5 Great Things: (#2) The Great Example

Great persecution was coming on the early church.  Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange think happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).  It is not always easy being a Christian.

The book of 1 Peter provides encouragement and perspective to Christians facing difficult circumstances.  Let’s continue our study of 5 great things set forth in this book.

1 Peter 2 speaks of The Great Example.  Let us notice 1 Peter 2:21-23. 

For to this you were called…” (1 Peter 2:21a).

The context concerns being willing to suffer for serving God and for doing good (1 Peter 2:18-21).  Guy N. Woods commented, “Verses 18-20 deal with the duty of servants to continue in well doing, and to submit patiently to whatever trials it is their lot to bear; verses 21-25 establish the motive which should prompt such a manner of life” (Gospel Advocate Commentary Series, Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John and Jude, p. 78).

The words “to this” (eis touto) could be rendered “into this.”  Guy N. Woods commented, “i.e., into such a life… had they been called (by the gospel) to do good and to suffer patiently” (ibid).    

Suffering comes for different reasons.  Some suffer for their own faults (1 Peter 2:20; 4:15).  There is nothing commendable in this.  Some suffer for serving God and doing good (1 Peter 2:19-20; 4:14-16).  This is commendable before God.  Wayne Jackson commented, “God is pleased when we have the courage to suffer at the hands of our enemies in order to glorify him (v. 19)” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 536). 

because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” (1 Peter 2:21b).

Christ did not merely tell us how to live.  He showed us.  He, Himself, was willing to suffer for doing the will of God (cf. Matthew 26:39, 42).  He was willing to suffer for doing good (cf. Matthew 12:9-14).  He was willing to suffer for us (cf. John 15:14; 1 John 3:16). 

He is our great example.  The word “example” in our text is hupogrammon.  It means, literally “an underwriting” (Vine’s).  It was used of “a writing-copy, including all the letters of the alphabet, given to beginners as an aid in learning to draw them” (Thayer).  Think about how we commonly learned to write.  Perfectly formed letters were at the top of the page.  We were to try to reproduce these letters, writing them in the lines below (Do you remember Big Chief Tablets?).  Christ is the perfectly formed letters.  We are to strive to reproduce such, as best we can, in our lives.

Peter points us to Christ throughout this book, when telling us to do something.  Consider: 1 Peter 2:18-20 cf. 2:21-25; 1 Peter 3:13-17; cf. 3:18; 1 Peter 4:12 cf. 4:13. 

His example is what we should consider when facing difficulties.  We should look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, let you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

“‘who committed no sin nor was deceit found in His mouth’” (1 Peter 2:22).

This is nearly a direct quotation from Isaiah 53.  Notice: “He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).  Peter used the word “sin,” rather than the term “violence.”

Christ’s suffering was not due to any personal wrong doing.  He committed no sin (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  He suffered for us, for our sake (1 Peter 2:24 cf. Isaiah 53:5, 11-12).  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). 

“Who, when He was reviled did not revile in return; When He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

Christ’s sufferings are referenced many times in this book (e.g. 1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1; 4:13; 5:1). We should not feel alone, or sorry for ourselves. He has not asked us to endure more than He was willing to endure. “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:3-4).

How did Christ conduct Himself when He was mistreated?  (1) He did not allow His enemies to lower Him to their same level.  Nor, should we allow others to do so to us.  We are not to be “returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).  Even the Old Testament taught this.  “Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work’” (Proverbs 24:29). 

(2) He stayed focused on the Righteous Judge.  “He… committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”  The word “commit(ed)” is from the Greek paradidomi.  The word is defined to mean “to give over; to give into the hands (of another); to give over into (one’s) power or use: to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage” (Thayer).  Jesus was committed to doing the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39, 42; Luke 23:46).  He had not been sent to condemn, but to provide the means of salvation (John 3:17).  Instead of seeking revenge, He trusted God.  He left things to God’s time, and God’s plan.  He trusted that there would be a righteous judgment. He committed His Spirit to God (Luke 23:46). Paul did the same (2 Timothy 1:12). We should learn from this.  We too should give our lives over to doing the will of the Father.  We too should trust His plan.  He says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19 cf. Deuteronomy 32:35).

The message should inspire us and encourage us.  We have “The Great Example” to show us how to live.

              

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5 Great Things: (#1) The Great Salvation

The key word in the book of 1 Peter is “suffering.”  It appears in some form 16 times [suffer (2:20; 3:14; 3:17; 4:15; 4:16; 4:19); suffered (2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1(x2); 5:10); suffering(s) (1:11; 2:19; 4:13; 5:1)].  It was not easy being a first century Christian.

The book provides encouragement and perspective to Christians in difficult circumstances and facing difficult circumstances.  Let’s consider 5 Great Things set forth in this book. 

1 Peter 1 speaks of The Great Salvation.  Let us notice 1 Peter 1:3-4.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3a).

God is worthy of praise.  The word “blessed” (eulogetos) is applied to God alone, in the New Testament (Vine’s).  The word means “blessed, praised” (Vine’s).

Why is He to be praised?  Let’s read farther.

Who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3b).

He has given us hope through the resurrection of Jesus.  The ultimate hope is eternal life with God (Titus 1:2). 

The resurrection of Jesus is what gives the Christian hope.  Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).  The core of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  Hope vanishes without the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-19).

Notice the word “again.”   (a) Guy N. Woods thought that this had specific reference to the early disciples.  He commented, “The emphasis in this verse is on the word again… The reference here is… to the re-establishment of the faith of the disciples by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (G.A. Commentary Series, Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, p. 25).  Others believe that the word “again refers to being born again in conversion (e.g., John 3:35; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22-23).  (b) Wayne Jackson commented, “God… has been merciful to us in that he has granted us a ‘living hope,’ made certain by the resurrection of Christ from the dead and accessed by means of our being ‘begotten’ (i.e., the new birth process [John 3:3-5])” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 532).  This seems to fit (1 Peter 1:3 cf. 1:22-23).  Either way, God is the one who gives hope. 

to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).

He has given us an inheritance in heaven.  This inheritance is: (1) “incorruptible” (aphthartos).  The word means “imperishable, incorruptible, immortal” (BDAG).  The things which await are enduring, unlike the things of this earth.  Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).  We will have an incorruptible, immortal body (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).  (2) “undefiled” (amiantos).  The word means “undefiled… pure” (BDAG); “not defiled, unsoiled; free from that by which the nature of a thing is deformed and debased or its force and vigor impaired” (Thayer).  In other words, heaven will be perfect and without flaws.  Nothing will enter into heaven to defile it (Revelation 21:27).  (3) “does not fade away” (amarantos).  The word means “unfading… lit. unfading flowers… fig. of eternal bliss” (BDAG).  Guy N. Woods commented, “The amaranth was a fabled flower whose bloom was perpetual, and whose loveliness never failed.  The inheritance which awaits the children of God will not deteriorate, nor will passing ages render it less desirable or attractive (Guy N. Woods, p. 27). 

The message is encouraging.  Yes, there are trials in life.  However, remember “The Great Salvation.”  How great it is.  It is reserved in heaven for you.

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Denominations: Unitarian Universalist Association

There are about 153,000 members of the UUA (UUA Membership Statistics, 1961-2020, uua.org).  The top three states by number are: (1) California; (2) New York; (3) Texas (Demographic and Statistical Information, uua.org).

