A Biblical Purpose for

I sought the Lord for insight concerning the purpose of the miraculous languages that accompanied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Jerusalem and later in Samaria, Caesarea and Ephesus. I had come to realize that the purpose assigned by my church had absolutely no support in the entire context of Scripture. Research of history and Scripture revealed that our tradition which insisted that there was no valid baptism with the Holy Spirit unless evidenced initially by speaking in tongues was without scriptural support. The Scripture which we Pentecostals quoted as supportive is Acts 2:4: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” This is historian Luke simply presenting important data. He tells WHAT happened but this historical fact doesn’t give a clue as to WHY it happened. It is sheer presumption to assume, and then declare as immutable fact, that no one is filled with the Holy Spirit unless validated by speaking in tongues. As a biblical scholar, all of this I clearly recognized. But what is the purpose of the accompanying tongues?

As I continued praying and searching Scripture one day it penetrated my mind that the only Scripture the early disciples had was the Old Testament. Since Jesus didn’t teach anything about speaking in tongues the apostles must have wondered what the purpose of this gift of various languages was all about. Paul certainly did and his search through his Bible led him to Isaiah 28:11-12. In explaining the purpose of tongues to the Corinthian church he loosely quotes Isaiah. He introduces his quote with a brief warning to the Corinthians. “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the law it is written: ‘Through men of strange tongues and through lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,’ says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers.”

When I saw this principle that Paul had drawn out of Isaiah I felt like shouting, EUREKA! It was like a lightening bolt flashing across a storm darkened sky. I now had a solid biblical purpose for tongues at Pentecost and subsequently.
Paul’s principle drawn from Isaiah refers not just to tongues at Corinth but to the tongues poured out to each people group that received the Holy Spirit. There is an old proverb that says, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” I decided to test Paul’s principle by applying it to each outpouring of the Spirit.

At Pentecost in Jerusalem, who were the “unbelievers”? Primarily the Jewish pilgrims. What happened when they heard their own languages being spoken by unschooled Galilean peasants? They recognized this was supernatural and began to enquire about the meaning of this miracle. This gave Peter an opening to preach the gospel in which three thousand were converted. Paul’s principle passes the “taste” test. It’s ridiculous to say that the tongues at Pentecost were to prove the disciples had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in the Old Testament that supports this. Remember, the Old Testament is the only Bible available at this time.

Furthermore, John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet, had predicted Jesus would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The disciples saw the fire dancing over each head when the Spirit fell on them. This was the evidence that certified Jesus had kept his promise. Neither Jesus nor John had ever said anything about tongues so they had no meaning or purpose as far as the one hundred-twenty were concerned.

What was it the Jewish pilgrims at Pentecost didn’t believe? They didn’t believe that Jesus, the crucified rabbi from Nazareth, was really their Messiah. The fifteen supernaturally spoken languages used across the Roman Empire grabbed their attention and prepared them to listen to the gospel. Now then, Paul’s declaration that tongues are a sign to unbelievers makes all the sense in the world.

Before going on further with our test of the validity of Paul’s principle we need to examine it in the light of the Corinthian setting. Many commentators are thoroughly confused when they read verse 22a because the very next verse states that if there is en masse speaking in tongues by the congregation an unbeliever who happens to be present will say “These people are crazy.” That’s my modern English summary of verse 23. What immediately becomes apparent is that Paul is not applying his principle to en masse tongue speaking by a church congregation. The fact that Paul draws his principle from the Old Testament indicates that it is generic to wherever the Spirit is initially outpoured. It only has incidental application to the Corinthian misuse of tongues. According to Paul’s rebuke in verse 20 the Corinthians have missed the primary purpose of tongues and are using them childishly as spiritual play things. Are there other instances in the New Testament where tongues are spoken en masse in addition to Pentecost and in Corinth? Yes, of course; in Caesarea, Ephesus and perhaps in Samaria when Jesus baptized believers in the Holy Spirit.

Before we examine these cities we should determine the “unbelievers” in each place. Who are they and what did they not believe? Could the “unbelievers” Paul refers to possibly be God’s chosen people in the New Testament era,i.e., followers of Jesus? This would certainly continue to maintain the parallelisms between the Isaiah passage and the Corinthian passage. And even at the unique outpouring on Pentecost, which marked the end of the Old Testament era, all the Spirit filled disciples were “unbelievers” in the sense they did not believe Gentiles could be part of the messianic kingdom without submitting to Jewish rites. Yes, as difficult as it may be to accept, Peter and the other disciples are among these “unbelievers”. They did not believe Gentiles could enter the kingdom of Christ unless they first converted to Judaism and became proselytes. (See Acts 10, 11 and 15.)

We will now continue our investigation of Spirit baptisms and en masse speaking in tongues. The next recorded instance of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 8:14-17. Philip the evangelist conducted a highly successful evangelistic campaign in one of the Samaritan cities. Many turned to Christ and were baptized in water. The word got back to Jerusalem and the apostolic leadership sent Peter and John to investigate what was going on in Samaria. They immediately discovered the new Christians had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. That undoubtedly created a question in the minds of the apostles. Why the delay in pouring out the Spirit upon these Samaritan believers? Were these half-breed neighbors really eligible to be included in the company of Christ’s followers? There was one test that could resoundingly affirm that they were. As Peter and John prayed over them and laid their hands upon them they received the Holy Spirit.

