By Jason Barker
Founder: Frank Ewart
Founding Date: 1913
Structure: Numerous denominations and independent churches.
Official Publications: Harvestime radio program, The New
Birth, The Oneness of God.
Unique Terms: Apostolic, Jesus Only, Jesus Name baptism, prophecy
wheel, emphasis on Acts 2:38.
Groups: United Pentecostal Church International, Apostolic World
Christian Federation, Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, Church of the
Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Pentecostal Assemblies of the
The founding date of the Oneness Pentecostal movement can be traced to
a specific event: a revival meeting in Los Angeles on April 15, 1913. The
culmination of the meeting occurred when Canadian revivalist R.E. McAlister
baptized converts not according to the Trinitarian formula of the historic
Christian Church, but in the name of Jesus only.1
While many at the meeting were shocked by this action, the burgeoning evangelist
Frank Ewart spent many hours with McAlister following the service and was
converted to the practice. According to many Oneness Pentecostals, McAlister
taught Ewart that baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as stated
in Acts 2:38,2 was the fulfillment of
the Trinitarian creed in Matthew 28:19.3
The passage from Matthew is fulfilled because Jesus, the Son, is simply
the ultimate expression of the monotheistic God (rather than the Son being
a distinct Person within the Trinitarian Godhead).
The next significant date in the development of the movement occurred
exactly two years later, on April 15, 1915, when Ewart gave his first sermon
on Acts 2:38. David Reed believes that, despite the claims of Oneness Pentecostals
that Ewart preached the message given to him by McCalister, Ewart did not
actually develop his modalistic theology until after this sermon.4
Nonetheless, the approximate date for the development of Ewart's teaching
regarding the necessity of baptism in the name of Jesus only can be traced
to this period.
Also on this date, Ewart rebaptized supporter Glenn A. Cook according
to the Jesus only formula; Cook then rebaptized Ewart.5
This was the beginning of the rebaptism of thousands of Pentecostals. The
Oneness movement quickly spread through Pentecostal churches, particularly
the Assemblies of God. The AG debated the issue of baptism in Jesus' name
at their 1915 general assembly, and in 1916 defeated the movement in their
denomination by requiring adherence to Trinitarian theology in the Statement
of Fundamental Truths.6 156 ministers
subsequently left the AG to form an independent Oneness denomination. In
January, 1918, the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies merged
with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, a denomination affiliated
with the original Pentecostal revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles.7
A particularly significant event in the history of the Oneness Pentecostal
movement occurred in 1945, when the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated, merged
with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ to form the United Pentecostal
Church International. Beginning with 617 churches in 1946, the UPCI currently
has 25,283 churches with a membership of over 2.6 million.8
Numerous individuals who are accepted within mainstream Evangelicalism
are affiliated with Oneness Pentecostalism. The Christian musical trio
Phillips, Craig, and Dean are all ministers in the UPCI. T.D. Jakes has
roots in the Oneness Pentecostal movement,9
and his doctrinal statement currently proclaims his belief in three "dimensions"
or "manifestations" of the one God;10
not surprisingly, doctrine is one of the two areas with which people typically
express disagreement with Jakes.11 Also,
the popular worship choruses "Holy Ground" and "In the Presence of Jehovah"
were written by UPC songwriter Geron Davis.12
In contrast to this popularity, Steve Winter, an allegedly defrocked
Oneness Pentecostal pastor,13 is a particularly
unpopular representative of Oneness Pentecostalism. He refers to both mainstream
Christians and other Oneness Pentecostals on the Internet as "false Christian
scum," and runs a web site from which he charges Christians with adhering
to "sub canine morals."14 The extremity
of his behavior motivated Oneness apologist Mark Bassett to tell him, "You
imbecile.YOU [have] habitually and regularly been involved in the disemination
[sic] of inflamatory [sic] and defamatory material. matter [sic] of fact,
this IS your universal reputation, in spite of the fact that you cranked
a "Rev" in front of your name by personal whim."15
One of the two most distinguishing beliefs and practices within Oneness
Pentecostalism (along with Jesus Only baptism - see below) is modalism.
Oneness Pentecostals deny the Trinity, believing instead that the monotheistic
God simply "manifests" Himself in the offices or roles of the members of
the Trinity. For example, one statement of Oneness beliefs claims:
God is absolutely one, with no distinction of persons. (Deuteronomy
6:4; Isaiah 44:8; 45:5-6, 21-23; 46:9 Romans 3:30; Galatians 3:20; James
2:19). In order to save sinful humanity, God provided a sinless Man as
a sacrifice of atonement - Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In begetting the
Son and in relating to humanity, God is the Father. In working to transform
and empower human lives, God is the Holy Spirit. Thus, for our salvation,
God has revealed Himself as Father (in parental relationship to humanity),
in His Son (in human flesh), and as the Holy Spirit (in spiritual action).
