Pentecost? Yes! Neo-Pentecostalism? No

Neo-Pentecostalism has become a disturbing development in various denominations, also in the Christian Reformed Church. Leaders are concerned to know how to deal with it. Dr. Gerard Van Groningen, professor of Bible at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, in this article tells how the matter was handled in Australia where he served for several years as a missionary and also as a professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Theological College in Geelong.

Some months ago all Christian Reformed consistories, and possibly many ministers also, received a gift in their mail box. It was a book published by Baker Book House. The author is Dr. J. A. Schep. Dr. Schep is referred to as a Reformed pastor. He wrote on the Subject of The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Since various people knew that I had been a colleague of Dr. Schep while I served in Australia I have been asked by them to comment on the book. I will do so. However I do it with a deep sense of regret because the story about the book is not pleasant to relate. But since it has been distributed, I do feel obliged to respond to the queries presented to me.

Who was Dr. Schep? – First a few items about the author. Dr. J. A. Schep was ordained in the Gereformeerde Kerken of The Netherlands. He served there for quite some years. He wrote a catechism book and a short commentary on the Book of Joshua.

After World War n he desired to emigrate from Holland. The door to Canada did not open to him, but he was able to go to Australia. He was one of the first men to take up the active ministry in the Reformed Churches of Tasmania.

After serving there for a few years, and experiencing difficulties in his ministry, it was judged to be wise if Dr. Schep would be given the opportunity to labor elsewhere. At that time it was also decided to begin training young men for the ministry in Australia. Since Dr. Schep had specialized in N.T. studies, he was asked to teach part-time in this field. He also ministered part-time to a small group of people in Victoria. Dr. Schep did much to help build up the small seminary. Then in the first half of the sixties he suffered a heart attack. This was about the time of his retirement also.

As a retired convalescing man he began to read and study various works by men who today are referred to Neo-Pentecostalists. He began to adopt some of the ideas they presented. After some years, Dr. Schep developed his own views and began to publicize these by preaching and writing. Various consistories realized that they were hearing new views. First, Classis Victoria of the Reformed Churches, requested by a consistory to do so, studied Dr. Schep’s views and found that on two points in particular he was not faithful to the Scriptures, nor to the Reformed Confessions. He was instructed therefore to refrain from teaching these points. Dr. Schep objected to this instruction. He resigned as a minister and as a member of the Reformed Churches of Australia. Neither he, nor his wife affiliated with another communion, although they worshipped in other than Reformed Churches. On the Sunday that Dr. Schep died in a train-auto accident, he had attended a Methodist service in a small outlying town.

Dr. Schep is spoken of as a Reformed pastor in his book referred to above. It must, however, be clearly understood that he had severed all connections with the Reformed Churches and the Reformed movement as it is known in Australia. In fact, when the editor of Trowel and Sword, the publication for the presentation and defense of the Reformed Faith in Australia, wrote about Dr. Schep’s death, he said that though Dr. Schep had resigned from the Reformed Churches, his heart really was with these churches, nevertheless. Then the following issue of Trowel and Sword contained a “rectification.” It was to this effect. Those who were nearest to Dr. Schep in the last years of his life said that it was not true that Dr. Schep had ever given any verbal indication that he really had his heart in the cause of the Reformed Churches of Australia.

There are two questions which I have been asked. The first one is: Do you think anyone in the U.S. and Canada will accept Dr. Schep’s views? If some do, are they going contrary to the Reformed understanding of the Scriptures on the points discussed? I wish to comment briefly in answer to the first question. Then I would like to have the readers become aware of what the Reformed brothers and sisters in Australia judged to be the case in regard to Dr. Schep’s views in the light of the Scriptures and the Confessions.

Dr. Schep’s views – In last October’s issue of The Messenger, a publication by the Federation of Christian Reformed Men’s Societies, the editor introduced two articles under the heading: “New Voices in the Church.” The second article sub-titled: “Are we afraid of Pentecost?” presents some ideas, which, though referred to as “scripturally sound, life-giving truth badly needed in our churches” (p. 7, 8). are ideas which have been found to be neither scriptural, nor confessional, nor life-giving in a young sister church, the Reformed Church of Australia.

In The Messenger article the very ideas are presented which were some of the basic causes for much confusion, misunderstanding, separations, and resignations (no excommunication took place) in Australia. The following was written by Dr. Schep in a Dutch booklet – De Doop Met De Heilige Geest. (I translate) “The question is really this: does this possession of the Holy Spirit give the simple right to a believer to say, what men hear so often: ‘I sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and so I have the Holy Spirit, therefore I have been baptized by the Holy Spirit.’”

Please note that according to Romans 8:9ff., to believe is to have Christ in you; that means that the Spirit of God is at home in you and that you, guided by that Spirit, are a son of God. The baptism with the Holy Spirit sums all this up in one statement. However, read now what Dr. Schep wrote:

“The answer to this question must be as follows: the believer does not have that right. Because the Scriptures make it so very plain that one has the Spirit of faith and conversion without having been baptized by the Spirit” (p. 11).

