It has been said when heresy crawls in one generation it walks in the next, then runs into the next. Historically, the first great question to arise in the early church had to do with the Person of Christ. Was he just a man - as the ancient heresy of Sabellianism taught - or was he the "theoanthropos," the God-man the Bible declares as the second person of the Trinity?
According to James Bjornstad, in a recent issue of the Institute of Contemporary Christianity, Sabellius, a Latin theologian of the third century, taught that God was one person, not three, and that He appeared in modes or forms - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This view of the person of Christ is very much akin to Modalism, which basically says God is sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, and sometimes the Holy Spirit, but never three persons in one God! So, we could say that Sabellius was semi-modalistic in his heretical view of the Trinity.
This ancient twisting of the Trinity has raised its head today in many cults, not the least of which is the United Pentecostal Church (UPC).
From its inception in 1913, through John D. Schaefe, an immigrant to the United States from Danzing, Germany, it has been called the "Jesus Only" or "Oneness" movement. The views of Schaefe spread to his followers Frank Ewart, Glenn Cook, G. T. Haywood, and others. Today, the basic tenets of the movement can be found in the writings of such men as C. Haskell Yodon, John Paterson, Nathaniel A. Urshan, A. McClain, and others.
In 1985, on the John Ankerburg Show, Rev. Nathaniel Urshan speaking for the United Pentecostal Church and responding to Cal Beisner and Dr. Walter Martin, said, "We do not believe in a three-person Trinity, we believe that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh. We do not believe that the terms 'Trinity,' 'God the Son,' 'God the Father,' 'God the Holy Ghost,' 'eternal Son,' the 'first, second, and third persons in the Trinity' are either scriptural or correct. We believe the doctrine of the Trinity was a product of pagan mythology and Grecian philosophy."
Unfortunately for Rev. Urshan, his statement pertaining to his view of the Trinity is pagan because it is a distortion of the one true God who exists in three separate and distinct personalities and Christians should understand the difference.
Interestingly, Rev. Urshanís statement concerning the origin of the doctrine of the Trinity differs slightly from the official UPC line found in their "Doctrines of the Bible."The word "trinity" is not found in the Bible. This term, coined by the Roman Catholic Church, was introduced at the Nicean Council of 325 A. D. It is accepted by most Protestant groups, and states that there is one God divided into three persons who are coequal and coeternal. This, of course, is a contradiction, an impossibility, and completely unscriptural. It is without scriptural foundation.The UPC teaches God is one Person who manifested himself in the Old Testament as the Father, in the New Testament as the Son, and today as the Holy Spirit. Typically, a consequence of distorting the Godhead is a "different gospel" (II Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:6-9). Following this pattern, the UPC also teaches that salvation or justification is conditional on several steps man must perform (obedience). These are usually represented as five steps:(1) a belief that Christ died for past sins;Any deviation from these steps means sure damnation according to the UPC.
(2) repentance of all known sins;
(3) the necessity of baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus only (baptismal regeneration);
(4) reception of the Holy Spirit evidenced by the speaking in tongues;
(5) the necessity of an obedient life including a number of legalisms peculiar to the group, in order to remain in a state of grace.
--From The Watchman Expositor, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1991
The United Pentecostal Church International is a Twentieth Century cult movement that prides itself in differing from the foundational tenets of orthodox Christianity. Adherents seem oblivious to church history or the history of their own movement. Rather, than realizing their doctrines were recognized as heresies at the beginning of the Church Age, they apparently think they have rediscovered "lost" truths.
The recent establishment of their movement, in 1913, is just cause to question their place in the true body of Christ, but for the UPC it is proof they are unspotted by, and different from other denominations. This, coupled with their dogmatic insistence that they alone know the plan of salvation, implies the true church did not exist on earth, from the conclusion of the Apostolic Age, until the founding of the UPC movement. This apparently is their basis for rejecting all mainstream denominations and the primary tenets of the Christian faith.
One of the inconsistencies tied to this belief is their defense of the King James Version of the Bible as the "real" or only God sanctioned version. This version was completed in 16ll, nearly three hundred years before the founding of the UPC. Because this Bible version was translated during the period they believe Christianity was dead, it allows them to justify rejecting those portions in disagreement with their false doctrines, while claiming divine authority for the portions they use as "proof" texts.
