Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Freedom & Progression Of Pentecostalism

Dr. Dale T. Irvin, President NYTS
Supt. Harvey Burnett
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) to discuss a number of important issues and educational matters. I also had the opportunity to sit in on and provide input in the Global Pentecostalism class conducted by NYTS President Dr. Dale T. Irvin, Professor Of World Christianity.

I would first like to say that I appreciate NYTS and have become their new fan. Not only is the NYTS staff dedicated to education, they are also dedicated to the mission of Christ and the expansion of Christ's Kingdom aka: the salvation of souls. As I observed on my visit, NY is a ripe and fertile ground for the proliferation of the gospel and the preaching of Christ. So I commend NYTS for their dedication, efforts, and service and pray continued blessings upon them. 

In the Global Pentecostalism class, Dr. Irvin has taken the time to meticulously outline the growth of the Pentecostal movement, not only in America, but around the world, by referencing such works such as "Black Fire: One Hundred Years Of Africa American Pentecostalism" by Estrelda Y. Alexander (InterVarsity Press 2011) and "The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology" by Amos Yong (Baker Academic 2005). Dr. Irvin points out that Pentecostalism was not simply a product of the early 1900's Asuza St. Revival, but it was a phenomena that embraced the world through various spiritual events and what became known as organizations even tracing it's biblical roots back to Acts 2 which states in verse 4: 

 v. 4 ~ And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


Pentecostalism is the fastest growing Christian movement in the world. In shortly over a 100 year span, the number of adherents to Pentecostalism and Pentecostal doctrines, has nearly eclipsed the growth of every major Christian denomination. Though, from a biblical standpoint, there were other elements of the

Pentecostal experience, such as "the sound of a rushing mighty wind" that was heard and the "firebrands" that were seen falling upon each of the 120 in the upper room,(Acts 2:3) the surviving element of the experience contained within modern Pentecostalism is "Glossolalia" aka: speaking in tongues. This is the focal element of the modern Pentecostal movement. This action involved individuals speaking in languages, whether earthly or non earthly, for which they had no knowledge or formal or informal education or training. 

What is often overlooked is that there was also an element of "Akouocalia", which is to say that hearers, herd those speaking under the Spirit's influence, in their own languages. At first glance one would think that is normal. For example, someone who knew Persian heard someone speaking Persian right? Only the scripture suggests that those ("every man") who heard "them" (that would be all of them), heard each of them that spoke, speaking in "his own" language. 

v.6 ~ Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard (Akouo) them speak in his own language.

That would mean that individuals who spoke foreign languages were able to hear single individuals speak in various foreign languages simultaneously. That is quite and dramatically different from being able to hear one group speak in Persian and another group speak in Arabic and so forth. In other words, the Pentecostal  event was NOT about language division, it was about language unification.  

Thus Pentecostalism was born, not only because of exuberant worship, but also because of the "move of the Spirit" that its participants and adherents would obtain or receive which was a fulfillment of scriptures in which a jubilee was declared in response to the fulfillment of the mission of Christ.  

What Do Tongues Do For Me?

Of no doubt "tongues" is the distinguishing factor in the life of the Pentecostal believer. It is also the most criticized element of the Pentecostal experience. The above question was posed by a student in the Global Pentecostalism class. No doubt, every Pentecostal believer has heard this once or twice from non-Pentecostal friends and believers along with the claim that "tongues" isn't either necessary nor a part of modern Christian experience. Those who believe such are generally cessationists. Cessationism is generally the view that the gifts aka the "sign gifts", ceased with at the conclusion of the Apostolic age. Those that hold to this view certainly don't believe in the authenticity of modern day tongues. So in response the critic would ask what is the "purpose" of tongues or what does it do in the believers life. 


Another view is that "tongues" in the modern context are simply a sign of "babel" or confusion. A scattering of language and therefore should be discouraged. Some point to Paul's admonition in 1 Cor. 14 as a sign that tongues should not be accepted into the corporate body of the church because it breeds confusion. Some have even called "tongues" a sign of the "devil" and "evil" in the modern day church. 

A Pentecostal Response

I would say first, that the question is wrong and the association is wrong as well.  

Aside from the fact that a solid biblical argument has yet to be made in favor of a cessasationist view, the question of what "tongues does for me" or "us" is not the right question and is much less than what Christ intended or than what the event of Pentecost actually represents from a scriptural point of view. 

