By Robert Sumpter
First of all, I would like to make clear that I was very sincere while I was in the Pentecostal religion. The apostle Paul was very sincere in the Jewish religion; he said:
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the ‘feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day (Acts 22:3).
Also Cornelius, a Gentile, a sincere man, insomuch that the scriptures says that he was a devout man, one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10:2). Here we read of two cases of sincerely lost people: a sincere Jew, who persecuted the Christians thinking he was right and doing God’s will and a sincere Gentile who was not under the Jewish religion who worshiped God in his own way. Yet, both of these men needed to be saved. Why? Because the Church of Christ was now built.
I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loose in Heaven (Matt. 16:18-19).
He was speaking to Peter here, and to all the apostles in Matt 18:18. The kingdom of Heaven and the church are the same; this was prophesied in Isa. 2:2-3, Mic. 4:1-2, and Dan. 2:44. Until the church was built by Christ, the Jewish religion was acceptable before God for the Jews who were faithful to it. The Gentile who worshiped God in his own way, as Cornelius did, was acceptable to God until Christ by the way of the cross brought Jew and Gentile into one fold.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (I Cor. 12:13; John 10:6; Eph. 2:14-15).
It was revealed in Jer. 23:10 that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. This is why Paul and Cornelius needed God’s help, to direct them into truth, now that the church was built. It needed to be done in a miraculous way since the perfect law of liberty, the New Testament, was not yet completed. Yet, the obedience to the plan of salvation was not in a miraculous way. They both were given instructions regarding how to be saved. Ananias taught Paul saying, “And now why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Peter told words to Cornelius and his house, in Acts 11:14, how they could be saved. Certainly if God was going to save anyone in a miraculous way or by prayer now that the church was built, it would have been one of these two men because Paul was praying, in Acts 9:11 and Cornelius’ prayer went up before God for a memorial. Yet, God chose not to save them in any different way than He will save us.
When the perfect, law, the New Testament, of which Christ is the mediator (Heb. 9:15) came, the Lord revealed:
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a)-doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:25).
Since this has been completed, there is no need for God to use a direct miracle to lead a man to teach us. We have available the Scriptures for our study so that we can know the will of God. It is our responsibility to hear the man of God; it is not God’s responsibility to send us a man in a miraculous way for us to hear. We know when we hear the man of God, because he uses the New Testament Scriptures; the man of God gives a “thus saith the Lord” and not a book of by-laws or doctrines of men. When we hear and have pointed out to us by the Bible the truth, and the Bible is the only truth, it is up to us to obey it as Paul and Cornelius did in order to be saved. In John 17:17, Jesus said that God’s word is truth.
Certainly I know of no one anymore sincere than I was in the Pentecostal religion. I was very dedicated to it. I fasted, prayed and worked very hard for that religion. At sixteen years of age, I felt very depressed and did not care about life when a crippled boy invited me to a Youth for Christ Prayer Meeting. I went to it feeling very badly, looking for some hope for the future. Those young people prayed, one by one, on their knees; one girl prayed and prayed, cried and moaned for my lost soul. It really made me feel bad. When I got home, I went to my bedroom and prayed, “God save me, please.” After praying awhile, I felt better and it seemed as though my burdens had rolled away. I began shouting and ran downstairs. I shouted, “God saved me. God saved me.” My mother asked me if I was crazy and I said, “No. I am saved.” But I did not know one thing about the Bible or God. All that I knew was that I felt good.
I began going to the Brethren in Christ denomination because that was my grandmother’s religion. I worked for a grocery store and rode the bus home. The bus stopped in front of a Pentecostal Church almost every night. One could here them speaking in tongues, shouting, singing, and using their mechanical instruments. It was so loud. one could hear it a block away. This attracted me. I was not satisfied in my grandmother’s religion, so 1 joined the Pentecostal Church of God of America. The headquarters at this time was in Joplin, Missouri.
