Assemblies of God (Pentecostal)

The Assemblies of God is the largest of a group of organizations and unorganized bodies which together constitute what is known as the Pentecostal movement.

By HAROLD T. GRUVER, Missionary Appointee to Central America

The Assemblies of God is the largest of a group of organizations and unorganized bodies which together constitute what is known as the Pentecostal movement. This movement began about the beginning of this century, al­though there have been some instances of simi­lar visitations at different times in history.

As nearly as can be ascertained, the present movement began in Bethel College, at Topeka, Kansas, in 1900, as a result of Bible studies on the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which brought them to the unanimous conclusion that "the Bible evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost" was "speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance." After coming to this conclusion, they began to spend long seasons in prayer, seeking this experience, and after a time began to receive manifestations of speak­ing in other tongues. The movement spread like wildfire through parts of Kansas and neighbor­ing States, and then sprang up in Los Angeles. From these points it has gone throughout North America.

Letters and other literature telling of the movement went to various parts of the world. As a result of these, the experience was re­peated in different quarters of the globe, even in India, Ceylon, China, and Africa, as well as various countries of Europe.

Inasmuch as the believers in the movement came from all denominations, there was a wide divergence of doctrinal views. In 1914 a group of Pentecostal ministers issued a call for a General Council of Pentecostal ministers, to be held in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the pur­pose of effecting some kind of organization to unify the movement. There a group of sixty-eight ministers met and organized the General Council of the Assemblies of God.

This organization now has its headquarters at Springfield, Missouri, where their Gospel Publishing House is located, whence issues the official organ, the Pentecostal Evangel, with a circulation of perhaps 125,000.

The distinguishing feature of all Pentecostal groups is the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit accompanied by the speaking in tongues. The present Pentecostal movement is believed to be the fulfillment of the "latter rain" prophecy of Joel 2:23, and a further fulfilling of the prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit in Joel 2:28-31, as applied by Peter in the sec­ond chapter of Acts. There is also great em­phasis on healing for the body provided for in the atonement, and on the imminence of the re­turn of the Lord Jesus Christ. All unite in be­lief in the Scriptures as inspired, and as the only safe rule of faith and conduct. On other matters there is a wide divergence of belief.

DOCTRINES SUMMARIZED.--The doctrines of the Assemblies of God may be summarized as given in the following twelve points.

1. God is a trinity.

2. The Bible is inspired.

3. Salvation is only through Christ, on the conditions of repentance and faith.

4. A godly life is the evidence and fruit of true conversion. Christians are to separate themselves from the world, not indulging in worldly pleasures, such as movies and dancing, and are to abstain from liquor and tobacco. Women should not use lipstick and rouge.

5. Baptism is by immersion in the name of the Trinity, and is a condition for church mem­bership.

6. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, with the "ini­tial physical sign of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance," is the privilege and duty of all believers, and is obtained as a result of consecration and believing prayer. (This is not considered essential to salvation, however, nor is it a requisite for church mem­bership.)

7. The Lord's supper is usually observed once a month.

8.  The mminent, personal return of the Lord Jesus to raise the dead saints and catch away the living saints in a secret rapture is to be followed by the manifestation of a personal Antichrist, who will rule the world. The Jews will return to Palestine and will make a seven-year covenant with this Antichrist, restoring their ancient sacrificial worship, etc. But at the expiration of three and a half years Antichrist will break the covenant and set himself up in the temple at Jerusalem to be worshiped as God. (There is some difference of opinion on some details.)

At the expiration of a short period of time, which is variously estimated at from three and a half to seven years or more, Christ will re­turn to Jerusalem with the saints, judge the living nations, and set up His kingdom over the earth for a thousand years. During this one thousand years the earth will be restored to its Edenic condition, Satan will be bound, all na­tions will be converted, and death will only be at a very advanced age.

9. Healing for the body is provided in the atonement. The use of doctors of medicine is regarded as an indication of lack of faith.

10. Tithing and freewill offerings constitute God's plan for the carrying on of His work.

11. The constitution of the Assemblies of God states that they cannot conscientiously bear arms, but the members do not adhere strictly to this.

12. They are antagonistic to the seventh-day Sabbath, teaching that it was abolished at the cross. Some hold that Sunday is the Sabbath, but the more general view is that Sunday is the Lord's day, and not the same as the Sab­bath, which was only for the Jews. Many consider no day as holy, but worship on Sunday only for convenience.

RAPID GROWTH AND MEMBERSHIP.-The AS­semblies of God is said to be the fastest grow­ing denomination in the United States. At the close of 1945 the official statement disclosed a total of "5,300 churches [in the U.S.A.], with an enrolled membership of 241,782, and 5,016 ordained ministers." (See next page.)

FOREIGN MISSIONS.—The church is aggres­sively missionary. At the close of 1946 there was a total of 604 missionaries under appoint­ment for foreign service. We quote from With Signs Following: "The missionary secretary, Noel Perkin, reports [1940] that in foreign lands there are 1,420 assemblies set in order and other regular meeting places, 62 mission institutions, such as Bible schools, orphanages, and elementary schools, and 1,o18 native work­ers, pastors, evangelists, and Bible women."—Page 51. The largest foreign constituency is in Brazil, where there are about Too,000 members.

EDITCATION.—They have a number of schools for the training of workers, both in the United States and abroad. The emphasis in these schools is on Bible teaching. The largest is Central Bible Institute, located at Springfield, Missouri.

Status Among Other Churches

The church in its beginnings was much de­spised by others, and sometimes underwent persecution. The extreme emphasis of Pente­costalists on religious fervor and their utter re­pudiation of any formality in worship, leading in many instances to much extravagance and fanaticism in the conduct of their meetings, have caused a reaction on the part of many churches which have set out to oppose them. The fundamentalists in general erroneously classed them at first with the "bloodless cults." However, in recent years the general attitude has undergone a change, and they are now quite generally well regarded by other funda­mentalists. The Assemblies of God takes an active part now in the National Association of Evangelicals.

The earnest zeal and sincerity of this people must be recognized. The way to reach them is to approach them as brethren, making it plain that we believe in Christ and His imminent re­turn, and then present the claims of the law of God and the lasting character of the Sabbath, showing the distinction between the moral law and the ceremonial law. It is well to try to avoid the subject of tongues in dealing with them, until our fundamental truths have taken hold on them.

 

Note:

BIBLIOGRAPHY

S. H. FRODSHAM, With Signs Following, Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Missouri.

J. R. FLOWER, Origin and Development of the As­semblies of God, Gospel publishing House (five cents).

(This completes the studies on other denom­inations that we have had on hand—a series pre­pared by students in the Bible instructor course at the Seminary. A great deal of interest has been shown in this series, which ran during the years 1945, 1947, and on up to the present. It is hoped that studies on other denominations will be prepared and presented in future num­bers. Back numbers of THE MINISTRY contain­ing some of these studies are still available.)


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By HAROLD T. GRUVER, Missionary Appointee to Central America

July 1949

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