Video available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ScQ1pKOUvc
Some inside the cult of William Branham do not celebrate Christmas. This was always strange to me – we have several days to celebrate other men from days gone by, but the one day that so many in the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is taken away.
There are arguments that Christmas day falls on a different month, or that it descended from pagan worship of the sun god – but then the entire cult openly worshipped the sun god as the “capstone of the pyramid,” which was the “Eye of Ra.” It’s a paradox!
For those that did celebrate Christmas, and have all the fond memories of your childhood days ripping through paper with bright-eyed excitement, picture this setting:
Imagine a father sitting all of his children down in front of the presents. Imagine the stacks of boxes, wrapped in pretty paper with ribbons and bows, and the eagerly waiting children ready to rip open.
Imagine those same children tearing through their packages, but when it came time for them to grasp the gift that was hidden behind the paper, the father immediately stops them.
In a harsh tone, the father says: “Alright, you’ve seen the gifts. But now you have to earn them! I will give you a set of steps to follow, and once you have completed your tasks, you may have the presents.”
I know some of you are thinking that this father is cruel. Many of you are picturing those same children, teary-eyed, with disappointed faces and little hearts sinking to their stomach.
Why? Because this is NOT the way a father loves his children. A gift is a gift – not something to be earned. It is something given with love, not some achievement for hard-earned favor.
A loving father would give to his children with excitement to watch how happy they are as they receive their gifts. It wouldn’t matter what the child has done, how good or bad the child had been the day before, or even how they had behaved for the last several years. A loving father gives gifts because he loves the child.
Yet all of the branches extending from the Azusa Street Revival – including the cult of William Branham – turns the greatest Gift from the greatest Father into an achievement that must be earned rather than a Gift from a Father to His children: The gift of the Holy Spirit.
I remember vividly watching others who studied this great mystery – whether or not they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. How that men and women I’d known for years were searching to find this “mystery,” crying at altars like they had lost their best friends.
And I’m not talking about sinners who were waiting to receive Christ into their hearts – these were people who had professed Christianity, turned their hearts over to the Lord, and had been serving God faithfully as long as I had known them.
The Holy Spirit was a mournful thing. Since this “Gift” was described as more of an “achievement,” these poor people were on pins and needles trying to decide whether or not they had “achieved” the gift!
William Branham taught a rigid set of steps that must be followed to achieve this great feat. And though many are taught that this came by “divine revelation” to this man who claimed to have been a prophet, it was no new revelation. This was the same thing taught by those fresh from Azusa Street. It was the thing that Charles Price taught at the church William Branham frequented in California. It was the same thing that William Seymour taught, and spread through all of the Pentecostal churches.
Since 1908, the Pentecostal Holiness Church taught “justification by faith, sanctification, and then baptism of the Holy Spirit.” This Pentecostal root grew to its many branches, and with each growth, pushed the Holy Spirit further and further out of reach as a more difficult “achievement.”
The Pentecostal movement took the very ending of Mark 16, the Commission from Christ. Their focal point was the “signs and wonders,” but when you read the entire ending of the chapter, it is very clear that the entire movement did not fully study the chapter.
Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Notice the first half of this portion of scripture – it is dealing with salvation BEFORE describing the gifts. Those that believe in Jesus Christ are saved, those that do not believe will be condemned.
The second half of this section describes the signs that follow, but just as so many other scriptures have been “snipped” to focus on a single verse or phrase, this one is no different:
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
Mark 16: 14-19.
The core of the Penticostal movement believes that “speaking in tongues” is evidence of the Holy Spirit. But what about the serpents or the healing?
The Branham cult believes their false prophet is “vindicated” because of the “healing.” But what about the tongues or the serpents?
There are several snake-handling churches in the back-woods of Kentucky and Tennessee, and they believe that just because they are lucky enough to hold a snake and not be bitten, they have evidence of the Holy Spirit. But what about the tongues or the healing?
The problem is that they have woven the “signs” into the “Gift,” and turned the “Gift” into an achievement. If you are lucky enough to get a “sign,” then you are lucky enough to get the “Gift.”
But not everyone is given the same gift of the spirit. And while these are signs that Christianity is alive and real, there is absolutely NO scripture that says that these are signs that you have the Holy Spirit.
