Hafley-Myre Debate On Holy Spirit Baptism And Miracles

By Ron Halbrook

On 12 and 14 November 1984 Larry Hafley of Pekin, IL affirmed “that Holy Spirit baptism and miracles as experienced in the early church are not still applicable and should not be a part of present day worship and involvement.” Hulon Myre, a United Pentecostal preacher from Jackson, TN, denied the proposition and affirmed miracles are for today on 15-16 November. It was my privilege to moderate for brother Hafley. The debate was held in the commodious Seeger Chapel on the campus of Milligan College at Johnson City, TN; the facility was rented from the college. D.A. Martin, the U.P.C. preacher in Johnson City moderated for Mr. Myre. Mr. Martin had approached Everett Hardin of the Brookmead church of Christ about the possibility of a discussion. Brother Hardin and the other good brethren at Johnson City graciously accommodated the request.

The audience, which ranged to a high of nearly 250, was well-behaved and attentive. The disputants were dignified, courteous, and attentive to the issue at hand, while pressing their views with firmness. The debate was well-publicized, including excellent coverage by newspapers and television in a tri-city area of 250,000 people. Audio and video recordings are available from brother Hardin (2428 Lakeview Dr., Johnson City, TN 37601). Mr. Martin agreed to see whether the U.P.C. publishing house would print the debate, so contact him if you are interested and encourage him to pursue the matter (P.O. Box 3933 CRS, Johnson City, TN 37601). People who had never heard the truth on the work of the Holy.Spirit and on other matters heard an able presentation of the gospel by means of this debate. Some members of the Christian Church came, enjoyed the discussion, and stayed afterward several nights investigating the question of instrumental music in unaware that public debates had been held on the subject and, being convinced by the Hafley-Myre debate that such discussions are helpful, they expressed an interest in arranging one. (Won’t they be surprised at the answers they will get when they ask their preachers to engage in such a study?) Gospel preachers and other brethren attended from several states.

Only eternity can measure the good accomplished when the word of God-the seed of the kingdom of God-is sown into so many hearts. That seed was faithfully sown on this occasion and God will give the increase according to His own will (Lk. 8:4-15; 1 Cor. 3:6-7). One evidence of the good done was Pentecostal people telling brother Hafley that they did not agree with positions Mr. Myre was taking. Another evidence was a letter addressed to brethren Hardin, Hafley, and myself, which said in part:

We have an eleven-year-old son that was baptized into Christ a year ago. We can’t begin to tell you what it has meant to us and to Brad, for him to be able to hear men stand up for the truth as you have this week . . . this week has been very special to us.

Yes, brethren, debates properly conducted-like all other forms of gospel preaching-will strengthen the faith of Christians, whether the lost respond to the truth or not! When God’s truth goes out, it never returns unto Him without accomplishing good, whether we can see and measure the good done or not (Isa. 55:10-11).

Hafley’s Basic Arguments

Larry showed that the Holy Spirit manifested Himself in various ways and worked in various manners: (1) “without measure” in Jesus (Jn. 3:34), (2) the baptism of the Spirit upon the Apostles, representing the Jews, and upon the house of Cornelius, representing the Gentiles (Acts 2; 10), (3) gifts given by the laying on of the Apostles’ hands (Acts 8:14-29), and (4) the Spirit dwelling in all Christians in a non-miraculous way (I Cor. 6:19-20). The baptisms of Moses (1 Cor.10:1ff), of John the baptist (Matt.3:1ff) and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; 10) accomplished their purposes and are not repeated today, but the baptism in water for remission of sins taught by Christ is the only one needed today (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38).

Pentecostal people think that if the baptism of Mark 16 is needed today, then the miracles are, too. Larry’s chart on the passage shows in a simple and powerful way why one is needed and not the other:

MARK 16:15-20







TO SAVE (v. 16)







Men are still lost!




Word has been confirmed


On another chart Larry demonstrated the difference between the true signs mentioned in various passages and the claims of his opponent: (1) Mark 16:20 says, “confhmiing the word with signs,” but the opponent “confirms” his signs with words; (2) Acts 14:3 says the Lord “gave testimony” and “granted signs,” but the opponent gives testimony without signs; (3) Acts 4:33 says that “with great power” the Apostles gave witness, but the opponent with “great” words gives witness.

Miraculous gifts were to fail, cease, and vanish away. They were the means of revelation “in part,” partially, or part by part until the fullness of revelation had come. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10). Larry’s charts showed that the passage cannot mean there is a comparison between revelation in part and the “complete second coming of Christ. ” The thing in part must be of the same nature as the thing that is complete. ” Since we do not have the second coming of Christ “in part,” there is no reference to His coming as “that which is perfect.”

