The Pentecostal Reality: Chapter 3
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
Preface | Chapter
1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter
3| Chapter 4 | Chapter
These pages will be an attempt to sketch out some of the main lines of Pentecostal
spirituality. The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome has suggested
that the international Roman Catholic- -Pentecostal charismatic dialogue ought
"to relate realistically to Pentecostalism which appears as a movement,
a spirituality rather than a systematic theology."1
Since the first formal session2
concerns "Scriptural Basis," it would seem important to delineate
certain aspects of Pentecostal spirituality, noting here and there biblical
evidences given. Hence this paper will be largely informational and will draw
on a representative range of Pentecostal sources, thus allowing the Pentecostal
witness to speak for itself. These sources, however, will not include Catholic
Pentecostal writing (despite the rapid proliferation of such), but will be confined
to classical and neo-Pentecostal (Protestant, Anglican) materials. Actually,
as the Steering Committee paper on "Reasons for a Dialogue on the World
Level," says, "There is no essential difference between them in terms
of the spirituality they all three embrace."3
Thus what is written here will be in essence true of the worldwide Pentecostal
movement, although there will be many extrinsic differences. It will be noted
that, even with Catholic Pentecostalism not being discussed, there are some
divergences between classical and neo-Pentecostal understanding.
The concern of this paper will be limited to basic Pentecostal spirituality,
centering in the area of what is termed "baptism in the Holy Spirit,"
and will say little about the charismata of the Spirit. I might add that
there are those who prefer to call this whole movement "charismatic"
rather than "Pentecostal" perhaps for three reasons: (1) the name
"Pentecostal" has become largely associated with a particular denomination
or sect; (2) they are dissatisfied with much of the traditional Pentecostal
viewpoint on "Spirit baptism"; (3) a conviction has grown that what
is particularly important today is the renewal of the ancient charismata.
However this may be, it would seem important, first of all, to understand Pentecostal
spirituality as represented by most Pentecostals, and particularly the way in
which "baptism in the Spirit" is viewed in itself and in various relationships.
I am listing at the end a brief bibliography of sources quoted in this paper.
A much more comprehensive bibliography may be found in Frederick Dale Bruner's
book, A Theology of the Holy Spirit: the Pentecostal Experience and the New
Testament Witness, pp. 342-76.
1. Pentecostals stress the experience of the Holy Spirit. The center
of the Christian message is Jesus Christ, the Pentecostal will say, but what
is critical for him is "the personal and direct awareness and experiencing
of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit."4
Thus Pentecostalism, while not pneumacentric as such, does make a strong witness
at the point of personal, immediate, spiritual experience. Note: The concern
is not experience as such, but the Holy Spirit who is said to be experienced,
personally and directly. Thus the Christian life is a matter of the experienced
presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
According to Professor James Dunn (non-Pentecostal New Testament scholar):
"Against the mechanical sacramentalism of extreme Catholicism and the dead
biblicist orthodoxy of extreme Protestantism they (the Pentecostals) have shifted
the focus of attention to the experience of the Holy Spirit."5
Bishop Lesslie Newbigin (non-Pentecostal churchman) has written that the Pentecostal
answer to the question, "Where is the Church?" is neither in terms
of a given message (where the pure word is preached and rightly understood)
nor of a given structure (where there is continuation of apostolate) but "where
the Holy Spirit is recognizably present with power."6
Thus he calls for a recognition of the Pentecostals as representing "a
third stream" which, along with Protestantism and Catholicism, is needed
for the ecumenical church of our day.
Pentecostals tend to be quite wary of talking about a "theology"
or "doctrine" of the Holy Spirit. It is not that they are fundamentally
anti-theological but that they fear the elevating of theology or doctrine to
the first place. With the traditional definition of theology as "faith
seeking understanding" the Pentecostals would largely agree; however, they
would want to be sure that the faith was not merely formal or intellectual (surely
not merely a depositum fidei to be accepted), and that it be profoundly
experiential. Pentecostals are basically people who have had a certain experience;
so they find little use for theology or doctrine that does not recognize and,
even more, participate in it. They are convinced that the shape and content
of their experience, which they believe to be of the Holy Spirit, is essential
to the life and thought of the whole church.
2. Pentecostals focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as continuing
event. According to the systematic theologian of classical Pentecostalism,
Ernest S. Williams, "To be Pentecostal is to identify oneself with the
experience that came to Christ's followers on the Day of Pentecost; that is,
to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the same manner as those were filled with
the Holy Spirit on that occasion."7
Thus what happened at Pentecost (according to Acts 1 and 2, especially 2:1-4)
is more than a once-for-all event; it is to be experienced today.
Pentecostals speak most often of this continuing event as "baptism in
(or with) the Holy Spirit." Other terms, taken largely from Acts, include,
from the divine side, the Spirit's "outpouring," "falling,"
or "coming upon"; from the human side, the person is said to be "filled
with," or "receives," the Holy Spirit: thus "full reception."
"Baptism in the Spirit," however, is the term most often used because
it expresses for the Pentecostal two things: (1) the totality of the
event: viewing baptism as immersion, it signifies that the whole man is submerged
in, activated by, the Holy Spirit; (2) the uniqueness of the event: like
baptism in water, it represents a decisive, therefore unrepeatable, experience
in Christian life.
The Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit is held in close connection with
this event, or experience. F. D. Bruner writes:
"The Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) is centered
in the crisis experience of the full reception of the Holy Spirit.... Pentecostal
pneumatology emphasizes not so much the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as it
does the doctrine...of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. For it is not
so much the general biblical doctrine of the Spirit or, particularly, the
Pauline doctrine of the walk in or fruit of the Spirit (Rom. 8; Gal. 5), or
the Johannine work of the Spirit Paraclete (John 14-16) from which Pentecostalism
derives its name or its special doctrine of the Spirit, though it wishes of
course to include all these emphases in its life. Pentecostal pneumatology
is in fact primarily concerned with the critical experience, reception, or
filling of the Spirit as described, especially, by Luke in Acts."8
The Pentecostal, going beyond Acts, also may use other terms to express this
experience. Two particularly are "anointing" and "sealing."
See, for example, classical Pentecostal Harold Horton's The Baptism in the
Holy Spirit, pp. 11-13"The Baptism in the Spirit is an anointing,"
and "The Baptism in the Spirit is being 'sealed' with the Spirit."
3. Pentecostals view the event of "Spirit baptism" as distinct
from and subsequent to conversion. The coming of the Spirit, as such, has
nothing to do with conversion. The Spirit to be sure is active in bringing a
person to faith and repentance (therefore conversion), but this is other than
baptism in the Spirit. Spirit baptism may occur simultaneously with conversion,
or happen at some time thereafter; but in neither case are the two identical.
Don Basham (neo-Pentecostal) writes: "The baptism in the Holy Spirit is
a second encounter with God (the first is conversion) in which the Christian
begins to receive the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit into his life."9
A second "encounter," a second "experience," a second "blessing";
such is typical Pentecostal terminology.
In early Pentecostalism there was often stress upon Spirit baptism as a third,
distinct experience. The first work of God's grace is justification "by
which we receive remission of sins;" the second work is sanctification
"by which He makes us holy"; whereas "the Baptism with the Holy
Ghost is a gift of power upon the sanctified 'life."10
(Here one sees connections with the Holiness movement of the late nineteenth
century that laid stress on sanctification as a "second blessing"
and often called it "baptism in the Holy Spirit.") Later classical
Pentecostal teaching, however, has increasingly tended to minimize, or even
disregard, a second work of sanctification as prerequisite to Spirit baptism;11
neo-Pentecostals do not stress it at all. Thus, presently, Pentecostals by and
large speak of Spirit baptism as a second experience of God's grace: not for
sanctification of life but for empowerment to witness (see below). Sanctification
(in its initiatory stage) is understood as being included in conversion, or
is thought of as a lifelong process that may or may not include Spirit baptism.
An event of Spirit baptism as distinct from conversion is claimed to be the
experience of many Pentecostals. Formerly, there was a crisis occasion of turning
to Christ in faitha true conversion; later there occurred the event of the
Spirit in their lives. Scripture passages that are used to point to this are
largely found in Acts: Acts 1 through 2:4the 120 who were already converts
before the Spirit came; Acts 8:5-17the Samaritans who had believed, and were
baptized, some time later received the Holy Spirit; Acts 9:1-19Saul of Tarsus,
who had a crisis experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, three
days thereafter was "filled with the Holy Spirit"; and Acts 19:1-7the
Ephesian twelve who after hearing the word about faith in Jesus Christ and being
baptized, received the Holy Spirit. John 7:39 is also frequently quoted"Now
this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive"
(hence a later reception of the Spirit by those who already believed), and Galatians,
4:6"Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our
hearts..." (thus a distinct experience from conversion by which one enters
into sonship, and possibly occurring later).
Conversion is often used interchangeably with "regeneration," "new
birth," even "salvation." Hence to be "born again"
or to "be saved" is quite different from Spirit baptism. The belief
in Christ whereby men come to salvation is not necessarily accompanied by the
event of the Spirit. Thus the Assemblies of God officially say: "All believers
are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of
the Father, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.... This wonderful experience
is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth. Acts 10:44-46;
Pentecostals therefore go beyond other evangelicals, who likewise stress conversion-regeneration,
by adding a subsequent experience of Spirit baptism. Many evangelicals identify
regeneration with Spirit baptism and insist that every "born again"
Christian has thereby received the Holy Spirit. To receive the Spirit, from
this perspective, is part and parcel of becoming a new man in Christ. For Pentecostals,
however, to become a Christian is one thing, to be a "Spirit baptized"
Christian is another.
It should be added that there is at least one classical Pentecostal group that
does not differentiate between conversion/regeneration and Spirit baptism. I
refer to the Christlicher Gemeinschaftsverband Mülheim/Ruhr in Germany
that dates back to the early twentieth century. Christian Krust, longtime leader,
writes: "In the Christian Federation of Mülheim communities we understand
by the term 'Spirit baptism' the same thing which other groups in Christendom
call 'coming to a living faith,' 'conversion,' 'rebirth' or 'salvation from
above.'"13 Again, "The
attempt to set forth Spirit baptism as in principle a separate, second spiritual
experience different from rebirth has no scriptural basis."14
Arnold Bittlinger, Lutheran neo-Pentecostal, independently holds the same position
in writing: "We Christians do not look for a special act of receiving the
Spirit in 'sealing' or 'Spirit-baptism,' but we know that the Holy Spirit dwells
in each Christian and also in each Christian can, and wants to, become manifest."15
Thus from this classical, and neo-Pentecostal perspectiverepresenting a small
minority in the Pentecostal movementthere is no differentiation between being
Christian and being Spirit-baptized.
