Sore Evils I Have Seen

The Qoheleth[1], in Ecclesiastes, twice mentions the “sore evil[s]” which he has seen and/or experienced (5:13 and 16). The evils he describes in those verses have a different scope and a more universal application however, than, the “sore evils” about which I intend to write.

First, the Qoheleth addresses how the transition of wealth as an inheritance from one generation to the next may be or become depleted through what the English Standard Version declares to be a “bad venture”, which is to say, a risky investment that fails to produce a return.

The second “sore evilthe Qoheleth addresses is about the people who experience this, namely, how a man loses all his wealth and then, afterward, has a son to whom he now has nothing to give. The Qoheleth continues to say that that son, because of his father’s misfortunes, dies no better than he lived: impoverished and as naked as the day he was born.

The sore evils I intend to address, however, have to do with a portion of the Oneness Pentecostal (sometimes called Apostolic) Movement.[2] These are not new evils. In fact, they date back at least to the 1st century (As the Qoheleth was wont to say, there really isn’t anything new under the sun). Observe:

Matthew 23:15,

  1. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

This verse is just a small part of an overall diatribe spoken by the Lord against the Perushim.[3] The main point seems to be that the Perushim placed a great emphasis on bringing converts into (the practice of) their faith, only to bring those very converts into a terrible condemnation. The new converts, on top of already having been lost to hell, then become converted into the practice of a system that cannot save them, hence why Yeshua describes these new converts by saying that they are “twofold more the child[ren] of hell” than the Perushim who brought them in.

Essentially, the faith of the Perushim would have saved the convert, by bringing the convert into covenantal relationship with God. However, the practice of that faith, as prescribed by the Perushim, was what was so damaging. To be certain, I don’t think we should believe that Yeshua was implying the faith of the Perushim was evil or ungodly.[4] Rather, He was attacking the practice of their faith, and how they led others to the same practice.

A sore evil to be sure!

And unfortunately, this is very similar to how some within the Oneness Pentecostal or Apostolic Movement operate. I’ll explain:

I have personally seen and heard of many varied accounts in which an Oneness adherent undertook a monumental effort to proselytize the lost. I have heard so many stories of how it literally took the Oneness adherent years to finally win someone to the Lord. And in the winning, to be sure, much celebrating and rejoicing occurred.

But in time, or rather, in a short amount of time, something terrible happens. That new convert, for whatever uncertain reason, is only given a specific amount of time to get their spiritual act together to the satisfaction of the clergy overseeing the assembly to which the new convert was won. The timeframe seems to differ depending on the account, but something like six months to a year is the norm, with some occasioning up to eighteen months. This is what I mean:

An adult man or woman, having been a Gentile sinner for their entire life, comes to believe in Yeshua the Anointed One, and the Benevolent Message of His Salvation (See, e.g. John 3:16, Romans 1:16, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). They repent of their sins. They are immersed for the remission of those sins. They receive the Holy Spirit, and speak in tongues, and they become the happiest person on earth, suddenly beloved by all in the Church (See, e.g. Acts 2:38, 2:4, Luke 24:45-49, and Romans 6:3).

Afterward, days turn into weeks, and as the weeks go by, they turn into months, and in time, the “honeymoon” stage of their salvation tends to come to an end. Now begins the long trek toward enduring until the end. Temptation shows up. Trials come about. The now not so new convert begins struggling. Often, they reach out for help. Help is given in the form of prayer and counsel. So far, so good.

But for some reason, as this doesn’t happen with all converts to Oneness Pentecostalism, some just can’t seem to overcome. They continue to struggle. Their faith falters. Perhaps a temptation gets the best of them. They fail one of their trials. They become discouraged. Despondent, they miss a service or two. They don’t return a phone call from the pastor or another elder.

Condemnation sets in. The unspiritual people of the congregation begin to talk. The spiritual people of the congregation begin to pray. God hears the prayers of His righteous elect, and, in His own sense of steadfast love, He arranges for the despondent new convert to run into one of God’s praying elect, and this brother or sister offers great encouragement, enough to see the faltering brother or sister through, enough to see them come back to church the following Sunday.

They pray through, are strengthened and helped by the Holy Spirit, and go home feeling better, but with a continued sense of dread, knowing that the temptation that took them out a few weeks back hasn’t really been conquered. The trial they know they failed still has to be passed.

