A Reformed Look at Pentecostalism

In the previous article (Sept. 15 issue of The Standard Bearer) it was proved from Holy Scripture that the miracles alleged today by Pentecostalism are fraudulent. The Reformed faith disavows miracle working. Our faith is the doctrine of the apostles, who received it from Jesus. This doctrine has already been confirmed by many miracles. It does not need any further attestation. The only gospel that requires new miracles is a new gospel. 

This, however, does not imply that the Reformed religion is a religion without miracles: Pent. would like to leave this impression. It is a gospel with miracles, whereas the Reformed faith is a gospel lacking miracles and, therefore, less than a full gospel. 

First, the Reformed faith—and the Reformed believer!—sees the almighty power of God in all of creation and in every aspect of earthly life. The daily rising of the sun; the annual quickening of nature in spring-time; the blooming of a single rose; the conception of a baby; the upheaval of an earthquake; the rise and fall of nations; my health and life this moment; and a piece of bread on my table—all are the almighty, everywhere present, incomprehensible working of the power of the providence of God. The Christ of our faith is the sovereign Lord Who is presently upholding and governing all things by the Word of His power in a most marvelous manner (Heb. 1:3).

Secondly, we claim as our own every miracle that is recorded on the pages of Scripture. The notion that one does not have miracles unless miracles are done by him or before his eyes is foolish. The miracle of the flood; the miracle of the fire of the Lord devouring Elijah’s sacrifice; the miracle of the incarnation; the miracle of Peter’s raising of Dorcas; and all the others are my miracles, as truly as if I experienced them, not only because they were deliverances of the Church of which I am a member, but also because they astound me, make me adore God, and strengthen my faith in His Word, as much as if I saw them done with my very own eyes. The Reformed believer has an abundance of wonders in the Bible; any additional miracle would be superfluous. 

Thirdly, the Word proclaimed by the Reformed. Church constantly accomplishes many, great miracles. It raises the spiritually dead; it opens the eyes of the spiritually blind; it makes the spiritually lame to leap as a hart; it pulls down the fortresses of Satan in human hearts and lives (cf. Is. 35II Cor. 10:3-6). By the power of the Holy Spirit, the truth effects the miracle of salvation: faith; conversion; pardon; and sanctification. These are astounding wonders, far greater, should we be inclined to make the comparison, than miracles of physical healing, to say nothing of the trivial, nonsensical “miracles” so often boasted of by Pent. The spiritual wonders of the gospel, in fact, are the reality of which the physical healing by Jesus and His apostles was a sign. 

No, the Reformed Church is not a Church devoid of miracles. 

But this, by the way. Our purpose has been to show from Scripture that Pent. is heretical in its doctrine of salvation (“Holy Spirit baptism”) and fraudulent in its miracles. This has been done.

The Reformed faith judges Pent. to be a different religion from that of Luther, Calvin, and the Reformed confessions—a fundamental departure from the faith once delivered to the saints.

The Reformed Testing of Pent.’s Spirit 

Pent. replaces the Word of God in the Church and in the life of the member of the Church with experience, human feeling. This is one of its basic errors. Essentially, it is an attack on the Word, whether it replaces the Word altogether, or whether it puts the Word in the background, or whether it puts experience alongside the Word. The movement as a whole runs down doctrine; it speaks disparagingly of orthodoxy. Wherever it appears, it does away with the creeds. One of the “gifts” which it has restored is that of special revelations given directly from God to certain “prophets.” This is the denial of the sole authority and full sufficiency of Scripture—a deathblow to sola scriptura (Scripture alone). Hearing and believing the Word is no longer the central thing, but the experience of the Spirit-baptism. 

This displacement of the Word with experience identifies Pent, as a revival of the ancient heresy of mysticism: immediate contact with God. Pent.’s favorite words are “experience,” “feeling,” “power,” “ecstasy,” and the like. This is its Spirit-baptism; this is the nature of the Pent. meeting; this is its appeal to religious people; this is why women have a leading place in the movement.

