Pentecostalism

John Morris, Bangor

The whole structure of ' Pentecostal' doctrine is built on a fundamental error, namely, that believers receive the Holy Spirit as an experience distinct from conversion. The New Testament epistles plainly teach that the believer received the Holy Spirit at conversion, see Eph. 1. 12-14 (R.V.) ; 2 Cor. 1. 21, 22 ; Rom. 8. 9; 1 Cor. 6. 19, 20 ; 1 Cor. 12. 13. Gal. 3. 2, 3 teaches that the Galatians began in the Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit dwelt in them from conversion, cp. Rom, 8. 9. In Gal. 3. 24 to 4. 7 there are great distinctions drawn between Old Testament and New Testament believers. In that day minor children were not recognized as heirs until they became of age, when their father took them to the forum where they were officially put in the position of sons and recognized as heirs. In Gal. 3. 24 to 4. 7, Paul uses this to show that Old Testament saints before. Pentecost were like minor children, under a tutor (i.e. the law), but now New Testa­ment saints having received the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of adoption, are recognized by God as sons and heirs.

Filled with the Spirit. When John the Apostle wrote to the youngest believers in the family of God (1 John 2. 18-27), he reminded them that they had an unction (anointing, v. 27) from the Holy One. The anointing was not merely an influence from the Holy One, nor the work or effect of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit Himself, who indwelt them and taught them all things. Since the Holy Spirit is a divine person and personality is always in totality, He cannot be received in parts—a measure at conversion and more later on. The believer is filled with the Holy Spirit when he allows the Holy Spirit to have full control of him (Eph. 5. 18). Christians who are filled with the Spirit do not go off into some fanatical state, but bear the fruit of the Spirit, which includes self-control (Gal. 5. 22, 23), the Word of Christ dwells in them richly (Col. 3. 16), they have power in prayer (Eph. 6. 18), and boldness in testimony (Acts 4. 13). The New Testament provides no example of any believer claiming to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit-filled man walks humbly with God and never boasts of great spiritual attainment (Luke 1. 6, 41 and 67).

The Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The majority of those who teach that the Holy Spirit is re­ceived as an experience distinct from conversion, believe there is a distinction between the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit. When Paul speaks of the Spirit of Christ in Rom. 8. 9, it is not merely the disposition of Christ that is in view. The Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit, whom Christ has sent into the world and who indwells all be­lievers. This, of course, produces a Christ-like disposition in the one so indwelt. There are. titles for the Spirit which reveal Bis character, e.g. Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, Spirit of Grace ; other titles proclaim His work, e.g. Spirit of promise, sonship, glory ; others reveal His nature, e.g. Spirit of God, Spirit of your Father, Spirit of the Lord, Spirit of Christ. In Matt. 10. 19, 20 and Luke 12. 11, 12 the titles Spirit of your Father and the Holy Spirit are used interchangeably. Since there is no difference between the Spirit of the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is unscriptural to teach a difference between the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Surely Peter realized that the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Christ were one and the same person when he wrote 1 Pet. 1. 10-12 and 2 Pet. 1. 21.

Application of Scriptures to present-day believers. Many make the grave mistake today of applying to present-day believers portions of the Word of God which apply only to believers before Pentecost, e.g. Luke 24. 49 ; Acts 1. 4 and 8;   Luke II. 13.

The theory that believers receive the Holy Spirit as an experience distinct from conversion is a fundamental error built upon a misinterpretation of the historical events recorded in the Acts. The clear teaching of the epistles, as stated above, contradicts this theory. There is a pro­gression in the Acts, owing to the orderly formation of the mystical body of Christ. The personal advent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, was predetermined in the mind of God and the Word of God (see Lev. 23).    He did not come upon the disciples merely because they were all of one accord in one place, but to introduce a new dispensation when those believers were baptized into one body, at the very time God had appointed, i.e. fifty days after the resurrection of Christ. This event, accompanied by the appearance of cloven tongues like as of fire, was the experience of those who were Jews. After this any Jew believing in the gospel received the Holy Spirit at conversion (Acts 2. 38 and 5. 32). Acts 9. 17, refers to the filling of the Spirit. In Acts 8 the Holy Spirit moved outside the Jewish circle and Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. The Jews looked upon the Samaritans as a mongrel people with a mongrel religion. Both Jews and Samaritans claimed to be God's chosen people and there was always bitter rivalry between them. God gave the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans when the Apostles laid hands upon them, demonstrating there was no schism in the body—not two bodies but one. After Acts 8 any Samaritan believing the gospel would receive the Holy Spirit at conversion. Thereafter, any Jew, Samaritan or Gentile on repenting and believing the gospel would receive the Holy Spirit, as taught by all the New Testament epistles which refer to the subject.

One other instance requires explanation, that recorded in Acts 19. These disciples, like Apollos (Acts 18. 25), knew only the baptism of John, which did not make them disciples of Jesus. John's baptism was a preparatory baptism, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. It was necessary for them to hear the gospel preached with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven to receive the gift of the Spirit. This little group were definitely disciples of John until Paul preached the full-orbed gospel message (Acts 19. 4). They were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. Christian baptism looks back to the cross and the resurrection of Christ. Eph. 1. 12-14 (R.V.) makes it clear that they received the Holy Spirit upon believing.

