The following are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning Pentecostalism:
* What is "Pentecostalism" and where did it come from?
"Pentecostalism" began with the events that took place on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. From
that day on the miraculous presence of the Holy Spirit has always been evident among God's people.
Such great leaders as Tertullian (2nd century), Symeon (10th century), Wesley (18th century), and
American revivalists such as Whitefield and Finney (18th and 19th centuries) have reported supernatural
manifestations of the Holy Spirit such as those recorded in the Book of Acts. One of the greatest outpourings
of the Holy Spirit took place at the dawn of the 20th century at the Azuza Street Mission in California. At
Azuza Street the Holy Spirit was poured out on a small group of people who were meeting in an
abandoned livery stable. Led by William Seymour, a black holiness preacher, this revival sparked a
missionary ministry that would quickly spread around the world. Almost all of today's Pentecostal churches
trace their roots to the Azuza Street revival. Simply put: Pentecostals agree with the Apostle Peter's
statement that in the last days (the time between the Day of Pentecost and the return of Christ) God will pour
out his Spirit on all people (Ac 2:17), and that the manifestations of that outpouring will be consistent with the New Testament pattern which includes the baptism in the Spirit.
* What happens when the baptism in the Holy Spirit takes place?
The first outpouring--or baptism--of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts was accompanied by the sound of wind,
the appearance of what seemed to be tongues of fire, and the ability of the baptized to speak in unlearned
languages (2:1-4). The wind and fire provided a dramatic attention-grabbing setting for the first outpouring
of the Spirit. However, the Bible does not record any other occurrance of these phenomena in the early
Church, and gives no indication that they should be expected whenever the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
takes place. In explaining the events in Acts 2, Peter quoted from the prophet Joel to indicate that
prophecies and visions were also associated with the outpouring of the Spirit (vv16-18). Prophecies and
visions did not accompany the outpouring in Acts 2, but Peter instructed the people to expect them to follow.
The single phenomenon evident at the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit which is consistently present
whenever New Testament believers experience the outpouring is speaking in unlearned languages, or
tongues. Thus, this is the sign that can be expected whenever the baptism in the Spirit takes place.
* Why do Pentecostals emphasize tongues when they are only
mentioned a few times in the Book of Acts and 1 Corinthians?
Pentecostals who are knowledgeable of Scripture and the teachings of the classic Pentecostal churches do
not emphasize the baptism in the Spirit and speaking in tongues over doctrines such as the atonement,
saving faith, holiness, water baptism, etc. Pentecostals emphasize all the teachings of the Bible, giving
tongues the same priority that they have in the New Testament. There are two reasons that it sometimes
appears tongues are over-emphasized. First, there are a few Pentecostals who have failed to keep
tongues in their proper perspective. Any denomination or movement suffers when a few of its adherents fail
to maintain the essential biblical balance of doctrine, but the movement should not be judged by these
exceptions. Second, tongues--because of their visibility--have come to be regarded as the distinctive
doctrine of Pentecostalism. The attention of non-Pentecostals is drawn to the sign of tongues, and so they
invariably make this topic the center of any dialogue with Pentecostals. To illustrate: this FAQ page deals
exclusively with the issues of Spirit Baptism and tongues, not because these doctrines have such a
prominant place in our church, but because they are the questions most frequently asked by those outside
of our church. Further, we believe that God is using the Pentecostal movement to help the Church restore
the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the accompanying gifts to their proper place within the
balance of Christian doctrine. Thus, as miraculous manifestations of the Spirit attract attention to the issue,
we are eager to bear witness to their reality and benefits in our lives.
* Is there any evidence that modern Pentecostalism is a genuine continuation of that which began in Acts?
We offer the same proof that Peter offered on the Day of Pentecost: "This is what was spoken by the
prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will our out my Spirit on all people' . . . the promise is for you and
your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Ac 2:16-17, 39). The
Pentecostal outpouring was neither unexpected nor unexplained to those with knowledge of Bible
prophecy. A comparison of the modern Pentecostal movement with the Book of Acts reveals a conformity of
pattern and purpose. Lives were changed on the Day of Pentecost and the gospel was carried around the
world with the confirmation of signs and wonders. Today, countless lives have been changed through a
personal encounter with the Holy Spirit in baptism and miraculous manifestations, and Pentecostal
missionaries have had unparelleled success in spreading the gospel so that Pentecostalism is fast becoming
the predominant form of Christianity around the world. In response to those who doubt the reality of
Pentecostalism we quote the words Jesus himself spoke to those who doubted his ministry: "The blind
receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and
the good news is preached to the poor" (Mt 11:5).
* Don't all Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they are saved? How is the baptism in the Spirit different?
