By Keith Sharp
The evenings of September 19,20,22,23 of last year, Wayne Greeson, gospel preacher of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, met John Scheel, pastor of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church of BeeBe, Arkansas in public debate. The first two nights were devoted to a discussion of the number of persons in the Godhead, and the debate was conducted where Mr. Scheel pastors. The last two nights were on modem day miraculous spiritual gifts, and the debate was held at the 28th Avenue Church of Christ in Pine Bluff where brother Greeson preaches. John Welch moderated for brother Greeson.
The fact the debate was held testifies to the effectiveness of call-in radio as a method of preaching the gospel. Earlier, brother Greeson had debated Mr. Buddy Looper of Stuttgart, Arkansas in a four night debate on the Godhead. This debate came about as the result of Mr. Looper calling brother Greeson on the 28th Avenue radio program and challenging his teaching on the number of persons in the Godhead. Mr. Looper was ineffective as a debater, and Mr. Scheel indicated during this first debate that he wanted to debate brother Greeson.
Mr. Scheel did a worthy job of representing the oneness Pentecostals’ false positions. He was the most gentle-manly Pentecostal debater I have heard, is much more scholarly than most of their representatives, and is an effective speaker. Mr. Scheel was especially effective in the use of humor and ridicule. The debate was conducted on a high plain, and the issues were addressed in such a way the audience could follow the argumentation. At the outset of the debate, brother Welch established tight crowd control, and this helped immensely in keeping the debate on track.
Brother Greeson was exceedingly well prepared and was powerful as a speaker. He even had excellent negative charts prepared to answer Scheel’s arguments. He drove his points home effectively with the audience. Brother Greeson prepared computer generated charts for all his arguments, and brother Welch presented them by LCD projector, the same projector he used in debate with Thomas G. O’Neal. Even Mr. Scheel acknowledged the powerful impact this had on the audience. In this way a debater can present a much larger amount of argumentation in a short time without losing the audience. Both in artistic quality and in content brother Greeson’s charts are unexcelled, and they need to be made available for other brethren.
Each speaker had three twenty minute speeches each night. The shorter speeches also allowed the audience to more easily follow the flow of argumentation.
The following is a very brief synopsis of the arguments presented by brother Wayne Greeson. Although in a few instances I would not have used the same arguments brother Greeson did (and he may later win me over), I agree whole heartedly with his positions and his general biblical approach. I will present the arguments as though I am simply writing on the subjects, but I will be actually reporting brother Greeson’s argumentation as he presented it. The material on miraculous spiritual gifts is longer because brother Greeson presented more material on this subject. The debaters engaged in reply and counter reply on most arguments, but the interested reader will have to get tapes of the debate to get these.
Number of Persons in Godhead
Proposition: The Scriptures teach that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The audience should be as the Bereans and study with an open mind (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21-22). The Scriptures are the only acceptable proof to be employed during the discussion. All agree there is but one God (Deut. 6:4); that there are not three Gods (Ibid.); that the Bible does not use the term “trinity,” nor do I; that there are not three humans in the Godhead; that Jesus is God (Jn. 1:1); and that Jesus did become a man (in. 1:14). The word “person,” means any “self-conscious or rational being” is a person, whether or not that being possesses a fleshly body.
The oneness Pentecostal position is essentially antichrist. They believe the “Son” is the fleshly body of Jesus. But, since Jesus had no fleshly body before he was born in Bethlehem (Heb. 5:7), and since he no longer has that fleshly body (2 Cor. 5:16), it necessarily follows that the Son was only a Person for 33 years. Furthermore, Mr. Scheel’s position is that the Father is the Son. But the apostle John declared that one who denies “the Father and the Son” is antichrist (1 Jn. 2:22-23). Mr. Scheel cannot make the good confession made by the Ethiopian eunuch, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” but would change it to read, “Jesus Christ was the Son of God.” The Son is God (Heb. 1:8). Thus, if the Son is Jesus’ fleshly body, a fleshly body is God.
The New Testament teaches that the Son is God (Heb. 1:8), Lord (Rom. 1:3), heir of all things (Heb. 1:2), the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn. 4:10), and the Savior of the world (1 Jn. 4:14). He has a kingdom (Col. 1:13), makes you free (Jn. 8:36), quickens (Jn. 5:21), judges (Jn. 5:22), ascended where he was before (Jn. 6:62), sits on the right hand of the power of God (Lk. 22:69), and made the worlds (Heb. 1:2). These statements can hardly be applied just to the human body of Jesus!
