January 1, 1997 Issue

by G.V. Ayers

Several years ago, when we were living near Seattle, Washington, we studied with several members of the United Pentecostal Church. A nicer group of people you will never meet.

They were hospitable, kind and courteous. But they were wrong. Dead wrong.

In all, we had four studies with the group. In the first study my wife's parents, Delbert and Sandra Boman, studied with one Pentecostal family. They touched on a number of subjects, but prominently talked about the Pentecostal "baptism in the Holy Ghost." Delbert kept asking, "What does your experience do for you that God's word does not do for me?" Well, they couldn't answer him. Everything they brought up can be supplied through the Word of God without their miraculous gifts.

The following studies also included second Pentecostal family and my family. One dominant topic that we discussed was the number of individuals in the Godhead. We held that the Scriptures teach three distinct beings make up the Godhead: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14, etc.), and that each may be rightly called God (2 Tim 1:2; Heb 1:8; Acts 5:3-4).

They claimed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one being, and that they express three different manifestations of God. You take them to Matthew 3:16-17, where Jesus was baptized, and the Father is speaking from heaven, the Holy Spirit is descending in the form of a dove, and Jesus is standing beside the river, and they say it is just a graphic display of the individual manifestations of God. "God is everywhere." They say, "That is how he can be in heaven and on the earth at the same time."

However, two Scriptures that they really got stuck on were John 5:31-37, and John 8:16 18. In these passages, Jesus tells the Jews that he is not his own witness, but there is another who bears witness of who he is. That other witness is the Father in heaven. Now, if the Father and the Son are the same individual, then it follows that Jesus is intentionally misleading, and deceiving the Jews-he is lying. Do we dare lay such a charge to the Son of God?

The one issue that dominated our discussions was their "baptism in the Holy Ghost." We pointed out to them that this baptism was given by promise to the apostles (Mt 3:11; Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8), and that Paul, the last apostle, received it at some unnamed time, since he was as "one born out of due time" (1 Cor 15:8). We also showed them that purpose the Holy Spirit fell upon the household of Cornelius was in order for God to demonstrate the acceptability of the Gentiles into the New Covenant (Acts 10:28, 34,44-47; 11:15-18; 15:7-8). But they still persisted in their "Holy Ghost experience."

"Don't you think that when God comes on the scene that big things happen?" one man asked. "God delivered the Israelites by the plagues upon Egypt, he parted the Red Sea, he brought down the walls of Jericho. Jesus walked on the water and healed the sick. And when the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, great things happened. Don't you believe that big things happen when God comes on the scene?"

We replied: "Let me tell you what happened when I was saved. Something happened that was greater than the plagues of Egypt, or God parting the Red Sea. It was bigger than Jesus walking on the water, or all of the miracles that were performed. What happened was this-God forgave my sins. Now, that was something that was unprecedented since the foundation of the world. Long ago Jesus died on the cross for my sins, but it didn't happen for me until my sins were washed away when I was baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (cf. Acts 2:38; Rom 6:3-6). To this they fell silent.

They often spoke about how much their life had been changed. "I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, I was in prison," one Pentecostal man said, "And God changed my life. He delivered me from my addiction and from prison..." On and on he went.

Pentecostals always talk about the big change-but they seldom ever talk about the forgiveness of sins. We told them, "I was never in prison, and never addicted to drugs or alcohol. But let me tell you one thing that is as bad as those things, even worse-I was dead in trespasses and sins, and I was made alive again through obedience to the gospel" (cf. Eph 2:1-6; Col 2:11-13). Again they fell silent.

Later we asked, "Tell us (and I mean it in all sincerity, and am not at all trying to be mean), do you believe that since you have this Holy Ghost experience that you have superior knowledge about the Scriptures?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it that way, but I do believe that you cannot truly know what the Scriptures are teaching without the guidance of the Holy Ghost."

"Then, how could one ever prove you to be wrong on anything? You go into any discussion with a predisposition that you have superior knowledge about the Word. With that frame of mind how could anyone ever prove you to be wrong?"

Again, we asked them, "If there is a difference between what you feel in your heart and what the Word of God teaches, which one do you follow?"

"Well, the Word of God, of course," they replied. "Any revelation or manifestation of the Holy Ghost must be in perfect keeping with the Word of God."

"Then why do you accept the feelings in your heart over the plain teaching of Scripture? You deny the words of Jesus when he distinguishes himself from the Father in John 5:31-37 and 8:16-18." Again, they did not answer.

Later we asked them if the Assemblies of God denomination, a Pentecostal group that does not believe their oneness doctrine, had the same Holy Ghost experience that they had met with. They replied, "No, they have received the spirit of error."

"Where does that spirit come from?"

"From the Devil," they answered.

So, there you have it. By the terms of their own reasoning they are in a position where they cannot conceive of themselves as being wrong. They are untouchable. They have built for themselves an impregnable fortress. In their own mind they cannot be wrong. Those who claim the exact same experience that they do, but do not agree with their oneness doctrine of God, have the spirit of the Devil. In their reasoning, they are untouchable. As long as they keep that mind-set, there is no way that they can he shown their error. They are much like those in Jesus' day, who refused to see the truth (Mt 13:13-15). The only way that they will ever understand their error, is when they finally face the fact that they deny the plain teaching of Scripture.

Surely passages which speak of deceivers, and false workers of miracles must mean something (Mt 7:21-23; 24:24; 2 Thess. 2-9-1 2; Rev 13:14; 16:14; 19:20). How can they know that their experience is from God, and the experience of others is from Satan?

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