. The pastor declared the truth of the Gospel to the man and the man came to faith; was changed greatly and has been a strong Christian since then.

The events that were predicted by Jesus were evidently fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts chapter 2: “When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech”.  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitudes came together, and were confounded, because every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying to each another, ‘Behold, aren’t these which speak Galilaeans? And how is it that we each hear in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  (Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians), we hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God’. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, ‘What does this mean?’ Others mocked saying, ‘These men are full of new wine’. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, ‘You men of Judaea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day’”

Here then are two more Pentecostal/Charismatic teaching points: Those that are baptized in the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues, and those that receive this experience will manifest physical and emotional changes, and will, in fact sometimes appear drunk on alcohol. Of course, they are “not drunk on wine, but filled with the Spirit”. Now, note that this event occurred subsequent to an earlier event recorded in John 20:19-21: On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’”  

Now, the Pentecostal/Charismatic view is that the apostles had already received The Holy Spirit (quoted above in John 20) but were then subsequently filled with the Holy Spirit and power. This, they say, demonstrates the truth that a person can receive the Spirit at conversion and then later on be filled with the Spirit. They cite a great deal of further biblical evidence and a quick survey of the book of Acts will demonstrate their point:

Acts 8:9-15. Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”   

Acts 9:1-19. “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord? Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength”.  

Acts 19:1-7 “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”  “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized intothe name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.”   Because of the above examples (of experiences subsequent to conversion) those Christians who have experienced a filling of the Holy Spirit after they had already been Christians for some time believe that they have experienced a filling similar to that which the apostles experienced on the day of Pentecost. Thus “Pentecostals” teach that all Christians should seek this experience since it will improve their walk with God.

Furthermore, in terms of “hearing God” the Pentecostal/Charismatic view is that a person will be able to hear God better after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.   Variations on the Pentecostal/Charismatic theme exist. In the latter half of the 20th century movements sprang up that emphasized the gifts but minimized the necessity to have any subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit.  For example, John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Church taught that essentially anyone can be used in the exercise of the spiritual gifts, and can hear God supernaturally in ministry contexts. They don’t have to wait for a baptism in the Holy Spirit.  People just need to step out in faith and yield to their impressions. It should be noted though, that in a practical sense, during the height of the Vineyard movement, including in the Toronto renewal, that those people who experienced the power of these meetings often gained a personal inward new abilities to hear God and function more effectively in the operation of the spiritual gifts, whereas those that never visited these centers did not manifest any new power. This indicates that, as with the Pentecostal/Charismatic systems, a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit did occur.

So, whether you should wait and seek, or just ask, just step out in faith or visit anointed meetings, is your own individual decision. One thing seems safe to conclude: if you don’t have an ability to hear God supernaturally, and if you want more power to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then you should seek God’s answer for you, and you should persist in prayer until you find that answer.

The other branch of Christianity that believes in experiences with the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion are the Monastic systems.