Thoughts on Justification – Understanding Man’s Condition and Need – Part 2

In the previous post, we discussed bit about the nature of man and the extreme Arminian view of the UPCI with respect to the contributions that man must make through obedience to the faith in bringing about his own salvation.

It must be noted that if man has the ability to contribute faith and obedience in response to God’s offering of grace to bring about regeneration and salvation in man, it could be argued that this view holds a rather elevated view of man as compared with the view that appears to be espoused in scripture. One might argue that this view is born out of man’s rebelliousness against God in denying God sovereignty in the area of salvation and making it about man and man’s freewill decision. It is certainly a denial of God’s ability (whether self-imposed or not) to alone bring about salvation or work his will to his own glory in bringing about the salvation of man. God cannot bring about man’s salvation for God is limited to the extent man is willing to cooperate.

The alternative view is that salvation is entirely the work of God. Man can contribute nothing towards his salvation. His salvation is unconditionally by grace through faith. Faith itself is a gift from God and is not the cause of man’s salvation but evidence of God’s regenerative grace having worked in man. There is absolutely nothing meritorious on the part of man to warrant the work of God in his life but it rests completely on the good pleasure of God’s sovereignty. God knows that man, based on his rebellious nature, spiritually dead in his trespasses and sins, is both unwilling and incapable of doing good and believing on his own. Therefore, God’s working his salvation in our lives is completely an unmerited gift of grace based on nothing in man.

Again, this view begins with the premise that man is unable on his own to come to God because the “natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Cor 2:14). As a result of man’s having no spiritual life in him and being spiritually dead in his, man has no moral ability to come to Christ apart from the drawing of the Father (Eph 2:1-3, Col 2:13, John 6:44, 63-65). Man is in the business of repressing the knowledge of God and creating idols – of elevating the role of man to that of God – he can do nothing in accordance with the standard of God’s law (Rom 1:18-25, 3:9-12). Man is the enemy of God, in rebellion against God and incapable of acting in according with God’s law. Therefore, God must supernaturally act in the heart of man to bring him to a place where he will have faith and repent. If unregenerate, sinful man is to believe in God, God must initiate a change in man to bring man to a place where he will place faith in Christ. Thus, regeneration or new birth is the change that God brings about in man to initiate relationship with him rather than the ultimate goal of salvation as asserted by the UPCI.

John 3 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [Greek here is uncertain/ambiguous and can both ‘again’ and ‘from above’] he cannot see the kingdom of God….Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sounds, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of Spirit….. Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

The UPCI views this passage as teaching both the need for baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit with speaking in other tongues as part of the new birth/regeneration. As noted in the passage, the Greek is ambiguous and may be more properly rendered as born from above rather than born again. This is evidenced by the emphasis on contrasting born of flesh and spirit and the earthly rather than heavenly source of these things. Nicodemus understood this to be a rebirth. What we can see is that this birth is a spiritual birth that originates from God. As man has no control over the wind, man has no control with respect to the blowing of the wind – the wind blows where it blows, and so is everyone that is born of the Spirit. Being born of the Spirit is a sovereign act of God.

Ezekiel 36:2-7 – I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my rules.

Many cite to this passage in Ezekiel when looking at John 3 and being born from above. As the Spirit is does what it does and being born again is initiated as an act from above, in Ezekiel we also see that God is the one taking the initiative to remove our heart of stone and to give us a heart of flesh – a new heart and a new spirit within us. It is once we have this heart of flesh and a new spirit that we come to believe and obey.

This is demonstrated in the example of Lydia. When Lydia was taught the gospel by Paul, the “Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14). Lydia did not open her own heart and the ability to give heed or pay attention to the words of the gospel as proclaimed by Paul were a direct result of God opening her heart to pay attention. The UPCI would say that the Lord opened her heart but it was still up to her as to whether she would pay attention to the word of the Lord. Lydia could have resisted the will of God. This would appear to be a contrary statement to the express statement of scripture – the Lord opened her heart with a purpose, that Lydia would pay attention to the words of Paul.

