Misunderstanding and controversy have swirled around the happenings in every revival since New Testament times. When the divine manifestation of tongues was heard on the Day of Pentecost, skeptics declared the Spirit-filled believers drunk (Acts 2:13). In similar fashion, in the early days of 20th century Pentecost, many skeptics in mainline churches also misunderstood the Spirit’s outpouring and declared the Spirit-filled believers to be demon possessed.
Such criticism and controversy, however, are not limited to attacks from non-Pentecostals. Some who have been reared in Pentecostal churches also disagree over which manifestations of the Spirit are biblical and therefore appropriate. Critics of extra-biblical manifestations declare them to be inappropriate because the exact same manifestations cannot be found in the Bible. Proponents of such manifestations counter, also citing scripture to justify their experiences, but remote passages used for support are often extremely distant or unrelated to the modern-day manifestation. Yet in spite of the lack of strong scriptural support, the Assemblies of God recognizes those instances in Scripture where individuals were in an abnormal physical and spiritual state (e.g., Dan. 8:17,18, Acts 9:3,4. Rev. 1:17). However, the Church also realizes the danger in defending every unnatural manifestation in a revival as a mark of divine presence on the basis of an isolated, incompletely described incident in Scripture.
As believers we should look carefully to the Bible for any evidence of a manifestation that is proclaimed as a mark of spirituality and a pattern for all people. The doctrine that tongues are the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is based on the recurring record of Scripture. Therefore, we say with confidence that all believers can have the experience and that it should continually be a normative part of every believer’s spiritual experience.
However, to say that every little happening during a revival move must be found in Scripture is not in keeping with our understanding of a sovereign God who can do as He knows best and wills to do. An example of this would be divine healing. We as Pentecostals believe and proclaim this truth. But we do not conclude that God can heal only diseases mentioned in Scripture. Because there are many different instances of healing in Scripture, we know God is able to heal any infirmity or disease.
Likewise, there are many instances in Scripture when God moved supernaturally on human beings. The apostle Paul reported one of his experiences (2 Corinthians 12:1-5), but he never proclaimed such as a normative experience that every believer should seek, nor did he claim to be more spiritual because he had the experience. John also had an unusual experience on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:10). In each case God manifested Himself to a specific person, in a specific time, in a specific way, for a specific purpose. These occasions were never recorded as recurring regularly. This does not mean that the manifestations were not real, only that they were special acts rather than normal occurrences. In view of this we recognize that God is sovereign and creatively dispenses His blessings to His people, in His timing.
People often look for easy answers to hard questions. Few like to do the spiritual judging that l Corinthians requires for prophecy (1 Cor. 14:29). It is easier to say that anything that needs judging should not be allowed. However, manifestations in a Pentecostal service should be spiritually judged, not for the purpose of declaring the entire revival out of order, but to preserve the good that God wants to accomplish in the revival move.
Furthermore, judging from a distance, on the basis of second and third-hand reports, is not what Paul was requiring. Judging whether a human response is appropriate or not should be done in the church setting where God is obviously at work, where some fleshly manifestations might mingle with the true manifestations of God’s presence. We must always seek and cherish God’s presence more than any particular evidence or manifestation of that presence. God can come in the wind, the earthquake, the fire, or in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11,12).
Isaiah’s unusual experience of God’s presence (Isaiah 6) demonstrates a beautiful sequence. First, there was a vision, a revelation of God’s holiness and majesty. Isaiah’s response was to give glory to God. But the experience with God’s presence didn’t stop there. A crushing sense of unworthiness, of sinfulness, followed immediately. “Woe is me!” He cried, “for I am a man of unclean lips . . . and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). Yet self-condemnation was not the end. God immediately gave Isaiah an assignment, “Go and tell.” Experiencing the divine presence of God is more than a warm feeling; it brings a call to greater service
Excerpts via A/G Position Papers