What is a Pentecostal? This is a question that I was asked just recently. Is it part of being a denomination such as the United Pentecostal Church or is just a written statement of faith? This is an honest question and many people, even those in Pentecostal churches are not quite sure what a Pentecostal really is.
While there are some things that I feel a Pentecostal believer should be such as Arminianist and Egalitarianism, there are some who do not hold these views. Another very important view would the limited eternal security. (There is no biblical reason for “once saved always saved.”) Personally, I openly question any one claiming to be Pentecostal that hold to Calvinism, Complementarianism and Unlimited Eternal Security.
There is also some that believe in order to be a true Pentecostal, you have to hold to all sixteen fundamental truths. While I do hold to them (with a few minor exceptions), I do not believe you have to hold to them completely. For example, I receive and welcome our Oneness brothers even if I disagree with them.
So what does make one a classic Pentecostal? Let’s answer that. I believe there are four realities that makes us one and if any of these are not in place, the person can’t really consider themselves to be a classic Pentecostal.
There is no way around this. If they are a classic Pentecostal, they believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for today and is for everyone. We do not hold it is just for the Apostles of the first century and we do not hold that it is just for the leaders of ministry. They believe everyone can be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
While there is debate if the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is subsequence or not; (Azusa Report hold that is it a second work of grace) all classic Pentecostals believe that is important and for every believer. There is no excuse for a believer not desiring the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)
Four times in four verses, we are told that everyone present was Baptized in the Holy Spirit at the Day of Pentecost. It was not just the Apostles. It was not just the future deacons. It was every man, woman and child.
Most people, especially charismatics believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit for the believer but question the initial physical evidence. Make no mistake about it: in order to be a classic Pentecostal, you must believe that the initial physical evidence in praying in unknown tongues. If you do not believe this is the evidence, you are not Pentecostal.
In five accounts in Acts, three of them directly mention tongues connected with being baptized in the Holy Spirit. The other two of them strongly suggest it. It is only reasonable to believe that the apostolic faith of the first century included that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of praying in tongues.
The Greek word, apophthengomai, is used at the end of Acts 2:4 and later in 2:14 and it means to “to give inspired utterance.” In other words, the tongues that we pray in as Spirit baptized believers give inspired or prophetic utterance to our witness to the world. As a side note, this verb in Greek is hardly used in the New Testament.
Something about Acts 2 that is interesting is that Peter stated that “they will prophesy” when quoting the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28). There seems to be a connection the Apostles gave between praying in tongues and prophetic ministry. We see them together later when the revival in Ephesus breaks out.
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 in the 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. (Acts 19:4-7)
The next thing that a classic Pentecostal must believe is that divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the Atonement, and is the privilege of all believers. In other words, healing is not secondary to the gospel or a benefit of it but is critical to the gospel itself. You can not preach the gospel of Jesus without signs, wonders and miracles confirming the message.
In one case, found in Mark 2, the healing power of Jesus was directly and intimately connected to the power to forgive sins. The gospel has always has the connection of physical healing and spiritual deliverance as one single message. Miracles is what drew the masses to the Lord to hear the message. The same model is true today in our generation.
John the Baptist sent his followers to Jesus to ask if He was the Messiah or if they should look for another. It is interesting because John himself was the one that declared his cousin was, in fact, the Messiah. What we see here is a prophet in doubt asking if the Lord is really the Anointed One. The response of Jesus is very telling and important to understand biblical gospel ministry,
Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)
The fourth belief that a classic Pentecostal must hold that has become popular to question is the end time harvest and rapture. If you do not believe in the Pre-Tribulation catching up of the saints than you are not a classic Pentecostal. The same is true if you believe in doom and gloom, you are not one either.
The faithful in the apostolic age believed the they would be caught up to be with the Lord quickly and it was imminent. They lived with expectation that they would see the dead in Christ rise first and they would follow them up into the glory. There is no reason to believe they assumed they would be left to experience the fall of the Holy City in 70 AD. In my view, they had no belief they would go through “the tribulation.”
At least twice, Paul pointed in his letters that he believed he would be alive when the Lord came to catch up the saints.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
However, there is one thing standing between us and the catching up of the saints. That is the great end time harvest of souls. The gospel of the Kingdom must be preached to all people groups then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14) In other words, classic Pentecostals believe that the great commission is directly tied to the catching up of the saints or “the rapture.” The eschatology of a classic Pentecostal is one of revival.
While there are other things that make us who we are, these four issues are our cardinal doctrines and they are not open to debate. If you do not believe them, you are loved but not a Pentecostal. We love our Charismatic friends too!
Some might point out this is mostly doctrine in the article. I agree. Doctrine matters. We must have Apostolic doctrine because of that what we believe is what we will experience. The idea that we are not to be biblical solid and theologically sound is nonsense.
In the coming days, months and years; people will be lead astray and walk away from the faith because of a lack of doctrine. Itching ears will be led into deception without a solid grasp of theology and doctrine. It is concerning how few Pentecostals know “this is what I believe.” In fact, it is downright alarming.
You can not have apostolic faith without apostolic doctrine. While there is debate of what that exactly means; the reality is we will not stand in the fact of deception in coming years without biblical doctrine based in the New Testament.
Peter Vandever is a Pentecostal Evangelist to the nations and a prophetic voice to the American Pentecostal movement. He is currently based in Kansas City, Missouri.