What Does the Bible Say About “Better Safe Than Sorry”?

If you read the comments on this Web site then you’ll see something like this written a lot:

I don’t know if it’s really wrong to cut my hair or wear make-up or jewelry, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? I would rather get to Heaven and find out that I didn’t have to do those things then get there and find out that I did, and then spend eternity in hell. Can you imagine “missing it” just because I wanted to cut my hair or wear a pair of pants?

When I was growing up I heard that argument more times than I can count. After I left I’ve read it repeatedly in the comments on this Web site. It’s the fall back position of many apostolics when every other argument fails. If you can’t back up your doctrine with Scripture then pull out the “better safe than sorry” argument! And I have to admit, it sounds pretty good.

Another variant goes like this (I’ve heard it used a lot by pastors):

I know that some of the rules might not be necessary, but sin is like a cliff. You don’t build the fence right up against the cliff, you build it a little ways back. That way if people step over it then they still won’t fall over the cliff. ((If you think about it, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sin is a matter of intent as much as it is an action. The idea is that a person can decide to sin and still not sin because they’re accidentally not breaking enough rules. It just doesn’t add up. That’s like saying you can force a person to be saved by baptizing them. It’s not biblical. If a person is making a choice to do something that they perceive as sin then it is sin, even if the action itself is not wrong. By the same token, an action like baptism or giving to the poor is spiritually meaningless unless done freely for the right reasons.))

Yet another variant goes like this:

After everything Christ has done for you, you can’t even give up pants, make-up, or jewelry? He gave His life for you and you won’t even give up pants, make-up, or jewelry for Him.

Once again, this one sounds good too.

But there are two fundamental problems with all of these arguments. First, the underlying factor with all of them is that our works can get us into Heaven. I believe with all my heart that there’s nothing wrong with having facial hair, but if I get to Heaven and find out that I’m wrong then I know God’s grace covers me. The same goes for my wife cutting her hair or wearing jewelry and make-up. I don’t believe there’s a thing in the world wrong with it, but if I’m wrong then she’s covered by grace. That doesn’t give me an excuse to sin, it just means that after much study I firmly believe that I’m not sinning in the first place. ((This point cannot be stressed enough. A common apostolic counter-argument is that “easy believism” leads to sin. I deal with this briefly farther down in this article and in much more detail in the  “What Does the Bible Say About Salvation?” article, Still, it’s worth mentioning briefly here. Paul was accused of teaching the same thing–that grace leads to free sin. He strongly condemned that doctrine in Romans 6. The doctrine has been refuted repeatedly throughout the New Testament and church history. The word that is used to describe it is “antinomianism”, which means “lawlessness.” The Bible stresses that grace does not lead to lawlessness. Instead, grace leads to a changed nature through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. The idea here is that we do need to study and make every effort to align ourselves with the commands of God, but when we “miss it” we can still be assured that God’s grace covers us. For more on antinomianism I recommend this excellent article.)) I’m doing my best to obey the commands of Christ, but I’m doing that because I’m saved, not in order to get saved. If I “miss it” then God’s grace covers me.

That’s one problem with the arguments. The idea that we can work our way into Heaven is just plain wrong. It stands in opposition to dozens of Scriptures. My article “What does the Bible say about salvation?” explains this in detail.

But there’s another problem with the “better safe than sorry” arguments, and it’s one that’s very counter intuitive. As a matter of fact, it’s like a bomb shell to a lot of people. It rocks their world. I know that it rocked mine. And that goes for non-apostolics too, by the way. Lots of people don’t know about this, but it’s central to the Biblical understanding of grace. Are you ready for it? Here goes:

Works, for the sake of works, don’t draw us closer to God; they separate us from Him.

Don’t believe me? Sound too radical? Well, before you shut me down, read this quote from a famous non-denominational theologian.

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

I have to admit, that sounds pretty lovey dovey. As a matter of fact, when I was in the UPC I would have rolled my eyes at that and said something like, “So you’re just saying we should throw doctrine out the window and love everybody?”

If I said that then I would be wrong, though. Why? Because the famous theologian who wrote those words was the Apostle Paul. ((The quote above is Gal. 5:4-6 MSG)).

Here is how the NASB puts it:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
(Gal 5:1-14 NASB, emphasis mine)

One word: Wow.

As a man I can’t think of anything that would require more dedication than adult circumcision. Surely God must be pleased with it, right? I can imagine the Galatians saying, “After everything that Christ did for you, you can’t even be circumcised? He’s done so much for you and yet you won’t do that little thing for Him?” Or perhaps, “Circumcision might not be necessary, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? Do you want to get to heaven and find out that the one thing God wanted you to do was circumcision and you missed Heaven because of it?”

It sounds good, doesn’t it? God did a lot for us so we must do a lot for Him. The problem is that when we think like that we’re thinking like humans and not like God. You see, circumcision was part of the Old Covenant. It was the Acts 2:38 of the Mosaic law. If you weren’t circumcised then it didn’t matter what else you did, you weren’t under the Covenant. Some of the Jews in Galatia began to focus on the doctrine of circumcision because it had been so important under the Old Covenant. Somewhere along the way they began to believe that Christians under the New Covenant needed to be circumcised. They began to think that circumcision would draw them closer to God. They began to persuade themselves that they could work their way to Him. It’s a very human way of thinking and it seems awfully right. “God did stuff for me so now I need to do stuff for Him,” is what we think. The problem is, God doesn’t see it that way. He doesn’t see it as us doing stuff for Him, He sees it as us trying to work our way to Him and in the process making His grace meaningless.

Paul said something similar when people put the focus on baptism instead of the gospel–something that the apostolic churches are also guilty of. When that happened, Paul wrote:

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1Cor. 1:17-18 NASB)

In this case baptism isn’t wrong. As a matter of fact, Christ commanded it! By the same token, circumcision isn’t wrong. Neither is wearing skirts or not cutting your hair. There’s nothing inherently wrong about those things. Unless, that is, we persuade ourselves that doing or not doing those things somehow draws us closer to God. ((Baptism is indeed commanded by God so do not take this statement to mean that we should not get baptized. The key point here is that anything can become wrong, even baptism, if we do it in an attempt to work our way to salvation.)) When we allow ourselves to think that our works save us then we have made the cross ineffective–we’ve rendered it void. Why? Because we’ve told Christ that His work wasn’t good enough. We’ve told Him that grace isn’t enough, that we need to supplement it with a dress code. We’ve told Him that His death is meaningless.

You know what’s ironic? That the apostolic churches put so much emphasis on not falling away from Christ that they actually sever themselves from Christ. They take a God who would never reject them and they use the knife of legalism to reject Him from themselves

Heavy stuff? Controversial? Counter intuitive? Don’t blame me. I didn’t write it. Blame Paul.

Another thing that’s ironic is that the apostolic churches claim to have “the Truth.” They like to go to Galatians 1:8-9 and say that they are teaching the true gospel and that everyone who disagrees is deceived and cursed. The sad thing is that the “other gospel” Paul was talking about was the doctrine that says we can work our way to God. That was the “other gospel,” and the UPC teaches it.

And Paul said that anyone who taught it was cursed.

I realized these things when I was still in the UPC and it rocked my world. I realized that I was the one who believed the “other gospel,” that I was the one with “little faith” (Romans 14), that my works didn’t indicate closeness to God, that instead they indicated I had little faith and wasn’t close to Him at all.

So do I believe in the “better safe than sorry” philosophy? Nope. I don’t. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (NASB). Jesus said in John 15:1-17 that when we are in Him we grow spiritual fruit, and in Mat. 7:15-20 He said that the spiritual fruit is the evidence that we’re saved. (Paul defined what that fruit is in Gal. 5:19-23, and it has nothing to do with the holiness standards; Jesus also gave examples of the good works we’re called to do in Mat. 25:31-46).

In other words, when we are saved we are transformed–regenerated, as the Bible calls it. We become a new person. The Spirit of God begins to work in us to shape and mold us into His image. We begin to bear spiritual fruit. We don’t grow closer to God by working for Him, we draw closer to Him by letting Him work in us. ((One thing worth mentioning is that there is a place in the Bible for good works. As a matter of fact, that concept is very important Scripturally. What we need to understand, though, is that we’re saved for good works, not because of good works. Paul makes that abundantly clear in Eph. 2:1-10. Good works are, well, good! That is, until we begin to believe that they save us. It’s also worth noting that a dress code isn’t the kind of good works that Paul was talking about. We shouldn’t use good works as an excuse for legalism. The good works that Paul was writing about are the same ones emphasized by Christ in Mat. 25:31-46. You’ll see a lot of good works in that passage and none of them have anything to do with whether or not we wear make-up or cut our hair.))

You see, it’s not my job to setup a system of rules to try to get into Heaven, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to work in me and guide me down the proper paths. It’s not my job to build a fence of works and hope others don’t cross it, it’s God’s job to work in those individuals and show them where the fence is. That doesn’t negate the need for elders and ministers to teach the Word of God, it just means that it’s not the job of those elders and ministers to create extra rules that aren’t in Scripture in order to try to make our souls safe. When they do those things they place themselves under a curse from God, and when we follow them we pull out the knife of works and begin to slowly sever ourselves from Christ.

John 3:5-6 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6 NASB)

Misinterpretation: This passage is used by the UPC as evidence that a person must be baptized (born of water) and be filled with the Holy Spirit (born of the Spirit) in order to enter the kingdom of God. In other words, to be saved, according to the UPC’s interpretation of this passage, a person must be baptized of water and receive the Holy Spirit.

Facts: It’s indisputably clear that a person must receive the Holy Spirit to be saved (cf. Rom. 8:9). Therefore, the UPC’s interpretation of the “born of the Spirit” portion of this passage is correct. (The problem with their view of receiving the Holy Spirit is that it is something that happens after faith–a view that Paul clearly disagrees with in Eph 1:13 when he writes that we are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit upon belief).

The greater question, then, is about baptism. What does Jesus mean when He says that a person must be born of water to enter the kingdom of Heaven? Is He referring to water baptism or something else?

In order to answer that question I’d like to quote from Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Their explanation of this passage is the best that I’ve read anywhere. I could just paraphrase it but in my mind that would be plagiarism. They sum it up better than I ever could.

Before I give the citation, though, I’d like to stress that baptism is indeed commanded by Christ (cf. Mat. 28:19). Because of that, if a person claims to have believed and yet refuses to obey Christ then I doubt the sincerity of their belief. Nevertheless, baptism is a response to grace, it is not the cause of grace. We get baptized because we are saved, not order to get saved.

Without further ado, here is the quote from Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary ((I apologize for the long paragraph; that is how it was written))

Of water has been interpreted as: (1) water baptism. But the NT teaches that one is born again at the point of faith, not baptism (Acts 10:43–47); (2) a synonym for the Holy Spirit. The phrase could be translated “born of water, even the spirit”; (3) a symbol of the Word of God (Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 1:23); (4) physical birth; (5) John’s baptism; or (6) a symbol, along with wind, in OT imagery for the work of God from above. The first three views are questionable since they must rely on future teaching in the Scripture which would not have been accessible to Jesus’ listeners For interpretation 4, the idea is that Nicodemus brought up physical birth (3:4) and Jesus went on to say, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (3:6). If one could enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, he would still be flesh. This position is not likely since Jesus’ words would be trivial and do not advance the argument. Options 5 and  6 are the better choices for the meaning of the statement. Option 5 is a viable one since Nicodemus would probably be familiar with John’s baptism.Jesus would be saying that one must identify with and accept John’s message (baptism) and then one would receive Messiah’s baptism in the Spirit as John promised (1:31–33). This view has both historical and theological support. Christ emphasizes by v. 6 that there are two realms, that of the flesh and the Spirit. Humans cannot save themselves but must rely on God’s Spirit to regenerate them. Option 6 relies on the translation of pneuma, wind or spirit. Under this view the Greek term should be understood as wind rather than spirit and thus serve alongside of water as symbols for spiritual truths similar to how these terms are used in the OT (for example, Is. 44:3–5 and Ezek. 37:9, 10). Jesus, then, is contrasting the things from below (earthly womb) from the elements of water and wind from above (the divine work of the Spirit of God). A teacher of Israel should understand such OT imagery. Nicodemus may have been challenged by Christ, since he was a teacher of Israel, to understand the questions of Prov. 30:3–5: (1) Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? (2)Who has gathered the wind in His fist? (3) Who has bound the waters in a garment? (4) Who has established all the ends of the earth? (5) What is His name, and what is His Son’s name? “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (compare John 3:15, 16). (( Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), Jn 3:5.))

I agree with their opinion that views 5 and 6 are the most likely. I used to believe that being born of water referred to baptism, but I changed my mind even before I left the UPC. I decided that it was more likely that it referred to physical birth while being born of the Spirit referred to spiritual birth. I still think that is a plausible view; it does make sense textually. However, I now think that it was referring to OT imagery. I’m not dogmatic about my view because there are other explanations that make sense. This is one of those passages that has several potential interpretations. The one thing that they all agree on, though, is that Jesus is clearly saying that the Holy Spirit is necessary for salvation. That’s what we need to focus on. The method of receiving the Holy Spirit–belief–is given several verses later, in John 3:16.

What Does The Bible Say About Salvation?

Several weeks ago I got a request through email from a lady. This is what she said:

I was wondering if you could do a blog about what the Bible says about salvation? My husband and I are in a UPC church right now…and we are looking to get out. We studied and found that salvation is NOT speaking in tongues…but we want an exhaustive reference guide, from the point of a fellow ex-UPCer. We can refute Acts 2:38 up and down….but it’s man’s refutations. Can you point out exactly why speaking in tongues isn’t associated with salvation as well?

I discussed their request with my fiance Kali—also a former UPCer—and we thought that she raised a really good point. When we leave the UPC we often know what salvation isn’t but we’re not quite sure what salvation is. What does it even mean to be saved? Does it just mean that we’re heading for the great Gloryland in the sky when we die? Or is there more to it? And how do we get saved? Is it by faith? Baptism? Is baptism essential for salvation? There are so many different interpretations, so many different beliefs, that it becomes overwhelming to try to sort it all out.

My prayer is that this article will answer the question that the lady and her husband asked while also helping others who are asking the same questions. ((Dealing with the entire subject of salvation throughout the Old and New Testaments would take hundreds of pages. If a person wants a good scholarly analysis of the topic then I highly recommend the International Bible Standard Encyclopedia article on it, which can be found here. In this article I’m going to deal with the more common use of the word.))

What Is Salvation?

In the UPC salvation gets a lot of attention. We toss around phrases like, "They love the Lord so much, it’s a shame that they don’t have the truth," or, "That song [by a Trinitarian singer] is so anointed, they’ve almost got it!" When we say all of these things what we are really saying is, "That person loves the Lord but isn’t saved," or, "That person has the Spirit of God resting upon them and blessing their music, but it’s too bad they aren’t saved." (When we stop and think about it in those terms it becomes apparent that it would be very strange that a person could love God and follow Him and yet not be saved, kind of like a cosmic game of hide and seek with people looking for Christ and never finding Him–the exact opposite of what Scripture says in Luke 11:9-13.) The point is, in the UPC we’re obsessed with seeing people saved, and that’s how it should be! Christians of all denominations should feel the same way. But in the UPC we’ve associated salvation with a theological understanding (Oneness) or an experience (tongues) or an action (dressing right). But is that what salvation really is? Is that how a person is saved? What does it really mean to be saved?

The word that most applies to our discussion is found in Acts 16:30-31, when a jailer of Paul was about to commit suicide because he thought that Paul had escaped:

When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (NASB) ((All Scripture references are from the NASB unless otherwise noted.))

The word that is translated as “saved” in the above verse is the Greek word sozo. It means "To save, deliver, make whole, preserve safe from danger, loss, destruction." ((The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, G4982, 1992, AMG International Inc)) Of the fifty-four times the word is used in the New Testament, "fourteen relate to deliverance from disease or demon possession…in twenty instances, the inference is to the rescue of physical life from some impending peril or instant death…[in] the remaining twenty times, the reference is to spiritual salvation." ((Ibid.)) The references to spiritual salvation are the ones we’re interested in. Consider the following verses:

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:40)

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:9)

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16)

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)

At this point one might wonder why I stop to define the word "saved," since it’s certain that any reader with a background in Christianity will know exactly what I’m talking about. The reason is because I’ve seen quite a few debates about salvation online, and you’d be amazed at the number of people who throw Scriptures around about "salvation" when the type of salvation that the Scripture is talking about may not even be spiritual! Additionally, it’s important to remember that the method of salvation could be quite different depending on the era that a particular passage was written in. Some passages deal with salvation as a nation (Israel), others with salvation as a family unit, and others with salvation as an individual. Because of all this, I want to stress that this article is dealing with the spiritual salvation that we find in the New Testament–salvation that saves and delivers us from the wrath of God and ushers us into heaven.

How Is A Person Saved?

It’s impossible to discuss what it means to be saved without first talking about how to be saved. I know that seems backwards, but it will make sense in a moment.

The person who emailed me requesting this article made a really good point. She said, "We can refute Acts 2:38 up and down….but it’s man’s refutations." I think that a lot of people are in that same situation. They know what salvation isn’t. They’ve come to realize that it’s more deep than an emotional experience but more simple than what they’ve been taught. They’ve come to realize that a person doesn’t have to spend night after night at an altar sweating and pleading and crying and begging for God’s Spirit. They know what salvation is not but they don’t quite know what it is. Fortunately for us, the Bible makes it abundantly clear. That’s right. Very clear. The reason we missed it in the UPC is not because we weren’t intelligent enough. It’s so simple children all over the world understand it. The reason we missed it is because we put emphasis on the wrong things, twisted the verses out of context, then ran roughshod over the very clear teaching of Scripture–the very thing we accused all those Trinitarians of doing!

Consider the following passage of Scripture. Look at how plain the teaching is:

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved [sozo] through Him. (John 3:14-17)

Now, we’ve been taught all our life that it was more complicated than this. After all, doesn’t "just believe" lead to "easy believism"? (No it doesn’t, but we’ll deal with that in a moment.) Isn’t this Scripture just one Scripture out of many that teaches us how to be saved? (If it is, then it’s really surprising that Jesus wouldn’t share the "whole plan of salvation" every time He spoke, since He must have realized that it would be hundreds of years before the New Testament canon was readily available to every Christian. As a matter of fact, neither Jesus or Paul or any other writer ever mentioned the UPC plan of salvation in any way, shape, or form.) But let’s not get sidetracked, because the point that I want to make is very simple: Salvation (sozo) stands in contrast to judgment. Let’s read verse 17 again, and tack on verses 18-21 as well:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”" (John 3:16-21, emphasis mine)

Think about that for a moment.

To be spiritually saved is to not be judged. To be lost is to be judged.

How does a person stand before a judge and not be condemned? The only way is to be declared innocent.

And that leads us to the obvious question: How do I, a sinner, stand innocent before God? Or, to put it another way, how does a person get made righteous before God?

Scripture calls it "being justified," and there’s only one way, throughout all of the New Testament, that it happens, and that way is "faith."


The Greek word for "justify" is dikaioō and it means "to render righteous" or to "declare…one to be just…such as he ought to be" ((Thayer’s Greek Definitions, G1344)). In other words, when we are justified we are rendered righteous and declared to be just. We’re made right before God. We who were once dirty and sinful are now clean. We stand innocent.

Paul liked the word "justified." He used it a lot. Consider this passage in Romans:

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one." (Romans 3:21-30, emphasis mine)

That’s a long passage, so let me sum it up: We’re not righteous, but God is, and God passed over our sins and declared us righteous based upon HIS righteousness, not ours!

Now, call me crazy, but it sounds like Paul is saying that people are justified (made right with God) through faith. It’s almost like what Jesus said back in John 3:14-17 when He said that people will be saved through belief.

But isn’t this just part of the plan of salvation? Where’s the speaking in tongues? If we’re made righteous through faith then what about Jesus’ Name baptism?

If belief is just part of a grander plan of salvation then both Jesus and Paul continually forget to mention it. Paul goes on to write this just a few chapters later:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Romans 10:8-11, emphasis mine)

As a matter of fact, Paul told the church in Corinth that he was not sent to baptize, and that he was thankful that he had hardly baptized any of them (1 Cor. 1:13-18)! Can you imagine a UPC preacher ever saying that? I’ve heard plenty of explanations in the UPC for that verse, but none of them did away with the simple fact that Paul esteemed preaching higher than baptizing, and he was comfortable thanking God that He hadn’t baptized a lot of people. If baptism was an essential part of the "plan of salvation" then I can’t imagine Paul ever penning those words.

