Pentecostalism is the movement that brings together evangelical churches, whose doctrine is based on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In this article we will specifically review the history of the Pentecostal church. We will also address some issues related to its doctrine and some characteristic aspects of this church.
What is the pentecostal church?
The Pentecostal Church is part of the evangelical movement of Christian churches and denominations whose doctrine is based on the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Now, what is the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Well, this is a Christian doctrine, which includes a set of theoretical conceptions that are held to be true and, in this case, are based on what the book of the Acts of the Apostles of the New Testament indicates.
This book tells how a multitude of faithful believers received the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised them on his pilgrimage through the world at that time.
This doctrine offers two different interpretations of said baptism, according to the different Protestant groups. So we have:
- The so-called historical churches, which are the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc., who believe that it is something that occurs in the conversion of the person to Christianity without there being sensory evidence.
- Pentecostal and charismatic groups, for whom the baptism in the Holy Spirit can occur at the time of conversion or after it and is characterized by the gift of tongues or the ability to speak several languages that the person does not know.
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Pentecostalism first arose in the United States in the early 20th century, when members of the Wesleyan-Holiness movement began to speak in tongues.
This constituted an event, which meant a milestone within this movement and which was identified as the “biblical evidence” that the Holy Spirit had baptized them, as narrated in Acts 1:8, 2:1-4.
It was said that this baptism in the Spirit gave the power to live an “apostolic” life and that, therefore, one could participate in an “apostolic” ministry that included the charisms described in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.
On the other hand, other Pentecostals were also reported, who emerged from the Reformed tradition or linked to the teachings generated from the Convention of Keswick, England, mainly to promote practical holiness through prayer, discussion and personal exchange. Thus, the Keswick model was designed.
It can be said that this Pentecostal originated with the revival or commotion produced in the heart, especially by preaching or by the work of the Holy Spirit.
This conception spread throughout the territory of England in the early seventies of the nineteenth century.
The Keswick movement, which has been held every year since 1875, is significantly evangelical in character, supported mainly by the evangelical branch of the Anglican Church.
It has to do with everything that concerns the highest Christian life. These saw sanctification as a continual search and not as a crisis experience.
In view of these divergences in the notions of sanctification, a debate arose that gave rise to the first great schism among the early Pentecostals.
There were churches like the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee, USA), as well as the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, which held the top position, which is known as “holiness.”
While others, such as the Assemblies of God and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, stayed with the second position, which they called “work finished”.
However, his basic idea is always to insist on the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which must be given to those who have received the baptism of water and through which the necessary charisms are granted as a testimony.
The origin of the Pentecostal Church is linked to “awakening movements” such as those that occurred with greater relevance at the beginning of the 20th century in the United Kingdom, led by the miner Evan Roberts, in 1904; those led by WJ Seymour in the United States, in 1906; those of pastor Barrat, in Scandinavia in 1906 and, thus, in many other places, which leads one to think that there is no specific founder.
As for the awakenings, those of Pentecostalism that occurred in the United States stand out in a special way.
In United States
This Pentecostalism had as its driving point the contemporary manifestation with the so-called Azusa Street Revival, carried out by the African-American pastor William J. Seymour in an African Methodist Episcopal Church in the city of Los Angeles, California.
This Revival was a key event in the events of the Pentecostal movement and was characterized by the series of Pentecostal revival meetings, which were held in that place.
Eighteen months after the movement began, many evangelists emerged, who traveled throughout North America preaching and many missionaries who ministered in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Mexico.
As we already know, in the Christian environment, the name of revival is given to the religious awakening experienced by the faithful in a certain place that lead to definitive conversion.
In the case of Protestants, one of the branches of Christianity, revivals are processes through which spiritual conversion is achieved thanks to divine intercession and, in some cases, they are often seen as restorationist processes or the search for a way of healing. purest and oldest religion.
In the United States, two revivals are historically recognized that marked a milestone in the trajectory of the Pentecostal church, namely:
- First great awakening, which occurred between 1730 and 1740, which led to Christian revitalization throughout the Protestant European territory and in the British colonies in America.
This permanently marked American religion.
As a result of this preaching, the sense of having a personal revelation of their need for salvation by Jesus Christ was exalted in the listeners.
Regardless of rituals and ceremonies, this great awakening consisted of a Christianity of personal approach of the common man to God. This rapprochement is achieved through the development of a precise sense of spiritual conviction and redemption. In addition, introspection and commitment to a new standard of personal morality are contemplated.
It had major effects in reshaping the Congregational Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the German Reformed Church, as well as strengthening the Baptist and Methodist denominations.
This great awakening focused on the people and members of the church, achieving the change of their rituals, piety and self-awareness.
It is said that on the occasion of the awakenings they focused on these signs of identity and the evangelism of a new creation was spread in the original republic.
- The Second Great Awakening, or Second Great Revival, beginning in 1790 and ending in 1840, was a time of unexpected Christian revival that would extend into the American antebellum period in the United States.
This term antebellum, which means “before the war”, refers to the period in which there was a rise in secessionism, in which the Confederate States of America, made up of the thirteen states that from 1861 to 1865 separated from the United States. United of America.
This led to the American Civil War or Civil War between the Yankees and the Confederates.
From there arose this period of the second great awakening, which was characterized by intense Christian evangelizing activity with innumerable conversions.
It also generated a deep religious sentiment in churches and congregations throughout New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Northwest, and the southern United States.
An intensification of evangelization was registered, in which social causes were promoted, such as prison reform, abolitionism or the annulment of laws, precepts or customs that violated ethical and moral principles and the promotion of abstinence or resignation voluntary response to a desire or appetite for certain pleasurable bodily activities.
As the founder of this Pentecostalist religious movement in the United States, the African-American preacher William Joseph Seymour is recognized, who was born on May 2, 1870 and died of a heart attack on September 28, 1922.
He was an American pastor, son of a former slave in Louisiana, who became a regular student in 1905 at the newly created training seminary founded by Charles Fox Parham in Houston. This was the school that sustained his fundamental principles of the Holiness movement.
In addition, there he experienced speaking in tongues, according to the gifts offered by the Holy Spirit.
Eventually he moved to Los Angeles, a city where he began his church service. However, his Pentecostal doctrine was removed from the parish where he was appointed.
Looking for a suitable place where he could continue his work, he found an abandoned building on Azusa Street in downtown Los Angeles, where the revival took place.
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The word Pentecost comes from the Latin Pentecost, which, in turn, comes from the Greek πεντηκοστή, which translates as “fiftieth” and the term refers exactly to the 50 days that pass from Easter to the time of Pentecost.
On that 50th day there is a Jewish celebration of Pentecost or the Feast of the First Fruits and it is the symbol that Pentecostalism took as its reason for being and existing.
In this event, Christians commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus Christ, as described in chapter two of the book of Acts of the Apostles.
This Jewish tradition, also called the Feast of Weeks or First Fruits, is celebrated by the harvest of the first fruits that are collected.
This doctrine is supported by various beliefs that are followed by its faithful.
The fundamental beliefs on which Pentecostalism is based are presented below.
- Salvation : It is a gift given by God to people with faith and is the primary belief, which indicates that sins can be forgiven, either by death, burial or also by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which led to humanity was redeemed before God.
- This belief was called the Gospel or “good news.”
- As a basic point, it is required that the person be born again, which is acquired by the grace of God through faith in the Lord and Savior, Jesus.
- The person is regenerated, justified and accepted into the family of God and that is when the work of sanctification of the Holy Spirit begins.
- The existence of a literal heaven and hell is accepted.
- Baptism in the Holy Spirit: It is granted to the Christian who requests it, either through the assemblies or individually, through which the Spirit is “poured” on the Christian.
- In this baptism, Christ becomes the agent, while the Holy Spirit serves as the medium.
- When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit by default resides in him.
- When it is believed that the Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian, the devotee must seek to perceive and feel filled with Him.
- For the Assemblies of God, “speaking in tongues” is the initial symbol of the baptism in the Holy Spirit
- But for Pentecostals it is the first and the most important symbol.
- It takes place after salvation.
- The Holy Spirit fills the believer and enables him to perform a particular service.
- Spiritual Gifts : They are acquired after the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
- The Spirit freely grants them to the believer.
- Every Spirit-filled Christian has some ability to express it.
- These gifts include vocal gifts, prophecies, and gifts of power.
- These gifts continue to function in the Church today.
- Divine Healing: In the Pentecostal movement, followers believe that Christ is the Healer.
- They identify four main reasons for belief in divine healing: It is foreseen in the Bible, it occurs through the atonement of Jesus as part of the healing ministry, “ the whole gospel is for the whole person ”; that is, in spirit, body, and soul, and sickness is brought about by the fall of man and is only restored through salvation.
- Physical and spiritual healing is testimony to the future return of Jesus
- They believe that God is the one who decides who to grant or not to cure.
- The inadequate faith of the sick person is the reason why an individual cannot receive healing.
- Prayer is the main core for healing.
- An individual can pray for their healing and that of other people.
- Previously, they considered it a sin to take medicine or receive medical care. This has been changing over time. However, there are still Pentecostals who continue to depend on divine healing.
