A Background Study of the Charismatic Renewal

Some History

Because there has been some confusion about the difference between Charismatics and Pentecostals, a little history may be in order. Failure to recognize their distinctiveness has led to much unnecessary misunderstanding in the Body of Christ.


The Pentecostal Renewal had its birth on January 1, 1901 with individuals in the "Holiness Movement". A 27 year old preacher from Topeka Kansas, Charles F. Parham, operated a Bible School and, on this date, some of his students began to speak in tongues. In 1906 a similar event began in Los Angeles, California known as the "Asuza Street Revival". The reaction was so strong, by those in the denominational churches, that a wall was established between the "Pentecostals" and their pastors, fellow church members and denominations. The result was that a theology developed in the Pentecostal churches that rejected as saved any who did not "have the Holy Spirit", i.e. their experiences. Classical Pentecostal doctrine includes the teaching that speaking in tongues is the "evidence" of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. In Classical Pentecostalism there is a strong emphasis on personal holiness, the place of works in the life of the believer, a "co-operating" with the Holy Spirit to "work out your salvation". The worship and hymnody of Pentecostals emphasized the effectiveness of the "blood of Jesus", that His death and atonement bought benefits for the faithful including, a holy life, healing, joy, etc.


The Charismatic Renewal is distinct from the Pentecostal Renewal, both in terms of the vision of God and the doctrinal positions of those involved.

The "Charismatic Renewal" is usually dated from April 3, 1960. It was on this Sunday that Father Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest, publicly announced to his parishioners that he had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

In 1963 "Eternity" magazine used the phrase "The New Pentecostalism" for this movement. Those in the movement objected. Harold Bredesen, a Lutheran Pastor, and Jean Stone published a response objecting to the "Neo-Pentecostal" label and preferring the term "Charismatic Renewal". Individuals in the renewal embraced the term "charismatic" as expressing what God was doing in their lives and congregations as distinct from the Pentecostal Renewal.

Pentecostal / Charismatic Distinctives

For the most part, Charismatics appreciated and embraced the gifts God restored to the church in the Pentecostal Renewal, but rejected the church practices and many of the doctrinal positions of Pentecostals.

Speaking In Tongues

Charismatics, for the most part, rejected the doctrine of speaking in tongues as "the evidence" of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was clear to them that Paul wants everyone to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians. 14:1-5), it was not clear that the manifestation of this gift was the only evidence of yieldedness to the Holy Spirit, His presence or of Holy Spirit baptism.

Bloom Where Planted

Charismatics also believed that God was not interested in forming another denomination. This renewal was to effect change in the church where the individual Charismatic was planted. After three decades there are thousands of charismatic Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. who are staying in their church praying for revival and working to accomplish the purposes of God. This did not always prove to be acceptable to congregations/denominations. In some instances charismatics were ostracized, ridiculed and asked to leave. This attitude and rejection was the cause of many church splits. The result was that eventually Charismatic Congregations were formed. In other cases, Charismatics reacted to the rejection of their message and, in turn, rejected their denominational background and teaching to join Pentecostal congregations. When charismatics did remain in their congregations the most adamant anti-charismatics sometimes left the church. In either case, charismatics were labeled "schismatic" or "divisive".

Church Unity

Another distinctive from Pentecostalism was the message of Church Unity. This is ironic in the face of the charge that Charismatics are divisive. An almost universal charismatic teaching based on Ephesians 4:3,13, is that we are to "maintain (guard) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ... until we attain the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God". In this passage Charismatics saw Paul teaching that unity is a reality that God has given, not something we create. There is only one church, and our responsibility is to GUARD or MAINTAIN that reality until God establishes a unity of the faith (doctrine). This passage tells us that a "unity of the faith" does not now exist in the church and, except on the foundational things, that is OK. God will change all of that in His time and way. Our task, in the meantime, is to maintain the unity, not by a denial of what God is doing in us (doctrine, practice and experience), nor by creating a unity by forcing others to "our positions," but by embracing as family all those who trust Jesus Christ as Savior (based on the Biblical teachings of man’s sinfulness and God’s redemption/atonement by faith, Ephesians 2:8-10, et.al.).

More Distinctives

There are many more distinctives between Charismatics and Pentecostals but these serve to illustrate why Charismatics preferred "Charismatic" to "Pentecostal".

It is not my purpose to depreciate what God has done in our Pentecostal brethren. The church is in debt to their sacrifice and obedience to God. Still, Charismatics saw that God was doing a different "thing". It was not a Pentecostal "after thought" and did not require us to reject our denominational affiliation or teaching.

