Pentecostal Churches Are God's Standard
- Summary: The early Church that Jesus established was born in the mighty power of Pentecost. That same power of Pentecost is the norm for believers and churches today.
Luke 24:49 “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
- • And that, in a nutshell, pinpoints the reason that much of the Christian church in America today so poorly represents that vigorous first-century church which walked in the power of Pentecost. Ministry in non-Pentecostal churches is limited by the lack of what Jesus called “power from on high”.
• It is very significant that Jesus spoke the words “stay ... until ... [you receive] power from on high” to well-trained disciples, including His apostles (vs. 33). He had taught them personally for more than three years. They had undergone excellent on-the-job training, Jesus having sent them out on short-term ministries under His oversight. They had watched their Master as a role model of perfect, Holy Spirit-anointed ministry. No modern seminary or bible college could ever provide the level of preparation that the original apostles had received directly in the literal presence of Jesus Christ.
- • And yet, despite that outstanding training, Jesus still told them in essence [my paraphrase], “I Myself have taught and trained you for over three years. Nevertheless, you are not yet ready to minister the way that I ministered. So I charge you to stay in Jerusalem. Do not go out yet and start your ministries. You still lack one thing — the power from on high. You will need that to do the kind of work I have called you to do.”
• Sad to say, a multitude of pastors and other ministers today have not taken this command of Jesus to heart. And they go forth and try to do spiritual ministry without the “power from on high” that Jesus provided at Pentecost. Let’s now see what Jesus meant by their (and our) receiving that “power from on high”.
Acts 1:4-5, 8 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem [as He said in Luke 24:49 above], but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT” ...  “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 2:1, 4 When the day of PENTECOST came, they were all together in one place....  All of them were FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
- • The church that Jesus Himself established was Pentecostal. Acts 2:1-4 describes the first New Testament “Day of Pentecost”. Jesus had promised them power from on high (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8). And He had promised that for that purpose they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). This was fulfilled on that “Day of Pentecost” (2:1) when they were all gloriously “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4) and spoke in tongues as evidence of that reception of that Pentecostal baptism with the Holy Spirit.
• Then that first church (a Pentecostal church, we do well to remind ourselves), filled with the Holy Spirit from the day of Pentecost, did indeed give powerful witness to Jesus Christ, not just in their anointed preaching, but also in what the apostle Paul later called “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). The early Church's ministry was consistently a ministry of manifested Holy Ghost power.
- • In response to the dramatic, observable manifestations of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost, and after Peter’s powerful preaching to explain those happenings, 3,000 people were saved, baptized in water, and added to the Spirit-filled Jerusalem church (Acts 2:41).
• The apostles, in the power of Pentecost, continued to do “wonders and miraculous signs,” and the church continued to grow dramatically (Acts 2:43, 47).
• Acts chapter three describes Peter and John, near the temple gate, healing a man crippled from birth. The effect of that manifestation of the Spirit’s power was to add thousands more to the church (Acts 4:4).
• The church continued to grow in Jerusalem as signs and wonders continued to be manifested (Acts 5:12).
• In sum, the initial church that Jesus personally established was thoroughly Pentecostal. That church’s believers had experienced the baptism with the Holy Spirit. They spoke in tongues. They healed the sick. They did mighty signs and wonders. The dead were even raised (Acts 9:40)!
• And from that first church, that spiritually vibrant Pentecostal church in Jerusalem, there went out preachers to other regions — Spirit-filled men like Philip in Acts 8, whose preaching was confirmed with miraculous signs, exorcisms, and great healings (Acts 8:5-7, 13).
- • It is urgently important that you don’t accept the erroneous teachings by some today who wrongly declare that those things were only for the first-century church. As the bible declares and I have written elsewhere, these powerful, spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are still for today!
- • On that first, great New Testament Day of Pentecost, and after Peter had preached his anointed message, many who had witnessed the events of that day “...were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are FAR OFF — FOR ALL whom the Lord our God will call.’ ” (Acts 2:37-39) The promise of Pentecost, of Holy Ghost power for ministry, of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, was not just for them alone. It is for “all who are far off — for all whom the Lord your God will call”. You are far off from that time and place; the promise of Pentecost is for you. Are you among those whom God has called to serve Him? The promise of Pentecost is for you!
• Mark’s account of the Great Commission is found in Mark 16:15-20. I have never personally known a single believer who does not believe that the Great Commission is for today as well as for the first Church. Yet, in a seeming failure of consistency, many preachers today tell their churches that the Great Commission is for today, but many of its vital elements — powerful “signs”, healings, casting out of demons, and speaking in tongues — are not for today, they wrongly preach. However Jesus gave a lasting commission for the entire Church Age. We are to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (vs. 15). And He promised those miraculous accompanying signs to the believers who would go forth to fulfill the Great Commission. And He gave no hint of any intention of ceasing to “confirm his word by the signs that accompanied it”.
- • The first Church, in Jerusalem, was Pentecostal to its core. As we have seen, preachers like Philip went from that church and ministered elsewhere in Pentecostal power, and new Pentecostal churches sprang up. For example, later in Acts 21:8-9 we see that same Philip in Caesarea with his four “daughters who prophesied”. The Pentecostal gifts continued to accompany the Gospel wherever it was preached.
