The main distinctive of Pentecostal churches is the belief in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This article cannot begin to cover the doctrinal positions of every Pentecostal denomination alive today, I will be pulling from the doctrinal statements of two of the largest: Assemblies of God and Church of God.
New Testament scriptures point to two separate indwellings of the Holy Spirit. The first indwelling occurs when one becomes a believer in Christ (John 20:22; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). The second may happen in that same time or at a later time and is what is referred to as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4; 2:3-4; Acts 8:12-17; Acts 10:44-46; Acts 11:14-16; Acts 15:7-9). Jesus, prior to his Ascension, breathed on the disciples and they received the first indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus then instructs them to not go preaching the Gospel until such time as they receive the Holy Spirit—they were to wait until they were baptized by the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him. As we see in the second chapter of Acts, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit filled the believers with gifts of power for the ministry. The first indwelling comes as a result of salvation. The second indwelling bestows gifts of power for ministry.
But, you say, we are told there is only one baptism so how can there be two—water baptism and Spirit baptism? Excellent question. There is indeed only one baptism just as there is only one Lord. Saying that God is One does not preclude the Trinity—God-Three-in-One. As a Trinitarian, I can honestly say “there is only one Lord.” Similarly, there is only one baptism consisting of two baptisms: one representing new life and the other new power. Water baptism symbolizes our death and rebirth into Jesus Christ. Spirit Baptism (Baptism of the Holy Spirit) represents an empowerment by the Spirit.
Notice the words used in Matthew 3:11 and John 1:33. In each, it states that we will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. So, where water baptism is a "being submerged in water" experience, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a "being submerged in the Holy Spirit and submerged in the fire". Just as water baptism soaks us to the skin with water, Baptism in the Holy Spirit soaks us to the marrow with the Holy Spirit and fire. And, no, I've never seen fire dancing over my head though I'm told that when I'm mad fire shoots from my eyes. But, I think that is the Irish not the Holy Spirit.
You can have faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit, and a mature relationship with Jesus Christ without being baptized in the Holy Spirit. You just miss out on the gifts which empower to great ministry and relationship. Guess that can sound elitist but it’s not meant that way. At the same time, Pentecostals do desire for every Christian to experience what we experience by having the Baptism and the accompanying gifts. When one is baptized in the Holy Spirit, there is a “feeling”--a level of contact with the Holy that is hard to explain. It’s an ecstatic feeling that explains why we Pentecostals can get very excited and dance around or run or fall on our face. Does the fact that you’ve never felt that mean your faith is in vain? God forbid!
While some believe these gifts have ceased at some point in history (exactly when is also disputed), Pentecostals believe the gifts are alive and well today. We believe that we receive the Baptism of the Holy and receive one or more of the nine gifts of the Spirit. The nine gifts as listed in 1st Corinthians 12 are: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gift of healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as He chooses; in other words, we do not dictate what gift(s) we receive but rather we receive what we need when we need it.
The gift that gets the most attention and stirs the most heated arguments is “Tongues.” The Apostle Paul called Tongues the least of the gifts. Well, in the modern church, Tongues has created the Tempest in a Teapot. Both the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (along with others) hold that the gift of Speaking in Tongues serves as the “initial evidence” that one has received the Baptism. Thus, if one does not “speak in other tongues”, they hold that one has not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. A few denominations (not A/G or CoG) believe that one’s salvation depends on the ability to Speak in Tongues. The majority of Pentecostal denominations strongly and adamantly reject such a supposition. Seems logical that any of the nine gifts could serve just as well as an “evidence” if such evidence is necessary and scripture makes perfectly clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone so the arguments seem rather ridiculous, don't they?
What purpose did the gifts serve in the Early Church or, for that matter, in the Modern Church? Scripture says that “signs will follow those who believe.” The signs were not to point to Mr. Latest Greatest Preacherman. The signs were to point to the truth of the Gospel and to God. With the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts imparted, we are His high priests empowered and enabled to do His work on earth. The gifts serve as a witness to the gospel. But, as evidenced in the change in attitude of Peter – it effects a realization of one’s change of position from a weak sinner to an empowered Son/Daughter of the Most High. It is not for my glory that I have and use the gifts, it is for God's glory. Anything other is a snare of the Evil One.
Are the gifts of the Spirit falsifiable? Yep, Satan has been doing poor fakes for a long time. He likes to try to copy God. He has not one original thought in his stupid narcissistic head. Wanna know who is fooled by him? The foolish. They who have not studied the Truth so they don't know a counterfeit when they see it. Those who lack discernment because they do not press into the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and learn from the Spirit. They seek to have their ears tickled, their imaginations entertained, and their greed fed. The tools of Satan are prideful individuals who want fame, wealth, power. Whether they are aware they are being bambozzled or not, I don't know....but whether by choice or foolish ignorance, they become the puppet of the Enemy. Should we refuse to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit just because Satan can fake it? God forbid!