Charismatic Pentecostals

While I served at CharisLife Ministries (with Hans Schanbel, founder), we often received calls from people wanting to know if a specific Foursquare or Assembly Of God or other Pentecostal congregation was Charismatic. While there had been no teaching on the distinctions between Charismatic and Pentecostal (that I know of), people knew the difference.

What they generally wanted to know was:

  1. Does this Pentecostal congregation worship use a Charismatic style (worship choruses, personal pronouns in songs, etc),
  2. Are they committed to the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace and,
  3. Are they open to people who hold doctrinal positions that are different than traditional Pentecostal positions (as stated above).


While many of the items listed below are also a part of other traditions and revivals, they are the distinctives which are, in my opinion, the primary emphasis of the Holy Spirit in this renewal.

The Lordship Of Jesus Christ

Without getting into the debate about whether one can have Jesus as Savior without also having Him as Lord, there is no denying that carnal Christians do exist. Paul labeled (some in) the Corinthian congregation as carnal. The Lordship of Christ was, in my opinion, the major theme of the Charismatic Renewal. The "gifts of the spirit" had already been restored to the church in the Pentecostal Renewal. While those gifts were a significant part of the Charismatic Renewal, for Charismatics the issue was the will and purposes of God more than the gifts.

It was His will to use His people as a channel of Holy Spirit gifts to touch and bless the lives of others. It was less about gifts than how He wanted His church to function. To fail to allow Him to rule His church and function in the way He desired was to deny His Lordship. In obedience to Scripture and to the Lord of the Church, we believed we must participate in all He intends for the Church including the full giftings distributed to each member by and at the will of the Holy Spirit.


Another distinctive of the Charismatic renewal is the worship form. Charismatic worship evolved to become "personal" for Charismatics. The emphasis came to be on the use of personal pronouns, singing to Jesus, using His name and talking to him, not about Him. Most of the songs in early Charismatic worship were Scripture choruses. Whole passages and chapters were put to melody and sung. It was not uncommon to use these songs to recall Scripture texts during the week. As the Charismatic worship experience matured, songs began to reflect more and more this personal nature of believer's relationship with God. "He is lord" became "You are Lord". Biblical accuracy was also a characteristic of these early worship songs.

This (worship song style) may be one of the farthest reaching contributions of the Charismatic Renewal to the church at large. Even those churches which do not consider themselves to be Charismatic (even some anti-charismatic churches) use this worship style and emphasize relating to God personally in worship.

It is only fair to say, however, that it takes more than singing choruses and raising ones hands to have a "charismatic service". While those were very important aspects of worship, the operation of the gifts, especially prophecy, word of wisdom and word of knowledge are marks of a charismatic service. It was expected that members would come to service, not to get pumped up, but ready to contribute to the service with songs, hymns, spiritual songs, and whatever gifts the Holy Spirit might give them for the service.

While today's prevalent worship styles (often called a "blended worship") owes its origin to the charismatic renewal, most are not charismatic worship as it was known in the 70's and 80's. That isn't necessarily bad or good, it is just different. It is important to say that not every "contemporary service" is charismatic.

Bible Study

The final distinctive I wish to emphasize at this place is the Charismatic involvement with the Bible. From the very beginning Charismatics were known for carrying their Bibles and constantly studying them. Even the most ardent opponents were forced to admit that Charismatics had a deep and abiding commitment to the Bible as God’s source of truth. If it was in the Bible it was true, regardless of whether science, church dogma or anything else (or anyone) believed it. This became a source of trouble. Charismatics wanted to stay in their home congregations. It was their desire that everyone experience their new found (or re-found) love of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit. They attended Bible studies, entered into discussions with their pastors and anybody else who would talk to them. Seeking guidance to integrate their experience into their life and that of the church, they were often told simply that these things were no longer for today and had no place in church life. That was not sufficient since they found no place in Scripture restricting the gifts to a previous era, in fact, just the opposite.

While often accused of departing from Scripture, it was because of the truths of Scripture that Charismatics found themselves in conflict with (some) other Christians. As I speak with pastors about the charismatic members of their congregations, almost without exception, charismatics are counted as the most knowledgeable and most committed to the Scripture, as well as the most zealous advocates of Bible Study.

Charismatic Gifts

The most visible of the practices of the Charismatic Renewal is the belief that the Holy Spirit works today just as He did in the church of Acts. This, in fact is part of the definition I give when people ask what Charismatics believe.

