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Examines the history of the Pentecostal movement and shows how it was not only teaching a new doctrine in the church, but how the founders and leaders of this movement acknowledged that this was not something that had been happening since Acts chapter 2

The History of the Pentecostal Movement

When you study the history of Pentecostalism it raises some very serious questions as to what their doctrine teaches about the cessation of the Spiritual gifts. When Pentecostalism was born the standard teaching within the movement was that the gifts of the Spirit were “returning” to the church. They never claimed, at that time, that the gifts of the Spirit have always been in operation since the birth of the Church. Today, however, Pentecostals seem to claim that the gifts have never ceased and are still in operation today. They make this claim as though they have always been in operation within the church. This however, conflicts with the teaching of the early Pentecostal Movement.

This is a very serious and important issue that the reader should be aware of. The Bible does teach that the gifts of the Spirit did cease (1 Cor 13:8). What the Bible does not teach is that the gifts of the Spirit will return in a renewal of Pentecost before the imminent return of Christ. This teaching is a man-made doctrine that has no basis in Scripture. Because of this, over the years Pentecostals have distanced themselves from the reasons for which their doctrines were founded. They now try to teach their doctrine as though it has always existed in some form or another since the birth of the New Testament church. This is simply not true. This study proves that Pentecostalism is a “new” religion that was founded near the turn of the twentieth century. Before that time, there was no such teaching in existence.

It is essential the reader realize the importance of this study. The founders of Pentecostalism believed that the day of Pentecost was being “restored.” Never did they teach that the events from that day had existed since Acts chapter 2. Therefore, the leaders of the Pentecostal movement realized that until this time the gifts of the Spirit had ceased. This was the standard teaching of the church from the third century until this time. No one back then ever challenged that idea, nor had there been any evidential use of the gifts to negate it. Instead, they claimed that this was something “new” that was occurring as a sign of the imminent return of Christ

Today Pentecostals teach that the gifts have always been in existence. This is not only unscriptural; there is no historical proof for this claim either. Even their very own church history reveals that this was never the teaching of any Church before Pentecostalism came into existence.

The Beginnings of Pentecostal Thought

John Fletcher (1729-85), a Wesleyan theologian, was the first to use the term “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” This terminology, however, was not used in the same manner as it is used today. Fletcher used this terminology to explain what he believed to be the process of sanctification that led a person to be assured as to their spiritual state. He did not teach that this baptism was separate from sanctification or that it was an experiential evidence of salvation. Those thoughts did not exist until later.

Charles Parham is said to be the originator of the belief that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the Spiritual baptism. Parham, who founded a Bible School in Topeka Kansas, began teaching this before he had ever seen or experienced this phenomenon. After teaching that speaking in tongues was the evidence of Spirit baptism one of his students finally began speaking in tongues. Up until this time, there were no other churches, denominations or sects that taught speaking in tongues was the evidence of Holy Spirit baptism. The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements says:

The AFM (Apostolic Faith Movement) grew out of the restorationist dreams of a young Kansas evangelist, Charles F. Parham. ….
Toward the end of the year he turned the students’ attention to a NT experience as yet unrealized among them – toungues speech. Basing his assertion primarily on Acts 2, he affirmed that speaking in tongues was the biblical for an experience of Spirit baptism. Many of his contemporaries shared his emphasis on the baptism with the Holy Spirit; none, however, had posited a uniform biblical evidence for the experience.
As a result, in January 1901 Parham’s students and other followers began to speak in tongues. The school disbanded in the wake of enthusiam to spread the message that yet another dimension of the apostolic faith had been restored.

What the Early Pentecostals Believed About Their Experiences

As we can see, no one had spoken in tongues and thought it was the evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism before the year 1901. In fact, tongues speech among those who claimed to be Christians was a new thing and those who were speaking in tongues said that this was a renewal of Pentecost. This is evidenced in the teaching of those who began this Pentecostal movement. They were teaching that the gifts of the Spirit, as given on the day of Pentecost, were being “restored” to the church, not that they had always existed. The Dictionary goes on to say:

The Apostolic Faith Movement, according to Parham, had a twofold purpose: the restoration of “the faith once delivered to the saints”, and the promotion of Christian unity. In addition to evidential tongues (which Parham believed should be authentic human languages), the movement affirmed the necessity of crisis sanctification, proclaimed divine healing, espoused premillennialism, urged “faith” living for Christian workers, and valued the manifestation of spiritual gifts.1

Although Charles Parham was the first to state tongues as the evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism, his pupil William Seymour, who led the famous Azusa Street Revival, is more renown for his impact on the Pentecostal movement. “Practically every early Pentecostal movement in the world can trace its origin directly or indirectly to Seymour’s Azusa Street Mission.” 2

If practically every Pentecostal movement stems from this one place and was led by this one man, it is important to see just what he was teaching. Seymour’s ministry the “Pacific Apostolic Faith Movement” began publishing a periodical entitled the “Apostolic Faith.” In this publication, Seymour explained about the events that were occurring at his mission and other missions around the globe. Seymour proclaimed that these events were part of the latter rain prophesied of in Joel. To him, and all of his followers, this was a restoration of the empowering of the Spirit. The gifts were given once again in preparation for the imminent return of the Lord. Here are several statements from the “Apostolic Faith” periodical that confirm this very fact.

