Pentecostal Vs. Evangelical: Do They Have Different Beliefs

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/21/23 •  16 min read

Christianity, a faith that has been practiced for nearly two thousand years, encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices. Two major branches within Christianity, Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism, have been the subject of ongoing debate due to their differing beliefs. With over two billion followers worldwide, Christianity is one of the largest religions globally. In this article, we will delve into the contrasting beliefs of Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism, exploring their core principles, worship practices, social and political engagement, and theology of salvation, all while drawing upon relevant facts, biblical verses, and stories to shed light on these differences.

One fundamental difference between Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism lies in their approach to the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals place great emphasis on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, often accompanied by the ‘speaking in tongues’ as seen in Acts 2:4. They believe that the Holy Spirit empowers believers with spiritual gifts, enabling them to perform miracles and experience divine healing. Evangelicals, on the other hand, also recognize the importance of the Holy Spirit but may not prioritize the manifestation of spiritual gifts to the same extent as Pentecostals.

To further understand these beliefs, let us turn to a story from the Bible. In Acts 19:1-7, we encounter a group of believers in Ephesus who had received the baptism of John but were not aware of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul laid his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Immediately, they spoke in tongues and prophesied, displaying the outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This story highlights the significance of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal tradition.

In terms of worship practices, Pentecostals often engage in exuberant and expressive forms of worship, characterized by lively music, clapping, and dancing. They believe in the power of praise and worship to connect with God and experience His presence. Evangelicals, while valuing worship, may adopt a more reserved and contemplative approach, focusing on prayer, scripture reading, and preaching.

In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus teaches the greatest commandments: to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This commandment serves as the foundation for both Pentecostal and Evangelical beliefs. However, their interpretations of how to live out this commandment in society and politics may differ.

Pentecostals, driven by their belief in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, often prioritize social engagement and activism. They may actively participate in humanitarian efforts, advocating for justice, and working towards societal change. This stems from their understanding that every individual is created in the image of God and deserves dignity and respect.

Evangelicals, while also valuing social justice, may approach social and political engagement differently. They may focus on spreading the Gospel message and leading individuals to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the ultimate means of societal transformation. They may engage in evangelistic activities, such as mission trips and sharing the good news of salvation.

With regards to the theology of salvation, both Pentecostals and Evangelicals believe in the redemption of humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. They emphasize the importance of faith in Christ and accepting Him as Lord and Savior for salvation. However, Pentecostals may place greater emphasis on the experience of being ‘born again’ and the subsequent empowerment of the Holy Spirit, while Evangelicals may focus more on the intellectual understanding of salvation through faith alone.

In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless one is born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God. This concept of being born again is central to Pentecostal teaching, highlighting the transformative power of salvation through a personal encounter with Christ.

In conclusion, Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism differ in their beliefs and practices, yet both are rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible. Pentecostals emphasize the baptism of the Holy Spirit, engage in expressive worship, prioritize social engagement, and highlight the experience of being ‘born again.’ Evangelicals, while recognizing the importance of the Holy Spirit, may have a more reserved approach to worship, focus on spreading the Gospel message, approach social and political engagement differently, and emphasize faith in Christ for salvation. By understanding these differences, we can appreciate the rich and diverse tapestry of Christianity and foster unity amidst our varied beliefs.

Key Takeaways

History of Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity

Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity have distinct histories that have shaped the beliefs and practices of each group. The roots of Pentecostal Christianity can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when believers experienced the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. This experience, often characterized by ecstatic worship and the practice of charismatic and spiritual gifts, quickly spread across the globe.

One biblical story that exemplifies the power of the Holy Spirit is the story of Pentecost in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:1-4, it is written, ‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.’ This event marked the birth of the early Christian church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers.

Evangelical Christianity, on the other hand, finds its roots in reformation-era Protestantism. It emphasizes the importance of personal faith in Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture. One key verse that supports this belief is found in Ephesians 2:8-9, which states, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’ This verse emphasizes the centrality of faith in Christ as the means of salvation, rather than relying on our own efforts or good works.

While both Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity share some theological convictions, they also have notable differences. For example, Pentecostal Christianity places a strong emphasis on the manifestation of spiritual gifts, as described in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, which mentions gifts such as wisdom, healing, and prophecy. Evangelical Christianity, while acknowledging the existence of spiritual gifts, tends to focus more on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture for guiding faith and morals.

Core Theological Beliefs

Core Theological Beliefs

The core theological beliefs of Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism are deeply rooted in the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Both traditions view the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior. Let us explore these beliefs further and support them with relevant facts and quotes from the Bible.

Pentecostalism places a strong emphasis on the personal experience of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gifts that accompany it. This belief is grounded in the biblical account of the Day of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the early followers of Jesus, empowering them for ministry. Acts 2:4 states, ‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.’