History

The UUA was formed in 1961 when the Unitarian Church and the Universalist Church merged.  Let’s consider each.

3

1.  Unitarian Church

Unitarianism is a belief in one God which rejects the trinity.  They believe that Jesus was strictly human and not deity (Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, p. 232).  The “Holy Spirit” is understood to be used two ways in scripture.  One is another name for the one God.  Another refers to God’s nature which He gives man (What is the Holy Spirit? biblicalunitarianism.com). Unitarian beliefs are found in early Christianity.  However, the origin of the Unitarian Church seems to be found in Protestant Reformation and later.  (a) It has a European connection.  “The movement spread from the independent thinkers and Anabaptist in Switzerland, Hungary, Transylvania, Holland, Poland, and Italy to England. There it found champions in such leaders as Newton, Locke, and Milton, but no attempt was made to organize the movement until the late eighteenth century” (Mead, p. 231).  (b) It has an American connection.  “American Unitarianism, however, developed independently, when members of the liberal wing of the Congregational Church in eastern Massachusetts, who asked that they not be required to subscribe to a creed, were branded as Unitarian.” (ibid).  

The first organized church to turn Unitarian as a body was the Episcopal King’s Chapel in Boston in 1785 (ibid).  A split occurred within Congregationalism in the nineteenth century.  The American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825.  It was a missionary society and publishing society.  A national conference was established in 1865 (ibid). 

2.  Universalist Church

A Universalist is one who believes universal salvation.  “American Universalism has its direct origin in the work of George de Benneville… John Murray… and Hosea Ballou” (Mead, p. 233).  (a) George de Benneville (1703-1793) was a physician and Universalist preacher in Europe and in America, preaching in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (George de Benneville, uudb.org).  He believed that the fire of hell would purify and lead to universal salvation (The Universalists: George de Benneville, reddit.com).  (b) John Murray (1741-1815).  He was once a Calvinist Methodist.  He did some preaching in Ireland and England.  He was sent to bring back a young woman who had come under the influence of James Relly, a Welsh Methodist preacher who was teaching Universalism.  Murray, himself, was converted to Universalism (John Murray, uudb.org).  He moved to America.  His Independent Christian Church of Gloucester (Massachusetts) became organized in 1779 (Mead, p. 233).  (c) Hosea Ballou (1791-1852).  He was a schoolteacher and a Universalist preacher in Vermont.  He too started out as a Calvinist but became convinced that Romans 5:18 taught Universalism.  He published, “A Treatise on Atonement” in 1805.  He also began to publish a weekly, The Universalist Magazine, in 1819.  These works greatly influenced Universalists.  He wrote against capital punishment and slavery (Hosea Ballou, uudb.org). 

Authority

1.  Sacred Texts

“While Unitarianism and Universalism both have roots in the Protestant Christian tradition, where the Bible is the sacred text, we now look to additional sources for religious and moral inspiration… we celebrate the spiritual insights of the world’s religions, recognizing wisdom in many scriptures” (Sacred Texts in Unitarian Universalism, uua.org).  They do not view the Bible as inerrant (Unitarian Universalist Views of the Bible, uua.org). 

2.  Six Sources:

(1) Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

(2) Words and deed of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

(3) Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life;  

(4)  Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

(5) Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

(6) Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature (Sources of Our Living Tradition, uua.org). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Seven Principles

   (1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

   (2) Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

   (3) Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

   (4) A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

   (5)  The right of conscience and the use of the demographic process within our congregations and in

society at large;

   (6)  The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

   (7)  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

          (The Seven Principles,uua.org)

2.  Jesus’ Role

They do not believe that Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God (God is viewed as too loving to be wrathful against man). Instead, Jesus is our Savior in the sense he showed us how to live (Hosea, Ballou, A Treatise on Atonement, archive.org; Tony Larsen, The Problem with Atonement, uufdc.org).  Jesus lived to call us to our better selves rather than dying to save us from our fallen selves.  They believe that it was Paul who changed Jesus’ role to saving man from the wrath of God (Steve Edington, Atonement and Forgiveness, fculittle.org).

3.  Diverse and Inclusive

“Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive… Unitarian Universalists believe more than one thing.  We think for ourselves, and reflect together about important questions” (Beliefs & Practices, uua.org).

“People with atheist and agnostic beliefs find a supportive community in our congregations… since the early 20th century, Humanism has been an influential part of our continually evolving religious traditions.  Many Unitarian Universalists who are Atheist or Agnostic also identify as Humanists” (Atheist and Agnostic Unitarian Universalist, uua.org). 

Organization

“Each UU congregation is autonomous” (About the Unitarian Universalist Association, uua.org). However, they do have a headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts (Headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association, uua.org).

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Turning The King’s Heart

The King’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).

What does this mean?  Does this mean that every action of a king (or country leader) is directed by God?  Was Solomon’s heart turned to idolatry by God (1 Kings 11:1-8)?  Was Ahaz turned to human sacrifice by God (2 Kings 16:1-4 cf. 2 Chronicles 28:1-4; further – Ezekiel 23:36-39; Leviticus 18:21)?  Was Adolf Hitler directed to do evil by God?  Surely not!  If God directs every action of kings, then why are kings instructed how to walk (e.g. 1 Kings 2:1-4; 3:14; 9:4-5)? 

(1) It means that God is powerful.  His doings humbled the heart of Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10-13) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-36).

(2) It means that God can turn the hearts of a king for his own purposes, and to accomplish His will.  He used Pharaoh (Exodus 7:2-5; 10:1-2; 14:17-18 – note, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart will be considered in a future writing).  He used the king(s) of Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-7, 12-14; Jeremiah 50:18).  He used the king(s) of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:6-11 cf. 25:12; 50:18; 51:24; Habakkuk).  He used Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-3).    

It should be understood that there is nothing in the wording, “He turns it wherever He wishes,” which implies that God does this directly, without means.  Hearts can be turned by means.  Solomon’s wives “turned his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).  Consider the role of John, “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17 cf. Malachi 4:5-6).

God has directed and turned kings by means.  He provided information to David (1 Samuel 23:2, 4, 9-13; 30:7-8; 2 Samuel 5:18-19; 5:22-25).  He provided the circumstances to humble Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10-13) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-36).  He stirred Cyrus to allow the Jews to return home (Ezra 1:1-2).  How God stirred Cyrus, we are not told in Scripture.  However, there is no reason to believe that this was done by directly changing the heart, without means.  Josephus suggests that Cyrus was stirred to do this after reading his name from the book of Isaiah (Josephus Antiquities 11.1). 

(3) It means that God is ultimately in control.  His plans will be accomplished.  Certainly not every action of every king is approved by God.  Kings sin, and God allows this (e.g. Exodus 9:34; 1 Samuel 15:22-23; 1 Kings 12:28-33; 1 Kings 21:25-26).  However, God, not earthly kings, is ultimately in control.  His plans will not be thwarted.  This ought to give us comfort.

“Whenever I am afraid I will trust in You… In God I have put my trust, I will not fear.  What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:4).

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). 

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4).

“Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).

          

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Denominations: Community or “Non-Denominational,” Cowboy and Biker Churches

Community Church or “Non-denominational” Church refers to independent local congregations which have no affiliation with the major denominations.  Determining exact numbers is difficult.  A study released in 2010 by the Hartford Institute For Religion Research reported that there were more than 12 million adherents in the U.S.A. to nondenominational churches (Nondenominational & Independent Congregations, hirr.hartsem.edu). 

Cowboy Church is popular in Texas, Oklahoma and beyond.  I have been unable to find stats on total membership.  In 2012, Fort Worth Magazine stated, “Today, between 36,000 and 40,000 people are regularly attending Cowboy Church in Texas” (Boots on Hallowed Ground by Gail Bennison, March 5, 2012, fwtx.com).  There are more than 200 churches in the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches or AFCC (americanfcc.org). 

Biker Church numbers seem to be unknown.  Chris Marely, pastor of Biker Church USA in Bangor, Maine, said “Our mission – vision… was to have 10,000 bikers in the Bible every week… but we have far exceeded any of those numbers.  I can’t even tell you what they are today.  We’re in New Zealand now.  We’re in Africa.  We’re in Canada.  We are all over” (Bikers Get A Bad Rep, So They Started A Church Where They Feel Welcome by Robbie Feinberg, February 29, 2020, npr.org). 

History

1.  Community Church

Some trace the Community Church to nineteenth century America.  “The earliest origins of the community church movement are likely from the nineteenth century and the practical concerns of many small American communities: there was not enough members of individual denominations to each have a congregation, and many times such Protestants would come together to establish a community church of sort” (Community Church Movement, astudyofdenominations.com).

However, a real movement began in the twentieth century.  “The community church movement began in the early twentieth century alongside ecumenism and represented an attempt to aspire to the ideal of that movement: Christians, mostly Protestant and Evangelical, coming out of denominations and being unified in a community church concept” (ibid).  The International Council of Community Churches (ICCC) was formed in 1950 (About, icccnow.org).  Not all community churches are a part of this council

2.  Cowboy Church

The Cowboy Church Movement is relatively new.  Its beginnings are in America.  It developed in the twentieth century.  (1) In the 1940’s, Carl Stuart Hamblen, a country singer, began to host a radio show called “Cowboy Church of the Air” (Where Have All the Cowboy Churches Come From? By Maurice Cammah, July 23, 2014, texasmonthly.com).  (2) In 1972, Glen Smith, a professional rodeo clown, began to minister to the rodeo community (Boots, Blue Jeans and Bibles: the Truth About Cowboy Churches by Hannah Jones, May 17, 2019, smudailycampus.com).  “Glenn and his wife, Ann, were the pioneers and the first full-time ministers on the rodeo trail… The couple founded Rodeo Cowboy Ministries in the 1970’s, also known as International Western World Outreach Center with headquarters in Midland, Texas… He preached at the first cowboy service at the NFR (national finals rodeo) with the PRCA (professional rodeo cowboy association) Director’s approval in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Glen Smith, obituary, legacy.com; Published by Midland, Reporter-Telegram on February 12, 2010).  (3) In 1986, Jeff Copenhaver, a world-champion calf roper, started a regular meeting Cowboy church with a permanent location at Billy Bob’s Texas bar in Ft. Worth, Texas (History of the Cowboy Church, Cocolalla Cowboy church (Idaho), ccowboychurch.org).  (3) In 1990, Harry Yates and his wife Joanne Cash Yates (Johnny Cash’s youngest sister) started the Nashville Cowboy Church.  These seem to be the first permanent meeting sites in the U.S.A.  One source says, Ft. Worth (Texas) was the first, Calgary (Alberta, Canada) was the second, and Nashville (Tennessee) the third (ccowboychurch.org).  However, there appears to be some dispute of the order of these first three. 

 3.  Biker Church

This is a recent movement.  The history available seems to be scant.  In 2006, Frank Lengel, a Baptist, started going to Biker rallies.  He drew caricatures of bikers.  He said, “As a part of our biker ministry, 83 people made a profession of faith or rededication.”  However, as time passed he wondered “Where are those 83 people now?” (10,000 Bikers “in the Bible” is the goal of Biker Church USA, November 6, 2009, baptistcourier.com).  Lenger launched Biker Church USA in 2009, in South Carolina.

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Community Churches

It is impossible to summarize the beliefs and practices among Community Churches.  Some have ties to major denominations but have replaced denominations names, rebranding themselves.  Others have no ties to the major denominations.  Some are charismatic.  Others are not.  Some have traditional denominational worship.  Others are very non-traditional. 

While many of those churches are self-described as being “non-denominational,” the reality may at times be better described as “all-denominational.”  There tends to be de-emphasis on doctrine.  Unity has priority over doctrine.  One source says, “In many cases, these community churches were a true amalgamation of beliefs.  In a quest for unity, each group would compromise on some doctrinal or practical point that caused contention with the other group.  As a result, many community churches had very loosely defined beliefs and allowed wide variations of beliefs among their members” (What is Community Church?, gotquestions.org).  Another says, “As denominational particularities are ignored or hidden, what’s often left is a ‘lowest common denominator’ spiritually that is often little more than ‘worship’ and ‘discipleship’ devoid of cognitive content” (What Does the Growth of Non-denominationalism Mean? By Aaron Earls, August 8, 2017, lifewayresearch.com).

There is sometimes a trend to develop the church around what people want.  Before Rick Warren launched Saddleback Church, he conducted a community survey.  He writes, “I wrote down in my notebook five questions I would use to start Saddleback: (1) What do you think is the greatest need in this area? (2) Are you actively attending any church? (3) Why do you think most people didn’t attend church?  (4) If you were to look for a church to attend, what kind of things would you look for? (5) What could I do for you?” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, chapter 11).  While there is nothing wrong with asking questions, let us remember the church belongs to Christ.  The first consideration should be on what He wants, not what man wants.  Sometimes people want things that are not what they need.  Sometimes people want things that are unbiblical.

Rick Warren comes from a Baptist background.  Saddleback’s beliefs are very Baptist.  He does not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation and he believes in eternal security or once saved, always saved doctrine (What We Believe, saddleback.com).

2.  Cowboy Churches

Some Cowboy Churches are not affiliated with a major denomination; while others are.  “It would be a mistake to assume all Cowboy Churches hold exactly the same beliefs.  Originally the churches were independent and non-denominational, but that changed around 2000 when the Southern Baptist denomination entered the movement in Texas.  Other Cowboy Churches are affiliated with Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, and United Methodists (Cowboy Church Beliefs and Practices by Jack Zavada, updated July 3, 2019, learnereligions.com).  The largest Cowboy Church in the world is in Ellis County (Texas).  It is affiliated with Texas Baptist (This Texan Cowboy Church is the Biggest in the World, Hannah Phillips, June 22, 2017, culturetrip.com).

As stated, beliefs vary.  The statement of faith put out by the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches.  (AFCC) sounds very Baptist (Who We Are, americanfcc.org).  The Maxdale Cowboy Church (Bell County, Texas) sounds Wesleyan Holiness (“Entire Sanctification”) and Pentecostal (“Divine healing,” and “The evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost …witnessed by the physical sign of speaking with other tongues” Further, they declare “This ministry…declares itself strongly for the supernatural ministry and the operation of the ministry gifts in the assembly…).  It is also pre-millennial (see: About Us, Our Beliefs, dev.milmediagroup.com; previously, About Us, maxdalecowboychurch.com). 

3.  Biker Churches

Biker Churches, like Cowboy Churches, have differing origins and beliefs.  Some are independent, associated with no major denomination.  Some were planted and are associated with a major denomination – such as Baptists, the Methodist, the Assembly of God, and the Nazarene Church.  The Open Road Biker Church in Georgetown, Texas was founded with the help of the Baptists General Convention of Texas (Georgetown Biker Church Welcomes All, John Rutledge, July 16, 2015, baptiststandard.com). 

While there is nothing wrong with reaching out to a certain demographic, the church should not be about culture but the gospel.  The early church was composed of both Jew and Gentile. I have heard some ask concerning a church, even the local church where I preach (I am serious, these type things have been said): “Is this an old people’s church or a young people’s church?”  “Is this a city church or a country church?” (even, “You are changing us from a country church into a city church”) “Is this a black church, a hispanic church, or a white church?” (even, “They would be happier with their own”).  Such thinking is foreign to the scriptures and God’s plan.  It comes from man and not God. What we should seek is to be His church, the church of Christ. It should not be our club, but His church. There should not be needless divisions among us over race, age, or culture.  In Accra, Ghana there is a Ghana Police Church.  What is next, Farmers Church, Sheepherders Church, Bankers Church, Accountants Church, Teachers Church, Retailers Church, Oil workers Church, Railroad Workers Church, Steel Workers Church, Taylors Church, Cooks Church, Artisans Church, Rich people Church, Poor people Church? How many ways can we needlessly divide? Jesus brought together fishermen, tax collectors and even a zealot. The Gospel should draw us together in one body. There is room for all in the church of Christ.

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The Testing of One’s Faith

Make no mistake about it.  One’s faith will be tested, and tested again, in this life.  James writes of “the testing of your faith” (James 1:3).  These tests are common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We should not be surprised when tested for such is not strange or unusual (1 Peter 4:12).

Let’s consider some ways that James indicates Christians are tested.

1.  Attitude when life is difficult

James 1:2-3: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

“Godisnowhere” could be viewed as, “God is now here” or “God is no where” The same letters in each, even the same order, but different views.

Even so, the trials of life can be viewed differently.  Some see such as an opportunity for spiritual growth (James 1:1-2; Romans 5:3-4).  Others become discouraged and give-up.

One should not give up.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).

2.  Attitude toward prayer

James 1:5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally… let him ask in faith, with no doubting… for let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

When one has difficulty seeing how the difficulties of life can be used for spiritual growth, one should pray.  This is the context.            

Prayer is important to a Christian’s spiritual health.  Prayer is mentioned six times in this book (James 1:5-8; 4:2-3; 5:13; 5:14-15; 5:16; 5:17).  One’s prayer life may be a great indicator (or barometer) of where one is in his spiritual walk.

“Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?                                              When you met with great temptation, did you think to pray?                                               When your heart was filled with anger, did you think to pray?                                        When sore trials come upon you, did you think to pray?                                                      (Song: Ere You Left Your Room This Morning by M.A. Kidder)

3.  Attitude toward God

James 1:13-14: “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am tempted by God’… each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”

The focus has changed.  The earlier part of this chapter concerned external trials and difficulties (James 1:2-11).  The focus now is upon internal trials or temptations (James 1:13-18).

Man often tries to mitigate or deny his responsibilities for sin by pointing the finger elsewhere.  Some blame environment.  Some blame parents or spouse.  Some blame God.  However, temptation itself starts with the desires one has within him.  Examples: The desire to preserve one’s life may produce a temptation when faced with persecution.

It is not sinful to be tempted.  Even Jesus was temped (Hebrews 4:15).  The issue is how we respond to this temptation.

“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin”                                                                            (Song: Yield Not To Temptation by H.R. Palmer)

4.  Attitude Toward God’s Word

James 1:19-22: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath… receive with meekness the implanted word… be doers of the word and not hearers only.”

When life is difficult, instead of being filled with wrath toward God or man, and instead of rashly opening one’s mouth and spouting angry words, one should be swift to hear God’s word.  When temptation comes one should meditate on the word of God.

Moreover, one should not hear only.  One should hear and do God’s word.     The word is to be lived.  Anything less is self-deception (James 1:22 cf. 1:26-27).    As with prayer, even so with Bible reading – such may be a great indicator (a barometer) of where one is in his spiritual walk.  Remember, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

5.  Attitudes toward others

James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…”

James 2:1-ff: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality… Listen my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom which He promised to those who love Him.

James 3:9-10: “With it (the tongue – B.H.) we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessings and cursings.  My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

James 5:4-5: “Indeed, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in the day of slaughter.”

James 5:19-20: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his ways saves a soul from death and cover  multitude of sins.”

Some live their lives with little or no regard for others.  However, Jesus taught, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).  Paul wrote, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).  John wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

James instructs that one should: (a) care for the weak (James 1:27); (b) not disrespect the poor (James 2:1-ff); (c) be careful with our use of the tongue toward others (James 3:9-10 cf. 1:26).  The use of tongue is spoken of throughout this book, six times (James 1:19; 1:26; 3:1-12; 4:11-12; 5:9; 5:12).  “Angry words! O let them never from the tongue unbridled slip; may the heart’s best impulse ever check them ere they soil the lip… Love is much too pure and holy, friendship is too sacred far, for a moment’s reckless folly, thus to desolate and mar…  Angry words are lightly spoken, bittress tho’ts are rashly stirred, brightest links of life are broken by a single angry word… ‘Love one another,’ thus saith the Savior; children obey the Father’s blest command” (Song: Angry Words, by H.R. Palmer); (d) be fair in business (James 5:4-5); (e) seek to convert the lost (James 5:19-20).

6.  Attitude towards the world

James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: …to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Some love the sinful things of the world (1 John 2:15-17).  James warns, “Adulterers and adulteresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).  Hebrews says, “Pursue… holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

7.  Attitude towards time

James 4:13-17: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

The end may be closer than one thinks.  This point is made in one of Jesus’ parables, where God says to one, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20).

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Christ is…

Paul, Silas, and Timothy evangelized Philippi, Macedonia in about 51 A.D., while on Paul’s second great missionary journey.  Among the converts were Lydia and her household, and a Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16).

This began a long relationship between Paul and these brethren.  They supported Paul’s work (Philippians 4:15-16; 4:10; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).  He visited Philippi again on his third great missionary journey (Acts 20:1-3, 6), in about 57 A.D..  He wrote to them while in custody of Roman authority in about 61 or 62 A.D. (Philippians 1:1, 12-14). 

The book of Philippians seem to serve several purposes.  First, it is a support letter (Philippians 4:15-18).  Paul is grateful for their support.  Second, it is a letter of commendation (Philippians 2:25-30).  Epaphroditus work as a messenger for the church is appreciated.  Third, it is an appeal for unity (Philippians 4:2).  He wants Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind and work together.  Fourth, it is an appeal to stay focused (Philippians 3:12-15; 3:20-4:1).  Fifth, it is an appeal to stay positive (Philippians 4:4, 8-9).

This book also makes Christ prominent in every chapter.  Let’s notice, Christ is…

1.  The purpose of life.

Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).

Paul is clear about his purpose in life.  He is here to magnify (make large) Christ in this world.  And if he were to die doing this?  So be it.  Death for the Christian is not loss.  It is gain.  

What about us?  Are we clear about our purpose?  We are here to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31). 

