Pentecostal vs Baptist: What’s the Difference?


The Pentecostal and Baptists traditions are two of the most prominent branches of Protestant Christianity. They have many beliefs and practices in common and have more similarities than differences. Nevertheless, the traditions aren’t exactly the same, and it’s important to understand where they differ and why.

Generally, Pentecostalism and the Baptist tradition disagree about when the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs, whether or not speaking in tongues is the initial evidence for it, and the use of miraculous gifts. Both traditions believe in the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

How do Pentecostal and Baptist origins, early influencers, and worldviews compare? How do their beliefs about the Bible, God, and salvation compare? What are their similarities and differences when it comes to baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and the miraculous gifts? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Pentecostal Baptist comparison
What are the differences between Pentecostals and Baptists on baptism in the Holy Spirit? See below

Pentecostals and Baptists Origins, Beliefs, and Practices Compared

PentecostalsBaptists
Origin and rootsLike other Protestants, including Baptists, Pentecostals trace their origins to the book of Acts by way of the Protestant Reformation. The modern Pentecostal movement started at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California in 1906.Born out of the 17th-century Puritan and Anabaptist traditions in England; early Baptists identified as Separatists or Congregationalists and championed individual responsibility in relation to baptism and church membership.
NameThe word “Pentecostal” comes from the word Pentecost, which describes the unique and powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early church, as recorded in Acts 2. Modern-day Pentecostals seek to mimic the experiences of the early church.The word “Baptist” comes from the practice of “Believer’s Baptism,” which is the conviction that only professing Christians should be baptized, not infants. The Baptist tradition, however, has other values and emphases in addition to Believer’s Baptism.
Branch of ChristianityPentecostalism is a Protestant Christian tradition. Many of the ideas it embraces are rooted in the Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther of Germany, Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland, and John Calvin of France.The Baptist tradition is also Protestant and therefore shares much in common with Pentecostalism.
DenominationsPentecostalism isn’t a denomination, but a belief system that certain denominations hold.* The largest Pentecostal denomination is the Assemblies of God.The term “Baptist” describes a tradition that includes several denominations (see list below).
Central commitmentsAs a Protestant denomination, Pentecostalism subscribes to the core convictions of the Reformation: salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Pentecostals believe that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs after conversion and that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of it. Baptists adhere to the fundamental tenets of Protestantism and emphasize Believer’s Baptism, congregational church government, the autonomy of the local church, and the separation of Church and State.
Early influencersWilliam J. Seymour (1870-1922), Agnes Ozman (1870-1937), Charles Parham (1873-1939)John Smyth (1570-1612), Roger Williams (1603-1683)
Theological and social worldviewPentecostal denominations and churches tend to be conservative theologically and in relation to social issues.Some Baptist denominations are conservative (e.g. The Southern Baptist Convention) and others aren’t (e.g. American Baptist Church)

*Pentecostalism isn’t a denomination. Some churches include the word “Pentecostal” in their name to inform people what they believe. The Assemblies of God is a Pentecostal denomination as is the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). There are several other Pentecostal denominations as well.

Non-denominational churches can also be Pentecostal. Individuals with Pentecostal convictions may also attend churches in other denominations.

In common use, people use the word “Baptist” to refer to a denomination, but technically the term describes a tradition that is comprised of various denominations.

In general, all Baptist denominations share the same convictions regarding the primary doctrines of the Christian faith as well as the unique emphases of the tradition like Believer’s Baptism. In recent decades, some denominations have embraced liberal and progressive social values.

NameReported Membership
Southern Baptist Convention16 million
National Baptist Convention, USA5 million
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America2.5 million
Baptist General Conference of Texas2.4 million
American Baptist Churches in the USA1.2 million
Progressive National Baptist Convention1 million
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship1 million
Pentecostal and Baptist beliefs
What do Pentecostals and Baptists believe about the miraculous gifts? See below

Pentecostal and Baptist Beliefs: Similarities and Differences

PentecostalismBaptist
AuthorityThe Bible alone is authoritative. Like other Protestants, Pentecostals believe that Christ is the head of the church.The authority of Scripture is a Protestant conviction; tradition isn’t unimportant, it’s just not most important. Christ is the head of the church.
ChristChrist is the second person of the Trinity who became a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death for sinners, and was resurrected from the dead.Baptists also believe in the incarnation, sinlessness, atonement, and resurrection of Christ.
SinPentecostals believe in original sin, but as Arminians, they reject the Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity.Baptists affirm original sin. Some believe in Total Depravity and some don’t.
GraceAs Arminians, Pentecostals believe in prevenient grace, i.e., grace that goes beforehand, which enables a sinner to choose Christ with their own free will.Baptists may be Arminian or Calvinist. Arminians affirm prevenient grace, while Calvinists don’t.
SalvationAll Protestants believe salvation occurs by grace through faith and in Christ alone. As Arminians, Pentecostals affirm Unlimited Atonement.Baptists may hold to Limited Atonement (Christ death was for the elect) or Unlimited Atonement (Christ’s death was for all).
SanctificationSome Pentecostals believe that sanctification can be perfected in this lifetime, though the largest denomination, the Assemblies of God, doesn’t.Most Baptists believe sanctification isn’t perfected until death and reject the doctrine of perfectionism.
SacramentsBaptism and the Lord’s SupperBaptism and the Lord’s Supper
BaptismPentecostals practice “Believer’s Baptism” as opposed to infant baptism. Baptism isn’t required for salvation.Sometimes referred to as “credobaptism” (credo = “I believe”), baptism is for professing believers who have trusted Christ for salvation. The doctrine is often called “Believer’s Baptism.”
The Lord’s SupperPentecostals believe the bread and the cup are memorials of Christ’s death. They don’t believe Christ is physically present in the elements in any way.Baptists believe consuming the bread and cup is a memorial.

What is the difference between continuationism and cessationism? Continuationists (from the word “continue”) believe all spiritual gifts are operational today. Cessationists (from the word “cease”) believe that only some spiritual gifts are operational today because the purpose of the so-called “miraculous gifts” was to establish the church and accredit the Apostles, which has been done.

PentecostalismBaptists
Spiritual giftsPentecostals are continuationists, not cessationists.Baptists can be either, but most are cessationists.
Baptism in the Holy SpiritA central belief for Pentecostals is that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs sometime after conversion.Most Baptists, and most other Protestants, believe baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at the time of conversion.
Speaking in tonguesAnother central belief for Pentecostals is that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.Continuationist Baptists don’t necessarily believe speaking in tongues is the only initial evidence for baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Miraculous giftsPentecostals affirm the present-day use of so-called miraculous gifts like healing, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.Continuationist Baptists agree with Pentecostals about miraculous gifts, but cessationist Baptists don’t.

References:
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