Tradition assumes they spoke in tongues at this time. Certainly something unusual took place otherwise the magician would not have tried to purchase the power to make it happen. If speaking in tongues did accompany their Spirit baptism, as I assume it did, what was the purpose? Exactly what Paul’s principle would lead one to expect. It was a sign to unbelievers. Who were the unbelievers. You would never guess unless the Spirit opened your eyes. They were none other Peter and John and perhaps other Christian Jews who may have been present.

We know John and Peter were racists. Only weeks before John wanted to incinerate a Samaritan village that had been inhospitable to Jesus and his disciples. (Luke 9:54) And we know Peter prided himself on never associating with anyone “unclean”. The Samaritans were of mixed pagan and Jewish blood and were despised by the Jews and vice versa. But the Spirit falling on these outcasts trumped the prejudices of Peter and John. Another unacceptable people group had been added to the broadening circle of Christians.

Acts 10 provides a dramatic account of Jesus invading the Gentile world. Peter was drafted as a reluctant chaplain to share the gospel with Cornelius and the Roman garrison he commanded in Caesarea. Peter reluctantly agreed to obey but for moral support he took several Christian Jews with him. After arriving in Caesarea, Peter and Cornelius exchanged greeting and then Peter began quickly to share the gospel. Faith in Jesus sprang up in the hearts of the throng of listeners and Peter’s sermon was interrupted by Jesus himself. Reading the hearts of the assembled household and soldiers of Cornelius, Jesus wasted no time in affirming that Gentiles were welcome into his kingdom without passing through the gate of Judaism. Peter and his friends listened in utter astonishment as they heard these “unclean” Gentiles “speaking in tongues and praising God” (Acts 10:46). How could this be? it was contrary to every facet of their Jewish tradition. But their tradition was no longer in control. Jesus, the sovereign Baptizer. was in charge and he had ushered these Gentiles into his family of nations and poured out his Spirit upon them.

Peter finally recognized the authority of his Lord by immediately declaring that the Gentile converts should be baptized in water. Without any prior teaching about the Holy Spirit, with no knowledge of spirit inspired languages, without seeking a specified experience, Jesus simply, in divine sovereignty, filled these Gentiles with his Spirit. So what was the purpose of the “tongues”? They were the sign that convinced tradition bound Jews that the Gentiles were welcome into the household of Jesus Christ on an equal footing with Jews and proselytes. They had not believed that possible. But, Paul’s principle again proved true, “Tongues, then, are not a sign for believers but for unbelievers”. Tongues certainly were the sign that convinced unbelieving Peter and his companions they must welcome Gentiles into the family of God on His terms, not theirs. It was a replication of the tongues of Pentecost that shattered their disbelief. It was this miracle of supernaturally spoken languages that was widening the circle of people groups that were to comprise God’s eternal kingdom. First, Jews and proselytes, next Samaritans, then European Gentiles from Rome. Whom is next as the gospel begins to penetrate to the “ends of the earth”. That’s another blog.

I explore in much greater depth the truths touched upon here in my books, PENTECOST REVISITED and PENTECOST REKINDLED. My new novels THE TRUTH SEEKERS and THE TRUTH SEEKERS, Second Edition, both contain powerful evangelical theology wrapped in an unforgettable and intriguing story. Obtainable from Amazon or contact me personally.

I pray all of you will have a blessed Thanksgiving celebration. Until next time May God keep you securely in his love. Chaplain Glenn Brown

THE OLD TESTAMENT DEFINES PURPOSE AND MEANING OF TONGUES

When I returned from Vietnam in 1969 I obeyed my conscience and, with some fear and trepidation, informed my denomination that I was convinced its doctrine on evidential tongues was unscriptural and unacceptable to me. The Rocky Mountain District, where I had been ordained, strongly recommended that I be dismissed from the Assemblies of God. Providentially, I was invited to transfer to the Northern California/Nevada District where Superintendent Joseph Gerhart welcomed me with open arms. I remained a valued member of this District for the next forty years.

During more than fifty years of ordained ministry with the Assemblies of God I refrained from going public about my break with the denominational tradition. I limited any discussion of the matter to Assemblies of God officials, family members, and a few close friends. There were several reasons for this decision to remain silent. (1) I was sure there was a genuine experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit validated by Scripture which was accompanied by the gift of tongues. (2) I was convinced that the Assemblies of God tradition regarding the purpose of tongues that accompanied Spirit baptism was in error because it had no solid scriptural foundation. I could clearly see it was based on a series of assumptions and no “thus saith the Lord.” I had seen how this tradition hindered the Holy Spirit from fulfilling Jesus’ prayer for unity among his followers. I had also seen how it helped foster a spiritual caste system similar to Corinth. (3) And of course, while I served as an Assemblies of God church I was ethically constrained to remain silent. (4) But the one thing always tugging at my mind was the this question: Since tongues were not meant to be the unique initial physical evidence of Spirit baptism what was their purpose? It would not be helpful to go public without a biblical response to this question.

