Apologetics, United Pentecostal and their beliefs

We started a New Sermon series on Wednesday nights called “Apologetics” starting with Oneness Pentecostals.


Within the Pentecostal movement, the United Pentecostal Church is quite unusual. It holds some extra-biblical beliefs that separates it from being called Christian. It is important to understand that the body of Christ can afford to differ on nonessential issues, but not when it comes to the essentials of the Christian doctrine.
Oneness Pentecostals have an anti-trinitarian view of God, an unbiblical doctrine of Jesus Christ, and unbiblical requirements for salvation (speaking in tongues, water baptism in “Jesus’ name,” and a legalistic moral code). Thus, those churches adhering to its basic doctrines cannot be regarded as authentically Christian. Any group or church that claims to be Christian yet deviates at any point from historical Christian faith is, by definition, a cult. Oneness Pentecostal churches are, therefore, cultic in nature and outside the theological parameters of historic Christianity.

Like most cults, the United Pentecostal Church believes they are restoring biblical doctrine and biblical teaching that had been lost due to the corruption of the church throughout the centuries. Rather than recognizing that God in His sovereignty has preserved the true “apostolic doctrine” throughout the history of the church, they believe they are restoring biblical truths. The fact is all they are doing is reviving the ancient heresy of modalism that has been rejected by Christians every time another “new” group of false teachers begins to proclaim it.

While many false teachings have arisen out of the Pentecostal movement, Oneness Pentecostalism is certainly one of the most deceptive and heretical. Rather than embrace the triune nature of God as revealed in Scripture, Oneness Pentecostals, such as the United Pentecostal Church, create for themselves a God they can “understand” and in doing so end up with another gospel and a heretical concept of God. They hold to a form of modalism that, while correctly asserting the biblical truth that there is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4(HCSB) “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One), fails to recognize the plurality of the Godhead (Genesis 1:26(HCSB)26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”; Matthew 28:19–20(HCSB)19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

 Mark 1:9–11(HCSB)9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 As soon as He came up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven:You are My beloved Son;I take delight in You!

John 1:1 n the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God,and the Word was God.

 John 8:17–18 17 Even in your law it is written that the witness of two men is valid. 18 I am the One who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.”

 John 14:16 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.

 John 15:26 26 “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me.

 John 16:13–1513 When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.

 2 Corinthians 13:1313 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

 1 Peter 1:2 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Doctrinal Beliefs:

Oneness Pentecostal Sources of Authority

Oneness Pentecostals of all branches affirm the authority of the Bible for doctrine. Many, however, utilize only the King James Version to proof text their unique doctrines. In addition, many Oneness advocates rely on the unbiblical revelations received by various Oneness leaders whom they regard as divinely inspired or anointed interpreters of the Bible. For example, many in UPCI consider the writings of Frank Ewart and John G. Scheppe as authoritative.

Biblical Response: The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God
2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is inspired by God[a] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.; 

2 Peter 1:20-21 20 First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. It is the final authority for the Christian on all matters of faith and doctrine. No single translation or human interpretation can be regarded as infallible. All modern writings or “revelations” must be analyzed in light of sound principles of biblical interpretation.

Only One God:

Oneness Pentecostals declare that the Godhead consists of only one Person and deny the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. They maintain that the only real “person” in the Godhead is Jesus. Thus, they are often referred to as the “Jesus Only” Movement. They maintain that God exists in two modes, as the Father in heaven, and as Jesus the Son on earth. Nevertheless, they are the same person, not two separate persons. The Holy Spirit is not regarded as a person at all, merely a manifestation of Jesus’ power or a synonym for Him. Several verses are quoted to establish this view, such as Colossians 2:9 9 For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ,Oneness theologians would argue that if the Father and the Son were separate, then the Godhead could not fully dwell in Christ. Matthew 28:19 also affirms their views that Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize in the “name” (singular) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is said to have two natures: human and divine. Thus, when He died, only His human nature died. Also, when Jesus prayed, it was His human nature praying to His divine nature-not to a separate Father in heaven. • They reject the traditional concept of the Godhead and do not believe that the Godhead is composed of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They believe that God is a unity, a Spirit, who has manifested himself in three roles to humanity. An analogy would be a single man who plays three different roles of father, son, and husband — either sequentially or at the same time. In doing so, they interpret the Bible incorrectly. It is true that the Godhead is one (1 John 5:7), but God exists in three separate and distinct personalities at the same time. Evidence of this is found when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Ghost came upon Him and the Father declared from heaven that this was his Son in whom he was well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22)