"Charismatics believe that God has given certain gifts to the church. That these gifts are distinct from natural abilities but are the operation of the Holy Spirit through the believer for the benefit of other believers. That the believer receives these gifts at the behest of the Holy Spirit, not their own preference."

Charismatic Identity

As you can see, Charismatics had their own "identity" although there was no "denominational leadership" which spoke for them. There were many influential leaders but none with a single voice of authority. Authority, such as it existed, was usually within one’s denominational identity. Charismatics in the Lutheran tradition, for example, identified with Lutheran leaders and remained faithful to Lutheran doctrine. Organizations in the Lutheran church gave some guidance. Lutheran Charisciples (later CharisLife Ministry), RIM (Renewal In Missouri), and ILRC (International Lutheran Renewal Center), are just three examples. They offered teaching and guidance and reached out to their denominations with the message of the renewal. The Conference On The Holy Spirit continues to draw Lutheran Charismatics from all over the United States to Minneapolis in August every year. As valuable as these ministries have been, Charismatics turn to the Bible and use it as their final authority - and expect that everyone else would do the same.

The Term "Charismatic"

So what does the word Charismatic mean? Many have already addressed the question, including a WEB page " Who is a charismatic". I make my contributions here.

That question has at least three answers:

  1. Secular: It means one who is warm, outgoing and captivating. We speak of a charismatic personality.
  2. Biblical: The Bible uses the word charismatic to identify God’s gifts to man. In the Broad sense every Christian is "charismatic" since salvation itself is identified as a gift of grace (charisma). In the Narrow sense the word charismatic refers to specific gifts of charisma which are given by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Group Identity: As explained above, the word charismatic has been adopted and used to identify a specific category of people within the Christian church and individuals who identify with that group.

We will not concern ourselves with the "secular" use of the term but focus on the Biblical use of the word charismatic. The following study is designed to give us the necessary information and Scripture texts to find how it is used in the Bible. What follows is a study of every passage in which a form of the Greek Word charisma is found. I have made the English text available by link and have, in some instances, included the Greek where I felt it would be useful. Unless otherwise specified the Greek is from the Nestle Aland Greek Bible and the English is from the New Century Version. References are always included so you can look up the passage in your favorite translation. (Use of the Greek will require the Greek Font on your computer. See the FONTS link in the Index frame.)

Charismatic Word Study

As we begin I would like to paraphrase, in brief, a story Hans Schnabel printed in one of his newsletters that explains the charismata.
There were servants working in the field with antique implements to work the ground. One day one of the servants went to the master's house and was given a large all wheel drive John Deere tractor with 10 bottom plow. He was taught to use it and when he returned to the field the other workers became jealous. Accusing him of thinking he was better than they, he was shunned. He tried to explain that their own power equipment was waiting for them at the master's house. All they needed to do was ask for them. He explained that they were all the master's tools, not his, and that they were to be used to get the fields ready. Some listened of his fellow servants listened and claimed their own free tools. Others stubbornly accused those who had the new tools and equipment of claiming superiority.

No one can claim to be "better" than another because he has received a "gift". Wages may reflect worth and value (and you know what our wages are!), but gifts say nothing about those who receive the gift. Grace (charis) is, by definition, a free gift. Charis is the root word of charismatic. No one can be good enough or deserve God's grace or His grace gifts. All (gifts) are given as the Holy Spirit wills. They are available to all believers. To each is given a gift as the Spirit wills.

The Scripture

In Romans 1:11, Paul speaks his desire to visit the Romans and to impart some "spiritual gift" to them. The text is literally saying that Paul wants to impart some charismatic gift to make them strong. Paul knew that God's plan was to "gift" the church to enable her to fulfill God's purposes.

Romans 5:15-16, is translated "free gift", then the "gift by grace" (charis), the context makes this the "free gift unto justification". Saving faith is a "charisma" of God. In Romans 6:23 the "gift" spoken of here is the Greek word charisma. Clearly, this is salvation - "Life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord". This means that, in the broad sense, every Christian is a "Charismatic". Justification is called a charismatic gift.

In Romans 11:29 God speaks of His gifts. The phrase "things he gives them" in NCV is the Greek word charisma. In the KJV, it says that God does not "repent or change his mind" concerning these gifts. Because we do not deserve these gifts, cannot earn them or be good enough for them, God does not take them back when we mess up. God does not "repent" of His gift. He knew we didn't deserve it when He gave it. He was not ignorant of our nature or our weaknesses. He is not surprised when we sin. His gifts are truly by grace and not personal merit or worth, sanctification, prayer or anything else. That is why we often see people functioning in one or more of the gifts of the Spirit whose personal lives are not what we would like to see. D. James Kennedy, in his Evangelism Explosion materials, says; "The only ability God is interested in is our availability."