But where in scripture should I look for the answer? Something long overlooked occurred to me. The only Bible the first disciples had was the Old Testament. If they were to determine the purpose of the tongues at Pentecost that is where they must look. And, I realized, that is where I must look.

The first Old Testament passage is the one Paul quoted loosely from Isaiah 28:11-12 in 1st Corinthians 14:21: “In the law it is written: ‘Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me’ says the Lord.” From this Isaiah passage Paul extracts this principle: “Tongues, the, are a sign not for believers, but for unbelievers.” v.22a. The conjunction “then” clearly refers back to the Old Testament passage. Grammatically, the conjunction will allow no other conclusion. This was my first breakthrough in understanding the purpose of tongues at Pentecost. I was excited to pursue an exegetical study of this text. I will share where that took me in another blog.

It’s Time to Bite the Bullet

When I was assigned to a helicopter carrier preparing to go to Vietnam in 1968 I had not resolved an inner conflict regarding a doctrinal position regarding evidential tongues that I had come to see as extremely divisive. In my wider association with Christians of all stripes I observed those who gave clear evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit yet had not spoken in tongues. I began to examine Scripture carefully, looking for a solid biblical foundation for our denominational position. As a result of thorough examination and exegesis of pertinent passages I discovered our tradition on tongues was based on invalid assumptions and a valid spiritual experience whose purpose was significantly misinterpreted as a result of adhering to the invalid assumptions.

While in Vietnam I resolved the inner conflict and acknowledged to myself that I could no longer affirm my belief in our Pentecostal tradition. The uncertainty of life in Vietnam was a reminder that I should be prepared to meet God with a clear conscience. The Holy Spirit prodded me to reveal my change of belief to my denomination. I knew that serious consequences might follow and it would put my chaplaincy career in jeopardy. Nevertheless, I pledged to be honest with my church when I arrived back in America regardless of consequences.

And there were consequences. The Rocky Mountain District officials recommended that I be immediately dismissed. National Headquarters overruled the District and gave me a year to reconsider my position.
Providentially, Superintendent Joe Gerhart of N. Calif/Nevada District heard of my plight and gave me hearty welcome into his district in 1970. For forty years I enjoyed the fellowship of this district although officials knew my apposing position. However, I refrained from going public with my position for two reasons. (1) Although I had clearly seen no biblical foundation for our position I also clearly saw that supernatural tongues had accompanied the outpouring of the Spirit at Jerusalem to the Jews; to pagan Roman Gentile converts at Caesarea; to Asian Gentile converts in Ephesus. However, I had not yet discovered from Scripture what the purpose of those accompanying tongues was. I did not want to publicly oppose the assumed purpose my church insisted on unless I had a clear revelation from the Bible of a superior and different purpose. (2) A second reason I did not go public was that I did not consider it proper to do so while I was officially representing my church as Chaplain or Pastor. After I retired I began to see the majestic and lofty purpose the Bible assigned to tongues that accompanied these outpourings of the Spirit. Only then was I ready to make my research public. In 2009, before publishing the manuscript of my first book, I offered to resign from the Assemblies of God. My District Superintendent requested that I not resign and stated that members of our church needed to read what I had written. I honored his request and remained.

When PENTECOST REVISITED was published in 2009 General Superintendent George Wood began to get complaints from members who resented my public declaration of error in the Pentecostal tradition. I was told confidentially that General Superintendent Wood had considerable sympathy for my position and held to one not greatly different. However, he quickly succumbed to public pressure and wrote my District Superintendent requesting that Jim no longer support my retention by the Assemblies of God. When I received a copy of his letter I quickly submitted another letter of resignation (my second). In mid 2010 I received a gracious letter from James T. Bradford, General Secretary of the Assemblies of God acknowledging my resignation. He thanked me for my years of service and wished me God’s best. Thus ended fifty-two years of ordained ministry with the Assemblies of God. I left with my integrity intact and my commitment to biblical truth uncompromised. I was immediately issued Ministerial Credentials by Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, an endorsing agency for active and retired chaplains with the military, hospitals, prisons, industry, sports teams and the like across America.

In future blogs I will present and discuss the Bible passages that freed me from a tradition that needlessly brings divisive and confusing elements into the body of Christ. The tongues of Pentecost were meant to promote unity, racial harmony and evangelism across international barriers.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic World Wide Movement

In preparation for “blogging” I read a column written by a veteran and well-known blogger. His advice to beginners like me was simple. “Choose a topic that interests you and one in which you have an above average measure of expertise. This will allow you to present insights and knowledge that others interested in the topic may not know. They will look to you as a source of dependable information.”

I have chosen as my topic THE PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC WORLD WIDE MOVEMENT. If you accept me A aource for dependable information you need to know upon what my information is based. To provide that you must know more about my background. I am 86 years old, almost 87. I was reared in a Pentecostal home and my parents served as an Assemblies of God pastoral team for more than half a century.I was thoroughly indoctrinated in the teaching and tradition of American Pentecostalism. Here is a thumbnail sketch of my education and ministry experience that lends credence to my trustworthiness about knowledge of my subject.