(Malachi 2:10; Luke 1:35; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 1 Timothy 2:5).16
David K. Bernard, one of the most significant Oneness apologists, elaborates:
"The term 'God the Father' is biblical and refers to God Himself.[The Bible]
also clearly teaches that Jesus is the one Father. The Spirit that dwelt
in the Son of God was none other than the Father."17
In other words, the Godhead does not consist of three distinct Persons
with one substance. Instead, the single Person performs various roles to
which He assigns the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When the monotheistic
God acts as the Creator, He is performing as the Father. When He provided
the atoning sacrifice to enable humans to be saved, He was performing as
the Son. Finally, when He works to transform redeemed humans, He is performing
as the Holy Spirit.
Theophilus of Antioch, a second-century Christian, is widely recognized
(according to available evidence) as the first individual to use the word
"Trinity" in explaining the biblical teachings about God.18
The lack of earlier documentary evidence for the word "Trinity" leads many
Oneness Pentecostals to assume that "power hungry bishops" in the early
conciliar period devised the doctrine in order to accommodate Greco-Roman
traditions.19 They allege that the doctrine
was developed further at the Council of Nicaea to accommodate the combined
theological and political aspirations of Emperor Constantine.20
This belief system displays three misunderstandings: a misunderstanding
of the bases for conciliar proclamations, a misunderstanding of the origins
of modalism, and a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches regarding
the Trinity. Properly understanding all three points is vital for accurate
Conciliar Proclamations: Many Christians inaccurately believe
that the seven Ecumenical Councils of the early Church were occasions on
which new doctrine was developed. Instead, the councils clarified the consensus
fidelium (consensus of the faithful, or the "mind of the Church"), and
defended it from heretical attacks. For example, the Council of Nicaea
(325 A.D.) did not "decide" that Jesus Christ is of the same substance
as the Father. Similarly, the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) did
not "decide" that the Holy Spirit is also God. Instead, these councils,
in reaction to heresies afflicting the Church at the time, clarified the
biblical teachings for the faithful by creating pronouncements that would
teach the biblical doctrines in ways that could be easily understood by
the Church. Thus, the Nicene Creed was written at the Council of Nicaea
in order to clearly promote the core doctrines of Christianity (including
the belief that Jesus Christ is a distinct Person who is of one substance
with the Father).
Modalism: The doctrine of the Godhead taught by Oneness Pentecostals,
rather than having its roots in the Bible, can instead be traced to the
heresy of modalism taught in the third century by Sabellius (although it
was first taught in 190 by Theodotus of Byzantium). Sabellius taught that
the monotheistic God (called a monad) progressively revealed Himself through
the offices of the Trinity. Significantly, Sabellius was excommunicated
from the Church for his aberrant teachings. The Oneness Pentecostal teaching
that God "manifested" Himself through the offices of Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit comes directly from Sabellius, who even used the term "manifesting"
to define his doctrine.21
Biblical Teaching of the Trinity: A Oneness teacher wrote, "To
say that God is three persons and find substantiation for it in the Scripture
is a work in futility. There is literally nothing in the Bible that supports
God being three persons."22 On the contrary,
however, the passages at the end of this Profile clearly show that
the concept of the Trinity can be found in the Bible. Oneness Pentecostals
are correct in pointing out that the God of the Bible is monotheistic.
Nonetheless, because the Bible also teaches that there is a Person called
God the Father, a Person called God the Son, and a Person called God the
Holy Spirit, it is clear that the Bible teaches that within the nature
of the one God there exist three separate and distinct Persons.
Jesus Only Baptism
As stated in the "History" section of this Profile, the Oneness
Pentecostal movement started when R.E. McAlister baptized respondents at
a revival in the name of Jesus only. Modern Oneness Pentecostals continue
the practice because they believe, as did McAlister, that Acts 2:38 was
the fulfillment of Matthew 28:19. David K. Bernard states, "[Matthew
28:19] teaches the titles of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost identify one
name and therefore one being. The church correctly carried out the instructions
Jesus gave in Mt.28:19 when the apostles used the name of Jesus in water
baptism."23 The UPCI elaborates: "The
word name is used here in the singular, and it is the focal point of the
baptismal command. The titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost describe God's
relationships to humanity and are not the supreme, caving name describe
here, which is Jesus."24 In other words,
the apostles baptized in the name of Jesus alone, and in doing so perfectly
carried out the instructions of the Lord.
Furthermore, Oneness Pentecostals claim that Christians must be baptized
according to the "Jesus Only" formula in order to be saved.25
The "Jesus Only" understanding and practice of baptism is thus tremendously
significant to the spiritual state of Oneness Pentecostals.
The "Jesus Only" formula reflects an egregious decontextualization of
Scripture. For example, examining Matthew 28:18 clearly refutes the Oneness
understanding of Matthew 28:19. Jesus claims in verse 18 that all power
was given to him by the Father; this claim would be meaningless, and would
perhaps even be an indication of schizophrenia, if the Father and Son were
actually the same person. Thus, just as he claimed in verse 18 the authority
given to him, in verse 19 he commands the apostles to go forth and to baptize
upon that authority (i.e., the command of Jesus).26
Such an understanding is confirmed by Acts 10:48, which similarly expresses
the authority by which baptism is performed.
