© 2003 Wesleyan Episcopal Assemblies Pentecostal
I grew up in the Assemblies of God. Over the years, so called ‘reconciliation’ ministries have begun to work a revision on the history of the origins of the various Pentecostal denominations. In this revisionist history, Pentecostals are just very special Baptists who accept the Evangelical doctrines, but have an added ‘light’ concerning the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. My own first hand experience belies that specious claim.
The Pentecostal movement in America had antecedents which were scattered across the Midwest and East Coast. But the real outpouring that lead to the eventual organization of discreet associations and denominations was clearly localized in Los Angeles, California. It would be a very bold revisionist indeed who would brazen his way through an account that failed to give principal responsibility for the authoritative Role Played by Bishop Seymour and the Azusa revival.
In every real sense Seymour played the role of Apostle, or Missionary of the full gospel. He published a journal which lead to the spread of the truth of Sanctification, Healing and Fire Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This journal influenced a generation of pastors and teachers who were so inspired by the simple truths and first hand accounts that they themselves were transformed and in turn began works. Seymour sent missions workers to foreign lands and to the ripe fields of 20’th century America. These men and women were in every sense disciples of Seymour, just as Timothy had been discipled by Paul. Paul’s admonition was to be a disciple of him, in the same way that he was in turn discipled by Christ.
Seymour lead many to a deeper understanding of the relationship of the church with Christ through the acceptance of those portions of the Gospel which had been neglected in the theological dark ages between the 11’th and 19’th centuries. In a very real sense the ‘enlightenment’ had been a period of endarkenment theologically. People had neglected substance in favor of formula and had espoused doctrines which were politically and financially expedient rather than Biblically and Spiritually sound.
The Pentecostal or Full-Gospel revival restored much of what had been lost to power brokers and charlatans over the previous period. But it did so at the expense of good relations with various ‘Restorationist’ movements which had gone only so far in their efforts and failed to the take the next crucial step when God offered it. The false starts had gone far in changing the course of the church and bringing God’s people into repentance, but not far enough.
These days a number of ‘counterfeit’ revivals have sprung up to confuse the issue. They claim to have picked up the mantle of the Pentecostal pioneers and continued the work in the same fashion that Elishah continued the work of Elijah. This claim is easily denied. Three critical factors have been the hallmark of every revival decreed by God going back to the calling of Abraham. These are: 1) a call to repentance and personal holiness, 2) a call to greater submission to the sovereignty of God, and 3) a deeper more perceptual relationship with the Spirit of God.
The 21’st century has so far shown signs of swallowing the success of the Pentecostal movement in a swamp of ecumenicism and compromise. These counterfeit revivals place great emphasis on emotionalism and on purported guarantees of wealth contained in heterodox interpretations of scripture devoid of the meaning intended by the context. They fail to bear the brand of repentance and submissive relationship and instead claim boastfully to have authority to command God. Lack of good scholarship or in some cases clearly fraudulent intent has lead many to tickle the ears with promises of wealth and justification, without purity or submission. They claim grace offers the promise not of sonship, but of the demanding, controlling relationship of a spoiled brat. Where Jesus advises that we be like the beggar disturbing our lord in the wee hours (Luke 11:5-9), they claim we should name what we want and yell ‘mine, mine, mine!’ like a two year old dragging bedraggled parents through the aisles of a toy store.
This new endarkenment has been accompanied by many signs of the End Times Prophecies. And one of those is a thorough lack of internal holiness. Even those organizations and movements that stress holiness are stressing an outward form that has no basis in real ‘circumcision of the heart’.
In Romans Paul points out that the act of engaging in an outward formula to achieve holiness, such as the practice of circumcision, holds no value if it is not echoed by a heart change that guides behavior dynamically. Real Holiness comes as Paul points out from becoming a new type of person who is sanctified and therefore recognizes subtle corruption and avoids it without need for a rule-book. Yet these ‘holiness’ believers will practice all sorts of envies and slanders, and even condone things which Jesus himself declared to be sinful. One example would be the stance on divorce.