Myre’s Basic Arguments

Myre argues that we have today water baptism in the name of Jesus only (i.e. not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and also Holy Ghost baptism with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Myre attempts to show that there is such a pattern in Acts 2, 10, and 19, then concludes such was the case in “every case of conversion recorded in Acts.” Larry’s response was that the baptisms of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and 10 are the only cases in Acts or anywhere else. Larry also pointed out that on the premise of Myre’s argument, Cornelius received evidence of salvationbefore water baptism and Simon in Acts 8 was saved Wore receiving the Spirit (which is Spirit baptism in Myre’s view) where is the pattern?

The Spirit baptism in Acts 2 included the women of 1:14 and was not limited to the Apostles, Myre insisted. Larry’s charts on the text of Acts 1-2 showed that Spirit baptism was promised to the Apostles (1:2-5) and that “the eleven apostles” in 1:26 is the antecedent to the pronoun “they” in 2:1. Myre claimed that John the baptist promised Holy Spirit and fire baptism to all of his audience in using the pronoun “you. ” Larry reminded Hulon that John said, “I indeed baptize you with water” in a generic sense without meaning all of his audience. John’s prophecy of Spirit baptism must be understood in the light of its fulfillment in Acts 1-2.

If the promises of the miraculous work of the Spirit in John 14-16 are limited to the Apostles, the promise of heaven in 14:1-3 must be so limited, said Myre. Specialpromises must be distinguished from general principles and Larry illustrated that by this statement in the limited commission: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few” (Lk. 10:2). Surely Myre quotes that passage without thinking he is under the limitations of that commissiongo not to the Gentiles, carry no purse, etc.

Myre believes miraculous gifts will continue “till the coming of Christ” and Larry could not get him to admit that this destroys the harmony in the things compared in I Corinthians 13. But Myre used the typical argument on Hebrews 13:8-miracles continue because “Jesus Christ (is) the same . . . for ever.” Yet, Myre teaches that gifts will end at the second coming of Christ, so miracles are not “for ever” even according to his own argument! The character and truth of the Lord are “for ever” but he may change certain means and methods of working. According to the miracles “for ever” idea, Myre should raise the dead, but he refused to try lest the dead man might be a saved person who would fall into sin and be lost. But, retorted Larry, it might be a lost person and then we could save him!

Myre Stumbles On Sin And Sickness

A highlight of the debate occurred when Myre made the typical plea that “with his stripes we are healed” means that we must look to Christ both for atonement from sin and miraculous healing from disease (Isa. 53:5). We were referred to the Corinthians who did not discern the Lord’s body conthuad on new page during the Lord’s Supper and who were, according to Myre, physically weak, sickly, and asleep or dead (1 Cor. 11:30). Myre had spoken from his seat in answer to questions and statements by Larry since the second night; when Larry began to mention Myre’s position that sickness in 1 Corinthians 11 was caused by sin, Myre claimed “a point of order” and came to the microphone to say that he was misrepresented because he never said the Corinthians were sick on account of sin.

MYRE: The penalty for not recognizing the efficaciousness of the blood-the penalty for that is eternal damnation. The penalty for not recognizing the Lord’s body, the stripes by which he was beaten for our healing, the penalty for that is simply sickness, weakness, possible premature death. I did not say it was sin [to fail to recognize the Lord’s body, RH].

HAFLEY: If you don’t live right, you’ll get sick like that . . . sickness, weakness, and maybe premature death?

MYRE: There are many weakly and sickly among you, and some prematurely fallen asleep.


MYRE: Because they did not recognize the Lord’s body. If you’ll make a study of that, you’ll see that by His stripes we’re healed-by His blood we’re saved. I did not associate sin with that. I think Paul had a physical affliction. I do not think it was because of sin. It was because God wanted to teach him something about His grace.

HAFLEY: Because they didn’t recognize the Lord’s body, then. Can I say that? [Myre nods approval as he sits down.]

Mr. Myre has clarified it. He says you’re weak and sick, and maybe (facing) premature death because you don’t recognize the Lord’s body. Question: Is not recognizing the Lord’s body a sin? Is it? (Pause) I dare you to answer it! Is not recognizing the Lord’s body a sin? He says not recognizing the Lord’s body will make you weak, sickly, and maybe you’ll prematurely die. Is it a sin? Is it a sin?

If he says, “No, it’s no sin,” then why did they get weak and sick and die? And if it is a sin, then sin causes the sickness and the weakness, and that’s what I said (you taught) in the first place! My, my, Mr. Myre, I believe I’d have kept my seat. You helped yourself worse.

That exchange occurred during the last speech of the debate. As Larry reminded the audience on several occasions, Mr. Myre’s weakness and confusion was not due to personal inability, for he was well qualified to represent his people, but was due to the error of his doctrine.

Teach By Asking Questions

Each speaker was limited to asking five written questions per night and these questions played a crucial role in the discussion. Mr. Myre spent most of his time rambling around Larry’s questions and so had almost no time to do anything else, except to occasionally get off on a tangent about the need for godly living, revival, or the like. Of the dozens of charts Larry used, Mr. Myre never called for over two or three to review them.

Larry pressed one line of thought (which I had never seen used), which gave Mr. Myre no end of trouble. His first question in the opening speech was, “What is the baptism of fire (Matt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16)? ” Larry asked who is the subject of it, what is its purpose, what is the evidence that a person has it, and where can we read an example of it? Myre mused that the Bible does not clearly define it, but that he thought the evidence of it might be “the holy enthusiasm” called an “unction” or “anointing” in I John 2:20-27. Larry wondered out loud how Myre could have this baptism or anointing and not know for sure what it is since “the same anointing teacheth you of all things” (v. 27).

“What is the ‘one baptism’ of Ephesians 4:5? ” Acts 2:38 makes it water baptism and Spirit baptism, Myre answered, and “the spirit, and the water, and the blood . . . agree in one” (1 Jn. 5:8). It seemed Myre was getting more and more baptisms to explain: water, Holy Spirit, fire, and now blood. (Why isn’t blood a baptism in I John 5:8 if spirit and water are baptisms?) Four baptism? No, no, Mr. Myre assured us, the blood means repentance, the fire is associated with the Spirit, and the water and the Spirit are “two elements” of one baptism. Just one, see? So, Larry asked if Simon (who got the water long before the’ Spirit) and Cornelius (Who got the Spirit before the water) were only half-baptized and half-saved? Well, Myre explained the one baptism may be a wonderful process which takes time to complete and God recognizes those who are coming toward Him in the process.

In fact, Myre wondered if people in churches of Christ might be in the process since we teach water baptism although at other times he implied that he could not work miracles for us because we are too hardened in heart. Asked to distinguish his “miracles” from those of pagan witch doctors, Myre asserted that God performs genuine miracles “wherever there is faith”- even among the heathen. Presumably, some of them are in the process with the rest of us!

“Does Holy Spirit baptism put one into the United Pentecostal Church?” Baptism puts a person into the body of Christ, Myre said, but the U.P.C. is “just a working arrangement.” Larry observed that this means that the U.P.C. is not the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and not the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). Taking the denominational unity-in-diversity concept, Myre averred that the U.P.C. is a part of the Lord’s church along with all other obedient children of God. Where can we read in the Bible of such a structure called a “church” which is larger than a local congregation and smaller than the body of Christ? The U.P.C. is still foreign to the Bible, isn’t it?

After admitting that “all the signs of Mark 16:17-18 apply to believers today, ” Myre was also asked whether the passage proves that tongues are “a sign that would follow every believer of the gospel” (as per their tract)? Again, he said, “Yes.” If it proves tongues for every believer as they claim, it proves every believer must cast out demons, take up serpents, drink poison, and heal the sick? Larry pressed this often by using a reproduction of a picture of snake handlers which appeared in the paper under the heading “Snake-handlers testing faith less frequently.” (We have reproduced the picture in connection with this article because brethren can use it to make excellent overhead charts.) Myre stayed tangled up on trying to get out of the necessary conclusion of his doctrine.

Blunder Of The Week Award: Apostles Today

Myre received the “blunder of the weak award” for claiming living Apostles in the U.P.C. To prove miracles today, Myre asked whether God gives His gifts with respect of persons. Larry answered by asking whether God gives the gift of apostleship with respect of persons (Eph. 4:11). Myre had thundered, “gift, 1 Corinthians 12:28 still applies. Everything in that chapter is stiff in the church. Nobody has been big enough to take them out.” So, Larry asked whether Myre is big enough to take Apostles out today. Feeling the force of this, he admitted that he believes there are Apostles alive today even though some of his brethren deny it. Some of his people at the debate denied it, too! Larry quoted the official history of the U.P.C.: “The organization condemned the teaching that the church is based upon present day apostles and prophets” (United We Stand, p. 144). But Myre could not back up because he said on Hebrews 13:8, “If we’re not doing the same things, we’ve got another Jesus. We’ve got another gospel deleting the gifts.” Myre patched it up by saying that we do not need Apostles like the Twelve who revealed Scripture since we already have the Bible, but we may have “other apostles” in the sense of messengers like the “pioneers” of the modem Pentecostal movement. Asked to name some living apostles, he said he did not know the names of any.

If Pentecostal people can see that the office of Apostles has passed away because its purpose has been fulfilled, they can understand the same point on all the other miraculous gifts. If they can see that the gift of apostleship had as its purpose revealing and confirming new truth, they can see the very same thing on all the other miraculous gifts. The gospel revelation supplied our every spiritual need without the repetition of Holy Spirit baptism or any other miracle today. The challenge Larry issued from first to last still echoes back to us again and again: Cite one spiritual need that the Word of God fails to supply.

This was about the 25th debate Larry has had. He prepares thoroughly, speaks fluently, and presents the truth with boldness and great plainness of speech. Having heard many debates and engaged in a few, I can recommend Larry as among the best I have seen on the polemic platform when you need someone, you will find none better.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 4, pp. 97, 117-119
February 21, 1985