Charisma Through the Ages
Charisma Through the Ages
Since the beginnings of the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, there has been an onslaught of attacks from those who hold to other views regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the purpose of this paper to delve into the teaching of the early church and uncover what their beliefs was regarding the various gifts of the Holy Spirit. This will be a systematic approach in regards to the biblical data and a historical study on the letters from the early church fathers after the death of the original Apostles of the Church and up until modern times.
Lukan Pneumatology. In the book of Acts, Luke narrates the beginnings of the Christian church. He begins with Christ’s reminding them of the Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit, which they were made cognizant of from Christ himself. Jesus also told his followers, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” In this statement is the key to understanding the purpose for the baptism of the Holy Spirit; it is to empower one to be a witness to the world.
Jesus himself employed charismatic activity as a witness of who he was. He stated, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Without a doubt, these works Jesus was speaking of included miracles. Jesus also promised the disciples that they would go on to do greater things than him. How is this possible? I submit, it is possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 2:6 the 120 followers of Christ were gathered in the upper room and cloven tongues fell on each of them and they began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance. The result of this outpouring of the Spirit was that many heard the wonderful works of God in their own language. This same crowd asked Peter what they could do once they heard the message to which Peter replied, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
This trend of Baptism in the Holy Spirit continued further into the book of Acts. After Pauls visitation from Christ on the Damascus road he was temporarily blinded—until—Ananias laid hands on him and he received a miraculous healing of his eyes. From the above one can surmise that indeed not only the Apostles were given the Baptism of the Holy Spirit but also the others who were in the upper room with them.
Also in Acts there are narratives that show Gentiles being baptized with the Holy Spirit. The foremost account is the household of Cornelius.
In Luke’s narrative of the household of Cornelius being converted to Christianity, Peter was still preaching a sermon when the Holy Spirit fell on them and they began speaking in tongues. It was this experience made Peter realize that they—the Gentiles—had been baptized in the Holy Spirit as the Jews had earlier.
In one of Paul’s journeys he noticed some disciples in Ephesus who had received John the Baptists baptism, but had not been baptized in the name of Jesus. Also, these disciples had not even heard there was such a thing as the Holy Spirit. After Paul hears of that they do not know of these things he explains them and they are baptized and begin speaking in tongues and prophesying. Thus, we have another occurrence of believers receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues.
It can be reasonably surmised from the above that Luke saw the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an empowerment for ministry. At the onset the purpose was to enable one to witness to others in ways outside of the capability of men. They spoke unlearned languages, and performed miracles capable by no one else unless God sent them. Thus, Luke’s emphasis in Acts was one of empowered witness enabled through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Pentecostal emphasis today as well.
Pauline Pneumatology. Unlike Luke above, who focuses on the charismatic nature of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s pneumatology is broader and comprises both soteriological and charismatic dimensions. However, for the sake of brevity only the latter will be discussed in the body of this research.
In Paul’s writings, he made it clear that all would not have the same gifts of the Holy Spirit and that not all would perform the same tasks in and through the Holy Spirit. However, his purpose for mentioning the charismatic gifts of the Spirit are always in the context of the church, something Luke does not mention at all. This may be due to the fact that Paul was an Apostle and church planter and his letters that mention the charismatic dimension of the Holy Spirit were written in response to letters he received from these congregations. The important fact to notice is that Paul does mention these charismatic gifts.
In 1 Corinthians Paul speaks of the gifting’s of various kinds of tongues and interpretation of them. He also later speaks of tongues as one of the many gifts given by God. Paul states, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. Paul actually spoke in tongues more than his parishioners. He mentions, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue. Thus, Paul’s pneumatology is much like Luke’s in regards to its charismatic nature.
Early Church Fathers on Charisma
The Didache. The Didache was a very early church document outlining the beliefs and traditions of the Apostles. There is disagreement among scholars as to its exact date, but most think its composition was from anywhere between AD 70 to AD 120. Also, no one is sure who composed the Didache, but most likely he was a Jewish Christian convert.
The Didache states:
And any prophet speaking in the Spirit, do not test or judge, for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet, only if he has the manner of the Lord. Therefore, from his manner you shall distinguish between the false prophet and the prophet. And any prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit will eat not from it, and if he does otherwise, he is a false prophet. But any prophet teaching the truth, if he does not do what he teaches, he is a false prophet. But any prophet having been proven genuine who is making the church into a worldly mystery, but not teaching them to do whatever he himself does, he shall not be judged by you. For with God he has his judgment, for even the ancient prophets acted in the same way.