2.  The Pattern of Life

Let this mind by in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

The context concerns our care and concern for others.  The previous verse reads, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).  Jesus is our great example.  He left the glories of heaven, came to this earth to live as a man, and die on a cross for us (Philippians 2:5-8).  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). 

Are we following His example?  Christians should be concerned about others.  “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). 

3.  The Prize of Life

I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ… I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-9, 14).

Paul considers what he had given up to follow Christ worth it, in order to gain Christ and the prize which is in Christ.  This in context includes things in which he once placed his confidence for righteousness (Philippians 3:2-6).

What about us?  Are we willing to count all things rubbish that we might gain Christ?  Are we willing to set aside religious beliefs that stand in the way of gaining Christ?  Are we willing to set aside earthly pursuits, if needed, to gain Christ?

Do we desire to gain Christ?  “Oh I want to see Him, look upon His face, There to sing forever of His saving grace; On the street of glory let me life my voice; Cares all past, home at last every to rejoice (Song: Oh I Want to See Him by R.H. Cornelius).  “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see, And I look upon His face, the one who saved my by His grace; When he takes me by the hand, and leads my through the promised land, What a day, glorious day that will be” (Song: What a Day That Will Be by Jim Hill). 

4.  The Power of Life

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Paul is stating that he could cope with the situations of life.  He could handle poverty and riches (Philippians 4:10-13).  He could do this because Christ strengthened him.  Credit  belonged to Christ.

Do we have a “can do” attitude about the Christian life?  The Christian life is not impossible (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We can do it through Him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Ephesians 6:10-17).

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Denominations: The Salvation Army and Church of the Nazarene

The Salvation Army (TSA) states that it has about 27 thousand officers (minsters), and about 1.5 million soldiers and junior soldiers (members, or salvationists) in 2021 (statistics – The Salvation Army International, salvationarmy.org).  It claims about 430,000 members in the U.S.A. (2021 Annual Report, salvationarmyannualreport.org).

The Church of the Nazarene (COTN) reports that it had about 2.6 million members worldwide in 2020 (General Secretary releases 2020 statistics, Nazarene.org).  There are about 611 thousand members in the USA and Canada (ibid).  The state with the greatest number of adherents was California in 2010.  The state with the highest percentage to state population was Idaho in 2010 (Church of the Nazarene, thearda.com). 

History

We are considering these two denominations together because of their roots.  Both have a historical connection with the Methodist/Wesleyan Church. 

1.  William Booth (1829-1912), Catherine Booth (1829-1890), and The Salvation Army.    Here are some details about William Booth prior to TSA.  He was born in Sneinton, Nottingham, England.  His parents struggled with money. They provided little religious training.  His father insisted that he and his siblings attend church, but rarely went himself.  His mother told him, “Be good William, and all will be well.”  His teen years were eventful.  He became a pawnbroker apprentice for six years.  His father died.  He became a member of the Methodist church.

 In 1849, he moved to London.  He worked as a pawnbroker.  He also became a “lay preacher.”  In 1855, he married Catherine Mumford.  She had been reared in a Methodist home.  She grew up reading the Bible.  She was also a feminist.  She encouraged her husband to preach.  He was ordained a minister by the Methodist New Connexion (Methodist Reform Church) in 1858.  In 1859, Catherine wrote a pamphlet, Female Ministry: Women’s Right to Preach the Gospel.  She began to preach in 1860, telling her husband that she had something to say. 

William and Catherine left the Methodist New Connexion (MNC).  There had been disagreements with the Methodist, and later the MNC.  William’s bringing the poor in the front door of the church house, instead of the side door, and giving the poor the best seats in the church house had stirred controversy in the Methodist church.  His desire for the MNC to support him to do evangelistic work among the poor, instead of being assigned a circuit, and the MNC refusal to do so, frustrated him.  He also disapproved of the MNC allowing producers and purveyors of alcohol to become members.  Therefore, they became independent itinerant preachers in 1862.

In 1865, they started The Christian Mission.  The work was centered in London’s East End.  They used social programs, such as feeding the poor in soup kitchens, to open doors to their message.

In 1878, the name was changed to the Salvation Army.  It was organized along military lines with military ranks.  William Booth became its first General.  Catherine Book held the rank of Commissioner, the second highest rank.

[Some of the works consulted for this history: The Story of The Salvation Army by Sian Ellis, britishheritage.com; The General Next to God: The Story of William Booth and the Salvation Army by Richard Collier; Handbook of Denominations by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill; William Booth, christianitytoday.com; William Booth, biography. yourdictionary.com; Who We Are, arizona.salvationarmy.org; William Booth, The New Standard Encyclopedia; The Salvation Army, The New Standard Encyclopedia; Catherine Booth, britannica.com; William Booth – Salvation Army 1953 Documentary, YouTube; What is the Salvation Army?, Ready to Harvest, YouTube]. 

2.  Church of the Nazarene    The COTN has its origin in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The church of the Nazarene came out of the Methodist Holiness movement and may be considered an effort to reform Methodist practices and teachings.  One Nazarene source writes, “As time passed, the preaching and teaching of the doctrine and experience of the Spirit-filled life (Sometimes called entire sanctification or Christian holiness) began to wane within Methodism in the U.S. and Great Britain.  Opposition even developed to those Methodist seeking to maintain a focus on the biblical call to holy living.  This resulted in the organization of new denominations… About that same time (latter part of the 19th century), a holiness revival spread across the U.S.  In addition to Methodist, the revival involved member of many Protestant denominations.  Sadly, the holiness movement was not universally popular, and opposition… arose.  Such opposition led groupings of holiness people to band together for mutual encouragement.  The Church of the Nazarene was born in the context of this banding together of various small associations of local churches that had been formed to preach and teach holiness” (Our history – The Church of the Nazarene, snu.edu). 

“The Church of the Nazarene” started out as a single church in California.  “The Church of the Nazarene began to be organized in 1895 in Los Angeles, California, based on the doctrine of entire sanctification” (History of the Church of the Nazarene, learnreligion.com).  Various mergers occurred in 1907 with eastern Holiness groups, and in 1908 with southern Holiness groups.  October 13, 1908 is considered by many to be the start of the denomination (snu.edu).  It was first called the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene.  In 1919, the “Pentecostal” was dropped because of it becoming associated with tongue speaking and Spiritual gifts (britannica.com). 

[Some of the works consulted for this history: Our History – The church of the Nazarene, snu.edu; Church of the Nazarene, britannica.com; Church of the Nazarene, learnreligious.com; Founding/Church of the Nazarene, our beginning, Nazarene.org; Handbook of Denominations by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill; Church of the Nazarene: 10 Things to Know About Their History, christianity.com; History of Church of the Nazarene, History Media, YouTube, What is the Church of the Nazarene, Ready to Harvest, YouTube]. 

Authority

TSA: “There are three pillars which provide a secure foundation for Christian faith and practice.  These three are: the teachings of Scripture… The direct illumination of the Holy Spirit… and the consensus of the Christian community… Each of these three foundational sources requires the authentication of the other two to ensure that gospel truth is maintained” (The Salvation Army Handbook 2020, chapter one). 

COTN: “We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrently revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith” (Church Constitution, Manual 2017-2021, Section 4 and 20.2). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Salvation

TSA: “Salvation is made possible through God’s grace and is available to all people” (Handbook, Chapter seven).  “We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ… Those who come to God in true repentance and faith discover the overwhelming reality of his freely offered forgiveness” (Handbook, chapter 8).

COTN: “We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous… and are received by faith, preceded by repentance” (Church Constitution, section 9.3). They have, at least in the past, led people to the mourner’s bench for salvation, a practice which originated with the Methodist and John Wesley (Mourner’s bench explained, everything.expained.today; Methodist History: The Mourner’s Bench, United Methodist Video YouTube). Waymon D. Miller said in a sermon in 1949, which was later printed in a booklet entitled Why I Left The Nazarene Church, “According to Nazarene theology, a person goes to the mourner’s bench to pray away his past personal sins. (And I remind you my friends, that I am speaking from personal experience…) This is the first blessing…But…they must return again to seek the second blessing. The first experience at the mourner’s bench prays them through to salvation from their sins…they have to return to the bench for …Adam’s sin. That is sanctification in a nutshell, according to their concept of it” (missionprinting.us).

2.  Sanctification

TSA: “By God’s gracious provision the Holy Spirit works within us and calls us to holiness which is the privilege of all believers” (Handbook, Chapter 10).

COTN: “We believe that sanctification is the work of God which transforms believers into the likeness of Christ… We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect.  It is wrought by the baptism with or infilling of the Holy Spirit, …empowering the believer for life and service” (Church Constitution, section 10). See above the words of Waymon D. Miller concerning the role of the mourner’s bench.

3.  Loss of Salvation

TSA: “It is possible to cease to obey Christ and so forfeit our hope of eternal life” (Handbook, Chapter 9).

COTN: Hal Cauthron and Howard Culbertson of Southern Nazarene University answer, “God offers us a renewed relationship with Him based on Christ’s work on the cross.  We choose to begin that relationship and we can choose to continue it or even – tragically – end it” (What we believe and teach, snu.edu). 

4.  Baptism

TSA: “Unlike most other Christian denominations, The Salvation Army does not observe the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  The Salvation Army believes it is possible to experience the inward grace of which the sacraments are outward signs, without need for the rituals themselves” (Worship Expressions, salvationarmy.org.au).

COTN: “Christian baptism is a sacrament signifying participation by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and incorporation into His body, the church’ (Sacraments and Rituals, section 701).  They baptize both infants and adults (Church of the Nazarene Beliefs by Jack Zavada, learnreligions.com).  They do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation (More Questions and Answers by Jon Twitchell, whitehorsenazarene.org).

5.  Lord’s Supper

TSA: see Above

COTN: “The Communion Supper… is a sacrament which proclaims His life, His sufferings, His sacrificial death, and resurrection, and the hope of His coming (Sacraments and Rituals, section 701).  I did not find a statement about frequency. 

6.  Morals

Both emphasize moral living and a sanctified life.  Both encourage abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse (Alcohol, Tobacco & other Drugs, Salvationarmy.org.nz; The Covenant of Christian conduct, section 29.5, 29.6).  Both are pro-life (Positional Statement: Abortion, Position Statement: Euthanasia, salvationarmy.org; The Covenant of Christian Conduct section 29.5, 29.6, 30; 30.1).  TSA seems to be softening on its stance against LGTBQ (nondiscrimination, salvationarmy.org).  COTN has not (The Covenant of Christian Conduct, Section 31).  Both are opposed to gambling (Positional Statement: Gambling, salvationarmy.org; The Covenant of Christian Conduct, Section 29.2). 

7.  End Times

Neither have a binding position an eschatology (Handbook, Chapter 11, Not An Escape, holinesstoday.org).

Organization

TSA: It is a top-down organization.  Corps (congregations) are grouped into divisions, and divisions into territories with the international headquarters in London, England under the General.  The national headquarters in the U.S.A. is in Alexandria, Virginia (Salvation Army Organization, brasscraft.com; USA National, salvationarmy.org). 

COTN: “The government… is representative, and thus avoids the extremes of episcopacy on the one hand and unlimited congregationalism on the other” (Preamble to Church Government, Section one).  Local churches are arranged into geographical districts, and districts into regions.  The Church headquarters is in Lenexa, Kansas (Church of the Nazarene, Christianity.com; britannica.com). 

Tidbits

TSA: The phrase “on the wagon” is believed to have come from TSA’s work.  Evangeline Booth, William  Booth’s daughter, drove a hay wagon through the streets of New York encouraging alcoholics to get on the wagon and ride to TSA (The True History of the Phrase “on the wagon,” The Salvation Army USA, YouTube).    COTN: Their name comes from Jesus being called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23).  Their being called Nazarenes come from the word of Tertullus at Caesarea (Acts 24:5), in opposition to Paul.

                               

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Denominations: Pentecostals

Ascertaining accurate total numbers is difficult. Pentecostalism is not a single denomination, but an umbrella term which includes many denominations “The World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (2020) currently counts 644 million Pentecostals/Charismatics worldwide” (The Society for Pentecostal Studies at 50 Years, brill.com). Notice that this count combines Pentecostals and Charismatics. “According to a Pew Forum analysis of estimates from the center for the study of global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are about 279 million Pentecostal Christians and about 305 million Charismatic Christians in the world” (Christian Movements and Denominations, pewforum.org). [Pentecostals refer to members of denominations or independent churches which also believe in continued spiritual gifts, e.g. tongue speaking, prophecy, miraculous healing. Charismatics refer to members within non-Pentecostal churches who are Pentecostal to some degree in belief and practice. Certain churches have within them a charismatic movement, e.g. Roman Catholic Church].

In the U.S.A., there is an estimated 15-20 million Pentecostals (What’s an Apostolic Christian and Why is Kim Davis’ Hair So Long? by Emily McFarlan Miller, September 9, 2015, usatoday.com, referencing H. Vinson Synan of Regent University in Virginia). The largest Pentecostal Churches in the U.S.A. are: (1) Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. It is said to have 6 million members nationwide (COGIC leaders, members take hard hit from Covid-19 nationwide, April 24, 2020, NBC, WMA, Memphis, actionnews5.com). It is said to have 7.7 million members worldwide (COGIC Church Hit Hard By Coronavirus Deaths Among Its Leadership by Madison J. Gray, April 21, 2020, bet.com). (2) The Assemblies of God (AG) is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. It is said to have more than 3 million members in this country (statistics – Assemblies of God (USA), ag.org). The World Assemblies of God Fellowship is said to have more than 68 million adherents worldwide (Five AG Stats You Need to Know, influencemagazine.com). The AG was formed out of the COGIC in 1914. The separation was along racial lines. The AG was primarily white. The COGIC was primarily black (church split – COGIC and Assemblies of God, Ready to Harvest YouTube). There are many more Pentecostal denominations in the United States, including: Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee); Church of God (Anderson, Indiana); International Church of The Foursquare Gospel; United Pentecostal Church International (UPC or UPCI); Church of God of Prophecy, et. al.

