If you ever pay attention to church names as you drive around you’ll find some interesting ones for sure! A church name tells us a lot about what they believe. One such name is “Full Gospel Church.” The implication in their name is that there are other churches that do not preach the “Full Gospel” but only half (or not at all). Another similar is that of a whole denomination, the Four Square Gospel Church. Like Full Gospel this is another reference to completeness. The FSGC was founded by Grey Co. native Amy Semple-McPherson in the 1920s. The four squares? Christ as Saviour, Healer, Baptized of the Holy Spirit and Coming King. Any evangelical would agree with the first and the last along with the second if it was defined but not the third.
This is the key difference between Evangelicals and Pentecostals: baptism in the Holy Spirit as an event subsequent to salvation. Concisely worded, the Elam Ministries (UK) Statement of Faith may be a fair representative of the Pentecostal World:
“We believe in the deity of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son and the necessity of His work in conviction of sin, repentance, regeneration and sanctification, and that the believer is also promised an enduement of power as the gift of Christ through the baptism in the Holy Spirit with signs following. Through this enduement, the believer is empowered for fuller participation in the ministry of the Church, its worship, evangelism and service.”
The words italics speak of this secondary experience that is to be sought and the underlined words that this is experience is necessary for effective ministry.
Is this what the Gospel (or New Covenant) is, a two staged offer of good news? Absolutely not for the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who trusts in Jesus from the outset. A subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit is to confuse certain Biblical passages with the clear teaching. In Scripture we see the pattern of believing and receiving (c.f. Acts 2:38 and 40):
Rather that promising a second experience the Gospel offers new life, new creation, a helper to be empowered for sanctification, spiritual growth and maturity, holiness and ministry.
Though guised Pentecostalism really does border upon, or fully enter into, the danger of presenting another Gospel for they add to the Good News/New Covenant as laid down in the New Testament (Gal 1:8; 2 Cor 11:4).
Let’s not only critique those who go beyond but those who stop short.
Many evangelicals preached Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins with a heavy emphasis on the atoning death of Christ (and the atonement is vital). They then offer a Gospel for the forgiveness of sins—full stop. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved [from the penalty of sin]. Because this is part of the Gospel it can evade our radar but we must stand alarmed at this too!
1 Cor 15:1–4 says:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Jesus died so sinners might be forgiven (the penalty of sin) yet He rose so that they might be given the gift of new life by the Spirit (the power over sin).
When Peter issued the Gospel in Acts 2:38 the Good News not only included forgiveness of sin but the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, in baptism is also included obedience; not an obedience that saves but one the Holy Spirit promises to help us live out. Faith without works is a dead (Ja 2:26); and how many evangelicals neglect to bear the fruit of faith! The Gospel not only offers forgiveness for our failure to keep God’s commands, it offers us the promise of new life and the power to live it out! As Jesus said, I came that they may have life and life to the full (Jn 10:10).
Both halves of 1 Cor 15 1–4 are needed for a full Gospel, Crucifixion and Resurrection, forgiveness and new life.
Let us not go beyond or stop short of the true Gospel in all its fullness.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.