A-e003 Charismatics or non-Charismatics
Article written by Henri Viaud-Murat
Certain Christian authors are wary of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Their disapproval is partly based on the general criticism of the excesses that have been apparent in their midst for a long time now. On this point we entirely agree with them. Too much emphasis on personal experiences, weak discernment and poor knowledge of the Bible have all too often led to the excesses which these Christian authors describe and denounce. They have contributed to discrediting these movements in the eyes of many Christians. In our opinion, because of the great spiritual confusion which now reigns in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, the greatest dangers are those coming from their midst. However, these authors also base their disapproval on the belief that the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements were inspired right from the start by a spirit other than the Holy Spirit. Because of this conviction, it is easy to understand why they tend to blame all the present day spiritual seductions on these movements.
We do not adhere to this view. On the contrary, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have put the emphasis back on a great many Biblical truths which have been lying dormant for far too long in the more traditional denominations. Amongst these Biblical truths we could mention the gifts of the Spirit, Divine healing through faith and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, just as the Bible describes them. For this reason, we believe that, from the outset, these movements were truly inspired by a moving of the Holy Spirit .
Unfortunately, many churches and denominations arising out of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements, did not follow the Biblical model in their presentation and teaching of these Biblical truths. Through instability and too many excesses they lost their way. All this explains why so many non-Charismatic Christians continue today to reject these movements, along with their doctrines.
Some non-Charismatic authors particularly criticize the Sanctification movement, (from which the Pentecostal movement stemmed), because of their teaching of the "second blessing" of sanctification, which comes after conversion. In the same manner, they criticize the Pentecostal movement for teaching the "second blessing" of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which follows on after conversion. These are the traditional fault lines between Charismatics and non-Charismatics.
We prefer to defend a position which we believe to be closer to Biblical truth, but which agrees neither with Charismatics, nor with non-Charismatics. Our position is as follows :
The Bible does not specifically teach the existence of any "second blessing", (or even a third, or fourth, etc...) which follows after conversion. However, it states that we have been blessed "with all sorts of spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). In Christ, we have already received not just one or two blessings, but "all sorts of blessings"! However, this verse states that they are "in the heavenly places, in Christ".
At his conversion, the Christian receives Christ completely. All spiritual blessings are complete in Christ, and are received right at the beginning of the Christian life.
However, these blessings are not revealed all at once to the child of God. They are revealed little by little by the Holy Spirit and through the Word of God, as the Christian progressively deepens his knowledge of the Lord, of His Person and of His Work. At the moment he receives the revelation of one of these blessings, received in Christ and revealed through the Word, the Christian should normally receive and exercise the necessary faith to seize hold of this blessing and then to see it working in his life.
We cannot, therefore, speak of a "second, post-conversion blessing". On the contrary, we are talking here of the countless blessings that we possess in Christ ! Once a blessing has been revealed to the Christian, he will see it active in his own Christian life just as soon he seizes hold of it by faith.
All of these blessings must be received through faith in Christ and in His work. The first of these blessings is, of course, our justification and salvation through faith in Christ, which is a direct consequence of the understanding of our need for Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
It is highly unlikely that a new Christian could fully understand, right from the beginning of his conversion, all the depth of what Christ accomplished on the Cross... the crucifixion of our fleshly nature, victory over sin and the walk in the Spirit. Many Christians take years to come to a true understanding of the Cross ! And when they do, can we really talk of it as a "second blessing" coming after their conversion ? No, of course not. They had already received this blessing in Christ, but because of lack of knowledge and teaching, they didn't know it existed. Nevertheless, receiving this revelation and seizing it by faith, represents a real blessing for the believer !
It is exactly the same for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that "in a few days" they would receive the baptism of the Spirit, and receive "a power", enabling them to become His witnesses (Acts 1 : 5, 8). On the day of Pentecost, they were all baptized in the Spirit, despite being already converted. All through the book of Acts we can see how careful the apostles were to make sure that all new converts received the baptism in the Spirit right at the beginning of their conversion. The Holy Spirit did not automatically fall on new believers at their conversion (Acts 8 : 15-16 ; 19 : 1-7), although at other moments this was the case (Acts 10 : 45).