From the above it can easily be surmised that prophecy continued past the final writings of the New Testament. It mentions speaking in the Spirit, which may be a reference to tongues; at the least is the belief of a continuation of charismatic gifts past the lives of the original Apostles. No one could read the Didache and come to the conclusion that charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased.
Justin Martyr. This early church father was a world-class philosopher of his day; one would be extremely hard pressed to find another individual with the same quality of education afforded to him. Scholars vary on his exact date of birth, but it can be said within reason that he was born sometime around AD100-114. He converted to Christianity at the age of thirty-three so the earliest he could have written any of his Christian works would be AD133 and the latest AD147. Some scholars believe he wrote his apologies in 165AD, some sixty-five years after the death of John; the last of the Apostles.
Concerning charismatic activity, Justin writes:
But “Jesus,” His name as man and Savior, has also significance. For He was made man also, as we before said, having been conceived according to the will of God the Father, for the sake of believing men, and for the destruction of the demons. And now you can learn this from what is under your own observation. For numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city, many of our Christian men exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists, and those who used incantations and drugs.
At a minimum over four decades removed from the last Apostles death, charismatic works of the Spirit were continuing, not waning. Notice also from Justin’s quote that “Christian men” were exorcising demons—they are not given titles—these were common Christians to whom no name was given. Therefore, the miraculous works of the Spirit were still occurring and not just by clergy, also by the common Christian, just as in the book of Acts.
Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 120-202). Many scholars believe Irenaeus was a missionary to ancient Gaul (modern France). He wrote many works but only two survived until today. By AD 177 Irenaeus was the recognized bishop of Lyons. James P. Eckman mentions, “There (Lyons) he spent his life pastoring, teaching, commissioning missionaries to the rest of Europe, and writing. He was evidently martyred about 202.” Irenaeus was the fist Christian apologist that had a written theology and fully developed theology of scriptural authority.
Irenaeus had the following to say regarding speaking in tongues and prophecy; this was written around AD 165:
We speak wisdom among them that are perfect,” terming those persons “perfect” who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear7 many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God,
By Irenaeus own testimony Chrismatic activity was present during his lifetime and ministry. He mentions prophetic gifts bestowed to people in the church. Speaking in various kinds of tongues was also present in church in his lifetime. Being that Irenaeus had no connection with the original Apostles and was born after the final Apostles death, one can conclude that charismatic gifting’s of the Spirit continued and the ministry was still very charismatic in nature.
Irenaeus mentions charismatic gifts again in another writing in around AD 192:
Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years.
Again, Irenaeus is mentioning charismatic activity some twenty-seven years after the aforementioned writing. He mentions that people are performing miracles, driving out of devils, prophetic foreknowledge and utterances, healings by the laying of hands, and finally dead being raised to life. Clearly, there was some charisma occurring.
Tertullian. This African church father was born around AD150.
Tertullian suggests the charismatic gifts were still evident in his time:
For apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy, and the efficacy of (healing) virtues, and the evidences of tongues; not partially, as all others have. Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form (of advice) to which he willed us rather to attend; and forthwith it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, a precept.”
Further, he also mentions various healings and driving out of demons: “The clerk of one of them who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit, was set free from his affliction; as was also the relative of another, and the little boy of a third. How many men of rank (to say nothing of common people) have been delivered from devils, and healed of diseases!”  Thus, charisma continued at least until AD216—the date of his last mentioning of charismatic gifts.
Aurelius Augustine. In his writing (AD 413-426) Augustine defends Christianity against the heathen at a time when Rome is falling victim to attack and the Greco-Roman Empire was near its downfall. In his writing Augustine mentions various miracles to include healings and apparently one resurrection.
Augustine recites the miracle as follows:
At Hippo a Syrian called Bassus was praying at the relics of the same martyr for his daughter, who was dangerously ill. He too had brought her dress with him to the shrine. But as he prayed, behold, his servants ran from the house to tell him she was dead. His friends, however, intercepted them, and forbade them to tell him, lest he should bewail her in public. And when he had returned to his house, which was already ringing with the lamentations of his family, and had thrown on his daughter’s body the dress he was carrying, she was restored to life.
