III.A.6.f Distinguishing the Principle of Pentecost from Circumcision

Part III  –  Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A  –  The Pentecostal Renewal

Article 6  –  The Pentecostal Second-Work as Nicolatian Error

Section (f)   Distinguishing the Principle of Pentecost from Circumcision

 i.    Faith as the Only Prerequisite to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

ii.   Pentecost as Entry-Point Rather Than Culminating Event

iii.  Forgiveness vs. The Putting Away of SIn

iv.  The Pentecostal Second-Work in Light of the Lamp-Stand Model

v.   Abraham as Symbolizing Distinction Between Faith’s Justification & Circumcision

vi.  The Sin-Nature Contemplated at Pentecost

This article may be viewed in video format via the following Youtube link:

Section (f)   Distinguishing the Principle of Pentecost from Circumcision

 i.  Faith as the Only Prerequisite to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The Lord tells Pergamos:

So you also have those holding the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.                                                                                      Rev 2:15

Given the strong presence of God and the Pentecostal-character of the early-church under the apostolic-ministry, we may conclude that the error of the Nicolaitans involved an impediment to the work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ.  The existence of such a doctrine then, the effect-of-which was to stumble the Spirit-filled church of the first-century, would suggest such or similar-doctrine would have a presence and pose a stumbling-block to the Spirit-filled church of the twentieth-century.   We are also aware that a doctrine was immediately-present upon the occurrence of twentieth-century Pentecost that created substantial division and controversy among those that should have known unity, and which seemed to have the effect of bringing many of the early-Pentecostals into a self-imposed isolation and (arguably) a legalistic-form of bondage; that being the doctrine of the Second Work of Grace (aka the Third Blessing).

There was in fact, yet another doctrinal-controversy that substantially divided early-Pentecostalism as well, and which seemed to drive its adherents into a self-imposed isolation and legalistic-form of religion.  This would be the Jesus-Name-Only schism that arose out of the 1914 Arroyo Seco camp meeting.  However, given we seem to have no facts concerning Nicholas of Antioch that would associate him with doctrines involving the Oneness of God or baptism, this would not appear to be the form of doctrine implicated in Nicolaitanism.

As to the Second Work doctrine, this error is particularly insidious in its subtlety.  The doctrine maintains the appearance of godliness, humility, and reverence for God, while striking at the cradle of God’s work and purposes in giving His Spirit to men.   This is the teaching that was commonly-taught in the years and decades immediately following the resurgence of the Pentecostal baptism to the effect that to receive the Holy Spirit, one must first be made holy, sanctified, or worthy.  Although it may have a ring-of-truth at first, closer-examination exposes the doctrine as false.

No doubt, this was a doctrine that must have arisen in the church during the days of the apostles.  Scripture does not tell us about the various false doctrines that were circulating in those days.  However, we do know that Paul’s words were particularly prone to being misunderstood and misconstrued.[1]

We can look to the words of Cyprian as an example of how we can use all the right terminology, and yet fundamentally-miss the truth.  Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage (Tunisia) and is widely considered to be the second-most-important Latin-speaking leaders of the church after Tertullian  His life spanned from approximately 200 – 258 A.D.  Cyprian writes:

He who has been sanctified, his sins being put away in baptism, & has been spiritually formed into a new man, has become fitted for receiving the Holy Spirit.[2] Cyprian   (c. 250)

By now we should understand that we do not become “fitted for receiving the Holy Spirit” if by that, one means anything beyond “hearing with faith”.  Scripture is very clear on this point:

(But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive:              John 7:39

  This is the only thing I want to find out from you, Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?                                Gal. 3:2

 that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.       Gal. 3:14

 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth,  the gospel of your salvation:  in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,                 Eph 1:13

  He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?             Acts 19:2

Is there any place in Scripture that places any requirement as a prerequisite to receiving the Spirit?  Is there any place in Scripture that places any requirement at all on receiving the Spirit other than that of merely believing?  If the answer is “no”, then Cyprian’s statement constitutes a substantial misunderstanding of the gospel of Christ!  And yet, his statement sounds so orthodox and so holy!

