What Meaneth This?
By Fred J. Foster
Jerusalem was bustling at this particular time. People had thronged it from all over the civilized world, looking forward to this notable feast day. A strange phenomenon was taking place that day as had never happened before on any day of Pentecost. Thousands were pushing into the alleys and narrow streets around a building where the disciples of Jesus were staying. What was this strange thing going on? Were these actually drunk, as some were accusing? As people came closer and could see and hear, “. . .they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (1)
Countless questions such as this have been asked through the centuries concerning the manifestation of God’s Spirit in the lives of believers as they respond to its workings. To understand what the Lord has been doing in this century we must journey back to the New Testament age as recorded in the Book of Acts. To better comprehend the Jesus’ Name, Oneness teaching, and why the United Pentecostal Church is founded upon these beliefs, the history of the early church must be studied.
Any doctrinal concept must be based upon divine Scripture, that is, if the Bible is believed to be the only authoritative manuscript containing the Word of God, and this the United Pentecostal Church unquestionably stands for. It stands to reason, then, that the teachings of any church group today, to be correct, must harmonize with the teachings of the church of the New Testament.
These questions, then, come strongly to the mind searching for New Testament truth. What did they teach? What were their practices relative to baptism in water and the baptism of the Holy Ghost? Are there concrete, Scriptural references to actual happenings in that early age? What did they believe about the Fatherhood of God, the Sonship, and the place of the Holy Spirit? These leading questions are answered very clearly in the Bible, and we shall deal briefly with them in this chapter.
THE EARLY CHURCH BAPTIZED IN THE NAME OF JESUS
On that glorious day of Pentecost, described in part in the opening paragraph of this chapter, about 3,000 souls, hungrily searching for the way in which to be added to Christ’s church, were advised by the Apostle Peter and the eleven others, to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. This is the first account in Scripture of the fulfilling of the commission Jesus had given before He ascended to glory.(2)When the revival broke out in Samaria, following the sign-confirming ministry of Philip, they were baptized with the same formula:
(3) “Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they
might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of
them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)”(4)
Gentiles were also included in the Early Church revival. Cornelius was a Roman centurion who became extremely desirous of the blessings of God. The Apostle Peter visited and preached to Cornelius and his household, and after they had all received the Holy Ghost he asked, “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.” (5)
An enlightening thing is the Apostle Paul’s ministry. He very clearly outlined to us how he received the gospel: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”(6)
How will this apostle, who has not been taught of the others but only by revelation from Jesus Christ
while in “Arabia,” 7 baptize? We follow him to Ephesus, where he is speaking to John the Baptist’s baptized converts: “…John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (8) He not only baptized as the others but he believed in rebaptizing those who had not been baptized in the name of the Lord.” (5)
There is not found one place in the New Testament church where any convert was baptized in any way except in the name of the Lord.
THE EARLY CHURCH SPOKE IN OTHER TONGUE S
The strange phenomenon of speaking in a language never before learned was an intricate part of the first century church. The first account has been mentioned already, as a part of the basis in believing that speaking in tongues should be a part of the Christian experience. (9) One Pentecostal writer said “. . .try to visualize this tremendous spectacle of 120 simultaneously speaking in languages they had never learned. Foreign languages–(Weymouth); other kinds of tongues–(Rotherham); other languages–Emphatic Diaglott). They were overpowered, influenced beyond control by the Holy Spirit, and suddenly became proficient linguists…This experience brought the religion of Christianity out of the realm of the theoretical into the experimental.”(l0)
Klaude Kendrick says, “The second of the Bible events concerns the ministry of Philip in the city of Samaria.” (11) Though the account makes no mention of the tongues phenomenon, 2 Pentecostal writers go to considerable lengths to show that it was one of the mystical manifestations evidenced there. The third New Testament case, which is found in the ninth chapter of Acts, involves the Apostle Paul. Here again actual reference to “tongues” is absent from the narrative, but (13) Pentecostal writers are convinced that Paul’s experience included “speaking with tongues.”‘ (14) The next account given in the Bible is when the Gentiles received the same experience as the Jews at Pentecost. The amazing thing about God is that He is no respector of persons. (15) Jew and Gentile, Greek or Barbarian, wise or unwise, all received the like experience. It was an extremely difficult thing for the Jews to understand, but here at Caesarea in a centurion’s household, God broke down all barriers in receiving the gospel, so far as race is concerned. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them (16) 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.”
Some twenty-five years later, under the ministry of the Apostle Paul in the commercial city of Ephesus, a mighty manifestation was seen among the followers of John the Baptist. He asked them the pertinent question, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (17) They had not heard of such an experience, but after explanation, they accepted the teachings of the gospel and were baptized. When the Apostle laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; they responding with speaking in tongues and prophesying.
