Pentecostalism: A Work of the Holy Spirit or Some Other Spirit?
If you do not believe that the speaking of tongues, healings, visions, exorcism, etc. are not a work of the Holy Spirit, then you are in danger of committing the sin against the Holy Spirit — is this not what Jesus said against the Pharisees when they charged that He healed people by Beelzebub? (Matthew 12:22-32)
We will note a number of points against this charge, but only briefly. Many Bible texts are involved and we cannot hope to do justice to them all. There is a clear need for a thorough and in-depth study on many aspects. May the challenges of Pentecostalism drive us to a more thorough and better understanding of the Scriptures, and to live a life that is pleasing to God in all things.
- Sin against the Holy Spirit and Matthew 12. The context shows that it is the rejection of Jesus Christ as true God (the Pharisees believed that he was a true man), and that He came as Saviour (sent by the Father) to save us from our sins, (in other words it is the unrepentant rejection of the gospel, God's word) that makes a person sin against the Holy Spirit that leads to eternal death.
- The miracles which Christ and His Apostles (or those in the presence of the Apostles) did were done for a specific reason — to authenticate the message given. Some of the numerous passages in Scripture that speak of this:
Acts 7:36-38 — teaches us that, like Moses, Christ was sent and the people had to listen to Him. Moses performed many wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and in the desert and gave the people the living oracles of God — also given for us!
Mark 16:20 "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen."
Hebrews 2:3-4 "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation which at the first began to be spoken of by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?"
- These signs and wonders were not always given, nor should we expect them to be given today.
16:30-31 "And he said, 'No, father Abraham: but if one goes to them from the dead they will repent.' But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'"
John 20:29 "Jesus said to him, 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Matthew 16:4 "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." And He left them and departed.
- As the signs and wonders are connected with the giving of new revelation (see point 3) it is not surprising that with the completed revelation, the written Word of God, that these signs and wonders stop. As special witnesses who received the Word, the apostles were foundational to the building of the church on our Lord Jesus Christ. As a result their office was a once only event. Many Holiness and Pentecostal movements have the word "Apostle" in their name, e.g. the Apostolic Faith Mission, Apostolic Church. They try to restore the church to what it was like during the time of the apostles. This is a terrible error.
1 Corinthians 9:1 "Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?"
2 Corinthians 12:12 "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you, with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds."
Galatians 1:11-12 "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not in accordance with man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Revelation 21:14 "Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."
- In a similar way the visible demonstration of the Holy Spirit (sound from heaven like a mighty rushing wind, divided tongues as of fire and the speaking of tongues) was a once of event in the history of the church. This event was foretold in the O.T. and promised by Christ Himself when He promised to send the Comforter, the Paraclete. It was at a crucial time in the history of salvation. We will look at three reasons. First the Holy Spirit was sent to apply the benefits which came with the birth, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 16:14-15 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you."
Second, the promises regarding the gentiles were going to be realised. The Holy Spirit was going to be poured out to benefit all nations and not just the Jews.
Acts 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Third, the judgements that were foretold were going to be realised on Jerusalem. The rejection of Jesus Christ by the nation of Israel would result in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Matthew 24 and Romans 11.
- The miracles worked through the Holy Spirit, such as the speaking of tongues and prophecy (new revelation) were not a norm for the church, even where it is mentioned in Acts and Corinthians, it is limited to some people and only confirms what has been said previously.
At Pentecost the speaking of tongues was done by the disciples in Jerusalem and was understood by the devout Jews from every nation in their own tongue (Acts 2:5). In Samaria, Philip performed many miracles (Acts 8), but it was only when Peter and John came that they too received the Holy Spirit in a special way (it does not mention which gifts). In Caesarea, when Peter spoke to Cornelius and those with him, they too began to speak in tongues having received the gift of the Holy Spirit so that the Jews would exclaim in Act 11:18, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life". In Ephesus there were some twelve disciples of John who had not heard of the Holy Spirit, so when Paul laid his hands on them, they too began to speak in tongues and prophesy (Acts 19:1-7). The only other place that speaks about the speaking of tongues is in the book of Corinthians, but there it is mentioned because of the abuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit by some of the members. There also Paul shows that these gifts will pass, but that love and faithfulness to God will endure forever (1 Corinthians 13).
