Arminian Today

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Quick Post on Oneness Pentecostals

Oneness Pentecostalism is a growing sect.  From its lowly beginnings around 1916 from a split within the Trinitarian Pentecostals, the Oneness Pentecostals have grown to well over 5 million people.  The largest of the Oneness denominations is the United Pentecostal Church International based out of Hazelwood, Missouri.

I have encountered only a few Oneness Pentecostals.  While I am sure there are a few militant followers among them, the ones I have met were not your typical Oneness followers.  In fact, they embraced me as a Christian which is not the case from what I have been reading regarding Oneness Pentecostal.  Very quickly let me establish what makes Oneness Pentecostals unique.

1.  Modalism.

As the name states, Oneness Pentecostals are sometimes called “Jesus Only” churches.  They hold that Jesus is the one God and He alone is the one God.  Of course, we Trinitarians believe the same but Oneness Pentecostals differ with Trinitarians by saying that the Lord Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and Jesus is the Holy Ghost.  There are not three divine Persons but only one Person in the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9).  While Trinitarians believe in only one God (monotheism), we believe that the Bible teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God yet there is only one God but three persons in the Godhead (Matthew 3:13-17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14).  While I admit this is mystery, I believe the Bible affirms one God and three persons in the one Godhead (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).

Oneness Pentecostals believe that Jesus is the mighty God.  They affirm His deity and will defend the deity of Christ against others.  However, they deny that Jesus the Son was eternally the Son of God.   They hold that Jesus took on flesh (John 1:14) and so the Son has a beginning in Bethlehem (Luke 1:35).  The Son was not eternal.  Only the Father is eternal and the Father is Jesus (Isaiah 9:6; Malachi 2:10).  But what about where Jesus makes Himself distinct from the Father you ask?  Oneness Pentecostals would say that Jesus as divine is the Father but Jesus as the Son is just a man.  So when Jesus says in Matthew 24:36 that only the Father knows the time of Christ’s return, Jesus is referring to His divine nature.  When Jesus died on the cross, the man Jesus died but the Father lives forever!  When Paul refers to Jesus being our intercessor before the Father in 1 Timothy 2:5, they point out that he points to Jesus the man because it is Jesus the man praying to Jesus the divine Father.

2.  Salvation.

Oneness Pentecostals believe that Jesus gave Peter the Apostle the keys in Matthew 16:19 to build His church and Peter preached Acts 2:38 on the day of Pentecost and this set the pattern for salvation.  First a person must believe in Jesus (Acts 16:31).  Second, a person must repent of their sins (Acts 3:19).  Third, a person must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.  Lastly, a person must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which must be evidenced by speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance (Acts 2:4).

A person must do all the above to be saved.  Throughout the history of the Oneness movement they have held that even Trinitarian Pentecostals were unsaved due to not being baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins despite Trinitarian Pentecostals speaking in tongues.  It seems today that Oneness Pentecostals are distancing themselves from that position.  In fact, I listened to one Oneness preacher who was teaching from a Trinitarian book and calling him “brother” throughout.

Yet if the “formula” of Acts 2:38 is true then nearly all Christians are not true Christians.  Only Oneness Pentecostals are and some hold to that position.  For years the Oneness Pentecostals have largely done evangelism among Trinitarian Pentecostals.  Entire Trinitarian churches have been “evangelized” by Oneness Pentecostals.

Do Oneness Pentecostals teach salvation by works or grace?  It depends on the preacher.  Some try to hold that salvation is all of grace despite preaching the Acts 2:38 formula.  Some flat out deny that salvation is by grace alone and emphasize that works play their part.  Some will quote Ephesians 2:8-9 but deny that salvation is faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone.  I would think that most Oneness Pentecostals hold to some form of works-righteousness holding that while Christ certainly is to be honored for His death and resurrection, man plays his part in this work of salvation.

3.  Holiness.

Oneness Pentecostals are known for their holiness standards.  By this, I mean that they believe that both their men and women should dress modestly, no jewelry usually, no makeup on women, no haircuts for women, complete abstaining from alcohol or tobacco, and separation from the world (1 John 2:15-17).  I don’t fault them per se for these positions.  I agree with them in many cases.  However, I would never stress that this defines holiness.  A man can look “holy” while being full of sin in his heart.  I have been there!  Sin doesn’t start from what I wear.  It comes from my heart (Matthew 15:18-19).  Holiness doesn’t start with what I don’t do but with Who I know (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  While the Spirit of God does help me to turn from sin and He convicts me of sin (John 16:8), I must depend on Him to help me overcome what is inside of me (Galatians 5:16-17).

Some Oneness Pentecostals stress that a person must fulfill the formula of Acts 2:38 and then keep the holiness code or they will lose their salvation.  Others are now stressing that while the holiness code is good, it is not salvation and should not be the test of salvation.  To merely own a TV use to be a sign you were going to hell in the Oneness churches but today they are relaxing that code.  I listened to one large Oneness church preaching that a person should be holy but holiness comes only by grace and not by works.  This is not the historic view of the Oneness movement but is becoming the view today.

Conclusion

What do I think of the Oneness Pentecostals?  I think that they are misinformed on the doctrine of the Trinity.  I believe they misunderstand the Lord Jesus Christ and even His saving work.  I believe they are a works based faith.  I believe that some may be true disciples of Jesus in their movement despite their ignorance of the Lord Jesus as the eternal Son of God.  I believe they are wrong on the view of Acts 2:38 as the formula for salvation.  I believe their holiness codes, while needful in our wicked age, should not be viewed as true salvation simply because a person does or does not keep them.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to move among Oneness Pentecostals to go back to the Scriptures to search yet again the truth of God and His being.   I pray for reformation among Oneness groups.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/07/2015 at 12:52 PM

Posted in Cults

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2 Responses

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  1. I have spoke with them before and they are extremely pushy on baptism and the belief that one must be baptized in Jesus name only, immediately upon conversion. While I do believe in baptism and must say in many of our churches (Pentecostal) some have used the sinners prayer and sort of circumvent baptism, this is a different issue. Yet we read in Scripture where there were believers filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts who had not yet been water baptized. They were saved!

    James Pinto

    06/07/2015 at 1:49 PM

  2. Thank-you for a concise overview of the “oneness” movement. Sadly, most of those I have met in the UPC environment are riddled with guilt and defeat, because the inability to achieve self-instigated holiness, driven by legalism void of grace. I pray for those I have met, that God would remove the scales from their eyes so that they may see that our good works are an act of worship towards Jesus, because of grace driven salvation.

    J Steve Orwig

    06/09/2015 at 6:22 AM


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