This is the year of jubilee when God is sending the latter rain, and the refreshing times have come. DEC 06

The Lord did great things in 1906. Pentecost first fell in Los Angeles on April 9th. JAN O7

We are glad God had one humble preacher in Akron who opened wide the door to receive this “latter rain”. We are likely just getting the first sprinkling of the great shower that is to come. Praise God! JAN 07

The burden of everyone that has received their personal Pentecost is “Jesus is coming soon.” JAN 07

To the Apostolic Faith People, Saints, and Friends; the ninth of April is the birthday of Pentecost to us, for the Pentecost fell here on April 9, 1906. May all that have received this precious gift, the baptism with the Holy Ghost, honor that day as a jubilee feast, in praise and thanks to God for sending the old time Pentecost back to earth again. FEB 07

924 N. Kansas Ave., Topeka, Kans., Feb. 21.-Glory to Jesus for the real Pentecostal power that is coming back to His people. FEB 07

Other Sources Document The Beginning of This New Strange Doctrine

The Los Angeles Times also reported on the events taking place at Azusa Street. We can see from this secular paper, that the events taking place were unheard of before this time. These events were so strange and uncommon that the paper called the partakers “fanatics” and mentioned several times how these teachings were new. Below are some excerpts from the Los Angeles Times April 1906 article on the Azusa Street Happenings.

Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand, the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles. Meetings are held in a tumble-down shack on Azusa Street, near San Pedro Street, and devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve-racking [sic] attitude of prayer and supplication. They claim to have “the gift of tongues;” and to be able to comprehend the babel.

Such a startling claim has never yet been made by any company of fanatics, even in Los Angeles, the home of almost numberless creeds. Sacred tenets, reverently mentioned by the orthodox believer, are dealt with in a familiar, if nor irreverent, manner by these latest religionists.

Another speaker had a vision in which he saw the people of Los Angeles flocking in a mighty stream to perdition. He prophesied awful destruction to this city unless its citizens are brought to a belief in the tenets of the new faith.

Linking Modern Pentecostalism to These Teachings

We can also look at the historical statements of modern Pentecostalism, to prove that they can and do trace their roots back to the Azusa Street Revival and the Topeka experience of 1901.

The Assemblies of God has its roots in a religious revival that began in the late 1800’s and swept into the 20th century with widespread repetition of biblical spiritual experiences…The beginning of the modern Pentecostal revival is generally traced to a prayer meeting at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, on January 1, 1901….most researchers agree it was here that recipients of the experience, through study of the Scriptures, came to believe speaking in tongues is the biblical evidence for the baptism in the Holy Spirit…By 1914…the need arose for formal recognition of ministers as well as approval and support of missionaries, with full accounting of funds…These concerned leaders realized that to protect and preserve the results of the revival the thousands of newly Spirit-baptized believers should be united in a cooperative fellowship…The five reasons they listed for calling the meeting were: doctrinal unity, conservation of the work, foreign missions interests, chartering churches under a common name for legal purposes, and the need for a Bible training school….A cooperative fellowship emerged from the meeting and was incorporated under the name “The General Council of the Assemblies of God.” 3

The UPCI (United Pentecostal Church International) emerged out of the Pentecostal movement that began in Topeka, Kansas in 1901. It traces its organizational roots to October 1916, when a large group of ministers withdrew from the Assemblies of God over the doctrinal issues of the oneness of God and water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.4

The Apostolic Faith Church is a worldwide religious organization, with international headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Our roots stem from a 1906 revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. 5

In its statement of faith, the Pentecostal Holiness Church distills and preserves the three great spiritual reforms of recent Christianity-Lutheran, Wesleyan, and pentecostal. Each of these revival movements brought to light and reemphasized truths concerning the Christian experience that apparently had been lost since the times of the early church.6

The Church of God is the only Pentecostal Church that I have found that proclaims it was founded before either one. Ten years before the Azusa Street Revival, a group of 8 or 9 men (one page of the Church of God website said 8 while another said 9) experienced what they now refer to as the “baptism of the Spirit” with the evidence of speaking in tongues. However, their own historians admit that there was little evidence as to what they experienced and what they believed that it was at that time.