Romans 12:6-8 lists some charismatic gifts (more on the sub-categories of charismatic, motivational, etc. in another lesson). Given by Grace, these gifts are the "energizing" or motivational gifts. They are distinct from the charismatic gifts, although they are given by God's grace. The gifts listed here are:

  1. gift of prophecy (v6)
  2. gift of serving (v7)
  3. gift of teaching (v7)
  4. gift of encouraging (v8)
  5. gift of giving (v8)
  6. gift of being a leader (v8)
  7. gift of showing mercy (v8)
In 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul speaks "grace" (charis) to the believers in Corinth, thanking God for the "grace" given them ... with the result that they are behind in no spiritual gift. There is no doubt that the personal lives of many of those using the charismatic gifts are messed up. They are even abusing the gifts and Paul brings correction. It would be great if all believers were fully mature and never embarrassed the Lord by sin or misdirected zeal. It just isn't so. Paul never depreciates the gifts nor tells the saints in Corinth to despise or cease the use of any of the gifts. He brings correction while holding the gifts in the highest regard. After what could be taken as a negative attack against the exercise of the public gift of tongues, Paul closes with: "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:39). Oh that people today would understand that these passages apply to them as much as to the Corinthians of Paul's day.

In 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul speaks of God’s gifts of both "being single" and "being married" as a grace gift (charisma) when speaking about his "gift" of singleness.

In 1 Corinthians 12:1Paul said "I would not have you ignorant". The word translated "I would" is the Greek word thello (qevlw) and, according to Strong's, means: "to purpose, generally based upon a preference and desire." It is not a wishy washy verb, it is a strong verb. Paul does not want us ignorant"about "spirituals" (pneumatikov")".

To Prevent Spiritual and Charismatic Gift Ignorance

To prevent ignorance of gifts Paul itemizes the "diversities", "types" or "kinds" of gifts while affirming that all are of the same Holy Spirit.

Paul reveals categories of gifts. By broad definition they can be called "spirituals" or "Charismatic" because every gift from God is by his grace. In some references (such as Romans above) the term "charismatic" refers to everything God gives to us, including salvation. This passage reveals that there are also sub-categories of gifts. All "gifts" are for the common good, regardless of what they are called.

Look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, the first group of the "spirituals"

  1. is the charismatic gifts.
  2. Paul talks about diversities of "serving",
  3. We see diversities of "operations" (what today is often called "motivational" or "energizing" gifts).
In 1 Corinthians 12:9 God’s "gifts" include the "gifts" of healings (pl). Healing is called a "charisma" of healing, a grace gift. Clearly God gifts (pl) of healings (pl) a[llw/ de; charismata ijamavtwnto His people. This explains why some have more "success" with one disease than another. There is no "single" gift of "healing", there are "plural" gifts of healings. In 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 Paul uses the same two words, "gifts of healings" (30mh; pavnte" carivsmata e[cousin ijamavtwn;). Here he makes it obvious that not every single believer will have (one or more of) these healing gifts, the Greek phrase expects a negative answer but in saying that it also expects that some do have distributed to them by the Holy Spirit some of the "gifts of healings". In 1 Corinthians 12:28, notice that after God placed first apostles, second prophets and third teachers (in Corinth this seems to be Paul reminding them how God established that congregation), the result was ... (e[peita=then, thereupon), God gave a place to those who do miracles, gifts of healing, etc. The result of the five-fold men working in Corinth resulted in the spiritual gifts at work in the people.
Paul affirms that no one has all the gifts, some have the gift (charisma) of healings, others don’t, etc. Except for Salvation, the charismatic gifts are distributed throughout the body of Christ as the Holy Spirit desires.
1 Co 12:28, 30-31 Paul's command "SEEK!" (zhlou'te) is in the imperative. You and I are commanded by God, through Paul, to earnestly and sincerely seek the charismatic gifts. This puts a very high priority on them in our lives. If they came automatically, or if we got "all we are going to get" when we were saved (or baptized in water), why does Paul here COMMAND us to earnestly seek them? Obviously God has chosen that the exercise of our obedience and will is a vital part of the manifestation of these charismatic gifts.