And what about tongues? Paul’s comment on the matter was that not everyone speaks in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30). No mention of there being two types of tongues, never a mention in Paul’s writings (or anyone else’s) about tongues being the evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. Instead, we find a tremendous emphasis in Scripture on belief along with an accompanying promise that it is sufficient for salvation. When we really stop and read Scripture for what it says, without trying to tie it in knots and make it say what we think it should say, then we find that there is little emphasis on baptism, no emphasis on tongues, but tremendous emphasis on belief.

We’ll talk about belief in just a moment, but first let’s look at a few more Scriptures that emphatically affirm that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ:

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise," (Ephesians 1:13, emphasis mine) (By the way, if you’re wondering when people get baptized with the Holy Spirit, then the above verse tells you. It happens upon belief.)

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:21)

and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. (Acts 13:39)

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”" (John 11:25- 26) (Sadly enough, the UPC would have to answer "no" to Jesus’ question, for the UPC does not believe that believing in Christ is enough to ensure eternal life.)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." (John 5:24)

Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life." (1 Timothy 1:16)

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him." (1 John 5:1)

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15)

and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15)

The promise of salvation by faith through grace is written all throughout the New Testament. It oozes out from between the covers of the Bible. But we in the UPC were convinced that there just had to be more to it. So we twisted Scripture (the thing that we had accused others of doing) and prodded and poked and cajoled and tied unrelated Scriptures together until we came up with a theology of salvation that is completely and totally unrelated to anything Christ or Paul or any other apostle ever said!

Now let’s talk about belief.


We see now that we are made right with God (a.k.a. "saved") by belief in Christ. But what does that mean?

The typical UPC view of belief is one called "easy believism." The view says that if belief alone is sufficient for salvation then a person can live a life of sin and still be saved. Now there are so-called Christians who believe that, but the UPC might be surprised to find out that those people are not in the majority. Every Trinitarian church that I have attended since leaving has taught strongly against sin. But is the UPC belief correct? Could a person just live however they want and still be saved? Does God just blink His eyes at sin and look the other way? Interestingly enough, Paul was accused of teaching that very thing, and this was his reply:

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!" (Rom. 6:1-2a)

The Greek word that we often translate "believe" or "faith" is the Greek word pisteuō, and it is difficult to translate properly into English. You see, in the English language when we say "believe" we often mean "intellectual acknowledgment." For example, I believe (intellectually acknowledge) that Africa exists, but I don’t put my faith in Africa for anything. If I one day found out that Africa was a myth, the result of a global conspiracy theory, then my life would go on as before. Nothing would change (except for my belief in conspiracy theories). That’s intellectual acknowledgment, but it’s not biblical belief. It’s not pisteuō.

Pisteuō means both intellectual acknowledgment (to be persuaded of a fact) and faith (to put confidence in that fact, or to entrust oneself to it). ((Thayer’s, G4102)) Now, it’s entirely correct to say that intellectual acknowledgment of Christ would by itself lead to "easy believism." Sadly, there are so-called Christians who behave that way. They say, "Oh, I believe in Christ," and they go on about their lives without being changed. They’ve intellectually acknowledged Christ, but they haven’t put their faith in Him. Those people are often called functional atheists, and they’re no more saved than the squirrel outside my window.

To believe in the New Testament sense, though, requires a person to both intellectually acknowledge Christ as Lord and to completely entrust themselves to Him. It is a faith that demands action. If I had New Testament faith in Africa then I would intellectually acknowledge its existence and then move there and live completely off of African products. My life would depend on Africa. If Africa didn’t exist then neither would I. I would have completely entrusted myself to it for life, and if I was wrong then I would be dead. That’s pisteuō, and it’s the type of belief that we’re told to have in Christ.

When we believe in the New Testament sense we throw ourselves upon Christ for our salvation. We recognize that without Him we have no hope of eternal life. We declare Him Lord and pledge our allegiance to Him. It is a faith that demands action. Without action it’s not pisteuō.

That’s why God chose faith as the method through which grace works. You see, people often say that we’re saved by faith, but that’s not entirely correct. We’re saved by grace. Faith is just the catalyst that triggers it (Eph. 2:8). That’s why the proper phrase is "we’re saved by grace through faith," not "we’re saved by faith." (It’s true that the Bible often says we are justified through belief, but when read in context the underlying factor is always God’s grace. Apart from grace faith would be nothing.) Faith is our part, grace is God’s. We throw ourselves on Him for our salvation and He responds. If we try to work our way to salvation then that just won’t work. None of us can make ourselves righteous before God (Rom. 3:10). If we could work our way to salvation then we could boast (Rom. 4:2), but we can’t so we don’t. We throw ourselves upon God and He justifies us, He makes us right before Him. Then we have nothing to boast in except Christ crucified.

With all that in mind, this passage should make a lot more sense:

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:11-31)

In other words, Christ did things exactly backwards–at least according to us humans (which means we’re the ones who are backwards). Instead of trusting in our strength we trust in God’s.To become strong we become weak. To become first we become last. Instead of trusting in our wisdom we become fools. Why? Because it’s not our wisdom and strength that saves us, it’s God’s.

How much more foolish could you get than being saved by not working? How crazy is it to win a battle by surrendering? But for those of us who are saved by faith it’s the power of God at work. Can we boast? Yes, but not in ourselves. Can we be proud? Yes, just not in us. The only One we can boast in is God.

We can’t brag about how long we spent at an altar or how we prayed through or the experience we had or how loud we spoke in tongues. We can’t even not brag about those things, because those things are irrelevant. We could spend 24 hours a day on our knees at an altar praying to speak in tongues, and if we ever did then it wouldn’t even matter. As a matter of fact we would probably be worse off because our faith would probably be in the fact that we spoke in tongues, not in Christ. We can’t boast in our wisdom or works or power or might or even our faith. The only thing we can boast in is the power of the God who saved us through His grace.

The Relationship Between Works and Faith

So we’re saved by grace through faith, but now what? What about all the Scriptures about works? After all, look at what James said:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

Doesn’t this stand in direct contrast to Paul’s teaching? Doesn’t it show that all the Scriptures about justification through faith were just one part of a smaller plan of salvation? Don’t faith and works go hand in hand?

Yes, faith and works do go hand in hand, but not in the way that the UPC interprets it. You see, Paul says that faith leads to works. We’re not saved by works, we’re saved for works (Eph. 2:8-10). Consider this passage:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:4-10, emphasis mine)

There you see the relationship between faith and works. True faith leads to works. As a matter of fact, Christ has works prepared for us before we’re even saved! Works is an integral part of Christianity, but works are a result of salvation, not a cause of salvation. Because of this, James could rightfully say that faith without works is dead. If James preached that sermon in front of Paul then Paul would have given him a hearty amen! Paul and James presented two sides of the same coin: Paul said that faith leads to works, and James said that without works you don’t have faith. There’s no reason to think that there was a conflict between the two of them regarding the method of salvation, or that Paul was only preaching one part of the larger "plan of salvation."

What About the Scriptures That Talk About Us “Being Saved”?

Paul used the phrase "being saved" a couple of times. In 1 Cor. 1:18 he wrote, "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God," and in 2 Cor. 2:15 he wrote, "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (emphasis mine).

I have heard more times than I can count that these passages (and others like them) mean that salvation is a process. The people who teach this claim that we are never truly saved until we get to heaven. It may not be an official UPC doctrine, but I heard it in church after church. Are the people who teach this correct? Are we never truly saved until we die or are raptured?

In a sense the people who say that are right. In some ways salvation is a process. That’s why I defined the word sozo at the beginning of this article. You see, the type of salvation we were discussing is most closely related to justification–the idea of being made right with God. It is accurate to say that certain aspects of salvation are a process, but it would not be accurate to say that justification is a process. You see, justification is being made right with God. You’re either right or you’re not, there’s no middle ground. You can’t be partly justified, or 3/4 justified. You’re righteous or you’re not righteous, and that’s that.

When Paul talks about "being saved" in the above passages he is not talking about justification, he’s talking about sanctification. Sanctification is the English translation of the Greek word hagiazō, and it means “to make holy.” ((“Strong’s Greek Dictionary”, G37)) It would not be inaccurate to take every sermon that you ever heard about "holiness" and replace it with the word "sanctification." (The difference, of course, is that sanctification has nothing to do with appearance, aside from the commands to be modest and moral, and everything to do with the way that we live our lives.)

Paul wrote:

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.

For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:11-23)

(Did you catch that? Paul was being accused of preaching "easy believism" too, and he responded with an emphatic command that grace leads to sanctification (holiness) not sin! As a matter of fact, if you read Romans you discover that Paul taught that people were more likely to sin when they were trying to be saved through works!)

When we speak of sanctification it is entirely proper to say that we are “being saved.” None of us are entirely holy yet, and we never will be. While we walk this earth we strive for holiness while recognizing that we will never achieve it. While on this earth we must trust in God’s grace to cover us. That’s what faith is. Therefore it’s entirely accurate to say that we’re “being saved,” but it’s not accurate to claim that we are not already saved. When we talk about “being saved” we are talking about sanctification, not justification.

In theology sanctification is often broken up into three types. The types sometimes go by different names, but I like to call them “present, progressive, and perfected.” “Present sanctification” is the holiness that is bestowed upon us at the moment of salvation when we are robed with Christ; “progressive sanctification” is the ongoing process of becoming more and more holy as we walk with Christ; “perfected sanctification” is the perfect holiness that will be ours when we are glorified. So we are justified (made right with God) and sanctified (made holy before God) at the moment of salvation, but we are also becoming more and more holy as we walk with God day by day.

Tying It All Together

A call to repentance

"Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"
(Rom. 2:4)

"you were dead in your trespasses and sins"
(Eph. 2:1)

The first thing that God does is call us to Him. You see, we can’t even boast in our ability to seek for Him, because it doesn’t exist! God calls us, we don’t call Him. We’re lost, He’s the divine search-and-rescue party. He calls us to Him and we respond through faith.

It’s worth noting here that I firmly believe that repentance is an integral part of belief. I don’t think it’s possible to acknowledge the holy God as Lord and Savior without being moved to fall at His feet and repent. I don’t view repentance as a requirement so much as I think it’s a necessary reaction to faith. It’s true that we are commanded to repent, but I don’t understand how a person could even have faith without being moved to repentance. The two go hand in hand. After all, a person wouldn’t truly repent if they didn’t think the one they were repenting to was capable of forgiving sins, so repentance in itself is a statement of faith. Conversely, I don’t think a person can truly have faith without being moved to repentance. Therefore, I don’t see a tension in Scripture between the commands to repent and the fact that we are saved by grace through faith. Faith naturally leads to repentance.

A response through faith, leading to justification

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."
(John 3:16-17)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
(Rom. 3:28)

We respond to the call by throwing ourselves upon the mercy of Christ, and trusting Him wholeheartedly for our salvation. We don’t try to work our way to God because He’s already worked His way to us.

When we are justified we are regenerated

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
(2 Cor. 5:17)

We didn’t talk about regeneration yet in this article. It just means "being made alive." Paul summed it up when he wrote:

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, emphasis mine)

Justification and regeneration leads to sanctification

"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
(Gal. 3:27)

"But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life."
(Rom. 6:22)

When we are justified and regenerated we put on Christ. He takes our place and we take His. When God looks at us He sees Christ. We are no longer seen as unholy but as holy.

On a side note, there’s some debate over whether or not the "baptized" in Gal. 3:27 refers to water baptism or Spirit baptism. I don’t think it matters, because in the New Testament baptism was something that was done immediately upon a profession of faith. It was not until later that baptism was separated. The authors of the excellent book "Pagan Christianity" have this to say about baptism in the early church:

"[I]t is typical in most contemporary churches for baptism to be
separated from conversion by great lengths of time. Many Christians
were saved at one age and baptized at a much later age. In the first
century, this was unheard of.

In the early church converts were baptized immediately upon believing.
One scholar says of baptism and conversion, ‘They belong together.
Those who repented and believed the Word were baptized. That was the
invariable pattern, so far as we know.’ Another writes, ‘At the birth
of the church, converts were baptized with little or no delay.’

In the first century water baptism was the outward confession of a
person’s faith. But more than that, it was the way someone came to the
Lord. For this reason, the confession of baptism is vitally linked to
the exercise of saving faith. So much so that the New Testament
writers often use ‘baptism’ in place of the word ‘faith’ and link it
to being ‘saved’ (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
This is because baptism was the early Christian’s initial confession
of faith in Christ."

Therefore, I do not think we need to try to decide if Gal. 3:27 is talking about water or Spirit baptism. I think it’s safe to conclude that all believers in the New Testament were baptized.

Sanctification leads to glorification

"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
(Romans 8:16-17)

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified."
(Romans 8:29-30)

When we are called home to heaven, either through death or the rapture, we will be glorified and will spend eternity with Christ. What a beautiful concept! I don’t think anything more needs to be said about glorification, because Paul says it best:

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:14-39)

What About Baptism And Tongues?

I think that these questions have been answered throughout the article. Still, it may be good to make a couple of comments about the relationship of baptism and tongues in salvation before we close.

As I already pointed out, baptism in the early church was just assumed. If you believed then you were baptized. There wasn’t any debate about whether or not it was necessary. Christ commanded it so the disciples did it, and that was that. For what it’s worth, I think that’s the way it should be today. Baptism was commanded by Christ, so when it’s possible it should most certainly be done. (I can’t imagine a scenario when it would be impossible to baptize by sprinkling, even if immersion were not feasible.) However, baptism is not directly related to justification. Baptism is a public confession of faith. Perhaps it has deeper spiritual significance, perhaps not. I honestly don’t know, because arguments both ways are persuasive. (I think there’s a lot to be said for baptism being a symbol of the covenant in the New Testament just like circumcision was a symbol in the Old.) What I do know, though, is that it was commanded by Christ and so it should be done, and that baptism does not lead to justification. Only faith does that.

Tongues is even easier to answer. There is no relationship between tongues and salvation. I can say that with total confidence. Tongues was mentioned three times in Acts (Chapters 2, 10, and 19) and there is every reason to believe that all three of those instances were nothing more than the gift of tongues at work. There is no reason to believe that tongues was in any way related to salvation. The Scriptural relationship simply isn’t there. The Spirit was present and in those three instances the gift of tongues appeared. It’s really that simple. Tongues was never taught as anything more than a gift by any of the apostles, and it was never even mentioned by Jesus.

Additionally, logic says that the Holy Spirit has to be given upon belief. After all, Romans 8:9 says that "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." Yet we know that we are justified (made right with God) upon belief, regenerated (made alive in Christ) upon belief, and sanctified (made holy before God) upon belief. How could all of that happen and yet we still not belong to God? Yet if the UPC view of tongues is correct then that’s precisely what happens. According to the UPC plan of salvation we can repent and be baptized and still not be saved. Are we half saved? Two- thirds saved? How does that even work? It just doesn’t make sense.
If that’s not enough, then consider what Paul says in Eph. 1:13-14:

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (emphasis mine)

Did I read that correctly? Did Paul just say that we are "sealed" with the Holy Spirit at the moment of belief? Yes, he did.

So we see, then, that tongues is nothing more than a gift of the Spirit. It’s not the evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. If it were then everyone who believed would immediately speak with tongues with no delay. Common experience says that just doesn’t happen.


What does it mean to be saved? It means that we stand righteous before God. We stand before Him pure and holy, not because of the things that we have done, but because of the grace of God. Christ has taken our sin and shame and made it His own, and He has robed us in Him. We are in Him, and when God looks at us He doesn’t see our sins. He doesn’t see our failures and mistakes. No, He sees a person who is perfectly righteous and holy, not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done. Our so-called righteousness can never bring us where we need to be. We can’t pray hard enough, be baptized deep enough, or speak in tongues long enough to be saved. The only way to be made right and holy before God is through His grace, and that grace is granted through faith. That’s what it means to be saved.

What Does the Bible Say About Cutting Your Hair?

This Web site has been running for just over four years, and I am frequently asked why I have not written an article on the cutting of hair. As a matter of fact, I get more questions through my Web site about hair than I do any other issue. So why haven’t I written an article until now? Well, there are several reasons.

First, this Web site was originally designed to tell friends and family why I left the UPC, and hair was not one of the reasons. Before I left the UPC I studied just about every doctrine in the movement, but hair was not important to me. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have immediate plans to get married, and I had no interest in growing my hair long, so I didn’t get around to studying hair until later.

Second, I have always tried to not just duplicate what others have written. I may deal with the same topics, but I try to deal with them in different ways. Not better ways, just different. There are quite a few articles about hair on the Internet, so I didn’t feel that writing an article was a pressing issue. (However, considering the amount of questions that I get about the subject, I must admit that my decision to not write an article was wrong).

Third, I like to deal with “first order issues” and stay away from second and third order issues whenever possible (I will define those terms in a moment).

However, two things prompted me to go ahead and write an article. The first reason, as I already mentioned, is that hair seems to be a very important issue for a lot of people. I receive more questions about hair than I do any other issue. The second reason is that the topic of hair has become even more pressing in the last several years, thanks to the increasing popularity of “Holy Magic Hair” theology. ((If you don’t know what that is then be grateful. If you want to know what it is then check out http://www.holymagichair.com for more information (disclaimer: I have no association with that site).))

The Framework of Biblical Interpretation

Before we delve into 1 Cor. 11 it may be helpful to discuss the interpretive framework that I will be using. We all have a framework that we use to interpret the Bible. The framework is like the pair of glasses that we put on when we read the Bible, and all of the Scriptures that we read gets filtered through those lenses. For example, Roman Catholics might interpret all Scripture through the traditions of the Catholic Church, while evangelical Protestants might interpret all Scripture through the lens of solo scriptura (“by Scripture alone,” not by church tradition).

My framework, as it relates to 1 Cor. 11:2-16, is the same as the UPC and evangelical Protestants: The Bible, in its original manuscripts, is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. Inerrant means that the original manuscripts were without error, and inspired means that they were “God-breathed.” We do not have the original manuscripts of 1 Cor. 11, of course, but there is no ambiguity about what it says. The confusion is about what it means.

I do not think that 1 Cor. 11:2-16 should be ripped out or ignored (neither do any evangelical Protestants). I do not think that we should find ways of “getting around it” (neither do any evangelical Protestants). I believe that it was God-breathed and that it is just as important as the rest of Scripture (as do all evangelical Protestants). The idea that Trinitarians just want to rip it out and ignore it is a false UPC idea that has no basis in reality.

First, Second, and Third Order Issues. What Are They, And What Do They Have To Do With Hair?

A moment ago I mentioned the term “first order issues.” I think it would be helpful to define that before moving on. ((Much of the material in this section was taken from a series of lectures given by Dr. Gary Habermas in “Theology 250: Fundamental Theological Issues,” at Liberty University. Dr. Habermas referenced “Christian Theology” by Millard Erickson at several points in this discussion. The lecture was given in a discussion format, and my interpretations of the material are not meant to be representative of Dr. Habermas’ or Mr. Erickson’s views.))

A first order issue is an issue in the Bible that is clear-cut. It is a direct statement. There can be no ambiguity. It is what it is. A good example of this is baptism. We are directly commanded to baptize in Mat. 28:18-20, and the Bible states on many occasions that baptism is the proper response to faith (Acts 2:38, 8:36-38, 16:15, 16:31-34, 22:16, 1 Pet. 3:21).

A second order issue is an implication. It is not directly stated, but it is implied. An example of a second order issue is the method of baptism. Should it be done by immersion or sprinkling? It is now commonly accepted that the word baptizo referred to immersion. ((Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (2:50). Nashville: T. Nelson.)) However, we also know from early church history that baptism by sprinkling or pouring was considered acceptable in areas with a limited water supply ((“Didache”)). So does it matter? Is it a “heaven or hell issue?” This is a great example of a second order issue.

A third order issue is a doctrine that is determined by inductive conclusions or general revelation. An example of this might be the debate about what baptism accomplishes. Does it actually remit sins? Is it just a symbol? Is a person spiritually regenerated during baptism or does it happen before (or after)? We all have opinions about issues like this, but good, godly men and women will have opinions that differ from ours. Why? Because Scripture is simply not clear about these types of issues.