A small band of believers formed the Christian Union on the banks of Barney Creek in Monroe County, Tennessee, on August 19, 1886. We know little about their activities, but the passion of those nine people who covenanted together probably rivaled the heat of a typical blistering summer day…Although they left few records, their efforts led to the growth of a denomination that approaches the end of the twentieth century with 4,648,000 members.7

We do know from the later writings of their leader and founder R. G. Spurling; they did begin to teach the same meaning of these gifts as the above Pentecostals. They believed that these gifts were part of what they called the “latter rain” and that God was giving these gifts “again” to the church, not that these gifts had been given since Acts 2.

Oh Brother if you now refrain
You are sure to miss the “latter rain”
Be sure you’ve counted all the cost
And got your blessed Pentecost 8

Then when the Jewish Church was rejected and ready to vanish and pass away as a nation, the prophecy of speaking to them in other tongues was fulfilled and for all this they would not hear. Now God is speaking again in other tongues, to the nominal churches of today and they are rejecting the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized with the Holy Ghost.9


It is clear from the teaching of the early Pentecostal Movement, that they believed their experiences were something new that was returning to the church (which has no basis in Scripture). It is also clear that mainstream Pentecostals admit their churches were born out of this movement. From this we can make only one observation.

History confirms that the gifts of the Spirit had ceased and did not exist in the church before the birth of Pentecostalism. Pentecostals claim that the gifts do and have existed since the birth of the church. Their own teachings do not line up with their own history. Because of this, they are not being true to their heritage and they are not being honest with us. Their founders never questioned the gifts had ceased. Why do they now claim otherwise?

The same organizations above that claim and admit their heritage stems from the above teachings make these claims as well.

The Assemblies of God Website tells us:

at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, on January 1, 1901….most researchers agree it was here that recipients of the experience, through study of the Scriptures, came to believe speaking in tongues is the biblical evidence for the baptism in the Holy Spirit3

There is no indication in Scripture that tongues would cease at the end of the first century. Tongues are to be a part of the life of the church in every generation until Christ returns to set up His perfect kingdom. Paul’s perception was that spiritual gifts would be operational until that day (1 Corinthians 1:7, 8).10

The UPCI Website says:

The UPCI (United Pentecostal Church International) emerged out of the Pentecostal movement that began in Topeka, Kansas in 1901. It traces its organizational roots to October 1916, when a large group of ministers withdrew from the Assemblies of God over the doctrinal issues of the oneness of God and water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.4

Was the baptism of the Holy Spirit for the apostles or early disciples only? Is it today available to only a select few who are “superspiritual”? The obvious answer to these questions is no. The Apostle Peter made it very plain in his message on the Day of Pentecost that the gift of the Holy Ghost is for everyone:11

The Apostolic Faith Churches Website Says:

The Apostolic Faith Church is a worldwide religious organization, with international headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Our roots stem from a 1906 revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. 5

When one receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, He comes to live in the sanctified heart. When this infilling occurs, it is accompanied by the same sign as the disciples had on the Day of Pentecost—the speaking with “other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).12

Other churches make similar claims. How can we believe what they teach about the doctrine when they admit their roots were in the early Pentecostal movement that taught something totally contrary? The answer is we cannot. When we examine their teaching against Scripture it is clear that the gifts have indeed ceased. The historical record confirms that fact.

It is my hope that by examining their history the reader has been able to see that they are right to question whether these churches are exercising gifts based upon Scripture, or based upon man-made theology. For further study, please see our Scriptural examination of the Spiritual Gifts and how the Bible teaches they have ceased.


1 Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements 1988 P.19
2 Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements 1988 P.781
3 Assemblies of God USA Website – Our History
4 United Pentecostal Church International Website – History of the UPCI
5 Apostolic Faith Church Website – About Us
6 International Pentecostal Holiness Church Website
7 Restorationism and a Vision for World Harvest – A Brief History of the Church of God By David G. Roebuck PHD
8 From the Evening Light and Church of God Evangel Vol 1, No. 6, May 15, 1910, p.1 Gospel Evening Light R.G. Spurling
9 From the Evening Light and Church of God Evangel Vol 1, July 15, 1910, p. 6 Boy Healed and Baptized with the Holy Ghost – Listen to the Midnight Cry R.G. Spurling
10 Assemblies of God USA Website – Assemblies of God Beliefs
11 United Pentecostal Church International Website – The Gift of the Holy Ghost
12 Apostolic Faith Church Website – The Baptism of the Holy Ghost

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The Word of Knowledge

OK, this might be a bit controversial, as I’m going to challenge a charismatic shibboleth…

I have had a blog entry in preparation for a couple of years now on the meaning of “word of knowledge”, as I am not sure that the what charismatics tend to use this phrase to mean is what Paul means when he uses it. Many charismatics use “word of knowledge” to refer to supernaturally obtained knowledge about a person. For example, when Jesus says to the woman at the well, “you have five husbands”, this would be seen as a “word of knowledge”. Personally I think that this would more naturally be called a gift of “prophecy” (Gk: propheteia) or even “revelation” (Gk: apocalypsis).