But something else occurs as well, something they don’t know. Subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) this struggling semi-new convert has been put on a list. This list contains the names of all the other semi-new converts of years past who had been in the same exact position as this semi-new convert. Those semi-new converts of yesterday eventually faltered again, and in time, like say somewhere between six months and a year, perhaps up to eighteen months, the church which had not so long ago embraced them as a new baby brother or sister in unsolicited love, dropped them like a bad habit. Indeed, even the one who had spent years doing everything he or she could to evangelize and win one of those semi-new converts abandons him or her, under the pretense of “they don’t have a love of the truth” or “they just don’t want to live for God”, or something similar, according to the clergy overseeing the assembly.

The semi-new convert doesn’t know it, but if he or she should struggle with their flesh and with temptation for very much longer, and if he or she should falter just once or perhaps twice more, the assembly that had welcomed him or her with great big open arms just six months to a year to perhaps eighteen months ago, will give up on them as lost and not worth the time and effort to find.

This is a sore evil I have seen.

How is it that a Oneness brother or sister, a Spirit-filled saint of the Most High, can pray and pray and pray, and ask others to pray and to pray and to pray, and fast, and fast some more, and look past all sorts of worldly faults and failures in a sinner in order to get a chance to share the saving message of the Word of God with them in order to win them to the Lord, and do so consistently for years, but then, within just a few short months, convince themselves or be convinced by someone else, that because the man or woman they won to the Lord continued to struggle past an unacceptably presumed and un-Biblical deadline for spiritual maturity, that continuing to pray and pray and fast and fast, and to continue to ask others to continue to pray and pray and pray, and to do everything within their power that they once were so willing to do, in order to win this man or woman, is now, just not worth it?

My dear brothers and sisters, if you sell out to the Lord and sacrifice greatly in order to win the lost, you had better sell out to the Lord and sacrifice greatly in order to keep the ones you win. If all you’re doing is merely hoping someone is okay, or that they eventually turn things around and make good on their covenant with God, but don’t actually do anything to see that that happens, your love for that person isn’t genuine (See and contrast to 1 Peter 1:22).

We are to love in deed and in truth, not in word or tongue only (See 1 John 3:18). Claiming to love someone doesn’t mean anything. Having an emotional soft spot in your heart and a feeling of grief when you think about someone you believe or know to be fallen from grace is useless if that emotional soft spot and feeling of grief doesn’t get you off your you know what to call up that semi-new convert and/or show up at their door and try and try and try and try and try and try and try for as long as you can, to bring that one lost sheep back to the fold (See Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:4-7).

Now, it may be that the semi-new convert in question rebuffs your every attempt, and adamantly refuses to repent, deciding that the reproach of the Anointed One is not worth esteeming (See and contrast to Hebrews 11:26). In such a case, that formerly semi-new convert will make it plain. His or her “blood”, as it were, will not be on your head (See, e.g. Ezekiel 33).

But did you try? Did you try at all? Did you try to see past the anger and hard stances to see how their hurt and discouragement has caused them to put up a front and although they talk tough with you or act like they don’t want you to keep reaching for them, the truth is, they need you then more than ever, but they’re too afraid to admit it?

Or did you quit? Did you quit because someone whose name is not Yeshua of Nazareth told you to? Or for whatever ungodly reason? The fact is, you know full well that such a brother or sister most likely is not okay, and that they’re not going to be okay, since there is no salvation outside of their covenant with God, and His covenant with them requires that they be a living stone, i.e. an active, healthy member of the Body of the Anointed One. You know full well that if such a brother or sister, if they don’t have that in their life, is doomed.

And, Dear Reader, as unfortunate and evil as the above is, it’s not the only sore evil I’ve seen. As the second sore evil described by the Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes 5:16 is an extension of the former, first sore evil mentioned in Ecclesiastes 5:13, so, too, is the sore evil I’ve mentioned above an extension of another, preceding evil.

The sore evil above is an outgrowth of a doctrine embraced by some within the Oneness Pentecostal Movement that insists there is no such thing as a ministry to the backslider.[5] This is wrong on so many levels. From this point forward, I intend to enumerate the various levels. I will, in parenthesis, place a number in bold text, as a way to keep count.

