SHOULD A BAPTIST CHURCH EMBRACE PENTECOSTALISM?
SHOULD A BAPTIST CHURCH EMBRACE PENTECOSTALISM?
Most of us were first shocked and then deeply saddened a few years ago when James Robinson, a Southern Baptist evangelist, identified himself as Pentecostal in doctrine. Many churches have been troubled by Pentecostalism in recent years. It is now a serious-problem which can no longer be avoided.
Right now there are churches in almost every country which call themselves Baptists on the sign out front who, nevertheless, arc not Baptists, but in reality are Pentecostal churches. Such churches are dishonest because they call themselves Baptists when they are not Baptists and because they are stealing real estate and physical property for which Baptists over the years have labored and paid.
Rather than making this an exposé of the churches that are involved in this error, I believe it would be more profitable for us to consider four questions concerning Pentecostalism. My prayer is that through considering these questions and the answers of God’s Word to these questions the Lord will effectually deal with this matter as He sees fit.
WHAT IS PENTECOSTALISM?
Pentecostalism is the belief that the miraculous gifts or signs which the Lord gave to the Apostles and others in the early churches have not ceased, but are still available and are still being exercised by today’s Christians. Pentecostalism claims that God still gives these miraculous gifts to men today. Lists of these gifts can be found in Mark 16:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-11.
Mark 16:17-18. „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 shall drink any deadly thing; it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
1 Corinthians 12:8-11. „For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit, to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit dividing to every man severally as he will.”
The Greek word which our English Bible translates as gifts is the word charismata. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:4, „Now there are diversities of gifts (Greek – charismata), but the same Spirit.” Pentecostalism is sometimes referred to as the charismatic movement because of its emphasis on the supposed continuation today of these miraculous charismata or gifts.
There are two types of gifts mentioned in the New Testament and it is very important that we recognize the distinction between the two. There are what some have chosen to call the ordinary gifts and there are the extraordinary gifts.
Some of the gifts we call ordinary because they are gifts that God ordinarily bestows on His children in all ages. These are gifts such as faith, hope and charity which Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13:13; and evangelists, pastors and teachers mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. The purpose of these ordinary gifts which are given to the churches in all ages is to edify or build up the saints of God in holiness and comfort.
God’s extraordinary gifts are called this in contrast to those He ordinarily gives in all ages. They are ordinarily not given, but rather were given on extraordinary occasions. These extraordinary gifts were supernatural gifts that enabled their possessors to perform supernatural deeds. Usually when Pentecostals today speak of the gifts or the charismata, they are speaking of these extraordinary gifts, that is, healing, miracles, tongues, direct revelations from God, casting out demons and even handling snakes and drinking poison.
Pentecostalism teaches that these miraculous gifts, these charismata, are still available to Christians today. With Baptists the question is not „Does God work miracles today?” The question is „Do men receive the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit today?” „Do men perform miracles, speak in tongues, receive special direct revelations from God, cast out demons, or raise the dead today?”
One other important thing we must notice in defining Pentecostalism and that is its doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism. Pentecostals teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate work of grace from salvation and the evidence of Spirit baptism is speaking in tongues or exercising one or more of the other extraordinary gifts. They are called Pentecostals because they believe that the miracles of Pentecost, especially speaking in tongues, can be repeated today.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH PENTECOSTALISM?
We could mention many things that are wrong with Pentecostalism. We could mention the divisiveness it seems to bring in a church. We could mention the circus-like atmosphere it creates in the worship services. But here we want to look at only four of the outstanding errors of this heresy of Pentecostalism.
First Pentecostalism seeks to apply to our day what belonged only to the apostles and their day. Pentecostals teach that those extraordinary gifts given by the Lord to the apostles and others in New Testament times are intended for Christians in every age.
The purpose of the charismatic gifts was to authenticate the Apostles and their message in the early days of Christianity due to the fact that the New Testament had not yet been completed. God gave the Apostles some special gifts by which the Apostles and their message were accredited or authenticated as being of God. In New Testament times God spoke by direct revelations to His Apostles and Prophets. Signs were needed to confirm that their messages were actually from God.