' Tarrying ' for the Spirit, and ' Tongues.' There is no suggestion in the Epistles or elsewhere that present-day believers should tarry for the Spirit or ' seek their baptism in the Spirit.' The teaching of 1 Cor. 12. 13 (R.V.) is that all believers are baptized in the Spirit and have been made to drink of the one Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost the believers did not act in a fanatical manner as many do in modern ' tarrying' meet­ings. Each language spoken was understood by some of the Jews of the dispersion present (Acts 2. 6-11), and the disciples did not utter unintelligible syllables. The Palestine Jews, not knowing the languages spoken, accused the disciples of being full of new wine, that being the only explanation they could offer.

A careful consideration of Acts 2. 1-12 will show that the cloven tongues were the sign of the descent and gift of the Spirit, and it was when the multitude heard and came together that the apostles spoke in tongues. The Jews who repented on the Day of Pentecost, and the Gentiles (Acts 10), received the Holy Spirit when they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 11. 17). A new dispensation is ushered in with signs both outward and impressive, and Pentecost was no exception.

The gift of prophecy was exercised in the early churches. A prophet was one sent from God to speak for God, whether dealing with the past, present or future. He came with a message communicated to him by direct revelation from God. The gift of prophecy was not given as a permanent endowment of the Church, but like other gifts was bestowed for a specific and temporary purpose. It was used in the churches when they needed edification and instruction otherwise denied to them. When the Canon of Scripture was completed, the faith in its entirety, once for all delivered to the saints, the gift of prophecy was reduced to inactivity. In Eph. 3. 1-6, Paul speaks about a mystery God had revealed not only to him, but to others who were Apostles and Prophets. Before the Ephesians received this letter, it was necessary for apostles and prophets to impart this revelation at church gatherings, but once the New Testament Scriptures were completed no further revelation was necessary. These apostles and prophets had uttered a truth not then included in the Canon of Scripture. Paul states in Eph. 2. 20 that we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets ; and that that foundation was laid long ago. Upon this foundation built once for all the superstructure has been erected. Now that this wonderful building is nearing completion, we are not looking for new apostles or prophets. We possess the writings of the apostles and prophets in the perfect and complete Canon of Scripture. When Peter wrote 2 Pet. 2. 1 did he not foresee the day when the prophetic gift would cease to be exercised ? (Notice the change from " prophets " to " teachers.") The ministry of the Word now devolves not upon the prophet but Upon the teacher. The prophet spoke by direct revelation from God by the Spirit, whereas the teacher giving an intelligent exposition of the Scriptures must not go beyond what has been revealed therein.

Women's ministry. Today in many places women are playing a leading part in public gatherings, claiming to prophesy, teaching and praying. These practices are condemned in 1 Cor. 14. 34-38 and in 1 Tim. 2. 8-14. (" Silence " is explained in 1 Cor. 14. 28-30 as ' speaking to oneself and to God' and ' holding the peace.') Paul gives valuable teaching in 1 Cor. 11 on this subject. The man honours Christ in having his hair short and head uncovered, while the woman honours her head (the man) by having her hair long and her head covered. God decreed that the woman should have long hair because she was to be veiled and not thrust into publicity. By covering her head, the woman acknowledges her subjection to the man and shows her subjection by remaining silent. But the woman may think, as no doubt some in Corinth thought, that if she removed her head-covering she might speak. Paul condemns their speaking with their heads uncovered—removing the head-covering did not remove the prohibition. Paul docs not commend the women for praying and prophesying in the presence of men with their heads covered. He condemns the glaring breach of womanly modesty. Compare how, in 1 Cor. 8. 8-11, the eating of meat offered to idols is disallowed merely because it would stumble weak brethren ; in 1 Cor. 10. 20-22 the practice is utterly condemned since it means having fellowship with demons. Likewise, Paul in 1 Cor. 11 condemns the practice of women praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered ; in 1 Cor. 14 he takes up the matter again and condemns the whole thing.

Divine healing. The Scriptures do not teach that there is healing in the Atonement. Sin is lawlessness and may lead to sickness, but sickness does not carry with it penal consequences or involve guilt. It is not taught in Isa. 53. 4 that Christ bare our physical infirmities and sickness on the Cross, Matthew in his Gospel (8. 17) states that Isa. 53. 4 was fulfilled at Capernaum, three years before Calvary. Christ bore the sicknesses and sufferings of mankind in His life, but our sins He bore in His death. It is unscriptural to teach that divine healing is in the atonement and that, on the ground of this, every obedient child of God has the right to claim deliverance from all infirmity and disease.

Because some of the saints of God dwell in frail, sick bodies, it does not follow they lack faith in God. Paul prayed and was not healed of his infirmity but God gave sufficient grace to bear it (2 Cor. 12, 8, 9). Timothy was exhorted to " use " means for his oft infirmities (1 Tim. 5. 23).

Subject to His will God can and does heal, with or without means, in answer to prayer, but the gifts of mir­aculous healing and the power to raise the dead arc not vested in men today as they were in Peter and Paul. Acts 3. 1-9; Acts 9. 40, 41.

Conclusion. I have written with bitterness toward none and charity toward all, and witness to the sincerity and godliness of many who believe in the ' second experi­ence,' although I cannot endorse their unscriptural theories.

There is 7 articles in
ISSUE (1955, Volume 7 Issue 3)

Discipline

The Great Tribulation

Individual Responsibility - Ephesians 4. 7-16

Local Churches and the Gospel

Nursing a Grievance

Overseership

Pentecostalism

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Pentecostalism