4. Pentecostals understand the Holy Spirit as acting differently in conversion/regeneration
and in the work of "Spirit baptizing." The Holy Spirit in the former
experience brings about conviction of sin, contrition of heart, and unites the
believer to Jesus Christ. As such, many Pentecostals say, the Holy Spirit dwells
with the believer, acting in various ways upon his life. With the event
of Spirit baptism another relationship occurs, namely, the Holy Spirit comes
to abide within. Only thus is He the indwelling Spirit. Harold Horton
spells this out in writing: "The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the Spirit
'in you' as distinct from 'with you'a very great distinction indeed (John 14:17).
The Spirit is 'with' every believer as He was with the disciples before Pentecost.
He is 'in' those who are baptized in the Spirit."16
Derek Prince (neo-Pentecostal) follows the same pattern in saying that "without
the influence of the Holy Spirit a person cannot be convicted of sin, cannot
repent, cannot believe in Christ, cannot be born again. However, the fact that
a person has received all these experiences is not by itself evidence that the
Holy Spirit dwells in that person.... To receive the Holy Spirit as an indwelling
personal presence is a separate and subsequent experience. It is the privilegeand
the responsibilityof each believer to go on and seek this experience personally."17
Other Pentecostals, while agreeing on two experiences, hold that in the moment
of conversion/regeneration the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within, whereas in
Spirit baptism there is an infilling or fullness of that same Spirit. So writes
R. M. Riggs (classical Pentecostal): "They who are Christ's have the Spirit
of Christ. The Holy Spirit baptizes them into the body of Christ, and the Holy
Spirit resides in their hearts."18
Before conversion the Spirit may have been with them, as with the disciples
before the Resurrection, but when one believes in the crucified and Risen Lord
the Spirit comes in. Here the text quoted is John 20:22"Receive the Holy
Spirit"which is understood as the Spirit of regeneration, the Spirit bringing
new life. "The Spirit of God's Son, as the Spirit of conversion, came into
their hearts on that occasion."19
(Note the difference from Horton who sees the Spirit's incoming only later at
Pentecost.) But this indwelling of the Spirit which happens to all believers
at conversion is only "the first step of the Spirit's incoming";20
it needs the supplementation of the Spirit's coming not to indwell but to infill,
not to convert but to overflow. Thus there is both a Paschal and a Pentecostal
gift and reception of the Spirit: but for different purposes. Dennis Bennett
(neo-Pentecostal) also distinguishes between the Spirit's indwelling and a subsequent
"outpouring": "To become a Christian is to have God come and
live in you... to be converted...to be forgiven...to be
born again."21 He
calls this "the first step." The second step follows: "It is
not salvation...but a second experience.... When we receive Jesus as Savior,
the Holy Spirit comes in, but as we continue to trust and believe Jesus, the
Indwelling Spirit can pour out to inundate, or baptize our soul and body,
and refresh the world around."22
Bennett can also speak of the latter as the "receiving" of the Holy
Spirit, wherein the indwelling Spirit is now "received" into the entirety
of one's being.
According to the first pattern above (Horton, Prince), many, perhaps most,
Christians know nothing of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (how this can be
related to Romans 8:9b"Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ
does not belong to him"is not clear). They may be "born of the Spirit"
and yet not be tabernacles of the indwelling Spirit. Thus, passages in the New
Testament about the Spirit within apply only to Christians who have had a "second
experience." There is only one "coming" of the Spirit, the baptizing
action of the Spirit for the believer, where He comes to dwell within. According
to the second pattern (Riggs, Bennett), all Christians are indwelt by the Spirit
(this is the result [Riggs] of the Spirit's baptizing us into Christ,
but it is not the same as Christ's baptizing us in the Spirit, which
is another action), but not all are baptized in the Spirit. Since the word "receive"
is used in both John 20:22 for the "indwelling" and in Acts for the
"infilling," there are actually two receptions of the Holy Spiritone
for regeneration, the other for fullness. (How this can be related to certain
passages in Acts is not clear, since there is little evidence of a double reception
of the Spirit in such accounts as Acts 8, 10-11, and 19; even more difficult
are such passages as John 7:39 and Galatians 4:6).
Because of the problems implicit in either position above, there is a growing
tendency, particularly among some neo-Pentecostals, to speak of the "second
experience" as a "release" of the Spirit. The terminology of
"baptism" and "receiving" is not thereby given up, but (e.g.,
in line with John 7:38) the picture is more that of flowing out, a releasing
therefore, of the inward Spirit. Bennett, for example, speaks of the power needed
"to change the world" as coming thus: "By the acceptance of Jesus
the Savior and by the release of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives by
a renewal of the experience of Pentecost!"23
The book by Watchman Nee, entitled The Release of the Spirit, is read
widely in Pentecostal circles, and carries forward this theme.
