By Tim Enloe
Oct. 17, 2010
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to attend a church service led by one of the original apostles? What would be different from our modern church services? What would be similar?
Questions like these have stirred countless movements that aimed to reform or restore their current church to the original purity and power of the early one. The modern Pentecostal Movement, which began more than 100 years ago, is one such restoration movement.
The word Pentecostal is an often misunderstood term. Its contemporary use comes from modern believers experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in the same way as the early believers did on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2).
Although there have been demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power in the Church during every century since its birth, a group of persistent believers at the turn of the 20th century were hungering for a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. It was no longer enough to merely read about it; they were longing for an experience that would empower their lives and churches with the same vibrancy as recorded in the Book of Acts.
These believers received what they were searching for, and the ripple effects of their rediscovery of Holy Spirit power continue to shake the world. Today, more than 600 million of the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide are Pentecostal, according to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research.
Not a new idea by any means, Pentecostalism is concerned with getting back to the raw simplicity of the original Church. The modern Pentecostal Movement is rooted in discovering and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit as promised in the Gospels and Acts.
So what do Pentecostals believe?
We believe the Bible has the final authority over our lives. This high view of the Scriptures has radically shaped our belief system.
Since we hold the Bible in such deserved esteem, we do not merely view it as “yesterday’s book” — we believe that it is living and active today. When Pentecostals discover God’s miraculous works in the Scriptures, it stirs us to believe Him to meet our own needs in a similarly miraculous way.
However, discovering who God is and how He works stirs us more than intellectually. It stirs us experientially.
The first-century Church experienced God’s power with some level of frequency. Reading the Book of Acts reminds us that the early believers weren’t sitting around memorizing creeds; they were living demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power — both in personal and corporate experience.
As shown in the ministries of the apostles Peter, John, James and Paul, the typical early steps of Christian growth were water baptism and Spirit baptism. Spirit baptism is the event of personally being empowered for supernatural ministry. Jesus promised (Acts 1:8) and personally fulfilled (Acts 2:33) His prophesied role of “Baptizer in the Holy Spirit.” We then see Spirit baptism experienced by New Testament believers in Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19.
Spirit baptism is the main biblical doctrine restored into practice by modern Pentecostals. Though there were many scattered accounts of the Holy Spirit’s power and gifts operating in the last 2,000 years, the modern Pentecostal Movement has brought to mainstream Christianity a renewed emphasis on personally experiencing the Spirit’s power.
One of the unique and often misunderstood features of Spirit baptism is the confirming sign of speaking in tongues. To newcomers, this peculiar sign may appear as strange as the original bystanders thought it to be on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:12,13). However, the Scriptures — not our opinions or experience or lack of experience — should frame our understanding. Three of the four accounts of Spirit baptism record that the recipients spoke in tongues (Acts 2, 10, 19). Tongues-speaking is the only sign recognized by the apostles to confirm initial Spirit baptism (Acts 10:45,46).
The personal experience of Spirit baptism has not only spiritually refreshed countless millions, but it has also awakened them to supernaturally empowered witnessing (Acts 1:8).
The essential need for Christians to receive Spirit baptism drove Paul to ask the new Ephesian converts the same question that we should ask ourselves today: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2, NLT).
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the apostle Paul taught the church to expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit in our corporate worship services. He did not set our expectation for church to be only a few songs, some announcements and a sermon. Instead, he encouraged frequent demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power. These demonstrations commonly included healing, prophecy, and public messages in tongues and the interpretation (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).
Paul also challenges us to not merely be consumers during a church gathering, but to bring with us the open expectancy that the Holy Spirit may manifest His power through us:
“When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
In other words, we all should be open to how the Holy Spirit may lead us to obey.
There is a common misunderstanding over the different functions of the two general kinds of tongues-speaking in Scripture: private and public.
Speaking in tongues privately strengthens the person speaking, no one else — unless a bystander happens to understand the language being spoken (as in Acts 2). From a biblical perspective, private tongues are the confirming sign of Spirit baptism and are accessible from that moment onward. Though often referred to as a “prayer language,” they generally express Spirit-authored prayer (Romans 8:26,27) and/or worship (Acts 2:11).
Paul teaches that it would be inappropriate for someone to demand the attention of the entire congregation to publicly speak in private tongues because everyone else present would not be strengthened (1 Corinthians 14:1-19). This would certainly not eliminate the possibility of a season of corporate worship or prayer in the Spirit.
Public tongues are meant to strengthen the entire congregation when the accompanying interpretation is given. Though not the same thing as prophecy, the pairing of public tongues and interpretation should have the same strengthening impact as prophetic gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1-5). Paul also teaches us that these unusual public gifts function as a sign to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22-25).
Pentecostals place high value upon these and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit and are alarmed when some time elapses without supernatural gifts in operation.
Pentecostals are Christians who long to discover the plan of God in the Bible and then experience it firsthand.
If you have never personally interacted with the Holy Spirit’s power, why not go on a discovery journey through the Scriptures, learning how New Testament Christianity was empowered. Then, through personal prayer and seeking, experience the Spirit’s ministry and power in your own life. There is no reason to fear; He is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13-15), and Jesus is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16; Acts 1:4,5,8).
If you have personally discovered and experienced His power, but it was a long time ago, why not spend some quiet time alone rediscovering and re-experiencing the freshness of His ongoing ministry?
TIM ENLOE is an Assemblies of God evangelist emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
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