When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16:17). The revelation of Christ is a direct result of the act of God in regenerating the heart of man.

John 1:12-13 – Those who receive Christ are those who believe in his name. Those that receive Christ have been born of God. Verse 13 emphasizes that being born of God is a divine action and not something that is tied to the will of man. The person who receives Christ has first been born of God.

If man is truly in this lost state of sin and incapable to act on his own, it requires a sovereign act of God to move in the heart of man to bring him to a place of repentance and faith. This is not something that man can bring about on his own – faith and obedience – to merit salvation but man must be utterly dependent on the sovereign grace of God to bring man to a place where he will bow the knee in faith and repentance. Further, if God is to sovereignly act in this respect in man’s heart, it is inevitable that man will bow the knee. There is an inevitability in the notion that, “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30).

The UPCI view tends to elevate man beyond that which scripture would seem to dictate. The UPCI would ascribe to man a moral and spiritual capability to possess and act according to faith in obedience to God’s will even while in an unregenerate state. It must necessarily follow that the UPCI also diminishes the idea of sin. The scriptural teaching on the doctrine of man’s sinful state and nature and what that ultimately means. The UPCI also must diminish the sovereignty of God and his role with respect to salvation. God would be unable to accomplish his will – man has the ability to thwart the will of God. Thus, man is not as bad and God is not as capable or powerful as scripture would seem to indicate.

 

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Thoughts on Justification – Understanding Man’s Condition and Need – Part 1

As a Oneness Pentecostal, the term justification was not something that was in my vocabulary.  Recall that the UPCI hermeneutical approach to understanding salvation is to start and end with Acts 2:38 and to understand the rest of scripture through the lens of that one verse, even if it means twisting other scriptures to make them fit within an Acts 2:38 viewpoint.

Justification is a concept that is foreign to people within the UPCI.  Looking back over my 25 years in the UPCI, I can confidently state that I never heard any teaching about justification.  I asked others – some of whom have been in the UPCI for 40 or more years – and none recalled hearing teaching on justification.  I asked a UPCI pastor who had been raised in a pastor’s home if he had ever taught about justification and the response was no.  The concept of being ‘justified by faith’ was spoken of by this pastor like some unfamiliar concept and doctrine.

Before looking more closely at this critical concept, I think it is important to step back and look at man and attempt to understand the state of man without God.  What is the condition of man in his sinful state.  In my experience, I have been in UPCI churches that preached and taught very strongly on the subject of sin and its consequences.  I have been in another church where the subject of sin rarely is mentioned.  Where sin is rarely mentioned, living a life for Christ is more about the benefits that one can receive from being in relationship with God.  Regardless of where one finds himself – in a church that emphasizes the sinful nature of man and his need for God or the church that emphasizes benefits of living for Christ rather than man’s need, seeking to follow Christ in either place can be rather precarious for the Christian if he does not have an adequate understanding of what it means to be saved by grace through faith.

As a member of a UPCI church, you are a part of the Arminian tradition as opposed to Calvinism.  I address this subject now because, in my experience, the distinctions between Arminianism and Calvinism were never taught as a part of our study of scripture in the UPCI and I believe that the vast majority are unfamiliar with these concepts.

This a subject for deeper exploration another time but at its most fundamental level the difference between the two positions relates to how an individual comes to salvation.  Arminianism espouses the view that God provides a degree of grace to all people (something called “prevenient grace”) but that man has the free will to make the final determination as to whether or not he will respond to the call of God.  Man, even while in his sinful state, has the ability to choose the right, to do the good and spiritual thing of responding in faith.  Thus, man is tainted by sin but not to the extent that he is unable to place faith in God of his own accord.

