Posts Tagged ‘Truth’
Here is a link to an excellent, long series on Oneness Pentecostals by a British brother. I highly recommend it. I have listened to them while working and was greatly blessed. Not only does he quote directly from Oneness Pentecostal theologians but he dives into the Word of God for answers.
You can find these teachings here.
I grew up in the Assemblies of God, a Trinitarian Pentecostal group. I was aware even as a child of the “other” Pentecostals out there who were called “Jesus Only” Pentecostals. My dad explained them to me once saying that they only believed in Jesus and not in the Father or the Holy Spirit. That was not entirely true but it was the best he understood. Over the years I have had very few encounters with Oneness folks. I visited a Oneness church only twice in my life and both for observation.
The Oneness movement is much older than Oneness Pentecostals like to believe. They like to believe that God restored the Oneness doctrine of God in 1913-14 with the split from Trinitarian Pentecostals. The Assemblies of God called the new teaching “the new issue” and rejected the Oneness teachings in 1916. Many AG pastors left the Assemblies of God over the issue. The largest Oneness Pentecostal group is the United Pentecostal Church International based out of Hazelwood, Missouri. The UPC is rejects the historic doctrine of the Trinity and holds to the Oneness doctrine.
The teaching is essentially the old heresy of Sabellianism from the 2nd century. The teaching is also called Modalism. Modalism teaches that there is only one God who reveals Himself in different “modes” such as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. These three modes are not three persons but rather manifestations of the one true God. The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus is the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) and that Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Son and Jesus is the Holy Ghost. Jesus is all three! Jesus only is God. There is no Father who is God nor a Son who is God nor the Spirit who is God but rather there is only one Person in the Godhead and His name is Jesus. Oneness Pentecostals go to Matthew 28:19 and they see baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and they point out that the Name of God is revealed to us in Acts 2:38 when Peter used the keys given to him by Jesus to preach the truth of the Godhead, that the Name of God is Jesus. It is this Name (Acts 4:12) that saves us and only those who are baptized in the name of Jesus are truly saved (Romans 6:1-4).
In reality, the Oneness Pentecostals teach that the Father who is named Jesus is truly the eternal God. They would agree with the Arians, that the Son has a beginning in the incarnation (Luke 1:35) and the Son will have an ending (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). They love to use the word “begotten” in John 3:16 to prove that Jesus the Son was begotten by the Father. While this is a poor usage of the Greek term here (see the NIV for example here), Oneness Pentecostals have argued effectively to poorly taught Trinitarians about the nature the Son. They also love to point out that the words “Trinity” nor “God the Son” nor “the Eternal Son” are found in the New Testament and to them, this proves that Jesus as the Son was not eternally the Son of the Father but rather He had a beginning in Bethlehem.
So what do Oneness Pentecostals do with the Lord Jesus in the Gospels where He over and over again refers to “My Father” or “the Father?” Or what about where Jesus prays to the Father such has in John 17? Or what about Jesus’ baptism where all three persons (or manifestations in the Oneness mind) appear in Matthew 3:13-17? They believe that the key to understanding the life of Jesus is to understand that at times He was speaking as the Son and sometimes as God who is the Father. The Son, they teach, always refers to Jesus’ humanity and not to His divinity. When the Son is praying or eating or sleeping, He is doing so as the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). They believe that the Father (who is Jesus as the mighty God) wrapped Himself in flesh (John 1:14, 18) but the Son was not God only He was a man, the Son of God. So when Jesus was praying, He was praying from His human side to His divine side. And when Jesus was baptized, God, being God, chose to reveal all three manifestations at the same time which He can do if He wants. When we read of Jesus now in the presence of God at His right hand such as in Acts 2:34-36 or Hebrews 1:3, this is speaking of Jesus in His human manifestation before the eternal Father who is Jesus the divine side. To me it is very confusing and doesn’t allow the texts to read freely but nonetheless Oneness Pentecostals believe this is the key to reading and studying and understanding the Bible. It is their own unique hermeneutic if you will.
Oneness Pentecostals use three major texts to prove that Jesus is God the Father. First, they read Isaiah 9:6 and believe that the words “eternal Father” are referring to the Father. Secondly, they point to John 10:30 and point out that Jesus Himself here says that He and the Father are one. Third, they point to John 14:9 where Jesus answers Philip and says that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father.
