III.A.6.e Underlying Cause; Mis-Designation of Experience

Part II  –  Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A – The Pentecostal Renewal

Article 6  –  The Pentecostal Second-Work as Nicolaitan Error

Section (e)   Underlying Cause; The Mis-Designation of Experience

 i.    Wesleyan-Pentecostals as Situated with First-Century Judeo-Pentecostals

ii.   Misnaming Experience

iii.  Allegorical Meaning of Circumcision

iv.  The Instantaneous-Sanctifying-Event in Jerusalem

v.   The Instantaneous-Reprobating-Event in Jerusalem

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Section (e) – Underlying Cause; The Mis-Designation of Experience

i.  Wesleyan-Pentecostals as Situated with First-Century Judeo-Pentecostals

Our examination of the Pentecostal Second Work doctrine suggests it may have correlation with  the error promoted by many of the Christianized-Jews of the first-century to the effect that apart from circumcision one cannot be saved.  By so-asserting, the first-century Jews brought with them the baggage of their doctrinal-presuppositions that interpreted the Mosaic ordinances literally and which caused them to stumble along two avenues, ie.:

1)       the failure to distinguish substance from symbolism, and

2)       the failure to rightly-apprehend the significance and magnitude of newly-revealed truth.

The first-century Jewish believers were not of the sort we would think-of today when we use the term Christian Jews.  Today, we do not use the term in any way as to imply the involvement of the  Pentecostal baptism.  Therefore the better term to apply to the first-century Jewish converts to Christianity would be Judeo-Pentecostals given that they most-definitely were Pentecostal in  doctrine and practice given the events in Jerusalem upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the preaching of the apostle Peter.

As to twentieth-century-Pentecost, it’s re-advent occurred in a time and place that had long-since  disabused rule and ritual as significant in religion.  But that is not to say that twentieth-century Pentecostals were beyond bringing the baggage of their-own doctrinal presuppositions into the Pentecostal-experience!  What they brought was an experience that they loosely-termed sanctification.  This was typically-described by early-Methodists and those within Holiness circles as a crisis experience, the effect-of-which-being the deliverance from sin and/or otherwise a new power to resist the carnal-nature.  Given; the wide-variety of individual-experiences, anxieties over receiving the experience, the wide-array of doctrinal-interpretation upon the experience, and (even worse) vivid-imagination and religious-pretense,the “sanctification”-experience (so-called) was difficult to place-doctrinally.  Wesley called it “sanctification”, which sounded good-enough for most.  Some called it the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” – a designation which was resoundingly disproven  through the events at Topeka and Azusa Street!

ii.      Misnaming Experience

What was this experience that was described by so-many nineteenth-century-Wesleyans?  In retrospect we know that it was not the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Was it “sanctification”?  While there is scriptural-support for an instantaneous redemptive-event between God and the man, the term “sanctification” is rarely if ever applied to such a work.  There are allusions to the church having been “sanctified” as if past-tense, e.g.

I Cor. 6:11  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Therefore one might be inclined to conclude sanctification to have been an event that occurred sometime in the past.  But there is much Scripture that prevents us from this conclusion, e.g.

I Cor. 1:2  Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints . . .

 Paul refers to them as having been “sanctified in Christ Jesus” even though he calls them “carnal” and scolds that some do not even have the “knowledge of God” (a term that alludes to the deliverance from sin’s bondage).  Therefore Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” must mean something beyond a single-instantaneous-event.  In fact, when we research the term “sanctification” we find that it seems to invoke eternal-principles relating to calling and election, e.g.:

Act 20:32 . . . the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, & to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Act 26:18  . . . that they may receive forgiveness of sins, & inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Rom 15:16 . . . that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

The term becomes even broader when we consider such verses as:

II Tim. 2:21  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the master’s use . . .

 Clearly, this verse would broaden the meaning beyond that of an instantaneous event wrought upon the man.  The term  is even applied to circumstances in which we can positively-exclude it as representing a profound crisis-experience per se, e.g.

I Cor. 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife . . .

The only possible conclusion is that sanctification is a greater and more expansive-principle than  can be restricted to time and place!

Therefore, consider again the question; Was “sanctification” an event that occurred sometime in the past for the Corinthian believers?    Yes, in the sense that something eternal-occurred the moment they believed the gospel.   While a sanctifying-event occurred the moment they believed (ie. at initial regeneration) the fulfillment and fruition of that moment was yet awaiting them experientially.  Nonetheless, Paul could say; “It has been done!”  This follows the principle that the moment we are truly justified we have been (in the mind of the Father) glorified.

& whom He predestined, these He also called;  & whom He called, these He also justified;  & whom He justified, these He glorified.     Rom. 8:29-30

Therefore, doctrinal-support for an instantaneous-sanctification is lacking.  But that is not to say that doctrinal-support is lacking for an instantaneous sanctifying-event!  We might be given faith in a moment of time.  We might be delivered from sin’s bondage in a moment of time. But we should not confuse a sanctifying event with the broader principle of sanctification.  This is what Wesleyan-Methodism did.  This is what the Wesleyan-Pentecostals did.