So an example of a first order issue might be acknowledgement of the fact that we are commanded to baptize, a second order issue might be the method of baptism, and a third order issue might be what baptism actually accomplishes.

Of course, it goes without saying that different groups and individuals draw their own conclusions about the importance of certain issues. However, I think that all serious students of Scripture should agree that direct biblical statements–statements that are clear cut with no ambiguity about the translation or meaning–should receive priority over less clear portions of the text. This doesn’t mean that we just throw out everything that isn’t a direct statement, of course! Far from it! It just means that we recognize that we should always use that which is clear to interpret that which is unclear, and we should keep the unclear in its place by never elevating these issues to salvation status and by recognizing that other Christians can form different opinions about issues like this and still be just as Christian as us!

Now, some might say that all Scriptural issues are first order issues, but those people show through their actions that they do not believe that to be true. Those people do not baptize for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29), they do not greet their brothers in Christ by kissing them (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26), and they do not confess every sin that they commit to other Christians (James 5:26). Instead, they recognize that the three things I just mentioned (and there are many more examples that I could have used) have cultural and practical elements that do not make them binding across time or in every situation. But when they hear someone say that 1 Cor. 11:2-16 was just for the Corinthians, or that it is not an important issue today, or that it meant veils and not hair, or any other interpretation that disagrees with theirs, then they immediately accuse those people of trying to “get around Scripture” and “rip out parts of the Bible!” Doesn’t that seem a bit hypocritical?

Finally, before moving on there is one very important thing that needs to be said about first, second, and third order issues. When we talk about these things we are not claiming that we simply cannot know what is true! The problem with second and third order issues is that we do not have enough data to make a conclusive determination. For example, if I lived in the ancient world then I would not be able to know the distance to the Sun. The answer is knowable, but it could not be calculated until the fields of science and mathematics reached a certain level of progress. It is the same with second and third order issues. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has one definite, true meaning, but God in His divine providence has allowed some of the historical data to be lost over time. Until He chooses to make that data known again–perhaps through future archaeological discoveries–we will not be able to know the answer with certainty. The majority of the Bible can be clearly understood, and we should stand united around what can be understood while we wrestle with the things that cannot.

That’s All Well and Good, But How Does It Relate To Hair?

1 Cor. 11:2-16 is a second, if not third, order issue. No one alive today can be 100% certain of what it means. Godly, conservative scholars throughout history–men and women who are seeking to follow God, not trying to get out of following Scripture–have studied the passage and come to completely different conclusions.

For example…

The MacArthur Study Bible concludes that the covering in 1 Cor. 11 is a veil and that the custom was local. He believes that the reference to hair in 1 Cor. 11:14-15 refers to the natural difference between men and women’s hair, and that this natural difference is symbolic of the order of creation which the veil (or lack thereof) also symbolizes. I call this a “two covering solution” to the passage—the spiritual head covering is the veil and the natural one is hair. ((John Jr MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997), 1 Co 11:2 – 1 Co 11:16.))

The Ryrie Study Bible also proposes a two covering solution. Dr. Ryrie concludes that the covering in verses 2-13 is a veil and the covering in 14-15 is hair. He writes, “[A]s the hair represents the proper covering in the natural realm, so the veil is the proper covering in the religious.” However, Dr. Ryrie does NOT believe that the custom was meant to be local to Corinth. Dr. Ryrie’s view is almost identical to my own.

The Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary concludes that the passage is referring to hair, but they take the unusual view that the covering refers to wearing the hair up on top of the head. They also conclude that the custom was not meant to be local to Corinth.

The Believer’s Bible Commentary proposes a two covering solution (much the same as the Ryrie Study Bible). They also conclude that the custom was not meant to be local to Corinth.

The Nelson Study Bible – New King James Version concludes that the covering in 1 Cor. 11:2-13 was a veil. It does not deal at all with 1 Cor. 11:14-15 or 16.

The Woman’s Study Bible determines that the covering in 1 Cor. 11:2-13 was “some kind of hair covering–perhaps even a shawl.” It hints that the custom was “especially important to the Corinthians because of the pagan and immoral influence around them,” but does not directly state that the custom was meant to be local. It also does not deal with 1 Cor. 11:14-15 or 16.

The Complete WordStudy Dictionary (1 Cor. 11:5) says that the covering was used until a woman’s hair grew long enough to cover her hair (meaning that women who had shaved their head before converting to Christianity would need to wear a head covering until their hair became long enough to cover their head).

It is important to remember that all 7 of these sources are written and edited by well-trained scholars. Yet at least four of them reach very different conclusions from the others, while two are silent on some of the most important points. So it is obvious that even leading scholars cannot determine exactly what Paul meant. Why? Because it’s simply not clear. God has allowed the exact meaning to be lost with time.

And this is where I think the holiness apostolic movement has gone wrong. They have taken an issue that simply cannot be understood with any level of certainty and they have turned it into a first order issue. They have claimed that their interpretation–an interpretation that is at best very convoluted and at worst does not work at all–is the only correct interpretation, and then they have condemned those who disagree.

My Views

With all of that said, I do have my own views on the passage. I have studied it many times and drawn certain conclusions. The remainder of this article is going to be dedicated to an exegesis (interpretation) of the passage. Once I am done with that I will respond to a few common objections to my view. But I want to make one thing clear before I even start: I do not claim to have the final answer. I do not think that this issue will be settled with any level of certainty until we get to Heaven. Nevertheless, I will share my conclusions for those who are interested.

Before I do, though, there is one other thing that’s worth remembering: God’s not going to send you to hell because you misinterpreted a passage of Scripture that no one alive today understands completely. If you’re not cutting your hair out of fear then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Don’t be afraid. Study the issue, draw your conclusions, and then trust in God’s grace to cover you. I promise you that if the issue was that important to God then He would have made it unmistakably clear.

Exegesis ((All Scriptures are from the NASB unless otherwise noted.))

1 Cor. 11:2 – Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

The “traditions” referred to here are a synonym for God’s Word, not the manmade traditions that are condemned at other places in Scripture ((MacArthur, Ryrie)). Paul is praising the church at Corinth for remembering the Word of God that he had previously taught them.

1 Cor. 11:3 – But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

“But.” The one word that as a child I hated to hear. “You can go out and play…but…did you clean your room?”

There was one tradition that the Corinthians had been taught but were now forgetting: The tradition of the head covering. Paul is about to remind them in writing of a teaching that he had previously given to them verbally.

The tradition that he was reminding them of is this: There is a principle of headship that is active in the church–a natural order of things. God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the man, and man is the head of the woman.

Now, a full discussion of the principle of headship is outside the scope of this article, but there are a couple of things that should be noted. First, the type of submission that is being discussed is not a willingness to be dominated. God does not dominate Christ. Christ is equal to God, yet He chose to willingly submit (Phil. 2:5-11). (This can be interpreted in either the Oneness or Trinitarian frameworks, it does not matter for our discussion). This ties into the second point, which is that men and women are equal in God’s eyes. One is not superior to the other. Gal. 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So this principle of headship is not saying man is superior to woman anymore than it is saying God is superior to Christ.

1 Cor. 11:4 – Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.

This is a key verse to the interpretation of the rest of the passage. Note that Paul’s instructions about head coverings only apply to a person who is praying or prophesying. The word “prophecy” that is used here is the Greek propheteuo. This word has the primary meaning of “telling forth the divine counsels,” with a secondary meaning of foretelling the future ((Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (2:492-493). Nashville: T. Nelson.)). The fact that 1 Cor. 11:2-16 is giving instructions for behavior in the church leads me and most scholars to conclude that this is referring to a person leading the church in prayer and preaching or prophesying to them. In the end it does not matter whether the prayer and prophecy is public, though, because, the point is still the same: The teaching of head coverings only applies to when a person prays or prophesies.

We can conclude, then, that a man is to have his head uncovered when leading the church in prayer or when speaking prophetically to them (preaching or foretelling the future). Again, if a person wants to extend this to private devotions then that is fine. Either way, the point remains the same.

1 Cor. 11:5 – But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

The reverse of the doctrine for men is stated here: Women are to have their head covered when praying or prophesying. It should be noted that the word “uncovered” is the Greek word akatakaluptos which means, quite simply, “unveiled.” ((Vine’s))

If the woman refuses to wear this covering then she disgraces her head. This could mean either her husband or the woman’s own head. The Greek wording is ambiguous, and it is possible that Paul meant it that way. ((Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary))

Just like in 11:4, the main thing to notice in the first part of the verse is that the instruction only applies to prayer and prophecy.

Paul adds an additional point in the second half of the verse, though. He states that the woman who does not cover her head while praying or prophesying is the same as a woman who’s head is shaved.

There has been a lot of debate about this. The debates usually center around why it was considered shameful for the woman to have her head shaved. The most common explanation is that it was related to temple prostitution, but that is not certain. ((WordStudy, 11:5, says that the priestesses at the temple of Aphrodite cut their hair short, but I have not been able to find independent confirmation from secular sources.)) In the end, though, does the reason really matter? What matters is that it was considered shameful in Corinth in that time period for a woman to have her head shaved. It was not universally shameful for all women in all cultures and it was not spiritually shameful. The disgrace referred to here is a natural disgrace that the women in Corinth would have been able to easily understand.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that it was just as shameful in the spiritual realm for a woman to pray or prophesy with her head unveiled as it was shameful in the natural world for her to shave her head. He is using an example from the natural world (shaving the head) to illustrate a religious principle (wearing a head covering while praying or prophesying).

To summarize, the three things that we should take from this verse are:

  1. The Greek word that we translate as “uncovered” means “unveiled” (nothing to do with hair).
  2. The instructions still refer only to prayer and prophecy.
  3. If a woman prayed or prophesied while unveiled then it was considered just as disgraceful as if she cut her hair off. We are not sure why it was considered disgraceful in Corinth for a woman to cut her hair short, but we do know that it was disgraceful. Again, the disgrace that came from cutting off the hair was a cultural disgrace, not a spiritual one.

1 Cor. 11:7-9 – For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

These verses again deal with the principles of submission and headship. See my note in verse 3 for some comments about this issue.

1 Cor. 11:10 – Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels

“Therefore” refers to the things just discussed, namely, the principle of headship.

There is something interesting to consider about this verse. If the “symbol of authority” (the covering) on the woman’s head is “because of the angels,” then how could it possibly be hair? Hair might work well for a lady who has been a Christian for a long time, but what about the new convert? Do the angels not know she is a Christian until her hair grows out? That just does not make sense.

The typical UPC response is, “God considers her hair long the moment she decides not to cut it.” That’s all well and good, but the head covering isn’t for God, it’s for the angels. So the idea that the covering is hair is not a coherent, logical interpretation of this passage.

On the other hand, the idea that the covering is a veil makes perfect sense. A veil can be put on when praying or prophesying and taken off the rest of the time. The angels can see when a veil is put on or taken off. A veil is the simplest explanation and the one that makes the most sense in light of everything discussed so far.

There is another thing that I must say about this Scripture. I regret to have to even mention it, but I feel that I must. The “symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” has in recent years lead to the explosion of the doctrine that many are calling “Holy Magic Hair.” If readers want more information on that doctrine then I encourage them to visit http://www.holymagichair.com (I am not affiliated with that site in any way). This is not the place for a full discussion of that doctrine, but I do think it will be beneficial to make a couple of brief comments.

When I interpret Scripture I follow several guidelines. One of those guidelines is to use the simplest interpretation possible, as long as that interpretation does not conflict with other Scripture. As the reader has already seen, I find the idea that the veil is the covering to be the simplest solution to this passage of Scripture and, since it does not conflict with other Scripture, it is the interpretation that I choose.

When we deal with the statement “because of the angels” there is a solution that is simple, Scriptural, and makes good sense. Eph. 3:8-10 says:

“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”

This Scripture passage is saying that the mystery of “the unfathomable riches of Christ” is being revealed to “the rulers and authorities in heavenly places” through the church. In other words, the angels are learning about the mystery of Christ’s redemptive work by watching the church.

In light of that, 1 Cor. 11:10 has a very simple explanation: The head coverings, as an illustration of the principle of headship (God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, man is the head of woman) is one more way that the mystery is being revealed to the angels.

This solution is both simple and Scriptural. It does not require going to the occult for information, as some apostolic preachers have sadly done. It does not require telling story after story (all secondhand) of flying cars and thwarting of national revolutions all happening because a woman did not cut her hair. It does not require telling women that if they twirl their hair in the wind then their prayers get more power. No, it does not require any of that, because none of that is Scriptural. What is Scriptural is that the angels watch the church and desire to learn the mystery of the unfathomable riches of Christ. The principle of headship, as shown through head coverings, is one more way that the mystery is revealed to them.

1 Cor. 11:11-12 – However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God

.Another reference to the principle of headship (see my note on verse 3). Paul is careful to remind the men that they are not independent of women, and that they are both dependent on God. This is a balance that is present in all of Paul’s writings.

1 Cor. 11:13-15 – Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

These three Scriptures have caused more confusion and debates than the rest of the passage combined.

The UPC and other holiness organizations use these Scriptures as the key to interpreting the rest of the passage. They insist that hair is the covering, and all the preceding Scriptures must be forced into line, no matter how convoluted that interpretation gets.

Is that what Paul was doing? Were the preceding 11 verses just meant to tell us that a woman’s hair is her covering? If so, what does that mean? Does it mean that a woman should not cut her hair, or just that she should wear it long? If so, how long is long? And for that matter, how short is short?

Let’s take a look.

First, the word “uncovered” in this section is the same word used in 1 Cor. 11:5. It is akatakaluptos, and it means “unveiled.” So verse 13 could read, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God unveiled?” In other words, “In light of everything I have just told you–the principles of headship, the reason for the head covering–is it proper for a woman to pray to God unveiled?”

Notice that the focus is still on prayer (and by implication prophecy).

Next, Paul makes an appeal to nature. He says, “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

There are a couple of things that need to be said here. First, the word that we translate as “long” is the Greek word komao. The word simply means “to have long hair” ((WordStudy)) or “to let the hair grow long, to wear long hair” ((Vine’s)). Some holiness preachers have insisted that the word has to mean uncut, but that is not correct. The word does not mean uncut. It means the same in Greek as it does in English. It is a relative word—things that are long are only long when compared to things which are short. The passage never defines what “long” is. Three inches? Three feet? Thirty feet? Paul does not say.

Second, the word covering in 11:15 is a different Greek word than the words used for cover earlier in the passage. The word used earlier was katakalupto which means “to cover oneself” (Vine’s) or “to be covered” (WordStudy) (in other words, within the context of this passage, to wear a veil). But the word used in verse 15 is peribolaion, which means “something thrown around” (Vine’s). It could mean a veil or other head covering or it could mean a mantle around the body, as it is used in Heb. 1:12 ((Vine’s)).

What are we to make of this? Why would Paul use one word throughout most of the passage and then switch at the very end? Why would he talk about a covering that seems to obviously be a veil and then suddenly turn around and say that the hair is the covering?

Well, the possibility that makes the most sense to me is that Paul chose a different word because he was talking about a different type of covering. The first covering is the one that the woman puts on and takes off as needed in the church—the spiritual covering—while the second covering is the one given to her by nature—the natural covering. This is the position that Ryrie’s Study Bible takes, and it is the one that seems the most sensible to me. It explains why Paul would use two different words for “covering,” and it neatly interprets the passage without requiring people to jump through textual and logical hoops.

But why would Paul make an appeal to nature when trying to explain a spiritual concept? Well, Paul is actually known for doing that. In Athens Paul used the pagan altar “To an unknown god” to explain Jesus (Acts 17:23). Was Paul telling the Athenians that they needed to worship Jesus at that altar, or that the altar was Jesus? Of course not! It was just an illustration from nature that they could understand. Likewise, in the Epistle to the Romans Paul is famous for using the Roman idea of the natural law–a law that all people hold in common–to explain the relationship between the Gentiles and the Mosaic law (see Rom. 2:14-15 for one example).

1 Cor. 11:14-15 is another example of an appeal to nature. Paul had just spent twelve verses explaining the necessity of wearing veils while praying and prophesying, but before he left the subject he decided to throw in one last argument. He reminded the Corinthians that even in the natural world women had hair that was longer than a man’s and styled differently. This is something that has held true across all cultures in the world with very few (if any) exceptions. As a matter of fact, the differences in hair length and styling are so prevalent, even in cultures like ours where it is normal for women to cut their hair, that one would almost think it was something genetic. Perhaps even a part of nature. Exactly like Paul said!

1 Cor. 11:16 – But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.

It seems obvious that Paul is saying that his teaching on head coverings is not limited to Corinth. Instead, Paul says that there is no other practice in the churches of God. In other words, the practice of the head covering was taught in all of the churches. Contrary to UPC rhetoric, most modern scholars agree that the practice was not meant to be limited to Corinth. It is also clear that all of the early churches practiced head covering. Their biggest debate seemed to have been whether or not virgins were excluded from wearing head coverings. ((Tertullian, “On the Veiling of Virgins“))

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that there are a couple of things in the passage that are cultural:

  1. The shame that a woman with shaved hair felt. As I stated in my note on 11:5, the shame that a woman felt in Corinth when her head was shaved is not something that is transcultural. It seems clear that the shame mentioned in 11:5 is natural, not spiritual. The context of the passage does not demand that the shame be spiritual, and it is obvious that women in certain cultures do not feel shame when their heads are shaved. An American or European woman today is unlikely to feel shame if she chooses to shave her hair, but apparently that was not the case in Corinth.
  2. The statement “does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her” is a statement from nature, not religion. We know that is true because Paul says that it is. He openly and frankly says that he is appealing to nature. The natural differences in hair between men and woman are common across all cultures, but it is not spiritually commanded. It is simply the natural order of things. That is why Paul could point to the natural order of things to illustrate the spiritual order, like he did in Romans 1:18-21.

One final note on 1 Cor. 11:13-15

While I was researching this article I came across an interesting point. It was made by Dr. Robert Spinney in his article “Should Christian Women Wear Head Coverings Today.” Many of his conclusions were different than mine, but I still found much of what he wrote to be informative.

Dr. Spinney says that if the covering in verse 15 is the same as the covering in verses 5-6 then we should be able to use the words interchangeably. In other words, if hair is the covering that is being discussed throughout the entire passage, then we should be able to use the word “long hair” (for women) or “short hair” (for men) in place of every instance of the word “covering.” That makes sense, right? If the hair is the covering then the two words can be exchanged and it will still make sense. But let’s try that and see how it works out:

(4)  Every man who [has long hair] on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.
(5)  But every woman who [has short hair] while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.
(6)  For if a woman [does not have long hair], let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her [have long hair].

Now let me ask: Does that even make sense? A man is to not have long hair, but only while praying or prophesying? A woman cannot have short hair while praying or prophesying, but if she does then she should just cut all of her hair off? If a woman has short hair then it is the same as a shaved head? (One might ask how can she ever get her hair long if she keeps having to shave it because it’s short!)

And what about the angels in verse 10? Are they unable to tell saved women from unsaved? Do they get confused when a saved woman with short hair prays or prophesies? And since when does the Bible punish sin by ordering more sin? If cutting the hair is a sin then cutting all of it off certainly doesn’t make it any better!

And we haven’t even touched on the “how long is long” question. Do the angels know how long “long” is? And what about short? How short is short? If long is uncut then short can be as long as we like as long as we trim the ends, right?

Does any of that even make sense? I think that the answer is obvious! Dr. Spinney’s point is well made. The idea that hair is the spiritual covering simply does not make sense.

One last question: Should it be done today?

Should women wear head coverings today when praying or prophesying? I think it goes without saying that the matter should be left up to personal conviction. However, I strongly oppose teaching a particular view of 1 Cor. 11 as normative for the churches, and here is why.

My interpretation is not necessarily the correct one. As I said in my discussion of first, second, and third order issues, we simply do not have enough data to know for sure what 1 Cor. 11:2-16 means. Great biblical scholars have come to very different conclusions. So if I take my interpretation (or anyone’s interpretation) and try to enforce it on everyone else then I will be guilty of doing the exact same thing that the UPC has done. All it would do is cause more division within the church.