Cyprian’s statement is misleading for a couple of reasons.  The first (and most obvious) reason the statement is misleading is because it departs from Scripture in that while Scripture does foretell a putting away of sins, Scripture does not correlate that event with the same spiritual operation transacted in literal water-baptism.  While water-baptism is called the “baptism of repentance”,[3] the physical act of water baptism is nothing more than an outward and symbolic act of obedience and the pledge of a good conscience before God”.  Speaking of water-baptism, Peter tells us:

 The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:                          I Peter 3:21

Peter explains that water-baptism is not the same thing as the cleansing from sin, but rather our “pledge” before God of keeping a good conscience in light of our faith in Jesus Christ to work out our salvation.  Water-baptism is symbolic of the death died by Christ in order to make us partakers in the holiness of God via the means of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore Paul writes:

 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death:   in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,  so we too might walk in newness of life.                      Rom. 6:4

Is it water-baptism that performs this work?  Rather, the work of which Paul speaks is performed through the means of God’s Spirit through the exercise of faith!  Paul is speaking of a spiritual operation, rather than a physical act:

 Buried with him in baptism wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.            Col. 2:12

ii.  Pentecost as Entry-Point Rather Than Culminating Event

Cyprian’s claim of; “sins being put away in baptism” does not stand the test of Scripture as anyone will discover that has been baptized in water and found their sins to continue to beset them!  For the baptism was not the deliverance, rather it was a pledge (as a “pledge” was really all that was within our power in the first place.)

While the redemptive-principle that is symbolized in water-baptism occupies the same redemptive-position as does “Spirit baptism”, they do not occupy the same redemptive-principle as the putting-off of sin.   Peter writes:

The like figure thereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.                                             I Pet 3:21

Therefore Cyprian is mistaken in his assumption that the reception of the Holy Ghost comprehends the “putting away of the filth of the flesh”.  Rather it contemplates only a cleansing of the heart through the means of faith.  This is how the Gentiles received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as was observed by Peter when the Holy Sprit fell upon them!  He told the Jews:

And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.                                                                                      Acts 15:9

The proper doctrine of Pentecost recognizes Pentecost as an entry-point event in the believer’s walk rather than the culminating event that was taught by early Methodism and many teachers during the Holiness-era.

iii.  Forgiveness vs. The Putting Away of SIn

Cyprian’s confusion involves the failure to render-distinction between the operation of the forgiveness of sins and the operation of the putting away of sin (ie. the procured atonement).  If our sins are not “put away in baptism”, when are they “put away”?  They are “put away” at such time as God (in His wisdom) determines they should be “put away”.  This may be at water baptism, or some time thereafter.[4]  Jesus Christ is the “captain of our salvation”.[5]  He shall make effectuation of the covenant He has made with His own sacrifice in God’s time.  God’s time is definite and certain, albeit known only to Him, as Paul writes:[6]

& thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,  “the deliverer will come from Zion, he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.    And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”                               Rom. 11:26-27

Paul thereby indicates what is the true time and place that God has determined that we enter upon His covenant, that being; “when I take away their sins.”  Is this the same as the forgiveness of our sins and the cleansing of our conscience?  Certainly it includes these things, but it is not the same thing.  These are two-different principles.  The former-principle denotes the foundation of forgiveness without respect to the defeat of one’s carnal-nature or attainment in Christ.  The latter-principle denotes a second-work upon that foundation of forgiveness through faith. Thus Wesleyan-teaching does hold a rare and much neglected truth!  This latter-principle comes with the Witness of the Word,[7] a severing and sanctifying-event transacted upon the man communicating Christ’s overcoming to the soul, of which Isaiah prophesies:

 And as for Me, this is My covenant with them, says the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, & My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring, says the Lord, from now and forever.              Is. 59:21

 Through this atoning-event the sin-nature is broken of its authority over the man.  John writes:   

& released us from our sins by his blood.     Rev. 1:5

 The covenant is an eternal bond of peace with God.  If we are to walk in the deliverance from sin and to grow in the sanctification that is coming, we must understand and perceive our status before the Lord as squarely and unambiguously within His covenant, which is established “with them, when I take away their sins.”[8]  Paul does not say; “when He forgives their sins”.   Because of God’s sovereignty to forgive-sin via the work of Christ we can be forgiven our sins upon confession of His Name.  On the other hand our establishment comes on the day when nothing less than the blood of Jesus Christ can answer!

This misunderstanding concerning the time, place, and conditions upon which the covenant of God is entered into, is responsible for substantial trouble in the church, some of it destructive to the true work of God.  In consequence of this confusion is affirmatively false teaching within the Pentecostal churches that seems to have driven many devout believers into a legalistic form of religion while  discouraging many others from seeking God, and (even worse) casting a shadow of illegitimacy over real experiences many believers have had with God.

