NO OTHER GOSPEL
By: J. L. Hall
Sitting beside me on an air flight from Moscow, Russia, a construction engineer asked about Pentecostals. After my brief explanation, he remarked, “I hope a person does not have to speak in tongues to be saved.”
A lot of people are as confused about the experience of salvation as was the engineer, but the fault does not lie with the Bible. There is nothing confusing about the record in Acts of people being saved or in the teachings in the Epistles on this vital subject.
Confusion about salvation most often stems from the efforts of people to twist the Bible record to support their theology or experience. Unfortunately, many theologians have added controversy to what could be easily grasped by a layman reading the New Testament.
One of the remarkable achievements of Oneness Pentecostals in this century is that they leaped over the theologies of the Reformation and the dogmas of Roman Catholicism to follow the apostolic teachings and practices in the Bible. They did not wrestle with Luther’s doctrine of “justification by faith,” stumble over Wesley’s teaching on “perfectionism,” wade through the volumes of Roman Catholic creeds and tenets. or wander into the labyrinth of historic trinitarianism. They simply returned to the Bible for their
doctrines, accepting what the Gospels said about Jesus and what the apostles preached, practiced. and taught. Moreover, they believed the gospel and received the same salvation experience as did the apostles and New Testament church.
What is also remarkable is that some religious groups were disturbed that Oneness Pentecostals departed from historic traditions and returned to the teachings and practices of the New Testament. In fact, some people readily called Oneness believers heretics because they believed in the monotheism of the Bible and baptized in the name of Jesus Christ rather than in the traditional formula of “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” And when Oneness believers affirmed their belief in the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. others rejected them because they did not teach the trinity. But Oneness believers are monotheists in the same way as was the early church. The doctrine of the trinity was a post-apostolic development.
Perhaps the focus of opposition toward Oneness Pentecostals is the belief that Acts 2:38 contains the biblical plan of salvation. Following this apostolic pattern, they preach repentance, practice water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and receive the Holy Ghost just as Acts 2:38 states. Of course. Oneness Pentecostals receive the Holy Ghost with the same sign given to the church in Acts–speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance (Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 19:6).
What is “heretical” about their salvation experience and teaching? Since the apostles preached repentance. practiced water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and expected those so baptized to be filled with the Holy Ghost with the sign of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:12-16; 10:44-48; 17:30; 19:1-6; 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:27; I Corinthians 12:13), were they “heretics”? Certainly not! And neither are Oneness Pentecostals.
Religious traditions that developed after the days of the apostles have so blinded the minds of people that they reject the teachings of the apostles. even calling them heretical! They judge the Bible by tradition rather than judge tradition by the Bible.
Perhaps the words of the apostle Paul will cause many of these precious people to set aside traditions and embrace the teachings of the apostles. Paul wrote. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:7-8).
One apparently sincere opponent of accepting Acts 2:38 as the New Testament plan of salvation said publicly that he was ready to accept Oneness Pentecostals who had been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues as fellow Christians–if they would say publicly that he was saved without these experiences.
When Oneness Pentecostals refused to judge his salvation experience but still affirmed the need for water baptism in the name of Jesus and the infilling of the Spirit, the man classified them as a cult. In other words. in his view their refusal to endorse his less-than-apostolic experience as salvation negated their otherwise genuine biblical experience of salvation. Of course, his measurement for a Christian is not the Bible’s.
Just because Oneness Pentecostals believe that Acts 2:38 contains the plan
of salvation does not mean that they teach or practice salvation by works.
On the contrary, they concur with the apostles that salvation is the gift
of God that is given to us by His grace through the sacrificial death
of Jesus on the cross. Salvation is by grace. not by a person’s goodness or
his becoming good.
Salvation cannot be earned by rituals or ceremonies, not even by good works
or deeds. Rather it is bestowed upon us because we believe in Jesus Christ
and accept His lordship in our lives. Repentance and water baptism are
steps of obedient faith, acts taken because a person believes that Jesus
died for his sins and will forgive him when he responds to Him in
repentance and water baptism in His name for the remission of sins.
We must never allow the words grace and faith to displace the power of them
in the salvation experience. Grace and faith are the basis and means of
salvation; they are agents to effect salvation, but they are not the
salvation experience themselves. Salvation involves the removal of sins
from a person’s life and the coming of God’s Spirit to live within his
being. Both the removal of sin and the reception of the Spirit happen
because of God’s grace and a person’s obedient faith.
The command to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ does
not contradict God’s grace or a person’s faith, nor do grace and faith
negate the need of a person to receive the Holy Ghost. All three of these
steps–repentance, baptism, and infilling of the Spirit–were taught as
essential by the apostles, and in this matter as in others they did not
compromise the place and role of grace and faith. They understood as we
should that God’s grace is for whosoever will, and faith without obedience
is not true faith.
Is faith in Jesus Christ necessary for salvation? The Bible says yes (John
3:16; 20:31; Acts 8:37; 10:43).
Is repentance essential for salvation? The Bible again answers yes (Luke
13:1-5; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30).
Is water baptism essential to salvation? Again the Bible answers yes
(Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12-16, 36-39; 9:18 with 22:16;
10:48; 19:5; Galatians 3:27; Titus 3:5: I Peter 3:21).
Is the infilling of the Spirit essential? The Bible responds with a
definite yes (John 7:37-39; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-4, 16-18, 33, 38-39; 8:15-
17; 10:44-47; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11; I Corinthians 12:13: Galatians 3:3,
If the apostles Peter. John, Paul, and the others were permitted by God to
visit this century, would they preach Jesus and Him crucified for our sins?
Would they command people to repent of their sins and turn to God? Would
they baptize those who believe and repent in the name of Jesus Christ?
Would they pray for and with people to receive the Holy Ghost with the sign
of speaking in tongues?
Yes they would, for they would not change the gospel message they preached
and practiced in the Book of Acts. They knew that they had received the
plan of salvation from God. and it was the only plan they preached and
practiced. They also knew that to preach any other gospel that what
they had preached would invite the curse of God. Thus to them, and to us,
there is no other gospel.
(The above material appeared in the June 1992 issue of the Pentecostal
Christian Information Network