This is one of my older works, going back to 1990. The chapters are as follows:
- Before the Second Chapter
- Born of the Spirit
- The Spirit Poured Out
- The People Respond
- Everything in Common
- After the Second Chapter
At the time I submitted it to my church’s publishing house, Pathway Press, but they opted not to pursue it.
I’ve messed around the manuscript over the quarter century since I wrote this, but for this serialisation I decided to publish it in its original form (or as close to it as my word processing documents would allow). There are certainly things I would say differently now (after that much more time in a Pentecostal church and having worked for same for half of that time, one would expect it) but I decided to leave it as it was.
The Bible quotations are from the New International Version. The original introduction is below.
This book is the end result of one Pentecostal layman’s reflections. The term “Pentecostal layman” needs some qualification, because unlike many Pentecostals who were born and raised in a Pentecostal church, I am a relative newcomer. I was saved at an early age but was raised in a liturgical church, a combination of events that is unlikely but not impossible. When I was a senior in high school, I switched to another liturgical church. While I was in that church I was drawn into the Charismatic Renewal and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. After some time in that church and in an evangelical church, I met my wife, who is a bona fide Pentecostal, and in the process of marrying her I joined the North Cleveland Church of God where I have been a member ever since.
In the years that both preceded and followed that happy experience, one question keeps coming up. Preachers attempt to answer it in their sermons their responses are frequently aimed at those already convinced. Laypeople who were raised in a Pentecostal church don’t give it much thought. The question is simply this: Why do we, as Christians, need Pentecostal, Full Gospel Christianity, with all that comes with it?
This is not an entirely stupid question because the introduction of the full Gospel into Christianity produces some serious dislocations into a faith that has been around and successful for a long time. Generally speaking, the adoption of the full Gospel through the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues requires the replacement of a rigid form of worship, whether liturgical or not, with one where the Holy Spirit writes the program the establishment of direct communication with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This eliminates the need of intermediaries in heaven or on earth, and replaces whatever set routine of Christian life and practice with the direct leading of the Holy Spirit. Last but not least, it replaces a strictly rationalistic world view with one where God is able and willing to intervene supernaturally on behalf of his people.
Some of this change took place with the rise of Evangelical churches, out of which Pentecostal ones emerged. However, although Evangelical churches put the believer’s direct relationship with God at the forefront of church life, these churches were unprepared and generally hostile to the type of relationship that a Spirit baptized believer has with God. The reintroduction of the supernatural in the form of miracles and healing into church life only made feelings harder. Socio-economic differences have also been a problem, especially for lay people who have to live with it every day. And since the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not an absolute requirement to get to heaven, they ask, why add it on?
Some of these changes have been addressed, with varying degrees of success, in the Charismatic Renewal. Nevertheless it remains that Pentecostal, Full Gospel Christianity remains a major alteration from much of Christianity as it is currently practiced, and has created another set of denominations and groups into a faith already overloaded with divisions. Is it all really worth the trouble?
This book answers “yes” for three reasons.
The first reason is simply that Pentecostal Christianity is biblical. No matter what cultural setting you choose, Christianity must be biblical or it must not be at all. The life we have in Christ must be lived out in a way that is faithful to the New Testament. We have no guarantee that we are right if it is not. If we look at the historical portion of the New Testament — this includes the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles — the day of Pentecost comes right in the center, joining Jesus’ ministry on this earth to the growth of the New Testament church. The successful transition from a small group of people huddled in the upper room to a victorious group out spreading the good news of Jesus Christ would have been impossible without Pentecost. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit’s involvement did not end with Pentecost it continued and powered the development and growth of the church. In looking at the day of Pentecost as it is contained in the Second Chapter of Acts, we can see the essentials of what the Church needs to be and our role in it, and this depiction is inseparable from the work of the Holy Spirit as it was manifested on that day. It is difficult to believe that the completed work of Jesus Christ should require such a dramatic change of the life of the church and its people from the days of the apostles to the present.
Beyond this, if one takes a careful look at the history of the church, one discovers that Pentecostal Christianity, far from a total denial of two millennia of experience, is in reality an affirmation of much of that history which has been sluffed off in the name of modernity or rationalism. This is especially true with miracles and healings. Many of those who have gone before in the faith experienced the intimate presence of God on a daily basis, and it is not right to deny Christians the same privilege today in the name of a good appearance to the world.
Finally, Pentecostal Christianity is not only the ultimate affirmation of the presence of divinity in man, it is also the fullest affirmation of man’s humanity. When God created man and woman, he set both of them in full communion with him, but they turned their backs on him in sin. So God, after a series of covenants, sent his Son to be fully God and fully man at the same time, to share in our humanity not only to take on sin and to die and rise again for us, but also to show that God could fully dwell in man. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled the believers and it overflowed out in the tongues of fire. Spirit filled Christians, speaking the tongues angels and clothed in the omnipotence of God, are not only filled with God but also are made fully human as the divinity within them makes them complete people, beyond the restraints of sinful nature. In this way people are “born to be alive” we were not placed in this world to rot as dead people but to be alive in the Spirit, who came down as God to us so that we might rise as men to him, men and women complete in his power and his love.
This then is our aim with God’s help and inspiration, we can explain the deep things of God even if we can barely understand them. But before we join the apostles in the upper room, we must first look to see how the feast of Pentecost first came to pass.
6 Replies to “Born to be Alive: A Pentecostal Layman Looks at the Second Chapter of Acts”
I grew up in Sydenham, Ontario, home of Camp Zion, which at the time was one of the two remaining Holy Roller sites. There had been 18 villages in a string running across Ontario and Michigan at one point, but by the 1950’s it was two, one in Michigan plus Sydenham.
Fine people. I remember with an embarrassed smile one of their leaders coming into my father’s drug store looking for a present for a friend: I suggested chocolates first, and perfume second. Oops! I think in the end we settled on roast nuts…
In Japan I always cheerfully donated to the Hare Krishna folks dancing in the streets, not out of endorsement of their beliefs but out of agreement, in your good phrase, that ” Spirit filled people (in your case Christians), speaking the tongues angels and clothed in the omnipotence of God, are not only filled with God but also are made fully human as the divinity within them makes them complete people.”
Obviously different people(s) have different view of God in keeping with their cultures.