Whatever else may be said about the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of the 20th century, we can say this: They have brought together into an extraordinary unity a wide range of Christians of different backgrounds. Today we see an ever-broadening circle of fellowship drawn together through the work of the Holy Spirit.
We Pentecostals and Charismatics differ widely on a number of doctrines and practices. But while a bevy of opinions may exist on a host of themes—church government, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and end-time prophecy, among others—there is one overarching theme to which we rally as one: the unique Person, nature, and work of Jesus Christ.
Throughout history, this point has been the watershed for the Church’s life. Only as Jesus Christ is central in the hearts and minds of believers—only as the Person and authority of God’s only Son, our Savior, dominate our life and our service—are you and I safe from confusion about our purpose. And it is in Jesus Christ alone that unity becomes a real, heaven-sent blessing, rather than a mere humanistic camaraderie.
The uniqueness of Jesus is thus the reason for the unity so abundantly present in the Pentecostal Charismatic revival. This point is important to make because some people are puzzled by our unity. They think our oneness is the result of theological indifference—as if our speaking with tongues has scrambled our brains and rendered us helpless to remember our doctrinal distinctives!
But our unity is neither a sacrifice of personal convictions nor a casual syncretism homogenizing our views. Rather, it is a testimony to the Holy Spirit’s work in glorifying Jesus. When the Comforter comes, He has a way of making us comfort-able with people in whom He dwells. We find ourselves, as the apostle Paul said, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The Spirit originates and sustains “the unity of the faith” found only in “the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13).
In short, it is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ that provides the foundation for our unity. Pentecostals and Charismatics have discovered our individual entities, policies, and theologies to be infinitely inferior to the uniqueness of Christ Himself. When the Holy Spirit causes Jesus’ grandeur and glory to overflow our hearts, He overflows our minds as well, and we will find ourselves more than ever “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
In this way, then, biblical unity is discovered not as a resolution of all doctrinal differences, but as a revelation of the living Word—Jesus. The incarnate Son of God, glorified in our hearts, unifies our attitudes toward others who know Him in truth.
We who are led by the Spirit have chosen to know one another in Christ—around His Person. The uniqueness of Christ has so magnified our unity in Him that we are humbled to allow His making us one. The uniqueness of Christ is the explanation for, and the grounds of, the ever-broadening circle of fellowship among us.
An Ever-Watching Sector
Yet there is a second reason why Pentecostals and Charismatics must keep in mind this uniqueness of Christ. In addition to our ever-expanding unity, there is an ever-watching sector of the Church around us. This sector is constituted of that large body within Christian tradition who are waiting, watching, and still wondering where the Charismatic movement may go. Multitudes in every part of the Church are standing at the river-edge of Holy Spirit renewal. They want to test the waters but are often hesitant even to dip a toe, much less plunge to a full spiritual immersion.
Many want an assurance that the tides of renewal will not wash away their moorings of sound doctrine. So for these—as well as for the benefit of affirming it afresh to ourselves—it is wise that we raise a monument of testimony to the basis of all truth: the biblical revelation of the uniqueness of our Lord Jesus Christ. What do we Pentecostals and Charismatics believe about Jesus?
We hold in common what the Church has timelessly and faithfully said of Christ wherever trustworthy testimony has been borne. When we focus on what He has done for humankind, we make the following confession:
Jesus is the virgin-born Son of God, sinless Man; the incarnate truth, the manifest fullness of the Father.He is the second Adam, the One and only One sent to salvage and restore what the first Adam lost.He is the substitutionary Lamb of God; broken, bleeding and dying according to the Scriptures; given to redeem from sin all who believe in Him.He is the crucified One who was buried and who rose again—literally, physically, and in power on the third day, according to the Scriptures.He is the One and only One who, upon completely providing the grounds of all human redemption, has ascended to Heaven to take His seat at the right hand of the Father.All power in Heaven and Earth has been given to Him upon the throne! He is the One who from that throne has poured out the Holy Spirit upon all those who obey Him. He is the One who at that throne lives eternally to make intercession for us. He is the One who from the throne will soon descend as King of kings and Lord of lords, to receive His redeemed Church to be with Him forever.
Five Unique Characteristics
Those are the central affirmations we want to make about Jesus’ unique life—His birth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, present reign, and soon return. But there is more. Consider as well these five truths about who Jesus Christ is—truths that show His magnificent uniqueness.
1. Jesus Christ is unique as Creations’ Source. We believe that He is the creator of all things. Though He entered creation, we hold that He preceded it and exceeds it. He is the eternal Word—the Logos, the second person of the Godhead.
We affirm John’s testimony of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
Furthermore, because He is the source of all creation, we worship Jesus Christ as the sustainer of the universe. The Bible reveals that all things which presently exist are literally “held together” (or “consists”) by the same word of power that He employed in creating them (Col. 1:16-17). For this reason, we declare: All that exists and all that consists are a tribute to Jesus Christ’s unique role as creation’s source.
2. Jesus Christ is unique as God’s Son. We hold that He is the only revelation of God to humankind in human form; that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). While “no one has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18).
