“Pentecostal” redirects here. For other uses, see Pentecost (disambiguation).
|Part of a series on|
|Part of a series on|
Pentecostalism or Classical Pentecostalism is a Protestant Christian movement that emphasises direct personal experience of God through baptism with the Holy Spirit. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For Christians, this event commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
Like other forms of evangelical Protestantism, Pentecostalism adheres to the inerrancy of the Bible and the necessity of accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. It is distinguished by belief in the baptism in the Holy Spirit that enables a Christian to live a Spirit-filled and empowered life. This empowerment includes the use of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and divine healing—two other defining characteristics of Pentecostalism. Because of their commitment to biblical authority, spiritual gifts, and the miraculous, Pentecostals tend to see their movement as reflecting the same kind of spiritual power and teachings that were found in the Apostolic Age of the early church. For this reason, some Pentecostals also use the term Apostolic or Full Gospel to describe their movement.
Pentecostalism emerged in the early 20th century among radical adherents of the Holiness movement who were energized by revivalism and expectation for the imminent Second Coming of Christ. Believing that they were living in the end times, they expected God to spiritually renew the Christian Church thereby bringing to pass the restoration of spiritual gifts and the evangelization of the world. In 1900, Charles Parham, an American evangelist and faith healer, began teaching that speaking in tongues was the Bible evidence of Spirit baptism and along with William J. Seymour, a Wesleyan-Holiness preacher, he taught that this was the third work of grace. The three-year-long Azusa Street Revival, founded and led by Seymour in Los Angeles, California, resulted in the spread of Pentecostalism throughout the United States and the rest of the world as visitors carried the Pentecostal experience back to their home churches or felt called to the mission field. While virtually all Pentecostal denominations trace their origins to Azusa Street, the movement has experienced a variety of divisions and controversies. An early dispute centered on challenges to the doctrine of the Trinity. As a result, the Pentecostal movement is divided between trinitarian and non-trinitarian branches, resulting in the emergence of Oneness Pentecostals.
Comprising over 700 denominations and many independent churches, there is no central authority governing Pentecostalism; however, many denominations are affiliated with the Pentecostal World Fellowship. There are over 279 million Pentecostals worldwide, and the movement is growing in many parts of the world, especially the global South. Since the 1960s, Pentecostalism has increasingly gained acceptance from other Christian traditions, and Pentecostal beliefs concerning Spirit baptism and spiritual gifts have been embraced by non-Pentecostal Christians in Protestant and Catholic churches through the Charismatic Movement. Together, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity numbers over 500 million adherents. While the movement originally attracted mostly lower classes in the global South, there is an increasing appeal to middle classes. Middle class congregations tend to be more adapted to society and withdraw strong spiritual practices such as divine healing.
A Pentecostal church in Jyväskylä, Finland
Pentecostalism is an evangelical faith, emphasizing the reliability of the Bible and the need for the transformation of an individual’s life through faith in Jesus. Like other evangelicals, Pentecostals generally adhere to the Bible’s divine inspiration and inerrancy—the belief that the Bible, in the original manuscripts in which it was written, is without error. Pentecostals emphasize the teaching of the “full gospel” or “foursquare gospel”. The term foursquare refers to the four fundamental beliefs of Pentecostalism: Jesus saves according to John 3:16; baptizes with the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:4; heals bodily according to James 5:15; and is coming again to receive those who are saved according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17.
The central belief of classical Pentecostalism is that through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, sins can be forgiven and humanity reconciled with God. This is the Gospel or “good news”. The fundamental requirement of Pentecostalism is that one be born again. The new birth is received by the grace of God through faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. In being born again, the believer is regenerated, justified, adopted into the family of God, and the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification is initiated.
Classical Pentecostal soteriology is generally Arminian rather than Calvinist. The security of the believer is a doctrine held within Pentecostalism; nevertheless, this security is conditional upon continual faith and repentance. Pentecostals believe in both a literal heaven and hell, the former for those who have accepted God’s gift of salvation and the latter for those who have rejected it.
