Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Truth About Pentecostalism

In this note it is my prayer to expose the lies which distinguish modern day Pentecostalism.  You probably already know that Pentecostals are famous for speaking in tongues, healings and other "manifestations" of the Spirit.  This is their claim: The first time anyone "speaks in tongues", it is proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  So anyone that has never spoken in tongues has not received the Holy Spirit.  Along with that, they often claim miracles and healings, which happen during their services.  It is important for us to put every claim to the test; as John wrote, "test the spirits" (1John 4:1).  The central question is this: Do their beliefs and practices align with the Bible, or do they contradict the Bible?

For us to understand the New Testament, it is very important that we understand the One the New Testament was written about, namely, Jesus.  So it makes very good sense to start with the recorded words of Jesus.  And since the topic of discussion is the Holy Spirit, let us see what Jesus said concerning the Holy Spirit.

Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again.  The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  -Jesus in John 3:6-8 (HCSB)

This is in the nighttime conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.  Jesus tells Nicodemus that anyone wanting to enter the kingdom of God must be born again, and then explains, born of the Holy Spirit.  He then adds the last line, which gives us insight into the working of the Holy Spirit.  It comes and goes as He pleases, and we do not know where its coming or where its going.  So we do not know who is born of the Spirit, or when they are born of the Spirit.  It is quite a mysterious thing.  He moves as He pleases; there is no rhyme or reason, and we cannot know where or when He moves.  Only at certain times, like at Pentecost, has the presence of God's Spirit been obvious.  Every other time it has been quite subtle and hard to detect.  Again, lets look at another one:

The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say, 'Look here!' or 'There!'  For you see, the kingdom of God is among you.  -Jesus in Luke 17:20-21 (HCSB)

This single verse refutes many claims, as the Catholics make, the Pentecostals and many others.  Many people like to think they know the coming of the kingdom.  But if it is not something observable, how can we know it?  And what is the kingdom of God among you?  Certainly the Holy Spirit in us; as Paul wrote, we are temples of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 6:19).  So we see the same concept here, the moving of the Holy Spirit is a mystery to us.  So how do we know who has the Holy Spirit and who does not?

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.  You'll recognize them by their fruit.  Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.  -Jesus in Matthew 7:15-17 (HCSB)

We can recognize whether someone has the Holy Spirit by the fruit of their lives.  Is that fruit speaking in tongues?  If it were real tongues, maybe so.  But no where does God's word deem tongues to be a necessary fruit of the Spirit.  What are fruits of the Spirit?  Galatians 5:22-23 (it ought to practically be memorized).  This is how we can know whether someone has the Holy Spirit or not.  As for the precise time someone receives the Holy Spirit, I believe Jesus' words prove that we cannot know that.  And nowhere in Scripture does it say anything about a particular time that a believer receives the Holy Spirit.  It is simply "as He pleases".

Now let us look at Pentecost, the namesake of Pentecostalism.  What is it?  It began long before the day when tongues of fire descended on the disciples.  The first day of Pentecost (also known as the Feast of Weeks) was the day Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.  That day 3,000 Israelites were killed, because they had sinned by making a golden calf.  That was the Old Covenant.  The day the New Covenant was instituted on earth, 3,000 people were baptized and added to the church.  That day the disciples spoke in diverse languages.  How many disciples was it?  Luke already mentioned about 120 disciples (Acts 1:15).  The number that spoke in tongues was certainly more than the Twelve, and its uncertain whether the Twelve themselves actually spoke in tongues.  It was a sizable crowd.  Why did they speak in tongues?  There were Jews living in Jerusalem at that time, likely visiting for the feasts, from Passover to Pentecost, from many parts of the world.  They spoke many different languages.  They heard these disciples of Jesus speaking in their native language, and they knew that these men were not from their native lands (Acts 2:7).  So they knew that a miracle had happened.  How could many men be speaking in languages that we know that they don't know?  You see, it was a sign for those who did not believe.  Paul says the same thing (1Corintians 14:22).  There we find a contradiction between Pentecostalism and Pentecost.  Pentecostals speak in tongues as a sign to themselves that they have received the Holy Spirit and are saved.  At Pentecost, the disciples spoke in tongues as a sign to unbelievers.  There were 3,000 baptized and added to the church, yet Luke says nothing about them speaking in tongues.  If what the Pentecostals believe is true, would not the 3,000 also have spoken in tongues?

