I always felt like I was being a little dishonest in my days as a legalist when I spoke of the rules and regulations of the faith I belonged to, particularly in trying to explain them to new converts or questioning prospects. Our ladies weren’t allowed to cut their hair, color their hair, trim their hair, perm their hair, wear short sleeve shirts, tights/leggings, wear metal of any kind in their hair, or any form of jewelry/ornamentation, etc.
The same rules applied to me, as a man, with other requirements as well, such as abstaining from facial hair or allowing my hair to grow past a few inches long. And when people questioned these, saying things like, ‘Sounds like you guys are still under the Old Testament Law’, the response was always, “No, it isn’t laws, they are Standards.”
To illustrate this, I want to start off with pics (pictures prove I haven’t altered the text in any way) from two exchanges I’ve had with people on YouTube content in the past week.
In both cases, we are discussing the Oneness (Apostolic) Pentecostal Holiness movement, of which I was part of for 15 years, and their dogmas (standards) on dress. I won’t take the time to reiterate all of those things, but read these blog posts to learn more: Men and Womens Apparel in Ancient Days, The Commandments of Men, & Out of Context: Without Holiness No Man Shall See The Lord.
In both cases, the individuals are defending their church dress standards, but claim things that aren’t true, and then do what I used to do, and that is to be dishonest about what the ‘standards’ really are. These are Oneness Pentecostals responding to my videos and other videos on the same topic – Dress Standards being Law.
This one is one of the more interesting conversations because this individual does what most Apostolic Pentecostals do. He/She initially relates their dress Standards to the commandment of being “Holy”, and then declares that the only other side to the coin (in layman terms) is that you’ll just go wear mini-skirts and paint your face, which makes you a harlot. (Yes, the Apostolic Pentecostal church teaches that you can’t wear makeup and make it to heaven.)
This highlights the disease of this belief set – because it gets rooted in their hear that if you don’t dress like them, you are a harlot.
Then of course, when asked how they make the connection between ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy’, and ‘Without Holiness, no man shall see the Lord’ and their dress rules, He/She says what I used to say.
“It’s not a dogma its preference you make it a heaven or hell issue out of it’.
That baffles me because it is actually the Apostolic Pentecostals making a heaven/hell issue out of it. In a recent conversation with a young man, he said, “Look, they are standards, not laws, and the local pastor has the right to set standards for his church. (even on things not taught in the Bible, so long as they don’t contradict the Bible) I went and talked to the pastor and even he admitted, these things like facial hair, short sleeve vs long sleeve shirts are not heaven or hell issues.”
That sounded good, but then the pastor said this, (this is not verbatim, but accurate) “But, if I set the standard here, and you don’t obey me, you are sinning the sin of disobedience.”
That my friend is a Law.
This one became even more interesting and this is just a small portion of the whole conversation. What always intrigues me about these ‘defenders of the faith’ is how rude and arrogant they tend to get.
All at once, Carson declares that women in the 1st century would have worn dresses like we would think of a dress today, as completely different from a man’s clothing, that the Apostle Paul taught this very simple idea, attempts to use Greek words to prove that women wore dresses, intently implies anyone who doesn’t believe this lacks basic intelligence (in another post, Carson said, “If you struggle with this simple principle you must struggle with a lot of things in life lol”), and then goes on to say, “I dont believe a woman is going to hell because of pants.’
This is just a sampling of the fervor you will find defending the dress standards of the Apostolic Pentecostal faith. So I did a little social sampling/research, asking questions like this one.
“The Bible says not to take away from, or add to the Word. Jesus made it clear in Mark 7:7 that men who created their own laws (let’s call them standards) for the people, things outside of God’s word, were hypocrites and that worshiping Jesus in those things was vain and useless. Nowhere in Scripture does it say the Pastor has the right and duty to make up his own church rules, required for membership, that are outside of Scripture, and we aren’t talking about carpet color and instrument selection.
So, if your pastor says that men wearing facial hair is unholy – would I be allowed to be a full-fledged member of the church if I continued to wear facial hair? Would I be allowed to be a member? Would God be able to use me? Could I participate, in Choir, outreach, etc.?”
The answer, of course, is no. Unless you abide by that pastor’s standards, you have no legal standing in the Faith. So then I ask this question, “If there is no other Apostolic church in this town, and I can’t be a member of yours, how can I be saved since the majority of Apostolic Pentecostals think they are the only saved people on the earth?”
What is the difference between a Standard and a Law?
A law is something that is written into statutes that all people must obey. Disobedience to these laws results in penalization. In this simple example, the white background speed limit sign is a posted law. If you exceed this limit, you can be subject to penalties including traffic violations and fines. Normally (In the U.S.) you’ll have to appear before a judge and defend or plead your case. You are sentenced from your infraction and you pay the fine or duty that the judge imposes on you. That is how Law works.