For most Pentecostals there is no other requirement to receive salvation. Baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues are not generally required, though Pentecostal converts are usually encouraged to seek these experiences. A notable exception is Jesus’ Name Pentecostalism, most adherents of which believe both water baptism and Spirit baptism are integral components of salvation.
Baptism with the Holy Spirit
Main article: Baptism with the Holy Spirit
- Baptism into the body of Christ: This refers to salvation. Every believer in Christ is made a part of his body, the Church, through baptism. The Holy Spirit is the agent, and the body of Christ is the medium.
- Water baptism: Symbolic of dying to the world and living in Christ, water baptism is an outward symbolic expression of that which has already been accomplished by the Holy Spirit, namely baptism into the body of Christ.
- Baptism with the Holy Spirit: This is an experience distinct from baptism into the body of Christ. In this baptism, Christ is the agent and the Holy Spirit is the medium.
While the figure of Jesus Christ and his redemptive work are at the center of Pentecostal theology, that redemptive work is believed to provide for a fullness of the Holy Spirit of which believers in Christ may take advantage. The majority of Pentecostals believe that at the moment a person is born again, the new believer has the presence (indwelling) of the Holy Spirit. While the Spirit dwells in every Christian, Pentecostals believe that all Christians should seek to be filled with him. The Spirit’s “filling”, “falling upon”, “coming upon”, or being “poured out upon” believers is called the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals define it as a definite experience occurring after salvation whereby the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer to anoint and empower him or her for special service. It has also been described as “a baptism into the love of God”.
The main purpose of the experience is to grant power for Christian service. Other purposes include power for spiritual warfare (the Christian struggles against spiritual enemies and thus requires spiritual power), power for overflow (the believer’s experience of the presence and power of God in his or her life flows out into the lives of others), and power for ability (to follow divine direction, to face persecution, to exercise spiritual gifts for the edification of the church, etc.).
Pentecostals believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is available to all Christians. Repentance from sin and being born again are fundamental requirements to receive it. There must also be in the believer a deep conviction of needing more of God in his or her life, and a measure of consecration by which the believer yields himself or herself to the will of God. Citing instances in the Book of Acts where believers were Spirit baptized before they were baptized with water, most Pentecostals believe a Christian need not have been baptized in water to receive Spirit baptism. However, Pentecostals do believe that the biblical pattern is “repentance, regeneration, water baptism, and then the baptism with the Holy Ghost”. There are Pentecostal believers who have claimed to receive their baptism with the Holy Spirit while being water baptized.
It is received by having faith in God’s promise to fill the believer and in yielding the entire being to Christ. Certain conditions, if present in a believer’s life, could cause delay in receiving Spirit baptism, such as “weak faith, unholy living, imperfect consecration, and egocentric motives”. In the absence of these, Pentecostals teach that seekers should maintain a persistent faith in the knowledge that God will fulfill his promise. For Pentecostals, there is no prescribed manner in which a believer will be filled with the Spirit. It could be expected or unexpected, during public or private prayer.
Pentecostals expect certain results following baptism with the Holy Spirit. Some of these are immediate while others are enduring or permanent. Most Pentecostal denominations teach that speaking in tongues is an immediate or initial physical evidence that one has received the experience. Some teach that any of the gifts of the Spirit can be evidence of having received Spirit baptism. Other immediate evidences include giving God praise, having joy, and desiring to testify about Jesus. Enduring or permanent results in the believer’s life include Christ glorified and revealed in a greater way, a “deeper passion for souls”, greater power to witness to nonbelievers, a more effective prayer life, greater love for and insight into the Bible, and the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit.
Pentecostals, with their background in the Holiness movement, historically teach that baptism with the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by glossolalia, is the third work of grace, which follows the new birth (first work of grace) and entire sanctification (second work of grace).