NOTE: Verse 31 is in the Present Active Imperative: "Earnestly covet the best gifts".
31zhlou`te de; ta; carivsmata ta; meivzona.
Literally: "Earnestly seek the charismatic (gifts) the great." (the greater, best or higher charismatic gifts). The question may be raised, "What is the greater gift?" I will cover this more thoroughly in another teaching on the charismatic gifts but suffice it to say that it is the one needed at the time. Paul contrasts prophecy, which benefits the entire congregation, to the devotional use of tongues, which edifies only the individual's spirit (it doesn't even edify his own mind!). The conclusion is that the "greatest" gift is the one that builds up, encourages and edifies the people to whom you are ministering or whom you are with.

Paul addresses this important subject again in 1 Corinthians 14:1. While bringing a word of correction about the abuse of the charismatic gifts by some, Paul never depreciates the gift or the proper use of it. Nor does he undervalue it as a part of the life of the believer. In verse 1 following the wonderfully practical chapter on love, Paul's emphasis (because of love) is that the believers are to "earnestly desire" or "be zealous for" charismatic gifts.

We do not live for ourselves. The principle of Christ is that love lays down its life for the brother. The practical application of that is the exercise of the charismatic gifts that are needed. You may prefer to exercise a particularly attractive gift, one well appreciated and lauded by the crowds, but it is the Holy Spirit who distributes the gifts for the good of the body of Christ (not for our own fame or ego). There is only one charismatic gift which God has revealed is available to each believer for his own benefit (apart from Salvation). All the others are distributed for the benefit of others.

In 2 Corinthians 1:11 the "blessed us" (NCV) is the word "Charismatic" and it is translated "gift bestowed upon us" in the KJV. Paul here indicates that the prayer of the saints, on the behalf of the Apostles, was a part of the process God used to bestow gifts for which the Gentiles would give praise.

In 1 Timothy 4:14-15The gift Timothy is not to neglect is the "charisma"(charismatic gift) which he received by the laying on of hands. Please note that it is the Holy Spirit who gives gifts as He wills, He often chooses to use the laying on of hands to impart His gifts to people through people. This practice is one of the foundational doctrines of the church (Hebrews 6:2), although I doubt that many could give a credible explanation of this "foundational doctrine".

In 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul exhorts Timothy to keep using "the gift of God" (to; cavrisma tou` qeou`,) and not to be "meek" about exercising that charismatic gift. In fact he tells him to let it grow.

Finally, in 1 Peter 4:9-11 Peter talks about the charismatic gifts. He claims that each believer has received a charismatic gift with which to bless others. He considers hospitality to include using the charismatic gift for the benefit of others. Is it possible he is talking about the charismatic gift of salvation here? The context makes it clear enough. Look at verse 10-11 where he gives us a look at the charismatic gifts in action. If one has a vocal gift (prophecy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, teaching) he should speak by God's power, as an oracle of God. The gift comes from God by His grace, not man's ability. He goes on to emphasize that anyone who serves should serve in the strength of God.

Intended For Good

The charismatic gifts are to be used "for the common good" of the body of Christ, not for its detriment. Does this mean that gifts will always be properly used just because God intended them for good? Obviously not. As humans we will always fail to perfectly operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As humans, we will always tend to be critical toward those who have different gifts than we are comfortable with, especially if we see them abused.


  1. We reviewed some history and have seen that the charismatic renewal was and is distinct from the Pentecostal renewal.
  2. We have seen that the term "charismatic" is a Biblical word which applies both to all of God's gifts to His children and to some specific gifts of grace given as the Holy Spirit wills.
  3. We have seen that God commands us to desire the charismatic gifts. It is in the imperative in the Greek. Bible believing, obedient children of God have no alternative but to receive all that God has for them. This means we must find which gifts God has given us and "practice" them.
  4. We are not to be jealous of the gifts of others since it is the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts.
  5. The gifts are for the common good (1 Corinthians 14:18-ff). With one exception all the gifts are passing through us to others.
  6. Only the gift of tongues (speaking in languages you have not known or learned) is intended to edify the individual as it is used.
  7. Prophecy, because it edifies others is preferred, in public services over the personal gift which edifies only the individual UNLESS the person has the gift of using tongues in public with interpretation. Then its benefit, because it is interpreted for the people, is equal to prophecy.
  8. Speaking in tongues, and the other charismatic gifts, are not to be despised, even if they have been or are abused. Paul was in the habit of using his personal prayer language even more than any of the Corinthians did.

The document was written by Robert L. Goldsby (5101 NE 121st Ave #140, Vancouver, WA 98682-2121)) and is the sole property of the author. It may be used for personal and group Bible study but may not be used for any commercial or publishing purposes without the express written consent of the author.
Last modified: January 2, 1998