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Where exactly do "Oneness" Pentecostals stand in relation to orthodoxy? Are they in or out?—Fred Askins, Commerce City, Colorado

The decisive word in the origins of "Jesus only" (or Oneness) Pentecostals is probably apostolic. Beginning about 1913, certain Pentecostal ministers began to ask, "What is the correct apostolic formula for baptizing believers?" Several ministers concluded that the correct formula, the one used by the apostles themselves, was found in Acts 2:38, where Peter proclaims, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins."

Attentive Bible readers will immediately ask, "But didn't Jesus command the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?" Indeed, that formula is found in Matthew 28:19. But Oneness Pentecostals have chosen to focus on the Acts 2:38 formula because, they say, that is the actual formula used by the apostles. In fact, they are correct in observing that the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 is never again mentioned, while several references are made to baptism in the name of Jesus (see Acts 10:48, 19:5). The earliest Oneness Pentecostals felt so strongly about the baptismal formula that many of them chose to be rebaptized in the name of Jesus only, which led to splits in congregations and denominations. The greatest divide among Pentecostals today is between orthodox Pentecostals and Oneness Pentecostals.

This difference in the matter of words used during baptisms represents something far more important: a different view of the nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—what orthodox Christians refer to as the Trinity. If asked if they believe in God the Father, Son, and Spirit, all Oneness Pentecostals would ...

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April 1, 2002

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