Thirty-three New Testament passages each mention all three Persons in the Godhead (Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; Jn. 3:34-35; 14:16-17; 14:26; 15:26; 20:21-22; Acts 1:4-5,7-8; 2:32-33,38-39; 4:8-10; 5:30-32; 7:55-56; 10:38; 11:16-17;15:8-11;Rom. 5:5-6;8:1-4,16-17;1_5:15-17,30; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:1 8; 4:4-6;1 Thess. 1:3-5; 5:18-19; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:16-21; Jude 20-21; Rev. 22:16-18). Ephesians 4:4-6 is an example, in that it mentions all three divine Persons. The Father is a Person (Heb. 1:1-3), the Son is a Person (2 Cor. 2:10), and the Spirit is a Person (Jn. 16:13); thus, three Persons.
The word “us” refers to God in Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; and Isaiah 6:8. These references are proof of plurality of Persons in the one Godhead.
At the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16-17; Mk. 1:10-11; Lk. 3:21-22) all three Persons of the Godhead acted separately at the same time.
God is one in the sense that the three Persons of the Godhead are perfectly united. The word “one” commonly means united, as is demonstrated in marriage (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5-5) and the people after the flood (Gen. 34:16). The same language, both in Hebrew and English is used of God (Deut. 6:4). Jesus compared the unity of believers with the unity of God (Jn. 17:20-22; 10:30; 1 Cor. 12:20), and this demonstrates that “one” can include multiple units. “One” often includes many persons (Gen. 11:6; Judg. 20:8; 1 Sam. 11:7; Ezra 3:9; 6:20; 1 Cor. 3:6-8; Gal. 3:28). The Father and Son are one in work On. 4:34), creation (Eph. 3:9), authority (Jn. 5:43), love (Jn. 14:23), witness (Jn. 8:18), doctrine On. 7:16), will (Jn. 6:38), and judgment (Jn. 5:22), but not one Person.
Jesus and the Father must be separate Persons, since the Son returned to the Father in heaven On. 6:62; 3:3; 16:28; 20:17; Acts 1:11) and is now at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Acts 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 8:1; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22). First Corinthians 15:27; Matthew 28:18; and He-brews 5:7 also demonstrate that Jesus and the Father are separate Persons.
Modem Day Miraculous Spiritual Gifts Proposition: The Scriptures teach that miraculous spiritual gifts, as in the days of the apostles, have ceased.
We agree that miracles were performed in the first century (Jn. 20:30-31), that God still has the power to work miracles today (Matt. 28:18), that God does answer prayer and work providentially today (Matt. 6:7,11,25-34), that Christians do receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 3:19,25,26; Gal. 3:14,27-29); and that amazing things happen today, but these are not miracles as occurred in the first century. The issue is: Are miraculous gifts as in the days of the apostles for all Christians today?
The apostles didn’t debate whether they could work miracles; they worked them! They came not in word only but in power (1 Thess. 1:5). Pentecostal preachers should do the same.
Not all gifts of God are miraculous (Eccl. 3:13; 5:19; Rom. 5:17; 6:23; 11:29-30; 1 Cor. 7:7-8; 2 Cor. 1:9-11; Jas. 1:17). Rather, miracles are “works of a supernatural origin and character, such as could not be produced by natural agents and means.” Miraculous spiritual gifts of the first century are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and Mark 16:17-18. The Pentecostal position is like arguing that Christians today can cross the Red Sea in the same way Israel did in Exodus 14, while the Pentecostal actually crosses the Red Sea in a boat!
Miraculous gifts were not given to all Christians even in the first century. There is no evidence they were imparted to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39), Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12), the believers in Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:48-49), Lydia (Acts 16:14-15), or the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:27-34).
There were things in the first century church, associated with miraculous spiritual gifts, that are not in the church on earth today. For example, there were apostles (Acts 1 & 2), the dead were raised (Acts 9 & 20), a false teacher was blinded (Acts 13), liars in the church were struck dead (Acts 5), apostles imparted spiritual gifts by the laying on of their hands (Acts 8 & 19), and miracles were performed to confirm the word they preached (Mk. 16:20; Acts 14:3; 1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:12). Let a Pentecostal preacher strike me blind, as Paul did Elymas, since he believes I am a false teacher.
God does not have to do over and over again things that have accomplished their purposes. Christ does not have to live his life again, Jesus need not work any more miracles, he need not die and be raised again, the apostles do not have to witness for him again, the Word of God does not have to be written again, the apostles do not have to work their miracles again, and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit do not need to continue. The signs Jesus worked during his life prove for all time to come that he is the Son of God, and they need no repetition (Jn. 20:30-31). Likewise, the Word has been confirmed for all time to come by the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (Heb. 2:3-4), and there is no need for them to be repeated.