The yellow background speed sign is a Standard. It is an Advisory Speed sign. You’ll normally see this when coming into a space of road that has a lot of curves or is windy. They will post a sign that is the suggested speed for which it is safest to drive that stretch of road. Exceeding this limit may place you in danger of not handling the road well, but it is not a traffic law violation to exceed this speed. If you are doing 35mph in a 25mph advisory zone, you have broken no laws and will not be judged for your behavior.
This highlights the simplistic distinction between Law and Standard.
You see, while we/they can claim that the Standards of the Apostolic Holiness movement are not Laws, they (and I was this way) are being very dishonest. I know people who defend these standards in this fashion who are not intentionally being dishonest, in fact, most aren’t, they are just regurgitating what they are being fed from the pulpit.
People will say, ‘Our dress standards are not laws’, and yet, they will in the pulpit (and I’ve heard it hundreds of times) say, “No woman wearing pants and lipstick is going to make it to heaven.” In the first conversation image I posted, these people always backlash when you question their standards, by saying things like, “Fine, go find your self a church where you can be a harlot (wear makeup)”.
If something you do keeps you out of heaven, it is because you have violated God’s law. So if the claim is, ‘You can’t go to heaven if you aren’t obeying the standards’, then you know assuredly, that those are Laws, not Standards.
Now, a church and pastor may make a standard, something like, “Our church has held the standard that we do not want any married men or women in a room alone with another married person. When I (The pastor) counsel, I will not do it alone with a woman, my standard is to always have my wife with me when I counsel someone of the opposite sex. We ask all of our church members to be careful in this way.”
This is a Standard. This is something based in principle, that you are not judged for, that you are not legislated by, and your membership to the church does not depend on. Would following the example set before you be extremely wise? Absolutely! but it is not a Law.
God alone, if you believe in God and in His Word, is the only one capable of creating Laws. Those Laws were written. The faith was once (and for all) delivered unto the saints. What is going to keep you out of the Kingdom of God was clearly written in Scripture. To add to that is such a dangerous thing.
Let me end by saying this: If you, for yourself, believe that wearing a certain piece of clothing, or worshipping at a certain time helps keep you closer to God, than by all means, do it!
“The faith which you have [that gives you freedom of choice], have as your own conviction before God [just keep it between yourself and God, seeking His will]. Happy is he who has no reason to condemn himself for what he approves.” – Romans 14:22, AMP
I am not judging you, or anyone for the personal standards and convictions they want to keep. Paul made it clear that you are blessed (happy) for those things you allow. Your own personal convictions.
What I am coming against, is entire organizations making ‘standards’ that keep people in or out of the church, and to their set of beliefs, also keep people in or out of heaven. If it wasn’t written in Scripture, and it’s taught as something you must do, it is a man-made law and should be called for what it is, an error and fallacy.
‘They worship Me in vain [their worship is meaningless and worthless, a pretense],
Teaching the precepts of men as doctrines [giving their traditions equal weight with the Scriptures].’ – Mark 7:7
Thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Great.
I’m thinking of leaving the Apostolic church I grew up in as a child. Now married with children.I don’t obey all the laws, but I am consistently thrashed from the pulpit for it. I dont want my children brought up with this hatred and “exclusive to obedient members only” type “truth”. Me as a introverted person already that tends to be a little shy. I have no idea in how to go about leaving. I left once. But,
found myself back. Now I’m stamped for my previous “unloyalty” to the preacher…because I never talked with them about leaving..I just left. He will even talk about how thankful he is for the certain loyal ones that have never left and say things like ,”with some I know where their loyalty lies”. I dont know why I continue to go. Fear I suppose of the unknown as ….a Fourth Generation in this, all my family members are a part of this organization, this is all I have ever known. I am a mom. I long for friends so much. Most people I go to church with we dont associate outside of church. I find myself wishing to just belong to a place where I am always treated like family regardless of what I’m wearing or the fact I now cut my hair, or that I dress my little girl in God forbid shorts and tshirts because it’s just more comfortable for little ones. On Facebook, you get the likes. The comments unless your wearing something they dont approve of I noticed. I’m so confused right now I cant even think straight.😕
Dear Anon, So many things you said I can relate to. The guilt preaching to humiliate and the use of peer pressure to extract conformity; the rules that, when studied out, are SO out of line; and on and on. I’m like you, in that, I love friends and had a lot of them, until I left 13 months ago. Those friendships were all built on the “we’ve got all truth” doctrine. I was shocked to see the ‘likes’ on Facebook instantly be gone if I posted the ‘me’ I am now. Hair, jewelry- I love fun jewelry- just me! The non-hypocrite me that doesn’t care if you wear pants or a nose ring… you’re a person that is worthy of love and attention without my beliefs forced on you. Leaving became a necessity when I realized how my look of moral superiority was so raunchy in the eyes of God. I couldn’t stand myself anymore. I was in for 26 years and now, I’m not. I still love God, I think probably more now, but I do what I do because He’s given me the privilege of choice. I won’t let man steal that from me again. And i won’t be going back. Ever. Oh , and I have some true friends now.. real people that don’t condemn me or judge me. That I can disagree with and still love and respect. 1 year out and already forming a network of what I know will be lifelong friendships. They’re out there, girlfriend! They are. Probably closer than you know, but they’re there. -Lori
My heart is almost literally bleeding for you right now. I know and empathize with exactly where you are. I was not 4th gen, I was first gen, but I married a 2nd gen UPC member who has stayed in the church and is more loyal to them and the pastor than to me. I did not leave my Faith in Jesus, I left the disease of legalism. But to them, I’m reprobate. And, like you, I want to put my kids in normal clothes and let them play as normal children, but it turns in to a fight and is a very difficult thing to deal with.
