By David K. Bernard
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. Titus 1:9
True and False Doctrine
Some Christians are hesitant to speak of doctrine, for it seems to them to imply sectarianism. Some have even gone so far as to say that doctrine is unimportant. But the word doctrine simply means “teaching.” And the practice of Christianity cannot be accomplishes apart from teaching.
Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). It is God Himself who has placed teachers in the church (I Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). A teacher, by definition, imparts doctrine.
There is such a thing as true doctrine, that is, teaching which is faithful to the Scriptures (I Timothy 4:16; II Timothy 3:15-16). And there is false doctrine, or teaching that is not faithful to the Scriptures (I Timothy 4:1; II Peter 3:16).
Sources of Doctrine
It is obvious that there are many conflicting doctrines taught in Christendom today. How can this be since all claim to be right? One of the basic reasons for doctrinal variation is differing opinions as to legitimate sources of doctrine.
Tradition. Some denominations teach that church tradition is a legitimate source of doctrine. That is, if it can be proven that the church has held to a certain teaching for centuries, and especially if that teaching has the authority of a church council or creed, it is accepted as true.
Religious scholars admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Bible, but many church organizations accept this doctrine as true on the claim that it has the tradition of the church behind it. (See Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God—A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972].)
Since the Bible declares that we must teach “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1) and that true doctrine is necessary to salvation (I Timothy 4:16), we cannot be content with doctrine that has no scriptural authority. Every tradition must be examined by the Word of God to determine the accuracy or error of the tradition.
Private revelation. Some religious movements embrace “revelations” received by their founders. In these cases the “revelations” are thought to be at least equal to or even exceed the authority of Scripture.
These “revelations” take on various forms, but usually they include a “prophet” who claims to have divine knowledge beyond the Bible.
The danger of doctrine based on private revelation should be evident. At some point, all of these “revelations” contradict, add to, or apply false meanings to the inspired Word of God. Scriptures are then ignored in favor of the doctrine of the “prophet.”
Scripture. The only trustworthy source of doctrine is the Bible, the Word of God.
The Preamble of the Articles of Faith of the United Pentecostal Church states: “The Bible is the only God-given authority which man possesses; therefore, all doctrine, faith, hope, and all instruction for the church must be based upon, and harmonize with, the Bible.”
We have a strong and absolute commitment to teach as doctrine only what the Bible teaches. We are not interested in teaching more human tradition or extra-biblical revelations.
Jesus asked, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). Christ also showed the vanity of human doctrines when He said, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
On the subject of extra-biblical revelations, Paul said, “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 1:8). Even angelic visitations are to be rejected if the angels proclaim something which contradicts the Word of God.
The seriousness of holding only to the Word of God for authority is seen in Revelation 22:18-19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
To the ancient Israelites, Moses said, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which 1 command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2).
Later, Agur added, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).
The only safe course of action for those who wish to please God is to reject all doctrines which appeal to any authority but the Scripture.
The Apostles’ Doctrine
Concerning the church, Paul said it is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). While Jesus Christ Himself is the basic foundation of the church (I Corinthians 3:11), the apostles and prophets are foundational in that they were the recipients of foundational revelation concerning the church (Ephesians 3:5-6). Therefore, the teaching of the apostles and prophets is fundamental to New Testament truth. To be sure that we are in the church as they were, we must carefully examine and follow their teaching.
The second chapter of the Book of Acts records the founding of the New Testament church. The apostle Peter preached the first message in the church, and it is recorded that “they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:41-42).
The early church continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. If the church today is to be true to the Word of God, it also must continue stedfastly in that same doctrine. It is for this reason that the United Pentecostal Church International is committed to adhering to the doctrine taught by the apostles and prophets of the New Testament.
The believers in the first century felt so strongly about the importance of true doctrine or teaching that they made uncompromising statements under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
- “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (II John 10).
- “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself” (Titus 3:10-11).
- “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (II Timothy 4:3).
- “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
- “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (II Thessalonians 3:14).