In his first Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul devoted almost an entire chapter to the regulation of speaking in tongues. In this letter he thanked God he spoke with tongues more than any of them. (18) He also warned to forbid not to speak with tongues.” (19)
To be a Christian in the early church was to have this thrilling experience with the Lord Jesus.
THE EARLY CHURCH ACKNOWLEDGED JESUS CHRIST AS THEIR GOD
When those important leaders of the first-century church, Peter, Philip and Paul, preached and practiced baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus, they were acknowledging their belief that this was the name of the Godhead. Jesus had said, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” (20) The angel of the Lord had brought this glorious name from heaven for this miraculous child born to a virgin. (21) Jesus had also told them to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and to fulfill this command they, knowing what this name was, baptized the early church in the name of Jesus. (22)
All Jews knew that the Old Testament Scripture taught there was only one God, (23) that there was no God beside Him, and that He declared He knew of no other. God again declared that He was creator of all things, and also that it was He who distributed light and darkness. In addition, He said that unto Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear. They knew He proclaimed Himself to be a just God and a Saviour, there being none beside Him.
With this knowledge, the Jews knew that if anyone suddenly appeared with these characteristics it had to be the Lord of the Old Covenant, because there was no other. There were no equal or lesser important deities or persons, because He had said that His glory would not be given to another. (24)
So when Jesus Christ appeared on the scene of history, He told Philip and the others with him, “. . he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” (25) This is why the Apostle Paul, writing to
the Corinthians, said, “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” (26) Again, for the same reason, the Gospel writer John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (27) And again, as was mentioned in chapter one, Paul said, “God was manifest in the flesh…preached unto the Gentiles….” (28)
Now notice that all the things God declared about Himself in our second paragraph, the New Testament says belongs to Jesus Christ. He is called God by Thomas; (29) John and Paul attribute creation to Him; (30) Paul wrote, “. . .that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, . . .and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (31) To the young preacher Titus was written, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (32)
This study of deity, along with much other Scripture, leads us naturally to several conclusions about the beliefs of the early Christians:
(1) The God of the Old Testament and Christ of the New are one and the same person, and not two separate and distinct persons. That is why Paul wrote of Christ, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.” (33) Jesus himself said, “I and my Father are one.” (34)
(2) Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (35) Paul said, “There is…one Spirit.” (36) So a logical deduction tells us that the Father and the Holy Spirit are one and the same.
(3) When the decision was made for the condescension, God veiled Himself in human flesh, born of the virgin Mary. In so doing, He became a God-man, with the flesh being the Son of God which housed God the Father within. This was the final theophany of God, for Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. (37) We see the invisible God as we behold Him reflected through the Lord Jesus Christ.
(4) There is one God who has manifested Himself in three ways: Father in creation, Son in His redemptive plan, and Holy Spirit in His dealings with humanity.
(5) Let us conclude by saying that the doctrine of the Trinity is never mentioned in Scripture, neither are the terms God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It is illogical to believe in the Trinitarian view, for even foremost theologians of that school of thought ask: “How could it be otherwise than difficult of comprehension?” (33) Another says, “It is a deep mystery that cannot be fathomed by the finite mind, but must be believed, even though it cannot be thoroughly understood.” (39) Again another says, “It is very difficult to understand and is an intellectual puzzle.” (40)
The Early Church hinted at nothing like the teaching of the Trinity, but simply believed that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh, and that He was God, not because a second person in the Godhead came to earth, but because God the Father, the only God in existence, came to earth, and was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.
PENTECOST THROUGH THE AGES
It would be well in a dissertation such as this to remark somewhat about the intervening years between the first and the twentieth centuries. Much history has been written about the prominent church of the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church, but very little has been said about the heretics and resistance movements of the same period. It is interesting, yet extremely pathetic, to note that very little is known about these groups of people. Suppressed, ostracized and persecuted greatly, the things they stood for have been, as a whole, conveniently “misplaced,” so far as history is concerned. As E. G. Moyer has already said, it is indeed strange that much of the records of so-called false teachings cannot be produced. (41) It seems logical to believe that, with so much controversy between the accepted church and its opponents, there would be much more written on the doctrinal views of the heretics. Only one conclusion can be drawn, and that leads us to believe that the church which kept the Bible a closed book also kept the beliefs of its opponents suppressed, so far as possible.
J. L. Hurlbut has said, “With regard to these sects and so-called heresies, one difficulty in understanding them arises from the fact that. . .their own writings have perished: and we are dependent for our views upon those who wrote against them, and were undoubtedly prejudiced. Suppose, for example, that the Methodist as a denomination had passed out of existence with all their literature; and a thousand years afterward, scholars, should attempt to ascertain their teachings out of books and pamphlets written against John Wesley in the eighteenth century, what wrong conclusions would be reached, and what a distorted portrait of Methodism would be presented.” (42)
It is not to be understood, though the feeling exists, that all heretics stood for Biblical truth. On the contrary, probably much was false teaching. But rays of light, whereby we can catch glimpses through the ages, let us know that many so-called heretics were actually children of God, standing for Bible truths and experiences they were willing to die for.
