Is the Feast of Pentecost REALLY All About the Pentecostal or Charismatic Movements?

Indeed - Does It Even Have ANY Real Connection to Those Movements?

In the Interests of True Bible Teaching and Solid Theology is it Not Time That We Shattered Some Illusions of Liberals, Charismatics and Bible Hobbyists?

T he Christian world has recently observed Pentecost; unfortunately, yet again, worldly celebrations of this festival put out by secular organisations like the BBC continue to apparently believe that the festival of Pentecost is, somehow, all about the Pentecostal or charismatic movements. The central message of Pentecost is - or should be - clear because it is clearly stated biblically yet it is usually never clearly stated in such worldly, secular visual depictions, there is typically just some reference to the Holy Spirit, frequently accompanied by twangy guitars, a few individuals jumping about in an over-hyped fashion and usually a few typical modern hymns (sentimental with nice tunes but lacking clear biblical teaching in the lyrics for the most part). Frequently some modern singer is brought onboard and an impression is given that 'how wonderful that modern Christianity is able to call upon such high profile individuals as part of their number,' but no clear and biblical teaching and instruction ever appears; obviously sceptical programmers are determined to keep everything on a pretty superficial and generally emotional level. Oh, it is all pleasing enough but seemingly purposely kept vague. I will just make one exception here. This year (May 31st, 2020), during the UK coronavirus 'lockdown,' a televised service from Hereford Cathedral included - to my great surprise - a truly great sermon; it was much too short, of course, as is almost always the case with the Church of England, yet it contained all the vital ingredients, nothing watered down as far as one could observe. That was surprising and very, very pleasing.

Okay so what is the central message of Pentecost? Can we be clear and certain about this? Yes, we can be. Let us start to pick this up in Acts 1:

1. In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2. until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6. Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7. He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:1-8).

Notice here that a kind of proto-millenialism was quickly of interest to the apostles (verse 6), but Jesus was also quick to reject that approach (verse 7). The first disciples - initially at least - thought that the Messiah's mission might have been to make a world-wide political society which would place Israel as the greatest and most important nation of the world; they assumed international immediacy for God's kingdom - this is because their understanding of the Old Testament was very poor. Similar ideas persist among several cults and sects even to this day in the unbiblical concept of a 'millennium.' Jesus, however, directed His followers to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit Who would direct their future work. In fact, they were to take up a mission of being witnesses of Jesus, His work, ministry and its significance and were to take this mission of witness to the entire world (verse 8). The miracle of tongues only had significance as a clear sign and indicator of the internationalism of Jesus' message - no nation of people were to be left out.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8).

Notice at once that this power which was to come upon the first disciples was all about enabling them to better witness to the revelation of Jesus Christ "in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth"!

The Significance of Tongues - Seriously Misunderstood

Acts 2:1-13.

1. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8. Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9. Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10. Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11. (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12. Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Verses 14-21.

14. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17. “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

IMPORTANT: Notice A Few Things Here

There is nothing here which could ever be humanly "worked up," just as in the other tongues occurrences in Acts - this was a genuine miracle of God, also the miracle was in the hearing as much as in anything else: everybody heard in their own native language, this was accompanied by visible 'tongues of fire.' Also, it seems that God allowed the miracle that those assembled could suddenly speak to each other in their own languages with immediate understanding for the listener (despite never having studied that language).

This miracle does not occur today and why should it? Today Gentiles in huge number have indeed come to Christ, so the sign has been fulfilled.

The early Pentecostalists certainly misunderstood the subject of 'tongues,' believing that this was to be a sort of identifying sign or badge of God's true people: that is, if you personally experienced 'tongues' you were in, if not, you were out - a kind of mere fraudulent believer; this is, of course, utterly unbiblical although the idea still persists among a very few. For a few years following that first sensational Pentecost the sign of tongues occasionally re-appeared but only as a sign of the need to keep spreading the Gospel to other nationalities. That is the only meaning and significance of tongues. Today that gift has almost certainly ceased; a few still try to 'work it up,' but you cannot 'work up' a sign which God has now withdrawn. If one does try to 'work it up' that may well open a door to dubious spirits (bearing in mind that 'tongues' have also occurred in other religions). Of course, Paul the Apostle could write certain things about 'tongues speaking' because he lived back in the first century (when the miraculous sign was still observed; maybe even regularly), but today we should all understand that the sign has been fulfilled (people of many nations have indeed become Christian believers).

A few years ago a woman said to me, "If I am emotional enough, I can get tongues, otherwise not. You have to use the spirits to help you get tongues!" Hmm! What can you say? Such ideas are simply the result of people having received very, very poor Bible teaching; it's a tragedy!

So - in our day - there is no need to be concerned about 'tongues,' save in understanding their true purpose in continually reminding the first Christians of the need for the dissemination of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The gift of 'tongues speaking' was - very plainly - to remind the first Christians that they had an ongoing mission to get the Gospel to people who spoke other languages.

A Few Other Points on the Charismatic Movement - Don't Ignore This!

Since we have touched on the charismatic movement and the modern 'gifts movement,' we do need to say just a little more. Not everything in this new movement is bad, of course but there are certain trends within it which are at least potentially dangerous:

1. It generally accepts tongues, interpretation of tongues, visions, dreams, "modern prophecies," and so on, as being messages from God to His children. This is very, very dangeous. Once you accept "extra-biblical messages" (those which are in addition to the Bible but not necessarily contrary to the Bible per se) it is not long before you will be accepting "anti-biblical messages" as being valid (those which directly contradict God's Word) . The charismatic movement has done this and is still doing so. In reality, all extra-biblical messages are anti-biblical messages because God's Word specifically warns against adding to the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18, 19). The charismatic movement often defends these extra-biblical, anti-biblical messages on the basis that, "New winds of the Holy Spirit are blowing." They say, "Who knows what the Holy Spirit may do?" Let no one forget, however, that the Word of God is a completed revelation and was given by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19). We can be sure of one thing: the Holy Spirit will never contradict Himself. It was the Holy Spirit Who warned about adding to the Word of God. Therefore, those who add to God's Word cannot claim to be authorized or empowered by the Holy Spirit. BE CAREFUL!

2. It often places unscriptural and undue emphasis on physical healing. This stumbles many precious believers who are falsely taught that it is always God's will to heal. Both the Scriptures and experience teach that God may use physical afflictions for refining, correcting and chastening (Hebrews 12:3-11; Job 23:10). God's Word teaches that He can heal anyone, anytime, but that He does not heal everyone, every time. Paul learned this truth when God explained why his thrice repeated prayer for personal healing was not granted (2 Corinthians 12:1-10); and, also, when one of Paul's faithful helpers, Trophimus was unable to accompany him because of sickness (2 Timothy 4:20). When we pray for healing for ourselves or others, we must never forget that such healing is always God's prerogative based upon what He knows is best for each of His children, not upon "demanding" or "claiming" such healing as is often the practice of the Charismatics.

3. It encourages women to forsake their God-given place in the home and in the Church. This results in disorderly homes and disorderly churches with women assuming places of leadership in direct violation of the Word of God. Interesting too that charismatics are often quite prepared to use the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians to justify speaking in tongues as a gift of the Spirit for our day when that very same chapter plainly states, "Let your women keep silence in the churches..." (1Corinthians 14:34). To countermand God's command to women is dangerous- for women, for the home and for the Church. This, of course, is not a "modern" teaching at all but it is time that we all got back to biblical rather than 'modern, 'enlightened' Bible teaching??

Robin A. Brace. June 3rd-12th, 2020.