That Pent. is experientialism and mysticism is readily illustrated from Pent. sources. The Full Gospel Business Men’s Voice (a Pent. magazine) of June, 1960 gives a description of his baptism with the Holy Spirit by a minister who, disturbed by his “lack of power,” had sought the baptism in fire:

“Directly, there came into my hands a strange feeling, and it came on down to the middle of my arms and began to surge! It was like a thousand—like ten thousand—then a million volts of electricity. It began to shake my hands and to pull my hands, I could hear, as it were, a zooming sound of the power. It pulled my hands higher and held them there as though God took them in His. There came a voice in my soul that said, ‘Lay these hands on the sick and I will heal them!’. . . but I didn’t have the baptism . . . In an air-conditioned room, with my hands lifted. . . and my heart reaching up for my God, there came the hot, molten, lava of His love. It poured in like a stream from Heaven and I was lifted up out of myself. I spoke in a language I could not understand for about two hours. My body perspired as though I was in a steam bath: the Baptism of Fire!” (quoted in Frederick Dale Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit, p. 127).

John Sherrill, well-known Pentecostal, writes of seeing Jesus as a bright white light in his hospital room (cf. his They Speak with Other Tongues). Donald Gee, another leading Pentecostal, describes the Pent. baptism this way: “We are taken into God, and the soul will receive a consuming desire to ever more be utterly and entirely lost in Him”—the typical language of mysticism (A New Discovery, p. 23). 

A second fundamental error of Pent. is that it puts Jesus Christ into the background and puts the Holy Spirit on the foreground. It is forced to deny this, just as Rome is forced to deny that the cult of Mary’ actually replaces Jesus, but the fact remains. The truth of this charge is obvious on the very face of the. movement. The Spirit is at the center and gets the attention in Pent. The work of the Spirit, not that of the Son, is celebrated and exalted. The very name by which this movement calls itself gives it away: Pentecostalism—a name that has to do with the Spirit. Scripture, however, gives the people of God the name Christian—a name that has to do with the Son, Jesus.

This disparagement of Jesus in favor of the Spirit is rooted deeply in basic Pent. doctrine. Pent. teaches that the child of God must go beyond Christ to the Spirit, must advance beyond merely (!) receiving Christ by faith to receiving the Spirit in the Spirit baptism. 

Pent. insults Christ. 

Whatever spirit replaces Christ, disparages Christ, or goes beyond Jesus the Christ is not the Spirit of Christ but one of the spirits of antichrist, for the Spirit of Christ reveals Christ, bestows Christ, calls attention to the work of Christ, and glorifies Christ. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26). “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:14). 

A third error is its minimizing of faith, stressing instead certain human works. Pent. insists that faith in Christ is not enough; something additional is required; one must go beyond faith to the Spirit baptism. It slights those who merely (!) believe, extolling those who have stepped up to the Spirit baptism. Downgrading faith, it stresses all kinds of human works. Pent. puts a premium on certain works that are alleged to be conditions for receiving the baptism with the Spirit: praying intensely, cleansing one’s heart from all sin, yielding oneself completely, and the like. The great emphasis, of course, is on the human work of tongue-speaking. Believing on Jesus must take a back seat to this! 

It is not strange then that Pent. practically ignores the one fundamental blessing of salvation for the child of God, the blessing received through faith: forgiveness of sins. 

Whatever disparages faith, whatever adds to faith, whatever goes beyond faith is of the devil, is another gospel, and whoever falls away to this heresy loses Christ and salvation. 

Faith alone! Sola fideAll of salvation, by faith only! “For by grace are ye saved through faith . . . not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9). The first verses of Galatians 5 give a sharp warning that there may be nothing alongside faith. To add to faith is altogether to lose Christ and to fall from grace. For salvation, we begin, continue, and end with faith.