On the other hand, if future archaeological discoveries allow us to know the precise meaning of the passage then we would need to revisit our current practices. But we don’t know when, or even if, that will happen. We don’t know what state the Christian churches might be in then. In short, we simply cannot speculate on what the proper course of action would be. That would be a decision for godly men and women living in that time to make.


Aren’t we commanded to pray at all times?

Q. 1 Thess 5:17 says that we should pray without ceasing. Doesn’t this mean that we should always pray? And if so then doesn’t that mean that women should always have a head covering on? And, since it is something that always should be done, then wouldn’t the idea that hair is the covering start to make sense again?

A. I have heard this argument given in at least one UPC church, but there are a couple of reasons why it fails.

First, it is impossible to pray 24/7. It is not even possible to pray every waking moment. Paul’s command in 1 Thess. 5:17 could be referring to prayer in the church since it is part of a series of exhortations to the church in Thessalonica (it is followed in verses 19 and 20 with commands to not “quench not the Spirit” and to not “despise prophetic utterances”) or it could mean to do everything with a prayerful attitude. Either way, I think most Christians would agree that the command is not to literally pray every second of the day, or even every waking second. We have to interpret the Scripture through the dual lenses of reason and common sense. God does not command us to do impossible things.

Second, the reference to praying in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 almost certainly refers to leading the church in prayer. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The context of the passage is about order within the church gathering. The passage about hair sits at the beginning of a long discourse on order in the church. It starts with head coverings, goes to the communion dinner, and finishes with a discussion of tongues and prophecy in the church.
  2. Spoken prophecy is by its very nature public. Prayer might be private, but prophecy is not. The two are linked together in this passage, indicating that the discussion is about public prayer and prophecy in the church setting.
  3. Even if a person decides that Paul was referring to private prayer as well as public, it does not change the fact that a veil can be easily put on and removed as a woman starts and finishes her devotions.

Can’t the Greek word akatakaluptos in 1 Cor. 11:5 still be referring to hair? Can’t a woman’s hair “hang down” in the same manner that a veil would?

This is the interpretation proposed in the WordStudy dictionary, but it does not seem coherent to me. First, how long does a woman’s hair have to be before it hangs down? Organizations like the UPC claim that it just means uncut, but there is no textual basis for that conclusion. Second, and more importantly, 1 Cor. 11:2-16 only deals with praying and prophesying. Is a woman supposed to grow her hair long to pray or prophesy and then cut it again? Organizations like the UPC claim that this is why a woman should simply never cut her hair, but again, there is no textual basis for that interpretation. Moreover, that is a very, very convoluted explanation. If Paul’s goal was to tell women to not cut their hair then wouldn’t it have been a lot simpler to just say, “Women, don’t cut your hair”? In my mind, trying to make hair the covering for verses 2-13 is confusing, convoluted and ultimately incoherent.

Can’t angels read our minds, so can’t they see when a woman determines to not cut her hair?

Most of the angelic appearances in the Old Testament were “the angel of the LORD.” This was something called a theophany–a bodily manifestation of God before the incarnation. The angel of the LORD, being God, could certainly read minds, but there is no Scriptural evidence that regular angels have that ability. If they could then it would defeat the entire purpose of wearing the head covering “because of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:10).

What about revelation?

Q. Isn’t it true that God reveals things to those who have His Spirit, things that a non-Spirit-filled scholar may not be able to understand? And, if that is the case, then shouldn’t Spirit-filled Christians be able to understand the true meaning of 1 Cor. 11:2-16 while non-Spirit-filled Christians would remain deceived?

A. A person doesn’t need revelation to understand the Greek language and Corinthian history any more than I need revelation to understand the English language and United States history. These are very natural things that do not require revelation.

Also, if revelation gives all Spirit-filled Christians the answers to all “disputable matters” (Rom. 14:1, NIV), then Spirit-filled Christians should not longer disagree about anything! But unfortunately we all know that is not the case. Even if we conclude that Oneness Pentecostals who have spoken in tongues are the only ones filled with the Spirit (something I do not agree with) then we can still see that interpretations vary. Oneness Pentecostals are fragmented on everything from the use of television to holiness standards, so I think that common experience leads us to conclude that the purpose of revelation is not to make us understand everything that there is to understand. Even Paul said that while on Earth we “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12 KJV).

Finally, even people who are deceived can understand some truth. A deceived person is not automatically robbed of every truth that they have ever known or ever could know. There are many deceived people who recognize Jesus as Lord but are deceived on other points of theology. So the fact that a person is deceived does not mean that they are automatically unable to understand any truth in Scripture. A deceived person does not understand some truth, but they are not robbed of all truth.

You say you like to deal with first order issues and stay away from second and third order ones, but don’t many of your articles deal with the debatable issues?

It’s very true that many of my articles deal with second and third order issues, but I always deal with them in the negative sense. The Oneness Pentecostal movement has taken many second and third order issues and elevated them to first order status, then claimed that their interpretation is the only correct one; that it is some sort of return to a truth that was lost for almost 2,000 years (as if God would really let that happen!). So when I deal with those issues my primary goal is to point out to people that they are second and third order issues and that they should not cause us to separate ourselves from other Christian groups.

You will not find me taking second and third order issues and writing articles claiming that my interpretation is the only correct one. I try to keep the focus on things that can be clearly understood—things that all Christians can stand united on.

What Does the Bible Say About the Sabbath?

Recently I have had several people email me questions about the Sabbath. Should we keep the Sabbath? If so, how should we observe it today? Should we worship on the Sabbath? Is it alright to miss a day of worship? Should we refuse to work on the Sabbath? On what day should the Sabbath be kept?

These are just some of the questions that I have received. I decided to post my answers in this article. I am basically doing a copy / paste of the answers that I gave in my emails (with all personal information removed of course) so this article might be a little less formal than some of the others. I hope that the information is still beneficial!

The Sabbath was originally kept on Saturdays, but the very early Christians began to worship on Sundays (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10). They probably did this because it is the day that Jesus rose from the dead (Mat. 28:1).

I am not aware of a Scripture that says that worship should only happen on the Sabbath, or even that the Sabbath was intended by God to be a day of worship. Jews and Christians did worship on the  Sabbath, but the only commandment from God was that it would be a day of rest. The Sabbath was intended as a day of rest (Ex. 20:9).

Regardless of whether God commanded worship to happen on the Sabbath, there is no rule against worshiping on any other day. Why would God want His children to worship Him on just one day of the week? To say that a person *can’t* worship on any other day but the Sabbath is just human tradition!

The Sabbath was intended as a day of rest. It was also included in the 10 Commandments, and the 10 Commandments are considered by most Christians (including myself) as being morally binding even today. So should we observe the Sabbath?  Yes, I think we should. But why should we observe the Sabbath, and how should we do it? Should it be a burden? Absolutely not!

See, Jesus made it clear that the Sabbath was created for man. God  knows that humans need rest, and He created the Sabbath for that  reason. Humans messed it up when they created so many rules about the Sabbath that it caused the Sabbath to become the exact opposite of what God intended (Mat. 12:1-14)!

At this point it might be beneficial to quote Matthew 12:1-14, then make a couple of observations:

"At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. " (Matthew 12:1-14, NASB)

Now, some observations about this passage:

  1. Jesus’ disciples picked grain on the Sabbath. They were hungry and needed to eat. Jesus approved that action.
  2. Jesus pointed out that the priests in the Temple work on the Sabbath, but they are innocent. I think this point has a direct correlation with our church services today. The people who "work" in a church often find the "Sabbath" the most stressful day of the week! In that case, I think it’s good that those people who "work" in the church be given a day in the week to rest.
  3. Sometimes things have to be done on the Sabbath. If a sheep falls in a ditch, get it out. If your car breaks down and you have to fix it, get it fixed. If your boss demands that you work or be fired, then work. Sometimes exceptions have to be made. That’s not my opinion, that’s Jesus! (Mat. 12:11-13)

So what should we take from all of this? Well, my personal conclusion is that each person should try to have a day of rest in the week. I don’t think it has to be a Saturday or a Sunday. I also think that
"rest" can mean different things to different people. Hiking a difficult mountain might be relaxing for one person but hard work for another. Cleaning the house might be relaxing for some people and work for others. For example, my girlfriend finds cleaning very relaxing. I find playing a computer game or going hiking very relaxing. The definition of “rest” is very dependent on a person’s personality.

The core issue of the Sabbath is rest. Humans need a day of rest. And, as always, Jesus says it best:

"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

With that said, there is still one question that needs to be answered: Is it alright to “miss church”?

The answer to this question is that the Bible does not say “thou shalt attend every church service.” The first Christians met for worship every day (Acts 2:41-47; Acts 5:1-11). Sometime after that  they began to meet on Sundays. But there is no Scripture that says a  person has to go to church every single time the doors are open. However, the  Bible does say that we should fellowship with fellow believers (Heb.  10:24), but that is only part of the command. The full passage says:

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one  another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling  together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:23-25, NASB)

There are three things to note from the above passage:

  1. Fellowship is important, and it should not be ignored, but there is no "thou shalt go every Sunday from 10-12" (or whatever) command.
  2. The reason we are to assemble is to "stimulate one another to love and good deeds."
  3. (This is my personal opinion): If the church that a person is attending is not loving and/or doing good deeds–if church has become a burden, not a place of rest and spiritual edification—then  it might be time to pray about finding another church =). But that’s just my opinion =)

How did the Israelites dress in the Wilderness, when Deuteronomy 22:5 was written?

There are a lot of myths surrounding the way that the Israelites dressed when Deu. 22:5 was written. My experience is that most people assume that the Israelites wore robes. Many seminary graduates and authors of non-scholarly commentaries (I.e., study Bibles, devotional commentaries, etc) will also refer to the Israelites wearing robes.

But what did the Israelites really wear? It seems that people have a vague impression that everyone in ancient times wore robes. Combine that with images of Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments and you’ve got a recipe for myth being repeated as fact.

In this article I will present two citations from Nelson’s new illustrated Bible manners & customs : How the people of the Bible really lived. This is one of the best reference books available on biblical customs in my opinion.

Citation 1: How the Israelites dressed in Egypt

“Women during the Middle Kingdom [Joseph’s time period] and Empire periods [the time of the Exodus] commonly wore a long, white close-fitting dress (a sheath) held up with wide shoulder straps and extending to the ankles. Sometimes they covered their breasts and sometimes they did not. Surviving dresses show that the dresses were more baggy than the artists portray them. During the Empire the sheath dress became an undergarment. Over this, women wore a pleated, fringed robe consisting of a single piece of cloth, gathered around the waist and with the two top corners pulled over the shoulders and knotted under the breasts. Within this generalization, individuality was achieved with distinctive lines, embroidery, lace, and other decoration.

Servant girls usually wore only a skirt or apron while working. Dancing girls, musicians, singers and young waitresses commonly wore nothing but some jewelry.” ((Vos, H. F. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible manners & customs : How the people of the Bible really lived (66). Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson Publishers.))

Citation 2: How the Israelites dressed in the Wilderness

“As to styles, all we know for certain is the clothing of the priests and the high priest, as described above. The rest of the people would have dressed much as they did while in Egypt. In fact, as noted, they came from Egypt in Egyptian garb. What appears on the subject in the last chapter [the first paragraph that I cited] should be reviewed. Since it is very hot in the Sinai during the day, presumably men often wore only linen kilts and women full-length, light weight, loose-fitting dresses. But it gets cold in the Sinai at night and the people needed something to keep them warm. Therefore it may be assumed that men and women owned long cloaks to wear at night or in high altitudes or to use as a blanket. Cloaks served as blankets at night even in New Testament Palestine.” ((Vos, H. F. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible manners & customs : How the people of the Bible really lived (103). Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson Publishers.))

Closing Comments:

I hope that these citations prove helpful to people who are studying Deu. 22:5 and the meaning of “men’s apparel.” If you are studying the “pants” issue then you might also be interested in two other articles I have written about this subject:

  1. What does the Bible say about women wearing pants?
  2. Response to UPC Bible study on wearing pants

A Spontaneous Post About “The Bible Days”

Hi, folks, it’s been several months since I have written any new content for this site. I have monitored the comments and have re-written and tweaked several articles, but it’s been too long since I have written anything new.

I have had many friends and acquaintances ask me to write an article about hair, so that’s what I’ve been working on lately. I have also been working on a couple of other projects related to this Web site that I am not ready to share just yet :)

Anyway, tonight I was reading a thread on an apostolic forum about the hair issue. In one of the posts someone talked about what they did “in the Bible days.” It suddenly struck me that I don’t think I’ve written anything about “the Bible days” yet on this Web site! So, let me get out my soapbox and I’ll tell all of you, my dear readers, about something that was one of my pet peeves when I was in the UPC.

Growing up in the Apostolic movement I often heard talk about what people did “in Bible times.” I’ve always loved history, so I loved to hear about what people did back then. It was not until I got older and started studying biblical history that I realized a fact that many seem to forget: “Bible times” covers approximately 4,000 years of history. Furthermore, it isn’t just Jewish history that is covered. In the Bible you have Canaanites, Mideonites, Romans, Assyrians, Babylonians, and a host of others. Jewish history alone covers about 1,600 years (if you start counting at Moses and stop at Revelation) or more if you start counting at Abraham.

Also, the ancient world was a very dynamic place. Cultures changed back then just like they do today. Allow me (since it’s my soapbox) to give you a brief history lesson, written off the top of my head, to illustrate how dynamic the ancient world was just for the Jews (not to mention everyone else).

Abraham’s descendants went to Egypt and lived there for 400 or so years. Then Moses—a man raised in Egypt but who lived for 40 years in Midian—led them into the wilderness. They lived in the wilderness for 40 years, and came into contact with many other cultures. Then they conquered Canaan and came into contact with the various Canaanite city-states and their cultures. Then the Philistines invaded, and they spent a bit of time interacting with them. Then a few years later their kingdom split into Israel and Judah. Israel interacted heavily with the Assyrians and was eventually conquered by them. Judah was spared, but they in turn were conquered by the Babylonians and most of them spent 70 years or so in Babylon. Then the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians, and the Persians allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. Some of them did, but many of them did not. Of the ones that did, many of them would have been 2nd generation exiled Jews—Jews who’s parents had been born and raised in Babylon.

Many of the Jews decided to stay in Persia. They built synagogues and kept their system of worship and their national identity, but they were in constant contact with the Persian culture—a culture that included many conquered kingdoms along with all of their customs. A few years later Persia was conquered by Greece under the leadership of Alexander the Great (yes, I know that Alexander the Great was technically Macedonian, but his culture was Greek). Even after Alexander the Great’s death, the Jews were caught up in the conflicts between the four generals who split his kingdom. During the 400 year intertestamental period the Jews came into contact with every known culture except those in the far east. To be honest, they probably came into contact with some of them too. We know Alexander the Great went as far as India, and it’s pretty reasonable to assume that he brought some people back with him.

Then the Romans came along and conquered Greece. They loved Greek culture and so they kept a lot of it around, but they mixed their own culture with it. They used Israel as a sort of frontier outpost—a garrison, if you will. The Jews in Jesus’ Day would have mixed with pretty much every race that the Romans came into contact with. That means that they mixed with everyone in the known world.

Speaking of the Romans, they allowed their conquered subjects to keep their sense of identity and worship intact. It was one way that they maintained order in the empire. That’s important to know, because it means that one Roman city might have a completely different culture than one just 60 or 70 miles from it. Remember, this was in the days before photographs, magazines, TVs, Internet, and mechanized transportation. Even now in the U.S. there is a wide culture gap between, say, New York and New Orleans. How much wider would that gap be if you had to walk or ride a horse between those two cities, and, unless you traveled there, the only knowledge you had of them was what was told to you by travelers?

My point here is simple: Bible times changed. A lot. To say that something happened “in Bible times” is tremendously misleading. Whenever anyone says it to me I respond by asking, “Which Bible time?” Something that was a Jewish cultural norm in 1,500 B.C. might be anathema to them in 50 A.D.

Here’s a classic example of how the “Bible times” thing can lead to a misleading sense of history. In the forum that I was reading tonight one person wrote that “in the Bible days” if a woman sinned then the city officials publicly shaved her head. I have no idea if that was ever a custom in any ancient city (odds are that someone, somewhere tried it as a sin deterrent…it sounds pretty effective). However, I really doubt that it was ever a custom in Corinth. I’ve researched Corinth customs pretty extensively and I’ve never heard of it. (One reason that it seems unlikely for Corinth to have a custom like that is because the people of Corinth were generally pretty proud of their sin; they were one of the most sinful cities in the Roman empire.)

I’ve read and heard plenty of variations of this theme. I’ve heard that prostitutes shaved their head, and so Paul was telling women in Corinth that if they cut their hair they might as well just shave it. I’ve heard that it was a shame for a woman to go outside without a veil, and so what Paul was really saying was that women should wear veils to church, and that if they didn’t then they should just shave their head. (That last theory doesn’t explain why women would stop wearing veils in the first place—especially to church—or why shaving their head would be such a bad punishment.) I’ve heard that Corinth had a feminist movement that was cutting their hair out of rebellion, and Paul was telling them that if they were going to do that then they might as well shave it (this theory is usually combined with the “prostitutes shaved their head theory”). There are many more, but you get the picture.

In reality, though, it’s pretty hard to know exactly what was customary in Corinth and what was not. Corinth was an incredibly dynamic city. It sat on the Isthmus of Corinth—a very narrow strip of land dividing two gulfs. The strip of land was very narrow, and the way around the peninsula very long, so sailors needing to get from one gulf to the next would just pull their ships across. It was sort of like an ancient Panama Canal. These sailors were from every port, and had visited every port, so you can imagine how fast the city changed. It was constantly in flux. It’s very, very hard to go back 2,000 years and get an archaeological snapshot of what the customs were and what the city was like when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. (That is why you will find that many commentaries have conflicting information on the customs of Corinth; many of them have a real custom but they have placed it in the wrong time. Generally speaking, the more recent the commentary is the more accurate it will be—at least about the culture of the city.)

Well, it’s late now, but I think you get the gist of what I am saying. Biblical times changed. A lot. One city might undergo tremendous change within a year. Something that they did in the “Bible times” of 10th century B.C. Jerusalem might not have ever been thought of, or even heard of, in 1st century Rome.

So, the next time that you hear someone say that someone did something “in Bible times” don’t take their word for it. Research it for yourself :). Oh, and speaking of research, here’s one great tool that you can use: Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived. Check it out, it’s awesome.

OK, I’m going to go put up my soapbox now. Good night, and thanks for reading!

The Nature of Truth

Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"
— John 18:37-38b

If you used to be in the UPC then let me ask you, How many times have you heard someone say that they are thankful "for the Truth"? Or perhaps they said that they were thankful that God revealed "the Truth" to them. Or maybe they talked about how anointed a non-UPC singer or minister was, and then they said that it was a shame that the person they were talking about "did not have the Truth."

I used to hear those statements all the time! I think that we all have. But I am one of those people who likes to ask "Why" about everything. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite quotes says this:

"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why" (Bernard Baruch).

One of the things that many Christians do is rattle off a Scripture or a phrase without stopping to think about what it actually means. I think that we all do that; that’s certainly not something that’s limited to the UPC! But one thing that you do hear the UPC talk a lot about is "having the Truth." So in this article I want to examine this question: What does it mean for something to be true? Once I have investigated the meaning of truth then I will look at two central UPC doctrines to see whether or not they really are "true."

Now, a lot of people might be thinking that I’m silly for asking what it means for something to be true. After all, if something is true then it is…true! But what does that word mean? More specifically, how does the word apply to us Christians?

One good definition of truth is that it is consistent and it corresponds to reality. That is the definition that my systematic theology professor repeated until we practically had it coming out our ears! And it is certainly a good definition. Notice that the definition says that truth corresponds to reality, not to itself. The reason it says that is because there are plenty of people who teach and believe that truth just needs to correspond to itself. The problem with this is obvious: If a person starts with an untrue starting point then the rest of their system (whatever it might be) will also be untrue.

My philosophy professor used evolution as an example of a view of truth that corresponds with itself instead of corresponding to reality. He called it a "mesh" system, meaning that if any one point of it was proven false then a new theory was made to account for the portion that was proven false. In other words, there’s no way to prove evolution false to someone who believes strongly in the theory. Why? Because it corresponds with itself, even though many scientists would argue that the actual points of the theory are incorrect. (I believe that the UPC also has a "mesh" view of truth, but that is not the subject that I am discussing in this article!)

