III.A.6.b Genesis of the Second Work Doctrine

Part III  –  Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A  –  The Pentecostal Renewal

Article 6 – The Pentecostal Second-Work as Nicolaitan-Error


 ii.   Wesleyan/Holiness-Movement’s Misconstruction of the Baptism

iii.  Holiness-Movement’s Misconstruction Becomes Pentecostal Second Work Doctrine

 (SECOND section of SEVEN-part article)

This article may be viewed as a video at the Youtube link below:

Bethel Bible Students


 i.  Wesleyan/Holiness-Movement’s Misconstruction of the Baptism

The doctrinal-crises that arose given the re-advent of the Pentecostal experience is very easy to reverse-trace.  One has only to read the writings of almost any one of the eighteenth and nineteenth century theologians, leaders, and teachers of the church to understand that they were operating under a partial-understanding of the gospel.  While their teachings served the purposes of faith and holiness in their day and continue to be a blessing, they stumbled-substantially over the issue of Pentecost.  This becomes evident whenever we venture upon pre-Azusa Street sermons and writings addressing the subject of Spirit-baptism or the gifts of the Spirit.  For instance, the following statement of Oswald Chambers[1] represents a prime-example of the assumptions held within the Holiness-Movement concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit:Chambers 01

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is Jesus putting the final seal on His work in you, His seal on your regenerated and entirely sanctified soul, and is your inauguration into service for Him.   The Holy Spirit always works through human instrumentality, and there is never any possibility of pride when the Holy Spirit uses us.” [2]

Most Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars today would probably agree that this statement reflects a profound misunderstanding of Spirit-baptism, although there may be disagreement as to why it is erroneous.

Chambers first makes a substantial assumption by adding the qualifier “final” to the concept of the Spirit’s seal, as support for this in Scripture cannot be found.   While there is a principle that one  truly justified shall be truly sanctified, and thence glorified, and that we are “complete in Him”[3] through faith, this is not what Chambers means, as this is not what the Wesleyan-theological-model entailed.  When Wesleyan-theology referred to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they were referring to a culminating-event marking a present-day attainment in sanctification.[4]  This attainment was termed “Christian perfection”. Chambers is simply expressing a central-principle of Wesleyan-theology that guided the Holiness-Movement of the nineteenth-century.

Building upon this assumption is the further assumption that the believer must be “entirely sanctified” (ie. an attainment of the Wesleyan-principle of perfection) for such a work of the Spirit – again, an assumption for which no authority appears in Scripture.  He then implies that the purpose of the baptism is exclusively for “service for Him”, (ie. ministry) which overlooks the more fundamental work of the Spirit, ie. the work of sanctification (working out of the redemptive process) in the believer who stands justified by faith.  Having begun with a faulty foundation, an erroneous conclusion seems guaranteed, ie. “there is never any possibility of pride when the Holy Spirit uses us.”

The point should be stressed that Chambers was by no means alone in this doctrinal misconstruction.  Since the loss of the Gospel during the dark ages and its sparing reemergence during the Reformation, the church had been engaged in reverse-engineering doctrine as light returned.  While it was clear that the eighteenth and nineteenth-century denominations did not possess the power and attributes of the first-century church, neither were the historic-denominations ready to concede that light was lacking.  The result was that a full-gospel was presumed-upon which required that doctrine conform itself to existing-experience.

Although in the nineteenth-century the baptism was commonly-regarded (where it was taught at all) as empowerment for ministry, the Pentecostal-Movement brought further light on the matter.  Nonetheless, many of those within the Holiness-Movement continued to teach the baptism in terms of nineteenth-century light.

Foremost in the nineteenth-century among Holiness-teachers was South African pastor Andrew Murray, whose books contain marvelous-insights into the work of God within the soul.  Murray himself conceded that truth on the subject of Pentecost was lacking in his day, and that therefore Pentecostal-truth was undergoing a restorative-process.  He writes:Murray Andrew 01

Where did the church begin in Pentecost?  There they began in the Spirit.  But alas, how the church of the next century went off into the flesh.  Do not let us think, because the blessed Reformation restored the great doctrine of justification by faith, that the power of the Holy Spirit was then fully restored.  It is our faith that God is going to have mercy on His church in these last ages.  It will be because the doctrine and the truth about the Holy Spirit will not only be studied, but sought after with a whole heart. [5]

Even Charles Finney, who in 1821 received a dramatic outpouring of God’s Spirit and who represents something of a modern-day John the Baptist, does not appear to have fully perceived the role of Pentecost as a fundamental aspect of the restoration of the kingdom of God.   Finney - Charles 07
His sermons and writings relating to the anointing of the Spirit of Christ appear primarily within the context of empowerment for ministry.

In light of this history, the initial error of some early Pentecostal teachers that Pentecost constituted a culminating, rather than a foundational-work seemed inevitable.  The Second Work doctrine of the early Pentecostal churches ran astray on the assumption that the seal of the Spirit was “His seal on your regenerated and entirely sanctified soul” when it was just the opposite!  That the doctrine of Pentecost presupposes sin-in-the-believer is typified in the Levitical rites for the feast.[6]   Misunderstanding of the meaning of Pentecost leads to the presumption that ‘we receive the Holy Spirit because we are holy people’.  The correct statement would be rather; ‘we receive the Holy Spirit because we are sinners within whom God intends to reveal the holiness of His Son.”

ii.  Holiness-Movement’s Misconstruction Becomes Pentecostal Second Work Doctrine

Charles Parham is the minister most identified with the twentieth-century’s re-advent of the Pentecostal experience.  Parham was also one of the fiercest contenders for the Second Work doctrine which maintained that sanctification must precede Spirit-baptism.  By sanctification it was meant an experience of having been delivered from the bondage to sin by a nullifying of the carnal-nature.  Some Holiness-teachers taught the Doctrine of Eradication, meaning that the sin-nature was removed as a principle governing the flesh. Others taught that the flesh will always operate under the principle of sin, but that the indwelling Spirit of Christ nullified its power to dictate sin to the man. Amongst those Pentecostals who sat under the former teaching, the Second Work doctrine seemed to have greater influence.

