Pentecostalism is an offshoot of the revivalist and holiness movements of the 19th century. These movements emphasized personal sanctification as the path to a personal experience with God. One of the notable leaders of the movement was Charles Parham and his teachings placed a lot of emphasis on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This created the foundation for the Azusa street revival which is believed to be the spark that resulted in the spread of Pentecostalism.
Long before Pentecostalism emerged, the Baptist tradition had taken root around the 17th century. This was a time of religious upheaval thanks to the Reformation movement by Martin Luther and other leaders of the Reformation. Some of the notable figures of the Baptist movement include Thomas Helwys and John Smyth, who are believed to have set up the first Baptist churches.
Pentecostals and Baptists agree on the concept of salvation by faith. However, they do not agree on the emphasis of the Holy Spirit, the importance of spiritual gifts, as well as the practice of water baptism. They also have different church structures with Pentecostals mostly going for a hierarchical structure while Baptists typically have a congregational governance structure.
In order to understand these differences better, let’s take a close look at the core beliefs and doctrines of both Pentecostals and Baptists.
Pentecostal Beliefs and Doctrines
There are a couple of core beliefs that make up the Pentecostal doctrine. For starters, they uphold the authority of the Bible as God’s word. Additionally, Pentecostals insist on a personal relationship with God that commences from a personal commitment to the Lord through faith in him. Even though these are core beliefs for most other denominations, what sets them apart from other protestants is their emphasis on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
While other protestants believe that Water baptism is sufficient, Pentecostals believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit isjust as important. According to Pentecostal dogma, the baptism of the holy spirit empowers the church with spiritual gifts that could manifest in speaking in tongues, gifts of healing, prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, working of miracles, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
Additionally, Pentecostals believe in salvation by grace through faith. They emphasize that repentance is necessary for salvation and that salvation comes after confessing one’s faith in Christ and accepting him as Lord. For Pentecosts, water baptism is an outward sign of the inward transformation that happens when one believes.
Baptist beliefs and doctrines
Just like Pentecostals, Baptists believe in the authority of the Bible as the inspired word of God. They affirm the trinity as well as recognize the deity of Jesus was born of a virgin to die for humanity. Baptists also place emphasis on the priesthood of all believers. This means that each Christian has access to God and does not need to go through a priest.
One of the most important distinguishing practices in Baptist dogma is the emphasis they place on water baptism. Baptists believe that all Christians who have made a profession of their faith need to be baptized by immersion. For Baptists, baptism is a symbolic act to show that a belief identifies with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Baptist doctrine also teaches salvation by grace through faith. They believe that salvation of a free gift from God that cannot be earned by good works or by any other means. Baptists also subscribe to the Calvinist principle of once saved, always saved. They believe that a person who has gotten saved cannot lose their salvation. This doctrine stems from the belief that salvation comes from the grace of God and man’s effort cannot improve on it.
Church Structure and Governance
Pentecostals have a hierarchical structure of governance. Local churches typically have a pastor who is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the congregation by giving spiritual guidance and pastoral care. For larger congregations, additional leadership positions like associate pastors, deacons, and elders may also be included.
In larger churches or denominations, there may be additional leadership positions such as associate pastors, elders, and deacons. These leaders are responsible for teaching, pastoral care, and the overall administration of the church. Pentecosts believe in the autonomy of individual churches and as such, each of the local congregations is allowed to govern their own affairs.
The process of making decisions will vary from one congregation to the next but in most cases, the pastor serves as a guide in the decision process. It is also worth noting that Pentecostals uphold the authority of the scriptures which means that ultimately, the Bible is considered the final authority when making decisions.
On the other hand, Baptists believe in congregational governance. The implication of this is that all important decisions are made collectively by the church members. It is common for Baptists to hold congressional meetings to vote on important decisions like financing directions, calling of pastors, changes in policy, etc. Baptists may well be one of the most democratic denominations as each member is considered to have a voice when making decisions.
Although every member is allowed to participate in the decision-making, Baptists still have pastors who are the designated spiritual leaders of the respective local churches. Apart from preaching and pastoral care, the pastor also offers leadership for the church. Baptists also have deacons who assist the pastor in leading the church. Specifically, deacons serve the congregation by ministering to the needs of the members.
Even though Baptist churches are self-governing, they are still interconnected through conventions, fellowship, and voluntary associations at local, national, and international levels. Baptists believe in inter-church relationships for the purpose of collaboration, resource mobilization, and fellowship with other Baptists. However, these inter-church relationships are based on mutual respect and support for the respective churches as opposed to centralized control.
In closing, the differences between Pentecostals and Baptists are evident but the two denominations have lots of common grounds too. Some of the shared beliefs include
salvation by faith and the authority of the Bible. These common beliefs can be grounds for ecumenical cooperation between the two as well as other like-minded denominations.