The Oneness understanding that salvation depends upon Jesus' Name baptism
is similarly refuted by Scripture. Oneness Pentecostals use Acts 4:12 as
evidence that salvation comes through this baptismal formula.27
If salvation comes only through being baptized by the sacred name of God,
and if the Son is simply a manifestation of God the Father, then baptism
would therefore need to be performed in the name of Elohim or Yahweh (provided
in the Old Testament). Since even Oneness Pentecostals would dispute this
understanding, the necessity of baptism in the name of Jesus only is easily
refuted using their own logic.
Many Oneness Pentecostals believe that Christians must receive the gift
of tongues, or glossolalia, in order to be saved. It should be pointed
out that such Oneness Pentecostals do not believe that the gift of tongues
in itself will save individuals; however, any individual who has received
the Holy Spirit, and thus will be saved, will also receive and exhibit
the gift of tongues. David K. Bernard explains,
Tongues in and of themselves do not save. Nevertheless, the
relationship between the Spirit baptism and tongues is similar to that
of faith and works. We are saved by faith, not works, yet works always
accompany genuine faith. Likewise, tongues cannot save us, yet the Spirit
baptism produces tongues as the initial sign.A Spirit baptism without tongues
is a nonbiblical concept; the Bible does not discuss this possibility.
We should always expect speaking in tongues when someone receives the baptism
of the Holy Ghost.
It is not the purpose of this Profile to argue for or against glossolalia.
Nonetheless, it is necessary to point out that the Oneness belief in the
gift of tongues as a necessary evidence of having the Holy Spirit (as opposed
to the gift as an evidence of the fullness of the Spirit, as some Pentecostals
believe) is unbiblical. Even Bernard admits that many of the biblical accounts
of conversions do not describe receiving the gift of tongues. Therefore,
Oneness Pentecostals are erroneously attempting to argue that something
that occasionally occurred should therefore always occur; it is impossible
to argue this point when the Bible does not make such a claim.
1. There is one God.28 Within the Godhead
there are three distinct Persons: God the Father,29
God the Son,30 and God the Holy Spirit.31
2. The Son cannot be simply a temporary manifestation of the Father,
because the all things were created through the Son32
and He is eternal.33
3. A relationship with the true God of the Bible is necessary for salvation.34
1 David Reed, "Oneness Pentecostal Origins," [Online].
2 "Be baptized everyone of you in the name of
the Lord Jesus Christ for the remissions of your
sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
3 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
4 Reed, [Online]. URL http://eli.elilabs.com/~mbasset/oporigin.txt.
Reed spells Frank Ewart's last name "Uert." This variance exists in several
other texts as well.
5 Mike Oppenheimer, "The Modern Beginnings of
Oneness," [Online]. URL http://www.letusreason.org/Onenes21.htm.
8 About the United Pentecostal Church International,
[Online]. URL http://www.upci.org/main/about.
9 J. Lee Grady, "The Other Pentecostals," Charisma,
June (1997), p. 68.
10 Doctrinal Statement for T.D. Jakes/Potter's
House Ministries, [Online]. URL http://www.tdjakes.org/ministry/doctrine.html.
11 Questions for T.D. Jakes, [Online]. URL http://www.tdjakes.org/ministry/faq/tdjakes.html.
12 Grady, p. 68.
13 Steve Adams, The Steve Winter FAQ,
[Online]. URL http://www.mcs.net/~sadams/winfaq.html.
14 See http://www.prime.org.
15 Mark Bassett, "Re: The false christian [sic]
scum, Richard "the harlot" Harlos," [Online]. URL http://x26.deja.com/=dnc/[ST_rn=ps]/getdoc.xp?AN=463693601&CONTEXT=928772598.353501326&hitnum=75.
16 The United Pentecostal Church International,
[Online]. URL http://www.prairienet.org/community/religion/fire/meet.html.
17 David K. Bernard, J.D., The Oneness of
God, [Online]. URL http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/pentecostal/One-Ch6.htm.
18 See the letter of Theophilus to Autolycus
in Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D., and James Donaldson, LL.D., Ante-Nicene
Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 (Edinburgh: n.p.,
1884), Book 2, Chapter 18.
19 Timothy Crews, Spiritual Roots, 2nd
edition (n.p.: n.p., n.d.), p. 10.
20 Ibid., p. 11.
21 Gene Frost, The 'Oneness' Doctrine of
Pentecostalism (Nelson, B.C.: MacGregor Ministries, 1974), pp. 21-22.
22 Thomas Weisser, Three Persons from the
Bible? or Babylon (n.p.: n.p., 1983), p. 2.
23 Bernard, [Online]. URL http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/pentecostal/One-Ch6.htm.
24 Why We Baptize in Jesus' Name, [Online].
25 The Apostles' Doctrine, [Online].
26 See Mark McNeil, An Evaluation of the
Oneness Pentecostal Movement (n.p.: n.p., n.d.), p. 8.
27 "Neither is there salvation in any other;
for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must
28 Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 6:4; 32:39; Isaiah
43:10-11; James 2:19.
29 2 Peter 1:17.
30 John 1:1; 20:28.
31 Acts 5:4.
32 Hebrews 1:3.
33 Hebrews 1:8, 10.
34 Matthew 7:21; Luke 23:42.
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