Tuesday, August 14, 2012


A New Online Booklet by Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Below is an excerpt from an exciting new booklet that has just been posted at the Discernment Ministries main website book page. The topic of this booklet is especially relevant to the rapidly rising popularity and mainstreaming of T.D. Jakes* in the evangelical world. To read the entire book, go to http://www.discernment-ministries.org/JesusOnlyBaptism.pdf


The Rise of “Jesus Only” Baptism
Oneness Pentecostalism

            The Trinitarian formula, “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” is customarily repeated over Christian converts when they are baptized. This recital derives from the mandate given by Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations (See Matthew 28:19.). Against this formula, some Pentecostal associations of churches advocate baptism only in “the name of Jesus Christ” or “the Lord Jesus.” About this offshoot of Pentecostalism, Vinson Synan says, “According to oneness teaching, the only valid baptism is in ‘Jesus’ name’ and not ‘in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’.”[1] Oneness Pentecostalism advocates that “in the name of Jesus” be liturgically pronounced over each person who is baptized. Early Oneness Pentecostal G.T Haywood (1880-1931) wrote:

The Blood and the Name of Jesus are inseparable. To be saved by water baptism, it must be administered in the name of Jesus.... The life of the Blood of Christ is connected with baptism when it is administered in His Name.[2]

In some instances, those within the movement even teach that, if they were not baptized according to this exact formula, Christians are not really saved.[3] Therefore, Oneness Pentecostalism insists that professing Christians who have been previously baptized according to the Trinitarian formula be re-baptized in the name of “Jesus only”.

            The New Issue
            Oneness Pentecostalism arose out of the Assemblies of God denomination in the early 1900s. In seeking revival, David Reed observed that early Pentecostals “expended their energies in an intensive study of one book in the New Testament above all others, the Acts of the Apostles.”[4] In pursuit of a more dynamic spirituality, Pentecostals held camp meetings where pastors first sought revival for themselves, and then upon finding it, purposed to bring that revival back to their local churches. In many instances, what they brought back to their local congregations served to fertilize a spirituality that had already been planted and was growing.
            At one such camp meeting in Los Angeles, in April of 1913, a Canadian evangelist by the name of R. E. McAlister preached that the Apostles did not employ the triune formula in water baptism. Rather, he claimed that the Apostles administered baptism “only” in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). Of that sermon, Frank J. Ewart, an early Oneness adherent, reportedly remarked, “The gun was fired from that platform which was destined to resound throughout all Christendom.”[5] McAlister’s sermon provoked many to seek God’s will about what formula should be repeated in administering the rite of Christian baptism.
            After devoting himself to Bible study and prayer into the night, one attendee, a German pastor by the name of John G. Scheppe, reportedly saw the light. In the wee hours of the morning he “ran through the camp, shouting that the Lord had shown him the truth on baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.”[6] Reed concludes of the incident, “Many listened, and not long hence, many believed.”[7]

            Replacement Baptism
            The “New Issue,” as it was called, spread like a wildfire in the Assemblies of God in the early 1900s. Significant numbers of pastors became convinced that baptism needed to be administered “in the name of Jesus Christ,” thereby invalidating the Trinitarian formula historically believed by and practiced within the Assemblies of God. Pastors enthusiastically submitted to rebaptism in Jesus’ name, and took the issue back to their local churches where they also re-baptized members of their congregations according to the same formula. To the present day, replacement baptism continues as a major issue for Oneness Pentecostals.
            But rebaptism according to the “new formula” also spawned contingent and serious theological issues regarding God’s person and nature. Representative of the movement, a pastor-theologian writes, “Baptism ‘in the name’ of the Lord Jesus Christ endures as the premiere issue for Oneness Pentecostalism—a corollary doctrine with the Oneness of God.”[8] To Oneness Pentecostals, the one name employed in baptism provides a theological insight into God’s ontological being. According to David Reed, the discovery of Jesus only baptism, “sowed the seeds of a radical Christocentric alternative that reasoned that, if there is only one name (Jesus) to be used in baptism, that name must be given by God in biblical revelation, and it must reflect the radical unity of God’s being.”[9] Such inference from the baptismal formula has caused Oneness Pentecostals to deny the Trinity and believe in a Unitarian-type of God.[10] This view of God believes the Father became fully incarnate in Jesus, the logical consequence being that when Jesus died, the Father died.
            Noted American televangelist T.D. Jakes, born and raised in Oneness Pentecostalism, now reportedly, in the interest of developing Christian unity, seeks to affirm both Oneness modalism and traditional Trinitarianism. Recently, the pastor of the Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas, met with noted pastors James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, to discuss Jake’s Oneness teachings, and to develop an understanding of and rapprochement between Jakes and other contemporary evangelicals. Of that conversation, and of Jakes’ Oneness convictions, an observer made this assessment:

T.D. Jakes wants to have both Trinitarians and Oneness Pentecostals, who are Unitarian Modalists, classified as brothers in Christ at the same time. But you cannot affirm both are in the realm of truth without removing the Trinity as a fundamental basis of the Christian faith. You cannot have both beliefs at the same time: either God is both three and one (as Trinitarians believe and Unitarians deny) or God is only one (as Unitarians like Oneness Pentecostals believe and Trinitarians deny). There is no bridging this divide without losing the Trinity itself, for He is the God we worship.[11]

All of which is to say, the issues raised and ideas embraced by Unitarian Pentecostalism have not retreated. They are alive and permeate Christianity around the world, especially in many developing third world countries where Oneness Pentecostalism is on the rise.

            The Purpose of the Booklet
            Historically then, Oneness Pentecostalism premises itself upon Acts narratives which presumably authorize performing the baptismal rite in the name of Jesus only, thus omitting the names of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Do these Acts passages mandate using a formula different from the one Jesus ordered in the Great Commission? (Matthew 28:19). If that is the case, should Christians, who were originally baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” be re-baptized using Jesus’ name only? One Pentecostal theologian states that, “there is no simple solution to the problem.”[12] It will therefore be the purpose of this booklet to look into the scriptural basis upon which Oneness Pentecostals base their case for baptizing in Jesus’ name only, and the attendant question of whether the traditional Trinitarian formula of baptism ought therefore to be abandoned.

[1] Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001): 141.
[2] Elder G.T. Haywood, The Birth of the Spirit in the Days of the Apostles (Indianapolis, IN: Christ Temple Bookstore, n. d.): 24.
[3] But as is pointed out by D.A. Reed, not all Oneness Pentecostals share this view of salvation. See D.A. Reed, “Oneness Pentecostalism,” The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal Charismatic Movements, Stanley M. Burgess, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002): 943-944.
[4] David Reed, “Aspects of the Origins of Oneness Pentecostalism,” Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins, Vinson Synan, Editor (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975): 158.
[5] Quoted by Kenneth Gill, “Dividing Over Oneness,” in Synan, Century of the Holy Spirit, 143.
[6] Ibid. 145-146.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Talmage L. French, Our God Is One (Indianapolis, IN: Voice & Vision Publications, 1999): 209.
[9] D. A. Reed, “Oneness Pentecostalism,” New International Dictionary, 937.
[10] The heresy is called modalism. “Modalism denies the distinction of persons within the Godhead, claiming that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just ways in which [the one] God expresses Himself.” See R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992): 35.
[11] Michael Foust, “T.D. Jakes Embraces Doctrine of the Trinity, Moves Away from ‘Oneness’ View,” Christianity Today Blog, January 27, 2012 . (http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2012/01/ td_jakes_embrac.html).
[12] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume II (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996): 286.

*Ed. Note:  Current history about T.D. Jakes and his rising popularity, controversies, mainstreaming, and leadership stardom in the evangelical world can be found at Pastor Ken Silva's Apprising Ministries website which has a convenient search engine that enables the viewer to locate past articles on this topic. http://apprising.org