OnJanuary 1, 1901 the modern Pentecostal movement was ignited in much the sameway as the Upper Room. Charles Parham challenged thirty-four Bible students inTopeka, Kansas to study the scriptures, specifically Acts.
They hoped todiscover what they had felt they lacked in their Christian experience. Theybecame convinced that they needed an outpouring of the Holy Spirit like theearly believers experienced. Parham’s students gathered in a large mansion thatwas unfinished and unfurnished called “Stone’s Folly” to seek God and a newexperience, a new baptism in the Holy Spirit. After a number of days of praying and fasting,the Holy Spirit came down on the group in power. Agnes Ozman was the first tospeak in tongues.
Soon many other people were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spokein tongues for the first time. Parham believed this would be the beginning of anew Holy Spirit revival. He believed the Holy Spirit would bring power for “witnessingand winning the world for God just as it had two thousand years prior.” (ACTS:The Holy Spirit at Work Pg 48) By all accounts, Parham was correct. As oftoday, hundreds of millions of people are now part of the movement and thedenomination we now know as Pentecostal. Thehistory of the word Pentecost goesback far beyond the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we read about in thebook of Acts. The Greek word for Pentecost is pentekoste which simply means “fiftieth.
” That word or fifty refersto the number of days counted after the Passover. We also see it referred to asthe Feast of Weeks. It falls seven weeks after the Firstfruits or the offeringof barley that is harvested to God. Pentecost was known as a day of celebrationand a day of joy signifying the end of harvest season. Not only is the day ofPentecost related to the end of the wheat and barley harvest, but it relates toour spiritual harvest. Jesus said in Luke 10:2 “The harvest is plentiful, butthe workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send outworkers into his harvest field.” (Holy Bible NIV) As we see it today, Pentecostprepares workers, or harvesters for the fields.
Peter was one example of howPentecost can change a person’s life. We know that Peter wasn’t a greatwitness. He walked with Jesus for three years, he had the power to witness andhelp people throughout his time with Jesus, but Peter lacked the power to standup and speak out for Jesus. Because he lacked the power, Peter denied that heeven knew who Jesus was. If you read through the early chapters of Acts, therewas a major change in Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The same man who deniedJesus in front of just a few people is now proclaiming who Jesus was to largecrowds.
Peter was filled with the Spirit and given the power to proclaimChrist. The Spirit gave Peter the boldness to stand up to a crowd and tell hisaudience that they, with the help of wicked men, killed Jesus (Acts 2:23).Through that account with Peter, we see that the purpose of the Holy Spirit isto give the believer power to witness. When we can truly see the meaning of theDay of Pentecost is when we can fully understand what the Old Testament Feastof Pentecost is. The feast was to celebrate the harvest, and the same is saidfor the Day of Pentecost. Like He did with Peter, God poured out His Spirit toenable believers to bring in, or to reap a spiritual harvest.
Onequestion that is often posed to Pentecostal pastor’s is “if the Day ofPentecost continues to this day, why do we rarely see outpourings of the HolySpirit the same way we saw it in Acts 2:4?” To answer that question I would goback a few verses to the first verse of Acts chapter two. It says, “When theday of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.”(NIV) If you readthat verse in the King James Version, it says “they were all in one accord.” So the answer to the question of why don’t wesee Pentecost on the same scale as Acts two? Unity and fellowship among Christiansis a must. If we want to see the Holy Spirit move among us, we have to bewilling to embrace unity and get rid of any barriers or walls that are separatingus.
The year 1906 in the city of Los Angeles people witnessed what was calledthe Azusa Street Revival. In this revival we see the example of unity amongbelievers. Scholar Cecil M. Robeck Jr. said, “People of all races and gendersand financial, educational, and social standings worshiped freely together.Leaders of this great revival were black and white, male and female.
” RobeckJr. went on to say “it is not an insignificant fact that a black man, W.J. Seymour,provided Azusa’s leadership, and that everyone sensed a form of equality assisters and brothers seeking the will of God together.
” (Seymour 1906, 6)Justas they did during and after the Azusa Street Revival, people often strugglewith not notion of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, particularly because theyare unaware of the signs of Spirit Baptism. One thing that is important isfinding the difference in events that are not intended to be a pattern fortoday’s church and the events that are. Two signs that we saw in Acts that arenot intended to be seen again was the sound of a “blowing violent wind” andthey “saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest oneach of them.” Often times you will hear Pentecostals, especially thoseaffiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination, talk about something called”The initial physical evidence.
” What does that term mean? The baptism ofbelievers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speakingwith other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance (Acts 2:4).Speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift oftongues (1 Cor. 12:4-10, 28) but it is different in the purpose of use. (Bible DoctrinesPg 134) As Peter was preaching at the house of Cornelius, “the Holy Spiritcame on all who heard the message” and they were “speaking in tonguesand praising God” (Acts 10:44, 46). Again, as the apostle Paul was ministeringto the Ephesian disciples, “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spokein tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). It is evident also that Paulhimself was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17) and spoke in tongues (1Corinthians 14:18).
These Scriptures clearly show that speaking in tongues isthe initial physical evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. (www.ag.org Para. 1)Acts2:4 really defines what the effect of Pentecost was on believers and has one characteristicthat is still a pattern in today’s church: “All of them were filled with theHoly Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Whatthat verse is talking about are the 120 people who were ready to receive thepower of the Holy Spirit. They were patient and obedient in the commands of Christto just wait. They used their time waiting to pray and to study the word ofGod.
When the time came, they were ready and open to receive the power that waspoured out on them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke is clear inlater passages in the book of Acts that this wasn’t just a one-time occurrence.The disciples grew in their faith and they realized that their human vesselswere expandable (ACTS: The Holy Spirit at Work Pg 53). They realized that thegift of God, his power was boundless. The disciples knew that this wasn’t goingto happen just once, they understood and believed that this power was acontinual outpouring of God’s and they needed more of His fullness. Thebook of Acts shows us that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not given justonce.