In his book, The New Birth, David Bernard reflects the Arminian view in some of his comments regarding man and his sinful state.  “The Scriptures teach that God gives everyone the ability to believe and therefore He is the source of a Christian’s faith. ‘God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).”  (page 37).  This reflects the Arminian view of unlimited atonement versus the view of Calvinism which holds to particular redemption or limited atonement (a point of considerable debate).  Bernard states further:

Due to our sinful natures, none of us could ever seek God on our own in the absence of His drawing power (John 3:27; 6:44; Romans 3:10-12).  No one would ever have faith if God did not grant it.  However, Christ died for the whole world so that He could bestow grace upon all (John 3:16).  Although man on his own is so depraved and sinful that he cannot of himself choose God, God gives every man the ability to seek after Him and respond to Him.  This grace that precedes salvation and is given to all mankind is what theologians call “universal prevenient grace.”  (page 37).

Calvinism, on the other hand, holds that man is corrupted by sin and unable to come to God of his own accord.  Calvinism would say that man is totally depraved or radically corrupted.  Total depravity does not mean that man is as sinful as he could possibly be.  The depravity reflects the brokenness and inability on the part of man on his own to do good.  Even the “good” that man does is tainted by his sinful nature.  Within the scope of salvation, total depravity or total inability holds that man is unable and not even inclined to love God but are instead inclined to serve his own nature, desires and will and to reject God.  Therefore, salvation must be brought about exclusively through the sovereignty of God who elects, calls and justifies a people for himself.  Man brings nothing to the table – man, according to his nature, does not seek God and is unable to submit himself to the will of God.  God does the work of salvation in us.

R.C. Sproul describes the problem of man as follows:

The ability to make righteous moral choices requires righteous desires and inclinations. Without a righteous inclination to the good, no one can choose the good. Our choices follow our inclinations. For man to be able to choose the things of God, he must first be inclined to choose them. Since the flesh makes no provision for the things of God, grace is required for us to be able to choose them. The unregenerate person must be regenerated before he has any desire for God.

I wish to lay these thoughts out briefly now as to demonstrate that there is a vast difference of view with respect to the nature of our salvation and how it is brought about.  Fundamentally, this difference of view on the sinful state of man is particularly important in light of the gospel proclaimed by the UPCI.  As Calvinist, Dr. James White, noted in his book The God who Justifies, “Every fundamental error regarding the doctrine of justification that man has ever invented flows from a denial of the nature and impact of sin in man’s life.”  (page 53).

The Arminian view of the UPCI is, fundamentally, that faith is something that the natural man must add or contribute towards his salvation independent of the actions of God’s grace.  Man, in his unregenerate (pre-new birth) state has the freewill and natural ability to either believe in or reject God and his extension of grace.  God’s grace is extended to all and takes man part of the way to salvation but fallen man will determine the final outcome with respect to whether he will respond in faith, become regenerate or new born, and ultimately saved.  Thus, grace is an offer and a help to man but will not change man.  Grace is merely Jesus standing at the door and knocking but he is waiting for us to respond and open the door.  God will only respond to and reward those who, in their fallen state, are able to produce sufficient faith to contribute to their salvation.

Thus, the view of your typical Arminian is that God extends this prevenient grace to all to draw men to him but man himself, in his unregenerate state, must contribute his faith to bring about his regeneration/new birth and salvation.  Man has the ability to decide for himself whether he will respond in faith or reject God.   Once man has received the grace of God through the exercise of his faith, his is regenerated/born again.  From here, man is progressively sanctified or conformed to the image of God’s son and would participate in baptism, the Lord’s Supper and be a part of the church.

The UPCI takes your typical Arminian view and moves it to the further extreme.  Not only must man, in his unregenerate, fallen state contribute faith to salvation.  Unregenerate, fallen man must bring faith and obedience.  Bernard, throughout his book The New Birth reiterates obedience, particularly obedience to Acts 2:38, as man’s responsibility in contributing to his salvation.  While lip service is offered to the work being on the part of God and received through faith, man must contribute to his salvation through the acts baptism in the name of Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in unknown tongues.  As Bernard states, “Regeneration…occurs at the time we repent, are baptized in the name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit.”  (Page 329-30).  Thus, the new birth/regeneration is a process that begins with repentance and is not completed until such a point in time when we are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit – in the UPCI view baptism must be in Jesus’ name to be effective in the remission of sins and the reception of the Spirit is to always be accompanied with the initial evidence of speaking in unknown tongues.