Often times scholars with cessationist leanings cite the aforementioned Augustine as a early source to support the cessation of miracles, but these scholars only refer to the earlier writings of Augustine, not the later ones quoted in the above.Thus, the above evidences show that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit continued well past the death of the last Apostle, John. There is no cessation of the Holy Spirit to be derived from Scripture and there is no mentioning of cessation in the early church fathers writings. This leaves the conclusion that something other than God caused the emphasis on charismatic ministry to wane through the ages. Just as with any other doctrine emphasis can shift; it seems that as the Catholic Church grew charisma waned
John Wesley (AD1703-1791). John Wesley speaking after the time of Constantine mentions that he believed the sole cause for the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn were because faith and holiness were lost. This belief of Wesley reinforces the above conclusion; God did now cause charismatic gifts to cease. Rather, as time went forward the people’s emphasis on these gifting’s waned. Just as the church neglected important doctrines as salvation through faith, it also lost the various manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Many regard John Wesley as a “theologian of the Spirit.” His influence on Pentecostalism does not go unfelt. He recaptured the pneumatology that had been lost for so long in the church. He emphasized holy living which influenced Methodists who in-turn influenced Holiness and Pentecostal followers of Christ.
Wesley also had a perculiar hermeneutic. In his realization of the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit that one is a child of God, he realized that one could not affirm this doctrine through experience. Rather, it had to be grounded in Scripture. Thus, his hermeneutic was not based on experience—it was based on Scripture—which is much like the hermeneutic of modern Pentecostals.
Wesley fought claims made by Conyers Middleton who was expremely skeptical of any miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit that were reported. Wesley was thoroughly convinced that the cause of the decline in miraculous gifting’s of the Spirit were due to spiritual coldness after Constantine. Wesley himself had little interest in the gifts of the Spirit; his interests were more focused on the restoration of holiness within the Church. Thus, he focused on the fruits rather than the gifts of the Spirit.
Reappearance of the Gifts. The single event that caused the church to take prophecy and the gifts of the Holy Spirit seriously again was the French Revolution. During this time of tumult in France, biblical scholars believed they were living in the end-times described in the book of Revelation. This left protestant scholars with the notion they were living in the last days and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh was to be expected.
By 1830 reports of miracles in congregations were being made along the British Isles. Irving sat out to investigate these occurrences. When he heard a report of glossolalia that had occurred in Scotland, he immediately headed to Port Glassgow to investigate. There he encountered Mary Campbell, her two brothers, and two other friends speak in tongues and interpret them into English as well. It was Irving who introduced speaking in tongues to London society, which was captured by his masterful oratory acumen. Through time as Irving spoke more openly about tongues and Mary Campbell burst out in his church services speaking tongues public opinion began to sway against him and his teachings regarding tongues, visions, and the Apostles. Though Irving himself sought out gift of tongues he never received the gift, much to his grief. Later Irving left the Presbyterian Church and founded the Catholic Apostolic Church, which taught that in addition to the charismatic gifts being restored, the apostolic office had been reinstated as well. It was Edward Irving—a Presbyterian—that led the first charismatic renewal movement that penetrated the mainline denominations.
William Arthur in 1856 wrote his most enduring work, Tongues of Fire. In this work, Arthur ardently supported continuationism and staunchly opposed cessationism and outlined the impact of the Holy Spirit on the life of the church. He believed those who believed and expected miracles in his day had ten times more scriptural ground than those who did not. Parts of his closing to this most memorable work displays his heart and wish to restore Pentecost to the church: “O, baptize them yet again with tongues of fire!
Pentecost in the America’s. Picking up on William Arthur and John Wesley’s teaching, the Holiness Movement brought the baptism of the Holy Spirit to the America’s. Preaching and teaching during camp revivals revolved around theme of Pentecost. During these latter years of the nineteenth century the terms Pentecostal and Holiness were nearly synonymous with one another.
Holiness was not only the focus of Methodist parishioners; the emphasis of Wesleyan thought surprisingly permeated the American Reformed revivalism scene as well. Charles G. Finney, a Presbyterian minister, began turning to the Wesleyan tradition to seek out “entire sanctification.” In 1847 Finney experienced what he called, “a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit,” that occurred through the ordeal of his wife’s fatal illness. This event, defined Finney’s theology for years to come. Finney is considered by many as the father of modern revivalism, and led approximately a half million people to Christ through the influence of his ministry. He employed various tactics used by the Methodists such as the “mercy seat” which incited other Presbyterians against him. By the 1890’s a third blessing started to be taught in addition to Wesleyan “entire sanctification.” This blessing was called the “baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire” and was often referred to as “third blessingism.”