Paul calls these gifts the signs of an apostle. In 2 Corinthians 10-13 Paul is defending his authority as an apostle against some who evidently were claiming that he was not a true apostle. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says, „Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” Paul is saying here, „I evidenced to you my call as an apostle by such signs as were sufficient to prove to you that I am a true apostle from God.” Paul says that these signs and miracles were proof that he and his message were from God, that they authenticated his ministry as an apostle.
Now that the Apostles have passed from the scene and the Gospel has been introduced to the world and the New Testament Canon has been completed, those special sign gifts have passed away. Hebrew 2:3-4 is a clear demonstration that these special gifts have passed away. ” How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed (past tense) unto us (readers) by them (the Apostles) that heard him; God also bearing them (the Apostles, not us, them) witness, both with signs and wonders, and with diverse miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost according to his will.”
What’s wrong with Pentecostalism? Secondly, Pentecostalism gives greater emphasis to the Holy Spirit than to the Lord Jesus Christ. The ultimate experience for Pentecostals is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and they speak much of being filled with the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit and of the blessings of the Spirit-filled life and they urge men to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This emphasis is contrary to what the Bible teaches about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
According to the Lord Jesus in John 16:13-14, the Holy Spirit doesn’t seek to make men Spirit conscious. He makes them Christ conscious. ” Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
The chief function of the Holy Spirit of God is to glorify Christ and not Himself. A Spirit-filled man speaks of Christ, he glorifies Christ, he draws attention to Christ, he testifies to Christ that in all the things Christ may have the preeminence.
In Acts 1:8 the risen Lord tells us the purpose of His sending the Holy Spirit when He says: „But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” At Pentecost when Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit what did he preach about? Not the wonderful blessings of the Spirit-filled life! Whom did he glorify? Not the Holy Spirit. When Peter was tilled with the Spirit at Pentecost he preached Christ! Spirit-filled people are occupied with Christ!
Now how do we recognize the Holy Spirit’s presence in our churches today if the extraordinary or charismatic gifts passed away? The Holy Spirit today takes the things of Christ and shows them to men. He glorifies Christ and when the Holy Spirit fills men, they praise and they glorify Christ.
ONCE IT WAS THE BLESSING, NOW IT IS THE LORD
ONCE IT WAS THE FEELING, NOW IT IS HIS WORD
ONCE HIS GIFTS I WANTED, NOW THE GIVER OWN
ONCE I SOUGHT FOR HEALING, NOW FOR CHRIST ALONE.
Is Christ the center of your life? He is if you are a Spirit-tilled man!
A third thing wrong with Pentecostalism is that Pentecostalism often places human experience above the written Word of God. For Pentecostals the way to find the truth is to appeal to oneself, to look within, to look at ones own experience. „I know that it is from God because it feels so good” or „it feels so right” they often say.
The standard for determining the truth in religion must be the Bible, the written word of God, rather than our experiences or those of others. God says in Isaiah 8:20: „To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”. Brother, this is the standard, this is the rule by which the truth of all things must be measured; the written word of God.
Pentecostals often answer when their claims are questioned, „You don’t know because you don’t know how I feel! You never experienced what I have experienced!” Maybe, but what does the Book say? Many will say, „I know that the gifts are for today because I have experienced them.” But if an experience doesn’t measure up to the written Word of God, that experience didn’t come from God! Any experience that is not in harmony with the written Word of God is not of the Lord no matter how spectacular or unusual or impressive it might be.
All of our experiences should be founded on and measured by the solid rock of God’s Word. A person must never trust his own experience as the standard for determining truth because our feelings change and different people have different feelings about every matter.
HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION, YE SAINTS OF THE LORD,
IS LAID FOR YOUR FAITH IN HIS EXCELLENT WORD!
WHAT MORE CAN HE SAY THAN YOU HE HATH SAID,
YOU WHO UNTO JESUS FOR REFUGE HAVE FLED?
A fourth thing wrong with Pentecostalism is that Pentecostalism assembles the church around something other than the Word of God. A true church of Jesus Christ assembles together around the pulpit. It comes together for the preaching of the Word of God. Pentecostalism today assembles the church around special revelations and dreams and speaking in tongues and experiences rather than the preaching of the Word of God.
