From the shores of America, the Pentecostal movement has spread throughout the world, but usually in new terms. Once the experience of speaking in tongues was experienced in a mainstream denominational church, the term charismatic became more acceptable. Today, the Charismatic Movement is deeply entrenched in the American culture and it has taken Africa by storm. As Christians around the world consider the impact of this spiritual movement, there are legitimate concerns.
First, there is the concern of changing truth. The teachings of the Pentecostal – Charismatic movement seems to be constantly changing. For example, notice the differences between the Old Pentecostal teaching, and the neo Pentecostalism with the modern Charismatic emphasis.
The Old Pentecostal teaching declared that entire sanctification is necessary to receiving the baptism of the Spirit which is accompanied by glossolalia. Charles E. Parham, at whose Bible school the modern movement first began, did believe in this “second work of grace.” It was taught that “glossolia” always accompanies the baptism of the Spirit. It was once believed that tongues are an actual human language known to man, given for the purpose of evangelism.
Then, “truth” changed, as the Neo-Pentecostal teaching crossed denominational lines. No longer does a person have to be entirely sanctified in order to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This experience can be taught. It is now taught that tongue speaking is only one evidence of the Spirit’s baptism, but is not the only evidence. Best of all, tongues are a heavenly language not understood by man or the devil (Stanley H. Fredsham, With Signs Following).
Perhaps this is the most dangerous assumption of Pentecostals, and Charismatics. It is assumed that the unintelligent ecstatic utterances give glory to God. When I asked one Charismatic brother how he knew he was giving praise and glory to God, he simply said, “You know.” I asked again, “How do you know?” “By what objective standard do you know what you are uttering is pleasing to God, especially in light of the fact that Native American Indians, and voodoo worshippers engage in the same behaviour of offering ecstatic utterances in worship?”
The truth of the matter is that Charismatics do not know what they are saying is pleasing to God. They just assume they are giving God glory. The Bible says that Christians are to test the spirits. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). This is not being done.
Truth does not change. God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. How can the church be obedient to the biblical injunctive to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) if the faith keeps changing?
A second concern is the exaltation of experience over the Word of God. The Bible should be the final standard of all faith and practices. But what happens when experience is allowed to be equal to, or placed far above the Scriptures? When experience is placed above the Word of God there will be confusion, division, and error. Consider, for example, what happens when the Biblical rules are dismissed regulating worship in regards to speaking in tongues.
Several verses in 1 Corinthians 14 regulated the use of tongues in the church of Corinth. The apostle Paul placed definite restrictions on the believers to help eliminate the abuse, and abomination, and confusion that had arisen in the church.
Regulatory Principle One
God the Holy Spirit assigns His gifts to believers. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 teaches the Holy Spirit sovereignly bestows upon individuals different gifts.
Regulatory Principle Two
Christians are to seek the best of spiritual gifts, and the gift of prophecy in particular. No Christian will have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for God dispenses them according to His own sovereign will. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:29-31).
Regulatory Principle Three
Those who speak in a tongue, or foreign language are to pray for an interpretation. “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth [and others can perceive that], but my understanding [of what I am saying] is unfruitful [to others]” (1 Cor. 14:13).
Regulatory Principle Four
No tongues, meaning foreign languages, are to be used in the assembly except when people present understand what is said. The widespread practice of people speaking in tongues in a church service at random, and all at once without interpretation is prohibited. “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God” (1 Cor. 14:27-28).
Regulatory Principle Five
During any given service only two or at the most three people can speak in tongues, and then in a decent order. “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God” (1 Cor. 14:27).
Regulatory Principle Six
Women are to keep silent in services where foreign languages, or tongues are spoken. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Cor. 14:34).
Regulatory Principle Seven
Authentic speaking in tongues is not to be forbidden. “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:39). No one should forbid anyone to speak with the miraculous gift of tongues which the Holy Spirit Himself puts on someone during special times of need. No one should forbid the use of natural languages from being used in a service if there is a legitimate need for such usage. Those who observe the Biblical restrictions should not be forbidden to speak in tongues.
If, by way of application, the modern day Pentecostal – Charismatic movement would honor the biblical restrictions, the cause of Christ would be enhanced, and the glory of God would be magnified. There would also be less spiritual abuses in doctrine and in practice, such as barking like a dog, or laughing without restraint, and calling it revival.
A third area of concern is how those involved in the Pentecostal – Charismatic movement explain their failure to heal people, or get everyone to speak in tongues. Simply enough, they blame the individual for not having enough faith. The shifting of blame to the victim results in tragic consequences, such as disillusionment with religion, and loss of faith in God.
Another consequence is that people refuse to seek medical attention when it is needed. I saw this in my translator when I was in Russia in 2008. The lady was dying of cancer, but refused treatment. She was taught to have faith, and she would be healed. I tried to encourage her to bow to the sovereign will of God in this matter. She died soon after I left Russia, leaving behind a twelve year old daughter.
So, what is so attractive about the Pentecostal – Charismatics movement?
Despite legitimate concerns, there are reasons for the rise of Pentecostalism that can be noted.
First, there is a renewed interest in prophecy, and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, there is an emphasis on personal holiness, though some doctrines, such as entire sanctification goes too far.
Third, there is faithfulness to fundamental Christian teachings in many areas. There is an emphasis on repentance, salvation, humility, worship, healing, deliverance from demonic possession, holy living, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, there is freedom of expression in worship. People can shout, and dance, and sing, and praise God with emotion.
Fifth, there is a desire to see great miracles. “Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God”.
Six, there is a longing to draw closer to God, and have a personal relationship with Him.
Seventh, there is a longing for signs and wonders.
Eighth, there is a renewed emphasis on Christian unity and love.
These elements make the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement very attractive.
While there are many defenders of Pentecostalism and Charismatics, it is good to know its history, be aware of some legitimate concerns, and appreciate what the movement has contributed to the cause of Christ. To that end, we exhort you to continue to study the Pentecostal – Charismatic Movement.