Time doesn’t permit me to answer the entire charges here and to be fair, Oneness Pentecostal have other texts they turn to prove their doctrine. In short, Isaiah 9:6 is not speaking of necessarily titles of the Lord Jesus. Nowhere in the New Testament are these titles worked out though they are true of Him. The concept of God as our Father is not fully developed in the Old Testament though spoken of a few times. Yet here the understanding could be “Father of eternity” in that the One to be born (Isaiah 7:14) is from ancient times (Micah 5:2). Jesus is eternal and thus He is the Father of eternity but this doesn’t mean that He is the Father. Secondly, the Greek text of John 10:30 is clear that Jesus is not speaking of unipersonal but essence when He says that He and the Father are one. The Greek says, “One we are.” There are very specific Greek words John could have used to show us that Jesus is the Father but instead He uses a Greek phrase that simply makes Jesus of the same kind as the Father. Third, even Oneness Pentecostals don’t believe that when Jesus the Man was saying to Philip that if he’d seen Him, he’d seen the Father that they were seeing at that very moment the Father. Oneness Pentecostals hold that the Father is a spirit and invisible to us (Colossians 1:15) but instead Jesus is saying that when the Apostles saw Jesus, they were seeing God the Father in that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. Not once in the New Testament does Jesus ever say that He is the Father though He refers to His Father or the Father or My Father hundreds of times.
Finally, a word about the Oneness view of salvation. This is the key for me. Oneness Pentecostals teach that a person must believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, be baptized in water by immersion “in the name of Jesus” for the forgiveness of sins, and then must receive the infilling of the Holy Ghost by the initial, physical evidence of speaking in tongues. A person is not justified by faith alone in the Oneness mind. A person must do all the above to be saved. Now sometimes in the Oneness church, a person will get the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues before being baptized in Jesus’ name but they point to Acts 10:43-48 as proof that this is okay.
Also it’s not enough to just believe in Jesus, be baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the Holy Ghost with evidence of tongues, one must also live a holy life till the end lest they “lose their salvation.” Holiness includes the holiness codes set up by many Oneness churches including women wearing dresses, not cutting their hair, no makeup or jewelry, and men must be clean-shaven, short hair, avoid alcohol and tobacco and live a holy life. It is amounts to works-righteousness though Oneness folks will argue that they do it with joy.
In closing, Oneness Pentecostals are nice folks but being nice is not the standard of truth. The Word of God is the final authority and they would agree. I have been meeting a Oneness pastor from time to time to talk theology and he is a bright, loving man. He wants me to accept him merely because he loves Jesus. That, he says, should unite us. But I disagree. I am not mean to him but the Jesus he says that he worships and loves is the not the Jesus of the Bible. I know that hurts but its true. The Jesus he says that he worships is not the same as the Jesus I worship. He believes that since Oneness Pentecostals speak in tongues the same as Trinitarian Pentecostals speak in tongues, this must prove that God accepts them both despite someone being wrong about the Godhead. He also believes that since Oneness Pentecostals teach and preach that Jesus is God, what is the big deal?
There are obviously many errors. For just one. Consider the atonement. In Oneness theology the saving work of Christ is not God dying in my place, standing condemned for my sins. Instead, we have the Father wrapped in flesh but not really a man. Instead Jesus only appears as a man but the true Jesus is still the eternal Father. In other words, the divine payment for our sins is not payed by the Lord God but instead by a mere man albeit a perfect one because the Father was inside of the man. The payment is not God redeeming us through the divine Son but instead it is the human Jesus paying the penalty for our sins to the Father Jesus. How weird. In Trinitarian theology, the second person of the holy Trinity, the Lord Jesus, bears our sins on the cross and redeems us from the holy wrath of God. God is truly in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) because the Son is offering His life for our sins to the glory of the Father who sent Him into the world (John 3:16).
Over even consider Jesus is our high priest who offers Himself before the Father to pray for us sinners (Hebrews 4:14-15). Hebrews 7:22-28 speaks of Jesus being our high priest before the Father. Jesus, as our faithful high priest, offered Himself to God (Hebrews 9:24-28) and He now sits at the Father’s right hand to ever live to pray for us. In Oneness theology, Jesus as the Father hears Jesus the flesh (the Son) when we pray to Him. In Trinitarian theology, the text is allowed to speak for itself: Jesus the Son prays for us sinner before the holy Father. Jesus is truly our high priest in every since of the word. A time will come when this will end at the consummation of the ages but this doesn’t mean that Jesus will cease to be the Son of God nor will He cease to reign as our Savior (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
And I could write much more. I have gone too long. I close by simply pointing out that Oneness Pentecostals fall short of the truth of Scripture. While I admire them for their zeal and for holding to monotheism and to the authority of the Bible, I find much of their theology lacking. I pray that God will help us, as biblical Trinitarians, to know what we believe about God and why the Trinity is not an optional doctrine. The Trinity is vital.
