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Wesley and the Pentecostals

Today many Pentecostals do not even know about their connection to John Wesley.

His work on perfectionism was sparked by the problem of converts who became backsliders after his revivals. Holiness made it possible for the believer to live a life for God that was free from sin. He thought that believers needed the baptism of the Holy Spirit to empower and perfect them in order that they might live in accordance to the will of God. He emphasized the need for purity and power. He argued that it was the duty of Christians to be filled with the Spirit.

1. It is your duty because you have a promise of it. 2. Because God has commanded it. 3. It is essential to your own growth in grace that you should be filled with the Spirit. 4. It is as important that you should be sanctified. 5. It is as necessary as it is that you should be useful and do good in the world. 6. If you do not have the Spirit of God in you, you will dishonor God, disgrace the church, and be lost. 9

Finney drew on Wesley’s doctrine of Christian Perfectionism by adding an emphasis on the baptism of Spirit, which helped make the shift for the later development of the Pentecostal movement.

The Holiness Movement helped contribute to the shift from an emphasis on entire sanctification to a growing emphasis on Spirit Baptism.

Another influential holiness teacher was Phoebe Palmer who taught that sanctification was attainable in an instant. She was a Methodist lay preacher, revivalist, and Christian feminist. She developed an “altar theology” where she reduced the process of sanctification into an instantaneous event. She reasoned that if her body were a living sacrifice, by laying her all on the altar, then God would sanctify her. She developed a three-step process for entire sanctification: 1. consecrating oneself to God; 2. believing God keeps his promise to sanctify the consecrated; and 3. bearing witness to what God has done. She wrote the following books The Altar Covenant (1837), The Way of Holiness (1843), and Entire Devotion to God (1845), which promoted her views of sanctification.

Phoebe Palmer also popularized the idea of Pentecostal Spirit baptism.

She also popularized the idea of Pentecostal Spirit baptism. Based upon the “Promise of the Father” from Acts 1:4, she taught that Christians should wait for the promised Holy Spirit of Pentecost, which was available to both men and women. Although she never spoke in tongues, her emphasis on Pentecostal Spirit baptism helped prepare the way for the later emergence of the Pentecostal Movement. As a result of Finney and Palmer’s teaching, an emphasis on Spirit baptism began to take precedence over earlier views of sanctification. The Holiness teaching set the stage for the Pentecostal revival that started in 1906.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2006

About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Winfield H. Bevins serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He is also the Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas and an adjunct professor at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting (Seedbed, 2016), Rediscovering John Wesley (Pathway Press, 2005), Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Simeon Press, 2013), Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith (NavPress, 2011), and Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship (Seedbed, 2016). Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter: @winfieldbevins

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