Biblical Response: The Oneness Pentecostal view of God is similar to the ancient heresy of Modalism. Modalism is the belief that one God existed in time in three distinct modes of being: first as the Father in heaven; second, bodily as the Son on earth; and finally as the Holy Spirit.Modalism is basically the teaching that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are simply different ways God manifests or reveals Himself to humanity. It fails to recognize the distinctions that clearly exist between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as well as their eternal relationship that Scripture reveals to us. Contrary to John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God,and the Word was God., Oneness doctrine denies the pre-existence of Jesus Christ despite the fact that this verse clearly teaches that Jesus is God and that He was with God, and was God from the beginning. They acknowledge that Christ is God but ignore the part of this verse that clearly establishes the pre-existence of Christ and makes a clear distinction between Christ and the Father as do many other verses of Scripture.

The Bible indeed teaches the existence of only one God (Deut. 6:4). Nonetheless, historic Christianity maintains that the doctrine of the Trinity (or tri-unity of God) is taught in Scripture. The Bible teaches that the one God exists eternally in three separate and distinct Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Their false view of God’s nature then leads them to misunderstand what it means to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The result is that they make water baptism “in the name of Jesus” a requirement of salvation and thus teach baptismal regeneration. They also add to that troublesome teaching that one must be baptized a specific way using a specific formula or wording in order to be saved. By adding to the gospel these requirements, as well the false teaching that speaking in tongues is the evidence that one is saved, they end up with a convoluted gospel full of error and based on a misunderstanding of what Scripture really teaches.

Colossians 2:9 does not teach that the totality of the Godhead was in the body of Jesus, but rather that Jesus embodied the totality of the divine nature and God is totally revealed in Him. If the Father and the Son are the same person, then the Oneness teachers have a difficult job explaining how the Father and the Son can love each other (See Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 3:35; 5:20; 2 Pet. 1:17), talk to each other (see John 11:41-42; 12:28; 17:1-26), and know each other (see Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 7:29).

Matthew 28:19 clearly reflects the trinitarian concept that the “name” (authority and characteristics) of the one God is incorporated in the three Persons of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 8:6; 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). (See the following verses affirming the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit: Luke 12:12; John 15:26; Acts 5:3-10; 13:2-4; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 3:7.)

Salvation: 

Four-fold Legal Requirement

The Oneness Pentecostal movements generally teach that to receive and maintain salvation, a person must adhere to four essential requirements.

1. Faith in Jesus Only

Oneness teachers would agree that salvation requires putting one’s full faith in the Jesus of Oneness doctrine, that is the Jesus who is the totality of the Godhead, who died on the cross as an atonement for sin, and who rose again from the dead.

2. Repentance and Baptism in the “Name of Jesus”

Acts 2:38 is used as evidence that the early church baptized only in the name of Jesus. They maintain that baptism in the trinitarian formula is invalid since it implies belief in three gods. They claim Matthew 28:19 is not to be taken as a command to baptize in that formula. Jesus Christ specifically said to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19); any deviation from this commandment is unacceptable. But the UPC will point to Acts 2:38 and many other passages to give validity to their argument. They believe that water baptism is essential to salvation. But Jesus did not say so in His conversation with Nicodemus. (John 3:3-8 3 Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”4 “But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. 8 The wind[d] blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”)

3. Speaking in Tongues

Like most traditional Pentecostals and charismatics, Oneness Pentecostals teach that speaking in tongues is a gift to be exercised today. However, unlike most traditionalists, the Oneness movements maintain that speaking in tongues is not just a post-conversion indicator of the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, but an essential ingredient in the salvation experience itself.
• They believe that the ability to speak in tongues is a necessary indication of a valid religious conversion.
They deny the legitimacy of the conversion of “born again” Christians from other denominations where tongues are rarely, if ever, spoken. “No tongues means no salvation.” So, for example, they would essentially regard all Southern Baptists as unsaved, even though they have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Bible never says that speaking in tongues is a sign of salvation; in the New Testament, it is recorded that some people began speaking in tongues, but others did not. Did the disciples/apostles speak in tongues when they were saved? They spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost, but they were already saved through faith long before that event.