The question must be asked, does the scripture teach that man, in his unregenerate state, have the ability to respond in both faith and obedience to the extension of God’s grace in salvation?  Is man capable of contributing anything to his salvation, even in the form of simply faith, much less obedience to baptism and tongue speaking.

In another post we will need to address those scriptures that would affirm man’s ability and responsibility to choose God and those that seem to stress man’s inability to come to Christ.  It is clear that there are many scriptures that include a general call to all to repent and to come to Christ but there seems to be an absence within those passages regarding man’s ability to come to Christ on his own.  Yet the scriptures seem to make clear that within this general call, there is a particular or effectual calling for some.  In the end, many are called but few are chosen.

The question is, does the scripture teach that man, who is universally guilty of sin, and “storing up wrath” for themselves for the “day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”, who is dead in his trespasses and sin, following the course of this world, living in the passions of his flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind, a child of wrath, hostile and in rebellion to God, who has his mind set on the things of the flesh, which is hostile to God, unable to please God and both unwilling and unable to submit to God’s law, able to contribute faith and willingly on his own accord to choose God?

A similar question was asked in Jeremiah 13:23:  Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?  Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.  The answer is no.  Just as a leopard cannot change his spots, man is unable to change something that is a part of his fallen nature – that is his inclination to do evil and his natural state being in rebellion against God.  As Paul stated in Romans, the mind set on the flesh does not submit to the will of God, “indeed it cannot.”  Thus, the image of Jesus standing at the door and knocking (which, if we were to look at that passage in context, is a picture of his knocking on the door of the church and not an image of the state of the relationship between Christ and sinner) is misguided.  The sinner will never come to the door and open to Christ of his own accord.  It is contrary to his nature.

The image that would more accurately reflect the relationship of sinner coming to Christ is that of Christ standing before the tomb of the dead Lazarus.  The effectual call of God will bring forth the dead to life – the dead brings nothing to the equation, indeed he cannot by his nature and state.

In my next blog, we will take a look at the alternative view of scripture on the condition of man and God’s role in bringing about his salvation.

The Gospel According to Oneness Pentecostalism – Part 4

One of the fundamental issues with Oneness Pentecostalism is their hermeneutical approach to understanding scripture.  Unfortunately, it is a poor hermeneutic.  Despite their protestations to the contrary, everything starts and finishes with Acts 2:38.  All other scripture is viewed through the lens of Acts 2:38, which does not bring clarity but distorts their understanding of the gospel.  If a passage does not fit within the model of Acts 2:38, its meaning must be contorted in order to fit their soteriology.  Rather than understanding Acts 2:38 within the broader message conveyed by scripture all scripture is understood and interpreted through the lens of Acts 2:38.

In looking at David Bernard’s statements regarding repentance and baptism, he makes abundantly clear that repentance is insufficient to result in the remission of sins but relies on passages such as Acts 2:38 and 3:19 to argue that baptism must follow repentance in order to effectuate the remission of sins.  By repentance, one has had a change of mind, a change of direction and expressed sorrow for their sins but the sin remains and must be dealt with.  The only way to deal with the presence of sin in one’s life is to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order that those sins may be removed and forgiven.

The book of Acts examples make clear that baptism was viewed as important by the New Testament church.  Baptism always appeared to follow immediately upon a confession of faith in Christ.  The question must be asked of Oneness Pentecostals, were these people baptized because they were saved or in order to be saved?  What was their standing with God at the time they turned to God, repented, and confessed faith in the work of Christ?

In the Oneness view, they had merely repented or turned to God but were still stained with sin and unsaved.  The individuals they saw in the book of Acts who had repented (and even received the Holy Spirit, in the case of Cornelius and his household) remained in a lost state until they were baptized.  They were baptized in order to be saved.  They were baptized in order for the remission of sins to be effectuate in their lives.

