There can be no doubt whatsoever that, within worldwide `Christendom', the religious phenomenon of the twentieth century is the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement. No other religious movement this century has enjoyed such universal and rapid growth, so that tens of millions of people around the world identify with it; and it continues to grow. Its supporters praise it as a worldwide "outpouring" of the Holy Spirit, a latter-day revival such as the world has never seen before, the most exciting and glorious period the Church has ever experienced since the first century. They claim that the Lord has restored the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church, that millions are speaking with new tongues as the Spirit gives them utterance, that the sick are being healed, the dead are being raised to life, and apostles and prophets are once again walking the earth. Their services are characterised by exuberant, prolonged singing, usually to the accompaniment of pianos, organs, guitars, drums, and various other instruments played by slick professionals; "speaking in tongues"; "slayings in the Spirit"; "prophecies"; "healings"; even dancing. From a few, frowned-upon churches and denominations in its early days, the movement has spread like wildfire, and today it is an important and ever-growing part of most of the Protestant denominations, and of the Roman Catholic institution. From massive auditoriums filled to capacity in the major cities of the world, to small and simple buildings in dirt-poor villages deep in Third World countries, the Pentecostal/Charismatic message is enthusiastically proclaimed.
But is this movement of God?
That is the great question, the question that demands an answer. For this movement to be a movement of the Spirit of God, it must be in accordance with the Word of God. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God" (1 Jn.4:1). Is the spirit of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement the Spirit of Christ? Every spirit must be tested; and how? by the Word of God. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa.8:20). The Scriptures must be searched to see whether these things are so (Acts 17:11). Men err when the Scriptures are neither known (Matt.22:29), nor followed.
There is an appeal made to the Scriptures, of course, by those within the movement. In truth, however, the Scriptures witness against the entire Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement; and the purpose of this article is to show that it is not in accordance with Scripture. Many other aspects of the movement could have been dealt with; but this article will concentrate on its doctrines of the so-called "baptism in the Spirit" and the spiritual gifts, in the light of God's Word.
Some might argue that there is a difference between the Pentecostal Movement, and the Charismatic Movement. Historically, the early disciples of the movement were known as Pentecostals, and the various denominations that developed from those early days are still known as Pentecostal denominations. When the movement spilled over into the older Protestant denominations, its followers were generally known as Neo-Pentecostals, or Charismatics. While there are a few minor variations, doctrinally, between classic Pentecostals and some branches of the Charismatic Movement, these are for the most part insignificant: the two are almost identical, so that today the two terms are often used interchangeably; and that is how they are used here.
Obviously, for reasons of space, the teachings analysed here are those on which there is broad agreement (but not necessarily universal unanimity) throughout the Pentecostal/Charismatic spectrum.
The "Baptism in the Holy Spirit"
Broadly, the distinctive emphasis of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement has to do with the Holy Spirit. It is taught that there is a "second experience" after conversion available to Christians: a "second blessing," a "second work of grace." Not every Christian has partaken of it, but every Christian should; and until he or she does, no Christian can walk in "the power" of the Spirit. This "second blessing" is known as "the baptism in the Holy Spirit." The reception of this "baptism" is accompanied by the "initial evidence" of speaking with other tongues (although not all Charismatics are agreed on this point). When the Christian receives the "baptism", he receives one or more of the miraculous spiritual gifts, such as the gift of tongues, or of prophecy, or of healing, or of miracles. These gifts are to be exercised, by the believer, in order to edify the Church and to confirm the preaching of the Gospel with signs and wonders.
The notion that those who have not received the Charismatic "baptism in the Holy Spirit" lack power to serve the Lord, or to live for him, is refuted both by history and (more importantly) by the Bible. It is refuted by history, in that the Pentecostal Movement in its present form is a very modern phenomenon, the Pentecostals themselves claiming that between the first century and the second half of the nineteenth century there was no great "outpouring of the Spirit" as there supposedly is now, only very limited and occasional phenomena; and yet men who certainly did not believe in any "second blessing", any "spiritual baptism", after conversion, and who certainly never spoke with unknown tongues or performed miracles of healing, were mightily used of God in centuries past. And it is refuted by the Bible, in such places as 2 Pet.1:3, which says, "According as his [the Lord’s] divine power hath given unto us [and “us” here means all believers, without exception–vs.1] all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue". Every Christian has all that is necessary for life and godliness!
Every New Testament believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him (1 Cor.6:19; Ezek.36:26,27). In fact, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom.8:9)! Every spiritual "son" has the Spirit of Christ dwelling within his heart (Gal.4:6). And as this is so, there is no need, nor indeed any scriptural justification, for seeking any "second experience"; every Christian is complete in Christ (Col.2:10)!
There are, of course, certain texts of Scripture which are appealed to, by Charismatics, in support of the notion that there is a spiritual baptism subsequent to salvation, which Christians must seek; and it is to these that we must now turn.