It took a few months before 1 received what I thought to be the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In seeking for the Holy Ghost, I was helped by the Pentecostals. They got on both sides of me, some screaming, “Let loose,” others, “Hold on,” and still others clapping their hands and saying, “Thank you, Jesus.” Almost every night for two months from nine till one or two in the morning, I prayed and shouted very loud and fast things like, “Hallelujah,” “Praise the Lord,” “Thank you Jesus,” and “Amen,” until I wore myself out and just lay back on the floor. Finally, one night when I fell back exhausted, my tongue could not stop; it just said a lot of things not clear. When it was over, they said I had received the Holy Ghost baptism and I believed them. 1 began preaching thinking that God would fill my mouth with what to say. The louder 1 was and the more 1 spoke in tongues the better preacher 1 was. The Pentecostal Church of God of America was not willing to give me a preacher’s license, so at twenty-two I went to the Dayton Revival Center where they ordained me to be an evangelist. I was given the position as one of the assistant preachers to Leland Gaver, a divine healer. He later separated from his wife and she made me her assistant.
The devil had a place for me the moment 1 was interested in my soul being saved; when I became dissatisfied with the world, he had something else to offer me and lead me around by the nose for many years. The devil has a church for everybody; whatever they want to believe, he has it for them. He does not care if you quit lying, swearing, smoking or drinking; he would rather have you in a false religion, having you believe you are saved.
In being an assistant to a divine healer, 1 was being trained to be one also. In this training, 1 got the shock of my life. 1 was taught to use psychology. One time, Gaver held a meeting in Kentucky. The auditorium was quite big. Many other young preachers and 1 sat on the stage, and were observing, learning to be divine healers. The evangelist took his notebook and walked from side to side and back and forth through the crowd while the songleader kept the crowd busy with loud and fast music. This time was also spent with selling books which they claimed, cost nothing. They gave them away for a dollar donation, for God wanted everyone to have one, so they said. They were paper back books only worth about fifty cents. While all this was going on the evangelist was writing in his notebook such things as blue sweater, red dress, green hat, black shoes, etc. When he came to the microphone to preach and heal the people, God was supposed to tell him that a woman way in the back (too far for the natural eye to see) had on a blue dress, and was sitting on the right side of the building had need for prayer.
Not one thing ever prayed for was of the nature that you could see it healed with your own eye. When someone did get to be prayed for that was blind or crippled, they never had enough faith to be healed and needed to come back when they had more faith. There were many far out things that took place in these meetings. I could take much time relating stories, but just a few examples are all that I could relate in the space that I have.
In service, a woman testified that her sick pig was about to die. She related that she annointed it with oil and commanded God to heal it, and He did. The people shouted and even ran outside the building shouting,” “Thank you Jesus.”
Another time in Hera Arena in Dayton, Ohio, A.A. Allen told how he bottled up demons which he cast out of people and that he had a room full of bottled up demons. On this particular occasion when he was casting a demon out of a person, he told everyone to close their eyes and take the Bible in their hands or else the devil which would come out would go into them through their eyes and they would be filled with demons. Two ladies in front of my wife and I had only one Bible, They were so afraid they began to fight over it and tore it in half. I saw this happen because my eyes were open. I was beginning to doubt my religion. No devil came into me. It was shortly after this that I found the truth.
Until this time, my wife and I were very devoted to Pentecostalism. We fasted and prayed. 1 was very skinny. I believed that by fasting and praying, I could cast out devils and heal people. 1 prayed for the sick and there were those who claimed they were healed through my ministry. However, 1 could not heal myself of the very things that I could heal others, such as a cold, a headache or aches of the body. 1 never healed a blind eye or a crippled leg, etc. I not only talked in tongues, but I also sang in tongues. People would tell me that they saw a halo over my head when I preached. I never saw it, nor did my wife. However, 1 believed it was there.
