On ignited in much the same way as the

On
January 1, 1901 the modern Pentecostal movement was ignited in much the same
way as the Upper Room. Charles Parham challenged thirty-four Bible students in
Topeka, Kansas to study the scriptures, specifically Acts. They hoped to
discover what they had felt they lacked in their Christian experience. They
became convinced that they needed an outpouring of the Holy Spirit like the
early believers experienced. Parham’s students gathered in a large mansion that
was unfinished and unfurnished called “Stone’s Folly” to seek God and a new
experience, 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 to
speak in tongues. Soon many other people were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke
in tongues for the first time. Parham believed this would be the beginning of a
new Holy Spirit revival. He believed the Holy Spirit would bring power for “witnessing
and 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 of
today, hundreds of millions of people are now part of the movement and the
denomination we now know as Pentecostal.

The
history of the word Pentecost goes
back far beyond the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we read about in the
book of Acts. The Greek word for Pentecost is pentekoste which simply means “fiftieth.” That word or fifty refers
to the number of days counted after the Passover. We also see it referred to as
the Feast of Weeks. It falls seven weeks after the Firstfruits or the offering
of barley that is harvested to God. Pentecost was known as a day of celebration
and a day of joy signifying the end of harvest season. Not only is the day of
Pentecost related to the end of the wheat and barley harvest, but it relates to
our spiritual harvest. Jesus said in Luke 10:2 “The harvest is plentiful, but
the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out
workers into his harvest field.” (Holy Bible NIV) As we see it today, Pentecost
prepares workers, or harvesters for the fields. Peter was one example of how
Pentecost can change a person’s life. We know that Peter wasn’t a great
witness. He walked with Jesus for three years, he had the power to witness and
help people throughout his time with Jesus, but Peter lacked the power to stand
up and speak out for Jesus. Because he lacked the power, Peter denied that he
even knew who Jesus was. If you read through the early chapters of Acts, there
was a major change in Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The same man who denied
Jesus in front of just a few people is now proclaiming who Jesus was to large
crowds. Peter was filled with the Spirit and given the power to proclaim
Christ. The Spirit gave Peter the boldness to stand up to a crowd and tell his
audience 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 is
to give the believer power to witness. When we can truly see the meaning of the
Day of Pentecost is when we can fully understand what the Old Testament Feast
of Pentecost is. The feast was to celebrate the harvest, and the same is said
for the Day of Pentecost. Like He did with Peter, God poured out His Spirit to
enable believers to bring in, or to reap a spiritual harvest.

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One
question that is often posed to Pentecostal pastor’s is “if the Day of
Pentecost continues to this day, why do we rarely see outpourings of the Holy
Spirit the same way we saw it in Acts 2:4?” To answer that question I would go
back a few verses to the first verse of Acts chapter two. It says, “When the
day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.”(NIV) If you read
that verse in the King James Version, it says “they were all in one accord.”  So the answer to the question of why don’t we
see Pentecost on the same scale as Acts two? Unity and fellowship among Christians
is a must. If we want to see the Holy Spirit move among us, we have to be
willing to embrace unity and get rid of any barriers or walls that are separating
us. The year 1906 in the city of Los Angeles people witnessed what was called
the Azusa Street Revival. In this revival we see the example of unity among
believers. Scholar Cecil M. Robeck Jr. said, “People of all races and genders
and financial, educational, and social standings worshiped freely together.
Leaders of this great revival were black and white, male and female.” Robeck
Jr. 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 as
sisters and brothers seeking the will of God together.” (Seymour 1906, 6)

Just
as they did during and after the Azusa Street Revival, people often struggle
with not notion of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, particularly because they
are unaware of the signs of Spirit Baptism. One thing that is important is
finding the difference in events that are not intended to be a pattern for
today’s church and the events that are. Two signs that we saw in Acts that are
not intended to be seen again was the sound of a “blowing violent wind” and
they “saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on
each of them.” Often times you will hear Pentecostals, especially those
affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination, talk about something called
“The initial physical evidence.” What does that term mean? The baptism of
believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking
with 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 of
tongues (1 Cor. 12:4-10, 28) but it is different in the purpose of use. (Bible Doctrines
Pg 134) As Peter was preaching at the house of Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit
came on all who heard the message” and they were “speaking in tongues
and praising God” (Acts 10:44, 46). Again, as the apostle Paul was ministering
to the Ephesian disciples, “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke
in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). It is evident also that Paul
himself was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17) and spoke in tongues (1
Corinthians 14:18). These Scriptures clearly show that speaking in tongues is
the initial physical evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. (www.ag.org Para. 1)

Acts
2:4 really defines what the effect of Pentecost was on believers and has one characteristic
that is still a pattern in today’s church: “All of them were filled with the
Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” What
that verse is talking about are the 120 people who were ready to receive the
power of the Holy Spirit. They were patient and obedient in the commands of Christ
to just wait. They used their time waiting to pray and to study the word of
God. When the time came, they were ready and open to receive the power that was
poured out on them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke is clear in
later 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 vessels
were expandable (ACTS: The Holy Spirit at Work Pg 53). They realized that the
gift of God, his power was boundless. The disciples knew that this wasn’t going
to happen just once, they understood and believed that this power was a
continual outpouring of God’s and they needed more of His fullness.