What are the doctrines taught by the early church? They are summarized in Hebrews 6:1-2: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment”
There are six elements of the doctrine of Christ:
- Laying on of hands
- Resurrection of the dead
- Eternal judgment
Repentance. The word repent comes from a Greek word which signifies “to have a change of heart, mind, and purpose.” The person who repents of his dead works changes his mind about sin and about God. This change affects his way of living.
Repentance does not mean that a person will never sin again. He does not become infallible. But it does mean that he has changed the direction of his life. If he fails, he is to confess his sin to God and return to the right path.
Repentance is essential to salvation (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; II Peter 3:9). As a result, the message of repentance was on the lips of every New Testament preacher:
- John the Baptist preached repentance (Matthew 3:1-2).
- Jesus preached repentance (Matthew 4:17).
- The twelve apostles preached repentance (Luke 24:47).
- Peter preached repentance (Acts 2:38).
- Paul preached repentance (Acts 20:21).
Faith. Faith toward God is essential to salvation. The writer of Hebrews said, “Without faith it is im-possible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). Paul declared, “For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus also declared the necessity of faith when He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
Many Scriptures support this clear biblical truth of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. (See Acts 16:31; Romans 10:10; John 1:12.)
Genuine faith, however, is more than just mental agreement that something is true. It is not enough to mentally agree that Jesus lived, or even that He was indeed the Messiah. Genuine faith demonstrates itself by its actions—by obedience to God’s Word. As James said, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). (See also James 2:14, 18-26.) While a person is saved by grace through faith and not by works, if he really believes on Jesus Christ, he will obey His words.
Baptisms. It is significant that this principle of the doctrine of Christ is called the “doctrine of baptisms” rather than the doctrine of “baptism.” The two baptisms that relate to salvation are water baptism and Spirit baptism.
Water baptism is an integral part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). As we have already seen, Jesus listed both belief and baptism as essential to salvation (Mark 16:16).
It should be no surprise, then, that on the day of the birth of the church, the apostle Peter responded to the question from the crowd, “What shall we do?” with these words: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
There are many reasons that water baptism is to be administered in the name of Jesus Christ. Since water baptism is “for the remission of sins” and since the name of Jesus is the only name that saves from sin (Acts 4:12), it is needful for the name of Jesus to be spoken in water baptism. (See Matthew 1:21; Luke 24:47.)
Another reason water baptism is to be performed in the name of Jesus Christ is that baptism identifies the person with Christ (Romans 6:3-4). Moreover, baptism is the act of putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27). From the record in the Book of Acts and the epistles it is evident that the early church administered water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:11-12).
Some have wondered if Peter’s command to baptize in the name of Jesus Christ was a contradiction to Jesus’ command to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19). But we should not suppose that the early church disobeyed the command of our Lord. Moreover, Peter had been given the keys to the kingdom by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:19). We must assume that no contradiction exists between what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 and what Peter said in Acts 2:38. Indeed, Peter’s message must be viewed as fulfilling the command of Jesus.
Jesus said we are to baptize in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. We know that the name of the Son is Jesus (Matthew 1:21). The word “son” is not a name; it is a title showing relationship.
Neither is the word father a name. It is also a title of relationship. What is the name of the Father? Jesus said, “I am come in my Father’s name” (John 5:43). Indeed, Jesus received His name by inheritance (Hebrews 1:4). Actually, the name “Jesus” is simply a transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which means “Jehovah-Savior.”
The term “Holy Ghost” also forms a title. The word ghost simply means “spirit,” while the word holy tells us the kind of spirit. In this case, it is the Spirit of God Himself. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). There is but one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4). We know that the Spirit of God would not have a name different from that of God Himself. This is borne out by the words of Jesus Himself: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name . . . ” (John 14:26). Just as Jesus came in His Father’s name, so the Holy Spirit is identified with the name of Jesus.
There is, therefore, no disagreement between the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 and that of Peter in Acts 2:38. Both referred to the single name—the name of Jesus—that is to be used in water baptism.
