Texas Bible College, Houston, TX
This "Interfaith Evangelism Belief
Bulletin" presents basic Oneness Pentecostal history and
doctrines and provides a biblical analysis and response.
SHORT HISTORY OF ONENESS PENTECOSTALISM
The modern Pentecostal movement is generally
regarded to have begun in 1901 in a chapel prayer meeting in Topeka,
Kansas, led by Charles Parham, a teacher at the small Bethel Bible
A few years later in 1906 the Pentecostalist
experience of "speaking in tongues" burst on the scene
during a revival in a black Baptist church in Azuza Street in Los
Angeles, California. Following these beginnings, pentecostalist
preachers and churches spread rapidly coalescing into various
denominations and factions.
In 1913 one popular teacher, R. E. McAleister of
Toronto, Canada, began to teach that the Trinity doctrine was untrue
and that baptism should be done correctly in Jesus’ name only --
not in the traditional Trinitarian formula. Other preachers such as
Frank J. Ewart and John C. Sheppe joined McAleister in his
By 1916 "oneness" views were being
expounded by some ministers in the then young Assemblies of God (AOG)
denomination. They were strongly rejected by the denomination’s
council that year, and the AOG adopted a strong trinitarian stance
in its Statement of Faith. More than 160 oneness ministers who were
expelled from the AOG quickly formed their own alliances to promote
After that time, a number of oneness sects formed,
most of which were predominately African-American. The largest
oneness movements today are the United Pentecostal Church
International (UPCI) and The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
(PAW). The UPCI was organized in 1945 with the union of two
predominately white groups started earlier in the century. Its
headquarters and publishing firm, The Pentecostal Publishing House,
is located at 8855 Dunn Road, Hazelwood, Missouri, 63042.
The PAW formed in 1918 but later split along
racial lines in 1924. Today it is predominately African-American and
is now headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.
ONENESS PENTECOSTAL SOURCES OF AUTHORITY
Oneness Pentecostals of all branches affirm the
authority of the Bible for doctrine. Many, however, would utilize
only the King James Version to proof text their unique doctrines. In
addition, many Oneness advocates rely on the unbiblical revelations
received by various Oneness leaders whom they regard as divinely
inspired or anointed interpreters of the Bible. For example, many in
UPCI look to the writings of Frank Ewart and John G. Scheppe as
The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and
infallible Word of God (see 2 Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). It is
the final authority for the Christian on all matters of faith and
doctrine. No single translation or human interpretation can be
regarded as infallible. All modern writings or
"revelations" must be analyzed in light of sound
principles of biblical interpretation.
ONLY ONE GOD
Oneness Pentecostals declare that the Godhead
consists of only one person and deny the traditional doctrine of the
Trinity. They maintain that the only real "person" in the
Godhead is Jesus. Thus, they are often referred to as the
"Jesus Only" Movement. They maintain that God exists in
two modes, as the "Father" in heaven, but as Jesus the Son
on earth. Nevertheless, they are the same person – not two
separate persons. The Holy Spirit is not regarded as a person at
all, merely a manifestation of Jesus’ power or a synonym for Him.
Several verses are quoted to establish this view, such as Colossians
2:9, "For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead
bodily." Oneness theologians would argue that if the Father and
the Son were separate, then the Godhead could not fully dwell in
Christ. Matthew 28:19 is also utilized since Jesus commanded His
disciples to baptize in the "Name" (singular) of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is said to have two natures, human and
divine. Thus, when he died, only his human nature died. Also, when
Jesus prayed, it was his human nature praying to his divine nature
– not to a separate Father in heaven.
The Oneness Pentecostal view of God is similar to
the ancient heresy of Modalism. That is the belief that the one God
existed in time in three distinct modes of being: first as the
Father in heaven; second, bodily as the Son on earth; and finally as
the Holy Spirit.
The Bible indeed teaches the existence of only one
God (Duet. 6:4). Nonetheless, historic Christianity maintains that
the doctrine of the Trinity (or tri-unity of God) is taught in
Scripture. The Bible teaches that the one God exists eternally in
three separate and distinct persons of the Father, Son, and Holy
Colossians 2:9 does not teach that the totality of
the Godhead was in the body of Jesus, but rather that Jesus embodied
the totality of the divine nature and God is totally revealed in
Him. If the Father and the Son are the same person, then the Oneness
teachers are hard-put to explain how the Father and the Son can love
each other (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 3:35; 5:20; 2 Pet. 1:17, et.
al.), talk to each other (John 11:41-42; 12:28; 17:1-26), and know
each other (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 7:29, et. al.).
Matthew 28:19 clearly reflects the trinitarian
concept that the "name" (authority and characteristics) of
the one God are incorporated in the three persons of the Godhead:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (See also 1 Cor. 8:6; 12:4-6; 2 Cor.
