For many people, “Pentecostal” is a new word. Although it has become much more common in recent years, its roots go back to an ancient Jewish feast and, more recently, to the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the earliest Christian believers. Because this initial outpouring of the Spirit took place on the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), those who experience a similar infilling of the Spirit are known as Pentecostals. They look to the Book of Acts as a guide for how to live out their Christian faith. Many of the key players in Acts were eyewitnesses of the life and teachings of Jesus, and it follows that they would have the clearest insight into the way in which to worship Jesus.
Pentecostal distinctives include the following:
A Foundation on the Bible
Pentecostals believe it is important to be led of the Spirit. However, this desire to be led of the Spirit does not conflict with a high view of the Bible as a primary source for truth. From our belief in an intelligent, loving Creator, we should expect God to reveal His message in writing, the historic medium best suited for precision, preservation, and propagation. When we read, study, and listen to the Bible, we hear the voice of the living Lord speaking to us today. We receive the message that can transform our lives and lead us to eternal life.
An Appreciation of God's Identity
The beautiful message of Scripture is that our Creator became our Savior. The God against whom we sinned is the One who forgives us. God loved us so much that He came in flesh to save us. He gave of Himself; He did not send someone else. Moreover, our Creator-Savior is also the indwelling Spirit who is ever-present to help us. God told us how to live and then came to live among us. He showed us how to live in the flesh and laid down His human life to purchase our salvation. Now He abides within us and enables us to live according to His will.
Jesus Christ is the one God incarnate, and in Him we have everything we need: healing, deliverance, victory, and salvation (Colossians 2:9-10). By recognizing the almighty God in Jesus Christ, we restore correct biblical belief and experience apostolic power.
Salvation and a New Life
Our experience and doctrine should conform to the complete biblical pattern. As we respond to the gospel and believe on Jesus Christ, we will repent of our sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts chapters 2, 8, 10, 19). We do not reject those who have not received the complete New Testament experience, but we encourage them to receive everything God has for them.
Ultimately, each of us is accountable to God for our response of faith. The Bible is the sole authority for salvation; the basis of salvation is Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; and the application of grace and the expression of faith come as a person obeys Acts 2:38, thereby receiving the new birth promised by Jesus.
A Holy Response to a Holy God
Holiness is an integral part of the salvation of the whole person from sin’s power and effects. It is a joyful privilege; a part of abundant life; a blessing from God’s grace; a glorious life of freedom and power. The life of holiness fulfills God’s original intention and design for humanity. For the Spirit-filled believer who loves God, holiness is the normal—indeed the only—way to live.
The act of worship is the rule and not the exception in human existence. The question is not will humans worship, but rather who and how will they worship. God calls people to worship Him passionately with every area of their lives, and all of our actions and attitudes have the possibility to bring honor to God. Jesus wanted to draw all people, regardless of their backgrounds. He still calls us to authentic worship today.
Gifts of the Spirit
God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). As Spirit-filled believers, we can exercise simple faith to receive God’s miraculous gifts and to stir up the gifts He has already placed in our midst. Whenever special needs arise, we should believe that He can work through us. In this way, the gifts of the Spirit become vital tools for strengthening the church.
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter reminded his audience that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. He promised that the Pentecostal experience was for “all those afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
This life-changing promise still holds true today. Around the world and across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic barriers, people are embracing Pentecostalism. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that people are encountering the power of the Holy Spirit. Access the Church and Ministry Locator at the bottom of this page to find a church near you that celebrates the experience of Pentecost.
Adapted from On Being Pentecostal by David K. Bernard and Robin Johnston.