When leaving, I had no one to turn to, not a single person I could talk with, to get help, advice, my entire social strata had been contained in the church. I was literally in the spiral you are talking about, and it took me a long time to figure out again who I was. It even took me months to totally break free from the legalism and become comfortable wearing a short sleeve shirt because our church caused us to believe short sleeve shirts were unholy and sinful.
Then, I discovered a few things that turned it all around for me. The first was getting the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, and the book Toxic Faith. I would be happy to send you copies of those books, and you can also request free copies from a website I am associated with, http://www.spiritualabuse.org. Some of my work is sponsored on that page.
The second big help to me was THAT website. There are hundreds of people just like you and me sharing their stories. There are blogs, videos, links, resources, etc. The powerful aspect is to realize YOU are NOT Alone. You feel alone right now, physically, but what you are going through, and the trauma of being in legalism/cult, and the fear of leaving is real, and scary, and painful. Finding others who did it to gives you a coat tail to hold on to.
Then, I found several online communities to connect with, and they are secret groups so that you can share your story and find support without being afraid of people in your church world finding it and condemning you. I will gladly connect you to those resources. Please find me on Facebook – My name is Ralph Brickley. I can connect you to two or three really awesome groups. In the last two weeks I’ve helped half a dozen people join those groups, some of which had been in UPC 30+ years and the healing they receive by having those connections with people is life-changing.
I am praying for you – I take the stand not to tell anyone to leave a church, it must be your choice, but I know the struggle you are in right now and I am here to support you. You can email, Facebook, and I even take calls from time to time if you need to chat for support. Many blessings,
I grew up in AG and was an associate pastor and worship pastor. I was impressed of the Holy Spirit to step down. I’m not seventh day adventitsc Jehovah witness or any of that. Nor am I tied to any organizations and denominations. I’m simply a bible(Torah) believe and whole Bible observer. I just find it funny how holiness, apostolic, and upc churches are smart enough to dissect every little scripture to try and teach against make up and things of that nature. Yet they can read the rest of the Bible and teach against the very things God put in place. Some don’t even have scriptural proof for the ignorant things they teach. I’ve known many personally who said “you won’t preach in my pulpit with that beard!” I wanted to say so bad.. please find that in scripture! It’s not there! I guess Aaron, or even Christ himself couldn’t speak in “your” pulpit because they had a beard. I’ve heard of them shunning men who had a beard and a wedding ring. Tell women they were in sin for wearing pajama pants. Seriously? I want to ask them.. who sees them when they are at home with their pajama pants on? Their husband or family? Unless you have a lust problem or you’ve been peeping through their window. What’s the issue? Most of them have left their wife’s and are no longer preaching.. all because they preached a standard that they couldn’t even keep! Plus it wasn’t BIBLICAL! Many are still preaching that way today. Isn’t it amazing how they can dissect scriptures or cherry pick scriptures instead of reading all the versus to prove their point and they will even define the words in their Hebrew concordance to show you your wrong. Yet they teach against gods law and take it out of context! They teach that it was abolished. Yet the only law that was done away with was the oral law or what scripture calls the tradition of the elders. God never abolished his law. He said think not that I have come to destroy the law! Latter part of the verse says.. until heaven and earth pass away. Well last time I checked.. Heaven and earth are still here! It amazes me how ignorant people are.. they will study will study whatever scriptures they want and harp on make up and apparel but when you tell them the truth about baptism or Gods law not being abolished .. they become angry! They can’t defend themselves and their only excuse is to misrepresent Paul and make him out to be a liar when he’s not. Religious people get instantly mad when you question them on their faith. They can’t even defend themselves or prove it In scripture. Well “my pastor said” … no ma’am, no sir.. that’s not going to get it. Open your bible and study. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and lead you into all truth. We have a lot of church doctrine and church dogma but most aren’t keep Gods commandments or living in the true faith. This is said in love and with a desire to see many come to truth. Blessings in the name of Yahshua Messiah(Christ)