Acts shows us that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is for all believers. Actstells us “In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all people. (Acts 2:17)The bible goes on to say “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children andfor all who are far off.” (Acts 2:38) Somust the baptism in the Holy Spirit go along with speaking in tongues? Again,if we refer to Acts 2:4, the verse tells us “All of them were filled with theSpirit and began to speak in other tongues.
” The bible doesn’t say that eventhough the early believers experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit and alsospoke in tongues, that therefore everyone must do the same. Even Paul hasstated that some have the gift of tongues while others have different gifts. Actschapters two, ten and nineteen tell us that tongues served as the initialphysical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Because of the repeatedexamples in the bible as well as the experience of countless believers stillhappening today, Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is the initialphysical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Although speaking in tongues as part of the baptism inthe Holy Spirit is distinct from the gift of tongues, it does serve as a steptoward the gifts of the Spirit. If you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit,it is common that you use that gift as a regular means of prayer. In the fourteenthchapter of 1 Corinthians, we see that speaking in tongues should be a regularmeans of prayer. Paul himself said he used tongues in his personal prayer morethan even the Corinthians.
With that statement, Pentecostals often get askedthe question “Why is praying in tongues better than praying in your ownlanguage?” I want to touch on a couple of different reasons that we see in thebible. In 1 Corinthians Paul said that the person who speaks in tongues speaksto God, not to people. Paul goes on to say that the person who prays in tonguesedifies himself (1 Cor. 14:4) Another reason praying in tongues is better thanyour own language is that, praying in tongues releases the human spirit to fullyexpress itself to God.
Many times in life we come across situations that weknow needs prayer but we just don’t know how to pray for it. Praying in tonguesallows us to “bypass our human minds and pray as directed by the Holy Spirit.”(Wood, 2005) Paul tells us in Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Wedo not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for uswith groans that words cannot express. He who searches our hearts knows themind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordancewith God’s will.
” (Romans 8:26-27 NIV) Praying in the Holy Spirit allows us to praysmarter than we are. It allows us to speak mysteries; you pray the prayer of God.Praying in the Holy Spirit builds you up, it ramps up your prayer life. Thefocus shouldn’t be getting tongues, or filled with the Holy Spirit so I cancall myself a Pentecostal. The focus ought to be an understanding that thisworld needs Jesus and if I’m going to reach the world then I need the help ofthe Holy Spirit to do that. Acts 1:8says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you and youwill be my witness.
” Acts 1:8 is the reason for power. Acts 2:4 tells us, “Allof them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues asthe Spirit enabled them.” This is what I am convinced of; a person that startswith Acts 2:4 speaking in tongues will never be an Acts 1:8 evangelistic individual.But a person that begins with Acts 1:8, they will be witnesses to reach thisworld and recognize that they need a measure of power that will drive them toActs 2:4. The purpose of the Holy Spirit isn’t just to enable us to speak intongues, but it enables us to be empowered by God to be more effective evangelizingthe people of a lost and dying world. Gordon L. Anderson,Ph.D.
, president, North Central University, Minneapolis, Minnesota, states “thevitality, energy, and passion that the baptism in the Holy Spirit can produce.Pentecostals have discovered anew that the non-rational, even the highly emotionaland passionate, are helpful to a Christian who is greatly concerned about thesalvation of the world.” (Anderson, 2003) We need the power of the Holy Spiritto lift us up. The book of Acts is talking about our private prayerlife.
If we turn our attention to 1 Corinthians, we see restrictions put onspeaking in tongues in a public forum. Paul opens up his mind again in 1Corinthians and says, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than allof you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words toinstruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:18,19 NIV). Too many, this verse is very contradictive;however, Paul was addressing a problem that was starting to occur in the earlychurch of Corinth. The issue wasn’t the Holy Spirit, but the over-use and tospontaneous speaking of tongues in a crowd of believers without proper interpretation.Paul stated that is problem was a disorder or confusion among the church.
Paul madean exaggerated statement when he said, “Five intelligible words is better thanten thousand words in a tongue.” Paul’s intention in that particular statementwas not to lessen the benefit of speaking in tongues; Paul’s intention was tobring order to the early church that was completely in disorder. In 1Corinthians chapter 14 verses 26-33, Paul explains in detail how the gift oftongues should operate, including the need for interpretation.
Also in chapter14, Paul speaks of the importance of speaking in tongues in the prayer anddevotional life of those who believe in Christ, but again Paul is specific indetailing the order of tongues needed interpretation in the church today; “Anyonewho speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifiesthe church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4 NIV) It is natural for us to learn at a young age how to getby in life on our own abilities. We figure out what we want and we learn how toachieve that particular thing that is driving us. We learn how to survive andthat includes our spiritual lives. We learn how to pray, we learn how to dodevotionals and we learn how to study our bible. We have to be careful, becauseour comfort, our complacency, and our normality can be the one thing that separatesus from truly knowing who God is and knowing what the power of the Holy Spiritfeels like in our lives.
Heath Adamson, former national youth director for theAssemblies of God states “What is normal for us often keeps us from recognizingthe possibility of something greater. The important often gets lost somewherein the middle of familiar.” (The Bush Always Burns, 2015 Pg 57) We all want to change the world that we live in and reachthe lost. The debate has never been reaching the lost; the debate is wrestlingwith the concept of speaking in tongues and the power it has on our lives andthe lasting effects in can have on today’s church. When speaking in tongues isno longer a doctrinal debate and becomes a passionate pursuit for the power ofGod to be released in my life, that’s when we can be built up and change theworld we live in!