The point is this: There is more than one view of truth and knowledge that exists in the world today. For instance, many different religions believe that there is no one correct way to God; they believe that all paths are equally valid ((This is known as "religious pluralism")). The Christian view stands in opposition to this because it claims that Jesus is the only way to God, but the religious pluralist responds by saying that the Christian view is right for the Christians but the Muslim view is right for the Muslims, etc.

So with that in mind let us return to the original question: What is truth?

Well, as I already said, my systematic theology professor defined truth as that which is consistent and corresponds with reality. I do believe that is a very good view of truth, so I want to use that for a starting point and break this subject down a little farther. Specifically, I want to explain why truth must be consistent and why it must correspond with itself. To do this we must look at three fundamental laws of logic. These are:

  1. The law of non-contradiction
  2. The law of the excluded middle
  3. The law of identity

Please bear with me here! I know it’s easy to zone out as soon as someone writes or says "fundamental laws," but this is important to understanding exactly what truth is! And I promise that it’s not that complicated either. Actually, these three laws are very simple and even intuitive.

The law of non-contradiction simply says: Something cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. Example: Something cannot be green and not green at the same time and in the same way. That’s pretty simple, right? Similarly, I cannot be in my chair and out of my chair at this very moment in time. I am sitting in my chair, and it’s impossible for me to not be sitting in my chair at the same time.

The second law, the law of the excluded middle, says: Something either is or is not. In other words, something either exists or it does not exist. Something cannot exist and not exist at the same time. Very simple and intuitive!

Finally, the law of identity says: Something is what it is. This is very similar to the first law. Something cannot be what it is and what it is not at the same time.

These laws seem very intuitive (and they are) but the reason they are given names is because they serve as a starting point for all discussions. Even if a person does not know the laws by name they know them intuitively. Furthermore, these laws cannot be refuted. It’s impossible! Why? Because a person must use one the laws in order to refute the laws! Give it a try, it’s kind of fun! (I tried it when my philosophy professor presented these laws to us, and I found out that they are impossible to refute. I guess all those Ph.D.’s were right after all; at least on this point.)

Now that I’ve given these three laws let me bring it to a practical level by looking briefly at the UPC’s view of baptism. The UPC view of baptism is that a person must be baptized in the Name of Jesus in order to be saved (("Why We Baptize In Jesus’ Name", Accessed 8/12/2007)). However, it is my experience that many people in the UPC find it hard to accept the idea that God is sending almost every believer for the last 2,000 years to hell because they were baptized the wrong way. So, when backed into a corner, many in the UPC will say something like this:

"I refuse to put anyone in hell; I believe that God might let people into Heaven if they were baptized in the Titles and that was all they knew, but if they see the necessity of being baptized in the Name of Jesus and they refuse to obey ‘the Truth’ then they are responsible for their disobedience."

That statement sounds really good on the surface, but let’s apply the fundamental laws of logic to it. First, this statement is effectively saying that "the Truth" only becomes true once a person sees that it is true.

Think about that for a moment.That is like saying that the speed limit in front of my apartment only becomes 30 miles per hour when I see the sign, and that if I do not see that it is 30 miles per hour then the speed limit does not exist (or that it is not 30 miles per hour). See the fallacy? If the speed limit is 30 miles per hour then it is 30 miles per hour whether or not I realize that it is. In the same way, if baptism in the Name of Jesus is necessary for salvation then it is necessary whether or not a person realizes that it is. On the other hand, if a person can get into Heaven without being baptized in the Name of Jesus then baptism in the Name of Jesus is not necessary for salvation.

Put quite simply: Baptism in the Name of Jesus cannot simultaneously be necessary and unnecessary at the same time.

I believe that the illustration I just gave makes it easier to understand why the three fundamental laws of logic are so important! A doctrine or belief can sound really good on the surface, but it might not hold up when put to the logical test.

For instance, earlier in this article I commented on the Hindu believe that all paths to God are equally valid. This is what Dr. Norman Geisler has to say about that idea in his book "Worlds Apart: A Handbook on World Views" (the italics and bold print are added by me for emphasis):

How does one decide on a world view? They cannot all be true, for they hold mutually exclusive views on many essential points. For example, atheism and theism cannot both be true, for atheism affirms that “God does not exist” and theism affirms that “God does exist.” Likewise, God cannot be both finite (finite godism) and infinite (theism). Nor can miracles be possible (theism) and impossible (deism, atheism). The opposite of truth is falsehood. Hence, if one view is true, then the opposite must be false, unless, of course, one claims that there is no such thing as truth. But the problem with such a statement is that it claims to be true, thereby defeating its own claim that nothing is true ((Worlds Apart: A Handbook On World Views". Geisler, Norman L., Watkins, William D)).

The last sentence is the most important. Did you catch the problem that Dr. Geisler is pointing out? He is saying that when a person says that all truths are equally valid (such as the pluralist belief that all paths lead to God) then they are claiming absolutely that there is no absolute truth! In other words, they are breaking the law of non-contradiction because they are claiming that there are absolutely no absolutes! They are making a statement that they claim is true, but the statement claims that there can be no truth!

So the pluralist claim that all paths lead to God sounds very good, just like it sounds good when someone in the UPC claims that baptism in Jesus’ Name only becomes necessary once a person realizes it is necessary. But when put to the test we find that both of these views are equally impossible from a logical standpoint. Of course, a person can still choose to believe these things, but they need to recognize that they are believing them purely because of faith and that there is no logical basis (nor can there be) for their view.

So let me summarize what we have covered so far, and then we will move on to examining two central UPC doctrines to see whether or not they are true.

For a general definition of truth I have chosen the definition given by my systematic theology professor: Truth is that which is consistent and corresponds to reality. For the rest of this article I am going to use a more specific definition for determining biblical truth:

Biblical truth is that which is consistent and does not conflict with other Scripture.

With that definition in mind let’s look at two UPC beliefs to see whether or not they are true. In other words, let’s see if these two beliefs are consistent and do not conflict with other Scripture.

The first belief that I have chosen to examine is the belief that a person must repent in order to be saved. The official UPC position says:

Luke 13:5…reads, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish". [sic] Plainly, then, the tragic alternative to repentance is eternal perdition (("Except Ye Repent", Accessed 8/12/2007)).

The question that we need to ask is this: Does the UPC belief that a person needs to repent of their sins in order to be saved contradict other Scriptures? Specifically, does that belief contradict other Scriptures such as Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13, which say that everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved?

On the surface it appears that there is a contradiction, but I am convinced that this contradiction is only an apparent one. I feel that repentance is indeed necessary for salvation. The reason that I believe this is simple: It is impossible to accept Jesus as Savior if a person does not believe that they are in need of saving. In other words, if I do not realize that I am a sinner then why would I call on the Name of the Lord and ask Him for salvation?

On top of this, Jesus commanded repentance (cf. Mat. 4:17, Luke 13:5). If a person blatantly refuses to obey Jesus and repent then I propose that they do not truly believe He is Lord. When a person truly accepts that someone is their Lord then it requires that they admit that they are not Lord. Put bluntly, the most difficult barrier to getting people to come to Christ is getting them to admit that He is God and that they are not.

So, once again, I do not believe there is a real contradiction between the UPC view that repentance is necessary for salvation and the Scriptures that say that a person just needs to call upon the Name of the Lord to be saved. I am convinced that calling on the Name of the Lord involves repentance, so the contradiction is only apparent, not real.

The score is therefore 1-0 for the UPC.Now let us look at another doctrine that is central to the UPC: The doctrine that says that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation.

(Before I begin I should point out that the UPC view is that the Holy Ghost is necessary for salvation, and on this point I agree with them, just like every other evangelical Christian does. However, speaking in tongues is synonymous with the Holy Ghost to the UPC (since they believe that the initial evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost is that a person speaks in tongues (("The Gift of the Holy Ghost", Accessed 8/12/2007))), so that is why I say that I am examining the UPC doctrine that says that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation.)

The UPC uses three Scripture passages to "prove" that speaking in tongues is the evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost: Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:44-48, and Acts 19:1-6 ((Ibid.)). From these three passages the UPC extracts the doctrine that "The initial, outward evidence [of receiving the Holy Ghost] is speaking in tongues, which means speaking miraculously in languages the speaker does not know ((Ibid.))."

But is this doctrine true, or does it contradict other Scripture? Specifically, does it contradict 1 Cor. 12:28-30, which says:

1Co 12:28-30 (NASB, bold print added for emphasis)
(28)  And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
(29)  All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
(30)  All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

It is obvious from the context that Paul is asking rhetorical questions and that the answer to each question is "No." It is very important that Paul did not ask, "All do not have the gift of tongues"; Instead, he asked, "All do not speak with tongues, do they?" (This is a crucial difference since the UPC believes that Paul was talking about the gift of tongues in this passage, which the UPC believes is separate from "tongues as the initial evidence of the Holy Ghost." It is my opinion that if every believer who received the Holy Ghost was speaking in tongues then Paul never would have worded his question in the matter that he did. His goal was to cut down on confusion in the church at Corinth, not add to it!)

So at this point in the discussion the UPC has three Scripture passages that they claim are examples of people speaking in tongues when they initially received the gift of the Holy Ghost. From this they extrapolate the doctrine that all believers speak in tongues when they receive the Holy Ghost. In contrast to this we have a direct statement from Paul saying that all believers do not speak with tongues.

This definitely appears to be a true contradiction, but let us keep looking.

The question that we need to ask next is this: Are there any examples of people being filled with the Holy Ghost or receiving the Holy Ghost when they did not speak with tongues? Interestingly enough, there is one example: Paul himself.

Act 9:17-19a NASB (bold print added for emphasis)
(17)  So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
(18)  And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized;
(19)  and he took food and was strengthened.

Apparently Ananias did not plan on wasting any time. He walked in the door and told Paul that he had been sent for two reasons: 1) that Paul would regain his sight and 2) that Paul would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then Ananias gets right down to business; he lays his hands on Paul and Paul’s vision is restored. Then what happened? Paul got baptized. Then what happened? He ate a meal.

And that’s it.

No mention of tongues.

So it appears that the UPC’s claim that "Speaking with other tongues has been connected with Spirit baptism since the beginning of the church age" ((Ibid.)) commits the sin of omission by failing to include every applicable example of people being filled with the Holy Ghost. It is also interesting that there is no mention of any of the (approximately) 3,000 believers baptized on the Day of Pentecost speaking in tongues (Acts 2:41).

(Another example of someone being filled with the Holy Ghost and not speaking in tongues is when John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost. According to Luke 1:15 he was filled with the Spirit while still in his mother’s womb, and, while it is possible that he spokes in tongues, I find it rather unlikely.)

Also, on closer inspection of the UPC’s "proof Scriptures" for tongues being the initial evidence of a person receiving the Holy Ghost we find that one of the passages does not even qualify! Which one? Acts 19:1-6. The careful reader will note that the passage does not say that the 12 disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, it says that the Holy Ghost came upon them. This seems like a small difference, but it is a very important one. It was quite common all throughout the Old Testament for the Holy Spirit to "come upon" a person or group of people, yet we know from John 7:39 that the Spirit was not given until Jesus was glorified. (For examples of the Holy Ghost coming upon people in the Old Testament see the following Scriptures: Numbers 11:25, 24:2, Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 14:6, 14:19, 15:14, 1 Samuel 10:10, 11:6, 16:13, 19:20, 19:23, 1 Chronicles 12:18, 2 Chronicles 20:14.)

Finally, we have Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14:22 which says that tongues is a sign to the unbeliever, not the believer. The UPC view of tongues stands in direct opposition to Paul’s statement, because the UPC teaches that tongues is the initial evidence to the believer (and by extension to those around him or her) that they have received the Holy Ghost. So the UPC makes tongues a sign to the believer when it is actually meant to be a sign to the unbeliever.

So, to summarize, we actually have two Scripture passages showing where people spoke in tongues when they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:1-6 and Acts 10:44-48). In contrast to this we have a direct statement by Paul saying that not all believers speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30) and the absence of any record of Paul himself speaking in tongues when he received the Holy Ghost. Last but not least, we have the fact that tongues is supposed to be a sign to the unbeliever, not the believer.

In light of all of this evidence I am forced to conclude that there is a real contradiction between the UPC view and the biblical view of tongues. In other words, the UPC view of tongues is consistent with itself but it is not consistent with the entirety of Scripture. The fact that the UPC view is consistent with itself makes it sound very good, but when the entirety of Scripture is examined then one finds out that the UPC view is not consistent with the rest of Scripture.

So the score is now UPC 1 – Bible 1.

What can we learn from all of this? Well, if you are reading this article and you have never taken a philosophy course or a course in logic then you probably learned that an idea that seems so simple (like truth) can actually be quite complicated! In all seriousness, though, I am hoping that those who read this article will have a better idea of what truth actually is and that they will know how to apply the basic principles of logic to other doctrines and teachings to find out whether or not they are correct.

It is my hope and prayer that readers will always remember to check out the entirety of Scripture when examining doctrines to find out whether or not the doctrine conflicts with itself logically and whether or not it conflicts with other Scripture.

I Am Apostolic

Last Friday night I went to the final service for the UPC National Youth Congress 2007, held in Charlotte, NC. The worship leader who started the service got everyone “fired up” by telling the story of a conversation he had with a Muslim friend. He said that the Muslim friend asked him why all of the UPC women had long hair. His answer to his Muslim friend was, “Because we’re Christian!!” Of course he also told his Muslim friend that he believed in just one God, not in the Trinity! (The implication being that everyone who believes in the Trinity believes in three gods; belief in three gods is actually tritheism–a belief held by the Mormons–, not Trinitarianism, but that’s a discussion for a different article.)

So, that happened last Friday night. Then on Monday or Tuesday night I got in a long discussion with a Mormon. It was a very one-sided discussion since he didn’t give me a chance to talk. He just sat there and talked over me and just kept raising his voice when I tried to say anything. Interestingly enough, the Mormon gentleman also claimed to have “apostolic” doctrine. He claimed to believe what the apostles really taught. I’m not comparing the UPC to Mormonism, I’m only pointing out that quite a few groups with very different doctrines all claim to believe what the apostles really taught.

So where does this leave me? It leaves me with the belief that I am apostolic. The reason? I believe what the apostles taught. It’s really quite simple. It only becomes complicated when people try to come up with “new” revelations or new ideas that convince them and their followers that they alone really have truth and that everyone else is part of the “great falling away.”

Anyway, I believe what the apostles taught, and that makes me Apostolic. Here’s what they taught, and here’s what I believe:

Note: If this article looks like it’s really, really long then don’t worry; it’s not! A good portion of this article is composed of Scripture citations. I’ve pasted the Scriptures at the end of the article so that they will be easier to read. I have also put hyperlinks next to the Scripture references; you can click on them to be taken to the passage on-line.


I believe that Jesus was and is Immanuel, God with us (Mat. 1:231) and that He was born of the Virgin Mary (Mat. 1:231). How was He both God and man? Frankly, I don’t know and I really don’t care. All that I know is that there is only one God (Deu. 6:42) and Jesus is Him. Any attempt at explanation beyond that is nothing more than the mind of finite man trying to understand the workings of an infinite God. It will only result in useless debate–something which we were told by Paul to abstain from (1 Tim. 1:3-73).

I believe that Jesus was the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1-2, 144). I don’t know how God incarnated His Word, but He did. I guess being all-powerful lets Him do stuff like that.

I believe that Jesus “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-45). I believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, just like He said He would in John 2:18-216.

Justification (e.g., Salvation):

(Note: The word “justified” means “to be made righteous.” It’s what we mean today when we say salvation or being saved. To be justified means to be made acceptable to God [7].)

What do I believe about justification? I believe what the apostles John and Paul said about justification. This makes me Apostolic.

John said that those who received Christ were given the right to become children of God (John 1:10-138). Paul wrote that no person would be justified by the works of the Law (Rom. 3:209). He went on to say that a person is justified as a gift by the grace of God (Rom. 3:249), and that the justification comes by faith, not by works of the Law (Rom. 3:289). He said that since we have “been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:110), and that since we are “justified by Christ’s blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Rom. 5:911).

Paul made it abundantly clear that a person is justified by faith in Christ (Gal. 2:1612). Interestingly enough, He also made it clear that it is only faith, and nothing else, that justifies us (Rom. 3:289; Gal. 2:1612). This means that if a person has faith in anything other than Christ for their salvation then they are trusting that thing for their salvation, not Christ. So, let me ask you: Where’s your faith? Is it in your baptism? If you believe that you are saved because you were baptized the “right way” (I.e., in the Name of Jesus or in a Mormon temple) then that means that your faith is in your baptism, not in Jesus. If you believe that you are saved because you spoke in tongues then that means that your faith is in your tongues, not in Jesus.

Sanctification (e.g., Holiness, or Ongoing Righteousness after Justification):

I believe that Christ rose again so that we can live for Him (2 Cor. 5:1513). I also believe that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:1713). This means that sin does not have dominion over those who are saved (Rom. 6:11-1514). Notice that I did not say sin should not have dominion, I said that it does not have dominion. We all slip up and commit sins, but the apostle John made it clear that when that happens “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation [covering] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-215).

I believe that if anyone claims to be saved but they continue to live a lifestyle of sin without true repentance then they have turned “the grace of our God into licentiousness and [they are denying] our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:416). The word licentiousness means, amongst other things, “debauchery, sexual excess, absence of restraint, insatiable desire for pleasure, arrogance, insolence referring to words, wantonness, lustfulness, excessive pleasure, perversion in general (“G766”, The Complete Word Study Dictionary).

With this in mind, I believe that a person is known by their “fruits” (Mat. 7:16-2017). Jesus said that, not an apostle, so I guess that makes me “Jesus-tolic.” Just so there isn’t any confusion, Paul (who was an apostle) clarified what the deeds (or fruits) are. According to Paul, the fruits of the flesh are: “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkennous, carousing, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-2118). Unfortunately, I’ve known a lot of “One God Apostolic tongue-talkin’ Holy Rollin’ Born Again Believers in the Liberating Power of Jesus’ Name” who faithfully grow the fruits of the flesh.

On the other hand, the fruit of the Spirit (notice that the word fruit is singular, not plural) is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-2318). One of the things that caused me to first start questioning Oneness Pentecostal doctrine was the sheer number of Oneness Pentecostals filled with the deeds of the flesh and the sheer number of Trinitarian Christians who were cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. The Oneness Pentecostals would tell me that this is not sufficient evidence for salvation, but unfortunately the apostle John (note the emphasis on the word apostle) disagrees with them when he writes, “By this we know that we have come to know [Christ], if we keep His commandments….The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected….By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:3-619).

So it seems that growing the fruit of the Spirit and “walking like Christ walked” is valid evidence of a true relationship with God. On the other hand, growing the fruits of the flesh is valid evidence of the lack of a true relationship with God. That should scare a lot of Oneness Pentecostals. Especially when they see “big name” preachers speaking at rallies and initiating “mighty moves of God,” but they know that those same big name preachers are filled with jealousy and pride and that they are causing division, and that they have a real shortage of patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in their lives. Some would say that I am being too judgmental at this point, but I disagree: the apostle John told us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:120). Unfortunately, every movement that produces great emotion and tongues is not of God. (Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: The Mormons regularly spoke in tongues years before Azusa Street; see the article “Speaking In Tongues And The Mormon Church” from Berean Christian Ministries for more information.)

Please understand that I do not say this to pick on Oneness Pentecostals. There are plenty of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc., who grow the fruits of the flesh too. There are also plenty of them who are truly saved and who grow the fruit of the Spirit. I am only pointing out that true Apostolic doctrine has nothing to do with speaking in tongues, and everything to do with trusting Christ for salvation and showing the evidence of that salvation by the fruit of the Spirit that grows in our lives when we are branches attached to the Vine (John 15:4-521).


