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United Pentecostal Church International
As their name implies, the United Pentecostals were once a part of the Pentecostal Churches, and the Assemblies of God. They were excommunicated from this fellowship for their denial of accepted Christian theology. The United Pentecostals now claim salvation exclusively in their ranks due to their "special understanding" of God and baptism. Are they a denomination or a cult? We wish to present certain facts, so that you may decide.
THE UNITED PENTECOSTALS AND THE NATURE OF GOD
There is one point of agreement concerning God between the United Pentecostals and other denominations. All agree that there is but ONE GOD, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is each God. Here the agreement ends.
Historical Christianity teaches that within the nature of the one God, we can distinguish three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three are therefore the one God. We might give this belief in the Trinity the description of a "composite unity".
The United Pentecostals, on the other hand teach a singular view. That is, that God is absolutely one in numerical value, that Jesus is the one God, and that God is not a plurality of persons. At the same time, they accuse the Trinitarians of following a pagan doctrine, and date the beginning of the "Trinity" from the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. We will now address these differences.
IS GOD COMPOSITE UNITY OR SINGULAR?
Due to space limitation, we will deal with a favorite Scripture of the United Pentecostals, namely Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" Does this Scripture teach "singular oneness" as the United Pentecostals teach? It appears to, but to answer correctly, we must look at the original Hebrew words in which this Scripture was written. A literal translation is, "Hear, O Israel YHWH (LORD) (Singular), our Gods (plural) is YHWH echad (a unity)." On the surface, this literal translation may seem shocking to Christians, since it appears to suggest a plurality of gods, but bear with us as we examine it further. The Hebrew word for God (Elohim) is plural, but is always used with a singular verb when speaking of God. If plural gods were meant literally, the verb would also be plural. "Elohenu", "our Gods", is derived from "Elohim". The singular word for God would be "Eloah", but this is not used. So, "YHWH (LORD), our Gods, is (notice singular verb) YHWH (LORD) echad."
The Hebrew word "Echad" is also of primary importance in understanding the nature of God. "Echad" means "one", but "one" collectively or unitedly. It does not mean one as an absolute digit. The Hebrew language does have a word for a single unit of one, but this word is not used in connection with God. On the basis of Hebrew grammar alone, we could not accept the United Pentecostal doctrine of God. God is obviously a "composite one", and this is what traditional Christianity and the Trinity teaches. We realize that the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, but it simply means Tri-Unity, the One God manifested in three identifiable personalities.
The attempt to explain away the plural "Elohim" for God, by saying that it is in the plural due to His "majesty" dates from the 13th century, and so does not affect the original grammar of the Bible.
The Trinity is definitely found in the pages of the Bible, and that is where it originated. The One God of the Bible has revealed Himself in three ways, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They definitely co-exist. See John 1:1; John 17:5; Isaiah 44:6. Read over the many references where Jesus and the Father converse, and it will become very evident that there are two distinct personalities involved simultaneously. The UPC explanation that the two natures of Jesus spoke is really stretching credibility to its limit. Persons speak, but natures do not! We suggest the excellent book, "Majesty The God You Should Know", by J. Sidlow Baxter (Here's Life Publications).
IS THE TRINITY PAGAN?
There are some so-called "trinities" in pagan religions. However, on closer examination, they are not "trinities" at all, but "triads of three gods". The Greek triad of Zeus, Athena, and Apollo, and the Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, bear no resemblance at all to the Biblical Trinity. The Biblical Trinity is not three gods, but one God.
THE COUNCIL OF NICEA -
DID IT ORIGINATE THE TRINITY?
The Trinity was not even the subject of discussion at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.! Arius was denying the Deity of Jesus Christ, and was corrected at this Council. The term "trinitas" is first recorded by Tertullian in the second century. Prior to the Council of Nicea we have ample proof that Jesus was regarded as God. Polycarp called Jesus, "Our Lord and God" (The Apostolic Fathers, p.99). Ignatius said, "For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary" (ibid p. 67). Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp also called Jesus "God". (Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1, p. 330). The teaching that the Nicene creed from the Council originated the Trinity is proven to be false. The Bible teaches the Trinity.
BAPTISM -A REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION
While Christians believe in being baptized, they do not see it as a requirement for salvation. Acts 2:38 is the formula used by the United Pentecostals. "Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." While this Scripture does appear to support their doctrine of remission of sins by baptism, we need to carefully consider its grammatical construction. The word "repent" is in the second person plural. It is a general command to many people -- repent! The next phrase, "and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" is in the third person singular -- an individual command. "for the remission of YOUR sins", is again in the second person plural. Therefore the correct understanding, according to the rules of grammar, is (Everyone) "repent...for the remission of your sins." In other words, the phrase, "for the remission of your sins" is NOT connected to baptism, but to repentance. This agrees with Luke 24:47, "...repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations..."
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
United Pentecostals also take the phrase from Acts 2:38, "...you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit", to mean that you must speak in tongues to be saved. We would point out that a careful reading of all the accounts of baptism in the New Testament will show that "speaking in tongues" is not a general feature of baptism, nor was baptism referred to as the means of salvation. Tongues is NOT mentioned in many instances where the Holy Spirit was spoken of as indwelling believers. (See Acts 4:31; 8:17-19; 9:17,18; 13:52) Baptism does not save one, and tongues do not save one, GRACE ALONE saves. (Ephesians 2:8,9)
There are many genuinely-saved people among the United Pentecostals, who truly love the Lord. We have no objection to them being baptized in the name of "Jesus only", although this does not comply with the Lord's own instruction to the church in Matthew 28:19. We are disturbed over their denial of the Trinity, and their attitude towards other denominations. We suggest sincere Christians lay aside their "Jesus Only" literature from the United Pentecostal Church and seek through the pages of the Bible for the real truth on doctrine.