To see Jesus is to see all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily revealed. As He said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), so we testify: Jesus Christ is uniquely the Son of God and the revealer of the Father to humankind.
3. Jesus Christ is unique as humankind’s Savior. His alone is the blood that can redeem. His alone is the body broken for our healing. His alone is the sacrifice that can satisfy the price of atonement for sin. His alone is the death that can purchase life for sinful humanity.
His alone is the righteousness that can justify us before God and establish us as “not guilty” in His court. His alone is the power that can break the chains of death—for it was not possible that He could be held by death. And He alone, in rising, has verified to us the promise of eternal life.
So we proclaim His uniqueness here above all: Jesus alone can save because “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved!” (Acts 4:12).
4. Jesus Christ is unique as the church’s chief Shepherd. He is Jehovah Ra’ah, the Lord who shepherds His redeemed flock, His church. Just as He is the slain Lamb who redeemed us, He is the great Shepherd who keeps and governs us.
Jesus alone is head of the church. Having bought it with His blood, He alone has the right to rule it. All authority in the church is derived from His headship, and it can be properly exercised only in the servantlike spirit of His rulership.
Christ alone is the foundation for the church; for “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11). He alone is the builder of the church; for He has said, “I will build My church, and hell’s counsels shall never prevail against it” (see Matt. 16:18). And He alone is the life of the church; for “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).
Thus it is that the chief shepherd’s words call us into absolute dependence upon Him—the one who is uniquely the leader and feeder of His church, His flock.
5. Jesus Christ is unique as heaven’s appointed sovereign over the universe. We tend to think of states, nations, kingdoms and governments as sovereign, but in a sense every individual is also sovereign. The right to self-government—to absolute self-determination—is a God-endowed privilege invested in each human being. So sovereignty abounds, and its misapplication is at the core of the human dilemma. That makes it all the more important that we identify the uniqueness of Christ’s sovereignty.
Jesus is absolute ruler because He is creation’s source; because He is God’s only Son; because He is humankind’s Savior; because He is the church’s chief Shepherd. Jesus, uniquely as no other being, is heaven’s sovereign above all. He is the king of the universe, and He is the ultimate judge of every being in the entire cosmos.
It is before Him that all humankind will finally appear for review and judgment. It is by Him that every person will be measured and approved or disapproved. It is unto Him that every being shall ultimately bow the knee and that every tongue shall consummately confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Let every ear hear it: This is what we believe about Jesus, and this is how we confess His uniqueness: We say of Him and to Him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You alone are Source, Son, Savior, Shepherd and Sovereign.”
As an ever-broadening circle of fellowship, the, we Pentecostals and Charismatics affirm Jesus’ uniqueness in this way to an ever-widening sector of Christian traditions who are seeking assurance as to the Charismatic renewal’s convictions about Christ Himself.
Proclaiming Jesus’ Uniqueness
Yet our affirmation of Christ’s uniqueness is more than a common bond among ourselves and a reassurance of our orthodoxy among other Christians. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ also has inescapable implications as we proclaim Him to the world.
We live in a day with a disposition for delusion. Everywhere in our world, Jesus’ own prophecy is being fulfilled: “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many…Many shall come saying here is Christ or there is Christ; and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:5-12).
We are in an era cynically dubbed post-Christian. Yet salvation is found in no other than Jesus, so we are commissioned to preach Christ’s uniqueness in an environment where such a posture is deemed arrogant. It’s a delicate point for us in dealing with our mission to evangelize the world. We must at once be perceived as coming in the spirit of Jesus—with compassion, forgiveness, understanding and grace—while holding firm to the testimony of Jesus, that Jesus alone is the Savior.
In these circumstances, I believe our strategy of evangelism must center on Christ’s uniqueness. We are not commissioned to argue with people, but rather to proclaim a Person. So we should direct our evangelism toward declaring Jesus’ nature, person and work rather than toward dissecting other religious systems.
Nevertheless, although our primary mission is not to debunk the system of a pagan culture, still our manner must never be paralyzed by passivity. Ours is a sobering, life-or-death mission for every person eternally. The uniqueness of Christ constrains us to present to all human beings that Savior apart from whom they will never be saved.
Meanwhile, we must never forget that the testimony of Jesus only becomes effective and dynamic by the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10)—and a new appreciation for this prophetic ministry is one of the aspects of the charismatic awakening. Pentecostals and charismatics want to affirm that our call is not only to a pure message of Jesus’ uniqueness, but to an anointing of the Spirit for that message.
Even so, we must not settle for the anointings of the past. The history of Pentecostal and charismatic revival in this century will not be enough to carry the church into a new millennium, nor will our past experiences qualify us for what God has ahead. As individuals joined by a common bond of past renewal, we must today heed Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Is. 43:9).
Today, I believe, the Holy Spirit is saying that tour history is no guarantee of our future. The uniqueness of Christ has been the foundation of our unity, the reassurance we give to the rest of the church and the proclamation we give to the world. But now we must come again, humbly, to Jesus-asking the Spirit to lead us into a fresh encounter with the glorious uniqueness of the Son of God.
Copyright 2014 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries