Recently we received the following two email messages from a gentleman who identified himself as a Oneness Pentecostal. He sent one and then sent another before we could respond to the first. He objected to our online article about that movement on the basis that “we are genuine believers in the true God” (see our article: The Hidden Cult of Oneness Pentecostalism – http://www.marketfaith.org/the-hidden-cult-of-oneness-pentecostalism ). This, and the next three installments, is the email dialog I had with this man concerning our views on the nature of God, the Bible, salvation, and baptism. To honor his privacy I have changed his name to Theophilus (the “Friend of God” Dr. Luke wrote to in his Gospel and the book of Acts). My remarks are bolded for clarity.
To: Dr. Tal Davis
I am highly offended that you would consider the Apostolic Pentecostal faith a “hidden” cult. Your statement is nothing more than the work of Satan and a ploy to continue deceiving people. We abide by the Bible unlike many others, and not by man-made doctrine such as the Roman Catholic Church and many other Protestant denominations. Scripture in the holy Bible validate our position, and I and any other Apostolic, Oneness believer can easily debunk the existence of a Trinity any time of the week. The existence of the Trinity is nothing more than a ploy that the Roman Catholic Church implemented during the second century. I can prove that easily through scripture. I suggest that you repent, remove this nonsense from the World Wide Web, and obey Acts 2:38!! May God have mercy upon your soul.
I came across your website earlier today, and I was appalled at the way you depicted the Apostolic Oneness faith. The Apostolic Oneness faith, unlike the Roman Catholic Church and other Protestant denominations, is not composed of man-made doctrine. Our believes coincide with the Holy Bible and the structure of the first church in the New Testament!!
I can’t believe that you all would have the audacity to label us as a cult, yet you are the ones that belief in a Trinity doctrine that was established by the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church is nothing more than man-made religion, and it is very Anti-Christ in nature. Your faith as well as many Protestant denominations have modeled your beliefs after them, yet you have no scripture grounds to validate it. The term “Trinity” can’t be found no (SIC) where in the Bible. Matthew 28:19 is not considered a Trinity. If it was a Trinity, Jesus would have stated it.
My sole purpose of writing this e-mail is to show that I disapprove of the statements made about Apostolic Oneness believers. Furthermore, I am insisted and requesting for that information to be removed immediately. Also, I want to provide you with conclusive information directly from scripture to validate that Jesus Christ is indeed God, and that the plan of salvation that you share on your website is very erroneous, and you all are jeopardizing and helping many souls to perish.
I ask that you please view the following video and the links that I’ve sent in detail. It is very imperative that you truly understand and be obedient unto the Word of God. You and the entire Market Faith Ministry now have the truth about receiving salvation. Before you view these items, pray and ask God to open up your heart and mind, and to give you understanding of the Godhead. Please share this information with the entire Market Faith Ministry, family, friends, as well as many others that need to receive the true plan of salvation. May God bless you all and I pray that you all hearken unto his holy word in Jesus Name.
(The video being referenced can be found at: http://www.apostoliclive.com/play.php?vid=1276)
Thank you for your messages. I received both a couple of days ago. I watched the video you recommended on the Apostolic Oneness doctrine of salvation. The speaker makes a couple of serious errors in his interpretations of Scripture, one regarding the meaning of the phrase “in the name of” and the other regarding the need for water baptism (by whatever formula) to receive salvation.
First, let me address the meaning of the phrase “in the name of” as used in the New Testament. While the word “name” may refer to an individual’s given personal appellation, in instances where it is used with “in the (name) of” it refers to a person’s or institution’s authority, power, and rule. For instance, when a policeman in the United States arrests a criminal suspect he will do so “in the name (the authority, power, and rule) of the Law.” Or, in the United Kingdom, he will arrest the suspect “in the name (the authority, power, and rule) of the Crown (king or queen).”
This is obviously what Jesus meant when He commanded His disciples to… “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of (the authority and power) the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19-NASB). How do we know that’s what He meant? Because in verse 18 (NASB) He prefaced the command saying, “All authority (power – KJV) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
By the way, Jesus distinguished the three persons of the Trinity in Matthew 28:19 when He referred to each one individually with “and” and “the” (the definite article). If He had wanted to limit the term to just one person He would not have delineated them that way. If Jesus only wanted them to act in His name only He would have had to say… “in my name” period, or …”in my names: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
The same concept is used numerous times to describe the authority, power, and rule of God in the New Testament. When the disciples healed people or cast out demons, they did it “in the name of (authority, power, and rule) of Jesus Christ (e.g.: Peter in Acts 3: 6). This was also true when Peter commanded his audience in Acts 2:38 to… “be baptized in the name (authority, power, and rule) of Jesus Christ” (NASB).