It is ironic that the Pentecostal movement and all of its branches chose this passage to create core doctrinal beliefs. Most of the branches of that movement believe in either a Oneness Godhead or a Modalist Godhead.
Yet verse 19 says that Jesus was taken up to heaven and sat at the RIGHT HAND OF GOD! If Jesus Christ of the New Testament was Jehovah of the Old Testament like the Jehovah’s witnesses taught and influenced, then how can this be? Did Jesus sit at the “right hand” of Jesus?
You’ll notice that in each of the many times William Branham taught this fundamental Pentecostal doctrine, that particular verse was omitted. We can’t have that verse! It conflicts with the rest of my teaching!
It’s interesting to me having studied the Azusa Street revival and the influence the Pentecostals on Christianity. Many today still hang onto those beliefs, but in so many ways, the Pentecostal movement reminds me of the Corinthians.
In Corinth, the early church was “hung up” on these gifts and who could perform them. Just like the Pentecostals, the Corinthians believed that the Holy Spirit was an “achievement.”
All throughout his letters to Corinth, Paul was reprimanding them for allowing themselves to setup a “super apostle,” or focusing on a gift when they should have been focusing on love for their fellow man. And like these cults and churches that branched out from the Pentecostal roots, they were unsure whether or not they had received the Holy Spirit.
When I left the Branham cult, my grandfather (the pastor of the Jeffersonville Branham Tabernacle) called to invite me to an “excommunication party.” I had not attended that church for quite some time, and this party really did not sound like it would be any fun. When I refused, my family was threatened, making me realize that my choice in not going there was fully justified.
But one of the things he asked me was comical. He had overheard that I was going to a Baptist church, and so he thought he would handcuff me with scripture.
“How do they baptize?” he asked. Of course, he knew that most (if not all) Baptists speak the words Jesus commanded, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But to the Oneness or Modalist Pentecostal branches, this prevents one of the steps required in meeting your achievements to receive the “Gift” of the Holy Spirit. (I use the word “Gift” loosely there, because if you have to physically, mentally, or spiritually do anything yourself other than simply believe in Jesus Christ to receive the Holy Spirit, then it no longer can be called a “Gift.” It is an “achievement.”
They take a scripture from Acts out of context, Acts 2:38:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The emphasis is placed on the words spoken – rather than the confession of faith. Just because this verse says “Jesus Christ,” the Pentecostals teach that you will never receive the Holy Spirit unless you use this as an incantation. And the words are different than the words Jesus Christ said in Matthew.
So as my grandfather tried to slap the spiritual handcuffs on me with this question, I asked him about those that had ALREADY received the Holy Spirit later in the same book, Acts 10, and wanted to be baptized as a confession of their faith:
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
But this is yet another verse that you won’t hear preached very much in the cult churches. It defies their fundamental doctrine – the Holy Spirit fell on the people by hearing the WORD. Not by works, not by earning the gift, not by being baptized as a pastor speaks an incantation – they received the Holy Spirit by HEARING THE WORD.
You know, after bringing this up to him, I was a little dumbfounded. He is a pastor for who knows how many years, sitting in a church on the platform as some guy in the back room presses the “play” button on a sermon from 1947 to 1965. Literally all this man has to do in order to receive his paycheck is to read his Bible and tell some guy when to press “play.” And he had no answer!
Not picking on my grandfather. It is not his fault – he fell into the same trap that all the other cult pastors fell into. They trusted this man, William Branham, to have told them the truth about their Bibles. Then, all they had to do from there on out was to quote the man, William Branham. Not their Bibles – that’s too much work. It’s much easier to quote this guy who already had all the answers.
After seeing how many times William Branham lied about his past and the “supernatural” stories, it’s no wonder they were led astray. If the guy couldn’t be honest about himself, how could he possibly be honest about the Bible?
If you were once enslaved by the cult of William Branham or any of the other branches that grew from the Azusa Street revival, I highly recommend that you read Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. There are so many things you will find in there that apply to your situation. In fact, if you change the names to fit your situation, it would sound like Paul is speaking directly to YOU!
This Gift from the Heavenly Father that Jesus said that He would send, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, is just that: a gift. It is for ALL who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
Ephesians 2:8 says “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”
We need to recognize that it is a Gift and not an “achievement.”
The best way to do this is to read what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 12. He specifically wrote about the “spiritual gifts” because they had placed themselves in the same situation we find from the branches that grew from the Azusa Street revival.
