For the next several posts, I thought I would provide some background on the gospel as it is understood by Oneness Pentecostalism (OP) in general – the UPCI in particular. I will cite quite a bit to David Bernard, former pastor from Texas and now Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International. He is also seems to have been, over the years, the chief apologist for OP. He has written extensively on such subjects as the new birth, the oneness of God (modalism), holiness and other subjects from a OP perspective. I believe I provide fairly accurately the OP perspective and feel that I am in a good position, though not a theologian or seminary trained individual, to rebut these perspectives. With that, I thought I would being by looking at the OP perspective on the gospel in general and start by looking at the subjects briefly of the new birth followed by repentance, baptism and the Holy Spirit.
The gospel according to Oneness Pentecostalism (OP) is rooted in the idea of the new birth from John 3. OP acknowledges that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that the wages of sin is death. In order to for one to be saved one must be born again – and this means being born of water (baptism) and being born of spirit (filled with the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues). (John 3:3, 5) To be born again, one must identify with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection through repentance, baptism and receiving the Spirit, which is the gospel. (Romans 6:1-7, 7:6, 8:2, Acts 2, and I Cor 15) Thus, one identifies with Christ’s death through repentance, is buried with Christ in baptism and is raised to walk in the newness of life through receiving the Holy Spirit.
In answering the question, what must one do to be save, OP holds that “Peter was able to give a precise, complete and unequivocal answer: ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 2:38 – KJV). This comprehensive answer to an inquiry about New Testament conversion expresses in a nutshell the proper response to the gospel.”[i]
We will find the recurring theme of Acts 2:38 throughout UPC thinking. It is absolutely central to the UPC understanding of the gospel and the lens through which the UPC views and interprets scripture. It is the verse of scripture by which you can define the UPC. In the coming blog posts, I’ll touch on the UPC notions of repentance, baptism and the Holy Spirit and from there we will examine these views more critically.
[i] Bernard, David K., Essentials of the New Birth, Word Aflame Press, 1987. 14.