Divorce is a difficult topic. Human wisdom (Proverbs 14:12) would lead one to believe that divorce is often a compassionate solution to messy human relationships. Jesus words contradict that notion. In Matthew 19:3-12 and in Mark 10:2-12 Jesus words on this subject are recorded. The context is critical here. One must bear in mind that the Old Covenant demanded that the believer execute those persons caught in adultery. The penalty under the law is not divorce but physical death! At the time Jesus spoke, those present were keenly aware that adultery was a capital crime according to Jewish law. So, what was the question that was being raised?
Divorce in the Old Testament was only offered as an option to men. Its purpose was to allow a man who was offended by the moral or social characteristics of his wife to force her out of the home and away from his children. She could be ‘put away’ because she was offensive to her husband’s sensibilities, and he could replace her with someone he was more attracted to. Look out when a man hits mid-life.
Jesus comment was that this was a sign of a lack of compassion, a hard heart. Throughout Jesus ministry wherever he talks about a hard heart, he is indicating someone who is not submitted to the will of God, and is rebelling against God’s guidance. This is the case here as Well. Jesus is saying Moses allowed you to divorce because you were rebellious and (by extension) because he knew you would sin if he didn’t give you some room to be rebellious (Matthew 19:7-8).
Jesus then goes on to say, ‘I bring you a better way’ (Matthew 5:31, 32). Jesus whole ministry was the presentation of a ‘better way’ the Way that is called Christianity. He is presenting a method, wherein one is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and lead to the ‘power to become a son of God’. This power is the power that Peter spoke of on Pentecost and the power that Paul called the freedom from slavery to sin (Romans 6:6-8). Simply put it is supernatural ability to obey God, and to express Godly compassion.
So then, this better way concerning divorce is clearly a single facet of the larger way that leads one to live in Jesus. What is the better way that Jesus espouses here? Simply put it is, ‘Don’t Divorce’. He doesn’t merely restrict people from divorcing because they are ‘incompatible’ or have irreconcilable differences. He repeals the Old Testament sentence for those guilty of adultery. He tells us now, not only can you not divorce for reason of being offended; you can’t execute the adulterous mate. What’s more, you really ought to forgive and stay with that mate. And if you do divorce your mate without the cause of adultery on their part, you are responsible for your ex spouse’s sexual frustration and eventual sin (Matthew 5:32).
That’s a strong statement. But it is born out by other passages. Jesus told us that one person can in fact be responsible for the sin of another. He warns us that someone might be capable of causing a child of God to stumble. He is so adamant about this that he offers a threat and a curse against those who cause this. He says it would be better to have a huge grindstone tied round your neck and be drowned in the ocean with it (Luke 17:1-3). This is pretty strong language. Al Capone, with his cement overshoes, couldn’t have been more threatening.
But clearly in Matthew 5, Jesus asserts that he, who leaves a spouse for illegitimate reasons, causes the former spouse to stumble into adultery. Mark 10 demonstrates that Jesus intent was that the principles he taught concerning divorce were not gender based and apply equally to men and women.
The critical factor is that issue of inadequate compassion. Moses allowed not condoned, divorce because the people lacked compassion. When we look at 1 Corinthians 13, we find that compassion is the core of Christian Life. Without internal, heartfelt Compassion we are irrelevant and meaningless, and no amount of compassionate behavior or ministry can make us relevant.
This goes back to the issue of a circumcised heart. Paul shows us that without circumcision of the heart we are irrelevant. Jesus shows us that condoning or practicing divorce proves a lack of inner circumcision. Essentially, if you cut your hair a certain way, blow shofar at worship, rebuke generational curses, deliver others from addiction and pornography, cast out demons, sing beautiful songs that stir hearts from Wacko to Topeka, but condone divorce you are carnal and meaningless.
We live under grace not the Law, but as Paul pointed out grace operates according to principles or a ‘Law of Grace’ (Romans 6:20-22). Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’ Grace is freely given, but there is a maintenance fee. That fee is obedience, and the Red Letters clearly mark out the path of that obedience. Join me in prayer for the reconciliation of Divorcees, and the restoration of the American home. Let’s drive carnality and hard-heartedness out of our churches, so genuine revival will come (1 Corinthians 5:5,9-13).
In the service of our Lord,