III.A.5 “Second Work” vs. “Finished Work”

Part III  –  Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A  –  The Pentecostal Renewal

Article 5.  The Unresolved Doctrinal Controversy of the “Second Work” vs. the “Finished Work”

 a.   “Second-Work” (or 3rd Blessing”) Doctrine; Wesleyan-Perspective                   b.  “Finished Work” Doctrine; Baptistic-Perspective of William Durham

This article may be viewed as a video through the Youtube link beneath:

Article 5

 The Unresolved Doctrinal Controversy; “Second Work” vs. “Finished Work”

a.   “Second-Work” (or 3rd Blessing”) Doctrine as the Wesleyan-Perspective

We find that immediately upon the Pentecostal-outpouring at Azusa Street, a newspaper was established by some involved, entitled; The Apostolic Faith.[1]  While the primary purpose of the newspaper was to report on the miracles, healings, and baptisms in the Holy Spirit that were occurring at the mission, across the country, and around the world, the newspaper clearly had another agenda, ie. to reinforce a Wesleyan-model as underpinning the new message of Pentecost.  The doctrine asserted a three-step series of spiritual-transactions wherein before one could be baptized in the Spirit, he/she must have passed through the two preceding steps of conversion, and sanctification.  Under this teaching, the Spirit’s baptism, was therefore referred to as the “Third Blessing”.

This doctrine was the logical extension of Wesleyan-theology, and became known as the Pentecostal “Second Work” doctrine.  Its zealous-advocacy by the Apostolic Faith Mission was no-doubt the result of its Wesleyan-Holiness roots.  An event-oriented “sanctification” had been the sacred-truth over which they had experienced so much difficulty within Methodism.  While there was a wealth of historical-evidence that tended to validate Wesleyan teaching of a Second Definite Work of Grace, the Pentecostal-version of the teaching led to peculiar problems; the most obvious and hurtful being the implication that those receiving the third work (ie. Spirit-baptism) without having received the second work (ie. sanctification) had received a counterfeit experience.

As the three-step formula advocated by the Apostolic Faith Mission was the logical extension of Wesleyan-holiness teaching as an accommodation to the re-advent of Pentecost, this teaching was generally-accepted by early Pentecostals without much question, and became something of a refrain for the newspaper.  In fact the very first statement of the first edition (September 1906) reads as follows:

The power of God now has this city agitated as never before.  Pentecost has surely come and with it the Bible evidences are following, many being converted and sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues as they did on the day of Pentecost.[2]

Again, on the front page of the first edition, we read:

It would be impossible to state how many have been convertedsanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost.

From thereon-out (next to reporting on the revival) this refrain was repeated continuously as if the thrust of the newspaper’s purpose was to indoctrinate the Pentecostal-renewal into its extrapolation upon Wesleyan-doctrine, to require two precursor-experiences prior to receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  This seems to have even influenced the manner in which the reporting was carried out, as virtually every testimony of the baptism came with the proclamation that (he/she/they) were; “converted, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost”.   In some instances even small children (having received the baptism) were reported-to have declared they were; “converted, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost”; something a young child would not seem to be at-all inclined to articulate absent adult-reinforcement (if they truly articulated such a thing at all).

That the newspaper had a purpose in establishing two-prerequisite steps for a valid Spirit-baptism, is clear from the extensive amount of ink dedicated to argument on the subject.  The newsletter surmised (from Scripture), that we are “sanctified from all original sin”, the paper quotes Hebrews 2:11, which says; “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”  The paper then goes on to surmise; “It seems that Jesus would be ashamed to call them brethren, if they were not sanctified”.

Apart from the issue of the controversial doctrine-of-eradication (ie. controversial even within the Holiness-movement), the newspaper was asserting a new doctrine for the new era of Pentecost in putting forward the proposition that one must have experienced the eradication of sin before they could receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  If the Wesleyan-Pentecostals were incorrect in their conjecture, they were on precarious-ground in terms of casting a cloud upon the work of Christ to baptize in His Holy Spirit.  This teachingwas not substantially-challenged until the Baptist-minister-turned-Pentecostal  WilliamDurham, rose against it a few years after the first outpouring of 1906.

