In 1929, noted British theologian and church leader Donald Gee warned Assemblies of God leaders that they faced three temptations that could imperil the young Pentecostal movement. Speaking at the biennial General Council of the Assemblies of God held in Wichita, Kansas, Gee observed that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit “get the personal attention of the devil.” He listed three major ways Satan tempts Pentecostal individuals, churches, and movements, drawn from the temptations of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11).
According to Gee, Satan’s first temptation to Christ and to the Pentecostal believer is to use the power of God for selfish satisfaction. Satan tempted Christ to use His spiritual power to feed His own hunger. Gee declared, “Our Lord did not turn those stones into bread to feed himself; but not long after I find Him feeding five thousand” with miraculous bread supplied by the power of God. “I have not been baptized in the Holy Ghost that I may delight myself in a Pentecostal picnic … I have been called to the hungry multitudes.” The devil still tempts those with access to the power of God to selfishly enjoy that privilege without a thought to the purpose of the power — the feeding of a hungry world.
The second temptation given to both Christ and the Pentecostal church is to be caught up in fanaticism. The devil tempted Christ to show the power of God through a wild display of throwing himself off the pinnacle of the Temple, forcing God to do a miraculous work to prove himself. Gee reminded his listeners, “The devil quoted Scripture! And the temptation to fanaticism is most deadly when it has a superficial appearance of being scriptural.”
The cure for such fanaticism, in Gee’s estimation, is knowing the full counsel of the Word of God. He pointed to Jesus’ statement to Satan, “It is written again.” Gee advised, “Do not run off on two or three Scriptures, but be balanced on the whole Word of God. When the devil says, ‘There’s a fine text; you go and do something silly on that,’ you say, ‘It is written again,’” and bring the balance of other Scriptures to bear on the situation.
Gee illustrated this point with a story of a young man who was out of work. He was given the opportunity to drive a truck for a bakery. The young man said, “I must go and pray about it first.” He got his Bible, shut his eyes, opened the Bible, and came to the Scripture, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” He then interpreted this to be a divine revelation that “God does not want me to drive a bakery truck.” Gee said, “That was fanaticism based on one Scripture.” If he had remembered to say, “It is written again. If any man will not work neither shall he eat, all would have been well.”
He counseled the ministers present to combat fanaticism by keeping a balance of following the Spirit while avoiding fleshly excesses. “When you are up against fanaticism in your assembly and have people who do mad, wild things do not quench the Spirit by shutting down entirely” the Spirit’s gifts; instead “give them teaching!”
The third temptation of Christ and of the Pentecostal movement is the temptation to forsake the pure worship of God in exchange for popularity. Gee reminded Pentecostals that the devil said to Jesus, “If you will fall down and worship me … adopt my methods … I will give you the crowds.” Gee lamented, “I have been in Pentecostal churches which made me think of a theater or a sacred concert. We do not want the crowds at any price!” Gee preached to the General Council, “Do not think that I am afraid of the crowds. I want them. If we go on the lines of ‘Not by might, or by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts’ we will get the crowds. The crowds are as hungry as ever for salvation … Feed them the Word!”
Gee ended his sermon by reminding Assemblies of God ministers that they were part of the provision to safeguard from these temptations. Using the ministry gifts described in Ephesians 4:11, Gee taught that apostles and evangelists remind believers that the power of God is not given to selfishly provide “Pentecostal picnics” but to feed a hungry world. Teachers and pastors are given to provide teaching and guidance to keep the church from falling into fanaticism. Prophets provide the clarion call to the Pentecostal movement that the Church must stay true to godly worship and not stray into crowd-pleasing gimmicks that distract from the truth of God’s Word. Gee, in an encouragement to ministers, noted “that the Spirit of the living Christ is with us, battling against the same tempter, but also leading us on to the same victory.”
Read the full article, “The Temptations of Pentecost,” on page 2 of the Oct. 26, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “One Thing Thou Lackest,” by Anna L. Dryer
• “Daily Fellowship with God,” by Andrew Murray
• “In the Whitened Harvest Fields,” reports from nationwide revival meetings
And many more!
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Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.