- They believe that the ministry of “divine healing” is still in force, since the time of miracles still persists.
- They believe in the laying on of hands as a method of healing the sick, especially the incurable, in the Assembly, in which they pray for their healing.
- Eschatology: Pentecostals affirm that the second coming of Christ is imminent, so every moment and action during his life is eschatological for each individual.
- Hence, a Christian life must be lived in accordance with faithful Christian service, worship and personal holiness.
- Unity and Trinitarianism : They attest to the doctrine of the Trinity of the Divine Persons.
- Onenessians advocate “Oneness” theology concerning God.
- The Oneness belief indicates that God reveals himself in three different ways.
- They believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, who died and rose again for our salvation.
- The Bible : They consider it as the only infallible law of faith and conduct.
- They believe in original sin and in Satan, Adam and Eve.
- They believe in the possibility of the sanctification of the human being through faith.
- They also believe in the Great Tribulation, the Final Judgment, the New Jerusalem and the resurrection of the dead.
- Speak in tongues: This is the gift or miraculous faculty that comes from the Holy Spirit and that refers to the ability to speak multiple languages that the person does not know.
- According to what was pointed out by M. Douglas Scott, “speaking in tongues” is proof that both our will and God’s are closely related, since the Holy Spirit makes us speak in complete harmony with his thought.
- This is corroborated in Acts 2: 4 when he points out that the Holy Spirit completely filled the disciples and through them expressed the Word of God.
- It is also said that it is a gift that God grants with the mission that the person builds the Church and through that gift can bear witness to this truth, to the Glory of the Lord and Savior.
- As reported by Douglas Scott, who spoke in tongues, this gift consists of emitting a series of sounds that are unintelligible to the common human being, but totally understandable and reproducible for those who have the charisma of interpretation.
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The Pentecostal movement brings together a large number of denominations, independent churches and para-church organizations that rely on the impact of the action of the Holy Spirit on the lives of faithful devout Christians.
Now, there are many characteristics that can be pointed out of the Pentecostal Church by virtue of the diversity of currents that exist. The most significant are listed below:
- There are many groups, which are known by different names according to the different regions: Assemblies of God, Evangelical Christians, Apostolic Church, Last Rain, Church of God, Evangelical Churches of Awakening, Elim, etc.
- The Pentecostal Church may operate independently or it may be affiliated with another religious organization.
- They do not participate in any ecumenical organization, due to their restorationist position, since, according to their perception, the existing churches have moved away from God’s intentions by compromising and sinning.
- They also consider that ecumenism as a human enterprise that works under mutual concessions, which has been deteriorating or distorting the truth.
- On the other hand, the Pentecostal churches were long marginalized and rejected when they tried to share their testimonies about what God had done in their lives.
- They are financed through the collection of tithes, offerings, first fruits and donations. They have also made investments in the stock market, in real estate and telecommunications businesses.
- In their assemblies, experiences of spiritual ecstasy were lived, accompanied by glossolalia or the gift of tongues by their followers.
- They also performed dramatic acts of worship, for which they received much criticism from the secular media and from some Christian theologians.
- These behaviors were considered scandalous and unorthodox for the time.
- This movement does not have a main leader worldwide due to the different beliefs and opinions on doctrines, practices and liturgy that exist among its different organizations.
- A Pentecostal church may function independently, although it may also be affiliated with a larger religious organization, ministry, or apostolate.
- Its ceremonies, rites, practices and customs depend on the current with which it identifies.
- In terms of organization, they only have pastors, elected locally, after carrying out a series of tests on the person in order to corroborate their good behavior and performance for said position.
- Each church has the power to carry out its affairs always under the direction of a pastor
- Each organization has financial and spiritual independence.
- They hold bi-annual or annual conventions or assemblies, both nationally and worldwide, in order to strengthen the bonds of spiritual communion and fraternal collaboration among all the local assemblies.
- Pentecostals, in general, carry out their evangelizing work in the most popular strata, which other groupings find it difficult to reach.
- In view of their growth, Pentecostals are no longer seen as sects by Protestants and Baptists, but as a truly Protestant movement that encourages Christian confessions to renew the fervor of faith by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecostals practice the following rites:
- Baptism, by immersion, for those who have converted and consciously make the commitment to give their lives to the truth of the Gospel.
- The Holy Supper, which consists of communion with bread and wine, which is delivered to all faithful members attending the meeting.
- In this meeting, evangelization is carried out with biblical readings, debates, exhortations, comments, testimonies and songs, the latter of great importance.
- The baskets with the bread and the glasses of wine are distributed from row to row, after the pastor has read some text referring to the Last Supper of the Lord.
- The faithful eat and drink, while the assembly sings.
