Church – What Is It Exactly? (Part 3) Home | Seminars | Preaching | Teaching Series | About Pastor Peter | Contact Pastor Peter | God’s Fire Blog Index By Topic | Blog Index From Newest To Oldest

Can I just say, very clearly, that throughout history there has always been a charismatic/Pentecostal aspect to the genuine church – ever since its original inception in the Book of Acts.

Original Christianity, right from the very beginning, was “Pentecostal”. Or if you prefer it was “charismatic” or to use another term – it was “apostolic”.

There was no other form of Christianity.

To be a Christian a person repents of their sins, accepts Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and is baptised in water as a public declaration of their faith in Jesus. At that point they are a Christian according to the New Testament definition of a Christian. (Romans 10:9 ; Matthew 28:16-20 ; Mark 16:15-20 ; Acts 2:37-41 ; Romans 8:16)

Further to that Christians can be “baptised in the Holy Spirit”, which may happen at conversion/salvation, or at water baptism, or it may be a later subsequent event.

Right from the start I want to make very clear that the “cessation doctrine” is a complete heresy. “Cessationism” is a false belief that miracles and the ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ ceased with the original apostles or very soon after.

It was Reformers like John Calvin that originally taught the heresy of “cessationism”. So, this heresy didn’t even start until AD mid 1500’s.

Dispensationalist Baptist churches, the confessional Reformed church, the Presbyterian church, and much of the Church of England/Anglican/Episcopalian church accepted this heresy.

Now, I want to look further at the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Apostolic history of the church, the Body of Christ.

First let me explain four terms I am using in this blog.

The first three terms are generally interchangeable.

  1. Pentecostal – the Biblical New Testament meaning is “baptised in the Holy Spirit” and believing in the 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’.

And when I use the term “Pentecostal” in this and other sermons I am not referring to so-called Pentecostal denominations such as AoG Assemblies of God, CoC Christian Outreach Centres, C3, A2A, Hillsong or any other denomination.

Instead, I am talking about New Testament Christianity. The New Testament concept of Christian believers, the Body of Christ.

  1. Charismatic – basically the same as “Pentecostal” but it is a label preferred by ‘traditional denominations’ so as not to be identified as being a Pentecostal denomination.

The charismatic movement takes its name from the Greek words charis, which is the English transliteration of the Greek word for “grace,” and mata, which is the Greek word meaning “gifts.” Charismata, then, means “grace gifts.”

It emphasizes the manifestations of the ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

So charismatics are in fact Pentecostal in that they also believe in ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and in the 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’.

The modern charismatic movement began in an Episcopalian  church, (the American name for the Church of England/or Anglican church), where on April 3, 1960, Rector Dennis Bennett stood and shared how the Holy Spirit was at work in his life, including speaking in “tongues.”

Renewal” is a term that is sometimes substituted for “Charismatic” by traditional churches for the same reason – so as not to be identified as being part of a Pentecostal denomination.

Those using this term also believe in ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and in the 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ as they seek a deeper personal relationship with God – Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit.

  1. Apostolic – a term that means to believe in the teachings of the Apostles and the New Testament, and therefore also believing in ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and in the 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’.

So in effect “Pentecostal”, “Charismatic”, “Renewal” and “Apostolic” all basically are terms for Christians who believe in ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and in the 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’.

A fourth term is “church”:

“Church” is NOT denominations. And honestly, any belief that insists church means denominations is simply “religion” – in other words, man-made legalism.

Because, as I said in the first blog on this subject, the New Testament is adamant that “church” is the Body of Christ – that is genuine Christian believers. Not buildings or denominations.

I would like now to provide a brief historical overview of genuine Christianity – that is Pentecostal Christianity – down through the ages:

Justin Martyr AD100-165 is regarded as the foremost defender of the Christian faith of the second century.

In his work called “The Second Apology of Justin”, he speaks of the ability of Christians in his day to cast out demons and minister healing.

He wrote:

“For numerous the morning demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city, many of our Christian men exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilot, have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving out the possessing devils out of the men.”

Justin Martyr, therefore, clearly testifies the Christians in the second century were continuing to exercise authority over demons and sickness.

Irenaeus (AD 125-200), bishop of Lyons, from his writings, it is obvious that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were still prominent in the life of Christians of his day.

He writes of Christians prophesying the future and healing the sick by laying their hands upon them. He also writes of the dead being raised to life.

Terntullian (AD 160-240), Origen (AD 185-284), Novatian (AD 210-280), Cyprian (AD 195-258) and many other church fathers also testify to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.

The “Didache”, written at the beginning of the second century, recognises the legitimacy of prophetic ministry and gives instructions concerning how to distinguish between true and false prophets.

Other testimonies clearly demonstrate that spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues, continued to be common in the church from the day of Pentecost right up to the beginning of the fourth century.

Testimonies also indicate that the reception of the Holy Spirit was considered a subsequent event to conversion, and was initiated by laying on of hands.

This was obviously a continuation of the apostolic custom recorded in the book of Acts.

The point being that the ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ were written about as continuing long after the original Apostles were dead.

In other words, these spiritual ‘gifts of the Spirit’ never ceased with the death of the original apostles, nor with the completion of New Testament. They continued well into the fourth century.

However, from the third and fourth centuries, as institutionalism increasingly dominated the life and ministry of the church, the importance, prevalence and influence of the ‘gifts of the Spirit’ gradually diminished.

Institutionalism is where there is an emphasis on church denomination hierarchy, and organisation, at the expense of other factors like the gifts, ministries, and leading of the Holy Spirit.

During the “Dark Ages”, or “Middle Ages”, of AD 600 to AD 1517 the transformation of the original apostolic nature of the church as being Pentecostal Christian believers was fully transformed into the medieval Roman Catholic Church institution.

This bias was clearly demonstrated by the Roman Catholic church’s publication of the Roman Ritual around the year  AD 1000.

It declared, among other things, that speaking in tongues among the common people was to be considered prima facie evidence of demon possession.

And the occurrence of miracles among the common people was looked upon as the work of sorcery or witchcraft.

Since the reading of the Scriptures by the common people in their own language was discouraged, this left the masses at the mercy of a highly complex and elaborate religious system that offered corporate identity but no personal access to God.

However, even during that is these dark ages miracles, healings, and other ‘gifts of the Spirit’ continued to operate – though mainly through those in monasteries who devoted themselves to prayer and holiness, and who were not connected with the Roman Catholic church.


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