While the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a definite experience in a believer’s life, Pentecostals view it as just the beginning of living a Spirit-filled life. Pentecostal teaching stresses the importance of continually being filled with the Spirit. There is only one baptism with the Spirit, but there should be many infillings with the Spirit throughout the believer’s life.
Further information: Divine healing
Pentecostalism is a holistic faith, and the belief that Jesus is Healer is one quarter of the full gospel. Pentecostals cite four major reasons for believing in divine healing: 1) it is reported in the Bible, 2) Jesus’ healing ministry is included in his atonement (thus divine healing is part of salvation), 3) “the whole gospel is for the whole person”—spirit, soul, and body, 4) sickness is a consequence of the Fall of Man and salvation is ultimately the restoration of the fallen world. In the words of Pentecostal scholar Vernon L. Purdy, “Because sin leads to human suffering, it was only natural for the Early Church to understand the ministry of Christ as the alleviation of human suffering, since he was God’s answer to sin … The restoration of fellowship with God is the most important thing, but this restoration not only results in spiritual healing but many times in physical healing as well.” In the book In Pursuit of Wholeness: Experiencing God’s Salvation for the Total Person, Pentecostal writer and Church historian Wilfred Graves, Jr. describes the healing of the body as a physical expression of salvation.
For Pentecostals, spiritual and physical healing serves as a reminder and testimony to Christ’s future return when his people will be completely delivered from all the consequences of the fall. However, not everyone receives healing when they pray. It is God in his sovereign wisdom who either grants or withholds healing. Common reasons that are given in answer to the question as to why all are not healed include: God teaches through suffering, healing is not always immediate, lack of faith on the part of the person needing healing, and personal sin in one’s life (however, this does not mean that all illness is caused by personal sin). Regarding healing and prayer Purdy states:
On the other hand, it appears from Scripture that when we are sick we should be prayed for, and as we shall see later in this chapter, it appears that God’s normal will is to heal. Instead of expecting that it is not God’s will to heal us, we should pray with faith, trusting that God cares for us and that the provision He has made in Christ for our healing is sufficient. If He does not heal us, we will continue to trust Him. The victory many times will be procured in faith (see Heb. 10:35–36; 1 John 5:4–5).
Pentecostals believe that prayer and faith are central in receiving healing. Pentecostals look to scriptures such as James 5:13–16 for direction regarding healing prayer. One can pray for one’s own healing (verse 13) and for the healing of others (verse 16); no special gift or clerical status is necessary. Verses 14–16 supply the framework for congregational healing prayer. The sick person expresses his or her faith by calling for the elders of the church who pray over and anoint the sick with olive oil. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
Besides prayer, there are other ways in which Pentecostals believe healing can be received. One way is based on Mark 16:17–18 and involves believers laying hands on the sick. This is done in imitation of Jesus who often healed in this manner. Another method that is found in some Pentecostal churches is based on the account in Acts 19:11–12 where people were healed when given handkerchiefs or aprons worn by the Apostle Paul. This practice is described by Duffield and Van Cleave in Foundations of Pentecostal Theology:
Many Churches have followed a similar pattern and have given out small pieces of cloth over which prayer has been made, and sometimes they have been anointed with oil. Some most remarkable miracles have been reported from the use of this method. It is understood that the prayer cloth has no virtue in itself, but provides an act of faith by which one’s attention is directed to the Lord, who is the Great Physician.
During the initial decades of the movement, Pentecostals thought it was sinful to take medicine or receive care from doctors. Over time, Pentecostals moderated their views concerning medicine and doctor visits; however, a minority of Pentecostal churches continues to rely exclusively on prayer and divine healing. For example, doctors in the United Kingdom reported that a minority of Pentecostal HIV patients were encouraged to stop taking their medicines and parents were told to stop giving medicine to their children, trends that placed lives at risk.