I Corinthians 14. Pt. 3. Pentecostalism.
The Upward Call of God.

Key Notes: John Wesley and the Holiness movement. The Seond Work of Grace. Acts as history or instruction. Circumstances of Holy Spirit-filling in Acts. What was the Corinthians basic need?

Speaking in tongues is a major theme of I Corinthians 14. In Church history tongues died out after two centuries, partly due to the excesses of the Montanists. (Montanus, 170AD). Many have taught that all the spiritual power displays—healing, exorcism, tongues, and prophecy—were part of the apostolic period of the Church’s birth and would not be a part of the mature church. That appears to be incorrect.

Speaking in tongues re-emerged in the United States between 1900–1910 sporadically, but was publicized and focused especially in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1907. Initially black pastors led, and ministered to white pastors, but eventually they divided and formed two Pentecostal denominations. From Los Angeles it spread rapidly around the world, apparently by only a few people.

Pentecostalism takes religion out of the hands of clergy and puts it into the hands of the Christians in the congregation. F.D. Bruner points out th

Catholicism is altar-centered.
Evangelicalism is pulpit-centered.
Pentecostalism is pew-centered.
         (The Theology of the Holy Spirit. FD Brune;. Eerdmans,’70; p.38)

The charismatic movement may be thought of as a second reformation. It has won new converts and rejuvenated dead churches all around the world. It appeals to the poor and the downtrodden of the earth. It has made amazing progress in Latin America, Africa and Asia. There are at least 60 million adherents and probably many more. In some countries most of the Protestants are charismatic.

Its spiritual father is John Wesley. He insisted that salvation was in two steps.

“We do not know a single instance, in any place, of a person receiving, in one and the same moment, remission of sin, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and a new clean heart.” “A gradual work of grace constantly precedes the instantaneous work of both justification and sanctification.” (Bruner,  Op. Cit.)

We know that John Wesley had been preaching for years before he had his spiritual rebirth at Aldersgate Street.

Like Methodism, the Pentecostal movement is part of what may be called the “Holiness” movement. These groups teach that with the help of the Holy Spirit, a second work of grace can eradicate sin and allow the person to live an essentially sinless life, filled with love for God and people. “No one who abides in Him sins.” (I Jn. 3:6). However, I Jn.1:6–2:2 makes it clear that this refers to ongoing practice of sin, rather than the absence of sin.

Groups that teach “entire sanctification” include the Salvation Army, Methodists,  Pentecostals and Christian Missionary Alliance. Of them, only the Pentecostals insist that tongues be expressed in order to validate the filling of the Holy Spirit and sanctification.

A simplified description of the Pentecostal  position, is that salvation, by appealing to Christ’s work on the Cross, is crucial, but insufficient. If the Holy Spirit is with the new believer at all, He is only “with”, not “in”. Everyone needs a second work of grace, an infilling of the Holy Spirit. This second work of grace occurs after one has purged away all known sin. The Holy Spirit comes upon the person who is in earnest prayer, as the disciples were at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit’s presence is a crisis experience, a baptism, and  is accompanied by overflowing joy and speaking in tongues. Such a person is now energized, uniquely gifted and equipped for service for God. Speaking in tongues is essential as the external evidence of the abiding fullness of the Holy Spirit.

“Speaking in tongues is the bottom line of the charismatic movement.” --Oral Roberts.

“Pentecostalism wishes, in brief, to be understood as experiential Christian, with its experience culminating in the baptism of the Spirit, evidenced, as at Pentecost, by speaking in other tongues. “ (Bruner, Op. Cit. p.21)

That a second work of grace  occurs cannot be challenged. VR Edman. who was president of Wheaton College,  collected the testimonies of 20 famous people who received a second blessing. They include Amy Carmichael, John Bunyan, J. Hudson Taylor, Oswald Chambers, Charles Finney, Richard Halverson, DL Moody, Andrew Murray, Eugenia Price and Ian Thomas. (“They Found the Secret.” VR Edman; Zondervan,’60.)

The question is not whether a second experience with the Holy Spirit occurs, but whether it is universal, necessary, and therefore must be taught by the church as doctrine.

Pentecostals go to Acts to explain how the Holy Spirit comes upon believers. However, Acts is a history, a record of what happened. Some of it is unique such as the birth of the church (Pentecost), and not repeatable. The Pentecost community spoke in languages that everyone from the Empire understood. It is not likely that such a phenomenon has occurred since. The fact that the early church shared everything in common is not necessarily instruction for us to share everything in common. We know that the Jerusalem church was poverty-stricken in one generation and then depended on support from the Gentile churches. It had lost its means of generating income. Acts is not a training manual primarily but rather the record of how Christ sent  the Gospel out from Jerusalem, step by step, to the ends of the earth. He sent the apostles to groups of Jews from all over the Empire, then Samaritans, a Gentile proselyte, God-fearing pagans and then the pagan masses.