Academic summary
Trinity university -1947-48
Univ. of Hawaii—–1948-49
Univ. of Denver—–1950-52 BA degree
Denver Seminary—–1954-58 MDiv.degree Following graduation I was ordained by Assemblies of God
Princeton Seminary–1967-68 THM degree
Senior Chaplain’s Course–1973-74 Certificate of Completion

Ministry Summary
Elected leader of Youth ministry, Calvary Temple, Denver, CO – 1950-52, 1954-55
Founding Pastor of Central Assembly of God, Granby, CO 1955-60
Us Navy Chaplain 1960-1978
Pastor, Faith Chapel Assembly of God, Pleasanton, CA 1978-91
1993 to present, Mission to Ukraine
Was ordained with Assemblies of God from 1958 to 2010, a total of 52 years. Now associated with Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches
Since 2009 I have written five books, four of them deal with the subject matter of my blogs. You can view the four published on my web site: www.pentecostrevisited.com

More important than my schooling and my years of experience is the fact that I take Scripture seriously. The Holy Spirit is constantly surprising me with new insights from inspired passages. The Bible is its own truest commentary. The most common enemy of the ‘whole counsel of God’s Word’ is a proof text taken out of context. I pledge to make the total context of Scripture my standard for determining doctrinal truth. Now that you have my topic and my credentials listed let’s get on with the subject.

I rebelled against the rigid external legalism that pervaded Pentecostalism in North Carolina in the 1940’s. IN 1946, contrary to my parent’s wishes, I enlisted in the Army Air Corps following graduation from high School. I was confronted by Jesus Christ in 1948 and made a commitment to serve him if he would empower me by the Holy Spirit. Shortly thereafter I experience an infilling of the Holy Spirit. And, yes, this was accompanied by an expression of praise in a language provided by the Holy Spirit. I’ll have much more to say about that later.

After serving my three year enlistment I enrolled in Denver University. In 1950 the Korean War broke out and I signed up for advanced ROTC. Upon graduation I was commissioned and served two years active duty before reverting to the inactive Reserves. Upon release I enrolled in the Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary (now Denver Seminary) I graduated in 1958 with academic honors. During my time in the Baptist seminary I defended vigorously my Pentecostal tradition. I used the arguments I had been schooled in from childhood by godly parents whom I respected. My academic stature won me a hearing if not the argument.

While in Seminary I established a new Assemblies of God church in Granby in 1955. It was about 90 miles west of Denver, high up in the Rockies. After graduating from seminary in 1958 I was ordained to Christian ministry by the Rocky Mountain District of the Assemblies of God and shortly after in June I married Donna Lee Wirth. We began our married life in Granby, CO where I served as pastor for two more years until I was called to active duty as a U.S.Navy Chaplain in April 1960. I was one of four Assemblies of God Navy chaplains on active duty at that time. Throughout this entire period I was fully committed to the established doctrinal tradition of my church

As my career progressed I was selected for a year of post-graduate studies at Princeton Seminary and graduated with a Master of Theology degree. I was unexpectedly honored by an invitation to preach in historic Miller Chapel. I addressed students and professors on the subject of the Holy Spirit. The president of the seminary later said to me, “Chaplain, we need more preaching like that in Princeton.”

Throughout the period of time in two seminaries and in the chaplaincy, my biblical studies had been making plain that my church erred in insisting the purpose of tongues at Pentecost was to give initial evidence that the 120 had been filled with the Holy Spirit. My church erred even more grievously when it insisted that no one was baptized in the Holy Spirit unless he had the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. I began to understand that the tradition about speaking in tongues was based on a series of invalid assumptions and a wrongly interpreted purpose for the supernatural languages that accompanied the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. I was facing a theological crisis concerning a doctrinal position that I could no longer assent to. If I acknowledged my dissent it would likely mean the end of my career as a Navy Chaplain. I was convinced the Lord had prepared and called me into the military chaplaincy. Had I mistaken my call? It would all come to a head in Vietnam where I was headed following my year at Princeton. But that’s for the next blog.

I welcome questions and comments.

Chaplain Glenn Brown

Russian Separatist Atrocities

On Wednesday, 27 August, I had visitors from Ukraine. Ivan Khrypta, Sr., the Pentecostal Bishop in western Ukraine who I first met more than 21 years ago during my first Ukraine trip came to see me. He is visiting his son who immigrated to the Seattle area about ten years ago. Bishop Khrypta (now retired), with his son serving as our translator, told a sad story of atrocities being committed by Russian separatist terrorists in Eastern Ukraine. They have particularly targeted Evangelical Protestants. In one of the villages, overrun and annexed to what they call ‘New Russia’, these separatist terrorists set up their military headquarters in the commandeered Baptist church. This was one of the villages later freed by the Ukrainian army. In the basement of the Baptist church serving as Separatist headquarters they found stacks of Russian ammunition

He said the goal of the Russian Separatists, supported by Russian Army troops,
is to terrorize and intimidate all faith groups but Russian Orthodox. Many refugee Christians have fled to West Ukraine. In the village where the Bishop lives many Christians have opened their homes to their displaced brothers and sisters. One refugee pastor told of the slaying of his son. A mother with eight children told how her husband was killed as they were forced to flee.