- • The apostle Peter’s first deliberate preaching to the Gentiles resulted in conversions among the Gentiles in Caesarea (Acts 10, especially vss. 44-47). And this first deliberate ingathering of the Gentiles was a conversion to Pentecostal Christianity. They heard and believed the preaching, and they spoke in tongues (vs. 46).
• The apostle Paul founded many Pentecostal churches around the Mediterranean Basin. The biblical record shows that Paul regularly introduced his converts to the Pentecostal baptism with the Spirit, with speaking in tongues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including miraculous healings. Here are a few examples:
- • At Iconium (Acts 14), the preachers Paul and Barnabas did “miraculous signs and wonders” (vs. 3).
• In Lystra (Acts 14) Paul healed a man crippled from birth (vss. 8-10).
• At Philippi (Acts 16) Paul cast a demon out publicly (vs. 18). The Philippian church was planted in the aftermath of, once again, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power.
• The Corinthian church, established by Paul and Apollos (Acts 18-19) was a thoroughly Pentecostal church, as clearly described in 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 14.
• Acts 19:1-6 shows Paul ministering the baptism with the Holy Spirit to the new believers in Ephesus, with the observable results of their speaking in tongues and prophesying (vs. 6).
• Paul referred to the “gospel [coming to the Thessalonians] not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit...” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Later in the epistle (5:19-20) Paul was cautioning the church not to “put out the Spirit’s fire ... [or to] treat prophecies with contempt”. It is disturbing to note that the practice today in many pulpits is indeed to put out the Spirit’s fire and to treat prophecies (and other spiritual gifts) with contempt. The inspired apostle’s command was: “Do not...” do those things that they were doing to minimize or discredit the expression of Pentecostal power in their midst.
- • In sum, Jesus established the first church (Jerusalem) in the mighty power of Pentecost. Peter brought that same teaching and Pentecostal power to the Gentiles (Caesarea). Paul continued to manifest and to teach the importance and power of Pentecost wherever he traveled and established churches.
• The bottom line? Pentecostal churches are God’s standard. The discrediting of the importance and power of Pentecost for the church today, as occurs in many circles, is an aberration from the biblical norms clearly seen in the book of Acts and the epistles.
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
King James Version: “...a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation...”
- • Paul focused on three important factors for the gathered church, “all of [which] must be done for the strengthening of the church”:
- 1) The preaching and teaching of the WORD of God (KJV: “a doctrine”; NIV: “a word of instruction”). God’s word, the bible, must be central to any successful church.
2) WORSHIP — NIV: “a hymn”. KJV: “a psalm”. An edifying church service will include a time of worship to the Lord, usually (but not necessarily) with musical accompaniment.
3) GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPRIT — exemplified here by tongues, interpretation of tongues, and revelations. This is the third leg of what I call the “tripod” of a biblical, New Testament church service. Far too many churches today are content to practice the first two (word and worship), but simply leave out the third (spiritual gifts). This is an error which both fails to honor the biblical norm and deprives God’s people of the power and the expression of Pentecost that so energized the early church.
- • I have taught for decades the simple truth of verse 26 — that is, a church service that follows the biblical norm will include the threefold foundation of word ... worship ... spiritual gifts.
Leviticus 23:5 The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
Leviticus 23:15 From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.
Leviticus 23:34 Say to the Israelites: “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days.”
- • This is the great cycle of harvest feasts that God established for ancient Israel: Passover in the first month, Pentecost (“weeks”) in the third month, and Tabernacles in the seventh month.
- • Our New Testament Passover is Jesus Christ’s self-sacrifice for us and for our salvation as the Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7). Our Pentecost is the mighty baptism with the Holy Spirit described in Acts 1:4-8 and Acts 2:1-4. Tabernacles was Israel’s year-end harvest feast and represented the final ingathering of that year’s crops. Most bible scholars teach that we have not yet experienced that in its New Testament fullness.
• The simple point I wish to draw from these feasts in their Christian fulfillment is this: to get to Tabernacles, with its joyful ingathering, we must pass through our personal Passover and Pentecost. In the early church of the book of Acts, they experienced Christ as the Passover Lamb of God. They experienced the mighty impartation of power at Pentecost. Then — not before; remember: “stay ... until ... [you receive] power from on high” — then they went forth and preached, healed, and did signs and wonders and saw thousands of souls harvested for God’s kingdom. To receive a full harvest, Jesus knew that they first needed both Passover and Pentecost.
The power of Pentecost is still being demonstrated mightily in the 21st century. I offer one closing example for your encouragement. The German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke in the year 2000 received a vision from the Lord for the winning of 100 million souls in Africa in the first decade of this century. Brother Bonnke ministers in the mighty power of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Many thousands are healed in his African crusades. Literally hundreds of thousands are baptized in the Holy Spirit. How is the 100 million soul vision succeeding? Brother Bonnke reports that in the first five years of this decade their ministry has registered 42 million documented salvations in Africa!
- • Pentecostal churches and ministry are God’s standard. Jesus began His Church in the power of Pentecost. The early preachers and church planters like Philip, Peter, and Paul took that Pentecostal power with them. They taught it to their new converts, who received the powerful baptism with the Holy Spirit in their cities and towns stretching from Israel across Asia Minor, and into Europe. Pentecost changed the ancient world. Pentecost can change our world today and greatly enhance the spread of the kingdom of God.
• As the apostle Peter said on the early Church’s first Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 38), the promise of the Holy Spirit’s mighty power “...is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
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©2008, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.