Pentecostal Churches: From Heaven or of Men?

Marvin L. Weir

During His earthly ministry Jesus asked the chief priests and elders a question that every person sincerely concerned about his soul’s eternal welfare should take to heart: “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men…?” (Matt. 21:25). This question must be asked of churches and doctrines today! So without any animosity for any person but nonetheless seeking truth we ask, “From whence came the Pentecostal Holiness Church, Assembly of God Church, and Nazarene Church—from heaven or from men?”

The Pentecostal Holiness Church was organized in 1898 at Anderson, South Carolina. It was, however, the Wesleyan Holiness Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries that set in motion what would eventually become the Pentecostal movement of today. This group believes in miraculous healing, Holy Spirit baptism, and ecstatic utterances (speaking in an unknown tongue) and utilizes extreme emotionalism to achieve desired results.

The General Council of the Assemblies of God was formed in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1914. Members of different religious groups decided to unite together in one body and thus be more effective in their ministry. An organization was agreed upon and the Assemblies of God movement began. In 1916 this church chose Springfield, Missouri as the place for their headquarters. This group also believes that as a result of the baptism the Holy Spirit people will be able to heal the sick and speak in unknown tongues.

It was from a Pentecostal background that the Nazarene Church was formed under the leadership of “Rev.” Phineas F. Bressee in Los Angeles, California in 1895. In 1907 the Nazarene church and the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America (founded in 1894) merged to form the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. In 1919 the General Assembly dropped Pentecostal from the name and it became officially known as Church of the Nazarene. This group believes in divine healing and the baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit.

A study of the Bible reveals that the Lord’s church was prophesied by Isaiah (2:2-3) and Micah (4:1-2) some 750 years before it had its beginning. Jerusalem was the designated place for the Lord’s church to begin.

Christ said to some during His earthly ministry, “There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). The words church and kingdom are used interchangeably (Matt. 16:18-19) and Paul told the Colossian brethren that they were delivered out “of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. 1:13). Christ promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18) and it was purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

Friends, any religious group that began somewhere other than Jerusalem on Pentecost of A.D. 33 and was founded by some man or group of men is not the church of my Lord! Regarding these religious groups we are now discussing we ask, “Did they come from Heaven or from men?” The answer is obvious—none of these groups was established by the right person (Christ) at the right time (A.D. 33) in the right place (Jerusalem).

Space will not permit us to study all of the doctrinal errors of these three religious groups. People are encouraged, however, to search the Scriptures as did the noble Bereans to see whether or not the things they have been taught are true (Acts 17:11). God’s Word (the Holy Bible) is true (John 17:17) and if man teaches differently from the Holy Scriptures then “let God be found true, but every man a liar…” (Rom. 3:4). As God has said, “Come now, and let us reason together…” (Isa. 1:18).

Holy Spirit Baptism Was a Promise to the Apostles

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not available for people today. First, note that Holy Spirit baptism was a promise given to the apostles and not a command for believers to obey today. To the apostles Christ promised, “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (John 14:26), [emphasis MLW]. Again, Jesus declared to the apostles, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (John 16:13), [emphasis MLW]. Shortly before His death the Lord again instructs His apostles, “And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), [emphasis MLW]. In the book of Acts the apostles were told to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). This “promise” was Holy Spirit baptism that would empower the apostles as Christ’s witnesses throughout the world (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit appeared as promised on Pentecost while “they (the apostles) were all in one place (Acts 2:1) and “they (the apostles) were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4), [emphasis MLW].

The one baptism valid today is water baptism (Eph. 4:5), and it is authorized by Christ in giving the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Man cannot impart Holy Spirit baptism and Christ has not promised to give it to any who believe and obey His will today. In a futile attempt to prove that believers should expect Holy Spirit baptism today those who advocate such say it is evidenced by the same sign described in Acts 2:4—the speaking in an unknown tongue.

