What does it mean to be “charismatic”?

I’ll start with the word “Pentecostal.”  Pentecostal refers to those whose theology informs them that there is a second baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by the gift of speaking in tongues.  Some go so far as to say that you are not saved unless you show the signs of the Spirit.  Most Pentecostals would consider themselves to be “charismatic” but not all charismatic people consider themselves to be Pentecostal.  The word “charismatic” has become synonymous with churches and people who practice what we would call ‘supernatural’ gifts of the spirit (prophesy, healing, speaking in tongues, etc).  Or worse, some people just think that those who raise their hands in worship or sing passionately are “charismatic”, which is a horrible misunderstanding of the term. Passion for God doesn’t make one charismatic, it simply makes one passionate (as we all should be).  All of God’s people are a charismatic people.  The word simply refers to the “spiritual gifts” in general, and the Holy Spirit has gifted all of us with different gifts to benefit the body of believers. The question is, do we make ourselves available to the Spirit so that those gifts can be used for his purposes.

This is important!  All members of the body of Christ are charismatic people, and any effort to distance ourselves from the supernatural gifts and the word ‘charismatic’ is actually distancing ourselves from what we are supposed to be.  This distancing is somewhat understandable because many within what we call the “charismatic movement” have so over-emphasized the supernatural gifts and have so embraced emotionalism, that other key elements of the faith have been greatly neglected.  In many cases there are abuses that tend to arise when church becomes more about the gifts than about the gift-giver.

Unfortunately, abuses and neglecting important areas of our faith is a problem in many churches, not just charismatic churches.  Liberal mainline churches tend to value social concern at the expense of scripture and truth, evangelical churches tend to value personal salvation at the expense of  justice issues, and charismatic churches tend to value spiritual power at the expense of right doctrine or social concern.  We must seek a balance in our churches.  A lack of understanding concerning the practices and the mystery of supernatural gifts is no good reason to distance ourselves from the amazing gifts that God longs to pour out on all his people.  As Paul says, we should eagerly seek them (1 Cor 14:1).  So start praying that the Spirit of God will gift you with, not what you think you need, but what the church needs.  He wants to give to the church through you.

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5 Responses to “What does it mean to be “charismatic”?”

  1. Maria Says:

    Having grown up in both a “charismatic” and “Pentacostal” church, I can understand why many skeptics may question the over-sensationalism and emphasis on emotionalism that is often attributed to the giftings of the Holy Spirit. I thoroughly agree that these “gifts” should never replace or trump the importance of the “fruit” of the Spirit, namely love, which should be the greatest of these.

    However, just googling “charismatic” gave me back the following definitions:
    1. a special personal quality or power of an individual making him capable of influencing or inspiring large numbers of people
    2. a quality inherent in a thing which inspires great enthusiasm and devotion

    In this sense of the word, I would daresay that more Christians should be more “charismatic,” displaying an active effort of the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s life in such a way that it would influence others, as it did in the early church. How else will we be effective witnesses for Christ in sharing the gospel?

    • MetroBibleBlog Says:

      @Maria – I agree, I think we really should strive to be a charismatic people.
      As far as the definition of “charismatic”. Our English understanding confuses us a bit when it comes to the scriptural understanding of the word. The Greek word “charisma” used in the New Testament to refer to the spiritual gifts actually means “a gift that is freely given”. Our English understanding of that word has evolved into the definitions that you alluded to above. But at the root of a meaning like “a special quality of a person” is the idea that those special qualities are freely given by God. And in the context of 1 Corinthians those “special qualities” or “gifts” are given to us by God for the sake of the Church. It is in that context and that sense of the word that we must remember that we are all a charismatic people.

  2. Simon Says:

    So curious. is there a second baptism of the Holy Spirit that happens? If so, then is this missing in many believers’ lives? We talked about this at our UG and found the matter perplexing. It makes sense that when one is given the Holy Spirit when brought into the family of God, but how about when you are called into Service? Then does the Holy Spirit “baptize” or come upon you like they did in Acts. When the Disciples received the Holy Spirit in the upper room (John 20) when Jesus breathed on them, they also had to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. This seemed to be the pattern in the book of Acts that makes sense even today in observation. When we are ready to follow Jesus as our Savior, we receive the HS. When we’re ready to follow Him as Lord of our lives into our calling, then we are equipped and Baptized by the HS. What do you think? If this is true, then there are a lot of sleeping Christians who have not been baptized or equipped properly for service by the HS.

    • MetroBibleBlog Says:

      No, I don’t believe there is a second baptism in the Holy Spirit. Pentecostal theologians will disagree, but I simply don’t see overwhelming evidence for it in scripture. Paul says very clearly in Romans 8:9 that “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ“. In other words, if you DO belong to Christ, than you DO have the Spirit. The question for us should not be “Do I have the Spirit?” The Question is “Does the Spirit have me?” Following Jesus and living as a people of the Spirit is to be a continual surrendering of ourselves to his agenda and will. God does not empower us with his Spirit for our purposes, he empowers us for his purposes. There should be no distinction between a follower of Jesus as Savior and following him as Lord, it’s a package deal. So to say that we receive the Holy Spirit when we make him the Lord of our lives not when we call him Savior is simply not the way it works. His Spirit is gifted to us when we place our faith in him, when we identify ourselves with him and his people. That is what baptism is, a means by which we identify ourselves with God. That is why Paul uses that language of belonging in the verse above. If you belong to God, which all believers do, then you have his Spirit. Again, the question is, are you surrendering yourself to his leading and empowering. Sadly, we often do not.

      And I don’t think that there are Christians out there who “have not been baptized or equipped properly for service by the HS.” We mustn’t diminish the work of God, he didn’t mess up when he gave you his Spirit, but the giving of the Spirit does not make us a people without sin. We still need to live our lives in day by day, moment by moment, surrendering of our own agendas. Too often we are unwilling to do that.

      But to answer your question again. No, I don’t believe there is any good scriptural evidence that when we’re ready to follow Jesus as Lord, then we are baptized by the Holy Spirit. Paul doesn’t say “go get baptized in the Holy Spirit” He says “Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). In other words, live like the people of God that you are, because the Spirit is already in you.

      There are some passages that may cause some confusion on this topic. John 20:22, Acts 8:16, or Acts 19:2-6 to name a few. If anyone has any questions on these passages or others feel free to email metrobibleblog@emetro.org It is important though to remember that God is not bound by patterns and formulas. So in the early church we see the Spirit moving in different ways in different situations.

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