5. Pentecostals characterize the meaning of baptism in the Holy Spirit variously.
Since it is understood to be an experience of God's presence and power breaking
in or becoming manifest, the meaning is proportionate thereto.
Some Pentecostals speak of the experience as a new sense of reality in faith.
Formerly God, Christ, had seemed distant or indistinct, but now through the
Holy Spirit reality has dawned. "We know He is real" is a motto inscribed
on one Pentecostal banner, and the testimony of many is that "for the first
time I know the faith to be true." In similar vein Horton writes:
"The baptism gives great assurance concerning all the experiences of our
salvation: sonship, forgiveness, divine favour, hope of heaven. Whatever assurances
we had before the baptism are intensified unspeakably."24
The Christian life is said to take on new realitya lively sense of God's presence,
a rejoicing in Him, a freshness in prayer and worship.
Power, or empowering, doubtless is the main word used to express the
character of the experience. It is evident that from the beginning of the Pentecostal
movement the endowment of power is emphasized. Charles Parham, Methodist, then
Holiness minister, and first of the Pentecostal leaders, shortly before his
"baptismal" experience wrote: "I honor the Holy Ghost in anointing
power both in conversion and in sanctification, yet I believe there is a greater
revelation of His power."25
The "greater revelation" came a few days later. Oral Roberts (formerly
Pentecostal Holiness, now Methodist) describes this power as "enabling
power," or "the power of enablement," first of all to be a witness
for Jesus: "to do and to be with the force of an explosion."26
This includes power to heal, to cast out demons, to do mighty works. Michael
Harper's (neo-Pentecostal) book, Power for the Body of Christ, which
deals with baptism in the Spirit, by title shows the same emphasis. The power,
accordingly, is understood as an enablement of the individual and/or the community
to carry forward witness to Jesus Christ. Pentecostals draw their chief biblical
support for viewing Spirit baptism as power from Luke 24:49"And behold
I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are
clothed with power from on high" and Acts 1:8 "But you shall receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses."
Fullness of life is another way of expressing the Pentecostal experience
of Spirit baptism. This is understood to mean a Christian life with an interior
sense of "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8 KJV), of
a deep feeling of inner peace, of the satisfaction of a profound hunger for
God, and of a newfound love for, and unity with, other people. Spirit baptism,
in Pentecostal witness, often seems to specify more than what one has previously
known and experienced; at other times it seems to suggest a new dimension of
life one has entered upon. The word "fullness" expresses for the Pentecostal
both the quantitative and qualitative difference in Christian life and both
continuity and discontinuity in relation to what one has experienced before.
Such Scripture as "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly"
(John 10: 10), "...that you may be filled with all the fullness of God"
(Eph. 3:19) is often used.
But to be "filled with (or by)" the Holy Spirit also means, for the
Pentecostal, to be a recipient of God's gifts. To return to the theme
of enablement (above), Spirit baptism is the investment of the individual and
community with various gifts for edification of the body and service to the
world. Hence there are exterior manifestations of the Spirit in terms, for example,
of "word of wisdom," "word of knowledge," "working
of miracles," "prophecy," "discernment of spirits"
(cf. 1 Cor. 12), and the like. Thus the coming of the Spirit, so Riggs says,
is "the coming of divine equipment."27
Spirit baptism is not "gifts" as such; it is the gift of the
Spirit. However, the Spirit in being poured out is at the same time the investiture
of the believing community with heavenly powers. Pentecostals often point out
that the experience of being "filled with the Spirit" in Scripture
is expressed in terms of prophecy, tongues, boldness of utterance, discernment
of spirits, overflowing praise, and thanksgiving (e.g., Luke 1:15-17, 42, 67;
Acts 2:4, 4:8,31; 13:9; Eph. 5:18-19). The Spirit is not without His gifts,
One classical Pentecostal (Horton) sums it up by saying that there is both
an expressional and a experiential side of baptism in the Spirit.
"On its expressional side the purpose of the baptism is power. But there
is an experiential side as well." He continues (regarding the "experiential"):
"In the marvelous baptism the fainting human spirit drinks draught after
draught of the satisfying Spirit of God.... Those blessed floods of satisfying
water come rushing in in astonishing reality and startling intensity by the
baptism in the Holy Ghost. The baptized believer is not only the empowered
believer; he is the satisfied believer. 'They shall be abundantly satisfied,
thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasure.'"28
6. Pentecostals speak much of the background or preparation for the event of
Spirit baptism. There is general agreement that the essential background for
this experience is conversion, or salvation. So writes Riggs in
a chapter, "The Baptism in the Holy Spirit, How to Receive It," in
bold letters, "WE MUST FIRST BE SAVED."29
Writes Basham, in italics, "If you have not already done so, you must
accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior."30
He adds: "By no means should anyone who is not a believing Christian pray
for baptism in the Holy Spirit." Thus faith in Jesus Christ that brings
salvation is the essential background or preparation. Without this, Pentecostals
urge, to seek for the Holy Spirit is meaningless, since it is only the believing
Christian who can possibly receive. Further, without this saving faith, one
may experience not the Holy Spirit, but some spirit of confusion and
A second preparation frequently mentioned for Spirit baptism is heart purification.
