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In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, verses 23 through 24, we have the following:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
To "sanctify" is to make more holy, to make more good, to make less evil. Some have suggested that the above words refer to an "entire sanctification" suddenly delivered, a gift which God is willing and eager to give as a one-time post-salvation blessing, in which the receiver still living in flesh of the world, loses his or her sinful state. One of John Wesley's tracts in 1766 delivered some of the thought, and it has remained a theme, albeit a relatively minor one, in much of the Methodist tradition. Mr. Wesley taught a gradual progression, in profound respect for the Lord's words in Luke 18, verse 9, "No one is good, except God alone." But the first to greatly popularize the thought of a sudden delivery of total sanctification, and the first to convince very large numbers that this is called "baptism of the Holy Spirit," was probably Wesley's disciple John Fletcher, in 1771. Fletcher also associated this experience with the bestowal of power for service. For the next hundred years there was a visible proportion of Methodists who believed in and were actively seeking entire sanctification, and among these some believed that this experience was the same as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which they expected would be accompanied by manifestation of miraculous power.
Miraculous things did and do, in fact, happen, on a large number of occasions, and perhaps especially among those who receive teachings of miraculous sanctification. In many instances, healings occur without any other occurrances at all, as was true in Charles Mason's meetings in Jackson, Mississippi in 1896, and in the Church of God in Christ before 1907. In others, such as the movement started by Edward Irving in Scotland in 1830, healing and other events such as speaking in unknown tongues, were seen together. Today, one can find many churches in which clear and present miracles occur...but just as in the New Testament record, charlatans abound, as does wishful thinking, and God is well-known to halt the good and the miraculous in the presence of the pride of man and woman.
The seeking of miraculous sanctification from God, especially starting about the time of John Wesley, is often called the "holiness movement," and quite a wide variety of people have become motivated therein. Irving was pastor of Regent Square Presbyterian Church in Port Glasgow, Scotland, prior to preaching the baptism of the Holy Spirit; and most of those who followed him were Presbyterians. When the movement began to grow in earnest in the U.S. about 1865, it was at first welcomed by most of the major denominations because of its emphasis on holy living and renewal of the church from within. Major leaders in the movement came from the Methodists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and various Baptist denominations, and there was and remains a strong element within the Roman church as well.
Around the middle 1800's, a sad progression began. Many of the leaders and members of the various groups, decided to publicly proclaim their own rightness and an imperative wrongness of those whom the Lord had taught of Himself, but had not blessed or not taught in various other visible ways. The theories all had the same form, just a different nugget. Some insisted, and to this day insist, that the only people to whom God will give visible and excellent gifts, are those whose entire bodies are dunked in a small swimming pool. Others do exactly the same concerning (a) those whose mouths produce sounds not understandable to their human neighbors, and (b) those whose mouths do not produce such sounds. And there are more variations. It is worthwhile to point out that within Holy Scripture, God has never spoken any of these limitations. He has said He will do these things, and many more. He has never stated that He will always do any of them. He is God! He decides.
But back to our story. As a result of all of that proclamation, holiness groups disfellowshipped from each other, and groups which were part of established denominations were also disfellowshipped from their parent organizations. Today, many of the groups whose origins arose in the one movement, have no useful collective memory of this having taken place. Some of them call themselves denominations now, and some of them don't; but all can be recognized quite easily as being independent and insular groups: all of them have their own set of self-identifying seminaries, and the sets mix only very selectively, and gingerly. But there is a new trend towards de-insularization, a desire to reverse this chopping of the Lord's church into little bitty pieces; it is a very happy thing, a remembrance of the fact that, as Paul said it, we all know only in part.
There is a complete spectrum of understanding of the miraculous, across the range of the denominations founded within the holiness movement. Some condemn all possible miracles. Some insist on teaching people to move their tongues and label the will of man with the name of God...identical in kind, but rather different in application, to the way some have spoken after painting quasi-christian crosses on swords, shields, and F18 fighter planes. But in some churches of all, one will witness real miracles if the Lord is willing. But as He warned, there are many liars; we must be careful.
Another giant gorilla in the room, is racism. The Wesley brothers were both abolitionists, and their movement produced some of the great abolitionist leaders in both Britain and the U.S.A., including William Wilberforce, Gilbert Haven, LaRay Sunderland and Anthony Bewley. Indeed, Charles Finney, a revivalist of much renown, arose within Wesleyan tradition, opposed slavery, and wrote a very powerful argument that regeneration and the decision to oppress one's brothers cannot coexist (see Finney's Systematic Theology, chap. 17). But churches within these groups regularly restricted black worshippers to the balcony or some other carefully segregated area, where they could watch white people worship but not participate. The formation of separate churches and denominations, was undoubtedly the best solution available in some places and times, given the militant hatred of many white church leaders and state legislators; and this is what occurred.
But even the white branch of the Methodist movement, was divided over slavery. The Wesleyan Methodists (today called just "Wesleyans") in 1843, and the Free Methodists in 1860, separated from the white Methodist mainstream in large part because leadership within the larger denomination either tolerated or actively defended slavery. To be sure, a doctrinal split was beginning to develop over the meaning and means of sanctification the underlying question being whether sanctification is best characterized as a progressive becoming like Christ or as a "second blessing" experience of entire sanctification but this difference wouldn't likely have created an organizational schism as early as 1843, in the absence of the slavery issue. In fact, the two positions on the sanctification issue can be pondered as complementary parts of the same larger truth.
An irony in all of this, is the fact that while the holiness groups were initially composed of abolitionists who separated from the Methodist mainstream over the slavery issue, for the most part they all -- the Wesleyans and Free Methodists included -- formed segregated churches. In some cases, the result was the formation of separate black denominational groups, like the original (1893) Church of God in Christ. In others, such as the Church of the Nazarene (important in the story of the Azusa Street revival) and the Church of God / Anderson (now called "Church of God Ministries"), the result was separate black congregations within the denomination. But very seldom did the teaching of the holiness movement lead to the formation of integrated congregations.
This tacit decision to excuse racism, and similar decisions about other sins, led to an absurd result. Many began to abandon a growing closeness to God as evidenced by obedience to His will in love of God and neighbor and enemy, and instead, began to emphasize church-attendance, church-money, instant "entire sanctification" experiences, and various very physical behaviors regardless of state of being. Many in the holiness movement appeared to take the attitude, essentially, that "As long as I don't drink, smoke, cuss or chew, and I've had the defining sanctification 'experience,' it's OK if I'm still a racist!" And of course this teaching completely ignores the Lord's commandments to love our brother and our neighbor and our enemy, and the basic truth that our reconciliation to each other into one Body in Christ is at the very heart of the Gospel. But in spite of these directions and others, many of the Holiness groups were open to the miraculous and to the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, and God responded as He saw fit. Miracles were given, and still are, where the presence of the will and the power of God is welcomed by any. A patient, thoughtful, and prayerful observer, if he or she visits a variety of churches, will find that God gives where His will is welcome, even sometimes in the presence of open charlatanry. This is exactly as the New Testament records -- but in the absence of a fleshly body of the Lord, His will is often much less welcome.
So a rather large array of mostly small denominational groups resulted: independent congregations and independent teachers which were often at variance over relatively small points and were additionally divided along racial lines. Many of these differences were later worked out, and a good deal of consolidation of holiness groups had occurred by 1920 or 1930. However, Charles Parham and William Seymour, the most important personalities in the events which led to the Azusa Street revival and the modern Pentecostal movement, acted before this consolidation set in, in a milieu which was markedly divisive.
Charles Parham was a Wesleyan Methodist minister who generally believed that the Wesleyans (who were no slouches!) were too lax morally, and did not emphasize "entire sanctification," healings, and miracles, enough. He had broken away from the Wesleyan Methodist denominational organization as an independent, to pursue the full implications of the sanctification doctrine. Like many in the holiness movement, he viewed the "second blessing" as conferring both sanctification and charismatic power, including healing very prominently, but also miracles and prophecy. His views were more extreme than those of many in the holiness movement in his time, in that he viewed the sanctification of the "second blessing" as conferring utter and pure sinless perfection upon its recipient.