Listen to the beginning of 1 Corinthians 12:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”
I’d like to stop here, and compare this paragraph to the false teaching that came from the Pentecostals. The first point Paul makes is that the Corinthians themselves were sinners. They were pagans who believed that idols – who could not speak – were gods. To those who tried to tell others that they had not “achieved” the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Paul reminded them that it wasn’t that long ago when they served idols that could not speak at all.
The second point Paul makes is that they were led. Jesus said that He was sending a “Helper” (referring to the Holy Spirit), and there are several scriptures describing how the Holy Spirit will lead us to all Truth.
Paul reminds them that they DO NOT curse the name of Jesus Christ. Nobody who has the Spirit of God can do this, and Paul reminds them of that.
But in the same token, Paul says that no one can say that “Jesus is Lord,” except in the Holy Spirit!
So riddle me this: If the Pentecostals are correct, and speaking in tongues is the “achievement,” then are the poor followers in those Pentecostal churches cursing Jesus until they magically get this “achievement?” Or the Branhamites, who claim that “healing” was “vindication” of this prophet – yet they themselves cannot heal – are they cursing God? Those that are stepping into the waters of baptism, making their statement of faith in Jesus Christ by baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, do you REALLY think that they are denying Christ by proclaiming that He is the Son of God? The one that went to the “right hand” of the Father according to Mark 16?
Quite frankly, those people would not darken the doors of the church unless they believed that Jesus Christ was Lord.
And don’t get me wrong, I am not belittling the conversion to Christ that happens once in every Christian’s lifetime. Jesus said that before you can save yourself, you must lose yourself.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:25
After Paul reminds them that they already have the Holy Spirit – those that believe in Jesus Christ – Paul starts talking about the different gifts that are given to the church.
And if you read carefully, you will find that they are not made to create divisions in the church. The gift of healing should not have separated the Branham movement from the Pentecostal root which held fast to speaking in tongues. Both are gifts, yet not everyone will receive the same gift:
Paul says this:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Notice the “gift of faith.” This is something that is not spoken of much in these Pentecostal branches. How many people do you know of that have GREAT faith in Jesus Christ, yet feel like they have not yet received the Gift of the Holy Spirit? (Those that have been falsely taught that the Holy Spirit is some achievement).
Or how many has incredible knowledge or wisdom, and are falsely taught by these cult churches that you must deny your gift of knowledge in order to “accept the prophet by faith?”
Could it be that your gift of knowledge is telling you something about the false prophet and his many failed visions and false teachings? Why do they try to suppress this gift? Paul says that these gifts are from the same Spirit!
These gifts, Paul declares, are given for the common good. These gifts, by the Spirit, are for continual improvement of the church.
Yet this Pentecostal root and its branches have somehow managed to suppress some of these gifts because the Spirit is speaking against false teaching. The Holy Spirit is speaking to hearts and bringing them closer to Christ!
This is like an army facing the enemy, and the general calls out to the troops: “Alright! All of you who aren’t skilled in karate are not battle ready! Just because you know how to shoot a sniper’s rifle or fly an Apache helecoptor doesn’t mean that you have received the “gift of the military!” Get back in there to basic training until you can chop a board in half!”
See how this sounds? It would cause confusion in the army, just as it has in the army of Christians that God has empowered to fight the enemy!
Shouldn’t we be prepared to face the enemy as a finely tuned military force? Shouldn’t we accept the fact that God has given certain people incredible gifts to help strengthen others and prepare them for battle?
Or are you one of the pastors from these cult churches who have taken the gun away from your troops and sent them back to basic training?
The question today is, have you accepted the Gift of the Holy Spirit? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
Or have you been falsely taught that you had to earn this gift by receiving some spiritual gift that was intended for some other person? A gft that you may never receive from God?
Worse, do you think that you must believe that William Branham is a prophet of God – regardless of his many failed visions – before you can receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit? Has this extra-biblical “achievement” been added to your long list of things to do before you are eligible for receiving the Gift?
Have you refused the Gift from God by turning it into an achievement that you have to earn yourself? Have you taken the work that Christ did on the cross and rendered it useless by placing the work in your own hands?
I’ll let you decide: Is this a “Gift”? Or is it an “achievement”?