What Is a Full Gospel Christian?

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" One of the disturbing things about Christianity is that very few Christians ever advance beyond their first revelation."

Lester Sumrall¹

Walking with God is (or at least, should be) an unfolding process in which we get to know Him better and better. As we discussed before, one of the exciting things about the Christian life is discovery, daily getting fresh bread from His table. Acts 3:21 describes a time of restoration of all things which God has spoken through the mouths of His holy prophets. There is no "new" truth, but there is plenty of neglected truth, life changing truth, just waiting to be drawn out by dilligent students of God's Word.

A real milestone in my Christian life came during a home Bible study about 12 years ago, when we studied the Redemptive Names of God revealed in the Old Testament, and how they give us insight into His nature and character. Although an in-depth treatment of this topic is beyond the scope of this article, I would encourage you to study this sometime. It will bless you tremendously. I will, however, give you a brief definition of a few of these Redemptive Names:

We vividly see these character traits in the person of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus, annointed by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, healing and delivering all who come to Him in faith (Acts 10:38.) Often, these miracles set the stage for the proclamation of the Gospel, and people regularly came to know Jesus as the result (Matthew 9:26, 31; Mark 5:20; Luke 5:15; John 4:30, 42; 6:2; 12:9-11, 17-19.) Whats more, He calls on all believers to follow His example, and promises us the same supernatural power to accomplish this mission! (Mark 16:15-20; John 14:12; Acts 1:8)

We see exactly what He meant in the dramatic events described in the Book of Acts. The power Jesus spoke of was mightily poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-4.) From then on, the early church continued in the same vien as their risen Lord, boldly preaching His Gospel, as He faithfully confirmed it with signs following. Whether it be healing (Acts 3:6; 4:10, 30; 5:12-16; 6:3-8; 9:34; 14:8-10; 19:11-12) deliverance (Acts 8:7; 16:18; 19:11-12,) or whatever the needs of lost, hurting people may have been, the Spirit's power was there in abundance to meet them, and to give powerful testimony to Jesus' message preached through His church. Just like in Jesus' ministry, these miracles were also important tools that God used to draw people to salvation (Acts 8:6; 9:35, 42.)

It is here that we must ask ourselves some important questions: Has God's program for His church changed? Is Jesus any less compassionate to lost, hurting people now, than He was during His earthly ministry? Is the Book of Acts simply an old, dusty relic? or is it a living, dynamic model for how the church is to operate in today's world?

To assert, as some do, that Jesus doesn't heal or work miracles today is to put Him in violation of His own nature. The never was an "Age of Miracles." There is a God of miracles, and He never changes! (Malachi 3:6) He is eternally Jehovah Raphe, the Lord our Healer. He is eternally El Shaddai, the God who is more than enough. He is eternally Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our provider.

All Christians obviously believe that Jesus is our Savior. However, we often overlook many of the things that are involved in His saving work. We generally define the word "salvation" as simply meaning going to Heaven, instead of Hell, when you die. This is certainly the most important aspect of it, but it is not, by any means, all there is to it. The Greek word for salvation comes from the word "sozo" (see Strong's # 4982) which means to save, heal, preserve, and make whole. It involves all of the blessings bestowed on men by Christ. It shows that salvation is for the whole man, spirit, soul, and body, and is for the here and now, not just for the afterlife.

Similarly, the Hebrew word "Shalom," (Strong's #7965) which is usually translated "peace" in the Old Testament also has a deeper meaning than many realize. It does mean "peace," but it also means favor, health, prosperity, and wholeness.

The Bible refers to Jesus as the Prince of Peace, or as the Hebrew points out, the Prince of Shalom. He certainly is the prince of Peace. He is also the Prince of Wholeness, the Prince of Prosperity, and so on. Friend, He is everything you will ever need!

Full Gospel Christians are sometimes referred to as "Pentecostal." This is a correct term, since we believe that the power of the Holy Spirit poured out on the Day of Pentecost if for all believers everywhere today. We are also called "Charismatic," which is also a correct term, however, it is one that requires a bit more explanation:

In the strictest sense of the word, all Christians are Charismatic, at least to some degree. The word "charisma" comes from the Greek word "charis" which means "grace." All Christians certainly believe in God's grace, since this is the basis for our salvation (Ephesians 2:8.) Once we are saved, God's grace continues to work in our lives in many different ways. I want us to look now at a work of His grace that is often overlooked.

Notice how the word "charis" (grace) becomes the word "charisma" (gift,) which is where the word "charismatic" comes from. In 1 Corinthians 12, we see nine different supernatural manifestations, or gifts, of God's grace in action. (Note: this does not mean that there are only nine gifts. The are diversities of gifts, divided into these nine subcategories. For example, notice that in describing the gifts of healing, the word 'gifts' is plural.)

Three times in Scripture we are exhorted to covet (Pursue with passion) the Gifts and fullness of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 39, the same Greek word is used in all of these Scriptures.) This is a commandment, not an option. If we are truly going to be immitators of Christ, we must not neglect this vital dimension of His life and ministry.

Generally speaking, the modern church takes a rather dim view of spiritual experience. While it is true that the Charismatic movement (like all other movements) has produced its share of "granola saints" (fruits, nuts, and flakes,) we must be careful not to "throw out the baby with the bath water." All experience must be tested in light of Scripture, of course, but God invites us to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8.) In Acts 19:2, when Paul asked the Ephesian believers if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed, he was not calling them to simply accept another doctrine. He was inviting them to embrace the Person of the Holy Spirit in a dynamic, experiential manner. This is the heart cry of the Full Gospel Christian.

Similarly, we must be bold enough to embrace the Person of Jesus Christ for all He is: Savior, Lord, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Intercessor, Healer, Provider, and much, much more. This is an absolutely essential part of the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3.) If we neglect it, we risk becoming a church that simply has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5.)

In summary, The term "Full Gospel Christian" can be best summed up this way: The belief that everything Jesus did in the Gospels, He is still doing today. God is still God! This cannot be emphasized enough. The Full Gospel message is not something to be feared. It is a message of God's goodness and love. A message of His saving, healing, and delivering power. Lets make a fresh commitment to exalt the beautiful name of Him who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8.) With each new glimpse we take of His unveiled glory, we will fall more and more deeply in love with Him, and be transformed more and more into His likeness. If you do not yet have a relationship with Him, the most incredible experience of your life awaits you, if you will turn your life over to Him. If we can help you in this area, please don't hesitate to let us know.

© 2001 JHB

For Further Reading:

¹ The Sumrall quote is an introductory comment to the book "Quenching the Spirit" by William DeArteaga © 1992, Creation House

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