I worked with many divine healers, not in the service itself, but in the tent or prayer rooms. I worked with men such as Oral Roberts, A.A. Allen, James Dunn, David Walker and many others. Most of them are not heard of anymore, some are dead or inactive. All used psychology on the people. New men and women have cropped up since I have been out of the Pentecostal religion. Leroy Jenkins is one. I visited his services in a meeting in Springfield, Ohio several years ago. He is no different than any other divine healers who 1 knew; if anything, he is more bold with his deceiving the people. All the healers who I worked with robbed the people; they talked old people out of their pension checks. When I was in charge of the Dayton Revival Center, I just could not bring myself to rob the people and would get scolded for not bringing in as much money as I should. Many other incidents I could tell about this part of my life, but space will not permit.
On February 17, 1963, my wife and I obeyed the gospel at Adelite Street Church of Christ in Dayton, Ohio. This came about by much study of the scripture with Eugene Carter, the preacher of the Adelite congregation. He is now the preacher of the Montgomery Avenue congregation in Springfield, Ohio. Eugene was a part-time preacher; he works for a living at International Harvester Company, the same place that I do. We were introduced when he was to break me in on a job. He heard that I was a Pentecostal preacher and asked me to prove my belief by the Bible. I got upset and mad because I could not do it. I was so hung-up on divine healing and speaking in tongues that it took about six months before we obeyed the gospel.
To show you how much I believed that God would heal people through me, I began to want others to go with me to the hospitals to heal the sick and to the mental instituations to cast out devils. I felt that many could not get to the divine healer, but if the divine healer would go to them, how great this would be. Jesus went to the sick, even to Lazarus who was dead and raised him from the dead (John 11:14). If the divine healer can heal, he needs to go to the people wherever they are. This caused many of the members of the Pentecostal religion to frown on me; they thought that I was crazy and soon I was blackballed from preaching. This was one of the things that kept me debating with Eugene. I felt that Mark 16:17-20 applied to people today. I believed signs and miracles should follow me as a believer; I should be able to cast out devils, speak with tongues, take up serpents, drink deadly things and lay hands on the sick so that they would recover. It took almost six months for me to see this passage was talking about the apostles. Verse 16 is what I needed to see. It is for me and it is for you. It says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:17). The “he” is all of us who will believe the apostles and, in believing, be baptized in obedience to the gospel. The “them” is the apostles. They would do signs and miracles if they believed. It was the eleven to whom He appeared and upbraided for their unbelief. In Mark 16:14, He told them to go to all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. We, the “he,” are to hear and obey what they preach. The apostles were to have the signs and do the miracles. This is easy to see if one is honest and does not let the devil blind his eyes.
Baptism was not easy for me to understand. We were taught that one was saved and then, when convenient, was baptized as an outward sign of an inward work. Eugene wanted me to find that in the Bible. Believe me, I tried. I looked and even asked the preacher, but we just could not find it. Eugene, however, was able to show me where the Bible said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). He showed me that baptism also saved me, not just repenting or believing. He referred to this passage:
Wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water, the like figure where unto even baptism Both also now save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Peter 3:20-21).
He showed me that baptism put me into Christ and Christ in to me:
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
2 Tim. 2:10 tells us that salvation is in Christ Jesus. It is not possible for us to be saved without being in Christ; to get into Him, we must be baptized. He showed me that we were to be baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3-5). He shed His blood in His death (Jn. 19:34). Furthermore, Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
He showed me by the Bible that the baptism for man today is water baptism. He made me read this passage:
And as they went on their way they came unto a certain water: And the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch: and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:36-39).
At Cornelius’ house, Peter said; “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized” (Acts 10:42-43).
My wife did not want to accept the Lord’s church at first; she gave me a hard time. I told her that I was going to study with the church and its minister for a while, and site could do what she wanted to do. I would show her the scriptures that I was studying, and she was ready to be with me. The people at the revival center knew we were studying with the church and they were very upset about it. One night a lady came up to me and laid her hands on my head and spoke in tongues. Then, she interpeted it, “Behold I am the Lord thy God, Thou art about to leave the Pentecostal Church. If you do, you will not live long.” This did not scare me, it would have at one time and I would have fallen on my knees to repent. I was row seeing truth through the Bible with the help of Eugene Carter and other members of the Church of Christ. The Pentecostals prophesied over me because they were afraid I was going to leave them and they did not want to loose me. I had been trying to show them through the scriptures that perhaps we were wrong in our teaching.