Now you know what I believe. I am Apostolic. I believe in One God Who’s Name is Jesus; I believe in justification through faith and sanctification by ongoing grace through faith; I believe that the evidence of salvation is shown through the fruit that grows in a person’s life. Furthermore, I believe that we all make mistakes and display our old unregenerated nature occasionally, but that the sign of salvation is that a person becomes more and more like Christ as time goes on. Furthermore, I believe that this Christ-like nature can only be produced by the grace of God when a person (branch) is grafted into Christ (the Vine) (John 15:421; Rom. 11).

Now, let me ask you: Do we really need more than this? In a nutshell I have summed up Apostolic doctrine. Moreover, I’ve done it on the spur of the moment at work and in less than two hours. I’m not saying that to brag about my biblical knowledge, I am saying it to make the exact opposite point: Apostolic doctrine is simple! A person doesn’t need a “new revelation” and they don’t need 16 gazillion Bible studies on why the Trinity is wrong and Oneness is correct (or vice versa). (For that matter, if a person believes that they are saved because of their belief in Oneness doctrine or Trinitarian doctrine then their faith is in the wrong place anyway). There’s One God, Jesus is His Name, and our faith needs to be in Him, not in how He accomplished the Incarnation.

That’s it. That’s the gospel. It’s Apostolic doctrine, and it’s what I believe.

I am Apostolic.

Oh, and one more thing: Here’s what I don’t believe. I don’t believe that Christians should divide and fight over non-salvation issues such as what’s said over you in baptism, the meaning of baptism, the nature of the Godhead, whether or not individuals are predestined, whether or not a person can “lose their salvation,” or what color the bathrooms are painted. I told that to a UPC friend one time and she mockingly asked me if I was just saying that we should all love each other and throw doctrine out the window. Well, I’m certainly not saying to throw doctrine out the window, but I am saying that we should hold fast to primary doctrines but avoid turning molehills into mountains (or unity into division) when it comes to issues that have absolutely nothing to do with a person’s salvation (such as eternal security or the color of the bathrooms).

And I am also saying that yes, we should love one another. Read Romans 14…especially the part where Paul says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another….To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (422), and then skip down to verse 1723 and read, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” When I read the New Testament I find that Paul brings up the subject of love and unity more times than I have tried to count, so it sounds to me like Paul considered it a lot more important than most of the things that Christians fight and divide over.

In Christ,
Josh Spiers


All Scripture references are from the 1995 edition of the NASB text unless otherwise noted.

Words that are in all capital letters are printed that way by the NASB editors to show that the author is quoting from an Old Testament text.

Words in bold print are words that I have bolded for emphasis.

  1. Mat 1:23
  2. Deu 6:4
    (4) “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!Note: Lest a Oneness believer thinks that the NASB has “Trinitarianized” this passage, I would like to point out that the JPS (Jewish Old Testament, who’s translators firmly do not believe in the Trinity) translates this passage the same way.
  3. 1Ti 1:3-7
    (3) As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
    (4) nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
    (5) But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
    (6) For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,
    (7) wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
  4. Joh 1:1-2
    (1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    (2) He was in the beginning with God.
    (14) And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  5. 1Co 15:3-4
    (3) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
    (4) and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
  6. Joh 2:18-21
    (18) The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”
    (19) Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
    (20) The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
    (21) But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
  7. “G1344”. The Complete Word Study Dictionary
  8. Joh 1:10-13
    (10) He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
    (11) He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
    (12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
    (13) who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
  9. Rom 3:19-28
    (19) Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
    (20) because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
    (21) But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
    (22) even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
    (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
    (24) being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
    (25) whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
    (26) for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
    (27) Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
    (28) For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
  10. Rom 5:1
    (1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…
  11. Rom 5:8-9
    (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
    (9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
  12. Gal 2:16
    (16) nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
  13. 2Co 5:14-17
    (14) For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
    (15) and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
    (16) Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
    (17) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
  14. Rom 6:11-15
    (11) Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
    (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,
    (13) and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
    (14) For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
    (15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
  15. 1Jn 2:1-2
    (1) My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
    (2) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
  16. Jud 1:4
    (4) For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
  17. Mat 7:16-20
    (16) “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
    (17) “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
    (18) “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
    (19) “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
    (20) “So then, you will know them by their fruits.
  18. Gal 5:18-24
    (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
    (19) Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
    (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
    (21) envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
    (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
    (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
    (24) Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
  19. 1Jn 2:3-6
    (3) By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
    (4) The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
    (5) but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
    (6) the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
  20. 1Jn 4:1
    (1) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
  21. Joh 15:4-5|
    (4) “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
    (5) “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
  22. Rom 14:4
    (4) Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
  23. Rom 14:17
    (17) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

When is Truth no longer true?

Have you ever seen a house built out of cards? They’re amazing! I did a Google search to try to find a picture of one, and I found the Web site of the guy who holds the world record in building card houses. His record? Over 25 feet high. The thing is, I think the UPC’s record beats his by a few hundred feet. Why? Because the UPC’s theology is nothing more than a house built out of cards.

I mean, look at this picture:


You’ve got to admit that this guy is nothing short of amazing (check out his Web site for more pictures).

But now I want you to imagine something. Imagine that Felix the wonder kitten comes into the room and decides to scratch his back on the card house. Imagine that wonder kitty knocks out one of the four columns that the house stands on. What do you think would happen?

Well, from the look of the picture, the whole thing would collapse. But let’s say it doesn’t. Let’s say that it still manages to stand…except now it’s really tilted and unstable.

A few minutes pass, and then Felix the wonder kitten decides to sharpen his claws on the table that the house of cards is standing on. Now he takes out column number 2! And what happens? Well…Felix the wonder cat has just now used up one of his nine lives because he just got crushed by a massive amount of cards.

See, that’s the problem with a house of cards. It’s inherently unstable. It looks really, really nice, but if a strong wind (or an inquisitive cat) comes along and knocks just a few of the cards out then it’s no longer a house of cards. It’s then a pile of cards!

And that’s the problem with the UPC belief system. I am convinced that it is nothing more than a house of cards.

Here’s what I mean: The UPC has a fairly unique idea of truth. They believe that they alone possess truth, and that everyone else is wrong. The reason that this is unique is because most Christian denominations are more than willing to admit that they could be wrong about something. That’s why most denominations have a statement of faith that covers the things that they think are really important (usually things such as the virgin birth, the physical death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.), but then they recognize that there are plenty of other things that the Bible just doesn’t make clear.

Well, the UPC doesn’t take that stance. The UPC believes that it’s right, and that’s that. There’s very, very little room for debate. The UPC’s mentality works like this:

– We have truth
– Therefore we are right

If anyone questions why they have truth then they claim it’s because they have the Holy Ghost. Of course, what they really mean is that they speak in tongues, but that’s a separate issue.

Anyway, here’s the point: The UPC has built a house of cards. They have told their people that they are completely, 100%, totally right about everything. No room for doubting, no room for error, the UPC is right.

But then…what happens when the UPC is wrong?

Take make-up for instance. I am firmly convinced that a person simply cannot make a Biblical case for make-up being a sin. You just can’t do it. Why? Because it’s not in the Bible! There are three Scriptures—three!—that even mention make-up, and they don’t have anything bad to say about it! Yet the UPC claims that it is wrong for a woman to wear make-up.

And what about pants? More and more UPCers are admitting to me that they see nothing wrong with a woman wearing pants. But here’s the problem: The reason that they continue to refuse to wear pants is because they say that they “have the Truth”!

The same goes for make-up, jewelry, and a host of other issues that more and more UPCers are seeing are not based on sound Biblical exegesis [interpretation].

Think about that for a moment.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, I’ll tell ya’ :)

What’s happening is that more and more cards are being pulled out of the UPC’s theological house. Beliefs about make-up are going, jewelry is going, TVs are long gone, pants are mostly gone (show me a UPC woman who doesn’t wear pajama pants and I’ll show you a rare UPC woman). But yet many people in the UPC are still convinced that Jesus’ Name baptism and speaking in tongues are necessary for salvation, so they continue to adhere to things that they no longer believe. Why? Because they are convinced that they “have the Truth.”

So my question to them is this: When is Truth no longer true?

In other words, how many cards do we have to pull out before we realize that our house of cards is no longer a house? How many beliefs do we have to recognize are wrong before we recognize that there’s something wrong with the whole system?

It was the realization that the UPC’s belief system is a house of cards that was one of the main factors in my decision to leave. At some point in 2006 I realized that there was no way the UPC could have a “special revelation” from God and still hold to so many biblically unfounded beliefs.

I simply realized that Truth has to be true. If the UPC “has Truth” or is “in the Truth” then what it teaches will be, well, true! On the other hand, if even one of the UPC’s cardinal teachings is found to be incorrect then that brings the whole system under fire. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all wrong, but it does mean that a person should seriously examine it to find out what else is wrong with system.


I think that many people have already recognized that certain UPC doctrines are wrong. I encourage those people to examine the rest of what the UPC teaches to find out whether or not it’s correct. After all, it’s God’s Word that will judge us, not a denomination’s statement of faith.

Finally, I had two different UPC friends make this statement to me when we were talking about fallacies in the UPC’s beliefs: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” They both admitted that there were many things that the UPC teaches that they don’t believe, but they still believe the “main doctrines” (I.e., tongues, baptism, and hair for these two people), so they warned me to “not throw out the baby with the bath water.”

Here was my response to them: “There is no baby!”

Too many cards are gone. The house has collapsed. I am convinced that the UPC doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Therefore, when I left I didn’t throw out the baby with the bath water…I just walked away from a pile of cards that collapsed a long time ago.


The loss of our heroes

It seems that the hardest problem for people to face when they leave the UPC is the one of figuring out what they believe and who they can trust. I know it’s an issue that I faced, and from the forums that I have participated in and the discussions that I have been a part of I know that others have faced it well.

Today I was thinking about this and it struck me that if a person was raised in the UPC (as I was) then their greatest heroes are generally people in the UPC. My heroes were certain preachers who I saw as being full of wisdom and compassion, godliness and grace, mercy and anointing. These were the men that I aspired to be like more than anything else in the world. I wanted to have the tenacity that they had to "hold on to Truth." I wanted to have the anointing that they did and affect people in the same ways that they affected people.

But when I left the UPC I found out that some of my heroes are actually enemies of the gospel. This does not make them bad men–far from it! They are not knowingly enemies of the gospel; they are doing what they are convinced is right. But yet I see that every time they "win a soul" to the UPC they are doing just that–winning a soul to the UPC (which is a far cry from winning a soul to the gospel).

Some might think I’m being melodramatic, but I do not think that it’s possible to overestimate the importance of heroes in our lives. We all have them, and we all need them. But where do we go when our heroes are stripped away?

I think that the best place we can go is to Jesus. We can let Him become our hero. And how do we do this? By focusing on His life, His character, and His ministry. After all, isn’t our goal to be "just like Jesus"?

I think that the best thing a person can do when leaving the UPC is to pick up a Bible (one that’s not the KJV) and read through one or two of the gospels. Then read through some of the epistles (especially James, 1st and 2nd Peter, and Galatians) with the goal of applying it, not just understanding it.

When we leave the UPC we seek so much to understand. We want to understand doctrine and to find out exactly what we believe. But in the last year I have found out that if a person seeks to just know Christ then understanding will come. This isn’t to say that a person should throw head knowledge out the window of course! There’s nothing wrong with seeking to understand the Bible. But let your main focus be Christ. After all, isn’t it He who shed His blood to redeem us and who rose again so that we might be free?

Why study?

One of the issues that pops up over and over again when people leave the UPC is the issue of trust. I was reminded of this again this evening as I was talking with my family about some of the reasons that I left the UPC. As we were talking, my sister-in-law stopped us to ask a question; she wanted to know why all of the study is necessary. She wanted to know why a person can’t just read the Bible and be saved. She and my mother even hinted that all of my Bible study might be getting me into trouble with God.

The first thing to understand when answering that question is that the Bible is designed so that anyone can pick it up, read it, and be saved. At the same time, the Bible is an incredibly deep book. If a person picks up three Bibles–let’s say the King James Bible, New American Standard Bible, and The Message–then one will rapidly see that all Bible translations are not the same. One does not have to read for very long before they realize that there are many differences, small and large, between Bible translations. The miraculous thing is that the average person could pick up any one of these Bibles, read it, and be saved. God has ensured that the salvation message is not lost.

So why do I do all of the Bible study that I do? The reason is that I think of Christianity like flying a plane or steering a boat. Very small course corrections lead to major problems over long distances. If I am flying a plane and I am even a part of a degree off then I am going to miss my destination. Unfortunately there are many denominations that are off course right now. There are many individuals within those denominations who are saved, but the denominations as a whole are heading in an unhealthy direction.

I am convinced that the UPC is one of those denominations. That’s why I left.

My concern is with the health of Christianity as a whole. I cannot stay in a denomination that I feel is heading in the wrong direction. Of course, none of us will ever agree 100% with every other believer or every other denomination. But I want to align myself with a church that is making every effort possible to stick to Biblical truth.

C.S. Lewis–my favorite Christian author–described Christianity as a table (or he may have been describing God, I forget, but the analogy is still good). He said that it’s like a table. You look at the table, and it’s really simple. It’s got a few legs, it’s made of wood, and you put stuff on it. But if you want to know what the table is really made of then you have to understand molecules, atoms, physics, and many other things. It soon becomes impossible for the average person (meaning me) to tell you what a table is made of, or why it stays standing up.

This is the way that Christianity is. It is designed so that a person can look at it and say, “Oh, I need to place my faith in Christ and believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and follow Him.” But if a person really wants to understand the WHY of Christianity, then you have to go deep. You have to start dealing with the molecules and atoms of theology.

I want to know what makes Christianity tick. I want to go as deep as I can, because that’s what I feel that is what God is calling me to do. I understand that not everyone feels the same way, but I have a responsibility to “present [myself] approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NASB).

Is God upset with my studying? Is He going to deliberately deceive me because I am trying to understand His Word rather than following after men who speak in tongues? I don’t think so. John told people to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world” (1 John 4:1 NASB). Now, I don’t know how John intended for people to “test the spirits,” but the only way that I know to do it is by comparing doctrines to the Word of God. Sure, no one’s going to see eye-to-eye on everything any more than every scientist is going to see eye-to-eye on the structure of sub-atomic particles. But I want to be as close to the source as I can get.

I guess if I miss it then I’ll have to fall back on the mercy of God, because that’s what this whole Christian thing is about anyway. I’m going to try my darndest to be in Truth, but I know that it’s not my studying or my knowledge that’s going to save me in the end; I will only be saved by “the grace of God” which brings “salvation to all men” (Tit. 2:11).

Why is questioning so bad?

I have a question. Why is it considered so bad to question doctrine in the UPC (and associated organizations)? I don’t think that I have ever heard a preacher get up and say that it is wrong to question doctrine, but I spent over 26 years in the UPC, and the impression that I always had is that it is a horrible sin to question doctrine.

Of course, some doctrines are worse to question than others (according to the typical UPC preacher). The doctrine that is #1 on the list of taboo’d doctrines is the doctrine of the Oneness of God. Other ones are high on the list as well, such as baptism in Jesus’ Name, speaking in tongues as the evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost, and more.

But aren’t we commanded in the Scriptures to question what we are taught?

For example, look at these Scriptures:

Now these were more noble-minded…for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:10-12 NASB).

The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked(1Jo 2:4-6 NASB).

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Gal 1:6-9 NASB).

Here’s something that might shock some members of the UPC (it sure shocked me when I found out!): The “different gospel” that Paul was writing about was a return to the Mosaic Law!

Think about the implications of this for a moment.

You see, the UPC often uses this Scripture to tell people that anyone who preaches any doctrine other than the Oneness-Pentecostal-Holiness (a.k.a. UPC) doctrine is preaching a “different gospel,” but Paul was saying that the “different gospel” is a gospel that tells people to try to earn their salvation through acts of the Law!

But, you say, the UPC doesn’t teach the Law…or do they?

How about this:

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God (Deu 22:5 NASB).

That’s straight out of the Mosaic Law! (Remember that the Mosaic Law is not the entire Old Testament, it is only parts of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.)

Is this really important, though? Sure it is! Look at what Paul said here:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Gal 5:1-4 NASB).

See that? “[Y]ou who are seeking to be justified by the law [the Mosaic Law]’ you are fallen from grace.”

(Now, some of you scholars out there might be thinking that the UPC does not teach that women wearing dresses is necessary for justification. My response is that I don’t think the UPC has a clear distinction between justification and sanctification. Everything is all wrapped up together. Like a friend of mine told me the other day, “The UPC is a package deal–take it or leave it.” In my whole time in the UPC I can only remember meeting two preachers who could give definitions of justification and sanctification. I certainly never heard the topics preached.)

OK, now that I’ve satisfied the scholars, let me get back to my original question: What’s so bad about questioning what we’re taught? Paul told Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NASB). John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NASB).

Read through the New Testament and you will see time and time again where people were encouraged to study Scripture. The best example of this is from the passage that I cited at the beginning of this blog:

“The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men’ (Act 17:10-12 NASB).

I hardly even need to explain this Scripture passage, but I’ll give some quick background. Paul and Silas were going around on a missionary trip, and they came across a group of Christians who were getting together in the local Jewish synagogue and “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” What things? The things they were being taught! Did Paul and Silas condemn them for this? Did they tell the Bereans that they needed to just “listen to their pastor”? Did they preach a sermon on David and Saul to the Bereans, letting them know to “touch not God’s anointed”? No! Far from it! Paul and Silas commended them, and said that they were “more noble-minded” than some of the other groups, because they didn’t just receive the word, but they examined the word to make sure that it was correct!

Folks, don’t be afraid to question what the preacher is saying! Just because he claims to be preaching “under the anointing” does not mean that what he is preaching is correct! Just because you get goosebumps and get all excited doesn’t mean that the Spirit of God is approving of the message! Show respect for the preacher, but don’t be afraid to get into the Bible and study Scripture out for yourself! You just might be surprised at what you find when you do! :)

Response to UPC Bible study on Make-up

Response to a Bible study written by Rev. M.G. Blankenship. Found at http://www.apostolic.edu/biblestudy/files/bwahprt3.htm.
Accessed 12/21/06.

I am not going to reprint the entire study because it would take too much space. What I will do is show a piece from the Bible study and then respond to it. I do recommend that you read the entire Bible study and form your own conclusions.

Spelling and editing errors in the italicized errors are the mistake of the author of the Bible study that I am responding to. Spelling and editing errors in the rest of the article are my mistake.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

This is an issue of association: Without exception, every example of makeup in the Bible is associated with wicked women. Queen Jezebel when trying to seduce Jehu: ( who was a VERY WICKED WOMAN)

II Kings 9:30 "And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard [of it]; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window."

** Let’s be honest: we would have to recognize that what we call makeup is really nothing more than painting your face. THEREFORE, I could say I am going to Builder’s Square and buy a five gallon bucket of makeup for my house. The only difference between normal & a clown is the amount. Somehow, paint sounds cheap, but makeup is "cultural." – but it’s the same thing. Even the world acknowledges someone "overdone" as a "Jezebel"

Eye makeup started in Egypt about 3000BC . Egypt is a type of sin and bondage throughout the Bible. (it sure didn’t start in Israel among God’s people)

My Response:

Just because something started in Egypt, and Egypt is traditionally a type of sin, does not make something inherently evil. Egypt was one of the first civilizations to use irrigation, so is irrigation inherently evil? Of course not! The fact is that Egypt existed for thousands of years before the Hebrews were called out, so they had plenty of ideas. Just because they did something does not make it wrong. Egypt is a type of sin because the Israelites were held in bondage there. It was not a type of sin because of any particular thing that they did.

Now let’s look at Jezebel. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married King Ahab (note that she was not Egyptian). Jezebel was definitely an evil woman, but she was not evil because she painted her face. That has nothing to do with it. She was evil because she persecuted the prophets of God and things like that.

The point is this: If we cannot wear make-up because Jezebel painted her face, then we also cannot "adorn" our hair or look out a window.

See the logic here? Just because an evil person happened to do something does not mean that the action is evil.

Also, for what it’s worth, the only time Jezebel is mentioned in the NT is when a prophetess is called a "Jezebel" by Jesus. The reason? She was leading Christians to commit acts of immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. Nothing about make-up there.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Look at Solomon’s advice to young men:

Proverbs 6:25 "Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids."

Painting the face is direct, simple pride & vanity at its rawest form . It is simply designed for sex appeal; it has no other purpose.