All people who accept Christ as their savior are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives within them,
convicting them of sin, and convincing them of righteousness (Jn 6:44; 14:17; Ro 8:9; 1 Co 12:13). This
work of the Spirit always accompanies conversion, and continues throughout the believer's life. The
baptism in the Spirit is a distinct additional ministry of the Spirit which takes place subsequent to salvation (Ac
2:1-13; 8:4-19; 10:44-48; 19:1-7). The baptism in the Spirit is an empowering gift given by the Father to
his children (Mt 3:11; Lk 11:13; Ac 2:33, 38). It provides the believer with additional power to live a holy life
and to be an effective witness to the world (Lk 24:49; Ac 1:8).
* Can a person go to heaven without being baptized in the Spirit? If so, why seek the baptism?
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone (Hk 2:4; Jn 6:28-29; Ga 3:6; 5:6; Ep 2:8). It is a gift
purchased for humanity by the atoning work of Christ. All those who accept the gift are saved, and have
God's promise of eternal life in heaven. If any Pentecostals have taught or implied that baptism in the Spirit is required for salvation, then their teaching is contrary to Scripture and must be dismissed as heretical. At
the same time, Scripture encourages many practices that are not "neccessary" for salvation: prayer, gathering together for church, evangelism, the study of Scripture, the quest for wisdom, etc. In regard to
Spirit baptism, Christ instructed his followers to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Lk 24:49; Ac 1:8),
and Scripture instructs us similarly (Ep 5:18). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personal encounter
between God and the believer, and brings an increase in divine power and a flow of spiritual gifts ( 1Co
2:9-13). Such things should be desired and cherished by all Christians. To ignore Spirit baptism is to miss
a great blessing and come short of the spiritual fulness that is the New Testament pattern.
* Can a person be baptized in the Spirit without speaking in
On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers and "all of them were filled with the
Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues" (Ac 2:4). Later, as Peter preached in the house of
Cornelius, "the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message" and they were "speaking in tongues and
praising God" (Ac 10:44-46). Still later, as Paul was ministering to the Ephesian elders, "the Holy Spirit
came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied" (Ac 19:6). Further, it is evident that Paul himself
was filled with the Holy Spirit (Ac 19:7) and spoke in tongues (1 Co 14:18). Thus, it is the consistent
testimony of Scripture that speaking in tongues is the outward observable evidence of being baptized in the
Holy Spirit. When New Testament believers were baptized in the Spirit they spoke in tongues; the same is
true today. More than 500 million Pentecostals around the world share this testimony: when they initially
were baptized in the Holy Spirit they spoke in unlearned languages. It is certainly true that countless
Christians give testimony to a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit and are used in dynamic ministries
without ever speaking tongues. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that they have been baptized in the Holy
Spirit as it is described in the New Testament. Scripture portrays an essential link between Spirit baptism
and speaking in tongues. However, it should be noted concerning the evidence of Spirit baptism that
speaking in tongues is only the initial evidence; it marks the beginning not the end. It is to be followed by an
increase in all the evidences--or fruit--of the Holy Spirit's presence: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Ga 5:22-23).
* If tongues are the evidence of Spirit baptism, why continue to speak in tongues after being baptized?
There are at least four purposes of unlearned languages recorded in the New Testament:
1) tongues are the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Spirit as explained above.
2) tongues with interpretation are a gift for the edification of the church (1 Co 12:10). In this usage, a person
is moved to speak in tongues; then someone (possibly the same person) is moved to give the interpretation.
This usage is a powerful means of corporate worship which strengthens the church. It must be stressed that
this usage requires both tongues and interpretation together. If one is not positive that there is an interpreter
present it is far better to excercise another gift--such as prophecy--to ensure that all worshipers will be
edified (1 Co 14:6-19). Any tongues spoken without interpretation should be spoken quietly for personal
edification without disrupting the worship of others (1 Co 14:27-28).
3) Tongues with interpretation are a sign for unbelievers that they might believe in God (1 Co 14:22).
Tongues, when properly interpreted, declare the majesty and glory of God. The unbeliever will be drawn
to this divinely empowered expression. The events described in Acts 2 are an example of this usage.
4) Tongues are a gift which facilitate effective prayer and praise (Ro 8:26; 1 Co 14:2-4, 18). In this usage,
the speaker is edified when the limitations of human intellect and vocabulary are overcome as the Holy Spirit
enables the human spirit to soar in its adoration of God. The human inability to express feelings and
concerns of the soul disappear as the Spirit gives utterance in a new language.
In all cases, tongues are the same in essence but differ in purpose. Not all believers will excercise all of the
usages of tongues. While everyone who is baptized in the Spirit will speak in tongues at the time of that
experience, not all will exercise the spiritual gift of tongues in the church assembled for worship (1 Co 12:4-
* Are those who speak in tongues spiritually superior to those who do not?