A Pentecostal preacher need only work one genuine miracle and the discussion would be over. Different proofs are needed in different fields of inquiry. To demonstrate math ability requires math proof, to show scientific ability requires scientific proof, to prove historic ability requires historical proof, and to show miraculous ability requires miraculous proof. Without such proof, one’s claims are “like clouds and wind without rain” (Prov. 25:14).
Pentecostal preachers will not even work so much as one miracle “as in the days of the apostles.” Let one feed an audience with a few loaves of bread; turn water into wine; heal one who is obviously diseased, lame or blind; pick up a deadly snake; drink poison; strike me blind; raise the dead; or prophesy the future without fail.
Whose claims are we to accept? In addition to oneness Pentecostals, the pope, Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Mary Baker Eddy, Jim Bakker, Jim Jones, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Earnest Angely, Robert Tilton, Jimmy Swaggart, ad infinitum all claim to have miraculous power, are unwilling and unable to prove these powers, say their miracles are genuine, preach creeds contrary to the others, and in reality have no miraculous power. We must try their claims and reject them (1 Jn. 4:1).
The difference between true miracle workers and false was always obvious. Consider Moses versus the Egyptian magicians (Exod. 7), Elijah against the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 18), Daniel versus the Chaldean wise men (Dan. 2,4,6), Philip versus Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-11), and the apostles against the Jews (Acts 4:16; 19:13-17). Since Pentecostal debaters will not (cannot) work a miracle, why should we accept them over a Mormon?
Pentecostals equate being “filled with the Holy Spirit” and baptism with the Holy Spirit, but these two phenomena are not equivalent. Before baptism with the Holy Spirit was ever sent, Bezaleel was “filled with the Spirit of God” (Exod. 31:3) and Zacharias, Elizabeth and John were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk. 1:15,41,67). After baptism with the Holy Spirit was received in Acts 2, Peter, the brethren in Jerusalem, and Saul were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8,31; 13:9) and Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55). Is this a second baptism with the Holy Spirit for each of them?
Baptism with the Holy Spirit was not necessary to and did not always precede miracles. Moses (Exodus-Deuteronomy), Elijah (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2), Elisha (2 Kings 2-13), the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus (Lk. 10:1-20), and the twelve apostles of the Limited Commission (Matt. 10:1; Lk. 9:1-6) all worked miracles though they had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Nor does having the Holy Spirit necessarily mean one can work miracles. Bezaleel (Exod. 31:3), Zacharias (Lk. 1:67), and Elizabeth (Lk. 1:41) all had the Holy Spirit, but none of them worked miracles. In fact, John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (Lk. 1:15), but he “did no miracle” (Jn. 10:41).
Miraculous gifts accompanied and demonstrated miraculous speaking, i.e., inspiration an. 14:26; 16:13; Matt. 10:19; Lk. 21:14-15). Do all Pentecostal preachers claim to be inspired?
The miraculous gifts also accompanied miraculous (inspired) writing (Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 14:37; Gal. 1:11-12, 16-20; Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Pet. 3:2,15-16; 1 Jn. 4:6; Jude 17). Do Pentecostal preachers believe the canon of Scripture is complete, or do they have some inspired writing to add to it?
James 5:14-16 deals with “the prayer of faith,” not with miracles. The passage does not teach that only certain sick are to be healed, that a Pentecostal preacher is to call for sick folks to come, that a Pentecostal preacher is to preach at the sick, that we are to pray for a miracle, or that we are to expect miraculous healing. It does teach all who are “sick among you” to “call for the elders of the church,” for the elders to “pray over” the sick, that the “prayer of faith shall save the sick,” and that “the Lord shall raise him up.” This harmonizes with James’ teaching on prayer earlier (1:5). We pray in faith for food (Matt. 6:11), but we work to receive it (Eph. 4:28); for wisdom (Jas. 1:5), but we study (2 Tim. 2:15); for deliverance from temptation (Matt. 6:13), but we must escape it (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Tim. 6:9-11; 2 Tim. 2:22); for healing (Jas. 5:14-16), but we receive it by applying God’s good medicinal gifts to the body (Jas. 5:14; Lk. 10:33; 1 Tim. 5:23). In all this we pray, “Thy will be done” (Matt. 6:10).
The Bible specifically teaches the cessation of miraculous spiritual gifts. Paul taught that spiritual gifts were temporary and belonged to a time of partial knowledge and immaturity (1 Cor. 13:8-13). The purposes of these gifts to reveal and confirm the word have been fulfilled. And the means of obtaining them are no longer available, since Holy Spirit baptism has fulfilled its purpose as a sign, and the apostles’ work on earth has been fulfilled.
