Next month the church Life group which my wife and I attend will begin a study of Pentecostal doctrine. Currently we plan to alternate between studying Pentecostal doctrine and studying the book of Romans, meaning that we’ll study each every second week. I’ll be leading our study of Pentecostal doctrine, in which we’ll consider the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, and another member will lead our study of the book of Romans. I plan to share here from our Life group study of Pentecostal doctrine and to post articles on the life of Paul (or on his theology or writings) in the weeks between my posts on Pentecostal doctrine.
In our first meeting I’ll make a presentation on the foundation of Christian doctrine, the source of Christian doctrine, and the distinctive belief of Pentecostals and we’ll consider the introduction to the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths . Here I’ll summarize the presentation that I plan to make in the meeting and list some resources I plan to use in preparing presentations. The latter is intended to be referred to rather than to be read. However I would appreciate those who read it to suggest additions to it.
The Foundation of Christian Doctrine
According to the apostle Paul the foundation of Christian doctrine is the gospel (“Christ crucified,” 1 Corinthians 1:23). The best-known summary of the gospel found in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). It tells us:
- The reason for the gospel is God’s love.
- God’s love is so wide that it embraces “the world.” This would be surprising to the ruler of the Jews with whom Jesus was talking, Nicodemus, because the Old Testament emphasizes God’s love for the Jews. Similarly God loved us before we became part of His church and made it possible for us to become part of it rather than because we are part of it.
- God’s love is so great that He “gave” his Son, Jesus Christ, whom God sent into the world to die on the cross for our sins.
- All that we have to do to benefit from the gospel is to “believe in” or put our trust in Jesus.
- One benefit of believing in Jesus is that we do not “perish” or suffer eternal punishment.
- Another benefit of believing in Jesus is that we receive “eternal life,” a life of blessing in the presence of God and of freedom from the power of sin both now and forever, although we don’t experience it fully now.
The Source of Christian Doctrine
The introduction to the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths describes the Bible as our “all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.” A Bible passage which supports this claim is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV). Although “Scripture” here refers to the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15), 1 Timothy 5:18 refers to Luke 10:7 as Scripture and 2 Peter 3:16 refers to Paul’s letters as Scripture. Thus we apply the passage to both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It tells us:
- All Scripture is “breathed out” by God and thus is infallible. The first truth in the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths affirms the infallibility of the Bible, and I’ll elaborate on what that involves when our Life group considers the first truth.
- Scripture is useful in “teaching.” The King James Version’s translating didaskalian as “doctrine” (rather than as “teaching”) affirms the Bible as the source of Christian doctrine.
- Scripture is useful in “reproof” or as evidence (the word translated “reproof” here is translated “evidence” in Hebrews 11:1) in exposing error.
- Scripture is useful in “correction” or in reforming wrong behaviours.
- Scripture is useful in “training in righteousness” or in nurturing us in holy living.
- The aim of using Scripture in these activities is that we will be “competent, equipped for every good work.”
The Distinctive Belief of Pentecostals
Speaking in tongues was/is recognized as evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit by New Testament Christians (see Acts 2:1-4, 33; 10:44-48; 19:1-6) and by Pentecostals (see Truth 13 in the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths). It first occurred in Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (ESV). The passage in its context tells us:
- “All” those gathered in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit. They may have been just the eleven apostles (Acts 2:14, 37) but more likely included the whole group of about 120 believers who regularly met in the upper room (Acts 1:15).
- They were “filled” with the Holy Spirit or, the event’s fulfilling Jesus’ promise to the apostles in Acts 1:5—”You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now,” baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- They spoke in “other tongues” or other languages. Acts 2:6-11 brings out that these were known languages, but it’s unclear whether known languages were spoken on the other two occasions referred to above.
- They spoke “as the Spirit gave them utterance,” indicating that they were under the control of the Holy Spirit and spoke words that He gave them.
Some Resources I Plan To Use in Preparing Presentations
- Pentecostal statements of fundamental truths: [PAONL] “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths,” General Constitution and By-Laws, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, June 1998. [others] “Statement of Fundamental Truths,” The General Council of the Assemblies of God, and “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths,” The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. The PAONL and PAOC statements were adapted from the Assemblies of God statement, the original of which appeared in 1916.
- Expositions of the Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths: P. C. Nelson, Bible Doctrines, revised edition, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 2009 (originally published in book form in 1934), and William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton, Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1993.
- Systematic theology textbooks: [Pentecostal] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, Los Angeles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008 (originally published in 1983), and Stanley M. Horton (editor), Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1994. Duffield and Cleave were Foursquare Gospel, and Stanley Horton was Assemblies of God. [others] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994. I posted articles here based primarily on Grudem’s book from August 24, 2013, to February 14, 2015, in the category Systematic Theology.
- Annotated Bibles: [Pentecostal] Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible by Finis Jennings Dake, Lawrenceville, Georgia: Dake Bible Sales, 1963, and The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version, edited by Donald C. Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992. [others] The ESV Study Bible, Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008, and The NIV Study Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011 (original edition, 1985).
- The copies of Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible and of Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective which I plan to use belong to my wife and my son, respectively. Leonora and Robert, thanks.