The danger of the proposition that; we are “sanctified from all original sin” is that not only does its reach beyond Scripture, it implies that the believer has no more sin residing within his carnal-nature.  If this construction of sanctification was error, then the virility of that error would seem compounded with the assertion that one must have achieved such-a-state before one can receive the Holy Spirit.  While there did exist teachers within the Holiness-movement that asserted such things, it seems the ablest of Holiness-teachers taught sanctification not as an eradication of sin, but as a death thereunto.  This was based upon Paul’s explanation of indwelling sin in Romans chapters five through eight, which includes the statement; “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”[3]  That is, Paul refers to the overcoming of sin not in terms of its eradication from the flesh, but in terms of the man dying to that principle through which sin is empowered (ie. “the flesh”).  And Peter expresses the same principle in his first epistle:

  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,  that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness:  by whose stripes you were healed.                                                                                      I Peter 2:24

 Therefore it appears the “Second Work” advocates writing for Azusa’s newspaper were operating under that erroneous-form of Holiness teaching which confused two distinct and valid principles that are the cleansing from sin[4] and death to sin.[5]   And while there is certainly Scriptural-support for a work of the former-type (ie. “initial regeneration”) preceding the Spirit’s baptism, there is no Scriptural-support requiring the latter as prerequisite to Spirit-baptism.  And if the “Second-Work” advocates were teaching this error to the Spirit-baptized, we might envision two-possible directions in which this would cause stumbling, namely, that believers would tend to either:

1)       backslide from faith when conscience discovers the principle of sin to remain an active principle within them, (or)

2)       the cementing of the believer into a religiously-persistent state-of-denial regarding the truth of his/her own moral-depravity.

Neither did the doctrine seem to bear particularly good-fruit in those claiming to have experienced the “second work” prior to their Spirit-baptism.  For this put them in the position of questioning the legitimacy of the Spirit’s work in others that were unable to point to any experience of deliverance from sin, as we read in Robert M. Anderson’s book; Vision of the Disinherited which speaks of the two best-known stalwarts of the doctrine:

Parham, Crawford, and others delighted in pointing out that persons experiencing the Pentecostal Baptism in the Spirit without first passing through a second, definite experience of sanctification had in fact received a Satanic counterfeit. [6]

One of the Pentecostal-pioneers at Azusa, Frank Bartleman, describes Azusaas having failed God very early in its history, and that the mission soon grew doctrinally-rigid.[7]  He writes:

Many were too dogmatic at Azusa.  Doctrine after all is but the skeleton of the structure . . . We need flesh on the bones, the Spirit within to give life.  What the people need is a living Christ, not dogmatic, doctrinal contention.  Much harm was done the work in the beginning by unwise zeal. The cause suffered most from those within its own ranks, as always. [8]

One of the primary advocates of the Second Work was Florence Crawford, who had had an active role in the Azusa Mission and the Apostolic Faith Newspaper that zealously-advocated for the doctrine.  Over the objections of William Seymour, Crawford took the Apostolic Faith Newspaper north to Portland, advocating her position from there.  The Apostolic Faith church then formed  around this doctrine of the Second Work.  Due to its insistence that sanctification be identified as an experience preceding the reception of the Holy Spirit the Second Work adherents viewed those who could not claim a two-step conversion and sanctification preceding their Spirit-baptism as illegitimate.  This caused a great divide between the two-schools, with the Second-Work proponents becoming somewhat isolated and exclusive from other Pentecostal denominations that did not make the issue a basis for fellowship.

That the Second Work (ie. Wesley as applied by Pentecostals) was a broken-doctrine should have been clear even by correct theological-reasoning available during the Holiness Movement.  Pain-of-experience might also have encouraged introspection. We should consider however that Pentecost, when itcame, was poured-forth upon the Holiness-“come-outers”, which suggests that these presented a peculiar-suitability as vehicles for the restored-revelation of Pentecost.[9]  Therefore the Wesleyan-doctrine to which these persons clung would seem unwise to offhandedly discard as is what seems to have been done by William Durham, his having come from a Baptistic perspective into Pentecost. Likewise, the greater part of Pentecostalism did cast off Wesleyan-teaching through a full embrace of the doctrine known as the Finished Work.

b.  “Finished Work” Doctrine; Baptistic-Perspective of William Durham

Again, the Second Work doctrine was not substantially challenged until done so by William Durham.    Durham relates that several years previous to Azusa (in 1898) he had experienced a “vision of the crucified Christ”.  This vision remained a powerful source of inspiration for him and became the basis for the doctrine that prevailed-upon and substantially-guided the Pentecostal church through the twentieth-century.   The Pentecostal-embrace of Durham’s “Finished Work of Christ” followed after the first great doctrinal-controversy of the new Pentecostal-movement when Durham challenged the “Second Work of Grace” doctrine held by Wesleyan-Pentecostals as those having their roots within the Holiness Movement. Durham’s Finished Work of Calvary maintained that the baptism of the Holy Spirit required nothing in advance of simple “hearing-in-faith”; that the work of sanctification was a work finished by Christ, and brought to fruition through the means of faith.  As related by Wikipedia, according to Durham:

The benefits of Calvary are therefore appropriated for sanctification over the entire period of the Christian’s life, rather than at a single subsequent moment, as was believed by most Pentecostals in Durham’s day. [10]

In February of 1911 Durham arrived at the Azusa Street Mission while Seymour was away.  Crowds flocked to the mission consisting largely of those that had been recipients of the original outpouring.  His preaching was accompanied by a new outpouring and the reclamation of many backsliders.[11]  This period became known as the; “second shower of the latter rain”.  A few of the original members of Azusa Street Mission notified Seymour, who returned to Los Angelas and locked Durham out of the Azusa Mission on May 2nd. Durham thereupon opened another building where he preached to large crowds with the same dramatic results which included conversions, healings, Spirit-baptisms, and the reclamation of backsliders.  In the wake of the Spirit’s work in Durham’s ministry, the Azusa Street Mission significance overnight.