Schep summed it up as follows (p. 14): “The Holy Spirit is given first to sinners so that by faith and conversion, under the seal of Holy Baptism, they are united to Christ and to each other to keep them in faith and conversion. But then Christ wants to give them the baptism with the Holy Spirit, fill them with His Spirit, so that as members of His body He may prepare them fully for service to Him, to each other and to the world.” Now compare The Messenger article (p. 9) and you will find these very same unscriptural ideas.

In the further writings of Dr. Schep, sharp distinctions in the use of prepositions—in, with and by, were made in a search for a Biblical and theological basis for a subjective, “experiential” view and approach that was adopted in regard to matters pertaining to the Spirit’s presence and work in the life of believers. Also, a switch in methods of interpreting New Testament material was shown to have become necessary.

Instead of taking one’s starting point in the basic truths explained by the Apostles in their writings, and evaluating the unique, historical events recorded in Acts 2, 8, 10, 19 in the light of these, the reverse is done. The unique historical events that took place in the crucial transition period from the Old Testament era to the New Testament era, are made normative, the rule for all people and their experiences, even though they do not live in that unique, long past, transitional period. And then, all the subsequent writings of the Apostles arc interpreted according to these events. This is contrary to the very example and order the Scriptures give us; event and then explanation of the event. The explanation is basic, determinative; and the event is to be considered in the light of that.

What Australia decided – The main intent of this article is to inform the reader of what Classis Victoria decided after the session of a congregation requested advice on these teachings and their very evident implications and results for congregational life. The Synod of the Reformed Churches of Australia, having restudied the entire matter, fully endorsed the Classical decision. As you read the following, hold these questions before you: If the sister church “down under” is correct, should we then not accept their position and apply the same in our churches? If the sister church is not correct, what duty do we have to those churches whom we support by loaning men and by giving funds and who are fellow Reformed Ecumenical Synod members? The Classical decision reads as follows:

CLASSIS VICTORIA, having duly considered:

1. The request of the Church of Geelong that Classis study the writings of Dr. J. A. Schep on the following two points:

a. The regenerating and converting work of the Holy Spirit, and a special baptism with the Spirit; and

b. Those who arc merely born anew, and those who are in addition baptized with the Spirit; i.e., those who have, and those who do not have the baptism with the Spirit.

2. The writings of Dr. Schep on the subject of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit;

3. The two reports presented to it by the study committee;

4. The written defence of Dr. Schep, presented to Classis,

records as its finding that Dr. J. A. Schep teaches, among others, the following points:

1. That “Scripture teaches a Baptism with the Holy Spirit intended for all believers and consisting of being for the first time experientially filled with the Spirit” (Defence 1).

2. That “the N.T. speaks clearly and exclusively of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit as an experience granted to believers; i.e., to those who have already been converted and reborn by the Spirit” (The Baptism with the Holy Spirit—4).

3. That according to the Book of Acts (ch. 2:4; 2:38; 5:32; 8:14ff; 9:17; 19:1–7) and according to Paul (Eph. 1:13; Gal. 3:2) this “specific Pentecostal Baptism with the Holy Spirit (is) subsequent to conversion.” (The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 6/7; cf. p. 8: “in N.T. times (the Pentecostal experience) followed immediately after conversion”; cf. 81: “The subsequent Baptism with the Holy Spirit”).

4. That even when this Baptism with the Holy Spirit takes place “at conversion” (Defence, 5), it is an additional experience, namely, of the Holy Spirit being richly poured out upon a believer (Defence 35).

5. That “there are many believers who have never been baptized with the Holy Spirit” (The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 11/ 12; cf. 13, 20, 34, 88; cf. also Defence 1: “Though all have the Holy Spirit, yet some have never been filled with the Holy Spirit, whereas others have received this fulness experientially”).

6. That “there are two baptisms:

1. Christian water-baptism, signifying and sealing the remission of sins and the new birth;

2. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, consisting of being experientially filled with the Spirit and with power.”

The latter being “intended for all believers without exception (Defence p. 33) but not being actually received by all (cf. 5 above).

After long and careful consideration of this teaching in the light of God’s Word and of the Reformed Confessions,


Scripture clearly teaches:

1. That the Messianic outpouring of the Spirit or the Baptism with the Spirit, foretold by the O.T. prophets (e.g., Joel 2:28, 29; Is. 32:15; 44:3), by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33) and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5) has occurred on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). On that day the exalted Christ poured out His Spirit upon the new Christian Church in order to fill it with His power, and to remain with it to the end of this age.

2. That in the first period after Pentecost, special “outpourings” occurred (cf. Acts 8, 10, 19), which, however, may not be used as a normative pattern for present-day Christian experience, as appears from the fact that in all cases cited the pattern is different.

3. That, since Pentecost, ALL believers are “baptized” with the Holy Spirit, receiving His power from on high, when they are born again and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Cf. Rom. 8:14–17; Gal. 3:2; Eph. 1:13, 14; Tit. 3:4–7.

4. That in the N.T. congregation there is no distinction between believers who are baptized with the Holy Spirit, and believers who arc not baptized with the Holy Spirit. Cf. Rom. 8:9–11; I Cor. 5:16–26, passages that always refer to the entire congregation.