I listen to a few seeker churches on my iPhone while I drive my truck (I drive an eighteen wheeler for a living). During long hauls I can listen to two or three sermons depending on the drive. My wife says that I’m mad for listening to the seeker churches because they often make me cranky and I start ranting (as I’m doing here) about them. My problems with the seeker churches are too many to post here in a blog post. I could never willingly be a part of a seeker church for many reasons. Doctrine is the first and foremost. The utter lack of doctrine in seeker churches is disturbing to say the least.
I have been listening to one of the seeker churches for the entire year. Each week their sermons come to my iPhone. You got to love technology! I had a friend who started attending this church about 6 years ago. He still goes there. He once had a fire for the Lord, was a man of prayer and holiness, and loved to share the gospel with the lost. Those days are gone. He is a shell of his former self now that he attends this church. I place the blame at the feet of my friend but also at this church as well. They have convinced my friend that evangelism is easy as inviting “the unchurched” to his church. The church does the rest. The entire “weekend” is designed to attract the “unchurched” and they are specific that they want the “unchurched” to come and not feel like they are at church. I have often said that seeker churches remind me of cults in that they get you in before springing the trap and letting you know what they are about. In this case, get the “unchurched” coming to church and then wait for a few weeks before telling them they must “receive Christ into their hearts” if they want to go deeper. It’s like an Amway seminar. Only worst.
The rant here today is not about the seeker church I’ve been listening to this year but a new one I picked up just this week. I use to be friends with a youth pastor (when I was a youth pastor) and he always seemed to lean this seeker way. I remember once taking to him about how I wanted to build a youth ministry that revolved around prayer and the Word and he laughed and said that I would never have a large ministry if that was my formula. I followed him via social media after he moved away and watched him head down this seeker trail. He bought into the seeker pragmatism hook, line, and sinker. He begin to tweet a lot of seeker posts and I noticed his preaching was more and more becoming like seeker pastors I knew of. He ultimately started a church in the Charlotte, NC area and followed the likes of seeker gurus Perry Noble and Steven Furtick. Despite obvious doctrinal disagreements, this seeker pastor ignored that because “they are growing” and that was the bottom line.
He started his church and now he rolls out “series” sermons like Noble and Furtick complete with the works. The stage is focused on the series. The series is pushed though social media and social media is used during the talk. I sent a few of his talks to Fighting For The Faith and hope they will review them.
Here is my rant. Theology. The seeker churches ignore theology. I have listened to all the sermons from the one church this year and a few from this newer podcast and theology is utterly lacking. The twisting of Scripture is bad. For example, one of the seeker pastors preached on “Shake It Off” based on the Taylor Swift song (yes you read that right) and preached from Acts 28 where Paul “shook of the snake” and he in turn turned the snake into problems and other things that we just need to shake off. What a poor use of Scripture!
Numbers is the focus. That is the bottom line. I well remember emailing a seeker pastor back in the early 2000’s and he responded back with “I run 700 people on Sunday morning. How many do you run? E-mail me back when you get to that number and I might listen.” I was emailing him over his poor doctrinal preaching. His response: pragmatism.
I remember another preacher going to hear modalist T.D. Jakes. When I questioned him about this he responded by saying that Jakes’ church was huge and he could just feel the anointing on Jakes when he preached. Never mind that Jakes is a modalist (the Trinity doesn’t matter much). Never mind that Jakes is a false prosperity preacher. Never mind that doctrine seems to not matter at all to Jakes. Jakes’ church is big and that is enough. Pragmatism.
A crowd does not equal the blessing of God.
I pass the Kingdom Hall’s all the time while working and I can tell you that they are packed. It seems they are growing and I have my suspicions as to why. The Jehovah’s Witness are no doubt a cult. They are doctrinally wrong. Nothing more than modern day Arians. Yet they are growing because of the seeker churches in my estimation. Week after week the seeker churches are packed but doctrine is not to be found. In fact, doctrine is avoided at all costs. It amazes me that seeker preachers often will have to point out where a book in the Bible is. For example, when the above seeker pastor preached from Acts 28, he felt he had to point out where Acts is. Further, his “background” to Paul and Acts 28 was horrible. He felt he had to use “cool” language and to be funny throughout his talk to get people focused. But at the end of the day, he taught nothing. Nothing. He didn’t teach false doctrines. He taught nothing. And this is true of every seeker sermon I have heard. Let me repeat that: I have never heard a seeker sermon yet that has taught me anything. They are masters at saying nothing.
And thus cults grow. People do want doctrine. Contrary to what the seeker churches believe. Doctrine does matter to folks. In Acts 2:42 the first thing Luke records that the new disciples of Jesus did was to devote themselves to the apostles’ doctrine. First thing listed was not “worship” or “small groups” but doctrine. Cults come and fill the void. The reason seeker people leave to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other cults is because doctrine.