Regardless of the doctrinal-mechanics as to the working of deliverance and sanctification in the believer, the Wesleyan-doctrine of an instantaneous-event-of-sanctification was held sacred by those upon whom Pentecost fell at the turn of the century.  These had been the “Come-Outers” that had resisted the luke-warmness of a Methodism that preferred the safer and more comfortable view of sanctification as a life’s-process rather than a sudden and intense crisis-interaction.  As one of the foundations of Wesleyan-teaching, this event (which many of the Holiness-adherents laid-claim-to having received before they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit) was naturally-viewed as a vital-antecedent to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.   As well, the Wesleyan-Pentecostals dared-not imagine that anyone might receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit without having experienced the blessed-event of “sanctification” so as to render the vessel suitably holy for the reception of God’s Spirit.  This was maintained so strongly by a few of the foremost of the original-Pentecostals as to go so far as declaring all baptisms counterfeit that fell outside of the three-step sequencing predicted by Wesley via Fletcher’s Checks.  As Robert M. Anderson writes:Crawford Florence 01

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.[7]

Ironically, soon after the re-advent of the Pentecostal experience we find the refrain reminiscent of what occurred in first-century Pentecost wherein God’s established people were telling converts “You must be circumcised as a condition for salvation”.  Likewise, many in the twentieth-century that had experienced Pentecost were saying; “You must be a holy vessel to receive the Holy Spirit”, “You must have experienced a definite work of “sanctification” (as secondary to the “conversion”-experience) before you can (legitimately) receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”  This was simply the logical-extension of Wesleyan-sanctification-theology that had guided the Holiness Movement and much of Methodism for over a hundred years.

How then could an individual receive the Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit when he was “unsanctified”, “unholy”, ie. “unfinished”?  And yet persons seemed to be receiving the baptism without being able to point to an experience of sanctification or the deliverance from sin.   In fact, this was apparently true for the larger majority, resulting in the bulk of Holy Ghost baptisms being rendered-suspect in the eyes of Wesleyan-stalwarts.   This was precisely the controversy that arose following the Azusa Street revival of 1906; “Must one have experienced the circumcision of Christ in order to receive His baptism?”

The doctrine that arose in opposition to the “Second Work” was known as the Finished Work of Calvary-position which maintained that nothing was required in advance of the Pentecostal baptism except belief in Jesus Christ.  This was advanced by William Durham, who had received his baptism at Azusa Street.  Durham maintained the teaching that while the work of God is a “finished work”,[8] it was “finished” only in the sense that it was already performed by Jesus Christ, and all the believer has to do is “believe” unto a full redemption – but a redemption yet to have been experientially “finished” in the believer; the nature of God having-yet to have been entirely wrought upon the man’s nature.  Durham taught the baptism in the Spirit as the commencement upon an ongoing redemptive process.  The seal is prospective as the foretelling of a redemption to be revealed. Durham 01

Although Durham died in 1912, after only a few years of advancing this position, his view of the baptism became the prevalent-position for most Pentecostal denominations and certainly those most-successful in terms of denominational-growth.[9]  Ironically, Durham died only six months after Charles Parham issued an ultimatum that God “take the life” of the man (between himself and Durham) who was teaching error on this issue.[10]

[1] Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) Prominent Scottish Protestant minister, founder of the Bible Training College in London; author of classic devotional-work – My Utmost for His Highest.

[2]  Oswald Chambers – The Best From All His Books Vol I, Thomas Nelson Publishers, © 1989, pg. 167.

[3] Colossians 2:10  “And ye are complete in Him which is the head of all principality and power.”

[4] See I.D of this treatise; Wesleyan-Methodism; The Repairing of the Doctrines of Sanctification.

[5] Andrew Murray (1828-1917) from his book Absolute Surrender, Moody Publishers, 820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL60610, pg. 89.

[6] e.g. Leviticus 23:17

[7] Vision of the Disinherited; The Making of American Pentecostalism, by Robert M. Anderson © 1979 by Hendrickson Publishers.

[8] This view (ie. of the “finished work of Christ”) is coincidentally very similar to the revelation received by Charles Finney upon his own baptism in the Spirit in 1821 which preceded his powerful evangelistic ministry.  (See The Autobiography of Charles Finney, Chapter II “Conversion to Christ”)

[9] Major Pentecostal denominations following Durham’s Finished Work doctrine includes the; Assemblies of God, Open Bible Standard Churches, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel Int’l, etc.  The Second Work of Grace was maintained by such denominations as the Apostolic Faith Church of Portland, OR, Church of God of Cleveland, TN, and many denominations in the southern states.  However, some of those denominations (including Church of God, Cleveland, TN that once held firmly to the Second Work later mollified their Statements of Faith to require simply a “clean heart” prior to Spirit-baptism, thus arguably doctrinally-realigning themselves with the Finished Work denominations.  See ie. Church of God Declaration of Faith at www.churchofgod.org.

[10] Note:  Approximately a year prior to Durham’s death, he wrote that he believed God would make his life a sacrifice for the Pentecostal truth.


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.
This entry was posted in 3A. PENTECOSTAL RENEWAL (Application to Pentecostal Theology) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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