This double standard for truth is evident throughout UPC doctrines. For example, the UPC "Doctrines of the Bible" says, "His Church was begun on the Day of Pentecost. It has been steadfast through centuries, embodied by the very Spirit and life of Jesus Christ." In spite of this, their own statement, the UPC denies the Churchís long-held doctrines of the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith apart from works of righteousness, the end of the sign gifts, everlasting life and other important doctrines.
They claim for themselves apostolic authority and thus reject the majority of the Bible to focus on the Acts of the Apostles and in particular the words of Peter, whom they uphold as having the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, they believe Peter presents the only true plan of salvation, in Acts 2:38. Their misuse of this verse is the basis and springboard for their heretical doctrine. From it, they conclude water baptism is necessary to effect remission of sins; that this baptism must be in the name of Jesus because He alone is God; that so-called "tongues" are the gift of the Holy Ghost; that repentance means doing good deeds necessary to obtain and keep salvation.
Neither the Apostles, nor the early church sanctioned these heresies, or the rejection of the Gospels and Church Epistles in favor of the Book of Acts. Even Peter, the Apostle the UPC looks to for their so-called "true plan of salvation," upholds the writings and doctrines of salvation taught by Paul:
"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:15-16).Does this mean Peter taught a different gospel? Of course not! Peter did not teach a different gospel as the UPC claims. They simply distort his divinely inspired words to accommodate their false doctrines.
The following compares the UPC perversions of Acts 2:38 to the true intent of Peterís words based on the Holy Scriptures:
In Acts 2:38, Peter said: "Repent"Additionally, the whole UPC doctrine that water baptism is necessary for the remission of sins and for receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost falls apart in Acts 10:34-48, where Peter preaches to the Gentiles for the first time:
To the UPC: This means feeling an overwhelming sorrow for sins, and publicly lamenting oneís sins while "praying through" to receive "ecstatic utterances." In the UPC "Doctrines of the Bible" the question is asked, "How do you repent?" The answer given is, "Tell God you are sorry for your sins." Then comes the statement,"If you are really sorry and turn away from sin, resolving never to do those things again, you are ready for baptism, which is the second step in the plan of salvation."The Bible perspective: The Greek word Peter uses, translated "repent" is "metanoeo." This word means "to think differently or reconsider." Clearly, Peter wants the hearers of his message in Acts "to think differently or reconsider." The question is, what does Peter want them to reconsider or think differently about? Is he telling them to feel an overwhelming sorrow for sins while praying for "ecstatic utterances?" Since this is not what the word "repent" means, it is unlikely.
In Acts 2:36, Peter plainly says the House of Israel crucified Jesus, whom God has made both Lord and Christ. Very simply, "Jesus came unto His own and His own received Him not" (John 1:11). Because Israel did not believe Jesus was their Lord and Christ, they crucified Him. This is Peterís indictment of Israel, in Acts 2:36.
Acts 2:37, says those listening to Peter were pricked in their hearts and asked, "What shall we do?" His response to this question, found in Acts 2:38, is "repent." Peter wanted them to reconsider or think differently about Jesus whom they crucified. Their personal catalogues of sin were not Peterís focus because he knew if they changed their minds about Jesus, Jesus would take care of their sins.
To make sin the object of repentance is not the intent of Scripture. Acts 20:21 says, "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." The emphasis in repentance is not turning from sin, for that speaks of oneís own ability. The emphasis in godly repentance is turning to God and faith in Jesus Christ to remit oneís sins. Sorrow for sin may and often does accompany or precede true repentance, but sorrow does not remit sins. Only repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ can remit sins.
In Acts 2:38, Peter said: "and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..."
To the UPC: First, this means one must be immersed in water because immersion is the only proper mode of baptism. This is based on their understanding of the word "baptism" according to the UPC "Doctrines of the Bible," which says, "The word baptism comes from the Greek word, baptizo, which means Ďto dip, plunge, immerse, or be overwhelmed.í It is clear from this definition that the word baptism means Ďimmersioní."
