A Call to Biblical Pentecost (Guest Post – Josh Vestal)

If you are unfamiliar with Pentecostal theology, let’s just say we put a lot of emphasis on the moving of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I wonder if we put too much emphasis on the moving of the Holy Spirit. A church meeting in my faith tradition can sometimes get a bit out of hand, with emotionalism running quite high. You could probably say that I’m a skeptic, however I certainly believe that to be an unfair label for someone such as myself.

See – I quite firmly believe in those attributes that we in the Pentecostal church refer to as “gifts of the Spirit”. I’ve seen things in my lifetime that I cannot attribute to any other logical explanation except for that of the supernatural. For example – when I was sixteen or seventeen, I thought I wanted to come face to face with a demon. Warning to the readers – don’t. Because I woke up in the middle of the night, sweat pouring down my face, with a face to face encounter with something that was quite evil. I was sure to cross “Exorcist” off of my list of dream jobs. There have been times when I have seen open sores and wounds heal instantly. I have seen prophetic visions, and heard true prophets. I am far from an unbeliever. Simply stated, I practice due caution – and take nothing at face value.

We Pentecostals have a nasty habit of talking about moving in the “freedom of the Spirit” or letting the “Spirit have free reign”. And as far as I can tell, most of the time, this is about ensuring a supposedly safe atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to move. Understand I’m being sarcastic when I say that I’m glad the Holy Spirit needs us to create a safe atmosphere for him move. Pentecostalism is all about the present, the now. Often, I feel we miss the fact that the Holy Spirit is quite capable of doing whatever he wants. Quite frankly, you can be the most dull bunch of the frozen chosen and the Holy Spirit can still move if he so chooses. (I know that my brothers and sisters in the Pentecostal faith understand and believe that, but sometimes I just want to remind us.)

Instead, I believe what we do is create an atmosphere for over-emotionalism, rather than an atmosphere of worship. By that statement, I do not mean for Pentecostal churches to change how they do their song service and preaching (although I wouldn’t mind a bit more traditional service order). What I mean is that we encourage it in our sermons, in our idle chatter. We encourage outrageous displays of unBiblical, fake works of the Holy Spirit. We encourage actions which poorly imitate the true presence of the Holy Spirit, and those actions are passed on as valid and authentic. Often, they are accompanied by “Amens” and “Hallelujahs” – especially when they interfere with authentic movements of the Spirit. All this, simply because they are louder, and more attention-getting, than actions that are truly divinely oriented.
I have seen firsthand false prophecies given in tongues in the middle of an emotional atmosphere full of people who don’t know any better waiting for the latest word from God. The minister then will further add to this heresy by giving an interpretation of those tongues. This is unBiblical, and is blasphemous. It is a sin that we must do our best to purge from our midst. Those “messages” are distracting from the true movement of the Spirit, and can only cause the listeners to stumble in their faith.

Rather I propose we go back and read St. Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians chapter 14, St. Paul accurately describes how the church should react to gifts of the Spirit. In particular, he mentions prophecy and the speaking of tongues. I will allow you to read the actual text for yourself in whichever version of the Bible you desire, however I will summarize what St. Paul is saying.

He instructs us to want gifts of the Spirit, as he operates frequently in them. But that when speaking in tongues, one is not speaking to others, but to God. Those who prophecy are speaking to whomever is present. Prophecy is for the edification of the church, that it would strengthen whoever hears it in their walk with Christ. Whoever speaks in tongues is helping only themselves, but those who prophecy help the whole church. St. Paul goes on to mention that he wishes all of us would speak in tongues, but even moreso, that we would all prophecy. Because prophecy is more important than tongues. Tongues mean nothing to those around, it does not help them. All they hear are useless noises. However, if you speak in tongues, you should pray for the gift to interpret tongues. That way, your prayers to God, may be understood by all those around you. And they may join in your prayers. Others cannot agree to what you are praying if they cannot understand what you are saying. St. Paul says that he is glad he speaks in tongues, but he would rather speak words that people can understand, so that others might be helped. Because the speaking of tongues is a sign for unbelievers, not those of us who already accept Christ. And prophecy is for those of us who believe, that we might be strengthened by its words. St. Paul continues that if there is no one to interpret, then you should not speak loudly in church. But only between you and God.

If read correctly, one would realize that St. Paul makes a distinction between prophecying and speaking in tongues. Prophecies are not given in tongues, they are given in the language of the people. Tongues, is a language of prayer, not of prophecy. It is between God and man. And if an interpreter is present, the congregation may join with that person in prayer. However, we Pentecostals have confused the two. We have allowed prophecies to be given in tongues, and we openly clap and say “Amen!” when the interpreter is finished. When it is distinguished in the Scriptures that tongues are for prayer, and that prophecy is given in a language that the congregants understand.

All I ask that we evaluate what we are allowing to happen in our churches. Because if we are not careful, we can end up allowing our emotions to rule our spirits. This allows people who are ruled by emotions (rather than God) to deliver false prophecies, and give false interpretations. Besides, we all can count who knows how many times we have heard someone begin an “interpretation” in King James English and end in modern English. (With quite a few mistakes along the way confusing “thees” and “thous”.

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  • http://www.spoonfulofdreams.co.uk Chris Price

    You've addressed the issue well. We should expect extraordinary manifestations of the spiritual but without discernment we are open to all manner of nonsense and heresy. My reading of scripture is that the Spirit has been sent to serve Jesus and the Good News and to act on our behalf. In Pentecostalism there is a danger of cultish worship of the Spirit which finds no precedent in the New Testament. While you identify over emotionalism in the Pentecostal I would say that the church, in general, fails to recognise that emotions are our response to what the Spirit is saying to us; they are not spiritual in themselves. Also, an anointing is a commissioning or sign of blessing and not some pseudo spiritual presence.

    Many of us have been led to believe that a manifestation is proof of the Spirit's working and that any disbelief is lack of faith. Its liberating to believe that by the Spirit we will know (not feel) the truth and its by the truth that we can be set free.

  • http://betweenleafandsky.wordpress.com Tasiyagnunpa

    Excellent. As you say, it's not that you don't believe real works of the Holy Spirit happen, but that you are being careful and advising the churches to do the same.

    Seems simple, but how many times have I heard this sort of fake, play acting nonsense when it comes to a move of the Holy Spirit…or pray it/make it theology? Far too much, and always accompanied with pastoral cautions that if you are skeptical at all then you're doubting Christ and one's allegiance is on the line.

    Ugh.

  • http://nicenejosh.wordpress.com Josh

    I completely agree with both of you. It has been my experience in the Pentecostal faith that if you question the legitimacy of anything, you are questioning God, and are therefore an unbeliever. However I would have us as Christians move towards questioning as a sign of faith. After all did not Gideon lay down the fleece not once but twice? Questioning God is not the sin, it is rejecting Him after He has proven Himself.

    Thanks for the feedback guys. Glad you enjoyed the article.


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