It is common for people to hear of the term ‘Pentecostal,’ but few know the history behind this protestant denomination or what its members believe and practice. For instance, many outside the denomination ask questions such as: what is a Pentecostal church? What do they believe? Do they share the same values and beliefs as other Christian denominations? What do they know about the Bible?
A Pentecostal church is a group of Christians who subscribe to a protestant theology that emphasizes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, believe that Christians today can experience the same outpouring, and hold to the belief that speaking in tongues and the occurrence of supernatural gifts such as prophecies and healings are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
By the end of this article, you will have a greater understanding of this protestant denomination, what its members believe and stand for, and whether its beliefs are consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
What do Pentecostal churches believe in?
‘Original sin’ is the core of Christianity, including Pentecostalism. According to scriptures such as Romans 5:12, it refers to the initial sin of disobedience that Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden when they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—Romans 5:12
Pentecostals believe that this sin led to the consequences humanity has suffered since then, and this sinful state has separated human beings from God, as outlined in verses such as Isaiah 59:2.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. Isaiah 59:2
Similar to many Christian denominations, salvation is a core belief of Pentecostals. They believe that human beings can be reconciled to God by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is echoed throughout the Bible, such as in Ephesians 2:8-9.
For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
In Christianity, the Trinity is a term that describes the unity between God the Father, Jesus (the Son), and the Holy Spirit. The Bible does not explicitly mention the Trinity, although it was implied several times, like in Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Matthew 28:19
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14
It is worth mentioning that most Pentecostals believe in the concept of the Trinity, although there is a sub-group that does not (Oneness Pentecostals).
The Bible is an inspired book
Pentecostals, like many Christians, believe that the Bible is a ‘divinely guided’ book, as stated in 2 Timothy 3:16:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness. 2 Tim.3:16
Pentecostals state that God revealed Himself through the scriptures and used various people throughout history to write the messages He wanted believers to know. It is implied that He did this through the Holy Spirit, so the Bible is without error.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
This is the main aspect of Pentecostalism that makes it unique from other denominations – the belief that the Holy Spirit comes upon a believer, as Jesus talked about just before His ascension to Heaven in Acts 1:5.
For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. Acts 1:5
Aside from the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostals hold to the belief that the Holy Spirit manifests in believers through spiritual gifts and miraculous events.
Like the disciples in Acts 2:3-4, Pentecostals believe that evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of the Church is by speaking in tongues, as well as supernatural gifts like prophecy and working miracles.
And divided tongues of fire appeared to them and rested on each one. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:3-4
Pentecostals believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can only be exercised by believers who are baptized in the Holy Spirit, which is a different experience from the water baptism and conversion (becoming born-again) experiences.
This belief also leads to lively and emotional expressions of worship as believers are encouraged to fully allow the Holy Spirit to show various supernatural gifts through speaking in tongues, performing healings, and doing prophetic sessions even in the middle of church services.
Where did the name ‘Pentecost’ come from?
The word ‘Pentecost’ is a derivative of the Greek word ‘Pentekoste,’ which meant fiftieth. It is a remembrance of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and other followers of Christ. It is recorded in Acts 2 to 4 and tends to fall about 50 days after Easter (which commemorates the resurrection of Christ).
Originally, the Jews referred to this day as Shavuot, which translates to ‘The Feast of Weeks’ and was when Jews celebrated the beginning of harvest activities. In the context of the New Testament, though, Pentecost is marked as the beginning of the Church, the offer of salvation to all people, and the unity among diverse groups of believers.
What was the first Pentecostal Church opened?
Despite the early origin of the ‘Pentecostal’ term, the church movement is relatively new even compared to other Christian denominations. The beginnings of the Pentecostal Church began in late 1800s America as an offshoot of the Holiness movement within the Methodist denomination.
It is difficult to narrow down when the first Pentecostal Church began, although some candidates qualify. The first congregation in the Pentecostal movement is said to have opened in 1902 in North Carolina. The previous 40 years, though, had been the beginnings of the Holiness Movement, with the first association (National Holiness Association) forming in New Jersey in 1867 and the Church of God in Christ congregation forming in 1897.
How has the Pentecostal Church grown over the years?
From its beginnings in the 19th Century, the Pentecostal movement experienced massive growth during three significant events: Holiness gatherings in North Carolina (1896) and Kansas (1901) and the Azusa Street Revival (1906).
Initially, it spread among the minority communities of North America and shortly after spread to Europe – with Norway hosting the earliest Pentecostal missionaries from the US in 1906. Some Mexicans who were part of the Azusa Street Revival also spread it to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and eventually to the rest of Latin America.
The earliest African mission was in 1907 in South Africa, where American missionaries went to establish a Pentecostal church. After World War II, the movement spread all across Sub-Saharan Africa.
It is said that the denomination is the fastest growing branch of Christianity, with an estimated rate of 13 million increase in members annually. Most of this growth is said to be in the regions of Africa and Latin America, making it the largest denomination of Christianity globally after Roman Catholicism.
How are Pentecostals different from other Christians?
Pentecostals are unique because they emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit and the believer experiencing God’s presence directly through spiritual gifts. In this way, they stand out because of their firm belief that faith must be experiential, as opposed to many Christian denominations that emphasize the experience of thinking or rituals in the life of a Christian.
Pentecostalism tends to be highly dynamic and energetic in expression and emphasizes the importance of a post-conversion experience to all believers (the baptism of the Holy Spirit). It is a common thought among its members that this is the purest form of Christianity, as outlined in the book of Acts when the early Church was open to the work of the Spirit, miracles, prophecies, and other supernatural events.
Additionally, Pentecostalism is unique because it emphasizes that it is not one Church but a collection of several churches and groups. It also allows for the revival movements in other denominations and incorporating them – such as the “Black Churches” in America and the “mega-churches” of Australia.
Are Pentecostal teachings aligned with the teachings in the Bible?
Pentecostals adhere to the Bible and its teachings for most teachings, like original sin, salvation, and the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying believers.
However, the issue of speaking in tongues and working miracles has caused division between them and other Christians because no scripture in the Bible states that all believers will have the same gifts of the Spirit or that all believers should speak in tongues.
The Epistles highlight this several times, mainly when the Apostle Paul talks about the Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-5.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord…1 Corinthians 12:4-5
In the entire chapter, Paul outlines that “speaking in tongues” is among the spiritual gifts, but it is not the only gift. It is also given to certain believers according to what the Holy Spirit desires to accomplish in the Church, and He distributes different gifts as He pleases. Therefore, contrary to what Pentecostals imply or insist on, not everyone can have the same gift or perform the same functions in the Church.
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.