This morning (September 3) I received an email from Bishop Balyuk, a friend now in Kiev with whom I have worked for many years.. He writes: “Concerning Putin, you can trust him as much as you can trust a criminal. He is proclaiming to the whole world that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. At the same time Russian tanks have completely destroyed two Ukrainian villages next to the Russian border. There were 20 Russian troopers that were captured by Ukrainian soldiers. Regular Russian army has entered Donetsk and Lugansk. Citizens of Mariupol–Ukrainians and ethnic Russians including pastors –are outside their city digging trenches to protect themselves from the Russian military aggression.

“In 1939 in the town of Brest, German and Soviet troops had a joined parade after dividing Poland between the two countries. It is clear that Putin is moved by a spirit of fascism. He became possessed. If he is not stopped now he will do a lot of harm around the world. This is not a war with Russian people – it is a war with devilish ideology. The Ukrainian church is fasting and praying. We believe there is victory in God. His plan and his will shall be done. He has everything under control!”

The war in Ukraine has come even closer to home. One of the young men from the Eunice Brown Home was recently released because he has attained majority (18 by Ukraine law) I have been informed he is now in the Ukrainian Army. If Putin has his way, he will eventually be part of the Russian Army. God forbid.

Join with the Ukrainian Church in

Ukraine Report, The Bad and the Good

A letter arrived recently from Dr. Harold Sala, a friend of mine for more than half a century. He has established a significant Christian radio ministry called Guidelines International Ministries. In Eastern Ukraine he broadcasts Russian language programs through the station facilities of the Far East Broadcasting Company, He writes, “Pro-Soviet troops attacked the FEBC station, killed four men simply because of their faith. One man had eight children and two of the men were brothers.” He also writes of the “teachers at Donetsk Christian University who were ordered to leave their homes within 24 hours or be executed.”

The pro-Russian military activity in Eastern Ukraine is more than a ‘land grab’ campaign. It is an effort to stifle the strong Christian voice that has been birthed there. But this attempt to extinguish the lamp of Christian freedom may backfire on Putin and his henchmen.

When I first went to Ukraine more than twenty-one years ago one my goals was to encourage the establishment of a Ukraine military chaplaincy. I was invited to visit the Ministry of Defense in Kiev to discuss my ideas with officers there. Lt. Colonel Chevelchia, head of the Religious Affairs Department, liked much of what I had to offer. However, he rejected my suggestion that the government approve the formation of a military chaplaincy. His response explained why the government would not sanction a military chaplaincy department.

“Chaplain, in America your different religious bodies are able to work together to provide spiritual ministry throughout the armed forces,” the Colonel began. “In Ukraine our different ecclesiastical bodies are constantly fighting each other. There are several different Orthodox confessions and each is trying to gain precedence over all the others. Our Ministry of Defense will not, dare not, allow this kind of religious warfare to take place on its turf.”

Now for the ‘good’. A minister friend in Ukraine has told me that this current crisis has drawn the Christian community together as nothing else has done. Christians meet together across denominational lines for prayer, intercession and worship. He believes that God is using the threat of loss of national freedom, in a very positive way, to unify the body of Christ. Large numbers of refugees driven out of Eastern Ukraine by Russian activists and sympathizers have come as far west as where our ministry is located near the Hungarian and Slovakian borders. A united Church is reaching out to them in love and compassion. If you would like to help our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Western Ukraine assist the refugees from Eastern Ukraine, I have reliable contacts there who would appreciate and welcome your assistance. Just contact me at: rglennb@olypen.com.

Yours for Christ and Ukraine,

Chaplain Glenn Brown

ADVANCING BEYOND TRADITION

I observed something as a boy growing up in a godly home. Christians in our area seldom broke away from the religious traditions in which they were reared and indoctrinated. Methodists remained within their enclave; Baptists, theirs; Presbyterians, theirs; Pentecostals, theirs and so on. Occasionally, some of the Protestant churches would unite and sponsor a well-known preacher to come and conduct a revival meeting. I don’t remember our Pentecostal church ever participating in a multi-denominational evangelistic endeavor. Only once can I recall having contact with another church group. As a twelve year old I attended Vacation Bible School at a Methodist church.

Loyalty to religious traditions has been a powerful force for spiritual stagnation within the church. Whenever the church has progressed in its knowledge of truth and righteousness someone has had to be a Martin Luther and lead in breaking free from the binding power of erroneous tradition. This bondage to religious tradition has been within the Church since its beginning at Pentecost. The original disciples were so bound by their adherence to certain rules and practices of Jewish tradition that the gospel was withheld from the Gentiles for nearly a decade. Jesus’ own ministry came under attack because he did not honor many Jewish religious traditions that had developed over the centuries. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day for substituting their traditions for the word of God. His words take on fresh relevance today as competing religious traditions strive to win adherents. Hear Jesus’ words:
“YOU HAVE A FINE WAY OF SETTING ASIDE THE COMMANDS OF GOD IN ORDER TO OBSERVE
YOUR OWN TRADITIONS!…THUS YOU NULLIFY THE WORD OF GOD BY THE MANY TRADITIONS
YOU HAND DOWN.” Mark 7:9, 13

Of course, there are good religious traditions as well as bad. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church: “THEREFORE, BROTHERS, STAND FAST, AND HOLD THE TRADITIONS WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN TAUGHT, WHETHER BY WORD OR EPISTLE.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) The words and letters of the apostle Paul were inspired by the Holy Spirit and became incorporated in our New Testament as inspired scripture. How does one identify a trustworthy religious tradition from the unacceptable? There is an immutable principle which we can apply that is extracted from Jesus’ own words. EVERY TRADITION MUST BE TESTED BY ITS CLEAR ADHERENCE TO THE CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE.

