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Splinter Groups

John Collins08/19/2013

Video available here: http://youtu.be/HTFNHD8fcgM

Around the year 1914, only ten years after the Azusa Street Revival, a group of Pentecostals severed themselves from the original movement to create a division that would later become known as the “Oneness Pentecostals” or the “Apostolic Faith.”   This new Pentecostal denomination of faith disagreed on not only the Godhead, but also upon the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross.

The original movement, spearheaded by Charles Parham and William Seymour, started with the foundation of the Christianity teaching that the Grace of God was sufficient, and that the blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross covers all sin.  Many were accepting of the original movement during the first ten years, and it quickly grew in number and spread. 

From Azusa Street, this looked like the Day of Pentecost from the Bible.  All were of like mind, like faith, and it looked like the power of the Holy Spirit fell directly on the flesh.  They were speaking with new tongues, and those tongues seemed to be on fire for God.

Seeds of division and separation were planted before the movement started.  Followers of John Alexander Dowie from Zion, Illinois were watching as a new movement started drawing more attention in the events leading to the Revival.  When Parham was accused of sodomy and homosexual relations that led to his arrest, the Zion City Herald ran a juicy article describing Parham’s fall to sin.  This sparked a rival for power that was a tug-of-war between Parham and Zion City’s Wilbur Voliva, a battle for leadership that would continue long after Parham had seemingly lost his position as founder of the movement.

Consequently, after only ten years into the movement, that “like mind” and unity of faith that the early followers experienced quickly turned into conflict and opposition.  Those conflicts created division, and caused the Pentecostal faith to splinter like a piece of glass dropping from the sky.

When we hear the term “Oneness Pentecostalism” today, we generally think on terms of the Godhead, specifically the teaching that Jesus of the New Testament was Jehovah of the Old.  We associate this type of Pentecostalism with those that denounce the triune nature of God.

But the divisions created by the followers of the false prophet John Alexander Dowie of Zion City and the followers of the homosexual deviant Charles Fox Parham had much deeper roots.  Parham and Voliva were in a leadership contest, and both battled to make their followers become more “holy” in the eyes of their fellow man.  The doctrinal beliefs that these two men implanted would later become the foundation for the doctrines in the movement teaching that these things made the people more “holy” in the eyes of God – though these divisions were political in nature instead of religious changes of the heart.

The root of the division started with the change of focus.  While most of the Christians in the group placed their focus on Jesus Christ, the movement itself started focusing on the Holy Spirit and the “gifts” that they associated with the Spirit.  These “gifts,” over time, became known as the “evidence of the Holy Spirit,” and without this “evidence,” the leaders of the movement would proclaim that the poor follower’s soul was lost and bound for hell.

Then, within each “splinter group,” these groups splintered off into an even smaller group of people, and again into smaller ones.

The cult of William Branham has numerous groups, none agreeing with each other on doctrine or prophecy.  There is the “Return Ministry” group, those that believe Branham will rise from the dead just as Jesus Christ did – before the resurrection.  There is the “Thunders” groups, those that believe they have the special “mystery” of the Seven Thunders of Revelation.  There are those that believe William Branham was god, and a splinter cell thriving locally that believe that Branham’s son, Joseph, is god.  So many divisions from so many splinter cells – and their original root is not William Branham.  Their roots come from the Azusa Street Revival.  Branham was part of the Apostolic Faith Mission.

Many people do not realize this, but the reason for error was not the works-righteous faith or the signs and wonders.  In the original revival, there were many who still held strictly to Bible teaching.  The underlying reason the movement quickly became a hotbed of division and conflict was because the Apostolic Faith splinter group denied the Word.

Many are familiar with the opening of the book of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was WITH God, and the Word WAS God. He was in the beginning WITH God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. – John 1:1-4

While the words of John proclaim the “Word was WITH God,” and that “He was in the beginning WITH God,” the new breed of Pentecostals began teaching that this “Word” was the “mind” of the Invisible God.  They started teaching that this Word was the “thoughts expressed” by a being that was very similar in nature to a human.

For this doctrine to find growth, the new breed of Apostolic also had to change the nature of Jesus Christ, inventing a “new and different Jesus.”  No longer was the “Word made flesh to dwell among us” in their teaching.  The Christ that the movement invented claimed that Jesus was an incarnation of God, the Father presenting Himself in the form of human flesh.

But when you deny the Word, and deny the Word was WITH God, and deny that the Word WAS God, there will be conflict.

The Gospel according to John describes the very same thing the Book of John lays out plainly for all to read:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was WITH the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father AND with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

--John 1:1-4

 

It is interesting, because if we continue reading into the first chapter, John tells us the very reason that the many splinters of the Pentecostal faith could never fellowship with one another.

These new Apostolic Pentecostals started proclaiming the many “sins” that the other Pentecostals had in their lives, from the way they dressed to the things they enjoyed.  They started teaching that they were better than the other splinter groups, because they did not have this sin.

John tells us that if we do must walk in the true light of the Word, Jesus Christ, if we want to have true fellowship.  And that if we say that we do not have sin, we have just made that Word a liar:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  – John 1:7-10

In fact, if we continue reading the Book of John, we find that the new splinter groups placed themselves directly under sin when they denied that Jesus Christ was the Son of God for their Oneness teaching.  John says that anyone who denies that Jesus was the Son of God cannot overcome:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

--1 John 5:1-5

That Son, remember, was the Word.  The Word that was WITH God, and the Word that WAS God. 

John makes it very clear, driving the point home that there are Three – not One.  He compares the Three in heaven with the representation of those Three here on earth

For there are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

 

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.  – John 5:7-8

The splinter groups that follow the Oneness teaching have denied the first part of these two points.  If we were to re-write the words of the scriptures according to their faith, it would be something like this:

For there is only ONE that bears record in heaven, Oneness god.  And Oneness god is the ONLY one.

But there is a second half to this statement, remember?  There are Three that bear witness in heaven, but there are also three that bear witness on earth.  Not only did they deny the Three in heaven, but by placing their “evidence” of the Holy Spirit on these “gifts,” they have denied the three here on earth. 

John does say that the Spirit bears record here on earth.  That part is correct.  But there are three, remember?  We can’t forget the blood!  We can’t forget the water!

Our baptism is the outward expression of our faith in Jesus Christ, the Word.  And that Word was made manifest and died on the cross for our sins.  There is nothing that we ourselves can do to become more “holy,” He has already done it for us!

Paul says: For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God  - Ephesians 2:8 

Many have asked me, what harm is there in believing this Oneness Pentecostal faith that was created by the political agendas between the followers of a false prophet and the followers of a homosexual deviant.  Because the god they serve is named “Jesus,” they ask “What does it hurt you to believe it anyway?”

Those were the exact words spoken to me when I asked the very first question regarding failed prophecy to the pastor at the Branham Tabernacle in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  As this pastor was excommunicating me, shunning me before others could find out they were following a man proclaiming to be a “prophet” who had failed prophecy, he asked that question:  “What does it hurt you to believe it anyway?”

I wish that I had been in a home that was centered around the Word of God, the Word that was WITH God and the Word that WAS God.  I wish I had studied the Word, instead of the words of a false prophet. 

Had I been filled with the Word, I would have simply read the next paragraph of this chapter from John 5:

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.  Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  

Ask yourselves:  Which is more important?  The Word?  Or faith in your “splinter group?”


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