William Durham zealously-refuted that Pentecostals should be looking for a future “second-work”.  He declared rather that they should be directing themselves back to Calvary.  His vision of the “crucified Christ” undoubtedly-strengthened this Baptistic-form of preaching which focused upon the cross and re-oriented the Pentecostal Movement as a whole into a Baptistic-orientation toward the plan of redemption. Durham’s 1911 ministry to Los Angelas and to a suffering Azusa Mission came with  healing for many of the struggling Spirit-baptized.  His message was that they place their eyes back upon the cross of Jesus Christ.  He writes in 1911:

. . . young and even old converts have been told that what they needed was a second work of grace, when they should have been told that what they needed was to get back under the Blood and reckon themselves dead, and live the overcoming life.  Instead of telling folks that there is an experience that removes the necessity for bearing the daily cross, they should have been taught that the Christian life is a battle from conversion to glorification.

He continues:

This is the reason there are so many up and down experiences.  People are saved, and the glory and power of God fills their souls, but they grow careless and lose the joy of their salvation, and often get into darkness and confusion.  They are often told while in this state, that they should seek to be sanctified.  This is of course true.  They need to be sanctified, but reclamation would be a much better name for it.  

We therefore find in Durham’s message the near-opposite of the Wesleyan-perspective of sanctification.  While Wesley taught sanctification as an event to look forward to and to seek God-upon, Durham perceived it as already-accomplished at conversion, but (in many believers) requiring repeated trips back to the cross for forgiveness, cleansing, and strength to abide.

The divide between Second Work and Finished Work Pentecostals was profound; so much so, that at the height of the controversy, in January of 1912, Charles Parham published in his Apostolic Faith magazine his prayer that God would take the life of the man (ie. meaning either William Durham or himself) that was teaching error in the matter.  Coincidentally, William Durham died unexpectedly that July at  just 39 years of age.  Nonetheless, the greater-majority of the church ultimately accepted Durham’s doctrine of the Finished Work, and those denominations founded in the Finished Work have experienced greater numerical-success than have the Second Work denominations, which have tended toward static-growth and denominational-isolation.

Durham’s Baptistic perspective prevailed upon the Pentecostal movement given the common experience of many if not most of having received the baptism without a preceding experience they could recognize as so profound as that contemplated in the term; sanctification or so real as the deliverance from sin’s bondage.

Finished-Work denominations tended to be evangelically-oriented and to be more successful in outreach, church-growth, and church propagation.  On the other hand, the observation has been made (and poignantly so by Second-Work adherents) of there existing little noticeable distinction between the lifestyle of Finished Work Pentecostals and the rest of the outwardly-moral world.  A lack of discernable “holiness” has been a criticism that has followed the Finished Work denominations of Pentecostalism.


[1] This newspaper was established and substantially produced by Florence Crawford, an original member of theAzusa StreetMission and (arguably) the most notable early-figure of the Apostolic Faith Churches – headquartered inPortland,Oregon.    Shortly after beginning the newspaper as the voice of the revival, Ms. Crawford relocated the equipment and the mailing list toOregon and became (essentially) the primary proponent of the “Second Work” doctrine.

[2] The Apostolic Faith (newspaper), Vol. I No. 1,Los Angeles,CA  September 1906 – front page.

[3] Romans 8:10

[4] ie. the continuous-principle of regeneration.

[5] ie. the principle of a spiritual- circumcision that is characterized by an event.

[6] Vision of the Disinherited by Robert M. Anderson © 1979  Hendrickson Publishing

[7] The full statement and testimony of Bartleman is available in an audio recording on this website.  See How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles under the heading AudioMP3.

[8] How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles, Second Ed., by Frank Bartleman – Chapter V

[9] This observation (ie. the purposefulness involved in selecting the recipients) seems particularly valid when considering the other circumstances in which Pentecost came at Topeka, e.g. the first-day of the new century, near the geographic center of the country, and at the moment a consensus was achieved on the meaning of Pentecost.

[10] Wikipedia biography on William Durham.

[11] According to witness Frank Bartleman; “The fire began to fall at old Azusa Street as at the beginning.”.

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About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
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One Response to III.A.5 “Second Work” vs. “Finished Work”

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