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Pentecostalism and the Work of the Holy Spirit

Pentecostalism is a movement which is focused on the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual. The term Pentecostal itself comes from the day of Pentecost, when the followers of Christ “were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2.4, NIV). Because many of the early church received outward gifts, such as tongues, Pentecostal theology claims tongues and other charismatic gifts as the proof of Spirit Baptism (Cairns, 1996). The charismata are the nine gifts which are addressed in 1 Corinthians 12.8-10: speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, healing, prophesy and others (Lederle, n.d.b). Spirit baptism plays a major role in the Pentecostal view on sanctification.

Sanctification, as the Pentecostals believe, happens in two phases. The first phase of sanctification takes place at the moment one confesses Christ. The second phase of sanctification takes place when a believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit. At this time the Spirit becomes manifest in the individual through the speaking of tongues. Most Pentecostals do not believe that Holy Spirit Baptism happens at the moment of salvation or that it happens at the time of water baptism, however there are variations to this throughout the Pentecostal denominations. For instance, Oneness Pentecostals believe that salvation and Holy Spirit baptism both happen at the moment of water baptism. If one does not speak in tongues at this time, the Oneness Pentecostals do not believe that person made a true confession of faith and is therefore not saved (Billingsley, 2008).

Pentecostals believe in what they call the ‘Foursquare Gospel.’ This is not a different gospel than what is taught in the Bible. Rather, it is a way of maintaining focused ecclesiology. The four squares of the Foursquare Gospel represent the foundations for the teaching of the Pentecostals. The first square is Jesus Christ as savior. Pentecostals follow the belief that salvation is found through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The second square is Spirit-baptizer (Lederle, n.d.a). They believe that at the moment of baptism, Jesus Christ received the Spirit from God the Father. Then, at Pentecost, Jesus poured out that Spirit which He had been given, onto His followers (Billingsley, 2008). The third square recognizes Jesus as the Healer. Finally, the fourth square is Jesus as the coming King (Cairns, 1996). The Pentecostals eschatology views the second coming as urgent and imminent and has been a major focus of the Pentecostal teaching from their beginnings (Billingsley, 2008).

One of the most influential preachers and evangelists of the Pentecostals was Aimee McPherson. She was a proponent of the foursquare Gospel (Cairns, 1996), especially as it relates to the urgency of salvation before the return of Christ (Billingsley, 2008). McPherson made use of many unorthodox methods of transmitting the Gospel message. One of these means was by radio. Her creative methods for evangelism have been the groundwork for many modern methods of evangelism, including opening the doors for televangelism. One of McPherson’s most powerful tools was her ability to create contrast in God’s standards so that she could boldly proclaim a standard for holiness for which others could rely upon. It is notable that where the Pentecostal faith does allow women as leaders, McPherson actually believed that the Bible teaches that men should be the leaders and overseers of the church. She found herself to be a preacher and evangelist, but left the administration of her congregation to male leadership (Billingsley, 2008).

Pentecostalism brought a revival into mainstream evangelicalism. Many people have been attracted to it because of the emphasis placed on the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. It brings hope to many because they are able to see the work of God happening in their lives, despite the continued argument of credibility. Because of this, Pentecostalism still exists today and will likely continue into the future.


Billingsly, S. (2008). It’s a new day: race and gender in the modern charismatic movement. Tuscaloosa,    AL: The University of Alabama Press.

Cairns, E. (1996). Chsitianity through the centuries. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Lederle, Henry, (n.d.a). Lesson Two: The Holy Spirit Movements. Distinctive Features of Pentecostal Theology. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Website: http://moodle.embanet.com/sterling/mod/resource/view.php?id=7413&x=49&y=11

Lederle, Henry, (n.d.b). Lesson Two: The Holy Spirit Movements. Pentecostal Theology. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Website: http://moodle.embanet.com/sterling/mod/resource/view.php?id=7412

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One comment on “Pentecostalism and the Work of the Holy Spirit
  1. joseph says:

    thank you for the info. it was very helpful for my research

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