- The anointing of the oil that is carried out for the healing of the sick. In it, the intercession of the church is exhorted and prayer is made, in addition to fraternal communion.
- It has been observed that sometimes the laying on of hands is done for the healing of the sick.
- This is customary to do in public meetings, as well as within their community. There the presence of the Holy Spirit is invoked, with all his signs, graces and gifts that he confers.
- In the Assemblies of God, there is no abstention from food, no diets, only the evangelical rule of being sober in all things is complied with.
- A distinction is made between the universal Church and the Body of Christ.
- It is considered the ideal and real Christian society, as it is made up of genuine devotees.
- In the churches, the primary goal is to train true devotees, who are faithful to the sacred scriptures and the primitive faith.
- The churches have the mission of training evangelizers and missionaries, who will be in charge of promoting the Assemblies, in which unity and spiritual and fraternal love are fostered and maintained.
- The churches must obtain obedience to God from their pastors, whose doctrinal mission is reserved for the Word of God, which is what the Bible dictates.
- In their ceremonies they seek spiritual unity, which comes from the Spirit.
- In these ceremonies they make an effort so that the baptized encounter Christ and that from now on they live from Him.
- Converted and unconverted cannot mix in rituals, since Christian unity will only exist if it is separated from everything that could harm the church.
Diffusion and propagation
This movement has had a vertiginous growth since its creation. It is said to have evolved much further than the Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, which appeared long before Pentecostalism.
It has even been pointed out that they have outnumbered all of these movements, specifically in areas that were de-Christianized or poorly evangelized. This was the case in Lutheran Scandinavia or Latin America.
Currently more than eight million faithful devotees are counted in its ranks.
- In Scandinavia, Lewi Pethrus, who was a Baptist pastor, was the one who introduced it in 1907 in the different regions that include Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.
- There have adhered to Pentecostalism since that year about 200,000 followers, among which can be distinguished converts from Lutherans, Salutists and Baptists.
- In the United States, between 1926 and 1943 Pentecostal denominations increased by approximately 107%.
- By 1958 there were two million members and ten years later it reached approximately three million, including Canada.
- In Africa it is estimated that the number of faithful has increased, which is estimated at one million people.
- In the regions of India and Ceylon, there are about 100 thousand.
- In Australia, the figure reaches about 50 thousand
- In Europe, it has been estimated: 100,000 believers in England, 40,000 in France, 60,000 in Romania, 80,000 in Italy, and about 20,000 in Germany.
- In Russia and surrounding countries, Pentecostalism had its beginning in 1920, but it was done underground.
- It is said that in 1958 there were about 600 thousand members.
- They had no places of worship and no visible organization to coordinate them.
- In Latin America, the greatest growth of this movement was recorded in the decade 1948-1958:
- In Brazil, it increased from 105 thousand members to 600 thousand
- In Chile from 100 thousand to 300 thousand
- In Mexico, from 50 thousand to 100 thousand.
- Currently the number of devotees throughout the continent is estimated at more than three million.
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Currents of Pentecostalism
In Pentecostalism, four important currents are currently distinguished: Historical Pentecostalism, Classical Pentecostalism, Oneness Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism or charismatic movement. Let’s see each of them:
- Historical Pentecostalism : This current began especially in the United States at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
- It was formed due to the grouping of several Protestant churches, which had been rejected for having given relevance to the so-called “gift of tongues”.
- They believe in the Holy Trinity.
- The Bible is your holy book.
- Classical Pentecostalism : Emerged on January 1, 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, United States. They lean towards the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
- The classics focus on biblical literalism.
- In their practices they encourage their faithful to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
- Its believers have the power to act against what they consider “demonic”.
- They do not condone homosexuality or divorce.
- They follow the Holy Scriptures.
- Unitarian Pentecostalism : It began in the year 1913 when the Holy Trinity began to be questioned and the doctrine of unitarism developed, one God manifested in many ways.
- Since then, several of the independent churches began the practice of water baptism, in the name of Jesus.
- In 1914 they founded the Assemblies of God, from which some more fundamentalist pastors moved away.
- This in 1916 gave rise to the United Pentecostal Church.
- They apply the Holy Scriptures, which were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
- Charismatic movement or neo-Pentecostalism : It originated in the United States in the late 1950s.
- It originated from existing religious movements.
- In 1962 the term “charismatic movement” began to be used by the Lutheran minister Harald Bredesen.
- The revitalization and renewal of its liturgy is reinforced, instead of evangelization and carrying out missionary works.
- According to its detractors, some of its denominations propose doctrines not supported by the Bible, such as seeking money and success through negotiations.
- They are criticized for their liturgies being superficial, without spiritual depth.
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