Let us now endeavor to catch a glimpse of some happenings akin to the teachings and practices of the New Testament church which will be of great interest to this history.
(1) Water Baptism in the Name of the Lord. It was said, “The formula of baptism, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which is cited as the traditional one by Justin Martyr, is perhaps not the oldest; but the older is perhaps the shorter formula which refers to Christ.” (43) Williston Walker says, “This appears in the Trinitarian baptismal formula, which was displacing the older baptism in the name of Christ.” (44) Mention is made throughout history of some who baptized in the name of Christ as late as the eighth century, although they were branded as heretics and died for the truth they
boldly upheld.” (45)
It is distinctly seen that these noted authors and compilers of history, not looking through the eyes of a biased theologian, readily agree that the apostolic formula in baptism was “the name of Jesus.” Sad as it is that very little of the teachings of the “heretics” has been preserved, it is gratifying that these references above have spoken on this tremendous subject. It is noticeable, though, that the later editions of some encyclopedias are dropping the references to the Jesus’ name formula in baptism. It causes one to wonder if a modern suppression of truth concerning the practices of the early church is now going on.
(2) The Oneness of God. H. G. Wells, speaking of the third and fourth centuries, said, “The chief views that the historian notices are those of the Arians, the Sabellians, and the Trinitarians. The Arians taught that Christ was less than God. The Sabellians taught that he was a mode or aspect of God–God was Creator, Saviour and Comforter, just as one man may be father, trustee and guest; the Trinitarians, of whom Athanasius was the great leader, taught that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were three distinct Persons, but one God. The latter mystery seems to the writer, he must confess, a disastrous ebullition of the human mind entirely inconsistent with the main account of Jesus preserved for us in the Gospel.” (46)
The teaching of the Oneness of God has pervaded the centuries, as has been written by theologians in an endeavor to refute it. “Other writers, laying stress on the unity of God, seemed in danger of forgetting the distinction of persons. This error is commonly known as Sabellianism, from Bishop Sabellius who taught that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are simply three aspects or manifestations of God. This error has appeared many times in the history of the church and is current today.” (47)
(3) Speaking in Tongues. The speaking in tongues phenomenon has also been in existence in almost any age. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Origen, and Augustine all wrote of this strange happening in their particular era. Two groups, the Albigenses and the Waldenses, grew to prominence in France during the latter part of the twelfth century. “Both groups repudiated much of the accepted Roman Catholic doctrine. They believed and practiced the Spirit-filled life, with speaking in tongues being one of their outstanding characteristics.” (48) In the year 1208, Pope Innocent III had the Albigenses completely slaughtered. Many Catholics were also killed in making sure all Albigenses were extirpated.
A great number of the Waldensians escaped a similar fate by fleeing into the valleys of northern Italy, where they survived several centuries of persecution. In 1458, they merged with the Moravians, another Spirit-filled people.
(4) Revival in Wales. Quoting F. N. Peloubet, who said, “A revival in Wales in the late nineteenth century caused the Yorkshire Post to say: ‘Young Welshmen and woman who know little or no Welsh…now under the influence of revival, voluntarily take part in public prayer–but the language employed is almost invaribly not the familiar English, but the unknown, or supposed to be unknown, Welsh Biblical phrases which they never used before.'”(49)
(5) Girl’s School in India. Quoting the same source: “Mr. William T. Ellis, a newspaperman, wrote regarding a visit to India, where Pandita Ramabai had a well-known school for girls: ‘I have stumbled upon an extraordinary religious manifestation…I shall simply narrate, soberly and consecutively, what I have seen and heard concerning this baptism with fire and pouring out of the gift of tongues, whereby ignorant Hindu girls speak in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, English, and other languages as yet unidentified.'”
Many others received the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking in tongues in the nineteenth century. Because it was an uncommon happening, and there was no theological emphasis upon it, they did not know exactly what they had received, only that it was a thrilling experience.
After the turn of the century, when God began pouring out His Spirit around the world in a mighty “end-day” deluge, and it was seen in the light of Biblical truth that speaking in tongues accompanied the Holy Ghost baptism of the New Testament church, it was found that many had been receiving a like experience for several years.