History

There have been those who have claimed to possess supernatural gifts, throughout history. (1) The Montanists. “The claim of the ‘gift of tongues’ was common among the Montanists. The heretical group was named for Montanus (c. A.D. 156), who was a priest of Cybele before his conversion. He would reach a state of ecstasy and gave (sic) forth utterances. These utterances were supposed to be oracles of God. Montanus claimed that the Holy Spirit spoke directly through him” (Jimmy Jividen, Glossolalia from God or Man?, p. 63). Montanus had two female prophetesses who worked with him, Priscilla and Maximilla. They prophesied that Christ would soon return to earth and reign from Pepuza, Phrgia, Asia Minor for a thousand years. When this did not occur, many turned away. (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, pp. 77-78; Ryan Reeves, Christian Apologists and Early Heresies YouTube). (2) The Second Great Awakening. At Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801 a great religious gathering occurred, with perhaps 30,000 attending. “Emotional excitement ran through the crowd producing physical reactions of various kinds. Some fell to the ground as though dead, others experienced the ‘jerks,’ danced, laughed, ran or sang. This supposedly was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit” (F.W. Mattox, p. 313). Unity was desired, but not achieved. “When (Barton W.) Stone stressed the fact that sinners had the power to turn to Christ a number of strong Calvinistic preachers opposed him” (F.W. Mattox, p. 313).

The modern history of Pentecostalism/Charismatic movement may be understood in three waves. These are:

  1. Classic Pentecostalism

The first wave dates to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Two characters are prominent in this history: (a) Charles Fox Parham (1872-1929). He was raised a Methodist. He attended Southwestern Kansas College, a Methodist College, to prepare for the ministry. He did not complete his education. However, he did serve as a temporary Methodist pastor (1893-1895). Dissatisfied with his experience, he left the Methodist Church. He believed that there needed to be a revival which “could only be achieved by another outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 14, p. 31 (c) 1979). He began to travel to various places to investigate rumors and reports of supernatural healings. In October, 1900, he opened Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. About 40 students enrolled. He had the students study the topic: Baptism of the Holy Spirit. On January 01, a student named Agnes N. Ozman is said to have started speaking in tongues. On January 03, more are said to have done so, including Parham. Some students were not pleased and left the school. However, Parham was soon holding large Pentecostal meetings in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas. Britannica says, “The roots of the modern Pentecostal movements go back to a small religious school called Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas” (ibid).

(b) William Joseph Seymour (1870-1922). In December 1905, Parham opened another Bible College in Houston, Texas. Seymour met Parham and asked to attend his school. He was not allowed a seat due to the race issue; but he was allowed to listen to the lessons through an open door or window (William Joseph Seymour Biography, noteablebiographies.com). Seymour had bounced around religiously. He was sprinkled as an infant in the Catholic Church. He became a Methodist in 1895. He was ordained a minister in the Church of God in 1902. Then, he studied under Parham, where he connected baptism of the Holy Spirit with tongue-speaking, and not just holiness.

Seymour moved to Los Angeles, California in 1906 in order to work with a small holiness church. Due to his teachings on tongue-speaking, he literally found himself locked out of the church building, in his first month. He and a some others began to meet in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Asberry on 214 North Bonnie Brea Street. A few, it is said, began to speak in tongues, on April 09, 1906. Then, on April 12, Seymour is said to have begun to do so, for the first time.

The group soon outgrew the house and moved into an unused AME church building, located at 312 Azusa Street. The Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) became a mecca for the Pentecostal movement. The assemblies were interracial, unusual for the time. “Today, the following groups in the United States look to Apostolic Faith Mission that stood at 312 Azusa Street as having a role in their very existence: Church of God in Christ; International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; the Assemblies of God; the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World; the United Pentecostal Churches; Church of God (Cleveland, TN); the International Pentecostal Holiness Church; the Vineyard Christian Fellowship; Victory Outreach; the Macedonian International Bible Fellowship; the Apostolic Fe en Christo Jesus; and, the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ” (Azusa Street Mission, 312azusa.com).

2. Charismatic Renewal

The second wave comes in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It seems to start in California. It occurs within non-Pentecostal churches. “In 1959, Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian clergyman, announced to his congregation in Van Nuys, California, that he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and had spoken in tongues” (The Three Waves of Charismatic Christianity by Angus Steward, cprc.co.uk). It occurred within Catholicism in the 1960’s (Catholic Pentecostals by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan). Charismatics, unlike many Pentecostals, do not believe that one must speak in tongues or manifest gifts of the Spirit (Ranaghan, p. 220; The Three Waves of Pentecostalism, ligonier.org). This wave does not have its roots in holiness churches. Therefore, Charismatics may dress differently than classical Pentecostals. They may wear makeup and cut their hair (Ryan Reeves).

3. Neo-Charismatics/Neo-Pentecostals

The third wave dates to the 1980’s. This wave emphasizes health and wealth (ligonier.org). The third wave emphasizes physical healing, inner healing, deliverance from evil spirits, prophecy and other signs and wonders more than tongue speaking (Committee to Study Third Wave, Pentecostalism II, p. 6, crcna.org). Many of today’s televangelist are Neo type Charismatics/Pentecostals.

[Among the works consulted for history: Jimmy Jividen, Glossolalia; F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom; Christian Apologists and Early Heresies by Ryan Reeves YouTube; Encyclopedia Britannica; Charles Fox Parham, encyclopedia.com; Who Was Charles Parham, gotquestions.org; William Joseph Seymour Biography, noteablebiographies.com; William J. Seymour, ihopkc.org; Pentecostalism: WilliamSeymour, christianhistoryinstitute.org; William Seymour and the History of the Azusa Street Outpouring, revivial-library.org; What was the Azusa Street Revival?, gotquestions.org; The Azusa Street Revival – 1906, apostolicarchives.com; Azusa Street Revival, blackpast.org; Miracle on Azusa Street, nytimes.com; The Influence of Azusa Street, scielo.org.za; Azusa Street Mission, 312azusa.com; The Three Waves of Charismatic Christianity by Angus Steward, cprc.co.uk; Catholic Pentecostals by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan The Three Waves of Pentecostalism; ligonier.org; Committee to Study Third Wave Pentecostalism II, crcna.org].

Authority

COGIC states: “We hold the word of God to be the only authority in all matters and assert that no doctrine can be true or essential, if it does not find a place in this word” (What We Believe, COGIC.org).

AG states: “The Bible is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice” (Assemblies of God 16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

Beliefs and Practices

It is impossible to cover what all varieties of Pentecostals believe and practice. “Pentecostalism” is a very broad umbrella term.

However, there are some common traits. Most are Trinitarian (However, there are Oneness Pentecostals, e.g. UPC). Most believe in the infallibility of Scripture. Many believe that man is born in sin. Most believe that man must repent and believe in Jesus to be saved. Most practiced water baptism by immersion. Most believe in the modern-day baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some practice feet-washing. Most are premillennial in eschatology.

Let’s consider what the two largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States say.

1. Salvation

COGIC: “We believe that man is saved by confessing and forsaking his sins, and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

2. Water Baptism

COGIC: “We believe that water baptism is necessary as instructed by Christ… However, we do not believe that water baptism alone is a means of salvation, but an outward demonstration that one has already had a conversion experience and has accepted Christ as his personal Savior. As Pentecostals, we practice immersion…” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

3. Lord’s Supper

Both believe that the Lord’s Supper is symbolic of Jesus’ suffering and death for us (cogic.org; ag.org). They do not state the frequency that it is offered.

4. Feet washing

COGIC: “Feet washing is practiced… These services are held subsequent to the Lord’s Supper; however its regularity is left to the discretion of the Pastor in charge” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

5. Eternal Security

AG: “The Bible also teaches that believers who have accepted Christ as Savior can be lost if they repeatedly disregard the teaching of scripture, continue to resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and finally reach the point where they turn away from their Savior” (Assurance of Salvation, ag.org).