By way of illustration: does receiving a gift of $1000 make me richer than my neighbor? Without more
information that question is impossible to answer. The only thing that can be said for sure is that the gift
makes me richer than I was before I received it. Similarly, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit makes me
richer spiritually than I was before; it says nothing about how I measure up to other Christians. The baptism
in the Holy Spirit and the evidence of speaking in tongues are not proof of a superior spirituality or maturity.
The gifts of the Spirit--particulary tongues--were very much in evidence in the church at Corinth, yet Paul
chastised them for their immaturity (1 Co 3:1-3). Indeed, their very use of the gifts was done in an immature
manner (1 Co 12-14; esp. 14:20). The Holy Spirit gives the gifts "to each one, just as he determines"
(1 Co 12:11). They are not given as a reward for holiness or a sign of maturity, but for the edification of the
church (1 Co 12:7). The only thing that can be said with certainty concerning those who excercise the gifts
is that they made themselves available for God to use at that particular time and in that particular way.
Human availability is always an essential part of God's plan. Throughout the Bible there is an obvious
blending of God's sovereign purpose with the availability of the people implementing that purpose. While the
inter-relationship of the sovereignty of God and the free will of humanity is impossible to fully understand, it is
consistently attested to in Scripture. Thus, spiritual gifts operate only with human availability. The gifts are
supernatural in source and operation, but require willing servants through which to find expression.
* 1 Corinthians 13:8 says that tongues "will be stilled."
Doesn't this indicate that tongues were given only for a
The cited passage says, "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there
are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we
prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. . . . Now we see but a poor
reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am known"
(1 Co 13:8-12). When Christ returns--when we see him face to face--and establishes his perfect and
eternal kingdom, then there will be no further need for Spirit-given prophecy, tongues, or knowledge. We
will know God fully, and will no longer need miraculous gifts to assist our understanding of God's majesty
and power. In the meantime we are undeniably imperfect. We know God in part, and divine assistance is
still very much needed for our spiritual growth. Tongues are indeed given for a limited time; specifically, the
period of time from the Day of Pentecost to the second coming of Christ. There is no indication in Scripture
that tongues would cease before Christ's return. Paul was convinced that all the gifts of the Spirit--including
tongues--are essential until that day (1 Co 1:7-8).
* Is it possible for an interpretation of tongues to
contradict the Bible?
The Bible is the only authoritative source of Christian doctrine, and is the measure by which all utterances
must be judged. If the Holy Spirit has genuinely inspired the interpreter, and if the interpreter properly
expresses the message, it will never contradict the teachings of the Bible. Any interpreter who contradicts
the Bible must be ruled out of order. Scripture establishes guidelines within which the gifts operate. In
addition to the requirement that any prophetic message be weighed carefully to ensure biblical accuracy,
these guidelines include the imperative that tongues in public worship must be interpreted, that all
utterances--whether songs, teaching/preaching, prophecy, tongues, or interpretation--must be presented in
an orderly and considerate manner, and that all gifts must be excercised for the strengthening of the entire
church (1 Co 14:26-33). The gifts are perfect and divine in origin, but they are entrusted to imperfect
people. As Paul put it: "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of prophets" (1 Co 14:32). Just
as one should regard their pastor's messages to be divinely inspired while also measuring them against the
standard of Scripture, so the prophet's or interpreter's messages should be regarded as divinely inspired
while measured against Scripture.
* Doesn't Paul downplay the importance of tongues and
discourage their use in 1 Corinthians 14:19?
In the passage cited Paul states: "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church
I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Co
14:18-19). This statement comes after an extended passage explaining the neccessity that tongues be
accompanied by interpretation when spoken in the church (1 Co 14:9-17). It is not meant to diminish the
importance or usage of tongues, but to encourage their proper usage. In addition to his detailed instructions
on how to effectively utilize tongues (1 Co 14), and his explict expression of gratitude for tongues in his own
experience (1 Co 14:18), Paul summarizes this section of 1 Corinthians with the command: "be eager to
prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly
manner" (vv39-40). In light of this passage's clear and repeated endorsement of tongues, to imply that Paul
invalidated or discouraged tongues can only be regarded as a deliberate abuse of Scripture. When biblical
truths fall into obscurity, people seek explanations to justify their neglect. When the gifts of the Spirit are no
longer experienced as taught in Scripture, people attempt to excuse this failure by isolating a few words and
assigning them an unsound meaning; one which contradicts the message of the passage. The claim that
Paul was opposed to tongues is a blatant example of this practice. Any such claim, like all unbiblical
utterances, must be soundly rejected by all Bible-believing Christians.
These are some of the most asked questions concerning Pentecostalism. If you have further questions on this or any other doctrinal topic, we invite you to send us your inquiries.
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