Dr. Irvin pointed out that in the scope of scripture Acts 2 was more closely associated with Luke 4 and the annunciation of the mission of Christ in the earth. In fact, in Luke 4, as Jesus was given the scroll to read in the synagogue, states (as Jesus from the text of Isaiah 61:1)

Luke 4:18-1918-The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19-To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

The "healing of the brokenhearted" and the setting at "liberty them that are bound" are acts that we find in Jubal or Jubilee. Pentecost, the 50th day after Passover, was a Jubilee. Therefore the parallel holds that the day of Pentecost was associated with the work and mission of Jesus in the sense that it is a fulfillment and continuation of Jesus's divine mission upon the earth. Therefore, Luke 4 to Acts 2, which was all a part of one book in the original text, was an inclusio in which the promise was revealed by Jesus himself and fulfilled when HIS promise had been received by his called out ones in the earth. 

That acknowledgement and recognition overcomes the later opposition that tongues is or has anything to do with Babel and conversely confusion. In fact, the opposite is true. At Babel (Genesis 11) the language, being previously unified, was scattered so that man could not perform the "imagination" of his heart. 

Genesis 11:6 ~  And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do     

In other words a language that was unlimited indicated an unlimited and unconstrained people. A  people "free" to their imaginations without constraint and without God.

Using that understanding as a backdrop to draw the contrast and parallel, in the case of Pentecost, the language barrier (the constraints and limitations) were DESTROYED. In other words TRUE freedom and liberation had come because now, the representation of any constraint (language) had been broken and totally destroyed. Christ was now the center of imagination (mind). Every one could hear and UNDERSTAND what was being said and communicated as this was a move of the Spirit and a inflow of spiritual things. The directive spoken by those speaking in tongues was to praise the Lord and bless HIS name. 

In addition, the Pentecostal event represented FREEDOM and LIBERATION from the bondage of flesh, carnality and material things. So tongues, the only hold over from the Acts 2 experience, are not considered so much for what they do, but what they represent. They represent freedom and a Spiritual move. A move not centered on man or material or flesh or the human or carnal mind. 

The Flow Over & Over Flow

Because Pentecost represented freedom and restoration from bondage, this is the reason that Pentecostal worship was freely expressive. A true Pentecostal expression, wasn't intended to be constrained under the direction of men, man or mankind. It was not subject to the testing and standards of man, but was wholly dependent upon the Holy Ghost, whose mission was and is to glorify Jesus. 

The New Testament church became a Pentecostal church on the day of Pentecost over some 2000 years ago. It was a community of believers led by God through men as they were moved of the Holy Ghost. It was not dominated by the will of men, or monetary gain. It was truly the Lord's church. A living organism set aside for the glory of God for HIS own purpose.   


These are some of the things that were discussed in the global Pentecostalism class under the direction of Dr. Irvin and my "pure mind" was stirred by way of remembrance of the great gift and heritage that we have been given in this modern age.  In a time where men's hearts are so dark and in sin that the very name of God incites anger and hatred, it is good to know that we have received a down payment or the "earnest" of our expectation in Jesus himself. 

It is teaching and education of this sort that make the scriptures come alive knowing that those who seek the Lord shall be fulfilled. We shall receive the blessing of liberation in Christ and the unification of all things in his presence. 


For those who have not thought about it previously, language is a sign of bondage and a bound people. With that in mind, Dr. Irvin made special notations of these scriptures in light of the element of freedom and future destruction of the boundaries or bondage of language, whose destruction truly represented freedom in Christ.

Revelations 7:9-12~ 9-After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10-And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11-And all the angels stood round about throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12-Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Revelations 10:10-1110-And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. 11-And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

I'll add the following as I was impressed of the Lord...In the following scripture, there is no language or nationality divide recognized at all. Though men exist and will populate the new heaven and the new earth, there will be no bondage of language or any division and the imagination of our hearts will only be Christ.

Revelations 21:1-4 1-And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2-And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3-And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4-And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.


  1. Very nice, informative, spiritual and impressive. Congratulations to you Elder Burnett, and it is such a wonderful thing that you were able to make such a connection.

    May things continue to go well, and remember, God is not unrighteous to forget labors of love on his behalf. More wisdom, knowledge and understanding in every way to you.


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