Belief in Jesus Christ is our means of sanctification, and so, our salvation, as our justification is complete thereby.  Sanctification is the coming to fruition of a faith genuine-in-the-seed.  Upon this, the Holy Spirit is allowed to build upon a right foundation using the same means by which the believer received the Spirit, ie. “faith alone”, the “works” (ie. born of faith) constituting the evidence thereof.  To intrude upon this most basic principle via a doctrine that the Spirit works as any affirmation or “seal” upon our sanctification would be a most grievous-mistake![9]

 iv.   The Pentecostal Second-Work in Light of the Lamp-Stand Model

The Lamp-Stand model as constructed earlier within this treatise (Part II, Subpart A) clearly shows the existence of a second-work that would vindicate Wesleyan-teaching, at least in part.  The second-work appears at the second-level intersecting of the lamp-stand branches joining the witness of the Word with the witness of the Water as involving the operation of sanctification.  The point of intersection with the central candlestick would seem to represent the principle of circumcision which we have discussed.  Therefore circumcision would seem to represent that event that particularly empowers the principle of sanctification.

Despite its validation of a Wesleyan Second-Work, the model actually rebuts the Pentecostal-doctrine known as the Second Work (aka Third Blessing) given that the baptism in the Holy Spirit occupies the lower intersection that forms the foundation of the lamp-stand and which is joined within the principle of justification by faith.  Therefore the lamp-stand presents justification by faith with its attending principle of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as the foundation and containment for the work of sanctification.   What this tells us is that circumcision and the work of sanctification stand within the kingdom of God as principles subordinated to the operation of faith in justification.  The foundation must be entirely vicarious and wrought through the blood of the Lamb as the basis for our overcoming sin and eventual overcoming of death-itself.

v.   Abraham as Symbolizing Distinction Between Faith’s Justification & Circumcision

This analysis runs consistent with Paul’s discussion of Abraham as typifying those justified by faith absent circumcision (which Christians should understand as a spiritual work upon the heart):

For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.”  How then was it reckoned?  While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised?    Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; for he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them.”                                                                                                  Rom 4:9-11

 How can “the sign of circumcision” be said to be; “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised”?   In his uncircumcised condition, he was justified by faith, ie. meaning that something was lacking in his nature that was made up for by grace.  But by grace (via faith) he did receive the “seal of righteousness” represented by his eventual circumcision.

Paul presents Abraham as representing those justified by faith to receive a promise culminating in true righteousness of heart.  Can this “reckoned” form of righteousness also be considered “salvation”?  How could it be otherwise?  What good is a “reckoned” righteousness if it is not saving? [10]

There are two ways to interpret the allegory of Abraham, only one of which appears logical.  Unfortunately, the more illogical allegory has been generally accepted given the lack of Pentecostal teaching and experience throughout the centuries.  Abraham is shown by Paul to symbolize God’s purpose in availing His covenant to all men via the free gift of grace without respect to their  circumcision.  For the Spirit is given to them that believe, not them that are circumcised in their natures!   Further, the analogy of Abraham makes little sense to the Christian if it does not refer to spiritual-circumcision as a fleshly circumcision would simply be without meaning.

James adds that such belief as had Abraham necessarily implies obedience to act in response to the promise: 

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the alter?  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.        James 2:21-22

Notice the particular form that Abraham’s works took!  Was it an outward demonstration of righteousness and keeping of the law?  No.  Abraham merely performed as God told him.  He “believed” God to the point that he followed through upon God’s promises, much as the believer is told to be baptized in water as a condition for salvation.   As stated by Philip Mauro:

We have in the scriptures the two expressions;  “believe the gospel” and “obey the gospel”. Practically, they mean the same thing;  For they who truly believe the Gospel obey it. [11]

Powerful in its simplicity is the truth spoken by Paul:

. . that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord,  and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,  you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in   righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.                                                                                                   Rom 10:9-11

 By use of Abraham as a type for justification by faith, Paul was not merely invalidating the Jewish ceremony of circumcision, he was establishing a most basic spiritual truth for the guidance of the church, ie. that the righteousness of faith (under the covenant of the blood of Christ) is so vicarious to ourselves, and salvation is so entirely the product of faith, that belief in Christ stands as the only pre-requisite to receiving the “seal of God”, which is life in the Spirit and fellowship within the Body of Christ.  As the Psalmist declares:

The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.                                                                                                  Ps. 87:2

The particular love God holds for the “gates” of Zion is understandable in that it is this fundamental and powerful truth (justification by faith) that gives life to the dead, making possible the reconciliation of the sinner to his creator and growth in true holiness.  This is also why the Lord “hates” any doctrine that would undermine the Spirit’s work in this regard.