Isolated proof texts are used extensively by those who propagate unbiblical religious traditions. Then, relying heavily on quotes from different “experts” and various illogical assumptions, they attempt to “prove” their unscriptural position.

We Pentecostals were taught, in keeping with our tradition, that we were elite members of God’s family. How so? Because all our leaders and many members were baptized in the Holy Spirit. We were assured this was not true of the leaders and members of other Christian groups. How could we be sure others were not filled with the Holy Spirit? Because, according to our dogmatic Pentecostal tradition, the baptism in the Holy Spirit must always be physically evidenced by initially speaking in tongues. Since other churches dismissed this teaching as unscriptural, ipso facto, none were baptized in the Spirit.

I went through a period of teen-age rebellion and tried to run from God by entering military service. God pursued me and I surrendered to his love as a young airman stationed at Randolph Field, Texas in 1948. Jesus graciously but powerfully led me to entrust him with my life and future. I asked him to empower me to live victoriously for him by filling me with the Holy Spirit. He wonderfully granted my request. Someone may ask, “Did you speak in tongues?” Yes, I did. I had been so indoctrinated into the Pentecostal tradition I likely would not have believed I had experienced Spirit baptism without tongues. It would never have entered my mind to objectively research scripture for another purpose for tongues than the one our tradition insisted on. That would come years later. Jesus is very patient with those who genuinely seek truth.

During the next twenty years I completed college; served as youth leader in a large Assemblies of God church (Calvary Temple) in Denver; served two more years in military service during the Korean War era; graduated from Denver seminary; planted a new Assemblies of God church in Granby, Colorado while in seminary and served as pastor for nearly five years until called into U.S. Navy as a Chaplain (1960); was selected to attend Princeton Seminary by U.S. Navy 1967-68 and awarded a postgraduate degree in theology; ministered nine years aboard ship and on shore, including a tour in Vietnam (1968-69), proclaiming the gospel to marines and sailors. All the while stoutly defending the tradition of my church that there is no valid baptism in the Holy Spirit unless accompanied and evidenced by supernaturally speaking in other tongues.

As I matured in the Lord I learned to extract truth from scripture as a result of diligent research on my own. As I searched scripture, I could find no biblical basis for my church’s dogmatic tradition concerning tongues and Spirit baptism. Also, during those twenty years, I had encountered Christians who displayed more of the power of the Holy Spirit than I did…and they didn’t speak in tongues. These facts, and the unbiblical abuses I had observed among some Pentecostals, led me to begin to question my inherited tradition on tongues.

It was difficult for me to confront and acknowledge the doubts about my tradition that were developing. A couple of things accounted for this. (1) It is never easy to break free from a religious tradition that is steeped in family lore and history. (2) I knew there might be a severe penalty that would result. I would likely be dismissed from the Assemblies of God, the denomination which provided ecclesiastical endorsement for my service as a Navy Chaplain. Without this endorsement the Navy would release me, and my career as a Chaplain would end. I continued to wrestle with my conscience about whether or not I should reveal the doubts my study of scripture had produced.

While in Vietnam I was serving with Marines and Navy Corpsmen who were facing death every time they engaged the enemy. I would pray for them as they embarked aboard the helicopters that were lifting them into combat. From time to time I would have occasion to go in-country but my assigned battle station during combat operations was on the flight deck. I was one of the first to greet the wounded when these same choppers returned them to the ship.

God used the uncertainty of life while I served in Vietnam to stir my conscience about being open and forthright with my church regarding tongues and Spirit baptism. I didn’t want to stand before my Maker knowing I had not been honest with my church. I vowed that when I returned home I would confess I could no longer affirm our denominational tradition about speaking in tongues that I had held and supported for twenty years.

My ship returned to San Diego in July, 1969. I followed through on my promise to God and submitted a written statement expressing why I could no longer agree to our tradition on Spirit baptism. I attached this statement to my annual credential renewal questionnaire that all Assemblies of God ministers are required to submit to national headquarters via their home District. The Rocky Mountain District where I had been ordained eleven years previously was still my home District. I knew the officials and was sure they would recommend my immediate dismissal. I was right. How God protected me and my ministry is another story which I may share at another time. Even things thought bad result in producing good when Jesus controls your helm.

Please note: I have never questioned the reality or validity of the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. I have been blessed with this gift. There are multitudes of godly, Spirit filled Pentecostals. Their experience of speaking in tongues is clearly described in scripture as one of the supernatural gifts assigned to the Church. What I vigorously contest is the purpose God gave to this gift which accompanied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Acts 2:4, the favorite proof text of Pentecostals, tells WHAT happened but not WHY. The Jewish pilgrims from across the Roman Empire wanted to know the reason their native languages were being supernaturally spoken by unschooled Galileans. Their question was, ‘What does this mean?’ Peter didn’t know but he was sure there must be an answer in scripture concerning the purpose for these supernaturally spoken languages. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit brought to his mind a prophecy from the Old Testament (The only Bible available) Joel explained the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost as signaling a new, revolutionary era God was introducing (the “last days”) to all humanity. The prophet declared the supernatural tongues at Pentecost symbolized all the languages, nations and people groups of the world to which the good news must be proclaimed. (Spirit poured out on ALL humanity…WHOEVER calls on the Lord will be saved). After Pentecost Judaism was no longer the door by which one must enter God’s kingdom. Jesus, the Messiah, through his sacrificial death and resurrection has become the door by which all may enter. WHOSOEVER will may come. That is the gospel and it is forever symbolized by all the national languages spoken at Pentecost and subsequently.