And what exactly were the "tongues"?  They were other languages.  This is clear by the fact that Jews who spoke other languages understood these Galileans.  Many translations will translate the Greek word as "tongues", because that was understood to mean languages.  Today, because of Pentecostalism, the word "tongues" has taken on a slightly different meaning.  We do not always expect it to be an actual language.  But if we understand how the apostles wrote the New Testament, it is clear that "tongues" is simply languages.  Do Pentecostals speak foreign languages when they "speak in tongues"?  To answer that you'll have to do your own research.  Visit a Pentecostal church and observe their speaking in tongues.  It should not be too hard to tell.  I may not be able to tell what language someone is speaking when they're speaking a foreign language, but I am able to tell whether they're actually speaking a language or just babbling.  A language has diverse sounds and distinct syllables.  What you will likely hear in a Pentecostal church is a repetitive sound.  Whatever it is, it is not another language.

Does this mean that no one speaks in other languages by the Spirit anymore?  No, I don't think that's correct.  No where in Scripture are we led to think that the ability to speak languages was limited to the first century.  Only, we must test every claim.  Anytime God does something, Satan tries to counterfeit it.  Satan's counterfeit does not negate the power of God, but should cause us to question every time someone claims to do something miraculous.

What is the verdict?  The foundation of Christianity must be Christ.  We must know and understand His words.  If we do that, then we will be able to understand the apostles and the book of Acts.  But if we neglect the words of Christ, and we listen to the chatter out there in the world, then we are vulnerable to believing lies.  Suddenly a simple innocent verse like Acts 2:38 will take on meaning that it was never intended to have.  An event like Pentecost, which was certainly significant in church history, will be the foundation of our beliefs on salvation, when Christ is the only true foundation for salvation.  Compare baptism and tongues in Acts with everything Christ said in the gospels: What is the emphasis?  Does Peter or any of the apostles ever make it clear that baptism or tongues are essential to being saved?  Yet look at what Christ emphasizes, and what He ties to salvation:

He replied to them, "Who are My mother and My brothers?"  And looking about at those who were sitting in a circle around Him, He said, "Here are My mother and My brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother."  Mark 3:33-35 (HCSB)

"This is the most important," Jesus answered: "'Listen Israel!  The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'  The second is: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  There is no other commandment greater than these."  Mark 12:29-31 (HCSB)

"I assure you," He said, "unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child - this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me."  Matthew 18:3-5 (HCSB)

And I say to you, anyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God, but whoever denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.  -Jesus in Luke 12:8-9 (HCSB)

For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don't forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.  -Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 (HCSB)

And the King will answer them, 'I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'  -Jesus in Matthew 25:40 (HCSB)

I give you a new commandment: Love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  -Jesus in John 13:34-35 (HCSB)

The one from Matthew 25 is only one verse of the entire parable, in which Jesus separates sheep from goats, the saved from the damned.  The sheep help the helpless, and the goats do not help the helpless.  Jesus very bluntly ties this act or non-act to salvation, because He directly says that those who do it will go to heaven, and those who do not do it will be damned to hell.  If you read through the gospels, you will notice Jesus focus on things such as: Doing the will of God, keeping His word, acknowledging His name, forgiving others, having childlike qualities, and most prominently, Love.  Throughout all the gospels, Jesus is constantly hammering home the message of love.  It is the greatest commandment.  It is how we are known as Christ's disciples.  And its what the parable of sheep and goats in Matthew 25 is all about.  Paul says the same thing when he says "the greatest of these is love" (1Corinthians 13:13), even though its already abundantly established by Jesus.  If a person speaks in tongues, but doesn't have love, its worthless.  If a person does not speak in tongues, but does have love, he has all he needs.  Point is, the determining factor is not tongues or baptism or any other "sign".  The determining factor is love; its whether you have the fruit of the Spirit or not.

If that wasn't enough, let me drive one final nail in this Pentecostal coffin I'm making.  They say that everyone who has the Holy Spirit speaks in tongues.  Yet no where in Scripture is this taught.  And where Paul writes about speaking in tongues, he plainly refutes this idea.

Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all do miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in languages?  Do all interpret?  1Corinthians 12:29-30 (HCSB)

Paul is talking about parts of the body of Christ, and how each has a different function.  He is talking about different gifts and ministries in the church.  And he asks these rhetorical questions to which the obvious answer is no.  Of course not all are apostles.  Of course not all prophets.  And so forth.  He is making the point that we do not all have these gifts, but that we each have different gifts.  And look, what he includes in these rhetorical questions: Do all speak in languages?  Clearly, the answer is no.  Yet Pentecostals would have you believe that all who have the Holy Spirit do speak in languages.  I choose to go with Paul on that one.


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.