This is the only thing I want to find out from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith?                                        Gal. 3:2

vi.  The Sin-Nature Contemplated at Pentecost

The Levitical-rite involved in the Feast of Pentecost provided as follows:

And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.  Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.                          Lev 23:15-17

Therefore the rite involved in Pentecost required that leaven be baked within the loaves that were to be waved.  We know that leaven stands allegory for sin.  Therefore Paul exhorts the Corinthians:

nor with the leaven of malice & wickedness, but  with the unleavened bread of sincerity & truth.                                                    I Cor. 5:8

 Pentecost was foretold by the prophet Joel.[12]  Joel prophesied that not only would God pour out his Spirit on all mankind, but He says:

And even on the male & female servants I will pour out My spirit in those days.                                                                                     Joel 2:29

 This is a reference to those still in bondage to sin who by virtue of the vicarious atonement provided by Christ, may receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  By “servant”, the prophetic meaning is the same as that spoken by Christ:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever commiteth sin is the servant of sin.                                                                                      John 8:34

 The answer for those carnally-driven “servants of sin” is a day known by God wherein His Spirit brings unto them repentance and deliverance:

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, You shall be free indeed.”                                                                                      John 8:36

The feast of Pentecost does not require that any work go-before to render the recipient “holy”, except for the favor of God upon them derived of faith.  The feast is for the sinner.  Pentecost is the free gift of God’s Spirit imparted to humanity through the means of faith in the One whose blood purchased humanity from sin and death.  Therefore, the feast may be celebrated by all humanity by means of believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ for a full satisfaction of the requirements of a holy God.

The “Righteous One” did not die for the righteous, but for the unrighteous, and the “Holy One” did not die for the holy, but for the unholy.  If the glory of God suffered the contradiction of the sin of humanity, and if Christ consented to carry the indignation of sin upon Himself, and suffered the contradiction of humanity’s sin against that holy nature, then His Spirit is intended to be implanted in the heart of the sinner.  If He that “knew no sin” was made “to be sin for us”, and the Son of God did consent to identify with the sinner, then the Holy Spirit does consent to dwell with the sinner that the sinner might be made the righteousness of God!

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;   that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.                               II Cor. 5:21

[1] II Peter 3:16 “. . his letters  . . some things are hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort . . .”

[2] A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W. Bercot, Editor, © 1998, Hendrickson Publishing

[3] Luke 3:3, Acts 13:24, 19:4

[4] See commentary on Isaiah 59:21  And as for Me, this is My covenant with them,

[5] Hebrews 2:10  “. . . to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

[6] Paul’s quotation of prophecy that occurs at Romans 11:27 is uncertain.  As Matthew Henry notes, he seems to begin his quote from Isaiah 59:21, but finish it with Isaiah 27:9 “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin . . .”

[7] I John 5:7

[8] Romans 11:27

[9] “In contrast to the Calvinist-Keswick orientation of Finished Work Pentecostals, Second Work Pentecostals were distinctly Arminian and Wesleyan in religious background.” –  Vision of the Disinherited – The Making of American Pentecostalism, Robert M. Anderson, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA01961-3473, © 1979, pg. 166.

[10] In fact, a type for salvation in this regard may exist in Numbers 27:1-11 wherein the daughters of Zelophehad, a man of Manasseh, who had “died in the wilderness” and had “died in his own sin and he had no sons” appeared before the congregation and were awarded his inheritance.  This established the precept in Israel that; “if a man dies and has no son then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.”  The concept of “inheritance” was a vital Mosaic principle in that it signified that which is eternal, ie. that which survives our mortality.  To “die without a son” seems to signify one who never realizes the promise of bringing forth Christ (as the rightful and true heir of the things of God).  Life eternal is an inheritance of Christ, which appears to have been, nonetheless, granted.

[11] Baptism, Philip Mauro G.A.M. Publications, 1102 West Church Rd, Sterling, VA22170, © 1977, pg. 37

[12] Acts 2:16 & 18  But this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel ……. “Even upon my bondslaves, both men and women I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit…”


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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