More time and attention is dedicated to healing and sharing experiences than to the declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Their fellowship is based on similar experiences rather than on Jesus Christ in the written Word. Their fellowship is not in the doctrine of God, but in the gifts and in the experiences of those gifts. Pentecostals can have fellowship with the most extreme liberals and apostates who deny the fundamentals of the faith and also with fundamentalists and Roman Catholics, just as long as they have experienced Holy Spirit baptism.
Pentecostalism emphasizes experience over doctrine. The thing that really counts with Pentecostals is the experience of Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues. The thing to be sought after and gloried in is not the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, but the experience of the gifts.
WHAT ARE SOME TELLTALE MANIFESTATIONS OF PENTECOSTALISM IN OUR CHURCHES TODAY?
There are several popular terms and practices the presence of which in a church may well he danger signals by which the influence of and tendency toward Pentecostal error may be detected.
First there is use of the terms „God told me” and „the Lord spoke to me” implying that God speaks today apart from His written Word. Pentecostalism teaches that God does give special, direct revelations to people today. He gives the gift of prophecy. Well, God does speak to men and women today, but never does He do so apart from His written Word!
Another telltale manifestation of Pentecostalism in a person or church is the practice of holding up one or both hands during prayer or singing or preaching in a worship service. I have observed through the years that this practice goes along with Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues.
A third manifestation of Pentecostal tendencies is the use of certain types of music in a church. As a matter of fact, music is often the means of introducing Pentecostalism into a church in the first place. Pentecostal music glorifies the Holy Spirit or draws attention to Him more than to Christ. For example:
„THERE’S A SWEET, SWEET SPIRIT IN THIS PLACE,
AND I KNOW THAT IT’S THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD.
. . . SWEET HOLY SPIRIT, SWEET HEAVENLY DOVE,
STAY RIGHT HERE WITH US, FILLING US WITH YOUR LOVE . . .”
Besides being effeminate, this song wrongly centers attention in the Holy Spirit rather than in Christ. Pentecostals use music whose message and music centers in man’s feelings and experiences rather than God and His glory.
A fourth manifestation of the tendency toward Pentecostalism is the use of certain code words and sentences such as „CHURCH ON THE ROCK”. Many Assembly of God churches have this terra written on the sign out front. Some who do not openly acknowledge their Pentecostalism also have this term on their signs so that the initiated can identify them.
A fifth manifestation of tendencies toward Pentecostalism is claiming the power to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. Casting out demons is one of the extraordinary gifts listed in Mark 16. It is a sign of an apostle and as we have seen these extraordinary gifts have passed away with the Apostles.
A sixth manifestation of tendencies toward Pentecostalism is praying for God to send another Pentecost. Brother, we don’t need mother Pentecost! At Pentecost the Lord poured out His Spirit on His church, and we still have the same Spirit indwelling the churches today. What we need today is to repent of our apathy and unconcern and get busy about the business of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every creature.
WHAT ARE SOME EFFECTIVE ANTIDOTES AGAINST PENTECOSTALISM IN OUR CHURCHES?
An antidote is a remedy to counteract the effects of poison. What are some antidotes, some remedies by which we can counteract the poison of Pentecostalism in our churches? What are some positive things we can do to protect ourselves and our churches from Pentecostal error?
One thing that we must do is carefully maintain a God centered theology. Pentecostal theology centers in man and his Spiritual experience. „I’ve never felt so good,” they often say in discussing their religion. Personal feeling and human experience are more important than Christ in their theology. Pentecostalism is egocentric rather than Theocentric.
Biblical theology centers in God and His Christ, and one of the most important and effective antidotes against the poison of Pentecostalism is maintaining a God-centered theology. Today’s preachers would do well to emulate Paul in what he says in 2 Corinthian 4:5, „For we preach not our ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.”
There is a conspicuous absence of Pentecostal error in churches which have a God-centered theology and this is no accident. The theology of God’s sovereign grace is the opposite and antithesis of the man-centered theology of Pentecostalism. Brother, when God is rightly exalted and man is therefore abased, you won’t have Pentecostalism in your church!