The first problem with this doctrine is that the term “backslider” is never adequately defined (1). One preacher I heard once stated that there is a difference between backsliding and being backslidden. The former can be rectified in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, so to speak, by calling on the name of the Lord in prayer. The latter is the final, resultant condition that comes from backsliding, and getting out of that condition is not always so easy.

He continued to say that his definition of backsliding is being in a state at any point in time in your walk with God, in which you are not as close to Him as you used to be.

That’s perhaps a nice working definition, but it’s awfully vague and highly subjective. Who makes the determination? Does the convert? Does the pastor, or another leader or elder? Does the whole local assembly?[6] Who can really determine if and when a brother or sister just isn’t as close to God as he or she used to be? And by how much? (2)[7]

Is it when a brother or sister commits a premeditative sin? Was such a brother or sister already backslidden in heart and so, were willing to premeditate against God a transgression of His law (See 1 John 3:4), or were they merely backsliding but not yet backslidden (3)? Perhaps we could say that, if the brother or sister in question had already reached a place of maturity and should have known better. But what about the new or semi-new convert? If we cannot say the same about them, we’re now dealing with two different definitions of “backslidden”, one for the new or semi-new convert and one for the mature saint in the Lord (4).

The bottom-line is only the Lord God knows who is and who is not backslidden (5). We, every one of us, are poor judges, and should never undertake to make such a call against a brother or sister (6)[8]. And even if we think God has given us a special discernment or insight through the charismata as given in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, we must realize that we are fallible creatures, apt to getting many things wrong (7).[9] Our subjective understanding of the things we think or believe (read: assume) God is communicating to us is not something upon which we should so quickly rely. We should prove all things first, and only when undoubtedly proven, hold fast to that which is good (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

In fact, even if you or someone in an assembly claims a special word of knowledge, or prophetic discernment about a brother or sister, it should be first discussed with the actual brother or sister in question, in a loving, gentle way.[10] If such a word or discernment is truly from God, and if the brother or sister in question is honest with themselves, the Spirit will bear witness inside of them that the word or discernment really was from God (See Proverbs 14:10). And if that happens, chances are good you or the person with the word or discernment will find yourself/themselves being able to do what James 5:19-20 declares:

  1. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
  2. Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (8).

This is not the final problem of such a doctrine, but it’s the last one I will address. This verse is clear. If someone, whether new, semi-new, or a mature convert to the Oneness Pentecostal Movement, who is in true covenant with God the Father through Yeshua our Lord, should err from the truth, in any way, and someone goes out to reach out, and brings them back into the fold, no matter how badly they’ve erred, and that someone converts him or her, i.e. causes that brother or sister to turn back and revert to their former condition as a faithful, truth believing, truthful living saint, they save that new, semi-new, or even mature convert from death, i.e. from eternal separation from God the Father and the Lord Yeshua the Anointed One.

Indeed, they “hide a multitude of sins” (See Proverbs 17:9). All the transgressions committed while in such a state, whether we want to call the state of such a person backslidden or something else, will be erased by the blood of the Lamb of God, and that brother or sister will be immediately restored to right standing with the Anointed One and His Body, on earth (See 1 John 1:7-9 and 1 John 2:1-3).

But not, Dear Reader, if no one thinks to even try.

I have seen a sore evil in the Oneness Pentecostal or Apostolic Movement, and it is this:

Some are taught there is no such thing as a ministry to the backsliders, even in clear defiance of the obvious teachings found in the Holy Scriptures of the New Covenant. This causes many in our movement to completely abandon to Hell any and all new to semi-new (and even many mature) converts who just can’t seem to overcome in the amount of time allotted to them by an uncaring, unloving, incorrectly indoctrinated local ministry or assembly. Even though much time, prayer, fasting, and sacrifice was offered to God in order to evangelize and proselytize the lost sinner, who, by being abandoned after struggling for too long with their flesh, with temptation, or whatever, becomes a twofold child of hell. They were the children of hell already, being Gentile lost sinners, and now, being abandoned by the very ones in the Church God sent to save them, these hurting, despondent, rejected and disowned former saints and family members of the Most High, will likely never come back to the faith of those who didn’t love them enough to keep intentionally seeking them out and actively reaching (read: getting off their you know what’s) for them to come back to God and His Son.

