How Is the Church Divided Over the Holy Spirit?

While Scripture is clear on the work of the Holy Spirit, Christians have debated specific...
September 12, 2022

While Scripture is clear on the work of the Holy Spirit, Christians have debated specific roles based on assumptions or experiences. We must be careful not to alter His role to fit our expectations.

The Nature of Miraculous Gifts

Are the miraculous gifts still prevalent today?


  • Cessationism is the belief that the miraculous gifts of tongues and healings ceased after the apostolic age.
  • While many cessationists would believe that God can still do miracles today, He would no longer use these gifts through people.
  • They would believe God gave tongues to initiate the Church and validate the first leaders.
  • “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10).
  • The debate centers on how you interpret what the coming “perfect” is.
  • Cessationists would claim that the perfect came when the canon of Scripture was completed.


  • Continuationism is the belief that the miraculous gifts of tongues and healings continue to this day.
  • Many would believe that the “perfect” will be when Christ returns.
  • These gifts are not required for all but given to some.
  • “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6).
  • “Nevertheless, in church, I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19).

The Need for a Second Blessing

Should we expect a second filling of the Holy Spirit?


  • Some Christians speak of a need for a second blessing meaning either the baptism of the Holy Spirit or a state of sinless perfection.
  • In certain denominations, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience post-salvation where the Holy Spirit comes richly, typically providing the gift of tongues.
  • While the original disciples received the gift of tongues for gospel proclamation, it is typically portrayed as being utilized now for worship experiences or private prayer languages.


  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 teaches that the same Spirit gives different gifts for the good of the Body.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 teaches that we all do not have the same gifts.
  • Descriptive portions of the Bible do not always provide prescriptive expectations.
  • In the early stages of the Church, Acts describes events that happened to specific individuals but does not guarantee they will happen to each of us.
  • If you don’t have the Spirit of God, you are not in Christ (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13).

The Necessity for Specific Guidance

Does the Holy Spirit direct us like He did the disciples?


  • Many Christians take God’s name in vain in doing what they want to do but blame “the Spirit’s leading” on their actions.
  • Due to such abuses, others deny that the Spirit leads believers practically today.
  • Is there a healthy balance of being directed by the Word and led by the Spirit?


  • “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
  • Don’t let your theology be dictated by exaggerated reactions to unhealthy practices.
  • If Jesus said we are dependent on the Spirit, we are hopeless if we believe He retired from the ministry once the Scriptures were completed.
  • The Spirit guides us on applying biblical truth to a particular situation.
  • The Bible tells us what to do; the Spirit guides us when and how to do it.