Zechariah prophesied that prophecy would cease (13:1-2). This cannot be a reference to false prophets, for they remain (13:3-4; 1 Jn. 4:1). Prophecy was to cease “in that day” (12:3-4,6,8,9; 13:1-2,4) when a fountain would be opened for sin (13:1), the Son would be pierced (12:10), he would receive wounds in his hands (13:6), and the shepherd would be smitten and the sheep scattered (13:7; Matt. 26:31).
Ephesians 4:11-14 is a prophecy that spiritual gifts would cease. They were to continue “till” we have “unity of the faith,” “knowledge of the Son of God,” and are “a perfect man,” “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” But the completed, written Word of God brings unity of the faith (Jude 3; Gal. 1:23) and knowledge of the Son (2 Pet. 1:3), makes each of us perfect (Col. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), like Christ in character (Col. 2:6-10; Gal. 1:7-8).
The foundation of a building only needs to be laid once. The foundation of the church is the “apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20-22). Just as Jesus only had to come to this earth once and do his work to be the chief corner stone, we do not need apostles and prophets still on the earth. The foundation of God’s temple, the church, has been laid once and does not need to be laid again. The Pentecostal position on prophets in the church would have new foundations being laid over and over again.
Paul revealed the what, why and when of the duration of miraculous spiritual gifts (I Cor. 13:8-13). The what is miraculous gifts. The why is that they pertained to a time of partial knowledge. The when is “when that which is perfect is come.”
The only explanation of the terminology “the perfect” that makes sense in the context is complete knowledge, the fully revealed, recorded Word of God. The partial must have the same characteristics as the whole. The partial is knowledge. Therefore, the perfect (whole) is also knowledge. The Pentecostal explanation is that “the perfect” refers to the second coming of Christ. Applying this definition in context, this would demand a partial coming of Christ that pertained to the time of miraculous gifts and a perfect coming of Christ that would bring these to an end. Of course, this is nonsensical.
God’s Word, the completed revelation, has already come. It is “the perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25) and “the faith once delivered” (Jude 3). It contains “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) and makes the “man of God . . . perfect,” i.e., complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
This completed revelation, the Word of God, stands in contrast with the miraculous spiritual gifts by which it was revealed and confirmed. Whereas the miraculous gifts were to fail, cease, and vanish away (1 Cor. 13:8); God’s Word will not pass away (Matt. 24:35). They were for a time of partial knowledge (1 Cor. 13:9), but by the Word we have complete knowledge (2 Tim. 3:6-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). They pertained to a time of childish speaking and thinking which were to be put away (1 Cor. 13:11), whereas the Word of God provides maturity (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 5:12-6:5). The gifts were for a time when Christians saw darkly and knew in part (1 Cor. 13:12), but by the Word we may see clearly and know fully (Eph. 3:3-5; Rom. 16:25-26; Heb. 4:12). The miraculous spiritual gifts were not to abide (1 Cor. 13:13), but the Word of God abides forever (1 Pet. 1:23).
Those spiritual gifts have ceased because they have fulfilled their purposes. They were to enable the apostles to testify of Christ (Jn. 15:26-27; Acts 1:2-8), but that testimony has been completed (1 Jn. 1:1-4; Jn. 20:30-31). They were to reveal the Word of God On. 14:26; 16:13; Eph. 4:8-13), but the Word is fully revealed (2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 3). The miraculous gifts were to enable the apostles and prophets to write down the completed revelation and the completed revelation has been completely written (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rev. 22:18). They were to confirm the word (Mk. 16:14-20), and the Word has been confirmed (Heb. 2:1-4).
The miraculous spiritual gifts were given in only two ways, and both of these means of reception have ceased. They were imparted directly by Christ from heaven through the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (Acts 2), on the household of Cornelius (Acts 10), and perhaps on Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul) (2 Cor. 11:5; 12:12). Then they were imparted to other disciples by the laying on of the apostles’ hands (Acts 6:6-8; 8:17-18; 19:6; Rom. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:6). But Holy Spirit baptism, as a sign that the kingdom had come was fulfilled on the apostles (Acts 1:1-8; 2:32-33; 4:33; 2 Cor. 12:12), and as a sign that Gentiles are accepted into the kingdom was fulfilled on the house of Cornelius (Acts 15:8). There is now only one baptism (Eph. 4:5). There are no apostles left on the earth to impart spiritual gifts since none can meet the qualifications of an apostle, being an eye-witness of the risen Lord (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 12:12); and all the apostles have died (Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:14). Thus, there is no way to receive miraculous spiritual gifts today.
I commend brother Greeson for his intense preparation and effective presentation. More than once during the debate Mr. Scheel was visibly shaken, frustrated, or angry. There are evident signs he realized Wayne Greeson’s arguments were prevailing. I hope that the seed of the kingdom has fallen on some good soil and will bring forth fruit to God’s glory.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 5 p. 21-24
March 2, 1995