Classical Pentecostalism with its roots in the Holiness movement often spoke
(as we have noted) of sanctification as the second work of grace preparatory
to baptism in the Spirit. Without separation from sin and cleansing of the heart,
the Holy Spirit cannot be received. For example, one Pentecostal denomination
in its declaration of faith says: "We believe in the sanctification which
is subsequent to the new birth through faith in the blood of Christ...[and]
in the baptism with the Spirit which is subsequent to the purification of heart."31
Sometimes the word "obedience" is used in this connection, drawn particularly
from Acts 5:32 ("the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him").
More recent Pentecostalism lays much less stress on the theme of heart purification
(even as it tends to omit sanctification as a second work prior to Spirit baptism).
One neo-Pentecostal writer urges that baptism in the Spirit is not "an
attainment or reward based on some supposed degree of holiness."32
However, another writer stresses that "we should repent of every known
sin";33 but he does not
suggest sanctification as a prerequisite. Indeed, sanctification is more likely
to be a result of baptism in the Spirit than the other way around.34
Thus one discovers a movement increasingly away from the classical stress on
a prior condition of sanctification. It is interesting, and perhaps significant,
to note that it is the practice of some neo-Pentecostals to emphasize not so
much cleansing of inward sin as the exorcism of evil forces. Bennett, for example,
spends most of a chapter on "Preparing to Receive the Baptism in the Holy
Spirit,"35 discussing contemporary
occult practices, and suggests a prayer of renunciation for those who have been
involved. Once these unholy spirits have been cast out, one may be filled with
the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is usually stressed as preparation for receiving the Holy Spirit.
On the one hand, this is understood as living a life of prayer in which the
soul is prepared increasingly for God's fuller blessing. On the other hand,
this is prayer that focuses particularly on the hoped- -for gift of the Holy
Spirit. The Pentecostal Evangel (largest circulating Pentecostal publication
in North America) includes in each issue a creedal statement that mentions only
prayer as a condition for receiving the Holy Spirit: "We believe that the
Baptism of the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:4 is given to believers who ask
for it."36 This does not
mean, Pentecostals say, that we earn the Holy Spirit through prayer, for it
remains a gift; but as we ask, and continue to ask, the way is prepared for
God to pour out His blessing. "Insistence and persistence," says one
writer,37 are important. Here
the Scriptures often adduced are Luke 11:5-13 and Acts 1:14, 8:15, 9:11, and
Another aspect of preparation emphasized by many Pentecostals is yielding.
Riggs writes in vivid manner:
"Jesus is the minister who officiates at this baptism in the Holy Spirit.
We present our whole being to Him. Body, soul and spirit must be yielded....
Thus yielded to our Christ, we are taken into His wonderful charge and submerged
into the great Spiritual Element which is none other than the actual Person
of the Holy Spirit.... There are many spiritual experiences which approximate
the baptism in the Holy Spirit.... Utter and complete baptism in the Holy Spirit,
however, is reached only where there is a perfect yielding of the entire being
Some Pentecostals speak of this as "emptying," wherein the candidate
for spiritual baptism lets go all barriers (perhaps of security, reputation,
pride) and the Spirit freely moves into the void. Thus God may have His complete
Finally, Pentecostals often point out that expectant faith is important
for Spiritual baptism. This is not simply the faith that looks to God for salvation,
but the faith that holds firm to "the promise of the Father" that
He will send the Holy Spirit. Some Pentecostals speak of this as a faith directed
to the Holy Spirit, e.g., "As there is a faith toward Christ for salvation,
so there is a faith toward the Spirit for power and consecration."39
Many Pentecostals, however, do not speak thus of two directions of faith, for,
they urge, it is the same Christ who saves who also baptizes in the Holy Spirit,
and ultimately all comes from God the Father. The important matter is expectation,
yearning, desiring the fullness of what God may impart, and believing that at
the right time He will give it.
7. Pentecostals recognize no essential connection between external rites
and baptism in the Holy Spirit. Here we shall consider water baptism and
the laying on of hands.
First, it is to be noted that, in regard to water baptism, the most prevalent
practice is that of immersion, and of "believers" only. Writes Bloch-Hoell:
"On the whole, adult baptism is practiced all over the world by the present
There are exceptions to this in a few classical Pentecostal bodies (e.g., the
Methodist Pentecostal Church of Chile, the Christlicher Gemeinschaftsverband
Mülheim/Ruhr in Germany, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church in America
where it is optional), and among many neo-Pentecostals the practice of infant
baptism continues. Water baptism is understood as having to do with conversion/regeneration
but not in the sense of mediating or conveying such sacramentally; rather water
baptism is primarily the believer's action whereby he expresses obedience to
the commandment of the Lord. However, the all-important matter is the prior
act of faith wherein occurs the new birth. Baptism is an outward symbol of this
profession, but as symbol it has no integral relationship with the experience
itself (whether performed earlier, as with infant baptism, or afterward in believer's
baptism as a sign of the faith professed). Water baptism is by no means essential
Thus since water baptism has to do with conversion, and only rather incidentally,
it has no vital connection with Spirit baptism. One may read lengthy Pentecostal
statements on "baptism in the Spirit" and find, if at all, only passing
reference to baptism in water. Bruner has compiled, from six representative
classical Pentecostal writers, lists of "conditions" for receiving
baptism in the Spirit, and on only two of the six lists is water baptism so
much as mentioned.41 Even for
the two who mention baptism in water, a reading of their material will show
that it is included more as an aspect of obedience than as a vehicle or means
of grace. Pentecostals often seek to justify this lack of emphasis on water
baptism by pointing to the record in Acts: (1) the 120 are baptized in the Spirit
at Pentecost (2:1-4), but no stress is laid on their (presumed) prior baptism
in water; (2) upon Cornelius and his household the Spirit is poured out, but
this is prior to their being baptized in water (10:44-48); (3) the Samaritans
believe and are baptized, but it is days later that they receive the Holy Spirit
(8:12-17). Since some are baptized in the Holy Spirit without any reference
to water baptism, some prior thereto, and some thereafter, why should we be
concerned, the Pentecostal asks, to work out some formal, or sacramental, relationship?