1:21-22; 13:14; I Pet. 1:2). (See also the following verses
affirming the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit: Luke 12:12;
John 15:26; Acts 5:3-10; 13:2-4; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 3:7.)
SALVATION: FOUR-FOLD LEGAL REQUIREMENT
The Oneness Pentecostal movements generally teach
that to receive and maintain salvation, a person must adhere to four
- Faith in Jesus Only Oneness teachers would
agree that salvation comes only by putting one’s full faith in
the Jesus of Oneness doctrine, i.e. the Jesus who is the
totality of the Godhead, who died on the cross as an atonement
for sin and who rose again from the dead.
- Repentance and Baptism in the" Name of
Jesus" Oneness teachers cite Acts 2:38 as evidence that the
early church baptized only in the name of Jesus. They maintain
that baptism in the trinitarian formula is invalid since it
implies belief in three Gods. They claim Matt. 28:19 is not to
be taken as a command to baptize in that formula.
- Speaking in tongues Like most traditional
Pentecostals and Charismatics, Oneness Pentecostals teach that
speaking in tongues is a modern gift to be exercised today.
However, unlike most of those traditionalists, the Oneness
movements maintain that speaking in tongues is not just a
post-conversion indicator of the filling or baptism of the Holy
Spirit but an essential ingredient in the salvation experience
- Adherence to Holiness Standards Most Oneness
Pentecostals teach that once salvation is gained initially by
the preceding ingredients that it must be maintained by daily
adherence to legalistic codes of personal behavior. Alcohol and
tobacco are prohibited. Women are not allowed to cut their hair,
wear short dresses or slacks, use make-up, or wear jewelry. Men
are expected to dress conservatively (white shirts and dark
slacks), be clean-shaven, and have short haircuts. Violations of
these codes may result in a loss of salvation and exclusion from
Some small oneness groups also practice handling
poisonous snakes or drinking poison to demonstrate their faith and
holiness based on Mark 16:18 in the King James Version.
Salvation is "by grace through faith" in
Jesus Christ alone (Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
Baptism is not essential to one’s reception of
salvation. It is a symbol of one’s identification with the life,
death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The proper mode is
immersion in the triune name of the Father, The Son, and The Holy
Spirit. Acts 2:38 must be read in context and in light of Jesus’
clear command in Matt. 28:19.
Speaking in tongues, like all other gifts, is
distributed sovereignly by the Holy Spirit to those He wills for the
equipping and edification of the whole body of Christ (1 Cor.
12-14). There is no indication that it, or any other spiritual gift,
is required to receive God’s gift of salvation by grace or to be
filled with His Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
Also, the Oneness movements’ emphases on
personal holiness and healthy lifestyles are commendable.
Nevertheless, the requirements for outward adherence to a strict
moral code in order to maintain salvation inevitably leads to
legalism and a lack of assurance of eternal life.
No amount of good works, moral living, or church
membership guarantees salvation. Salvation is entirely based on
grace through faith in Christ. Good works and holy living are the
natural responses of salvation already received – not its cause
(see Eph. 2:10). Salvation is eternally assured for those who have
accepted Christ as personal Lord and Savior (see John 1:12; 5:24; 1
Mark 16:18 is part of a disputed portion of
Mark’s text. Regardless, handling snakes or drinking poisons is a
misuse of that scripture and has resulted in the deaths of many
The Oneness Pentecostals have an anti-trinitarian
view of God, an unbiblical doctrine of Jesus Christ, and unbiblical
requirements for salvation (speaking in tongues, water baptism in
"Jesus’ name", and a legalistic moral code). Thus, those
churches adhering to its basic doctrines cannot be regarded as
authentically Christian. Any group or church that claims to be
Christian yet deviates at any point from historical Christian faith
is, by definition, a cult. Oneness Pentecostal churches are,
therefore, cultic in nature and outside the theological parameters
of historic Christianity.
WITNESSING TO ONENESS PENTECOSTALS
- Have a clear understanding of your faith and
- Acquire a basic knowledge of Oneness
Pentecostals’ beliefs and practices.
- Seek to build a personal and respectful
relationship with the Oneness Pentecostal.
- Focus the discussion on the essential elements
of the Christian faith. Do not get sidetracked defending your
- Be prepared to cite (in context) and explain
specific biblical passages supporting Christian doctrines,
particularly the biblical basis for the Trinity, the historic
understanding of the nature and work of Christ, and salvation by
grace through faith.
- Share your personal testimony of God’s grace
and your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.
- The Oneness Pentecostal may try to convince you
that you need to speak in tongues, be baptized in Jesus’ name,
and live according to their strict moral code. Be prepared to
explain biblically why you do not believe these are necessary
ingredients for salvation or eternal security.
- Present the basic plan of salvation and
encourage the Oneness Pentecostal to receive Jesus Christ as his
or her personal Lord and Savior.
- Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you as