After the seeker churches go off, I turn on John MacArthur and a breath of fresh air comes in. MacArthur is the opposite of these seeker churches. He preaches doctrine. He preaches holiness. He preaches the Bible and seeks to exegete the text faithfully. Sometimes, for fun, I will listen to a seeker church and then pull up MacArthur preaching from the same text and its night and day difference.
Over the years I have been out witnessing only to run into a group of people from seeker churches. Sometimes they will ridicule me for preaching on the streets. Sometimes they talk to me and I try to reason with them about their “conversion” as 100% of them believe that “saying the sinner’s prayer” is how you get saved. They are often completely ignorant of church history or theology. They will say “I just love Jesus” but when I try to find out which Jesus they love, they don’t know. I can often point out that the Jesus they say they love is the Jesus of their own imaginations and not the Bible. Paul the Apostle warned about this in 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6-9.
Am I thankful for seeker churches? No I am not. I truly believe that persecution is soon coming to the Christians in the United States and this will probably end the seeker church as we know it. Most of the seeker churches will either close up or they will complete their compromising by abandoning true faith altogether in favor of the praises (and most important, the money) of men.
Sadly, many godly churches I know of feel the need to imitate these seeker churches. I remember when Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church led to the demise of denominational named churches. Now we just have “Calvary Church” or “Christian Life Church” to avoid the obvious doctrinal distinctive that are there. Now we have the cool fad among seeker churches to get the coolest name you can find for your church. Either way, doctrine does not matter. They would say only Jesus matters but they don’t even know if the Jesus they preach is the Jesus of the Bible.
I highly recommend you to read John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel for a truly biblical look at the seeker church. I pray that many saints of God will love the gospel and love the truths of the Bible (Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1).
I heard a song this morning while working that claimed in it that all religions essentially worship the same God. The song was calling for religions then to be peaceful toward each other since we all are seeking to worship the same God. The song, along with modern culture, is oblivious to theology or they would not write nor utter such non-sense about God. Anyone can study the various religions and see that they don’t all worship the same God. Just consider Islam and Christianity for example. Both of these are the two largest religions in the world. Both claim to worship the one true and living God. Both believe the other is wrong with the exception of a few liberals among them. Now let us put this to the test.
- The God of Christianity is triune in the person of God. The false god of Islam is completely one (absolute monotheism).
- Jesus is the Son of God in Christianity, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit. Jesus is the Messiah in Islam but just a man. Allah does not begot.
- Yahweh has revealed Himself as a loving, good, merciful, compassionate, and graceful God who saves those who have faith in His Son. Allah is said to be merciful and compassionate but there is no concept of grace in Islam because there is no understanding of personal sinfulness in Islam.
- Yahweh transforms His people from the inside out through the work of the Holy Spirit. Allah demands outward performance to worship him.
- Christianity claims the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Islam claims the Quran is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.
So after that very brief survey of Christianity and Islam, only a foolish person would read that and then assume that these two religions worship the same God. Jesus said that He was the only way to God (John 14:6) and Paul the Apostle said that there is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Islam would deny both claims. Christianity claims from Revelation 20:15; 21:27 that only those who have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life will be in heaven. The rest will be destroyed in an eternal hell (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Islam teaches, for the most part, that only faithful Muslims will enter into heaven.
For the disciple of Jesus, we have known this. We know just from talking to people that no two religions are the same. I have found that even people who claim to be Christians, who claim to be evangelicals, that they often worship a god of their own imagination. The great Puritan Stephen Charnock called most people “practical atheists.” Charnock noted that people often did not deny the existence of God with their lips or minds but with their lives (Titus 1:16). Charnock wrote,
“This secret atheism is the spirit of all sin. Every sinful motion practically throws off God’s law and sovereignty, declaring Him unworthy of His being. If it were allowed to be carried to its logical end, every sin of mankind would impugn, dethrone, and annihilate God, while setting up the sinner as a wiser authority.”
All sinners, whether they claim Jesus or not, operate as practical atheists when they refuse to worship and submit to the Lordship of Almighty God. You and I likewise are acting as practical atheists when we sin against God and refuse to obey Jesus as Lord (Luke 6:46-49). As Charnock goes on to note, we all want to be our own gods. This was the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:5) and is still true today of us all who rebel against God and His Word.
May the Church rise up to answer the false notions of modern culture. Only Jesus saves and all who die without Him are doomed (John 3:18; 5:24-25). The Church must preach the truth of Jesus to the world (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15) and the world must hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17). We must preach the truth of the gospel to all including the false religions such as Islam or Buddhism or any others. The world must repent or face the holy wrath of God (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 1:16-18). May we disciples of Jesus be active in preaching the gospel to the lost by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).