In fact, in refuting the Second Work doctrine, William Durham discusses this strong-tendency we have to misname spiritual-experience.  He writes:

The fact that someone had an experience, has little weight with us, if that experience is not according to the word of God.  We do not doubt, generally speaking, that a person has had an experience, nor that it was a good experience, but we do believe that in very many cases people call their experiences by the wrong names.  In fact the mistake of the age is misnaming experiences.  This has resulted in many of us being compelled to acknowledge, with shame, that we had professed, in all honesty, that we had some particular experience, and when God opened our eyes to see His Word on the subject, we saw that we had had an experience, and called it by a very much larger name than we had any Scriptural warrant for calling it.[1]

iii.  Allegorical Meaning of Circumcision

Today we accept that the circumcising of one’s anatomy and the keeping of the Mosaic Law is not required and has no value towards salvation.  Less understood is the concept that even the keeping of the moral Law has no justificational-value and is certainly-not the source from whence the true Gospel Spirit emanates.  But let us continue further-still through this reasoning and consider the question of circumcision in the spiritual-sense for which it stands-allegory.

The Mosaic covenant of circumcision stood in type for a principle revealed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the work of the Spirit of God upon the heart of the believer.  Paul tells us plainly what the rite of circumcision was a symbol for:

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.                                                                                     Rom 2:29

Therefore while we commonly view circumcision as a physical act upon the anatomy marking one as a “Jew”, this is not the Gospel meaning of the term.  The Gospel points to a work of the Spirit performed upon the heart as what is truly and prophetically-intended by circumcision.

 iv.   The Instantaneous-Sanctifying-Event in Jerusalem

When we read the account of the works of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, we find a notable difference in the circumstances attending the Pentecost received by the Jerusalem church, and the Pentecost experienced by the nations outside of Jerusalem and Judea.  We understand clearly that there is one baptism:

 There is one body, & one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God & Father of all who is over all & through all & in all.                                                                                     Eph. 4:4-6

 Paul is not ambiguous on this point.  This was a vital point to establish because of the tremendous diversity of other principles, such as; gifts, and offices, and administrations, and even personalities, etc.  Therefore Paul continues on . . .

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.                                                                                     Eph. 4:7

While there is; “one Spirit” and “one baptism”, there are a variety of circumstances under which the baptism might be experienced, and the book of Acts gives various accounts of how the Spirit was received.  These range from; the Jerusalem church’s experience of having a painful work of circumcision that preceded the baptism,[2] to the household of Cornelius, which simply had the Holy Spirit fall upon them as they listened intently to Peter’s words concerning Christ.[3]  While their experiences differed in terms of the sequencing of God’s work, nonetheless, they all experienced “one baptism” and were; “all made to drink into one Spirit”.[4]  While their experiences differed, we shall find the glory of Christ in a principle revealed in both-experiences being brought together and unified.

While no painful work upon the heart is recorded pertaining to the Gentile-Pentecost, the matter was different in Jerusalem, where upon hearing of their guilt as pertaining to Jesus Christ:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart& said to Peter & the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”                              Acts 2:37

The proper response to this piercing of their heart was what?

& Peter said to them, “Repent, & let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; & you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”                                                                                    Acts 2:38

Clearly, a work of spiritual-circumcision was performed on those in Jerusalem prior to their baptism in the Holy Ghost!

v.   The Instantaneous-Reprobating-Event in Jerusalem

However, while this operation had the effect of bringing repentance to some, it had the effect of hardening others unto perdition.  This is because the principle of circumcision presupposes faith in the heart.  What happens when the Holy Spirit’s knife acts upon the faithless-heart?  The work cannot be anything sanctifying.  They become confirmed-heathen – reprobated.  These react in violence against the truth.  Therefore when Peter bore-witness in unison with the Holy Ghost,[5] the surgical-knife in use to work-redemption performed just the opposite for some:

When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.                                                                                    Acts 5:33

Likewise when Stephen testified to the Jews in rejection of their own Messiah, the same anti-circumcision occurred:

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, & they began gnashing their teeth at him.                                        Acts 7:54

Their violent-reaction was the evidence that God had cast them off from being His people.  And when these false-Jews began to destroy the work of God in Galatia by convincing the Christians that they must be circumcised to be saved, what analogy does Paul use in alluding to their rightful fate?

  I would they were even cut off which trouble you.                  Gal 5:12

Understanding that the principle of circumcision cuts-both-ways should provide us with insight as to why it is so-disadvantageous to refer to the experience loosely as sanctification.  The term itself tends to lead towards presumption when those experiencing a crisis-event (whether sanctifying or not) misunderstand what has occurred.  While spiritual circumcision is often a sanctifying-event it is not “sanctification” in and of itself.  Further, the event is not sanctifying (at least not in the sense here-intended) if wrought-upon by those standing outside faith’s justification.  The experience can actually lead to reprobation where there is not faith in the heart that is wrought-upon.  Therefore it is so profoundly crucial that faith abide in the heart prior to this deeper work of the Spirit!  There must be a foundation of faith in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.


[1] The Pentecostal Testimony Vol. I, No. 8 (circa. 1911) , pg. 7 – The article is; The Second Work of Grace People Answered, by William H. Durham.

[2] Acts 2:37

[3] Acts 10:44

[4] I Corinthians 12:13

[5] Acts 5:32  And we are His witnesses of these things.  And so is the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him.

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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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