There are, however, Pentecostals today, especially neo-Pentecostals, who are
seeking to work out a closer connection between Spirit baptism and water baptism.
The two baptisms, they are saying, actually belong together. Michael Harper,
looking back at the early church, writes: "This blessing [baptism in the
Spirit] was regarded in the early church as the completion of Christian initiation,
distinct from water baptism, yet linked to it, and experimentally distinct also
from regeneration. Full Christian initiation was not deemed to have been completed
until every convert had been both baptized in water by the Church, and also
in the Spirit by the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ."42
Ideally, they should occur in immediate connection, but in sacramental practice
(where baptism is followed by later confirmation) and in experience there is
frequently a long interval between.
What then about the relationship between laying on of hands and baptism in
the Spirit? Again, Pentecostals see no necessary connection. In practice, the
laying on of hands for Spirit baptism occurs everywhere among Pentecostals,
but this practice is never elevated to a necessity; and there are innumerable
testimonies that the experience often happens without hands being laid. Basham
writes of this matter in his Handbook, under the chapter 33 heading,
"Does one have to receive the laying on of hands to be baptized in the
Spirit?" His answer points out that in the five Acts accounts where
people receive the Holy Spirit, three depict laying on of hands (Acts 8:18,
9:17, 19:6), but the other two (Acts 2:4, 10:44) do not. Thus, says Basham,
there is ample justification for this practice, but no way of regarding it as
essential: "The laying on of hands for the receiving of the Holy Spirit
is scriptural, often helpful, but not always necessary."43
Pentecostals, moreover, do not view the imposition of hands as limited to any
one person or religious order. They point out that in two of the three cases
mentioned, apostles do lay on hands (Acts 8:18 and 19:6), but in the other,
it is simply the matter of a Christian brother (Ananias) who lays hands on Paul
(Acts 9:17). Nor is the laying on of hands viewed as a sacrament, which carries
with it both the necessity of proper ecclesiastical order and the understanding
of a particular rite as essential to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
A further word about confirmation: It is seldom mentioned in Pentecostal literature
and witness, and if so is usually viewed rather negatively. For example, Robert
Frost (neo-Pentecostal) says, almost in passing, "No longer is baptism
followed by the laying on of hands for the fullness of God's Spirit in power.
The rite of confirmation most closely follows this form, but even here no one
really expects to receive and to respond as did the disciples at Ephesus under
Paul's ministry (Acts 19:1-7)."44
Michael Harper speaks of confirmation as verabschieden or "goodbye"
to the church: it is not the rite of fullness of the Spirit but of leave-taking.
The confirmand usually disappears thereafter from participation in the life
of the church. "Today the low level of expectation and the vague concept
of what is supposed to take place [in confirmation] is in tragic contrast to
the powerful experience of Pentecost and the transforming effect it had on succeeding
generations of Christians, until formalism and unbelief robbed the Church of
its birthright in the Holy Spirit."45
It can be seen, from the writers just quoted, that a part of the problem
is that no one expects much to happen. Question: Does this make confirmation
a purely formal matter, or could a part of the problem be lack of discernment
as to what may really be going on?
8. Pentecostals see a close relationship between baptism in the Spirit and
speaking in tongues. Classical Pentecostalism holds firmly to the position
that the initial evidence of Spirit baptism is speech in "other tongues."
The Pentecostal Fellowship of North America, comprising fifteen major Pentecostal
bodies, includes in its eight-point "Statement of Truth" the following
(No. 5): "We believe that the full Gospel includes holiness of heart and
life, healing for the body and the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial
evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance."46
Thus though there is not a simple identification between baptism in the Spirit
and tongues, it is clear that the two are intimately related, since the first
sign of Spirit baptism is this speech.