Modern Pentecostalism. In 1900 at Bethel Bible College in Topeka Kansas, Charles Parham and his students were examining the subjects of repentance, conversion, consecration, sanctification, healing, and the imminent return of Christ when they ran into a roadblock; they did not know what to make of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Their research led them to conclude that Acts 2, 10, 19, and Mark 16:17-18 meant that those baptized in the Holy Spirit would speak in tongues. Thus, unlearned tongues was believed to be the initial physical evidence of Spirit baptism. This conclusion led Parham and his students to pray to receive this Pentecostal blessing. Agnes Ozman became the first to speak in tongues on that occasion, January 1, 1901. It was not long after this occurrence that Parham himself began speaking in tongues and reported that others who spoke in tongues, were speaking French, German, Swedish, Bohemian, Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and Norwegian.
Years later Parham drew attention to his ministry when he prayed for the healing of Mary Arthur who had many ailments. This healing garnered much support for his ministry and he was invited to preach at Galena where he began holding various meetings which led to an amazing response from the people; over eight hundred people were converted, many healings were received, and hundreds reported the Pentecostal experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Charles Parham also influenced another very important leader in the modern Pentecostal Movement, William J. Seymour. Seymour attended Parham’s Bible school though he had to listen to the lectures of Parham while sitting apart from the other students due to the racism of the times. Through Parham’s instruction, he accepted the view espoused by his teacher, that unlearned tongues evidenced the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Seymour took this teaching regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit to Los Angeles where he met resistance so strong, the people actually locked him out of the church after hearing his preaching on Acts 2:4. Seymour was invited to hold Bible studies and prayer meetings at the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry where within weeks of starting the meetings, Richard Lee began speaking in tongues. Seymour took this testimony of Lee’s to North Bonnie Brae and soon after others began speaking in tongues as well. Not long after Seymour and others rented out the former Stevens African American Methodist Episcopal Church at 312 Azuza Street. It was this location where an incredible revival known as the Azuza Street Revival became the hallmark of Pentecostalism in the early 1900’s. This gathering “became early Pentecostalism’s most widely publicized center and sparked much of its early growth and expansion.” Virtually all Pentecostal denominations today have some connection with this revival; it is the spark that lit the Pentecostal fire across the globe.
. New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ac 1:4–5.
. Ibid., Ac 1:8.
. Ibid.,Jn 10:37–38.
. Ibid., John 14:12.
. Ibid.,Ac 2:38–39.
. Ibid., Ac 9:18.
. Ibid., Ac 10:34-48.
. Ibid., Ac 10:46.
. Ibid., Ac 19:3.
. Ibid., Ac 19:6.
. Youngmo Cho, Spirit and Kingdom in the Writings of Luke and Paul: An Attempt to Reconcile These Concepts (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2005), 4.
. New American Standard Bible, 1 Cor 12.
. Ibid., 1 Cor 12:10.
. Ibid.,1 Co 12:27–28.
. Ibid.,1 Co 14:18–19.
. William Varner, “Didache,” ed. John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz, The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).
. Rick Brannan, tran., The Apostolic Fathers in English (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).
. Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angeles, CA: L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983), 385.
. Justin Martyr, “The Second Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 190.
. James P. Eckman, Exploring Church History (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 25.
. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus Against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 531.
. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus Against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 409.
. Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 819–820.
. Tertullian, “On Exhortation to Chastity,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. Thelwall, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 53.
. Tertullian, “To Scapula,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. Thelwall, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 107.
. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology., 385.
. Augustine of Hippo, “The City of God,” in St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 489.
. Michael L. Brown, (2013-12-12). Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Excel Publishers. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 2688-2689).
. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, 386.
. Donald W. Dayton. Theological Roots of Pentecostalism. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1987), 42.
. Ibid., 43.
. Ibid., 44.
. Ibid., 45.
. Vinson Synan. The Century of The Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 21.
. Ibid., 22.
. Ibid., 23.
. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God the Father, God the Son (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1996), 315.
. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 138–139.
. The Century of The Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 24.
. M. Wellings, “Arthur, William,” ed. Timothy Larsen et al., Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 23.
. C. E.-Stowe Hambrick, “Finney, Charles Grandison,” ed. Timothy Larsen et al., Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 227.
. Sharon Rusten with E. Michael, The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and Throughout History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005), 347.
. The Century of The Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 28.
. Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, 179.
. Gary B. McGee. People of the Spirit: The Assemblies of God. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2004), 55.
. Ibid., 56.
. Ibid., 58.
. Daniel G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).