Speaking in Unknown Tongues

The word unknown (1 Cor. 2, 4, 13, 14, 19) is not in the original Greek language and was supplied by the King James translators. It was an attempt to simply stress that the apostles spoke in languages they had not previously studied. It was an unknown tongue (language) to the apostles but those to whom they were speaking understood the language. According to the Bible, speaking in tongues was a sign for the unbeliever and not the believer (1 Cor. 14:22). But when this writer challenged one who claimed to speaks in tongues to demonstrate his claim, he quickly said he could not do so because I was an unbeliever!

The Scriptures read that the apostles on the day of Pentecost “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). The crowd was amazed and marveled that these men were Galileans and yet they were hearing “every man in [his] own tongue, wherein [he was] born” (Acts 2:7-8). The legitimate tongue speaking on Pentecost and during the early age of the New Testament church was not some unintelligible gibberish but rather intelligent communication in a language known to the listener. In the early days of the church one was not to speak in a tongue unless there was one available who could interpret (1 Cor. 14:27-28). Folks today who claim to speak in tongues do not have a clue as to what they are saying and neither do the people who are listening to them. Such a situation hardly qualifies as edification and is of no benefit to anyone.

Modern Day Miracles

It should be obvious by now that tongue speaking and the ability to work miracles are an outgrowth of Holy Spirit baptism. Let us take the Bible and prove, or test, the claims of modern day miracles workers (1 John 4:1).

Did the apostles and those they gave such gifts to have the ability to work miracles in the early church? Absolutely! Keep in mind that it was the apostles who were baptized in the Holy Spirit and that they had the ability to speak in tongues and work miracles. It is of utmost importance for one to realize that the only way spiritual gifts could be imparted to others was by the laying on of an apostle’s hands. Simon the sorcerer was a fake who became a believer and was baptized into the Lord’s church (Acts 8:13). When Simon saw genuine miracles he was amazed and when he saw “that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money” (Acts 8:18), [emphasis MLW]. The laying on of an apostle’s hand is the only way the Bible teaches that spiritual gifts could be imparted to others. Thus, when the last apostle died, so did the ability to impart spiritual gifts!

Modern day miracle workers claim to do mighty works but talk minus action will not suffice. The Bible teaches that “Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people” (Matt. 4:23), [emphasis MLW]. God’s Word also says that Christ gave the twelve apostles “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness(Matt. 10:1), [emphasis MLW]. Did you notice the word all in each of the above verses of Scripture? Bible miracles were also instantaneous and easily discerned. When was the last time you saw the missing arm or leg restored to a person? When have you seen the skin of one terribly burned by fire made new? Have you seen a leper’s sore instantly cured? Have you ever seen these so-called miracle workers put their tent up at the local cemetery? The answer is no, and I wouldn’t hold my breath until such a happening occurs. Bible miracles were not just for internal ailments but also for external ailments (those easily identified).

But the Bible clearly teaches:

Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away (1 Cor. 13:8-10).

Note that prophecies, tongues, and knowledge would be done away. These are supernatural gifts because common knowledge still exists. These miraculous gifts would be done away when “that which is perfect is come” [emphasis MLW]. “That which is perfect” refers to completed revelation, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Before the Bible was complete there was the need to confirm the word of those preaching and teaching and genuine miracles did that (cf. Mark 16:20).

Miracles are no longer needed today to accomplish what they once accomplished because we have the authoritative Word of God in its completeness (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). Each person today has access to “the perfect law, the law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25), but such was not the case before revelation was completed.

Our desire is to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) because of the value of a soul (Matt. 16:26). As Jesus implored, “Take heed what ye hear…” (Mark 4:24) and “how ye hear” (Luke 8:18). May we all have hearts that desire to glorify God and not man, and may we realize that we will all be judged by the words that Christ has spoken (John 12:48)—and not by man-made creeds.

It has always been true that “except Jehovah build the house, they labor in vain that build it…” (Psa. 127:1). It may not matter to you today that the Nazarene, Assembly of God, and Pentecostal Holiness Churches are not from heaven, but of men. But in that Day it will matter!

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