“V. P. Simmons of Frostproof, Florida wrote a tract in which he told of many gracious manifestations of the Spirit that he had seen in New England. He stated, ‘In 1854, Elder Edwin Burnham interpreted the same. The writer knew both of these men of God well, and had often sat under their preaching. They were large men physically, mentally and spiritually.’ He witnessed a revival in New England in 1873, and stated: ‘The talking in tongues, accompanied largely with the gift of healing, was manifested.'” (50)
In the year 1873, Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey went to England. The story of their visit is recorded in a book entitled, “Moody and Sankey in Great Britain,” by Robert Bayd, published in 1875.
“The two workers from America did not receive a very good reception at the beginning. They were invited to Sunderland, but their presence there aroused a good deal of opposition from unsympathetic
ministers. A delegation of young men waited on Mr. Moody and asked him to speak at the Y.M.C.A. He consented, and the Lord began to send a gracious awakening. Mr. Bayd described what he himself witnessed at one meeting. ‘When I got to the rooms of the Y.M.C.A. I found the meeting on fire. The young men were speaking in tongues and prophesying. What did it mean? Only that Moody had been addressing them. Many of the clergy were so opposed to the movement that they turned their backs
upon our poor innocent Y.M.C.A. for the part we took in the work.’ The same story was also published in 1876 by the American Publishing Company, Hartford.”
Mary Woodworth Etter, who became a powerful evangelist in the fledgling Pentecostal movement, in telling of her earlier ministry which began in 1876 in the United Brethren Church, said: “Almost from the beginning of my ministry some spoke in unknown languages, but I did not understand it, and as I was the only leader, I did not have much time to investigate and explain it; but I knew it was of God.” (51)
There is much in the statement of Pascal, who said, “There are two peculiarities in the truths of religion: a divine beauty which renders them lovely, and a holy majesty which makes them venerable.”
(52) And so it has been with the particular truths we are discussing in this history; divinely beautiful and awesome, they have had their dedicated disciples.
Much more could be written on these thrilling subjects and of their pervading the centuries, but sufficient has been said to give a distinct idea of how Biblical truth has been believed, practiced, and died for through the ages. May the winds of memory, blowing off the history of the past, drive some of the consecration and dedication of those courageous people into this latter half of the twentieth century.
1 Acts 2:12
2 Acts 2:37, 41
3 Mark 16:20
4 Acts 8:5, 15, 16
5 Acts 10:47, 48
6 Gal. 1:11, 12
7 Gal. 1:17
8 Acts 19:4, 5
9 Acts 2:1-4
10 F. J. Ewart, “Phenomenon of Pentecost,” p. 14,15
11 Klaude Kendrick, “The Promise Fulfilled” (Gospel Publishing House).
12 Acts 8
13 P. C. Nelson, “A Handbook of Pentecostal Theology, based on the Scriptures and following the lines of the Statement of Fundamental truths, as adopted by the General Council of the Assemblies of God.”
14 Carl Brumback, “What Meaneth This? A Pentecostal Answer to a Pentecostal Question.”
15 Acts 10:3, 4
16 Acts 10:44-46
17 Acts 19:1-6
18 I Cor. 14:18
19 I Cor. 14:39
20 John 5:43
21 Matt. 1:21
22 Matt.28:19; Acts 2:38
23 Isaiah 45
24 Isaiah 42:8
25 John 14:9, 10
26 II. Cor. 5:19
27 John 1:1-14
28 I Timothy 3:16
29 John 20:28
30 John 1:3, 10, Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2
31 Phil. 2:10
32 Titus 2:13
33 Col. 2:9
34 John 10:30
35 John 4:24
36 Eph. 44; I Cor. 12:13
37 Col. 1:15
38 Myer Pearlman, “Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible,” p. 69.
39 William Evans “The Great Doctrines of the Bible,” p. 27
40 Addison H. Leitch, “Interpreting Basic Theology,” p. 22-24.
41 E. G. Moyer, “Truths on Water Baptism,” p. 26.
42 Jesse Lymen Hurlbut, “The Story of the Christian Church,” p. 66.
43 Neanders, “History of the Christian Church,” p. 16 (McClain).
44 Williston Walker, “A History of the Christian Church,” p. 58.
45 S. C. McClain, “Students Handbook of Facts in Church History,” p. 29.
46 H. G. Wells, “The Outline of History,” p. 545.
47 Pearlman, “Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible,” p. 70.
48 S. C. McClain, “Students Handbook of Facts in Church History,” p.
42, 43; J. L. Hurlbut, “The Story of the Christian Church,” p. 141, 142.
49 “Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary,” p. 704.
50 Stanley H. Frodsham, “With Signs Following,” p. 9,10.
51 Carl Brumback, “Suddenly From Heaven,” p. 13.
52 Frezon Edwards, “The New Dictionary of Thoughts,” p. 689.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM 20TH CENTURY PENTECOSTALS AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1980, PAGES 23-39. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY