Home Introduction The Consultation Vacarro Campos Leon Lugo Unity of Spirit Ortega HEAVENLY KING Participants




Rev. Dr. Gabriel O. Vaccaro

Let us briefly reflect upon the following doctrinal elements:

1. Evangelization and conversion

2. Baptism in the Holy Spirit --Speaking in tongues

3. The Church as a charismatic and healing community

4. The spiritual world

5. The "surprise" and "expectation" elements in each meeting

6. The paradox of ecumenism and exclusiveness

1. Evangelization and conversion

The Pentecostal communities are marked by a great evangelical "zeal". Their understanding of the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) makes of each member an "evangelist".

As we study the evangelical messages, we can observe:

a. A description of the wicked situation of humankind

b. A description of the wondrous actions of God and an emphasis on the sacrifice of Jesus

c. A call to conversion and faith in God through the giving of oneself.

Generally speaking, conversion for the Pentecostal movement is a traumatic experience which remains in the memory for ever. Therefore, in spite of different social contexts and cultural backgrounds, Pentecostal men and women share a common experience: that of breaking away from their past and the beginning of a new life (II Corinthians 5: 17).

2. Baptism in the Holy Spirit - Speaking in tongues

In Pentecostal thinking and doctrine, conversion is considered as the first and foremost action of the Holy Spirit. There is, however, a second deed of grace that is only second to conversion in necessity and importance: the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This experience is understood as the fulfillment of a promise made in the Old Testament: that of Joel 2: 28-32, which was accomplished in the words of Matthew 3:12: "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire".

Now then, what is the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit? According to the thinking of distinguished charismatic and Pentecostal authors, we can say that this baptism is basically an "empowerment" to enable the realization of the mission of the Church. Baptism is also an empowerment for the accomplishment of this mission in the life of believers.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is also needed to enter into the supernatural world; as a help in our petitions and prayers; to obtain a new and profound understanding of the Scriptures; in the daily guidance to faithfully carry out God's will; in the health and healing of the people of God; and for the pouring out of God's love in our hearts as a gift and, at the same time, as a fruit of the Spirit.

"Go forth therefore and make all nations my disciples..."

The testimonies of the millions of people who have gone through the experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit describe it as crying, dancing, jumping etc. but aside from the variety of forms, there is a common feature: speaking in tongues.

This speaking in tongues may happen just on one occasion or very often, or as many times as the Spirit inspires the person to do it. Yet it should be acknowledged that some Pentecostal groups do not see speaking in tongues as the only sign of being baptized in the Holy Spirit but also accept dancing, jumping, etc. as signs.

According to the Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit a baptized person should have spoken in tongues at least once during his or her Christian life (Acts 19: 44-48)

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2: 4)


3. The Church as a charismatic and healing community

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people..." (I Peter 2: 9)

The idea of being chosen and of the universal priesthood is permanent in the life of every Pentecostal. This is both a great honor and a privilege, but also an enormous responsibility: God chooses and blesses so that he or she becomes a prophet who announces the truth of the glorious Gospel.

Hence Pentecostals consider the church as a living organism, constantly moving and developing. The church is a body in which every member is gifted with tasks and functions from the Holy Spirit.

From this it follows that in each community the members should be active and always seek new activities that engage them as a team.

In Ephesians 4, 11 we are taught that God himself prescribed that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers, and that the calling to each of these ministries is an act of divine sovereignty. As a rule, the assemblies, ministry councils and presbyteries do not elect their own pastors but acknowledge the ministry given by God. In some Pentecostal denominations, the installation of a ministry in the local area is seen as an act of God.

For a Pentecostal the important thing in his/her life is to discover the charisma received from God and his or her place in the body of Christ.

The Church as a healing community

The presence of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ is not a passive but a very active one. In a world doomed by despair and death, the Church should be, to be faithful to its own nature, the place where human beings find hope and life and the "shalom" they need. This does not mean that the Church should become a refuge for people to withdraw from the world, which would amount to "alienation".

Pentecostal churches have always offered a "milieu" which favours the healing of human beings. What is meant here is the atmosphere which evolves in a worshipping community. The hymns, songs and chorales, testimonies and preaching convey the message of God to the people. In the Pentecostal worship God's victory over evil is lived out and celebrated and this victory is shared with God. This brings about an atmosphere in which healing can occur.

The concept of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health is typically Pentecostal. God's sovereignty over human beings allows for the supernatural to happen, which is nothing less than the direct intervention of God's power in the life of a human being.

When the authors of the Gospels wish to summarize the ministry of Jesus from its very beginnings, they proclaim: "Jesus Christ preached, taught and healed". Three elements that, without any doubt, are definite marks to identify a Pentecostal church.

4. The spiritual world

"For our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens.."

Upon these verses from the letter to the Ephesians, and upon others like II Corinthians 10, 1-5, the Pentecostal doctrine is founded: the belief in a "spiritual world".

The work of salation was achieved on the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ the victory over death and the triumph over him who had the power of death were accomplished (Hebrews 2:14-15). Yet, the evil manifestations of the demonic spiritual world continue prevailing until the fulfillment of the Kingdom.

In Pentecostal doctrine, the demonic forces are intelligent spiritual beings determined to destroy human beings and their well-being. Thus they must be fought not with human power but with the power of the Holy Spirit. The manifestations of evil can be seen in the individual as well as in the "unjust social structures".

Each spiritual liberation, each healing and each miracle are revelations of the progression of God's kingdom and his power over against the demonic spiritual world. "But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11: 20).

In a classical manner, Pentecostals have divided the works of Satan in: temptation, oppression and possession. The meaning of temptation is well known to all Christians. We shall focus briefly on the meaning of oppression and demonic possession, and its redemption.