Further, they were baptized because they must be born of water in order to be born again and see the kingdom of God.  They were baptized to identify with the burial of Christ and to bury their old nature and to walk in the newness of life.  Unless you are baptized you have not put on Christ.  Further, you must be baptized in order to identify with your spiritual circumcision and being a part of the new covenant.  Each of these assertions by Bernard are examples of proof-texting and, in many cases, argue against the position that Bernard is using these passages to defend – the essentiality of baptism to our being made righteous before God.

The fundamental message of the gospel is that we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It has been said that the repentance, which is a turning of direction, a changing of the mind away from sin and turning to Christ in faith are opposite sides of the same coin.  When we turn by faith to Christ and place our confidence in Him and His completed work for us on the cross this necessarily involves repentance of sin – the turning away from sin and turning to Christ.  In making such a turn, our sins are imputed to Christ and his righteousness is imputed to us.  We are justified (declared not guilty, declared righteous) by grace through faith and not by works.  When we stand justified by faith we have peace with God and we are able to stand before him and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  (Romans 5)

We are not justified by faith and baptism or faith, baptism and speaking in tongues or anything else for that matter.  Yet, this distorted view of the gospel turns the gospel from being a God-oriented message of salvation to a man-oriented message.  This leads to a number of other problems in the thinking of those that are trapped in this man’s performance view of salvation.  For man, in his fallen state, is simply never able to measure up.  There is no true freedom and rest in Christ when man is busy measuring what he is able to do rather than focusing on and being thankful for what God has done.  This man-centered mentality has the further dangerous consequence of denying glory to God by shifting the cause of our salvation away from God, Christ’s life and death on the cross and shifting it to corruptible man – away from creator and lifting up the creation.

The Gospel According to Oneness Pentecostalism – Part 3

In this third installment, I want to cover the “next step” in the gospel according to the UPC and that is receiving the Holy Spirit.

Receiving the Holy Spirit According to OP

In addition to repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name for the remission of sins, one must receive the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in other tongues in order to complete the new birth process.

According to OP, the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in other tongues is viewed as not an optional, post-conversional experience.  Bernard cites to Mark 16:17 as supporting the view that speaking in other tongues is the sign of receiving the Spirit.[i]  While there are five biblical examples of people receiving the Spirit (the Jews, the Samaritans, the Gentiles, the apostle Paul and the disciples of John at Ephesus), Bernard notes that three of the accounts explicitly describe speaking in tongues while other tongues are implicit in the other two circumstances.

In Acts 2:1-4 Bernard states that it was the “speaking in tongues ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’ [that] was the initial sign of each individual filling.”[ii]

“Speaking in tongues was what convinced the skeptical, astonished Jews that the Gentiles had just received the Holy Ghost; tongues alone sufficiently identified this as the Pentecostal experience (Acts 10:44-47; 11:15-17).  They knew they had received ‘the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues’ (Acts 10:45-46).  The Ephesian disciples also spoke in tongues as the first sign of receiving the Spirit (Acts 19:6).”[iii]

While in Acts 8 tongues are not mentioned, clearly a sign is given causing Simon the magician to desire to purchase the ability to impart the Holy Spirit.  While no mention is made of Paul speaking in tongues at his conversion, Bernard cites to I Corinthians 14:18 to demonstrate that Paul stated he spoke in tongues often.

With respect to the baptism of the Spirit, Bernard also states, “We should always expect speaking in tongues when someone receives the Holy Spirit.  Tongues do not save in any sense, but the Spirit baptism produces tongues as the initial sign.”[iv]

“What is the status of a person who repents and is baptized, thereby receiving remission of sins, but does not receive the Holy Spirit?”  Bernard answers that, “He cannot be condemned for sins that are remitted, yet he cannot enter the kingdom of God without the birth of the Spirit and the holiness imparted by the Holy Spirit.”[v]

What is sad is that I have known individuals, one in particular who was raised in a UPC home with a UPC pastor as her father, who believed that Acts 2:38 literally stated, “And then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, with evidence of speaking in other tongues.”  When she heard this verse read over the pulpit of a non-UPC church and did not hear this final phrase, she thought to herself, “Let me go and see what the King James version says….”  She didn’t find that phrase there either.  The teaching that the reception of the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by the evidence of speaking with unknown tongues is so ingrained in the teaching of the UPC that lifelong members (who do not pay close enough attention to the scripture itself) can fall into this extreme of thinking.  Even if they know that Acts 2:38 does not state this, they absolutely believe that this is the teaching of scripture.