Second, to protect our churches from Pentecostalism we must encourage proper reverence for God and His majesty. Modern Pentecostalism has lost the sense of majesty, the dignity, the grandeur, the greatness, the awesomeness of God. There is no real reverence in their worship. Rather there is shouting and laughing and running and clapping and religious rock and tongues and all kinds of experiences and the whole charismatic circus.
The circus atmosphere in many of our churches today does not reflect that we have any Scriptural concept of the majesty of Almighty God. When a church gets a right view of God, a Biblical view of God, the people immediately cease from all such shenanigans and they will prostrate themselves instead in the dirt at the feet of the Awful Sovereign of the universe! They worship in true reverence and dignity in awe of the infinite majesty of God. They know something about the meaning of Habakkuk 2:20, „. . . the Lord is in his holy temple; Let all the earth keep silence before him.”
A third antidote against Pentecostalism in our churches is that we must give cautious and prayerful consideration to the music that we use. Pentecostalism marches itself right into some otherwise sound churches today by means of the so-called „gospel” music that is used in their services.
Music is so powerful a medium of ideas that it can bring Pentecostalism into a church even when that church at first stands solidly against it. Connected to the right melodies, the message of the music can he hung in people’s minds for years to come. Radio and television advertisers learned this long ago with their beer jingles.
The message that much of this contemporary music carries today is a Pentecostal message. It is a shallow, sentimental, sensual, irreverent, and cheap view of God and centers in man and his experiences rather than in God and His glory. The word „I” is exceedingly prominent in this music. Music that tends to Pentecostalism is egocentric rather than Christocentric.
Music that is pleasing to God is Theocentric. It centers in God and His Christ, worshipping Him and praising Him and adoring Him and thanking Him. Theocentric music makes up the psalms and hymns and Spiritual songs of which Paul speaks in Colossians 3:16.
One of the best examples of godly, Spiritual, Theocentric church music to be found today is in the 1956 „Baptist Hymnal” where we find such hymns as: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, COME THOU ALMIGHTY KING HELP US THY NAME TO SING, O WORSHIP THE KING ALL GLORIOUS ABOVE, TO GOD BE THE GLORY GREAT THINGS HE HATH DONE, GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS O GOD MY FATHER and GUIDE ME O THOU GREAT JEHOVAH!
A fourth antidote against Pentecostalism is we must discourage our people from watching the Pentecostal preachers on religious television. Great numbers of our people invite Assembly of God and other Pentecostal preachers into their homes every day and listen to their messages and music. It’s no wonder our churches are so infected with Pentecostalism!
Historically God’s people of every age have rejected Pentecostalism in whatever form it has arisen. God’s people in every age have rejected the extraordinary gifts recognizing that they are not given in this present age.
The churches in the second century rejected Montanism with its claims of the gift’s of prophecy and speaking in languages and its women preachers. None of our Baptist forefathers from the time of Christ to the present have claimed the extraordinary gifts. The Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s was the greatest revival of Christianity in all history and none of the reformers ever exercised or even claimed these extraordinary gifts. None of them ever healed or worked miracles or spoke in tongues. The churches in the mid 17th century were greatly troubled by and then rejected the Quaker brand of Pentecostalism which claimed direct revelation from God through the so-called „inner light” in every man.
In the latter part of the 20th century God’s churches were again plagued by an outbreak of Pentecostalism or NeoPentecostalism as some call it when it occurs within the mainline denominations. May God give us the grace and the knowledge of His Word and the strength of character and the honesty to stand against this great error!
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Laurence Anson Justice holds degrees from Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has pastured churches in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Alabama and Illinois and served as Chaplain in the medium security state prison at Granite; Oklahoma. He is presently pastor of the Victory Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. Born in 1941 al Norman, Oklahoma he is married to the former Lyndy Eddy from Searcy, Arkansas, and the father of three children, His father, Anson Justice, has been a Baptist preacher in Oklahoma for over sixty years. His other publications include: Little Alcatraz, Music in the Church, Should A Baptist Church Have Elders, Should A Baptist Church Recognize Alien Baptism, Should A Baptist Church Ordain Women Deacons, Should A Baptist Church Practice Democratic Church Government and Are Baptists Reformed?