Pentecostals date their twentieth-century beginnings from January 1, 1901,
with the experience of a Miss Agnes Ozman at the Bethel Bible College, Topeka,
Kansas, when Rev. Charles F. Parham prayed for her:
"It was as his hands were laid upon my head that the Holy Spirit fell
upon me and I began to speak in tongues, glorifying God.... I had the added
joy and glory my heart longed for and a depth of the presence of the Lord
within me that I had never known before. It was as if rivers of water were
proceeding from my innermost being."47
This "initial evidence" was speaking in tongues, although it was
also accompanied by joy, glory, presence of God, and the like. Rev. John Osteen
(neo-Pentecostal) describes his experience thus:
"With my hands lifted...and my heart reaching up for my God, there came
the hot, molten lava of his love. It poured in like a stream from heaven and
I was lifted up out of myself. I spoke in a language I could not understand
for about two hours."48
One might say from this description that the initial inward evidence was the
"lava" of God's love, but the outward was speaking in tongues.
Neo-Pentecostals, while likewise convinced of the importance of speaking in
tongues, often prefer to use such an expression as "normal accompaniment"
(rather than "initial evidence"), and say that speech in tongues may
occur later. Basham (in his Handbook) answers the question, "Can
I receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues?"
by giving what he calls "a highly qualified yes," but then adds in
bold letters, "SOMETHING IS MISSING IN YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE IF YOU HAVE
RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT YET HAVE NOT SPOKEN IN TONGUES." For, Basham adds,
"Those Spirit-filled Christians who have not yet spoken in tongues will
receive a precious added assurance of God's presence and power when they do."49
Normally, tongues accompany Spirit baptism as evidence of the "overflow,"
but because of various reasons (such as ignorance, fear, prejudice) there may
be a delay. Neo-Pentecostals, like their classical brethren, see a vital connection
between Spirit baptism and tongues. Larry Christenson (neo-Pentecostal) agrees
that there are those who receive baptism in the Spirit without tongues, but
he calls this a "gap" in their Christian experience, and adds: "To
consummate one's experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit by speaking
in tongues gives an objectivity...sign...to remind one in a special way that
the Holy Spirit has taken up His dwelling in the body."50
Pentecostals find in the Acts narrative vindication for their position. In
the five incidents describing the reception of the Spirit, three accounts specifically
state that those receiving the Spirit spoke in tongues: Acts 2:4 (the 120 at
Pentecost); Acts 10:46 (the centurion and household); Acts 19:6 (the twelve
disciples at Ephesus). The other two descriptions of the Spirit's being received,
Acts 8:17 (Samaritans) and Acts 9:17 (Paul), make no direct reference to such.
This may be implied, however, in the case of the Samaritans (Simon the magician
"saw" something for which he was willing to pay, Acts 8:18-19), and
Paul writes to the Corinthians that he does indeed speak in tongues"I
thank God I speak in tongues more than you all" (1 Cor. 14:18). Thus the
case can be made for "initial evidence" in several instances (if not
clearly in all), or as "normal accompaniment" (based on at least three
out of five incidents).
Pentecostals generally admit that almost all their evidence for a close connection
between baptism in the Spirit and speaking in tongues is drawn from Acts. The
disputed text from Mark 16:17 is often also quoted: "And these signs will
accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will
speak in new tongues." Classical Pentecostals seldom question the dominical
authority of this text (since it is contained in the King James Bible); neo-Pentecostals,
while sometimes more hesitant in using the text, suggest that it points at least
to a very early recognition in the Christian community of the close connection
between believing and speaking in tongues. More of a problem for Pentecostals
is Paul's discussion of tongues in 1 Corinthians 12-14 where he depicts tongues
as one of nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, and thereafter raises the question
(which implies a negative answer), "Do all speak with tongues?" (1
Cor. 12:30). How can speaking with tongues be "initial evidence" or
"normal accompaniment" of Spirit baptism if it is only one gift among
many? Here the Pentecostal answer is twofold: (1) there is a difference between
speaking in tongues as sign of the Spirit's reception (thus possible
for everyone) and as a particular gift for body ministry (which not all
possess); (2) even in 1 Corinthians 12-14 where the concern is body ministry,
Paul can still say, "I want you all to speak in tongues" (1 Cor. 14:5).
Hence there must be some way in which this speech is possible for all.
Finally, Pentecostals maintain the close relationship between baptism in the
Spirit and speaking in tongues by virtue of what they understand to be happening
in this baptism. Since Spirit baptism is an "overflow" of the Spirit
in praise of God, ordinary speech may very well be transcended by the language
of the Spirit. So writes Robert Frost: "It is the ministry of the Holy
Spirit to bring such release to our lives when by faith we allow Him to fill
us to overflowing with praise to the One who has set us free.... No wonder the
apostle Paul exclaims with great feeling, 'I thank my God I speak in tongues
more than ye all!'"51 It
is also to be noted that speaking in tongues is not viewed as communication
to men but to God. David du Plessis writes: "Paul considered all speaking
in tongues as prayer and always addressed to God, never a 'message' to men."52
Hence the old idea that tongues was a miraculous gift of foreign languages
for proclamation of the gospel, or that a proper interpretation would bring
about its inner nature as communication to men, is discountenanced. Since what
happens through baptism in the Spirit is primarily a new opening to God by the
Holy Spirit moving in the spirits of men, speaking in tongues is essentially
a vehicle of the upsurge of praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God.
1. Part of a statement drafted in Rome (September,
1970) at the first informal meeting of the Secretariat with representatives
of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement.
2. Meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, June
3. After two informal meetings (September,
1970, and June, 1971), a Steering Committee of Roman Catholic and Pentecostal/charismatic
representatives met in Rome, October, 1971, to plan for the first session in
June, 1972. This quotation is taken from one of the papers drafted at the Steering
4. Part of a statement drawn up at the first
informal meeting in Rome.
5. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, p.
6. The Household of God, p. 95.
7. Pentecostal Evangel, 49, p. 11.
See Bruner, op. cit., p. 57.
8. A Theology of the Holy Spirit,
9. A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism,
10. Quotations from The Apostolic Faith
of 1906, early in the Pentecostal movement. See Nils Bloch-Hoell (non-Pentecostal
writer), The Pentecostal Movement, p. 45.
11. Again see Bloch-Hoell, pp. 125-30.
12. Irwin Winehouse, The Assemblies
of God, pp. 207-09.
13. See Walter J. Hollenweger, Die
Pfingstkirchen, p. 181. My translation.
14. See Hollenweger, Enthusiastiches
Christentum, p. 223. My translation.
15. Der Frühchristliche Gottesdienst,
p. 9. My translation.
16. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit,
17. From Jordan to Pentecost, p.
18. The Spirit Himself, p. 44.
19. Ibid., p. 44.
20. Ibid. p. 45.
21. The Holy Spirit and You, pp.
22. Ibid., pp. 18-19.
23. Nine O'Clock in the Morning,
24. Op. cit., p. 12.
25. See Klaude Kendrick, The Promise
Fulfilled, p. 50.
26. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit,
27. Op. cit., p. 82.
28. Op. cit., p. 24.
29. Op. cit., p. 102.
30. Op. cit., p. 100.
31. The Church of God in Latin America;
see Bruner, op. cit., p. 97 f.n.
32. Don Basham, Face Up with a Miracle,
33. Michael Harper, Life in the Spirit,
34. Harper, The Baptism of Fire,
35. The Holy Spirit and You, chap.
36. See Bruner, op. cit., p. 98
37. Riggs, op. cit., p. 104.
38. Ibid., p. 67.
39. Myer Pearlman, Knowing the Doctrines
of the Bible, p. 316.
40. Op. cit., p. 166.
41. Op. cit., p. 92.
42. The Baptism of Fire, p. 20.
43. Op. cit., p. 97.
44. Aglow with the Spirit, p. 20.
45. Baptism of Fire, p. 14.
46. See John T. Nichol, Pentecostalism,
47. See Kendrick, op. cit., pp.
48. See Baptists and the Baptism in
the Holy Spirit, "Pentecost is not a Denomination: It is an Experience"
(Osteen's personal testimony).
49. Op. cit., pp. 62-63.
50. Speaking in Tongues, pp. 55-56.
51. Op. cit., p. 28.
52. The Spirit Bade Me Go, pp.
Basham, Don W. Face Up with a Miracle. Northridge, CA: Voice Christian
. A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism. Reading, Berkshire: Gateway Outreach,
Bennett, Dennis and Rita. The Holy Spirit and You. Plainfield, NJ: Logos,
Bennett, Dennis. Nine O'Clock in the Morning. Plainfield, NJ: Logos,
Bittlinger, Arnold. Der Früchristliche Gottesdienst. Marburgan der Lahn:
Oekumenischer Verlag Dr. R. F. Edel, 1966.
Bloch-Hoell, Nils. The Pentecostal Movement. London: Allen and Unwin,
Bruner, Frederick Dale. A Theology of the Holy Spirit: the Pentecostal Experience
and the New Testament Witness. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970.
Christenson, Larry. Speaking in Tongues. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1968.
Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Great Britain: SCM Press,
du Plessis, David J. The Spirit Bade Me Go. Plainfield, NJ: Logos, rev.
Frost, Robert C. Aglow with the Spirit. Plainfield, NJ: Logos, rev.
Harper, Michael. Power for the Body of Christ. Life in the Holy Spirit.
The Baptism of Fire. Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1971.
Hollenweger, Walter J. Die Pfingstshirchen (Die Kirchen der Welt, vol.
7). Stuttgart: Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1971.
. Enthusiastiches Christentum: Die Pfingstbewegung in Geschichte und Gegenwart.
Zurich: Zwingli Verlag, 1969.
Horton, Harold. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit. London: Assemblies of
God Publishing House, n. d.
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Publishing House, 1961.
Nee, Watchman. The Release of the Spirit. Cleveland, IN: Sure Foundation,
Newbigin, Lesslie. The Household of God. New York: Friendship Press,
Nichol, John Thomas. Pentecostalism (The Pentecostals). Plainfield,
NJ: Logos, 1971.
Osteen, John. Baptists and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Los Angeles:
Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, 1963.
Pearlman, Myer. Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible. Springfield, MO,
Prince, Derek. From Jordan to Pentecost. Witney, Oxon: Gateway Outreach
Ltd., n. d.
Riggs, Ralph M. The Spirit Himself. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing
Roberts, Oral. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Tulsa, OK: Private
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Gospel Publishing House, 1953.
Winehouse, Irwin. The Assemblies of God: A Popular Survey. New York:
Vantage Press, 1959.
Preface | Chapter
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3| Chapter 4 | Chapter
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