There are six passages in Acts when the Holy Spirit came upon believers. Let us look in these passages for common denominators.

  Prayer  Laying on hands   Baptism Tongues
2:4- X     X
4:23- X      
8:14-   X    
9:17-   X X  
10:44-       X
19:6-   X X X

Speaking in tongues occurred only half of the time when the Holy Spirit came upon believers. Laying on of hands occurred half of the time, but in only one of those instances is speaking in tongues described. Water baptism was done twice. Prayer is described twice but the second time tongues were not heard. There are no common denominators. Therefore we may not say that there is a formula in Acts by which the Holy Spirit is transmitted to the believer.

On the other hand, I Corinthians is instruction more than history and in it the work of the Holy Spirit is also prominent. When we review I Corinthians on the questions about the Holy Spirit, spirituality and the use of spiritual gifts, several important facts emerge.

1. The Corinthians “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. “ (ICor.1:7)

2. They are nevertheless quarrelsome (1:10),  carnal babes (3:3), boastful (3:21),  puffed up (4:6),  arrogant (4:19), litigious (6:6), immoral (6:18), desiring evil (10:6), flirting with idol-worship (10:14),  and lacking in the love of God.(13:1-). Their doctrine of the resurrection also needed much work. ICor.15

In short, they were about as unholy a lot as any church one could imagine. If they were in our church we might believe that they were not Christians at all. But they are first generation believers, fresh out of paganism. Paul assures them “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. “ (ICor.6:11). They are an evidence of God’s patience with His children. They should make us hopeful for our own spiritual progress.

3. Moreover, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...and all made to  drink of one  Spirit.” (ICor.12:13). The word “all” occurs twice. They had already been baptized in the Holy Spirit and had His life poured into theirs.

4. Paul did not say that they needed to speak in tongues in order to be spiritually validated. They spoke in tongues freely, to the point where Paul had to restrain them. They were nonetheless carnal and sinful. If anything, he preferred they speak Greek for the edification of the church. Tongues were at risk of being of nuisance value compared to prophecy.

What were Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians? Seek the filling of the Holy Spirit? No.
            Build your life on the one sure foundation, Jesus Christ. 3:12-
            Imitate me. 4:16
            Shun evil, including prostitution (6:18) and idolatry. 10:14
            Desire the higher spiritual gifts. 12:31; 14:1
            Make love your aim. 14:1

They do not need another experience. They had the Holy Spirit, by the promise of God and confirmed by the word of the Apostle. Positionally they were sanctified, but they needed a lot of “purging of the old leaven” and  steady growth in Christ. They really needed solid pursuit of righteousness built on Christ.

This turns out to be the point of the whole book of I Corinthians. We all start out babies and like natural babies we are endowed with all the equipment that is needed for our growth and development. In infancy, nurture is everything and discipline is negligible. But as we mature, nurture is less and  discipline is more and more important to achieve. Some disciplines are life-long. The discipline problems for the Corinthians were huge! But Paul was confident of their continued growth in Christ.

Note also that speaking in tongues is not mentioned in any of Paul's other twelve letters. Paul does not push this experience on the Christian Church in the first century.

Is a second blessing to be sought? Certainly! “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph.5:18). Keep on being filled with the Spirit! Again and again! Should it be the focus? No. Remember, the task of the Holy Spirit is not to speak of Himself but to glorify Christ. (Jn.16:14). The Holy Spirit is the facilitator and He directs us to Christ. We must be Christ-centered, rather than Spirit-centered. Pentecostalism needs to focus on Christ, not primarily on the Holy Spirit.

 “…those who feel themselves jolted into an enlivening new relationship with God should not delude themselves into believing that they have somehow achieved some kind of ‘complete’ spiritual state. Spiritual maturity does not come that easily. There is no instant fix for the human condition, even for those whose Dionysian personalities predispose them to sudden flights of religious euphoria. “ “…such trips never prove to be shortcuts to that maturity in which we become complete in all that the Spirit can do for us. Coming to enjoy every spiritual benefit that is promised us in Romans 8 takes a lifetime of growing.”
(“How to be Pentecostal without Speaking in Tongues.” T. Campolo. World;’99, p. 95–6)

And what was Paul’s goal for himself?
“..and we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Cor.3:16)
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to Him in His death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”(Phil. 3:8–11).

Paul calls this “the upward call of God” (Phil.3:14). Let us all pursue the upward call of God,  beyond salvation, and multiple fillings by the Holy Spirit, to be made in Jesus’ likeness.