Furthermore, Pentecostals believe in the ongoing manifestation of spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and miracles, as described in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. These gifts are seen as essential for the edification of the Church and for the advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Evangelicalism, on the other hand, focuses on the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. The Bible is viewed as the infallible and inerrant Word of God, guiding believers in matters of faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, it is written, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

Evangelicals are passionate about evangelism, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and bringing others into a personal relationship with Him. Mark 16:15 captures this sentiment, as Jesus instructs His disciples, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’

Both Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism affirm the belief in the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. This belief is firmly grounded in the Bible and is central to the Christian faith. Matthew 28:19 affirms the Trinitarian nature of God, as Jesus commands His disciples to baptize new believers ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

To illustrate the power and significance of these core beliefs, let us turn to the story of the conversion of Saul, who later became the apostle Paul. In Acts 9, we read how Saul encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Through this encounter, Saul’s life was transformed, and he became a fervent follower of Jesus. This powerful story highlights the personal experience of encountering the living God and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Worship Practices

Worship practices of Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism are deeply rooted in their core theological beliefs, which are grounded in the teachings of the Holy Bible. These denominations place great emphasis on the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible, such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy.

As the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.’ These gifts are seen as blessings from God and are an integral part of Pentecostal and Evangelical worship practices.

Baptismal rites are also an important aspect of worship in these denominations, symbolizing the inward grace bestowed upon believers. As stated in Romans 6:4, ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.’ Baptism is seen as a public declaration of one’s faith and a symbol of their identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While both Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism emphasize personal spiritual transformation and the importance of spiritual gifts, they differ in their emphasis on outward signs. Pentecostalism places great importance on the outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence, such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy, as evidence of one’s faith. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, places greater emphasis on inward faith and personal transformation, as stated in Romans 12:2, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ While both denominations believe in the power of God’s presence and the need for spiritual renewal, they express it in different ways during worship.

To illustrate the significance of these worship practices, let us turn to the story of the healing of the paralyzed man in Mark 2:1-12. In this story, a paralyzed man is brought to Jesus by his friends, who lower him through the roof to reach Jesus because the crowd was so large. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ This sparked controversy among the religious leaders who questioned Jesus’ authority. Jesus then said to them, ‘Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Jesus then healed the paralyzed man, and he got up, took his mat, and walked.

This story demonstrates the importance of both spiritual gifts and inward faith in the worship practices of Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Jesus not only forgave the man’s sins, but he also physically healed him. This miracle shows the power of God’s presence and the transformative nature of faith. It serves as a reminder to believers of the importance of experiencing God’s presence in worship and the potential for spiritual renewal and transformation.

In conclusion, worship practices in Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism are shaped by their core theological beliefs, which are firmly grounded in the teachings of the Holy Bible. These practices emphasize spiritual gifts, baptismal rites, and the importance of personal spiritual transformation.

While there may be variations in worship practices from congregation to congregation, prayer, scripture reading, singing, and preaching remain central in expressing devotion, reflection, and compassion. These practices serve as a means for believers to connect with God, experience His presence, and be transformed by His power, as exemplified in the story of the healing of the paralyzed man.

Social and Political Engagement

Social and political engagement have become increasingly important components of Pentecostal and Evangelical denominations, guided by a devotional, reflective, and compassionate spirit. These churches recognize their civic duty to bring about social justice, rooted in their faith and commitment to serve.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus teaches us, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40). This verse emphasizes the importance of actively helping those in need, such as volunteering in a soup kitchen or setting up a homeless shelter. It is through these acts of service that we can show our love and compassion for our fellow human beings.

Furthermore, the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) provides a powerful example of how we should work with people of different backgrounds. In this parable, Jesus highlights the importance of showing kindness and mercy to all, regardless of social, racial, or cultural barriers. As followers of Christ, we are called to break down these barriers and extend a helping hand to those in need, just as the Good Samaritan did.

In addition to practical acts of service, engaging with local government and participating in the political process is also important. In the book of Jeremiah, we are instructed to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare’ (Jeremiah 29:7). This verse reminds us of our responsibility to actively participate in shaping our communities and seeking the well-being of all its members.

The commitment to social and political engagement is closely intertwined with the theology of salvation in Pentecostal and Evangelical denominations. James 2:14-17 states, ‘What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’ This verse emphasizes that true faith is demonstrated through action and works of service.

Theology of Salvation

The theology of salvation is a fundamental belief in Pentecostal and Evangelical denominations, emphasizing the importance of faith and works. In this theological debate surrounding Divine Sovereignty and Predestination, we can turn to the Bible for guidance.

One of the key verses that sheds light on this topic is Ephesians 2:8-9, which states, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’ This verse highlights the significance of both faith and works in the process of salvation. We are saved by God’s grace, which is a gift, and this salvation is received through faith. While works are important, they are not the basis for our salvation.

To further understand the role of individual human will, we can look at the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. In this parable, the son makes a conscious decision to leave his father’s house and squander his inheritance. However, when he realizes his mistake and repents, his father welcomes him back with open arms. This story illustrates the idea that individuals have the ability to accept or reject God’s grace. It is ultimately our choice whether we turn towards God or away from Him.

On the other hand, we also find verses that emphasize the sovereignty of God in choosing those who are saved. Romans 9:16 says, ‘So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.’ This verse reminds us that our salvation is ultimately dependent on God’s mercy and His sovereign choice.

While the debate between Pentecostals and Evangelicals may continue, it is important to remember that both denominations share the core belief that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. John 3:16 beautifully summarizes this truth: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ This verse reminds us that salvation is a gift from God, received through faith in Jesus.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.