THE DEFECT OF MODERN PENTECOSTALISM

Fred O. Blakely

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1, RSV).The defect - to put it mildly - of modern "Pentecostalism," whatever the title under which it exists (and there are several of them), is evident to the spiritually discerning person. It is in the fact that its fruits, or lack of them, belie its claims.

The self-styled Pentecostals of today boast of superior spiritual endowment - Holy Spirit baptism, with the special gifts (charismata) of the first century, which that conferred. Yet the public exhibition of such gifts is conspicuously lacking, which was not the case with genuine Spirit baptism.

The Lack of Fruits

No one is being raised from the dead, neither is anyone being instantaneously healed of incapacitating, medically incurable afflictions. That is the case, although graveyards full of dead bodies are all about us, and hospitals and nursing homes are crowded with fit subjects for employment of "the gifts of healing" (I Cor. 12:9, 30).

Surely, if someone possessed such gifts today -and had an iota of divine compassion in his heart - he would come forward, and, in a forthright manner for all to behold, and without any charge or solicitation at all of "offering," relieve some of the terrible suffering and sorrow.

Since that is not being done, we are compelled by logic to conclude that the gifts of healing do not now exist. That despite the claims by many to the contrary. "Ye shall know them by their fruits," declared Jesus (Mt. 7: 16).

The Spiritual Juvenility

We are confronted with even weightier evidence, if possible, of the shortcoming of the "Pentecostal" claims. It is that of the spiritual tone of those who make them. For a people who say they have risen far above the rest of us, they generally are strangely juvenile and earthly - not to say carnal - in their grasp and proclamation of kingdom matters.

It has been this writer's experience over some fifty years of acquaintance with this element of cultism, that it consistently majors on the things that are seen, rather than on those which are not apparent to the natural senses. The typical teaching also has more the sound of that from Mount Sinai than of that which emanates from Mount Zion. "Do this;" "don't do that," seems to be the stress.

Great, clarion proclamation of the preeminent themes of redeeming grace, Divine sovereignty, and the glories of the joy that is set before us in Christ, is seldom, if ever, heard. For them are substituted the preachments concerning bodily healing, the claimed gift of tongues, and the regulation and direction of the workaday affairs of life in the flesh. In other words, modem "Pentecostals" seem to major on minors and, at best, to minor on the majors of the heavenly kingdom.

To anyone conversant with the tenor of Scripture, that emphasis stamps those who make it as clearly distinguished from those who were actually baptized with the Holy on Spirit the memorable Day of Pentecost, immediately following our Lord's resurrection and heavenly coronation.

The Criterion for Trial

It is by the characteristic superficiality and shallowness of contemporary "Pentecostal" discernment and preaching of Scripture that the validity of its claim of Holy Spirit baptism is most conclusively impeached. In the living oracles of the written Word of God -eternal thanks to Him! - we have a sure criterion by which to try the spirits that confront us in this or any age.

We know that the Apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Thus, in their subsequent awareness and preaching, we have a divine standard by which to test anyone who claims to have that baptism. And by that test modern "Pentecostals," as a group, fall flat on their faces.

One of the dominant characteristics of the Apostles after the Spirit came upon them in immersive measure, was that of clear discernment of the Scriptures.

The Spirit, it will be recalled, fully knows "the things of God," and "searcheth the deep things" of Him and His kingdom (I Cor. 2:10- 12). Thus, no sooner had he begun to speak by the Spirit than Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, reached back into the prophecy of Joel, and unhesitatingly identified the outpouring of the occasion with its prediction.

"This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel," he assuredly declared (Acts 2: 14-21). He then adduced from the Psalms the foretelling by David of the resurrection and coronation of Christ, and confidently asserted that it was that day fulfilled (vv. 25-33).

This discernment and proclamation continued to characterize Peter's preaching, as it did that of Paul and the rest of the Apostles, being an essential effect of Spirit baptism. That such discernment was the result of baptism with the Spirit is apparent by the sharp contrast which it displayed with the Apostles' lack of apprehension concerning heavenly things before Pentecost. We are but asking for the proper credentials to expect that those today who say they have been Spirit baptized to show the same characteristics of spiritual apprehension and emphasis.

The Point of Censure

It should here be remarked that we do not question the sincerity of "Pentecostal" people's faith. What we do challenge and reject is their claim, impliedly or otherwise made, to superiority of spiritual endowment or attainment. Their fruits simply do not warrant our acceptance of that claim, and by those fruits, we are taught by the Lord, to try the claim (Mt. 7: 16-20).

Let us not, therefore, be misled by the noise, physical exuberance and demonstrations, and general hoopla of 20th-century "Pentecostalism." One can get all that at a sports event, where there is no claim made of Divine intervention. Rather, let us consider that these carnal displays are poor substitutes for genuine evidence of bona fide spiritual endowment and advance.

Above all, let us who have been given great grace from God not become so deluded as to turn from its true endowments to the inferior level of the typical charismatic of the day. His claim of superiority in Divine relationship simply does not stand up under trial, and should be evaluated in light of that circumstance. - Fred O. Blakely, The Banner of Truth