The
book of Acts shows us that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not given just
once. Acts shows us that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is for all believers. Acts
tells 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 and
for all who are far off.” (Acts 2:38)  So
must 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 the
Spirit and began to speak in other tongues.” The bible doesn’t say that even
though the early believers experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit and also
spoke in tongues, that therefore everyone must do the same. Even Paul has
stated that some have the gift of tongues while others have different gifts. Acts
chapters two, ten and nineteen tell us that tongues served as the initial
physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Because of the repeated
examples in the bible as well as the experience of countless believers still
happening today, Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is the initial
physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

            Although speaking in tongues as part of the baptism in
the Holy Spirit is distinct from the gift of tongues, it does serve as a step
toward 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 fourteenth
chapter of 1 Corinthians, we see that speaking in tongues should be a regular
means of prayer. Paul himself said he used tongues in his personal prayer more
than even the Corinthians. With that statement, Pentecostals often get asked
the question “Why is praying in tongues better than praying in your own
language?” I want to touch on a couple of different reasons that we see in the
bible. In 1 Corinthians Paul said that the person who speaks in tongues speaks
to God, not to people. Paul goes on to say that the person who prays in tongues
edifies himself (1 Cor. 14:4) Another reason praying in tongues is better than
your own language is that, praying in tongues releases the human spirit to fully
express itself to God. Many times in life we come across situations that we
know needs prayer but we just don’t know how to pray for it. Praying in tongues
allows 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. We
do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us
with groans that words cannot express. He who searches our hearts knows the
mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance
with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27 NIV)  Praying in the Holy Spirit allows us to pray
smarter 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. The
focus shouldn’t be getting tongues, or filled with the Holy Spirit so I can
call myself a Pentecostal. The focus ought to be an understanding that this
world needs Jesus and if I’m going to reach the world then I need the help of
the Holy Spirit to do that.  Acts 1:8
says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you and you
will be my witness.” Acts 1:8 is the reason for power. Acts 2:4 tells us, “All
of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as
the Spirit enabled them.” This is what I am convinced of; a person that starts
with 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 this
world and recognize that they need a measure of power that will drive them to
Acts 2:4. The purpose of the Holy Spirit isn’t just to enable us to speak in
tongues, but it enables us to be empowered by God to be more effective evangelizing
the people of a lost and dying world. Gordon L. Anderson,
Ph.D., president, North Central University, Minneapolis, Minnesota, states “the
vitality, energy, and passion that the baptism in the Holy Spirit can produce.
Pentecostals have discovered anew that the non-rational, even the highly emotional
and passionate, are helpful to a Christian who is greatly concerned about the
salvation of the world.” (Anderson, 2003) We need the power of the Holy Spirit
to lift us up.

            The book of Acts is talking about our private prayer
life. If we turn our attention to 1 Corinthians, we see restrictions put on
speaking in tongues in a public forum. Paul opens up his mind again in 1
Corinthians and says, “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 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 early
church of Corinth. The issue wasn’t the Holy Spirit, but the over-use and to
spontaneous 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 made
an exaggerated statement when he said, “Five intelligible words is better than
ten thousand words in a tongue.” Paul’s intention in that particular statement
was not to lessen the benefit of speaking in tongues; Paul’s intention was to
bring order to the early church that was completely in disorder. In 1
Corinthians chapter 14 verses 26-33, Paul explains in detail how the gift of
tongues should operate, including the need for interpretation. Also in chapter
14, Paul speaks of the importance of speaking in tongues in the prayer and
devotional life of those who believe in Christ, but again Paul is specific in
detailing the order of tongues needed interpretation in the church today; “Anyone
who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies
the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4 NIV)

            It is natural for us to learn at a young age how to get
by in life on our own abilities. We figure out what we want and we learn how to
achieve that particular thing that is driving us. We learn how to survive and
that includes our spiritual lives. We learn how to pray, we learn how to do
devotionals and we learn how to study our bible. We have to be careful, because
our comfort, our complacency, and our normality can be the one thing that separates
us from truly knowing who God is and knowing what the power of the Holy Spirit
feels like in our lives. Heath Adamson, former national youth director for the
Assemblies of God states “What is normal for us often keeps us from recognizing
the possibility of something greater. The important often gets lost somewhere
in the middle of familiar.” (The Bush Always Burns, 2015 Pg 57)

            We all want to change the world that we live in and reach
the lost. The debate has never been reaching the lost; the debate is wrestling
with the concept of speaking in tongues and the power it has on our lives and
the lasting effects in can have on today’s church. When speaking in tongues is
no longer a doctrinal debate and becomes a passionate pursuit for the power of
God to be released in my life, that’s when we can be built up and change the
world we live in!