Another “baptism” in the doctrine of Christ is the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In his ministry as forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost (Mark 1:8). During Jesus’ last appearance to His disciples before His ascension, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:4-8).
The Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born (Acts 2:1-4). The gift or baptism of the Holy Ghost was the expected experience of all converts: Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15), and former followers of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-6).
Peter said in his message on the first day of the church that those who repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus would “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). The universal nature of this promise is seen in the last part of his statement; “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord
52 our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
It should be carefully noted that a sign from God Himself confirmed that the believers had received the Holy Ghost: they spoke in languages they had never learned, praising and glorifying God. This had been predicted by Jesus, who said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe … they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). The word tongues means “languages.” This was a clear sign which could not be mistaken. When the Holy Spirit caused a believer to speak in a language he did not know with his natural mind, it was the sign of the miracle of the new birth (Acts 2:4).
Today, just as in the New Testament, believers speak with new tongues when they receive the Holy Ghost and enter into the body of Christ.
Laying on of hands. Another principle of the doctrine of Christ is the laying on of hands. By this means, healing is ministered to the sick (Mark 16:18) and specific gifts of God are confirmed (II Timothy 1:6). The latter is practiced with great carefulness (I Timothy 5:22). The laying on of hands in confirmation of the gifts of God is of no value unless God has actually conferred the gifts. (See I Timothy 1:18.)
The resurrection of the dead. As Paul wrote, the resurrection of the dead is an essential doctrine of Christianity. “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (I Corinthians 15:12-14). (See also I Corinthians 15:4, 15-23.)
Eternal judgment. After the resurrection of the dead, all shall stand before God for judgment (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).
The church will be raptured (caught up) to be with Christ at His appearance (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). It appears that following the resurrection and translation of saints when Jesus descends from heaven, a period of seven years relating to the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27; I Corinthians 15:23; I Thessalonians 4:13-18) will fulfill God’s plan for Israel. Then the tribulation saints will be raised at the end of that period (Revelation 20:4-5), followed by the Millennium, a period of one thousand years of peace on earth (Revelation 20:1-3, 6-7). All the dead, both small and great, will stand before the Great White Throne for the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). All whose names are not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire.
The United Pentecostal Church International believes that the Bible is the final authority. It endeavors to teach and live in accordance with the doctrine of the apostles, as shown in the New Testament.
We believe in the unity of the Scriptures, that the Word of God does not contradict itself. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
We believe in the unity of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not contradict the Bible. Instead, the Holy Spirit will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
We believe in the unity of the faith. There is but one faith (Ephesians 4:5), and those who walk in the light (I John 1:7) will come to the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:13).
We believe the church must teach the doctrine of Christ as taught by the apostles and prophets, and this includes the doctrines of repentance, faith toward God, the baptism of water and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
We invite you to join with us as we seek to follow Jesus, who is the “true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).
Test Your Knowledge
- What does the word doctrine mean?
- What three sources of doctrine did we discuss in this chapter?
- What are the six elements of the doctrine of Christ?
- What does the word repent signify?
- What two baptisms are included in the “doctrine of baptisms”?
- What does the name Jesus mean?
Apply Your Knowledge
The only practical way a person can apply his knowledge of the true faith is to obey the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Do you have faith in Christ? Have you repented of your sins? Have you been baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ? Have you received the Holy Ghost, with the initial evidence of speaking with tongues?
Expand Your Knowledge
J Mark Jordan has written an excellent book, Measures of Our Faith (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1987). A survey of major Bible doctrines, this book will help the student grasp what the Bible itself has to say about salvation, faith, repentance, water baptism, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and several other important topics.
It would be profitable to read this book as a study help, marking the verses in the Bible to which it refers.
This article “The True Faith” was excerpted from: Meet the United Pentecostal Church International by David Bernard, J. L. Hall, C. A. Brewer, T. M. Jackson, O. D. Buford, Edwin Judd, Dan Butler, Ralph Reynolds, Gary Erickson, & Dan Segraves.
This information is most likely copyrighted and should be used for personal study purposes only.