Bethel Bible College, which he operated in Topeka, Kansas, from the fall of 1900 until the spring of 1901, was an independent holiness college. It is noteworthy, however, that Parham operated a healing mission or healing school at a different location in Topeka for several years prior to the opening of Bethel College, and that newsletters published by his healing school assert that many notable healings occurred there. Thus, he clearly viewed the gift of healing as being in operation in the Church before 1900. Some events which occurred at and around this school, are quite interesting.
In the fall of 1900, Parham's organization rented a larger building, the only partially completed Stone mansion (also called "Stone's Folly"), which was then more than a mile beyond the west city limit, as a location for his new (and all white) Bible college. The question assigned for study at Bethel Bible College in the fall of 1900, was this: what is the sign of entire sanctification? That is, how can I look at you and be sure that you have received the sanctification experience and are, therefore, eligible for church leadership?
Many holiness groups, then and before and after, consider the question to be quite irrelevant. But to some, it is very important. Over the course of their studies that fall, Parham and his students began to believe that entire sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit were closely related to each other. This led to a second question what is the outward sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit?
Thus, when Parham left Topeka for a few weeks in December 1900, he left his students with the following question to answer: "What is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost?" It seems to have completely escaped Parham, among many others, that the obvious sign of sanctification would be a holy life. The verb "to sanctify" is a pure synonym of the word "to hallow", i.e., to make holy! God has said that He prefers obedience to sacrifice; thus, we should seek as evidence, obedience to the commandments of the Lord Jesus. But more than probably we need to have mercy upon those who do not yet know this. This mercy, would constitute some of that obedience, for us.
Parham's students eventually delivered the same answer given by Edward Irving in Scotland 69 years earlier. They pronounced that "the" evidence of sanctification by God, the evidence of Spirit baptism, is speaking in unknown tongues. The Bethel Bible College community therefore embarked into prayer and fasting for this experience of Holy Spirit baptism "with the evidence of speaking in tongues" for some days prior to New Year's Eve, 1900. Then, on January 1, 1901, student Agnes Ozman asked that hands be laid on her and that prayer be made that she would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She became convinced that she was being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and did, in fact, start to speak in unknown tongues. Over the next few days, other students and Parham himself followed her in this experience.
Parham and his immediate followers took the concept of tongues as evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost rather farther than most modern Pentecostals. The immediate teaching was that "tongues" included both angelic languages and human languages. They were convinced that they were experiencing a "second Pentecost", a repetition of a miracle recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, in which the Apostles were given to teach of Christ in human languages to which they were alien. The thought was that the Lord was giving the will and the way for the world to be entirely re-evangelized, by them and their followers. Some of them "agreed with each other in prophecy" that the 'unknown tongue' they were speaking was Hindi, and convinced enough others to fund tickets to India. Once in India, they experienced great embarassment. This happened more than once.
Parham and company left Topeka in the Spring of 1901, and traveled around various locations in the Midwest preaching their new experience always in segregated meetings and planting small, white churches. Most of Parham's ministry from 1901 to 1906 was in Missouri and Texas, and he was very strict about his compliance with the apartheid laws of the states where he ministered. Throughout this period, and until the end of his life, blacks were required to sit at the back of the hall in his meetings, could not pray at the same altars as whites and could not receive laying on of hands at the same time as whites. And when William Seymour, a black man, sought training at Parham's Bible school, he was allowed to attend, but not in the same room with whites he sat in the anteroom or hallway or stood in the doorway and listened to the lectures through an open door. And while Seymour was not baptized with the Holy Spirit under Parham's ministry, he did learn Parham's teachings and become convinced that Parham was at least substantially correct, although Seymour concluded that salvation, entire sanctification and Spirit baptism were three separate experiences which would always occur in that order.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Joseph Smale, pastor of the First Baptist Church, after visiting Wales (then in the midst of a great revival) in 1905, began prayer meetings in his church modeled after what he had seen in Wales, and healings began to occur there. However, the things Smale was doing caused him trouble with his board, and he left to found a "New Testament Assembly," which met in a house on Bonnie Brae. Meanwhile, in April, 1906, at the instance of Neeley Terry, who had just visited Houston, the small black Nazarene congregation she attended, invited Seymour to preach in their church. He accepted the invitation, and preached his first sermon out of Acts 2:4 on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many in that Nazarene church believed Seymour to have preached false doctrine, and he returned that evening to find the door padlocked. Those who followed Seymour out of the Nazarene church, started to meet in the home of some Baptists from Smale's flock, on Bonnie Brae. On April 9, 1906, "the Spirit fell upon this small group of African-American believers." The group soon moved to a former Methodist church building at 312 Azusa St., where it met 3 times a day, 7 days a week for the next three years. This is often referred to as "the Azusa Street Revival".
