For most people I think this is a question of speaking in tongues. Does the Holy Spirit speak in tongues? Does he baptize people like we read about in the book of Acts?
We use these “spiritual” sounding words like "Pentecostal" or "Charismatic" and they lose their meaning.
The word "Pentecost" means 50th. Think about that when you hear someone say they are a Pentecostal Christian. They are literally saying they are the 50th little Christ.
That totally doesn’t sound spiritual at all to me, it actually sounds quite silly. So what does Pentecostal actually refer to, since I don’t think its the 50th of anything?
Pentecost is the 50th day after Passover. This is a celebration from the Old Testament, where all the men in Israel were required by God to come and present themselves before him at his house. It's a harvest celebration. It's also the anniversary of receiving the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai.
On this anniversary God is sending something new and promised to his people, the Holy Spirit. On this day people from all over the world were gathered at the temple in Jerusalem.
Also on that day, the 50th day after Passover and just a few days after Jesus ascended to heaven, this new church was gathered in the House of God and the Holy Spirit was poured out! They began to speak in languages they hadn't learned and the that were there from all over the world recognized something was happening.
They also received spiritual power to do things they'd never done before... like stand up and preach publicly. This was so amazing and powerful that when Peter and John preached before the Sanhedrin, the well educated judges of Israel and the men were amazed, because they knew these men were "illiterate and unlearned." (Greek actually says, "Illiterate idiots.")
The only explanation they could come up with was they had been in Jesus, but it was more than that. It was the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had told them in advance that when they were brought before judges not to worry about what to say, because the Holy Spirit would tell them what to say.
Jesus had also told them that signs would follow them as believers in him. One of the signs was that they would speak in tongues.
Paul told the church in Corinth, "I wish you all spoke in tongues." He also said, "I speak in tongues more than all of you!"
In 1 Corinthians 14 we are told that speaking in tongues edifies us. This word is about building up, but I think a better understood picture today would be "charging up." Like plugging in your cell phone when the battery is low. You plug into power and charge it up.
That's what speaking in tongues does for us. It's like spiritually plugging ourselves in. Speaking in tongues gives us that charge we need to do what Jesus commanded us to do in this world.
I think this is what most people are thinking about when they hear the word "Pentecostal."
They are wanting to know if speaking in tongues really comes from the Holy Spirit, does he do this. And the answer is yes! Most definitely YES!
The Holy Spirit is God, and he only has good things for us. He is not weird.
So do not be afraid of him or the benefits of being immersed (baptized) in him.
He wants you to experience the same things the church did on our birthday.
Remember John the Baptist said Jesus was the one who would baptize us in the Holy Spirit and with FIRE.