This brings me to the second problem I mentioned with the video speaker’s argument. He makes the same mistake that other promoters of baptismal regeneration (i.e.: Roman Catholics, churches of Christ, Mormons, etc.) make in regard to Peter’s statement in Acts 2:38. The passage simply cannot be used to prove the need for water baptism for regeneration and salvation by whatever mode or formula used. (By the way, I have no real objection to baptizing “in the name of Jesus” as an alternative to the traditional Trinitarian formula [found in Matthew 28:19] if it is understood to have the proper symbolic meaning as outlined above and does not endorse a non-Trinitarian theology.) In the Acts 2:38 passage, note that Peter used two different verb tenses.
As Calvin Beisner explains concerning Acts 2:38:
The Greek text reads, Metanohsate (You [plural] repent) kai (and) baptistheto ([singular] be baptized) ekastos (each one) humon (of you) epi (in) to (the) onomati (name) Ihsou Christou (of Jesus Christ) eis (for) afesin ([the] remission) ton ([of] the) hamartion (sins) humon (of you [plural]).
This makes it clear that “remission of your (plural) sins” is the result of “you (plural) repenting,” not of “each one (singular) being baptized.” The command to repent is given in the plural number and second person; the command to be baptized is given in the singular number and third person: the sins remitted belong to “you” in the plural number and second person. It is therefore improper to refer “remission of sins” to “baptism” as its cause, for this would mean that each one was baptized for the remission of the sins of all those present.
To take “baptism” here as causing the remission of sins would be to make the text say, “Let him be baptized for the remission of all your sins,” and “Let him (yet another) be baptized for the remission of all your sins,” and so on to each person in the group, so that each one would be baptized for the remission of the sins of all the people in this group.
But the grammar instead is quite clear. Remission is the result of repentance, not of baptism. You repent and your sins will remitted. You all repent and the sins of all of you will be remitted.
Acts 2:38, therefore does not teach the necessity of baptism for salvation.
As for the Oneness doctrine of God, if God is only one person (Jesus) then they have some serious difficulty explaining some important passages in the New Testament. For instance, how do they explain the fact that all three divine persons were present simultaneously at Jesus’ baptism?
Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” (Luke 3: 21-22 [NASB]. See also Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:32 [John the Baptist witnessed it!])
You can see the problem here. Did Jesus, the man, disappear from the water and turn into a dove when the Holy Spirit came? Did Jesus throw His voice into heaven when the Father spoke testifying to Jesus’ Sonship? From the Oneness perspective this event is inexplicable and absurd.
Also, how does the Oneness concept of God explain Jesus’ many recorded prayers to the Father (see Matthew 26:36-44, Mark 14:32-39, Luke 22:46; John 11:41-42; 12:27-28; 17:1-26, et.al.)? Was Jesus praying to Himself? That implies that Jesus had some sort of split personality, talking to Himself.
And why did He teach His disciples… “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven (who IS in heaven – NASB), Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9 – KJV)? Why would He tell His followers to pray to the Father in heaven when, if Oneness doctrine is correct, the Father was standing right in front of them?
I believe the reason Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other groups cannot accept the Trinity is not because it is not biblical. It surely must be true simply because either the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit are all God or the New Testament makes no sense (see also 1 Cor. 8:6; 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21- 22; 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). The problem, rather, lies with the fact that those adherents do not understand the infinitude and eternality of God. By definition only one being could be both infinite and eternal. There is only one infinity and only one eternity. Thus, we assert that the one infinite and eternal Being is the one and only God. That being said, the Bible teaches that, in some way, God exists infinitely and eternally and in three personal seats of distinct consciousness (personalities) which He has revealed to us by the designations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are all infinite and they are all eternal. Three infinities and three eternities equals only one infinity and one eternity. Thus, God is One God in Three Persons.
Theophilus, I doubt my explanations will satisfy your objections to my position on Oneness Pentecostalism. But I would remind you that my views have been the position of New Testament scholars of nearly all branches of historic Christianity since well before the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church. Most of these issues were dealt with and settled by the Anti-Nicene church fathers in the second and third centuries A.D.
Thanks again for writing. Please do so again if you want to continue this dialog.
And remember Jesus’ prayer: 3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:3-5 – NASB).
In the next installment we will look at Theophilus’ response and my further response to him.
© 2013 Tal Davis