My Response:

The commandment in Proverbs 6:25 is to not lust after adulturesses. The statement, "Neither let her take thee with her eyelids" may or may not have anything to do with eye paint. The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (one of the better Old Testament commentaries) has this to say about the subject: "The warning, ‘let her not catch thee with her eyelids,’ refers to her (the adulteress’s) coquettish ogling and amorous winking ((Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, Johann (C.F.) Keil (1807-1888) & Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Prov. 6:25))." Of course, other commentaries (such as JFB and Clarke) think that the verse is talking about eye shadow ((A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Prov. 6:25)). We just don’t know for sure. Either way, the debate about whether or not "take thee with her eyelids" refers to eye shadow is pointless. The passage does not command women to not wear eye shadow, it only commands men to not lust after adulturesses. Men will lust over women whether or not they’re wearing eye shadow.

I also do not think it’s fair or right to say that make-up is "simply designed for sex appeal." (Note that this is the same view that the UPCI takes in their doctrinal section when they say, "Since the primary effect of makeup is to highlight sex appeal, we reject makeup as immodest ((United Pentecostal Church International – Modesty, Accessed 2006-12-21 20:02:31)).")

This is not right.

Just because a woman uses make-up to enhance her physical appearance does not mean that she’s out looking for sex. If we follow this logic than anything that we do to enhance our physical appearance is "immodest."

Is it wrong to put on deoderant? Is trying to smell nice enhancing our sex appeal? What about brushing our hair, or wearing matching socks? See where this is heading? Everyone wants to look nice, and there’s nothing wrong with that! The problem only comes when someone is obsessed with their physical appearance to the point of neglecting modesty or inward holiness.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

In the scripture: it always denoted boldness, seduction, ostentation and even prostitution.


Jeremiah 4:30 "And [when] thou [art] spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; [thy] lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life." Ezekiel 23:38-40 "Moreover this they have done unto me; they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths. For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of mine house. And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger [was] sent; and, lo, they came: for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments."

My Response:

Jer. 4:30 is not even hinting that women should not wear make-up. It only says, "In vain you make yourself beautiful." I will reverse the argument by making this point: If this Scripture teaches that we can’t wear make-up to make ourselves look beautiful then it also means that we can’t wear scarlet or any gold. (Of course, there are some extremely fundamental churches that teach against wearing red or any gold, but they are the minority).

If Ezekiel 23:40 is associating make-up with harlotry, then it’s also associating taking a bath with harlotry. (I haven’t showered yet this morning, so I don’t suppose I’m a harlot yet today…but that will change before I go out this afternoon.) Please forgive the sarcasm, but you see how ludicrous this train of thought is!

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Esther 2:13 "Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house. 14 In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name. 15 Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her."

The royal courts of the king used cosmetics & jewelry. SHE RELIED ON INNER BEAUTY RATHER THAN MAKEUP TO WIN THE KING All she used was oil of myrrh perfume, and preparations to beautify the skin: (IE: perfumes, lotions, skin care, etc…)

Esther 2:12 "Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women"

My Response:

I do not mean to offend anyone, but this is possibly one of the worst examples of taking a Scripture out of context that I have ever seen! Esther was purified for six months with oil of myrhh and six months with spices and "things" (KJV) or "cosmetics" (NASB). (In reality the word that the KJV translates "things" and the NASB translates "cosmetics" refers to "ritual purification following menstruation ((The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc., H8562))"; it is a difficult word to translate into English). Anyway, this is the point: The Bible never says Esther only used "lotions" and what-not…she was PURIFIED with them for one year. When she went into King Ahasuerus she could request whatever she wanted (verse 13), but the SECOND time that she was summoned to the King she only took what "Hegai, the king’s eunuch…advised" (verse 15).

Follow the pattern? Read the verses again: Esther goes into see the king, and she wears whatever she wants (13). Now she waits to see if the king calls her again (14). The king did call her again, and this time she goes with only what Hegai (who was the king’s eunuch, and who knew what the king liked) advised. The Bible says nothing about what Esther wore, only that she wore what Hegai advised the second time she went to see the king .

The girl could have been painted hot pink for all we know. If that’s what Hegai advised, then that’s what she did. The Bible just doesn’t say either way.

Also, let me make another point. The author of this Bible study is comparing Esther to Jezebel, like Esther is good and Jezebel is bad. Think about Esther for a second. Was she really that good?

The Babylonian diaspora (captivity) was over, and the Jews had been freed to return to their homeland, but Esther had stayed in Persia. When Esther was summoned to the king she hid her Jewish heritage. When the king selected her she married him, which was a cross-racial marriage–a direct violation of the Mosaic Law. Not only did she marry him, but she continued to keep her heritage a secret. We do not know what all she had to do to accomplish that, but it certainly involved breaking at least some of the ceremonial law (I.E. with the foods she ate, etc). THEN when she finds out that all her people are going to die, she’s still not sure what to do! Esther basically told Mordecai that she could not do anything because she had not been summoned to the king (Esther 4:11). Boo-hoo! In other words, Esther is so scared for her own skin that she’s debating whether or not to even help the Jews.

Esther finally got her act together, and it all turned out for the good. Now we view Esther as a heroine because of what she did, but the fact is that she was a backslidden, apostate Hebrew who only got her act together when the going got rough. Up until then she was hardly the role model that we make her out to be.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

DID YOU KNOW? American colonies between 1700-1800 makeup was outlawed? *** up until 1945-1950, it was considered sin by most churches

My Response:

It was considered sin for hundreds of years to defy the Roman Catholic church and to not take the sacraments. That doesn’t mean they were right. Man-made laws do not define what is Scripturally correct or incorrect.

Rev. Blankenship writes:


Acts 5:29 "Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather that men."

*** These are issues that do not always have specific scriptures of complete prohibition. *** ( Rather these are issues of Biblical Association )


EXO 38: 8 "And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation."

The Laver of water was a piece of furniture that gained them access to the Holy Place! It was made of the mirrors of the woman…

My Response:

Are mirrors a sin? Either they are or they aren’t. Nowhere does the Bible command women to give up their mirrors or their make-up.

I agree that we should follow God and not society. The fact remains, though, that God never said anything about not wearing make-up.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Bro. Wayne Huntley one time said…"Revival will come when we get the mirrors out of the women’s hands!" His point: (symbolically) Our woman must get over this self conscious hurdle of the world.

My Response:

If Bro. Wayne Huntley means that women [and men] need to be more concerned with inward beauty and holiness than they do outward beauty, then I agree with him (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9-10) (although I’m not sure that will alone bring revival).

Furthermore, I don’t think it’s right that the UPC picks on women so much about their appearance. I spent my whole life in Oneness Pentecostal churches, and I promise you that there are just as many vain men as there are vain women. The same goes for the rest of society.

My Conclusion:

Here’s the point, folks: The New Testament repeatedly makes it clear that God wants inner purity and holiness. On at least one occasion (1 Tim. 2:9-10) Paul instructs women to be more concerned with that than with outward beauty. However, the New Testament never dictates any rules of apparel–whether it be clothing, jewelry, or make-up. For that matter, the OLD TESTAMENT never taught against make-up either. It’s just not there.

Folks, holiness is necessary, but it works from the inside out. The Bible never gave any church the right to dictate standards of dress (such as no make-up). The Bible is the rule of authority, not us. If a woman has a problem with vanity and she feels that she needs to give up wearing make-up, then that’s between her and God. We have no right to create a universal rule that says make-up is inherently sinful, and women should not wear it. When we do that we are trying to force holiness into a person from the outside, and that just doesn’t work.

Response to UPC Bible study on Jewelry

Response to a Bible study written by Rev. M.G. Blankenship. Found at http://www.apostolic.edu/biblestudy/files/bwahprt3.htm.
Accessed 12/21/06.

I am not going to reprint the entire study because it would take too much space. What I will do is show a piece from the Bible study and then respond to it. I do recommend that you read the entire Bible study and form your own conclusions.

Spelling and editing errors in the italicized errors are the mistake of the author of the Bible study that I am responding to. Spelling and editing errors in the rest of the article are my mistake.

Something to think about :

I think that this Bible study is a prime example of how the UPC takes Scripture and twists it to make their point. Almost anything (including genocide) can be justified through the Bible…if you’re willing to twist Scripture to do it. Please keep that in mind as you go through this Bible study. What Rev. Blankenship writes looks really good on the surface, but when you delve in a little deeper you find that it’s all smoke and mirrors. Of course, I am not bashing him or his ministry in any way (I don’t even know the man, and I certainly have nothing against him). I believe he is very sincere in what he writes, but being sincere does not make someone correct.

We must always work up from the Bible. This means that we look at what the Bible says and we take our beliefs from it. We must never take our beliefs and then work down by trying to find Scriptures to justify what we already believe to be true.
With that in mind, let’s begin.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

The scripture often associates "excessive" jewelry with Pride & Idolatry. — look how consistently the association is made.
When Jacob went back to Bethel to renew his relationship with God, he disposed of all the idols & earrings owned by his family.

Genesis 35:2 "Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that [were] with him, Put away the strange gods that [are] among you, and be clean, and change your garments: (Verse :4) And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which [were] in their hand, and ]all their] earrings which [were] in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which [was] by Shechem."

My Response:

The earrings that Jacob’s family was wearing were almost certainly related to idolatry, but this does not mean that anyone who was wearing earrings is practicing idolatry. Also, there is nothing at all in the text that says that Jacob’s family was wearing "excessive jewelry." This is what the JFB commentary has to say:

[T]hey gave unto Jacob all the strange gods … and earrings — Strange gods, the “seraphim” (compare Gen. 31:30), as well, perhaps, as other idols acquired among the Shechemite spoil – earrings of various forms, sizes, and materials, which are universally worn in the East, and, then as now, connected with incantation and idolatry (compare Hos. 2:13). The decided tone which Jacob now assumed was the probable cause of the alacrity with which those favorite objects of superstition were surrendered ((A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Gen. 35:4)).

The JFB interpretation–which appears to be the majority interpretation by OT scholars–makes sense. Jacob was obviously cleaning his house of anything relating to false gods. However, it is my opinion that it is rather ridiculous to assume that anyone who wears earrings today is practicing idolatry just because Jacob’s family did it several thousand years ago.

Thousands of years ago people built altars to false gods and sacrificed things such as bread, fruit, and meat to them. Does this mean that it is wrong to cook over a campfire today? Are we practicing idolatry just because someone did something similar 5,500 years ago when they practiced idolatry?

Almost everything that we do today can in some way, shape, or form be associated with a pagan custom. This does not mean that these same things descended from pagan customs.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Look at God’s response to Israel after they made the golden calf out of their jewelry.

Exodus 33:4-6 "And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye [are] a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb. " — (stiffnecked had to do with the long gold neck collars)

Where did God’s people get the jewelry anyway?—Exodus 11:2– God told them to borrow it from the Egyptian neighbors prior to the exodus: His intent was to use it for his use, not their personal ornamentation. It was due to its value, not vanity!

My Response:

When reading this passage it is important to remember that the sin was the false calf, not the jewelry. It is also important to do some basic Bible study before drawing a conclusion–especially when trying to draw a doctrinal conclusion from a narrative text. Old Testament Christian commentators as well as Jewish commentators agree that removing jewelry was a sign of mourning or sorrow in the Near East. Clarke points out that the custom was still observed when he wrote his commentary in the 18th century ((Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Ex. 33:5)).

I am not an Old Testament scholar so I will not attempt to interpret this passage. Instead, I recommend that you read Adam Clarke’s comments on this passage. You can find them here.

Clarke explains the historical context of the passage, but the K&D commentary succinctly sums up what was going on:

That this good beginning of repentance might lead to a true and permanent change of heart, Jehovah repeated His threat in a most emphatic manner: “Thou art a stiff-necked people; if I go a moment in the midst of thee, I destroy thee:” i.e., if I were to go up in the midst of thee for only a single moment, I should be compelled to destroy thee because of thine obduracy. He then issued this command: “Throw thine ornament away from thee, and I shall know (by that) what to do to thee ((Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, Ex. 33:5)).

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the word "stiffnecked" has absolutely nothing to do with "long gold neck collars." The Hebrew word that the KJV translates "stiffnecked" is actually two words–H7186 and H6203. The best equivalent word in English is probably "obstinant," which is just how the NASB translates it (I.E. "You are an obstinate people"…etc.).

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Another time Israel received gold from the Midianites, they offered it to God.( which is the proper response)

Numbers 31:50-51 "We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD. And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, [even] all wrought jewels."

My Response:

The only comment that I will make on this passage is that one should back up and read the whole chapter before drawing any conclusion. If one reads the chapter they will find that the men of Israel won a battle, and a certain amount of the spoil was given to them. They voluntarily chose to give all of the jewelry as an offering to God. No one asked them to do it, they did it of their own free will.

It is sad that Blankenship chose this Scripture as an illustration of "pride & idolatry" (as he puts it). This is actually a beautiful example of a group of people giving a free-will offering to God out of their abundance.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

In Gidean’s day, Ishmaelites & Midianites were distinguished from the Israelites by their use of Jewelry & earrings.

Judges 8:24 "And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks. "

My Response:

There are two important things to note about this passage:

  1. The translation of "earrings" is debatable. JFB commentary claims that it should be "earring" (singular) ((A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Judges 8:24)). The NASB translates it "earring" as well: "Gideon said…"I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil"" (Judg. 8:24 NASB).
  2. Even if it does say "earrings" and not "earring," it is very dangerous to read too much into this passage. Frankly, we do not know why Gideon asked for the earrings. We must remember that jewelry was not always worn for the same purposes that we wear it today. It was often worn for idolatrous purposes (as in Gen. 35:2-4) or even for amulets and charms ((Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Gen. 35:4)). There were many, many different reasons to wear jewelry in the ancient Near East. It is extremely dangerous to read a passage like Judges 8:24, see that Gideon asked for the earrings from his fallen enemies, and then make a general inference (such as, "It’s a sin to wear jewelry").

Rev. Blankenship writes:


My Response:

I do not see the connection between not wearing jewelry and Israel being a type of the church. Remember, Israel was never commanded to not wear jewelry. It was not in the Mosaic Law. (It is important to remember that the Mosaic Law defines sin, like Paul said in Romans 7:7).

The point that I am making is this: If wearing jewelry is such a horrible sin, then why is it not once mentioned in the Mosaic Law or the New Testament? Why do we have to go searching through stories in the Bible, piecing together stories that involve jewelry, and try to form a doctrine out of it? Don’t we think that it would have popped up just once in the Pauline Epistles if it was a sin? Wouldn’t it have been a problem in at least one of the early churches? I know that this is an "argument from absence," but it is still powerful.

Rev. Blankenship writes:


Isa 3:16 "Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: 17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts. 18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, 19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, 20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, 21 The rings, and nose jewels, 22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, 23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils."

Even the articles of clothing that can be worn innocently, are judged here because of the spirit of pride. The same could be true for our generation.

My Response:

I’m going to repeat the passage from the NASB for clarity’s sake (the wording of the KJV is very archaic in this passage):

Isa 3:16-23 NASB
(16) Moreover, the LORD said, "Because the daughters of Zion are proud And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, And go along with mincing steps And tinkle the bangles on their feet,
(17) Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, And the LORD will make their foreheads bare."
(18) In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments,
(19) dangling earrings, bracelets, veils,
(20) headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets,
(21) finger rings, nose rings,
(22) festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses,
(23) hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.

Now, let’s look at this passage and find a list of things that women can’t do (according to Blankenship) because they’re a sign of pride:

  1. No wearing headbands
  2. No wearing veils (sorry to all you girls getting married soon)
  3. No wearing headdresses
  4. No wearing sashes
  5. No wearing perfume
  6. No wearing festal robes (no more dressing up for special occasions)
  7. No wearing outer tunics (ouch!)
  8. No carrying money purses
  9. No using hand mirrors
  10. No wearing underwear (hey, the Bible said it, not me! It’s in verse 23)

See a double standard here? If this passage is saying that we can’t wear jewelry because it’s a sign of pride, then it’s also saying that we can’t do the 10 things I just listed.

It can be one way or the other, it can’t be both.

Needless to say, God doesn’t have a problem with you wearing underwear (He wants you to, I promise). The issue in this passage is pride. Pride can manifest itself in a lot of different ways, and God will deal with it as necessary, on an individual basis.

You see, God dealt with Israel nationally, but He deals with us individually.

He dealt with the women of Israel on a national level because of the sins of the nation. He deals with women today on an individual basis. Instead of dealing with the symptoms, He deals with the cause. Pride can manifest itself in jewelry, sure, but it can also be manifested in hundreds of other ways–and that applies to both males and females. A fancy hair-do (ladies) or a fancy car (guys) can be just as much a symbol of pride as wearing 100 pounds of jewelry. You see, these things aren’t inherently evil on their own; They only become a problem when they’re a symptom of pride. In the Old Testament God dealt with the symptoms, in the New Testament He deals with the cause.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

*** SOMETHING TO THINK about : If pride & vanity is not the reason for wearing jewelry, then it should be no problem to dispose of it for the sake of your Christianity.

My Response:

This argument could be made for anything (a car, a house, a pet rabbit–anything). The fact of the matter is that God will tell you if He wants you to get rid of something. That’s between Him and you. The New Testament lays down no other pattern. Let me repeat that: The New Testament lays no foundation for the idea that we should give up jewelry because it’s "a sign of pride"!

(I should also point out that the argument that Blankenship makes here is probably the most common argument made for "holiness standards." Whenever I have discussed holiness standards with a UPC minister they retreat very rapidly to this argument. (I am talking about discussing it with them when I was still a member of the UPC! Even when I agreed with what they taught, they still had to retreat to this argument whenever I played devil’s advocate.) They back-peddle and say things like, "Don’t you want to get as close to God as you can? Why do people fight against these standards so much? They must be rebellious!" My answer is, "Yes, I do want to get as close to God as I can, but not wearing jewelry or make-up has nothing to do with whether or not a person is close to God. The only time a woman should have to give up these things is if she feels God has personally told her to for some reason.")

Rev. Blankenship writes:

If we want the glory of God in our life, in our homes, and our church, let’s deliver ourselves of our symbols of our vanity.
Take these things into consideration when choosing your dress & appearance, etc. Some good advice for our local church is the following….

Philippians 4:5 "Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord [is] at hand." ( Excessive jewelry is improper for a child of God )

My Response:

The word that the KJV translates "moderation" in Phil 4:5 actually means "gentleness" or "unassertiveness ((The Complete Word Study Dictionary, G1933))." Of course, temperance in all things is a good practice for a Christian to have; but that hardly justifies Blankenship’s conclusion (he concludes farther down in this article that no ornamental jewelry should be worn at all). That’s not temperance or moderation, that’s abstinence, and the Bible does not support that conclusion!

Rev. Blankenship writes:

What about the New Testament? (subject here is wives:)

I Peter 3:3-4 "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price"

REMEMBER BALANCE: It is obvious that a total prohibition of gold was not the point. For if that verse was an instruction to not wear any gold, then we would have to submit to not wearing any apparel either. Surely that is not the point! (smile)

My Response:

Finally, Rev. Blankenship and I agree! The point of this passage is not to say that women should not wear gold any more than it is to say that women should not wear clothes!! The point of this passage is that women’s concern should be about inward holiness more than outward looks!

Rev. Blankenship writes:

For us a good rule is : Let’s not wear things that have no value or use, other than ornamentation. Example of things that do have use beside ornamentation: wedding rings, tie tacks, watches, glasses, etc….

My Response:

Unfortunately, Blankenship and I must leave our new-found agreement behind, for I cannot agree with what he just said. When he instructs people to not wear anything that has "no value or use, other than ornamentation." He steps out of the Bible and starts laying arbitrary rules (stumbling-blocks) that have no Scriptural basis.

Rev. Blankenship writes:


My Response:

This is absolutely right! So why is he doing the Bible study? First, the "Laws" about jewelry don’t exist in the first place, and second, he should be dealing with the source of the problem (pride) and not the outward symptoms!

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Here is one of those principles… (recall the story of Esther)

Esther 2:12 " Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;) 13 Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house. 14 In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name. 15 Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. 16 So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti."

LADIES: You do not need to endeavor to be overly trendy in the worlds eyes… Listen to the chamberlain… (pastoral ministry) God is pleased with woman and men that will concentrate on holiness.