Acts 2:When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.” 12 They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What could this be?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re full of new wine!”

4. Adherence to Holiness Standards

Most Oneness Pentecostals teach that once salvation is gained initially by the preceding ingredients, it must be maintained by daily adherence to legalistic codes of personal behavior. Alcohol and tobacco are prohibited. Women are not allowed to cut their hair, wear short dresses or slacks, use make-up, or wear jewelry. Men are expected to dress conservatively (white shirts and dark slacks), be clean shaven, and have short haircuts. Violations of these codes may result in a loss of salvation and exclusion from church fellowship.

Some small Oneness groups also practice handling poisonous snakes or drinking poison to demonstrate their faith and holiness based on Mark 16:18 in the King James Version.

Biblical Response: Salvation is “by grace through faith” in Jesus Christ alone (see Romans 4:4-5 Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.;

Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.;

Titus 3:5 He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done,but according to His mercy,through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is not essential to one’s reception of salvation. It is a symbol of one’s identification with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The proper mode is immersion in the triune name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 must be read in context and in light of Jesus’ clear command in Matthew 28:19.

Speaking in tongues, like all other gifts, is distributed sovereignly by the Holy Spirit to those He wills for the equipping and edification of the whole body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12-14). There is no indication that it, or any other spiritual gift, is required to receive God’s gift of salvation by grace or to be filled with His Holy Spirit (see Eph. 5:18).

Oneness movements’ emphases on personal holiness and healthy lifestyles are commendable. Nevertheless, the requirements for outward adherence to a strict moral code in order to maintain salvation inevitably leads to legalism and a lack of assurance of eternal life.

No amount of good works, moral living, or church membership guarantees salvation. Salvation is entirely based on grace through faith in Christ. Good works and holy living are the natural responses of salvation already received-not its cause (see Eph. 2:10). Salvation is eternally assured for those who have accepted Christ as personal Lord and Savior (see John 1:12; 5:24; 1 John 5:13).

Mark 16:18 is part of a disputed portion of Mark’s text. Regardless, handling snakes or drinking poison is a misuse of that Scripture and has resulted in the deaths of many practitioners.

Have stated the aforementioned points, it is also necessary  for them to believe there is no salvation outside of the United Pentecostal church. The Bible says there no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, not a church. (John 1:12; 3:1-8, Romans 10:8-13)

Conclusions:

Oneness Pentecostals have an anti-trinitarian view of God, an unbiblical doctrine of Jesus Christ, and unbiblical requirements for salvation (speaking in tongues, water baptism in “Jesus’ name,” and a legalistic moral code). Thus, those churches adhering to its basic doctrines cannot be regarded as authentically Christian. Any group or church that claims to be Christian yet deviates at any point from historical Christian faith is, by definition, a cult. Oneness Pentecostal churches are, therefore, cultic in nature and outside the theological parameters of historic Christianity.

Witnessing to Oneness Pentecostals:

1. Have a clear understanding of your faith and the Bible.

2. Acquire a basic knowledge of Oneness Pentecostals’ beliefs and practices.

3. Seek to build a personal and respectful relationship with the Oneness Pentecostal.

4. Focus the discussion on the essential elements of the Christian faith. Do not get sidetracked defending your denomination.

5. Be prepared to cite (in context) and explain specific biblical passages supporting Christian doctrines, particularly the biblical basis for the Trinity, the historic understanding of the nature and work of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith.

6. Share your personal testimony of God’s grace and your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

7. The Oneness Pentecostal may try to convince you that you need to speak in tongues, be baptized in Jesus’ name, and live according to their strict moral code. Be prepared to explain biblically why you do not believe these are necessary ingredients for salvation or eternal security.

8. Present the basic plan of salvation and encourage the Oneness Pentecostal to receive Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior.

9. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you as you share.

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