It is noteworthy that California had by far the most diverse population of any state in the United States, and had no apartheid laws requiring racial segregation of public meetings. What started at Azusa Street was entirely inclusive; under Seymour's leadership, the Azusa Street congregation would tolerate no racial or ethnic divisions in the Body of Christ. Although it started among a group of African-Americans, the Azusa Street meetings were completely interracial, and many whites became involved. Many people of all races, and from various countries, came to Azusa Street to observe or to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Though Parham continued to preach, in Houston and elsewhere, and his students also spread around the U.S., after April 1906 there was considerably more focus at the Azusa Street church and its echoes, than in Parham's ministry.
It is also noteworthy that Parham subsequently rejected his student Seymour, in explicit part because Seymour's congregation at the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles was a mixed race congregation. Parham's published negative comments about Seymour and Azusa Street leave little doubt that Parham was not free from those bonds. Seymour, for his part, taught three separate experiences baptism, sanctification coming always before Spirit baptism, and baptism in the Holy Spirit and insisted, correctly, that any form of racist attitude was inconsistent with sanctification. Unfortunately, between 1911 and 1920, the large majority of the white leaders in the Pentecostal movement in the United States followed Parham in his hypocrisy in this matter, bowed the knee to state apartheid laws, and separated themselves to form separate white Pentecostal churches and denominations. For instance, what are now the two largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States the Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God arose from such a racial division of a single group. The white Assemblies of God left the Church of God in Christ (until then a mixed-race denomination) in 1914, ostensibly to comply with the apartheid laws of the southern states where these groups were based. By so doing, they helped deny any revival, reconciliation, and healing God desired to bring within the U.S.A. through a united Church. It is interesting to note that other nations have seen it. In large part, the hypocrites fostered the violence of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and '60s, which violence would have been less or nonexistent if servants of God had been obedient. As it was, churches harbored militant hatred. Groups having nothing to do with faithfulness to God, met in churches, and church-leaders were often the kingpins. Happily, today, it is recorded that in some of those very churches where murder by hanging and dragging was commended, the descendants of the murdered are leaders. God gives! Praise be to God.
It is clear that encouragement and toleration of racism warped the doctrine of many churches, holiness and not. But every age of every nation has its favorite sins. There was very profound education to racism in many parts of the U.S.A., for more than two hundred years; perhaps we should count ourselves blessed that there only had to be one war between the states on this topic. There are other sins, for which there has been much less repentance. We pray that He give to His churches much more power to learn, to live, and to speak in holiness.
The followers of Parham and Seymour, asked God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. Many in the holiness movement have never concerned themselves with speaking in unknown tongues at all, but have kept up prayer for other miraculous acts of God. God gives, then and now, power, healings, deliverances, revival, positively changed lives in many cases, according to His decisions. He decides. When He knows we will not glorify ourselves, when He knows we will glorify Him, He gives, according to His total knowledge of the state of the soul of the recipient. No more, and no less, than that which is good and true and right. No one is good, except God alone.
Next page: Was manifestation of tongues in evidence in every instance of Spirit baptism in Acts?
Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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© 2003, 2010 Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
Some Thoughts and Tracts
for the Gospel
Speaking in Unknown Tongues
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