My Response:

I commented on this passage in my response to Blankenship’s study on Make-up, so I am not going to do so again here. Suffice it to say that this phrase–"[S]he did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch…advised"–does not mean that she did not wear make-up or jewelry!

Also–this is off-topic–I think it’s funny that he compared the "chamberlain" to the pastoral ministry. I’m not sure why the KJV translators translated "eunuch" as "chamberlain," and "harem" as "house," but they did. I’m going to cite part of the passage from the NASB so you can see what the text really says:

Est 2:14-15 NASB
(14) In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.
(15) Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.

I wonder what my pastor would think if I told him that his role is illustrated by the eunuchs who were in charge of the harems in the Old Testament? Now that would be an interesting conversation!

Rev. Blankenship writes:


Exo 25:1 "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. 3 And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, 4 And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, 5 And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, 6 Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, 7 Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it."

Take an offering – AND BUILD GOD A CHURCH!

My Response:

I think his conclusion is stretching it a bit. Go ahead and take an offering of everyone’s jewelry, but be sure to tell them to skin their pet badgers first. Oh, and to give all of their blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen. And if they raise livestock then they need to give all their goats’ hair too.

See where this is going? It’s like Isaiah 3:16-23; it can be one way or the other, it can’t be both ways. If God put this passage in the Bible because He wants us to give up all of our jewelry, then He also wants us to give up all of the other things listed here.

My Conclusion:

Blankenship’s selection of Scriptures is very one-sided, and they were often taken out of context. What he did is called “proof texting”—I.e., searching the Bible for Scriptures to verify what you already believe to be true. Proof texting is the opposite of what we should do—search the Scriptures to find out what God says is true.

Allow me to cite a few other Scriptures dealing with jewelry in the Bible, and you can tell me whether or not God hates it:

Isa 61:10 NASB
(10) I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Psa 45:6-9 NASB
(6) Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
(7) You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
(8) All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
(9) Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies; At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.

Isa 49:18 NASB
(18) "Lift up your eyes and look around; All of them gather together, they come to you. As I live," declares the LORD, "You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride.

Eze 16:8-14 NASB
(8) "Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine," declares the Lord GOD.
(9) "Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.
(10) "I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk.
(11) "I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck.
(12) "I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.
(13) "Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.
(14) "Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you," declares the Lord GOD.

Am I reading this correctly? Did God just tell Israel that He covered her with jewels, gold, silver, bracelets, and even gave her earrings and a nose ring? Hmmm. Doesn’t sound like God hates jewelry to me!

So, what does God hate? Pride! Read the next three verses…

Eze 16:15-17 NASB
(15) "But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing.
(16) "You took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen.
(17) "You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them.

See? God has no problem with jewelry. He does have a problem with pride! No matter how the pride manifests itself–whether it be through a fancy car today or fancy underwear in Isaiah–God hates it. Jewelry’s just not the issue. It never was, and it never will be.

Response to UPC Bible study on women wearing pants

Response to a Bible study written by Rev. M.G. Blankenship. Found at http://www.apostolic.edu/biblestudy/files/bwahprt2.htm.
Accessed 4/28/2007.

I am not going to reprint the entire study because it would take too much space. What I will do is show a piece from the Bible study and then respond to it. I do recommend that you read the entire Bible study and form your own conclusions.

Spelling and editing errors in the italicized errors are the mistake of the author of the Bible study that I am responding to. Spelling and editing errors in the rest of the article are my mistake.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Deut 22:5 "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a ma put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God."

One thing for sure: The "unisex" styles of our day are an abomination to God. It is a perverse hostility to God’s creation order! It is driven by spirits that wish to put humanity into rebellion.

My Response:

Rev. Blankenship starts his Bible study with a critical mistake: He assumes that Deu. 22:5 is talking about cross-dressing. Deuteronomy 22:5 could be talking about cross-dressing, but it is actually a very difficult verse to translate. Scholars are divided on the exact meaning. The careful reader will notice that Deu. 22:5 in the KJV says, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment." See the difference?

Literally in the Hebrew it says, "There shall not be the thing of a man on a woman, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment" (LITV). To complicate matters, the Hebrew word used for "garment" actually means the outer cloak that women wore during the day ((John C. Maxwell and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 5 : Deuteronomy, The Preacher’s Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987). 241.)) and (if they were poor) used as a blanket at night. The word for "garment" can also mean "clothing" in a general sense, so scholars are divided on how it is meant to be used in this passage. They are also divided on what exactly "the thing of a man" refers to.

The Preacher’s Commentary lists the four dominant views on this passage, and I will cite them here. I have put the citations in numbered form for easier reading, but I have not changed the wording:

  1. "One explanation is that this practice was associated with the religion of Canaan….Apparently women appeared in male garments and men in women’s clothes when they worshiped their pagan deities. Yahweh wanted His people to be unique and to do nothing that was in any way connected with foreign religions.
  2. Another theory is that this verse could refer to war. A woman was not to put on the trappings of a soldier or dress like a man in order to try to gain admission into the army. Nor were men to attempt to avoid military obligation by dressing as women.
  3. Another explanation often given for this ban is that it obscured the distinction between the sexes and therefore violated an essential part of the created order of life (Gen. 1:27). The Hebrew phrase for “pertains to” is used elsewhere in referring to decorations or utensils used by the opposite sex. During the days of Moses, garments worn by men and women were very similar (robes); so this command was designed to keep a woman from appearing as a man for purposes of licentiousness. The major difference between male and female robes was their decoration or ornamentation. This passage does not teach against women’s wearing slacks, hats, shoes, gloves, or other items that are now worn by both sexes, but rather against the wearing of any item specifically intended for the opposite sex. The distinctives of each sex should be maintained and protected in regard to outward appearance. The New Testament instruction in Galatians 3:28 that “there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” applied to status in God’s sight and not to dress. While we realize that we are one in Christ, recognition of the differences between the sexes is a principle worth safeguarding.
  4. Still another explanation is that this verse refers to the practice of transvestism, a deviant form of sexual behavior which is often characterized by cross-dressing. The verse says women should not wear things “pertaining to” the male. This phrase includes not only clothing, but also ornaments, weapons, and other items normally associated with men. In the second clause, women’s clothing is explicitly forbidden men ((Ibid.))."

These four explanations, while lengthy, serve to illustrate the fact that the translation of Deuteronomy 22:5 is highly debatable. The mistake that Rev. Blankenship makes is that he assumes that it must be talking about cross-dressing (he doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility of any other interpretation), and then he leaps to the conclusion that anything that could be considered "unisex" is an "abomination."

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Men & Women are different: Both Physically & Emotionally by creation. And God has placed certain social methods into place to maintain this difference. To guard against homosexuality & the decline of the family. Today we have women that look masculine & men that look feminine.

I Cor 6:9 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, "—> (webster’s: unsuitably womanish)

My Response:

First, I agree with Rev. Blankenship that acts of homosexuality are sin (cf. Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Tim. 1:10). Unfortunately, Rev. Blankenship makes two tremendous errors when he jumps from Deu. 22:5 to the subject of homosexuality. First, he is still assuming that Deu. 22:5 is talking about cross-dressing, when the meaning of the Scripture is debated. Second, he assumes that anyone who cross-dresses must be a homosexual! Anyone who has basic training in sexual deviancy knows that cross-dressing is not always (or even often) associated with homosexuality. I’m not an expert in this area, though, so I’ll quote the experts:

[Transvestitism is the] practice of wearing the clothes of the opposite sex (cross-dressing), generally to derive some kind of sexual pleasure. It is often mistakenly associated with homosexuality; in fact, however, transvestites may be either heterosexual or homosexual, and the practice of cross-dressing is sometimes even ridiculed among homosexuals. The transvestite must also be distinguished from the transsexual, who desires to become a functioning member of the opposite sex; most transvestites are men who comfortably fill male roles in society and are satisfied with their biological sex. Transsexuals, both male and female, are uncomfortable with their sex and are usually required to cross-dress for an extended period before they undergo surgery. That most transvestites are men is at least in part a result of the role of fashion in Western culture; in the mid-to-late 20th century Western women wearing trousers and other clothes once considered to be exclusively men’s clothes are not seen as deviant (("transvestism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 28 Apr. 2007)).

So the mistake that Rev. Blankenship makes here is that he continues his line of faulty reasoning. He first claimed that Deu. 22:5 must be talking about cross-dressing, so his conclusion was that "the ‘unisex’ styles of our day are an abomination to God." He then goes on to assume that anyone who engages in cross-dressing is a homosexual. While I agree with Rev. Blankenship that cross-dressing for the purpose of deriving sexual pleasure is a sin, I find it ridiculous to assume that anyone who wears an article of unisex clothing (such a woman wearing slacks) is a homosexual. The very idea is absurd! If that’s the case then either men or women are being an abomination to God every time that they wear any of these articles of clothing:

  • Jackets (don’t most coats and jackets look the same for men and women?)
  • Shoes (do men and women need to have separate shoe styles so that they won’t be considered unisex?)
  • Watches (many men’s dress watches look like women’s watches, and vice versa)
  • Glasses (shouldn’t we have glasses that are designed specifically for men and women? I’d hate for someone to look at my shades and think that I was a transvestite)
  • Isn’t this kind of absurd?

The point here is that the UPC has taken slacks and created a huge issue out of them, and left every other article of clothing on the sidelines. If the UPC would apply their rules consistently then I could respect their views, even though I disagree with them. But when I see UPC pastors preach against women wearing slacks from the pulpit, and then I go visit them in their homes and see their wives and daughters walking around in pajama pants, then I see hypocrisy, not holiness.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

[Rev. Blankenship spends the next few paragraphs in his study arguing that Deuteronomy is part of the moral law of God, not the ceremonial law. I am not going to discuss that here for two reasons: 1) As I have already said, the translation of Deu. 22:5 is debated, so until we know exactly what God was talking about then it’s pointless to discuss whether the law was moral or ceremonial; and 2) If Deu. 22:5 is talking about transvestitism (cross-dressing for sexual pleasure or other deviant reasons) then I agree with him that it is against the moral law, however, that does not lead to the conclusion that it is wrong for women to wear slacks today. Even if Deu. 22:5 is talking about transvestitism, and even if it is a moral law that still applies to us today, I still do not think that slacks are "men’s apparel." Also, we have to remember that the prohibition in Deu. 22:5 was against any article that could apply to a man, so if it is a moral law that still applies to us today then we have to create a whole list of things that women cannot wear (I.e., their husband’s t-shirt, their husband’s tools (those are traditionally men’s items), etc.).]

Rev. Blankenship writes:

I Peter 3:5 "For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:"


My Response:

1 Pet. 3:6 uses Sarah as an example of a "holy woman." She lived over 600 years before Deuteronomy 22:5 was written, so it is obvious that Peter’s point was not that "holy women of old lived by Deut 22:5." To see his point we must back up to 1 Pet. 3:1 and read the entire passage:

1Pe 3:1-6 NASB
(1) In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if [any of them] are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
(2) as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
(3) Your adornment must not be [merely] external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
(4) but [let it be] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
(5) For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;
(6) just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

The focus in the above passage is on inward holiness, not outward appearance. If Peter is talking about outward appearance in this passage then he is saying that women cannot braid their hair or wear dresses. He is obviously not saying that–his point is clearly that a woman’s focus should be on inward holiness, not on impressing people with her outward appearance. (This applies to men as well.)

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Part of our DAILY attire should be for gender distinction. Unmistakable, visual, identification of the sexes.
IN OUR CULTURE:—– (which is all we need to worry about)
Man’s attire: = pants, trousers, slacks

My Response:

Again, I agree with Rev. Blankenship that a person should not deliberately try to appear like they are of the opposite sex (cross-dressing). However, I strongly disagree with him that pants, trousers, and slacks are not women’s attire. Has he looked around lately? Pants on women are completely acceptable in Western culture. The fact is that styles and apparel change with time.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

EVEN THE PICTURES ON PUBLIC REST ROOMS TELLS THIS CULTURAL TRUTH. This could even change from culture to culture but Deut 22 covers ALL CULTURES! and all times.

My Response:

I’m not sure what point Rev. Blankenship is trying to make here. In the same paragraph he says that apparel can change from culture to culture and that Deu. 22:5 covers all cultures. If he is admitting that men and women’s apparel changes from culture to culture, then why does he have such a problem with women wearing slacks? 100 years ago women did not wear slacks, now they do. Big deal! Culture changed! If he admits that dress codes change over time and from culture to culture (which they obviously do) then I don’t see why he has such a problem with women wearing slacks.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

"Pertaineth to" = things traditionally associated with, or patterned after a man. (slacks have indeed been masculine in our culture)

My Response:

So have any number of other things. That’s what makes Deu. 22:5 so difficult to translate. No one alive today is sure exactly what Moses meant when he wrote that a woman should not put on that which "pertaineth to a man." My point is that we should not limit Deu. 22:5 to clothing. If we’re going to say that it is applicable today then we need to come up with a definitive list of things that "pertaineth to a man," and then we need to forbid Christian women to use those things.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Historically: WWII factories were the first time slacks started being worn by women. At the same time: short hair, cigarettes, swearing became acceptable feminine behavior. Now that path has come to Abortion, Divorce, Single Parent homes, extreme feminism: You’ve come a long way baby??

My Response:

I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but I’m not sure I follow the connection between women wearing slacks and abortion, divorce, single parent homes, and extreme feminism. I’m not a sociologist, but I’d be willing to take a stab in the dark and guess that sociologists would identify more causes for these things than women wearing slacks.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Two things should always govern your decisions:
GOOD TASTE & COMMON SENSE == R e m e m b e r i n g * w h o * y o u * a r e !
God visibly separated Israel: food /dress /farming /worship /Sabbath.. You could tell a Jew by his dress/Actions. The Jews survived 1,900 years without a home land. It’s the only existing ancient culture! GOD’S LAWS PRESERVED THEIR IDENTITY! God wants to preserve His church in this day in the same manner!
—->>> Outer actions bring a GREATER CHRISTIAN COMMITMENT in your life!

My Response:

There are several things that must be said about the comments that Rev. Blankenship made in the preceding paragraph.

First, God did visibly separate Israel in dress, farming, worship, and the Sabbath. It was called the Mosaic Law, and Jesus fulfilled it. When Rev. Blankenship says that "God wants to preserve His church in this day in the same manner" he is saying the exact opposite of what God wants to do! The whole point of Jesus coming was to set us free from slavery to sin (cf. Rom. 6) and to the Mosaic Law (cf. Gal. 4-5).

Second, the Jews are not the only ancient culture that is still around today. Take a look at Japan, India, Nepal, China, Sri Lanka, and almost any Middle Eastern nation for an example of an ancient culture that still exists.

Third, Rev. Blankenship’s statement that "Outer actions bring a GREATER CHRISTIAN COMMITMENT in your life" could not be farther from the truth! If anything, external rules and regulations push us farther away from God, not closer to Him! In the book of Galatians Paul is writing to a church that was starting to return to the Mosaic Law. One of the things that they were returning to was the practice of demanding that people be circumcised. Did Paul commend them, saying that "Outer actions bring a greater Christian commitment in [their] life"? Far from it! Paul actually told them, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).

Wow! That’s some pretty harsh language! It seems that a return to the Mosaic Law is the exact opposite of what God wants us to do! This does not mean that a Christian can just do whatever they want, of course, because Paul also wrote that we are set free from slavery to sin so that we can be slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6). The point is that we were set free from the Mosaic Law and that God "wrote His laws upon our heart" (cf. Heb. 8:10; 10:16). Now we are able to have direct communication with Him and directly know what is pleasing to Him and what is not. What a beautiful concept!

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Even Joan Rivers (on her syndicated talk show) stated "Everybody knows women wear dresses and men wear pants.".
If worldly people know it to be a simple truth, we does God’s church act so stubborn about it?

My Response:

I looked for the Joan Rivers quote but was unable to find it. If anyone can verify that she actually said that then please let me know. Even if she did say that it makes no difference. Joan Rivers is one of the last people that I would listen to when deciding what is pleasing to God and what is not.

Rev. Blankenship writes:

Let us remember who we are and be proud to carry his banner in these last days!

My Response:

I’m incredibly proud of who I am. I am a child of the King, and I want everyone to know it! That’s why I now wear a necklace with a cross on it! (I don’t wear dresses though, just in case anyone is wondering.)

Introduction (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

There are many Scriptures that are misinterpreted by Oneness Pentecostals. I have decided to create a list of the most common ones on this page. Some of these Scriptures are misinterpreted by most, if not all, Christians, but most of the Scriptures on this page are misinterpreted mostly by Oneness Pentecostals.

My breakdown of these Scriptures will follow this format: I will give the Scripture, then give the common misinterpretation, and then explain the correct meaning of the Scripture. I have listed these in the order that they appear in the Bible. Also, I use the KJV translation when I first quote each Scripture. I do this because the KJV is the translation most used by Oneness Pentecostals, and some of their misinterpretations come directly from a misunderstanding of the King’s English.

Disclaimer: I created this list of Scriptures from my own experiences in the UPC. I am not saying that the "misinterpretations" that I list are the views that are officially endorsed by the UPC or any other Oneness organization. I am only giving the interpretations that I heard time and time again during my years in the UPC.

2 Samuel 6:14 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.

Misinterpretation: This Scripture is often used to tell people that there is something wrong with their spiritual life (usually pride) if they do not dance during worship.

Facts: There is nothing wrong with dancing in worship. As a matter of fact, dancing as a form of worship to the true God has a long, long heritage. It dates at least back to the Israelite exodus from Egypt, when Miriam, the sister of Moses, led some of the women of Israel in dance (Ex. 15:20). However, just because David danced does not mean that people have to dance.

The problem with the UPC presentation of David’s dance is that they often say that if a person refuses to dance during worship then something is wrong with their spiritual walk. If this is true, then we all should have to wear linen ephods to truly worship the Lord. After all, that’s what David was doing!

2 Chronicles 7:14 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Misinterpretation: Some in the UPC say that the people "called by God’s Name" are Oneness Pentecostals (because they believe in baptism in Jesus’ Name).

Facts: This Scripture was written at least 400-500 years before Christ ((Dyer, C., Merrill, E., Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (2001). Nelson’s Old Testament Survey : Discover the Background, Theology and Meaning of Every Book in the Old Testament (294). Nashville: Word.)), and the event that it was recording was the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, which happened almost 1,000 years before Christ ((Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index ("Solomon’s Temple"). Nashville: T. Nelson.))! The promise in 2 Chr. 7:14 was to the Jews, not to Oneness Pentecostals, or even to Christians in general. Of course, I do believe that the forgiveness of sins is a Biblical concept, and this Scripture is certainly a beautiful illustration of that! However, it is a mistake to say that this Scripture is talking directly to anyone but the Israelites.

Isaiah 47:2 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.

Misinterpretation: The UPC often uses this Scripture to try to prove that it is wrong for men to wear shorts or for women to wear skirts above the knee.

Facts: If this Scripture is teaching that men cannot wear shorts then it is also teaching that women cannot remove their veils. Let’s take a closer look at the Scripture to see what I mean.

To understand this Scripture we must look at what the phrase "uncover thy locks" means. "Uncover thy locks" means "remove the veil." Here is how several mainstream English translations render Is. 47:2 (I have included Young’s Literal Translation, since many UPC pastors use this translation for study):

Isa 47:2 YLT (Young’s Literal Translation)
Take millstones, and grind flour, Remove thy veil, draw up the skirt, Uncover the leg, pass over the floods.

Isa 47:2 NASB
Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers.

Isa 47:2 ESV
Take the millstones and grind flour, put off your veil, strip off your robe, uncover your legs, pass through the rivers.

Isa 47:2 GNB
Turn the millstone! Grind the flour! Off with your veil! Strip off your fine clothes! Lift up your skirts to cross the streams!

Isa 47:2 JPS (Jewish Translation of the Old Testament)
Take the millstones, and grind meal; remove thy veil, strip off the train, uncover the leg, pass through the rivers.

I included these five mainstream English translations because I want to show that the common rendering of the verse is "remove your veil," and that it is not a translation that I came up with on my own. My point is this: If this verse proves that it is immodest for a person to wear shorts or skirts above the knee then it also proves that it is immodest for women to remove their veils.