6. Holy Spirit Baptism

COGIC: “We believe that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is an experience subsequent to conversion and sanctification and that tongue-speaking is the consequence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost… we… believe that a Holy Ghost experience is mandatory for all men today” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek… the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

7. Divine Healings

COGIC: “The Church of God in Christ believes in and practices Divine Healing” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

8. Premillennialism

AG: “The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is our blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with his saints to reign on earth for one thousand years” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

Organization

1.COGIC is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s government is episcopal in nature. The current presiding Bishop is J. Drew Sheard (J. Drew Sheard elected as COGIC’s New Presiding Bishop, Katherine Burgess, Commercial Appeal, March 21, 2021, commercialappeal.com).


2. AG is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. It’s government is more congregational in nature. There are two types of AG churches. General Conference affiliated churches are autonomous. District affiliated churches, “are those which have not yet developed to the point where they qualify for full autonomy. All assemblies are required to adhere to the statements of fundamental truths and a biblical pattern of conduct” (structure, ag.org).

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Denominations: Methodist/Wesleyan Church (Part 2)

Authority

1.  Bible

“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation;  so that whatsoever is not written therein, nor may be proved thereby is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or necessary to salvation” (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, Article 5; see also – The Confession of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church, Article 4). 

2.  Book of Discipline and other Documents

“The Evangelical United Brethren Church’s Confession of Faith and the Methodist Episcopal Church’s Articles of Religion help us understand what we believe as United Methodists.  The writings of Methodism’s founder also continue to guide us.  John Wesley’s Sermons On Several Occasions, his Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament and the General Rules of the Methodist Church continue to inform our faith and practice” (United Methodist Foundational Documents, umc.org). 

“We do not see the Discipline as sacrosanct or infallible, but we do consider it a document suitable to our heritage… It reflects our understanding of the Church and articulates the mission of The United Methodist… The Discipline defines what is expected of its laity and clergy” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016, Episcopal Greetings, pp. v-vi). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Free Will   

“We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil… we believe, however, man influenced and empowered by the Holy Spirit is responsible in freedom to exercise his will for good” (The Articles of Religion, Article 7).  This is called Prevenient Grace or Preventing Grace.  God provides to all enough grace to overcome the effects of the fall so that man has free will to respond to God.  “Wesley uses the metaphor of a house to describe our spiritual journeys.  Our justification he calls the door.  The conviction of our sins and the recognition of our need for salvation, he likens to a porch.  Prevenient grace is the grace of the porch.  It prepares our hearts and minds to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to respond in faith” (God at Work Before We Know It: Prevenient Grace by Joe Iovino, umc.org; Also: What is Prevenient Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles (Chuck) Gutenson, seedbed YouTube). 

2.  Justification or Salvation

“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings.  Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (The Articles of Religion, Article 9).  Justification is considered the door way of salvation (Justifying Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles Gutenson, seedbed YouTube). 

3.  Baptism

“Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth.  The baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church” (The Articles of Religion, Article 17).  “We believe Baptism signifies entrance into the household of faith, and is a symbol of repentance and inner cleansing from sin, a representation of the new birth in Christ Jesus and a mark of Christian discipleship” (The Confession of Faith, Article 6). 

They do not believe that it matters how one was baptized.  Immersion, pouring, and sprinkling are all considered acceptable (What do I Need to Know About Baptism in the UMC?, umc.org).

They baptize infants.  “In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to process their faith, with divine grace.  Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are – whatever our age” (FAQs About Baptism, Membership, and Salvation, umcdiscipleship.org). 

4.  Lord’s Supper   

“Transubstantiation… cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture” (The Articles of Religion, Article 18).  “We believe the Lord’s Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the suffering and death of Christ…” (The Confession of Faith, Article 6).

“Each local United Methodist Church determines how often to celebrate communion.  Many churches celebrate communion once a month, often on the first Sunday… Some churches now celebrate every week” (How Often Do We Have Communion?, umc.org).

5.  Sanctification

“Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost… enabled through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless” (The Articles of Religion, Article 25).

This allows one to live in the house.  Preventient grace and convicting grace brings one to the porch.  Justifying grace is the door.  Santifying grace allows one to live in the house (Sanctifying Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles Gutenson, Seebed YouTube). 

This is sometimes referred to as the second work of grace.  The first work of grace occurs when one is justified.  The second work of grace occurs in sanctification.  “God’s sanctifying grace changes us and leads us to increase our faith, which leads to good works.  Just as a one-sided marriage fails, a one-sided relationship with God fails, also.  We must participate in the relationship God offers us, and God’s sanctifying grace leads us to do that” (Distinctive Wesleyan Doctrines, fumcwf.org). 

Methodists do not believe in once saved, always saved doctrine.  “Our church teaches we can end up ‘losing’ the salvation God has begun in us, and the consequence of this in the age to come is our eternal destruction in hell” (Do United Methodist Believe “Once Saved, Always Saved?”, umc.org).

6.  The General Rules of The Methodist Church by John Wesley

“It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, First: By doing no harm, by avoiding even of every kind… Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men… Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God… These are the General Rules of our societies” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016, The General Rules of The Methodist Church).

7.  Women

“Women were given limited clergy rights in 1924 and were accepted for full ordination in 1956.  In 1980 the United Methodist Church elected its first woman bishop” (United Methodist Church, britannica.com). 

8.  Homosexuality

The UMC is nearing division over this subject.  A proposal is currently being considered to split the Church over this issue.  This is scheduled to be decided in the August 2022 General Conference (United Methodist Conservatives Detail Breakaway Plans Over Gay Inclusion, A.P., March 02, 2021, nbcnews.com).

SMU, accepting of lgbtq, has claimed that it is not under the authority of UMC.  This led to a lawsuit against the University (SMU sued as it moves to cut ties with United Methodist Church, religiousnews.com).  SMU won this lawsuit (Judge Rules for SMU Over Jurisdiction By Sam Hodges, March 23, 2021, umnews.org).

Organization

The United Methodist Church has an organizational structure greater than the local church.  “The United Methodist Church does not have a central headquarters or a single executive leader.  Duties are divided among bodies that includes the General Conference, the Council of Bishops, and the Judicial Council” (Structure, umc.org)

The local church does not fully control church property.  “All properties of United Methodist local churches and all other Methodist agencies and institutions are held, in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination” (The Book of Discipline 2016, paragraph 2501). 

Types of Methodists

There are many types of Methodists.  Here are a few:

1.  United Methodist Church

The Methodists split over slavery in 1844-1845.  The two Churches which formed out of this split were: The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Encyclopedia Britannica).

These two Churches merged in 1939.  They became The Methodist Church (ibid).

The Evangelical United Brethren Church (Methodists of German heritage) merged with them in 1968, in Dallas, Texas.  They became The United Methodist Church (ibid). 

2.  African Methodist Episcopal Church

“This Church began in 1787 when a number of members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal church in Philadelphia withdrew in protest against racial discrimination… The body was formally organized as The African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816” (Frank Mead and Samuel Hill Handbook of Denominations, p. 159).

3.  African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

“This Church dates from 1796, when it was organized by a group of members protesting discrimination in the John Street church in New York City… The present name was approved in 1848” (Mead, pp. 159-160).

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