is hair having never been cut and his facial hair never trimmed, Samson had a distinct image. Upon seeing him, one instantly recognized the covenant Samson had with the Lord—a covenant made by his parents from his birth (Judges 13:3-5).
Samson also had a distinct lifestyle. A lifelong vow abstaining from alcohol made him unusual among his people and times. His appearance and lifestyle were not of his choosing—God had directed the manner of his living. Samson’s obedience to God’s call brought God’s anointing on his life, giving him miraculous physical strength (see vv. 24-25).
WHEN PENTECOSTALS STOOD OUT
In the early days of the Pentecostal Movement, Pentecostals also had a distinct appearance that distinguished them from the secular community. Men and women dressed modestly in plain clothes, avoiding ostentation. Women wore long, concealing dresses and grew their hair long, and even wedding rings were eschewed as being too gaudy for holiness folks.
Early Pentecostals also chose a distinct, holiness lifestyle as the best way of following Christ. Alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and anything lewd were rejected. Church of God people in Appalachia went as far as avoiding soft drinks and chewing gum, lest their neighbors think they were drinking beer or chewing tobacco. God honored this movement by empowering believers with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Signs, wonders, and miracles took place. They boldly and fervently followed the pattern of the New Testament church in allowing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to operate.
ABUSING THE ANOINTING
Samson used his anointing to impress the worldly Philistines rather than focusing on delivering his people from Philistine domination. We see him playing games with the Philistines (14:11-14), showing off the Lord’s might for his own glory (vv. 19-20). We find him regularly engaged in sensational exploits: tying the tails of foxes together and setting the pairs aflame (15:4-5), fighting a battle with a donkey’s jaw as his weapon (v. 15), and carrying the gates of a city on his shoulders (16:1-3).
At the height of his success,
The cutting of his hair broke the covenant with God that had been the source of his miraculous physical strength. His habitual sport of playing games with Gentile women led him to reveal his source of strength to his enemy, Delilah (16:17-20).
There seems to be a direct correlation between Pentecostals being accepted into the mainstream and the absence of bold Pentecostalism. For the last 30 years, Pentecostals have been shedding their distinctive appearance and lifestyle, becoming more like the surrounding culture. We seem to have forgotten that Pentecostalism was the product of holiness, not just an alternative worship style.
While we as Pentecostals have largely abandoned our holiness roots, many Pentecostal leaders have learned to use the anointing for personal profit, power, and control, or simply to inflate their own egos. The fall of prominent Pentecostal television evangelists in the 1980s left the Pentecostal world ashamed, shocked, and confused—much like the loss of his strength and vision marred Samson. One of the most obvious reactions in the Pentecostal community was to move quickly away from our traditional roots in the attempt to become accepted by the larger culture.
FINDING LIFE THROUGH DEATH
The anointing returned to Samson when he was ready to sacrifice his own life in order to be God’s vessel. When he chose to martyr himself to destroy Israel’s enemies (who were engaged in demonic idolatry), God restored Samson’s anointing of great strength. In this final feat, Samson destroyed the Philistine temple and killed more Philistines than in all his previous battles (16:23-30).
Today, many Church of God congregations are void of any type of Pentecostal practices.
God is looking for Spirit-filled men and women who will put their hands to the pillars of the pagan temple and say, “Anoint me, Lord, though it kill me! I want to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit most of all.”
It is time to return to our roots of holiness and Pentecostal power. We don’t need to dress like our forefathers or return to a “clothesline doctrine.” However, we desperately need to return to a heart of holiness and hunger for the Holy Spirit. This world needs a church whose salt has not lost its savor.