The N.T. does distinguish within the one congregation between “weak” and “strong” believers (I Cor. 8), or between “men of the flesh, babes in Christ,” and “spiritual men (I Cor. 3:1), but this very distinction presupposes that “By the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

5. That all believers, thus “baptized” with the Spirit, arc in constant danger of backsliding and becoming “men of the flesh” (I Cor. 3: 1), and therefore must constantly be admonished to “be continually filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). They have “to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

6. That Christian baptism is the sign and seal of all the riches of Christ, given to us through the working of the Holy Spirit. Cf. Rom. 6:3, 4, Col. 2:11–15; Tit. 3:5–7.

The Heidelberg Catechism teaches the following about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer:

1. That Jesus Christ “by His Spirit . . . assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him. Cf. Rom. 8:14 (Answer 1).

2. That as a believer I am called a “Christian,” because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus a partaker of His anointing . . .” (Answer 32; cf. I John 2:27 and Acts 2:17).

3. That “He is also given to me, to make me by a true faith partaker of Christ and all His benefits, to comfort me, and to abide with me forever” (Answer 53; cf. Eph. 1:13).

4. That “believers, all and every one, as members of Christ, are partakers of Him and of all His treasures and gifts” (Answer 55; I Cor. 12:12, 13).

5. That “to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ” means “to have the forgiveness of sins from God, through grace, for the sake of Christ’s blood which He shed for us in His sacrifice on the cross; and also to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblamable lives” (Answer 70; cf. John 1:33; 3:5; I Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

6. That true conversion consists of “two parts,” namely “the mortification of the old man and the quickening of the new” (Answer 88, cf. Rom. 6:4–6).

7. That God wants us “to pray to God for the grace or the Holy Spirit, to be renewed more and more after the image of God, till after this life we arrive at the goal of perfection” (Answer 115; cf. Phil. 3:12–14).

The Belgic Confession teaches in a similar way:

1. That “true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin” (Art. 24).

2. That the “one catholic or universal Church . . . is the holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit” (Art. 27, cf. also Canons V, 9, about the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit).

3. That “those who are members of the Church . . . may be known by the marks of Christians: namely, by faith, and when, having received Jesus Christ the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true Cod and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof. But this is not to be understood as if there did not remain in them great infirmities; but they fight against them through the Spirit all the days of their lives, continually taking their refuge in the blood, death, passion and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom they have remission of sins, through faith in Him” (Art. 29).

4. That Baptism signifies “that as water washes away the filth of the body when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled upon him, so does the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit internally sprinkle the soul, cleanse it from sins, and regenerate us from children of wrath into children of God” (Art. 34).

The Canons of Dort teach a similar way:

1. That “when God accomplishes His good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, He not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by His Holy Spirit that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but by the efficiency of the same regenerating Spirit He pervades the inmost recesses of man; He opens the closed and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised; infuses new qualities into the will, which, though heretofore dead, He quickens; from being evil, disobedient and refractory, He renders it good, obedient and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions” (Ch. III–IV, II).

2. That “this is that regeneration so highly extolled in Scripture, that renewal, new creation, resurrection from the dead, making alive, which God works in us without our aid . . . . It is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious and ineffable; not inferior in efficiency to creation or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the Author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvellous manner are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence becomes itself active” (Ib. 12). Cf. also Ib., 13, 16; Ch. V., I, 3, 14.


1. Since Dr. Schep’s views concerning a special experimental Baptism with the Holy Spirit, as outlined before, are not in agreement with Scripture and with the Confession of the Church, CLASSIS BEQUESTS DR. SCHEP NOT TO TEACH THESE VIEWS EITHER PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY, in accordance with the promises made on signing the Form of Subscription.

2. Dr. J. A. Schep and the Churches shall be notified of this decision.


Although not in agreement with Dr. Schep’s teaching on the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, Classis wants to state clearly and emphatically that it fully shares Dr. Schep’s concern for a rich spiritual life of the church as a whole, and of all its members. The Apostle Paul admonishes us all to be aglow with the Spirit (Rom. 12:11), and to be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). We should all constantly remember that the riches to which we have access in Christ have to be appropriated continually and increasingly (I Tim. 6:12; Heb. 10:19ff.), so that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.

If the evidence of such growth is lacking in our lives, then we should be honest with ourselves and with our Lord, and ask ourselves what went wrong in our lives. What have we been doing with the grace that was given to us in our regeneration and conversion? Have we neglected the gifts of God? Have we given sin a place in our lives? Have we like the believers in Corinth, become “men of flesh” and therefore “babes in Christ?” (I Cor. 3:1).

God wants us all to be “spiritual men,” men full of the Spirit and His power.

God wants us to produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23).

The way to a life that is full of the Spirit and produces the fruit of the Spirit is the way of confessing sin and fighting against it; of reading and meditating upon God’s Word; of fervent and unceasing prayer; of using the means of grace, provided by our Lord. Everyone who walks in this way with a sincere and earnest heart will receive the fulness of the Spirit of which the N.T. speaks in such glowing words and pictures, Let us all be mindful of the apostolic exhortation: “if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:2–5).