In order to answer some charges that are leveled against us concerning the disciples and Pentecost, we herein give a brief account of our position, one we believe to be true to the Bible. It is also the position of John Wesley and many other early Church fathers. That the disciples were saved before Pentecost, we have no doubt! Further, we believe that if they had died before Pentecost, they would have gone to heaven. This is a much stronger position than some holiness preachers believe since they say that it is a second work or the second death.
The question arises: Did they have gospel regeneration or gospel faith? Gospel faith is to believe with the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. This the disciples did not have (Romans 10:9)! It is also very clear to anyone who reads the epistles that all who have this faith are indwelt by the Holy Spirit! This the disciples did not have for the Bible says that he that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself (1 John 5:10).
Anyone who reads the Gospels as well as other parts of the Scriptures will see that the terms “baptism with the Spirit,” “being endued,” “coming upon,” “receiving,” and being “filled with the Spirit” are all terms meaning the same experience. Now the Bible clearly teaches that all Christians have this if they are true believers (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13). Pentecost was the beginning of the new covenant which was promised. The disciples were not in that covenant until the Spirit came at Pentecost.
While they were with Christ on earth, they had faith enough to leave their nets and follow Him, yet they did not believe in Christ’s atonement. Before His resurrection they had not witness of the Spirit (John 14:20). “And they all forsook him and fled” (Mark 14:50). This is not New Testament regeneration!
All believers under the old covenant were justified according to that dispensation, but did not have gospel saving faith. One of the weakness of the modern holiness doctrine is that they do not make clear the truth that the Holy Ghost comes into every heart that is truly saved and gives power over sin, witnessing to their hearts and leading them in the ways of righteousness and truth.
The baptism with the Spirit and the baptism with water are closely connected. John the Baptist made it clear that his baptism was not sufficient, but that Christ must baptize them with the Holy Ghost. The baptism with water signifies the visible body of Christ by this sign; even so, the baptism with the Holy Spirit brings one into the invisible body of Christ. Adam Clarke, in his notes on John 3, clearly stated that if Christ has not baptized one with the Holy Ghost, he is not a Christian. This, he says, shows the difference between the Jewish and the Christian dispensations. If one taught that the baptism with the Spirit is a second work of grace, something Wesley, Clarke, Fletcher, Asbury, and other Church fathers never taught, he should not give water baptism until the second work.
Wesley said, “All true believers are baptized with the Holy Ghost” (see Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament on Acts 1:5). The new birth is initiated by this. While the new birth does not destroy all inbred sin, it does give one victory over it and implants holiness in the heart. We further contend and believe in a second crisis or work of the Holy Ghost where the holiness which was begun in regeneration can be perfected in entire sanctification. This is not receiving the Holy Ghost, which all believers have, but rather the completion of regeneration.
The book of Acts clearly teaches that Cornelius, as well as others, received the Spirit when they were evangelically converted (Acts 11:14-18) and that it was what the disciples received at Pentecost. The Word clearly points out that they were granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:18). Had they already been in the experience of New Testament salvation, this could not have been true. Had they already been saved, they would have already received New Testament water baptism, for this was done as soon as they became believers. Peter would not have preached the remission of sins to them (Acts 10:42-46; see Wesley’s Notes on verse 43).
Let us teach that Jesus does forgive sins and sends the Holy Ghost into hearts of all truly saved, baptizing them into His body (1 Corinthians 12:13), implanting holiness within and leading them forth from victory to victory and once again revival fire will burn. The confused state of many holiness folk (so called), along with the strife and division, will no longer be as plentiful as it is now. The love of God will be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given us (Romans 5:5).
Luther’s Preface To The Epistle To The Romans
Written by Martin Luther in 1552; this translation by J. Theodore Muller. This preface was read at a Moravian society meeting at Aldersgate Street in London on May 24, 1738. John Wesley was present and testified that “about a quarter before nine,” while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Faith is not that human notion and dream that some hold for faith. Because they see that no betterment of life and no good works follow it, and yet they can hear and say much about faith, they fall into error and say, “Faith is not enough; one must do works in order to be righteous and be saved.” This is one reason that when they hear the gospel they fall-to and make for themselves, by their own powers, an idea in their hearts which says, “I believe.” This they hold for true faith. But it is a human imagination and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, and so nothing comes of it and no betterment follows it.
Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and brings with it the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are any good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them. He who does not these works is a faithless man. He gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, though he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.
Faith is a living, daring confidence on God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all His creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace; and thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers, who would be wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God to work faith in you; else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do.
Resolution and Statement of Faith
WHEREAS there has been among second-blessing holiness churches a serious deviation from the scriptural teaching developed by John Wesley and early Methodist writers, and
WHEREAS this has led to a shallow preaching of the new birth and consequently, a confusion has developed concerning Christian experience that is quite distressing, and
WHEREAS this unscriptural teaching has led many to profess salvation without victory over the power of sin nor a direct witness of the Holy Spirit; and others to profess entire sanctification without being made perfect in love, and
WHEREAS we, a group of concerned Christian ministers, seeing a need for a fellowship that will teach and promote scriptural holiness as taught by John Wesley and the early Methodists, do hereby pledge our prayers and help to each other, and adopt the following Statement of Faith.
WE BELIEVE there is but one living and true God, everlasting, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons of one substance, power, and eternity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the Holy Ghost being one, is the same as the Spirit of God or Spirit of Christ, these being simply different expressions for the Holy Ghost (Ephesians 3:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 12:14).
WE BELIEVE in the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures; that the Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, and correct even when they speak on points of history, science and philosophy; that they are the sole and final authority in faith and practice.
WE BELIEVE that all men are born totally depraved; that they are unable to do anything acceptable to God without the help of the Holy Spirit; that all men need to be born again and that this is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. The entrance into this experience is initiated by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, whereby the believer is delivered from the guilt and power of sin (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 5:5; Titus, 3:5-7; Acts 2:38).
WE BELIEVE that there is yet in the believer the “remains of sin” even after he has been born of the Spirit; and that he may be cleansed from this by the work of the Spirit in his heart as a second work of grace, whereby the believer is perfected in love (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Ephesians 3:19; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Corinthians 13:9; Matthew 4:48; 1 John 4:18; Romans 6:6).
WE BELIEVE justification and entire sanctification are works of the Holy Spirit wrought in the heart by grace through faith.
WE BELIEVE further that this faith is a gift of God given to all who truly repent and hunger and thirst after righteousness (2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 2:16, 20; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 11:1), and that this saving faith is always accompanied by the witness of the Spirit (1 John 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Romans 8:15- 16; Hebrews 10:22).
WE BELIEVE that all of life is a state of probation and that there is no state of grace from which we may not fall.
WE BELIEVE in the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment of all mankind at the last day; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; they that done evil unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29).
WE BELIEVE that the Church is the sole institution that God has left upon the earth to preach and teach salvation by grace through faith to a lost world, and that we are to labor with the hope that God will answer the prayer that he taught us to pray (Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven) by the preaching of the gospel; and that the only hope of redemption of a lost world is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
From: Long, Elmer. “Pentecost.” The Arminian: A Publication of the Fundamental Wesleyan Society, vol. 1, no.1, 1980. http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/the-arminian-magazine/the-arminian-magazine-spring-1980/. Web.