Second, it is important to use the name of Jesus in the baptism ritual. Quoting again, from "Doctrines of the Bible:""Why must candidates be baptized in the name of Jesus? Because we are obeying Jesus Christís commandment in the Great Commission, which said, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:15,16) Notice also Jesusí words, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 28:19) Notice this word "name" is singular. What is the name? There is only one name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) That name is Jesus." "Jesus is the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not names, but are only titles. There is only One name: Jesus!"Third, baptism by immersion, in the name of Jesus, is necessary for the remission of sins.
The Bible perspective: First, the proper mode of water baptism is not the issue in this verse and to make it the issue is to further obfuscate the real meaning. There is no mention of water and the use of the word "baptized" does not necessarily mean this is a reference to water baptism. References to baptism in the Scriptures are sometimes references to waterless baptisms, such as spirit baptism. Therefore, understanding the context of the passage is necessary to determine which baptism is meant.
In Acts 1:5, Jesus said to the Apostles, including Peter, "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days from now." In fulfillment, they were baptized with the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost. There was no water associated with this baptism. On the contrary, fire, the natural antithesis of water was evident. The Scripture says in Acts 2:3, that "tongues of fire" or flames appeared during this baptism. Remember, this is the event leading directly to Peterís sermon, wherein he spoke the words in Acts 2:38. Realizing he was not baptized by water but by the Holy Ghost it is probable Peter desired a waterless baptism for those to whom he spoke.
It is easy to realize discussions concerning the meaning of "baptism" that focus on pouring, sprinkling, or immersion, are pointless when one is talking about a waterless baptism such as spirit baptism.
The intended purpose and root meaning of "baptism" is identification. This is demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 10:2, which says, "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." The Israelites were not baptized with water unto Moses when they crossed the Red Sea. Hebrews 11:29, says they passed through the Red Sea on dry land.
Their baptism had nothing to do with water. It had to do with identification. They were identified with Moses. Therefore, God allowed them to cross the Red Sea on dry land. Unlike the Israelites, the Egyptians who were not identified with Moses, tried to cross the sea and were destroyed.
Peterís directive to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is not a prescription for water baptism that results in forgiveness of sins, as claimed by the sophistry of the UPC.
To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is to be identified with Jesus Christ. His name says it all. Jesus means "God is Salvation" and Christ means "Anointed One from God."
Peterís message to the Israelites in Acts 2:38, is to repent (to reconsider, to think differently) concerning Jesus whom they crucified. He wanted them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (identify with Jesus) by accepting Him as their Messiah or Christ. "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). Only by doing this would they receive remission of sins.
In Acts 2:38, Peter said: "and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
To the UPC: The "gift of the Holy Ghost" is speaking in tongues. The idea being, when one is truly saved the Holy Ghost gives the person a "gift" by allowing him to speak in "unknown tongues." Therefore, they conclude one is not saved until he speaks in these "unknown tongues."
The Bible perspective: "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Romans 8:9). As Peter and those with him received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, so also does everyone who trusts the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as their payment for sins.
The Holy Spirit is the "gift" God gives to everyone who is born again. He is the Comforter Jesus promised in John 14, to all who believe in His name. Ephesians 1:13, says this, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." Peter is not promising that all who receive remission of sins will speak with unknown tongues. The "Gift" he says they will receive is the Holy Spirit.
"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days."Notice first, Peterís message to the Gentiles is not "repent and be baptized." His message to them is "whosoever believeth in him (Jesus) shall receive remission of sins." This is the message Peter, Paul, James, and the rest of the Apostles preached throughout the Gentile world and it is the message of the Lordís true Church today.
Notice second, while Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles. This precedes their water baptism, meaning water baptism was not necessary for them to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Their belief afforded them remission of their sins. Their water baptism had nothing to do with it.
Notice third, the Gentiles were baptized because they had already received the Holy Ghost, not in anticipation of receiving Him.
In conclusion, there are many sincere people caught in the sophistry of the United Pentecostal Church. They are deceived and blinded to the gospel of the grace of Christ. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4,
"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."Our prayer is that this expose of the United Pentecostal Church will allow many to see the light of the gospel of Christ and reject this very dangerous cult.