Exorcism is the formal prayer, most frequently in the form of a command, to free a person possessed by diabolic forces. In Mark 1, 21-28 we have an account of how Jesus expelled an unclean spirit: "Be silent and come out of him". This is a ministry given to the "healing community".

The prayer for liberation from oppression is different. It is actually a process of petitions and prayers so that the person who is suffering the demonic attack may be liberated. The difference between being oppressed and being possessed should be noted.

The problem that many progressive and biblical Pentecostal preachers face is that most of these ministries are carried out in the midst of an exhibitionist show. Rightly, a gifted charismatic writer has asked: "Who shall free the exorcists from the spirit of exhibitionism?"

Pogressive Pentecostalism insists upon the biblical, theological and spiritual preparation of the servants of God. This is extremely important. When dealing with a victim of oppression or possession, the gift of discernment must be used in order to know the steps to be taken. Some would recommend that the person should first be examined clinically, then psychologically and, as the last resort, to enter into the spiritual realm.

As we pray for the freedom of the oppressed, but especially for the possessed one, some unpleasant things may occur: "vomiting", which should not be mistaken for physical sickness; "shouting", which should not be mistaken for hysteria; "collapses" which should not be judged as a result of psychological or mental coercion. A true Pentecostal must be able to control these actions so as to avoid falling into mere exhibitionism.

This chapter reveals why the Pentecostal movement has advanced so much. For Pentecostalism does not limit itself to announce the Gospel: it carries out a ministry of experiences which positively liberate human beings.


5. The "surprise" and the "expectation" elements in each meeting

The truly Pentecostal gathering differs from any meeting in a historic church because of the two elements that we have named: "surprise" and "expectation".

In the Pentecostal church you know how a meeting starts but you never know how it will end. The expectacion comes from the sense of dependency on the Holy Spirit, that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit something may happen that was not forseen.

This is why the Pentecostal movement has a tendency to relate itself to those events which demonstrate the supernatural power of Jesus Christ, such as miracles and healings. Pentecostals believe that the events in the book of Acts should take place in the daily life of the contemporary Church, exactly as they occurred at the time of the Apostles.

Let us mention a few biblical examples which illustrate what we are saying here:

Jesus is preaching in a synagogue. There is a sick woman in that meeting, totally bent over. She is marked by illness. Jesus is moved to compassion. For Jesus, the most important thing at that moment was "to do his work". The surprising element in his behaviour is that he called the woman and said: "Woman, you are freed from your illness". And the woman was made straight, entirely healed. Jesus interrupted a "service", thereby violating, so to say, "the order of worship", but... healed a woman (Luke 13: 13). This is what a genuine Pentecostal worship is like.

Peter is preaching when suddenly, by way of surprise, he has to interrupt the sermon. The Holy Spirit was falling on all who were listening. The Holy Spirit breaks the order of worship. The sermon did not continue but the work of the Holy Spirit did. (Acts 10: 44-47). Here we find again the factor of surprise that should never be absent in a Pentecostal gathering.

6. The paradox of ecumenism and exclusiveness

Although this is not related to the Pentecostal identity, it is useful to say a few words of clarification in view of the confusion and ignorance of many.

The essence of ecumenism is the acceptance of other Christians. The essence of exclusiveness is exclusion. In its origins, Pentecostalism was highly ecumenical. In those days there were no denominational barriers and the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon all those who asked for it.

The Holy Spirit has not been and is not owned by any particular denomination. Unfortunately, as time went on and the movement expanded, some exclusive spirits became apparent. To be sure, it also came about as a consequence of the persecution that Pentecostals suffered from other churches and denominations.

It is a well documented historical fact that the charismatic manifestations of Pentecostalism as it emerged faced rejection from the traditional churches between 1900 and 1910. The Pentecostal groups were the target of mockery and scoff.

Other reasons can be found in the "fear of deviation from what is considered the pure doctrine": this expression, skillfully used by the fundamentalists, inspired fear within the emerging Pentecostal movement about contextual, theological and historical changes during the process of growth and expansion.

The "lack of theological training" should also be mentioned. This was one of the most serious deficits in Pentecostalism in Latin America. The expression "the letter kills" was used and abused and cited out of context for many decades. It was not until the '50s when the Pentecostal churches broke away from their mother churches, especially from the United States, and became self-governing, that they began to see the importance of training and started the creation of many biblical institutes and seminaries.

Regarding social work, the missionary undertaking blocked and alienated the Pentecostal mind by teaching that social involvement had political undertones. It was also in the '50s, when the churches became independent, that their international leadership began to get involved in social and political issues.

Although there is still much to be done, there are many Pentecostal denominations which are slowly opening themselves up, as the "ecumenism of the Spirit" is gaining momentum for the benefit of the new generations.

Thanks to God many churches are acquiring a social commitment in a world plagued with all sorts of injustices: the Unión Pentecostal Venezolana (Pentecostal Union of Venezuela), the Misión Pentecostal de Chile (Pentecostal Mission of Chile), the Iglesia de Dios en Argentina (Church of God in Argentina), to mention only a few in Latin America, have taken basic steps forward in their commitment to the poor and the disappeared, participating in meetings on development and human rights, attending peace conferences, joining historic churches in the spiritual unity of the people of God and raising their voice against human injustice.

(Summary made by Pastor Jorge Julio Vaccaro - ALIDD)


Home ] Introduction ] The Consultation ] [ Vacarro ] Campos ] Leon ] Lugo ] Unity of Spirit ] Ortega ] HEAVENLY KING ] Participants ]