In the Christian sphere, there are numerous branches of the faith depending on the interpretation of the Bible, with the Baptist and Pentecostal movements being among the most well-known groups. However, not many know what makes Pentecostals vs. Baptists different from each other.
While Pentecostals and Baptists adhere to many similar views of protestant Christianity, they differ in their origins, views of spiritual gifts (particularly speaking in tongues), and how they view the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, this article should be helpful to many people who are looking for an enhanced understanding of these two groups and the factors that led to their differences in expression and faith. It also serves as a useful reminder that Baptists and Pentecostals are very diverse but can attain unity despite their differences.
How is the Pentecostal church different from the Baptist church?
The Pentecostal and Baptist movements are both products of the Reformation Movement, but they are different in their origins and inspirations.
The Baptist movement initially began as an offshoot of England’s Anabaptist and Puritan movements. It initially began as two groups: The General Baptists, who leaned towards Arminianism (which believed that Jesus died for all people), and the Particular Baptists, who leaned towards Calvinism (which believed that Jesus died only for a select group of people).
On the other hand, the modern Pentecostal movement was the result of the Holiness Movement inspired by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church movement, as well as street revivals and evangelism efforts – particularly the Azusa Street Revival. Since the movement concentrated on the lower classes of society, its emphasis was on the “heart state” and creating a belief system that would satisfy its congregants’ physical, psychological, and emotional needs.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Pentecostal churches believe all believers should undergo a second baptism after becoming born-again. They mainly derive this teaching from Jesus when He spoke to His disciples in Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
In this scripture, Jesus was talking about the day of Pentecost, which happened in Acts 2. Because this event happened after some time, Pentecostals use this as the main implication that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is separate from when a person goes through conversion during salvation.
However, Baptists do not hold to this teaching as proof of the evidence of someone being a believer. Instead, they follow the belief that anyone who professes to be a believer must go through a water baptism as a sign of their commitment to Christ, as it is stated in John 3:5:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5
Baptists do not hold to the theology that the Holy Spirit gives believers a “second baptism,” which eliminates the need to use miracles to prove the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Views on spiritual gifts
Both the Pentecostal and Baptist movements agree that the Holy Spirit gives Christians spiritual gifts for the strengthening of the church, as the Bible outlines in several scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 12:4. However, they differ on the practicing of these gifts – particularly the miraculous gifts of speaking in tongues, healings, and prophecy.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…1 Cor. 12:4
Baptists will view miraculous gifts in two ways: they stopped at the end of the Apostolic age when the biblical canon and the church were established, and one should not view them as evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work or salvation in a person.
Pentecostals have a different view of these gifts, thanks to their belief that the miraculous gifts are still active to this day. Different Pentecostal groups will have varying levels of this. Still, they will all believe that speaking in tongues is evidence that one is a believer and can only happen once one is “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” which only happens after one becomes born-again.
How is the Pentecostal church similar to the Baptist church?
Original sin and salvation
Both Pentecostal and Baptist movements are protestants, so they follow this principle: salvation is only by the grace of God and only happens through faith in Christ alone. They also believe in the doctrine of original sin, as the Apostle Paul talks of in Romans 5:12:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, death spread to all men because all sinned… Romans 5:12
Theologians outline the doctrine of original sin as involving disobedience to God and that it happens in many forms, which means that no human being has reached God’s standards of holiness. Therefore, both denominations believe that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice to atone for humanity’s sins, as outlined in scriptures such as Titus 3:5:
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his mercy… Titus 3:5
This is what Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation, referred to as “Sola Scriptura”: the fact that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Both Pentecostals and Baptists follow this teaching, thanks to backing from 2 Timothy 3:16 and other passages:
All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Tim. 3:16
Because all the writers of the various books had different backgrounds, they used different writing styles. Despite this difference, they all talked about the same thing, and these two Christian groups see it as proof that God was using them to outline His commands and messages – a good example of this being what David said in 2 Samuel 23:2:
The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue. 2 Sam. 23:2
Which one came first between the Pentecostal and Baptist churches?
The Baptist church movement came before the Pentecostal one, preceding Pentecostalism by several centuries. Baptist churches are rooted in Europe, while Pentecostalism had American roots before spreading globally.
Many Baptist movements today credit their start to the persecution in England during the 17th Century, which resulted in the development of the Puritan movement between the 1500s and 1700s. Two men from this movement, Thomas Helwys and John Smythe, moved to the Netherlands to spread this message and promote the claim that the Bible only supported Believer’s baptism as stated in several scriptures such as Acts 2:38:
And Peter said to them, “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.” Acts 2:38
Thomas Helwys returned to England after the Puritan persecution slowed down, and he formed a group of General Baptist churches that leaned towards Arminianism in their theology. At a later point, some Baptists split off due to their Calvinist-leaning beliefs and were referred to as the Particular Baptists.
Their numbers grew greatly over the years, and both Baptist groups landed in the Americas. Between the two, the Particular Baptists increased in numbers. The congregations they established in the US formed large organizations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the North American Baptists.
The Pentecostal movement has a different history rooted in 18th Century America. While it is unclear who started the movement and when it started, the consensus is that it began in the late-1800s as an offshoot of the Holiness Movement, which formalized in 1867 when the National Holiness Association was formed.
The first Pentecostal churches formed in the first decade of the 1900s, with the first congregation forming in 1902 – the Church of God in North Carolina. The movement then turned global after the Azusa Street Revival of 1906, which spread it to Central and South America, Europe (in 1906-1907), Africa (in 1908), and the rest of the world.
Which is more popular between Pentecostal and Baptist churches?
It is difficult to say which of the two church movements is more popular than the other, as statistics can only estimate the growth they experience annually.
With this in mind, it is safe to assume that Pentecostal churches are the more popular expression of Christianity among the two, aided by the lack of a central governing authority and the freedom of expression it gives individual churches in different environments. These include mega-churches and informal worship venues like schools and stadiums. This has led about 500 million Christians today to identify as Pentecostals, equivalent to a quarter of the global 2 billion Christian population.
On the other hand, Baptists in America make up about 9.2% of the population or the third largest group in the country – however, global statistics on Baptists are rare since they are not as common as in the US.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.