Hallelujah! What a motivating symbol for world-wide evangelism. What a unifying symbol that binds all language groups together in Christ. Evangelism and unity, both symbolized by the supernaturally spoken languages at Pentecost! To rigidly and dogmatically assert that no Christian ever experiences being filled with the Holy Spirit unless this experience is physically evidenced and accompanied by speaking in tongues, I am firmly convinced, is not true and has no basis in the context of scripture nor in the history of Christianity.

This tradition has led to needless division within the body of Christ and numerous abuses within Pentecostalism. I have seen the division it has produced between other Evangelicals. I have seen the caste system it has fomented within Pentecostal churches themselves. Those who speak in tongues are often viewed, subtle though it may be, as spiritually superior. Spiritual pride results as in Corinth. I have seen the bizarre, unbiblical behavior that is tolerated lest one “quench the Spirit”.

The gift of speaking in tongues introduced at Pentecost had a far more noble purpose revealed by Old Testament prophets Joel and Isaiah. But it took another forty years after I saw from scripture what tongues were not, i.e. evidence of Spirit baptism, before I clearly discerned their divine purposes. Such is the holding power of religious tradition. When I finally saw what the prophets had predicted
concerning the purpose of tongues at Pentecost, it was a gloriously liberating experience for me. I will likely describe more of my journey that freed me from my bondage to religious tradition in future blogs. Better yet, for a more comprehensive statement, you can read my book PENTECOST REKINDLED. Check it out on my web site: Pentecost Revisited.

Until next time, meditate on this brief admonition from Paul:

“DO NOT PUT OUT THE SPIRIT’S FIRE; DO NOT TREAT PROPHECIES WITH CONTEMPT. TEST EVERYTHING. HOLD ON TO THE GOOD.” 1st Thessalonians 5:19-21

Chaplain Glenn Brown

Let’s Get Acquainted

This is my first attempt to enlarge my horizons by publishing blogs. In order for you to decide if my blog might be worth your time to read let me introduce myself.

My name is Robert Glenn Brown, the oldest of eleven children born to
Robert and Eunice Brown. I am eighty-six years old, in good health and extremely active for a person my age. I have numerous interests. On the physical side, I enjoy playing tennis and golf regularly, am an avid gardener and travel extensively. On the family side, Donna and I have been married for fifty-six years. We have one daughter, Celia, and she and her husband, Steve, have blessed us with a grandson, Cody, and a grand daughter, Zoe, both are attending universities in California. On the spiritual side, I love to dig into Scripture and discover biblical truths that may have eluded me for years. I enjoy honest dialogue about doctrinal issues as long as Scripture remains the ultimate test for faith and practice.Does this brief bio sketch define me? Not really although it does provide some facts that many retired seniors might relate to.

How does a person define himself or herself? Some try to define themselves by their academic achievements. I have a reasonably good mind and have always enjoyed acquiring knowledge. I have pursued truth eagerly throughout my life time. I was blessed to be able to attend three fine universities in pursuit of my undergraduate degree. Thanks to the generosity of Uncle Sam I was able to attend two semesters at Trinity University in San Antonio and two more at the University of Hawaii in Oahu (1947-49) while serving in the Air Force. I completed my BA degree at Denver University, enrolling in 1950 after release from the Air Force and graduating in 1952. I acquired an ROTC commission upon graduation and was called into active duty in the Army during the Korean War era for two years.

Upon release from active duty in 1954 I enrolled in Denver Seminary and graduated with academic honors in 1958. Within weeks I was ordained to Christian ministry and married Donna Lee Wirth. In April 1960 I was called to active duty as a U.S. Navy Chaplain and assigned to serve the Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. I now had active service with the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. I never planned it that way; it just happened.

During my first sea duty following the assignment to the Marines I was selected to transfer into the Regular Navy which had more significance than I was aware of at the time. In 1966 I was selected to attend post-graduate studies at an institution of my choosing during the academic year 1967-68. I chose Princeton Seminary with a major in homiletics and liturgics. It was a great academic year for me as I studied under the tutelage of some of the finest theological minds available. Later, as I continued to do well in my career pattern, I was chosen to participate in an academic year of professional studies at the Navy’s Senior Chaplains’ School in Newport, R.I. 1973-74. I guess, if you add up all the years in school after high school it totals ten years or so. But here is something I discovered in my search for knowledge: There is so much I don’t know in comparison to what there is to know I still rate as an absolute dunce. Much of what I learned in the sciences is now obsolete. There are machines programmed with knowledge that are far more competent than I in many areas. The modern electronic marvels dazzle me and my grandchildren amaze me with their efficiency in manipulating them. My ignorance in multiple areas overwhelms me. How can I ever boast in my education?