It was a great night at the Adelite Church of Christ the night we obeyed the gospel. Eugene Carter preached on hell. I could hardly wait for the sermon to get over. As soon as the song started I went forward not knowing that my wife was standing behind me. I certainly rejoiced when I realized my wife was standing beside me. She also believed and obeyed the gospel with me in order to become a member of the family of God. That was on February 17, 1963, fifteen years ago. It has not been an easy life to be just a Christian, a member of the Church of Christ, but it has been very rewarding.
Speaking in tongues was also hard for me to understand. We believed that this was the evidence that the Holy Ghost was in our lives. Eugene pointed out to me that all who obey the gospel receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. He referred me to this passage:
And we are his witnesses of these things and so is also the Holy Ghost whom God hath given to them that obey him (Acts 5:32).
The apostles were God’s witness concerning Christ, and the Holy Ghost was God’s witness given to those that obey God. Man does not have to obey God in direct voice for the Holy spirit to be in his life, for by obeying His word the Spirit is in the life of a Christian. We believed that all should speak in tongues, but it was pointed out to me by the Bible that not all speak in tongues, nor do all interpet. “To some were given divers kinds of tongues, and another interpretation of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:30). It was also pointed out that in 1 Cor. 13:8 that tongues shall cease.
We used the unknown tongue as a way to get around speaking in a clear tongue. Peter spoke in tongues, as well as did the other apostles, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). It was a language to be heard and understood. About seventeen different nations heard them speak in their own tongues (v. 8), yet they were all Galileans, These men did not go to a school or an university to learn these tongues, yet I know of no one that belongs to the Pentecostal religion, now or then, who went to a foreign country to preach without having to study the tongue, or have an interpreter who had studied the tongue, to interpret what he spoke into the country’s language. It did not make sense, if one had the gift of tongues, why did he have to study the tongue to be able to preach in another language?
The unknown tongue is simply unknown to the hearer because they do not know the tongue being spoken; therefore, the one speaking in a tongue was to have an interpreter or not speak (1 Cor. 14:2). If he did speak, it only understood by him and only edified him, not the whole church. Because one is so zealous, he needed to control himself, to the point where that when he spoke publicly, he edified the church. Paul explained in 1 Cor. 14 how vain it was to speak when no one understands, and that he would rather for them to speak to be understood or, if in another tongue, to have an interpreter. Paul said,
1 thank my God I speak with tongues more than ye all, yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue (1 Cor. 14:18-19).
The unknown tongue is not some mysterious tongue that only God knows. It had to be a clear tongue of a nation, where that all could hear the gospel, for God is no respecter of persons. One needs to study the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians very carefully and, if he is honest, he will see by the Bible that tongue-speaking people today are false in their speaking.
My wife and 1 were honest with the Bible and God. We did just what you need to do: forget your doctrines, the teachings of your religion and. your parent’s religion and sit at the feet of Jesus, accepting what the Bible has to say about salvation, for Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all that obey Him (Heb. 5:9). If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, God has promised to fill you (Matt. 5:6). This is what happened to my wife and I. We were seeking for truth and hungry for righteousness, and God allowed us to be filled. If you do not love the truth God will allow you to believe a lie and be damned because you believe not the truth.
Let God be true but every man a liar, as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings and mightest overcome when thou art judged (Rom. 3:4).
We had to let our Pentecostal preacher be a liar, because the Bible said so and let God be true by accepting book, chapter, and verse for what the Lord taught us. I left the Pentecostal religion because it is false; hardly a one of their teachings is in harmony with the Bible. Many are sincere in the Pentecostal religion but not honest with God and the Bible. Let me exhort you to be honest and study with the Church of Christ and see that what is taught comes only from the word of God.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 8, pp. 134-137
February 22, 1979