What’s more, there are some concerns I have with the way this gift is used. Very often it takes the form of announcing a specific fact about a non-specific person in a meeting. In other words, it starts with “there is someone here who…”. Now all the examples of “words of knowledge” that can be found in the Bible were directed specifically at the person they relate to. This meant they could be tested, at the very least by the recipient of the word of knowedge. And where Christians use any spiritual gift, that gift should be tested.

I think this non-person-speicific approach can result in “words of knowledge” that are very vague and therefore can be seen as a risk-free form of prophecy, where there is no come-back if it misses the mark. I sometimes hear what I call “words of statistical probablity” e.g. “there is someone here with a bad back” in a room of 500 people. People argue that it causes faith for healing to rise in the hearers. I would say that I have spoken to many for whom this type of utterance leads to skepticism. I have seen non-Christian magicians wow gullible people with probability tricks – “does the name ‘Steve’ mean anything to you?”. I’m not saying that God can’t give a specific prophecy without telling the prophet who it is for, but it just strikes me as out of keeping with the biblical precedents we have.

Anyway, I am not convinced we have enough exegetical material to know exactly what Paul means when he talks about a “word of knowledge”. It is only mentioned briefly in passing (1 Cor 12:8), and not given a definition. The Greek word for “knowledge” (gnosis) could refer to natural knowledge – the type you get by studying and learning, but also could refer to supernaturally revealed knowledge (hence the “gnostics”).

So which is it? Let’s survey the places the word occurs in 1 Corinthians to see whether it refers to knowledge obtained by natural means (i.e. being taught), or by supernatural revelation.

1 Cor 1:5 in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge – probably natural knowledge

1 Cor 8:1 we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. – again probably natural knowledge

1 Cor 8:7 However, not all possess this knowledge. – again natural knowledge (also 1 Cor 8:10,11)

1 Cor 12:8 to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit – the verse in question. not enough information from the context to decide

1 Cor 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. – could be either in this context.

1 Cor 13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. – OK, now we have the feeling that Paul can use “knowledge” to refer to some kind of supernatural revelation. Surely we will not all be ignoramuses in heaven.

1 Cor 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? – I’ve seen lots of attempts to differentiate between these four terms. I have no idea who is right. Here’s my suggestion. Paul is saying: “revelation or knowledge … in other words … prophecy or teaching” i.e. revelation is another word for prophecy and knowledge is another word for teaching. Its only a guess though.

1 Cor 15:34 For some have no knowledge of God. – this is talking about personal knowledge rather than factual so doesn’t help us

I won’t bore you with all of Paul’s other uses of this term (and there are a lot), but suffice to say that on the whole when “knowledge” refers to knowledge of factual information rather than personal knowledge of God, its source seems to be through natural means. So someone teaches us doctrine, or we study the scriptures ourselves, and we come to have knowledge – knowledge of the truth about God, about doctrine, about the mystery of salvation. In other words, with the exception of 1 Cor 13:8, it seems Paul does not usually use knowledge to mean “something that I didn’t learn from any person or book – God dropped it into my head”. Prophecy or revelation are the words to describe that. What’s more, the knowledge Paul is usually talking about seems to be doctrinal in nature – which again is out of keeping with the idea of facts about people being the normal content of a “word of knowledge”.

So on balance I am tempted to think that the gift of knowledge refers to some who has a working understanding of the Bible and a good grasp of theology, who edifies the church by explaining things to people, whether it be one on one, in a small group context, or in a teaching ministry. They bring a “word of knowledge”, by applying that knowledge in a way that teaches people, and gives them insight to see and appreciate how the Bible applies to them, and to understand God and the gospel better. This is not a dry intellectual gift – the Holy Spirit is impressing these truths on them as they study the word so they can share them with others.

What prompted me to finally post about this was that I listened to Mark Driscoll preaching on 1 Cor 12 (listen here), and he takes a similar line, arguing that the person with this gift is a “book geek” who loves to study and research, and is over the moon at the arrival of a new parcel from Amazon. People with this gift assimilate loads of information and like to hear all sides of an argument. They become a “google for Jesus” as people come to them to ask difficult questions and they love to explain what they have learned in a way that is accessible. Although its a long sermon, its well worth listening to. He also explains in it that his position on the gifts is that he is a “charismatic with a seatbelt”, and his definition of how you know whether you are in a charismaniac church is hilarious (11 minutes in to the sermon). The discussion of the gift of knowledge is towards the end of the sermon.

Anyway, whatever the gift of “knowledge” really means, I like the idea of studying to be a “google for Jesus”. I think that kind of describes a lot of Christian bloggers – theology book lovers who are looking for people to share what they have read with.