The Oneness(Apostolic) Pentecostal denomination declares Acts 2:38 as the one and only true method of Biblical Salvation. Any other religious observation is null and void. Sincere, but sincerely wrong. Baptised in the literal Matthew 28:19 formula? You just got wet. Didn’t speak in tongues? You are lost. Not following Holiness standards? Lost.
But is this supported by Scripture? Are there adequate supporting evidences in Scripture to show that Paul continued teaching this model to the Gentiles?
In this last article on the series, we want to address a notion in the Oneness Pentecostal denomination, or part of it, that teaches the idea that the Book of Acts is the only book in the New Testament that illustrates and defines the necessary steps for salvation, specifically, chapter 2. That is to say, you cannot read Romans to Revelation and find the Doctrine of Salvation.
This of course, simply isn’t true, but it must be taught to enforce the Acts 2:38 model. Please read Part 1 and Part 2 to understand this model thoroughly.
What is clear is that there is a discrepency between this model and the rest of the NT church foundation. It is also safe to say, that over time, especially between Acts 2 and Acts 16, as the church matured, and found their way, the message had to also mature according to the audience.
That is NOT to say the Gospel changed, but it is evident that the conversation to the Jews, and the conversation to the Gentiles, was different. For instance, it is highly important to realize that Acts 2 was just to the Jewish people, and the subsequent books were entirely to the Jewish nation. Jesus himself told his disciples “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:” Matthew 10:5.
This is because the New Testament church was meant as a call to the Jewish nation to return to God as they had become lost in their politics and legalism. Yet, by Acts 7, and the stoning of Stephen, which was the final (third) rejection of Christ, the Gospel message turned from Jews, to Gentiles.
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
It is then, in Acts 9 that Saul is converted and becomes Paul, and then begins the transition to the Gentiles. We see this follow lock and step in Acts 10 when God reveals to Peter that the Gentiles are no longer to be called unclean, and sends Peter to Cornelius’ house to teach him (Peter) this lesson.
This was a crucial turning point, and like Acts 2, God miraculously fill them with the Holy Ghost as a sign to the Jews that God was now with the Gentiles as well. We see this explained in Acts 11 and 15.
Faith has always been the method of Salvation, or Justification, and yet, to the Jews, they required signs and wonders, and had ritual traditions that needed to be followed, such as baptism and circumcision. For the Gentiles, it was a matter of intellect.
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:” 1 Corinthains 1:22, KJV
The Battle of Apostles
By Acts 15, we come upon a great debate, called the Council of Jerusalem, that I also call the Council of Legalism. Here it is, that Paul contends with those disciples and church leaders, purportedly other Apostles, who wish to continue keeping the Law of Moses, among the Gentile converts, which was the ritual of baptism and circumcision, and Scripture even declares, ‘All the law of Moses’.
Act 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
Act 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
Peter then stands and explains his meeting with Cornelius, how God sent him to the Gentiles by revelation and that they too believed, and received the Holy Ghost just as the Jewish believers had. And Peter, the preacher of Acts 2:38 goes on to decalare that we(Jews) can be saved the same way the Gentiles are, through Faith, not ritual, legalism, works.
Act 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Act 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Act 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
So here, if Peter declared Acts 2:38 as the ONLY method of salvation, why would be say that We(Jews) could be saved the same way the Gentiles are, which was by Faith?
The church leadership goes on to decree that the only yoke, or requirement upon the Gentile church, in accordance with Jewish law, were these necessary things.
Act 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
It is here that Paul and Silas are blessed to take this message and spread it to the Gentile church! And in Acts 16, we see their very first opportunity.
Did Paul teach Acts 2:38?
Act 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
Act 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
And just like this event, in Acts 19 believers were baptised after believing. That is to say, their saving grace was fully believing and trusting in the Works of Christ, not in their own works. It is no wonder then, that Paul said in Romans 1:17, “…the just shall live by faith”.
Paul again, in Romans declares that our salvation is through the Blood, and our reconciliation is in His[Jesus’] life.
Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Romans 5:1 declares “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” If our salvation, which in many ways is synonymous with justification, why is Paul not repeating Acts 2:38? These people he speaks to did not have the 66 book Bible we have to refer to, nor were they in Jerusalem to witness the preaching of Peter, so why is the model/method of Oneness Pentecostals not repeated?
They (Oneness Pentecostals) would say, that all of Paul’s writings were to already saved churches, people who had already carried out the Acts 2:38 model and were living it. But if this were true, we would not have Galatians.
Gal 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
The most interesting highlight of Galatians is that it will go on to deal with false teachers who came in to teach a message AGAINST salvation by faith alone. Those false teachers Jesus warned us about were church elders teaching a reversion to Judaism and the keeping of laws, ordinances, legalism.
Consider this snippeting of Galatians 2
Gal 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: <– Keeping of law and ordinances
Gal 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. <– Even Paul duked it out with Peter over legalism, this is how the church matured.
Gal 2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? <– Difference between Jewish and Gentile standards/methods
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Gal 2:18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. <– If Paul builds up again Judaism, Law, Legalism
Gal 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Paul said we are the Children of God by faith in Jesus Christ in Galatians 3:26. In 3:8 he said “God would justify the heathen[Gentile] through faith.” And most importantly, if keeping the traditions and ordiances of the law had anything to do with salvation, then we are fallen from Grace.
Gal 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
No – Paul did not teach Acts 2:38 as the message of ‘How do I get saved?’. What is more interesting, is that the men of Jerusalem, asking in Acts 2:37 how they should respond to Peter’s preaching, DID NOT ask, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ as the Roman jailer did.
They asked, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’. Or in layman terms, ‘Now what are we supposed to do!?!?’
The Oneness Pentecostal message of judgementalism is anti-Scriptural and very hard to justify. They teach that unless you A) Repent (adopt their standards of living called Holiness), B) are baptized by a Pentecostal miniser only, who MUST utter In the Name of Jesus Christ, and C) received the Holy Ghost, which MUST be evidenced by speaking in tongues, you are not, and cannot be saved.
The conclusion, which one must make for themselves, is whether or not that message was propagated throughout Scripture, and if it was, then we must reject all those who came to Christ by faith.
As for my studies, I cannot find that message being declared throughout Scripture. What I do find, is Paul teaching us that Faith comes by hearing the Word, and that Faith in Christ Alone justifies and saves us. We then are compelled to live according to God’s holy nature, as he has sealed us with His Holy Spirit.
Legalism requires we do, but Faith propels us to do!
God bless and may you find faith in Christ.