And yet we can clearly state that, as we "enter into Christ" at the moment of our conversion, the blessing of the baptism in the Spirit is only a part of all the blessings that have been given to us in Christ. Through our new birth, we enter into the Body of Christ. We receive the Holy Spirit just as soon as we are born again, and, right from the start, we are all "baptized into the same Spirit to form one Body". But that is not the same thing as being baptized in the Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit descends UPON US. We receive a power in order to become a strong witness for Christ.
God wants to baptize ALL His children with His Spirit. There are no exceptions. This baptism is one of the many blessings that we have received in Christ. However, as with all these blessings, the baptism in the Spirit must be asked for and received by faith, with an obedient heart. But in order for this to happen, the good news that this blessing exists must first be preached in clear Biblical terms to all believers.
Christians who are wholeheartedly given to the Lord, and who ask Him to baptize them and fill them with His Spirit, so as to become strong witnesses for Him, will always find their prayers granted immediately. Whether they feel it or not, God will give them His Spirit and fill them.
Now for the subject of speaking in tongues. In the book of Acts, we see that speaking in tongues normally followed baptism in the Spirit. We do not believe that God divides His Church into different categories : Christians who are baptized in the Spirit and who speak in tongues, and Christians who are baptized in the Spirit and who do not speak in tongues ! We must all experience this gift in exactly the same way that the apostles lived it right at the beginning (Acts 11 : 15).
We are not like spirit mediums, who passively allow themselves to be used by a particular spirit. Our relationship with God must always be based on faith. He wants us to live an intelligent partnership of faith with Him. It is the Holy Spirit who inspires our speaking in tongues, but it is we who speak, with our vocal chords and our lips.
So, God baptizes with His Spirit all those who ask Him, all those who obey Him, or who desire to obey Him. The Holy Spirit comes down upon them and fills them. Then He stands ready to inspire us with the new tongues that always accompany baptism in the Spirit. If we truly believe that God has answered our prayer, we will begin to act by faith, moving our tongue and lips, in the assurance that the Holy Spirit will inspire us with this new divine language. Faith is the key. Every Christian who has been baptized in the Spirit has received the divine potential to speak in tongues. Sadly, a great many of them do not experience this gift because of their ignorance, their fear, their lack of faith or because they have received wrong teaching.
Too many Christians lack the childish simplicity necessary to accept the things of God. We must believe what the Bible says, just as it is written !
We must be extremely careful, of course, not to give the gifts of the Spirit undue priority in our lives. Our first concern must always be to bear fruit in abundance, so that the Father is glorified in Jesus Christ. Our priority must be to walk in the Spirit, just as the Lord walked.
However, we must be careful not to deprive ourselves of the many gifts that the Father has given us in Jesus Christ. We must search the Scriptures, discover these blessings, seize hold of them by faith, and use them for the good of all and for the glory of God.
The problem in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements is the growing tendency to drift away from the belief that the Word of God is the only foundation for the Christian life, and the only tool for assessing the validity of any spiritual experience.
It is this tendency that has unfortunately paved the way for false revivals such as Toronto, because the door has opened to let in a spirit other than the Holy Spirit ( 2 Corinthians 11 : 4 ), to let in another Jesus and another Gospel.
We are today in an era of deep and widespread seduction. We must be very vigilant. In His infinite wisdom, God has provided us with various blessings, and we must be careful not to reject any of them. We should stop claiming to be "charismatics" or "non-charismatics", and concentrate instead on seeing ourselves as "seated in the heavenly places in Christ", as heirs of a wonderful inheritance and of a perfect salvation ! Let us seek to discover and to receive the many blessings which are already ours in Christ, and above all, Jesus Christ Himself, the Greatest Blessing of them all !