Yeshua was sent to the lost sheep of Israel (See Matthew 15:24). He was sent to a nation in covenant with God that had, almost universally, in a collective sense, backslidden from the Father. The Anointed One often spoke in parables, and in His most famous series of parables given in the New Covenant Scriptures (i.e. Luke 15), Yeshua makes it plain that a shepherd will always leave the ninety and nine, to go and seek the one lost sheep. The woman with the lost coin will always search and search and keep searching until she finds her lost coin (which was likely a part of her dowry, which proved her marriage was legitimate).[11] The Father’s greatest wish is and will always be, for the prodigal to return home.

But not according to some.

I have seen a sore evil in our movement, Dear Brothers and Sisters. If you have seen the same sore evil as me, won’t you please pray with me, that God will grant us mercy and repentance and so, give us another chance to obey and do the right thing, and so, not sin against Him?[12]

In the name of Yeshua. Amen.

Peace and God bless,

Aaron

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1]Qoheleth” is a transliterated term from Hebrew. It is a notoriously difficult word to translate, as it tends to defy the standard rules of Hebrew grammar. Some translate it ‘Preacher’ (e.g. KJV, NKJV, ASV, ESV, and NASB), some translate it ‘Teacher’ (e.g. NIV, NLT, NRSV, and HCB), and at least one, the Contemporary English Bible, renders it ‘Teacher of the Assembly’, which may most closely catch most of the various nuances contained in the word. For more information on the translation difficulties and grammatical structure of the word, see: The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes by Robert Alter, Norton, New York, NY, 2010, p. 337.

[2] The reason I write “portion” is because I don’t imagine what I’m going to write about from here on in applies everywhere. It is, however, something I have seen in my limited experience, here in the United States. Therefore, please note that if what I write doesn’t describe you or your local ministry/assembly, understand that this blog then, isn’t directed toward you; although I will say that I hope you read it in its entirety, and take it to heart as something that is happening, right now, in our movement.

[3] Perushim is the transliterated form of the Hebrew spelling commonly known in English as the word Pharisees. It means “The Segregated Ones”, or those who segregated themselves from all others in an attempt to be closer to God, i.e. more holy (Consider this in light of Isaiah 65:5).

[4] The faith of the Perushim was in the God of Avraham, Yitzak, and Ya′acov, the same faith that Yeshua shared.

[5] This is usually due to a terrible misunderstanding and misapplication of 1 Corinthians 5 coupled with Romans 16:17-18 with a bit of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 thrown in for good measure. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 may likewise be mixed into the recipe. And if they really want to seize the jugular, Hebrews 6:4 will be used. Taken highly out of context, some come to believe that these verses are blanket condemnations that can be applied universally to every situation. It’s sad, but true, that anyone would so misuse the Holy Scriptures in this way.

[6] See, e.g. Matthew 18:15-19, noting especially verse 17 as it applies to the entire assembly.

[7] If the Lord is as close as His name, as so many suggest, and if a person not as close to God as he or she once was is merely backsliding and not backslidden, and if such a person can see an immediate turn around by calling on the name of the Lord in prayer, as the preacher mentioned above indicated, then just how far away from the Lord can that person really be?

[8] See, e.g. Matthew 7:1-5.

[9] See, e.g. James 3:2. Quoting from the New Revised Standard Version, James 3:2a reads, “For all of us make many mistakes”.

[10] See and compare Matthew 18:15. If there is a sin or sinner in the Body, and you’re the only one, by way of special revelation, that knows, you should take care of the matter privately. If the brother or sister repents, you’ve gained your brother or sister.

[11] See Luke: The Gospel of Amazement: by Michael Card, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2011, pg. 183.  Near Eastern custom at the time was for a woman to wear what is called a semedi, an ornamental headdress made out of coins, with each coin equal to about a day’s wage, most likely stamped or engraved with royal markers from the Roman Empire (See: https://bible.org/seriespage/luke-15 , http://www.gotquestions.org/parable-lost-sheep-coin.html, and http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/luke/15.html). Since this lost coin is part and parcel of the woman’s proof of her legitimate marriage covenant, it stands to reason that the symbolic nature of the coin refers to a soul in covenant with God, but otherwise currently lost, i.e. a backslider in need of repentance and restoration. Note, too, she searched the house, i.e. she went looking inside of “the church” to find that which was missing. Struggling saints are still a part of God’s House, even if they seem to be missing. Who among us is willing to light a lamp to go and find them?

[12] James 4:17.

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~ by votivesoul on 03/04/2016.

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