Some define themselves by their careers. I have had three and am working on a fourth. My first full time career was as a Navy Chaplain. I retired from the Navy chaplaincy just a week shy of my fiftieth birthday with twenty-six years of cumulative service. I loved that part of my life and ministry and recall it fondly. My favorite title is still “Chaplain”. Following retirement I was asked to become pastor of an Assemblies of God church in Pleasanton, CA. I remained there nearly fourteen years. Adding that to the five years I served as pastor in Granby, Colorado before entering the chaplaincy gives me a pastoral career of nearly nineteen years. I retired from the pastorate near the end of 1991 when momentous events were occurring in Eastern Europe. Gorbachev announced the disintegration of the USSR in December 1991 and the hated wall came crashing down.

Freed from the dominance of Russian tyranny, new democratic republics in East Europe rapidly formed. These nations, long closed to the gospel, became open to the proclamation of Christian truth. In 1992 God laid ministry to this region upon the hearts of Donna and me. However, we had no idea which nation he wanted us to go to or what we would do there but we assured God we were available. In early 1993 an astounding series of providential events took place and I found myself sitting in the office of General Zoblotny, commanding General of a huge military complex in Western Ukraine near the Hungarian and Slovakian borders. Under the Soviet regime communist ideology had, in essence, been the official religion promoted within the Soviet armed forces. When the communist empire collapsed the failed ideology was rejected and some major military leaders were looking for a replacement to communism. General Zoblotny was considering Christianity. He said if I would come to his Command in Mukachevo, Ukraine, and demonstrate how American chaplains minister to military personnel he would provide office space and help find housing for Donna and me. I knew this was God’s response to our questions, “Where” and “What”.

I could scarcely believe the General’s offer. I knew this was my “Macedonian call.” I told the General I accepted his offer and would be back later that year after selling our home in California and getting my wife relocated in Washington. I went back alone in October while Donna stayed with our daughter Celia who was expecting her first child in November. That opened the door to a military ministry that lasted several years. When it wound down God began to open up other doors of ministry. I have returned to Ukraine every year since 1993, often twice a year. In 2013 I completed my thirty-seventh trip and may return again this fall. I have spent 21 years leading and helping develop a variety of ministries to this beautiful but troubled country. This includes helping establish new churches, purchasing buildings that were converted to churches, helping sponsor major international conferences, preaching in numerous churches, establishing an orphanage and partnering in the establishment of another.

My third career as a short term missionary may end soon as the years take their toll. But I have begun a fourth career that could become the most significant of all. After I became an octogenarian God led me to begin a writing ministry. So far I have written five books, three are non-fiction with theological themes. Another chronicles my years of ministry in Ukraine and the fifth is a thinking persons Christian novel. I believe these will continue to minister after I have gone to be with the Lord I delight in serving.

But the most amazing thing about each of my careers is my “Boss” who has supervised me in each of them. I never selected any of these careers. as a young man, the last thing I ever wanted to be was a preacher. When I enlisted in the Army Air Corps my motivation was to become qualified for the G.I. educational bill. When I was released from active duty I never planned to wear a military uniform again. In fact, I determined not to. I entered Denver University committed to prepare for a career in the athletic world as a coach. But then the Korean War erupted and all my plans changed.

As a young airman I had had an encounter with Jesus Christ and He challenged me to accept Him as Lord of my life. I accepted His challenge and surrendered my life and my hopes and plans for the future to His leadership. He became my “Boss” and has directed me into paths I would never have chosen for myself. In my wildest dreams I would never have imagined myself preaching to former Soviet troops in a major satellite nation of the powerful USSR. My “Boss”, the Lord Jesus Christ, worked out all the details and I just went along for the ride. And what a ride it has been. And it hasn’t all been easy. He led me to separate myself from my church where I had been an ordained minister for fifty-two years. My determination to follow Biblical truth wherever it led compelled me to sever theological relationships with people I respect and admire. Thank God, I still maintain a friendship with many of them. In addition, I have gained a host of friends across the nation and overseas who are outside the Pentecostal tradition.

I am convinced by Scripture that my church is in error when it incessantly insists that all valid baptisms in the Holy Spirit must be initially physically evidenced by speaking in tongues. However, I am Pentecostal in the sense that I firmly believe that scripture affirms that the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit is available to the church today. There is abundant evidence in global Christianity that the Holy Spirit still manifests His divine power in miracles and supernatural gifts in accordance with the truth of Scripture. These divine manifestations are in no manner limited to Pentecostals. I decry superficial emotionalism and stagnant traditionalism. I long for the awesome, holy presence of Almighty God who delights in revealing Himself to those that hunger and thirst after righteousness

In these blogs I will attempt to share insights from Scripture and lessons from life that I have gleaned in my journey. I will try to be as open and transparent as I am able. I will intentionally try to focus my blogs on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church today in light of Scripture. I continue to be a learner and approach God’s word with humility and anticipation. I recognize that church tradition and intractable doctrinal statements have supplanted biblical truth for many. I am convinced the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth if we are willing to follow…regardless of cost. I welcome your comments and insights and will respond to them as time permits.

Chaplain R. Glenn Brown

Let Me Introduce Myself

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