This is what happens when you approach the scripture with presuppositions – you will read into the scripture what you believe it teaches.  And yet, when those scales fall from one’s eyes or one asks and has the Spirit illuminate their sight as they read the scripture, it brings new meaning to the words of Jesus when he said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

In the coming blog posts, I will begin to address the error of the gospel according to Oneness Pentecostalism and I hope that the words of Jesus will come to pass in the lives of any Oneness Pentecostal who will happen across this blog.

[i] Id. at 20.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id. at 21.

[v] Id.

The Gospel According to Oneness Pentecostalism – Part 2

In continuing my series of posts on the gospel according to Oneness Pentecostalism, I want to touch on the subjects of repentance and baptism and the OP view on these subjects.  You will note that OP does not view baptism as a simply an ordinance, however important, but as essential to salvation.  According to OP, you cannot be saved if you are not baptized and if your are not baptized by immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins.

Repentance and Baptism

Repentance, according to David Bernard, is only the first step in dealing with sin in one’s life.  He uses the example of spilling ink on a carpet and notes that there are two steps required for a complete restoration.  There must first be an expression of regret and apology to the owner, which would represent the notion of repentance.  But following repentance there then must be the removal of the stain and this is only accomplished through baptism.[i]

“The inward work of salvation begins at repentance, but repentance alone is not the complete work of salvation.  Water baptism makes the turn from sin complete by burying the old man.  Repentance and water baptism together bring the full work of remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  Perhaps we can say that God deals with the present consequences of sin at repentance and with the past record and future consequences of sin at water baptism.  Both components are necessary.”[ii]

Thus, for OP baptism is essential for the new birth.  It is essential for the removal of sin and for one to be in right standing with God.

Relying on I Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:41, Bernard asserts that baptism is an essential part of salvation and is an expression of faith in God by obedience to his word.[iii]  Bernard argues that baptism must be more than a symbolic ceremony and more than a public declaration of joining the church by citing to the Ethiopian eunuch, who was baptized in the desert with no observer, and the Philippian jailer, who was baptized at midnight, which demonstrated the urgency of the matter of baptism.[iv]

Bernard states the following passages demonstrate the significance of baptism:

  • Remission of sins occurs in baptism (Acts 2:38, 22:16)
  • Baptism is a part of the new birth (John 3:5, Titus 3:5)
  • Baptism identifies with the burial of Christ – it indicates we died to sin by repentance and are burying our past sin, the dominion of sin and sinful lifestyles (Rom 6:4, Col 2:12)
  • Water baptism is a part of the one baptism of water and Spirit that places us in Christ – (Rom 6:3-4, Gal 3:27, Eph 4:5) – by baptism we enter God’s family.
  • Baptism is a part of our spiritual circumcision – (Col 2:11-13) – by the new birth we enter into the new covenant relationship with God.[v]

With regards to baptism, two other points are of note with respect to the OP perspective.  First, OP (as the name implies) argues that baptism should be administered by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and anyone baptized in any other mode, such as in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, should be re-baptized.  Bernard cites to Acts 19 justifying the re-baptism of those who had been baptized in a manner other than in the name of Jesus Christ.

David Bernard cites to Acts 10 and notes that when “a person received the Holy Spirit before water baptism, he has a new spiritual life; nevertheless, he is commanded to be baptized in Jesus’ name, and we must always obey God’s commands to remain in right relationship to Him.”[vi]  There is a great deal packed into this statement that should be addressed.

Once one has repented and been baptized, according to OP, it is essential that the believer receive the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.  I will cover this topic in my next blog post.

[i] Bernard, David K., Essentials of the New Birth, Word Aflame Press, 1987. 16.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id. at 17.

[v] Id.

[vi] Id. at 19.

The Gospel According to Oneness Pentecostalism – Part 1

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.