- What then do we say about the speaking of tongues today by the Pentecostals? There is only one word possible. Counterfeit, not genuine. The Holy Spirit gave some people the ability to speak another language without having to study for it during the time of the apostles. It is a miraculous gift from the Holy Spirit to focus us on Christ and what He has achieved for us. What the Pentecostals engage in is a false enthusiasm regarding the Holy Spirit, but in reality it is man centered, speaking gibberish, putting together a lot of sounds that can be made by the human tongue, but which means absolutely nothing. Anyone can record these sessions and analyse them for what they are. Why are they so blind to this? One can only conclude that the Deceiver who binds sinful people to their own blindness has struck again, just as he has with Evolution.
- Faith healing likewise is counterfeit. You do not see the miracles performed by Christ or His apostles where an ear is reattached to the body, where the dead are brought to life, paralytics are healed, the blind made to see, etc. What you do see is some minor ailments overcome such as a stiff back for example, or mild depression. When engaged in hypnotic like states and enthusiastic activities then this naturally deals with some minor complaints of the human body, this has been amply demonstrated by psychiatrists and other medical professionals. Faith healers should be sued (and many have been) for raising false hopes, engaging in devious practices and bringing many people to confusion and anger. Instead we should pray to God that He will bless the medical profession in dealing with illnesses and surgical procedures, and by living a life that is pleasing to Him by not engaging in unhealthy practices that harm our bodies.
- Prophesying, receiving visions and dreams also receive a good deal of attention today. During the times of the Apostles they were used to confirm the truth spoken and help deal with the new situation that the early Christian church found themselves in. Today many claim to have these gifts and will teach others about what God has shown them. Here again many are being deceived by the imaginations of men; it is not hard to put our brain to work and picture all sorts of things in our mind. Even when Pentecostal leaders do read or tell something from God's Word, they usually say something like "I have received a message from the Lord" so blurring the lines between the Bible and the revelations that the individual has dreamed up.
It is significant that the Reformed Churches of Australia (now Christian Reformed), at the 1991 synod, adopted the view that the gift of prophecy continues and therefore they should be expected and sought out today. That even in Apostolic times the gift of prophecy was not a divine revelation, but inferior and therefore not of a Scripturally binding nature.1
- Slain in the Spirit is another feature in the Pentecostal movement that is supposed to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit when people receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. During the service (which can be seen on you-tube) the leader will put his/her hands on the person, or group of people, and quite often they will receive an electrifying experience causing them to fall backwards. Sometimes the leader gets impatient and gives them a suggestive nudge so that they fall over. Often they fall unconscious, or they may be filled with uncontrollable laughter (e.g. The Toronto Blessing), make all sorts of animal noises, etc. The revivals also at times experienced similar happenings, although nothing like the present it seems. Today they are mostly considerate about such happenings, by having catchers present to catch the falling people, and towels to cover the dresses of the ladies.
Many comment that many people allow this to happen to them of their own free will because they desperately want to experience the Holy Spirit and be seen as among the spiritually elite, others are emotionally overcome, and still others suggest it is a work of demonic powers. It is interesting to note that such behaviour also occurs in many other Eastern and African religions as well. Do we read anywhere in Scripture that the Holy Spirit causes people to lay sprawled in an untidy manner all over the place? Yes and that was a literal slaying Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.
At Pentecost the people were pricked in their hearts in response to the preaching and were commanded to repent. These were reactions of a wounded heart (heartfelt sorrow) because of sin committed, followed by the glad acceptance of the gospel and the praising of God. In the O.T. falling backwards was a result of punishment from God e.g. Eli. Those who were in awe of God fell forwards on their faces. Those who were overcome were usually encouraged by God to keep going. Samson's father was brought back to sanity by his wife who said if God had a task for them would he kill them? If God wants us to praise Him with understanding, then does that not apply to our whole worship and service in God's kingdom?
- Conclusion. Seeking signs and wonders in our relationship with God has been an age-old problem. We began with the German Mystics, Pietists, Revivalists, Holiness Movements and then the Pentecostals. Such actions do not lead us closer to God, but does make us prone to Satan's attacks, and even despair when people try to experience something but cannot. And when they do it is like a drug that needs to be fed by ever increasing doses till they burn out in the process. Such is the work of sinful men and of Satan, but it is not the work of the Holy Spirit.
The lesson learnt from the Reformation is clear. God works with His Word and Spirit. Not the Spirit and signs and wonders. The Spirit focuses us on the work of Christ and not on signs and wonders. They were given in an age of the Apostles to bring us up to date with the consequences and accomplished work of Christ. It is God's Word and Spirit that makes us alive in Him with all the fruits of the Spirit. Anything else is counterfeit that leaves us ever seeking, and never satisfied. God told his disciples not to rejoice in the miraculous power that He had given them, rather they were to rejoice that their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Let this wondrous work of God in our salvation also be the joy and strength that drives us in our love for Him and each other.