Bishop Albert Franklin Varnell
History is a difficult thing to write. So much of what we know from history depends, many times, on the teller of the story. That is why so many different versions of history can be told that may hold common elements of truth or differ significantly. Ultimately, the only true way to know what really did happen in the past is from the words of those who were there. Even then, memories of events, times and people involved might be colored by witnesses who frequently prove to be inaccurate as well.
It is, therefore, with some degree of fear and humility that I would even attempt to write a history of the Bethel Ministerial Association because I realize that there is no way I can get it totally correct. That won’t keep me from trying though.
What inspired me to even attempt such a daunting task was a book of meeting minutes that was recently given to me. I handled the torn, faded and fragile pages of this book with a solemn degree of reverence and respect. Just handling them made them even more fragile. To protect the condition and information stored on those pages, I scanned them as soon as I could so a digital copy would be preserved lest their already fragile condition led to total ruin.
The inside cover of the book reads, “Record book of the Evangelistic Ministerial Alliance.” Page one of the book reads: “Apostolic Bible Conference convened at the Gospel Tabernacle, 616 N. Union St., Kokomo, Ind. May 31 ended June 4,1934" (I believe this to more likely be 1937). “Bible Conference began with a much larger delegation than was expected. Opening message by the Rev. W.J. Logan (newly elected pastor of the tabernacle) who brought a stirring message, namely ‘The Need of the Hour.’ Followed by the Rev. A F Varnell, who spoke on the subject. ‘Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit.’ Evangelistic service opened at 7 p.m. with special singing and music. Message of the evening brought by the Rev Carl Fraese, namely, ‘The Way of God.’”
Minutes of most meetings tend to be pretty boring. They are not meant to be narratives yet they often do tell a story. The recorder of minutes, if he is doing his job, will provide future readers with accuracy concerning who was there, what was done and who said what. This often leads to some fairly reliable assumptions about the history being told.
As far as I know, there is no earlier record of what the organization which came to be known as the BMA was doing before this first recorded minute. We know from records that follow that Brother Varnell chaired the business meeting two days later. There are many names that follow in the minutes to come, but Brother Varnell has always been predominantly remembered as the first organizer, leader or “chairman” of the Association.
At the time of the recording of these minutes, Brother Varnell had already had an extensive history in the movement of the Christian church. Anectdotal testimony puts Brother Varnell at the beginnings of the charismatic movement of our nation in California, at the Azusa Street Revival. Considering his very young age at this time, however, it is difficult to track historical evidence of his involvement. Only by association with ministers instrumental in helping develop the revival can we assume Brother Varnell’s involvement.
We know from two selective service records that Albert Franklin Varnell was born in Logan County, Arkansas on May 19, 1895. Brother Varnell actually registered for both World War I and II as evidenced by his selective service registration cards that we have available. Born in 1895, he would have been just 22 years of age when he registered in Orange County, California on May 29, 1917. Obviously, the Varnell family moved to California some time in his early years. But he would have been only 11 years of age at the beginning of Azusa Street in 1906. Obviously, he moved to California with his parents some time before this date of registration.
I asked my father, Rev Don Matthews, pastor of the Indianapolis church associated with the BMA, if he knew about Brother Varnell’s trip to California. Dad grew up under the pastorate of Brother Varnell in Evansville and attended Sister Varnell’s Sunday School class every Sunday. He told me, “Brother Varnell told the story of his family’s move to California a hundred times. He said a traveling evangelist visited the church the Varnell family attended in Arkansas and gave a prophetic message in tongues to Brother Varnell’s parents. He used the words, ‘Catica, Catica, Catica’ and then interpreted them himself to mean that the Varnells needed to move to California where they would find a man who would finance their future ministry for the Lord.
Interestingly enough, a lot more is known of Brother Varnell’s early life through an association of ministry called the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Largely an African American organization, Brother Varnell found himself deep in their early history because of his association with one of its formative members, Rev William E. Booth-Clibborn. I quote from their historical records:
“A.F. Varnell was born to Henry and Lucinda Varnell in 1895 in rural Yell County (AR), before moving to the Booneville area in Logan County (south of Ft. Smith). During his formative years there, he worked cotton fields alongside childhood friend Alpha E. Humbard, the father of famed televangelist Rex Humbard. Their friendship, fueled by a mutual love for God’s word, brought Humbard to some of Varnell’s post-PAW evangelistic meetings in the 1930s.
“Varnell’s younger brother would ocassionally speak in an unknown tongue, then offer a self-interpretation. One interpretation convinced Albert that if they went to California, a rich Jewish man would give them the money to go to India as missionaries.
“The Varnell brothers made the move and began attending the famed Azusa Street Mission in California. Though that rich Jewish man never showed himself, a teenage Albert did meet best friends Rachel Teller and Ruth Seely while there.
“It was also at Azusa that he met another lifelong friend, William E. Booth-Clibborn and others that became affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Booth-Clibborn was a gifted linguist that spoke and preached in seven languages. He also wrote the popular hymn ‘Down From His Glory.’
From resources on the internet, we learn that the famed Azusa Street revival started in 1906:
“The Azusa Street Revival was a historic Pentecostal revival meeting that took place in Los Angeles, California and is the origin of the Pentecostal movement. It was led by William J. Seymour, an African American preacher. It began with a meeting on April 9, 1906, and continued until roughly 1915. The revival was characterized by ecstatic spiritual experiences accompanied by miracles, dramatic worship services, speaking in tongues, and inter-racial mingling. The participants were criticized by the secular media and Christian theologians for behaviors considered to be outrageous and unorthodox, especially at the time. Today, the revival is considered by historians to be the primary catalyst for the spread of Pentecostalism in the 20th century.
“In 1905, William J. Seymour, the one-eyed 34-year-old son of former slaves, was a student of well-known Pentecostal preacher Charles Parham and an interim pastor for a small holiness church in Houston, Texas. Neely Terry, an African American woman who attended a small holiness church pastored by Julia Hutchins in Los Angeles, made a trip to visit family in Houston late in 1905. While in Houston, she visited Seymour's church, where he preached the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, and though he had not experienced this personally, Terry was impressed with his character and message. Once home in California, Terry suggested that Seymour be invited to speak at the local church. Seymour received and accepted the invitation in February 1906, and he received financial help and a blessing from Parham for his planned one-month visit.
“Seymour arrived in Los Angeles on February 22, 1906, and within two days was preaching at Julia Hutchins' church at the corner of Ninth Street and Santa Fe Avenue. During his first sermon, he preached that speaking in tongues was the first biblical evidence of the inevitable baptism in the Holy Spirit. On the following Sunday, March 4, he returned to the church and found that Hutchins had padlocked the door. Elders of the church rejected Seymour's teaching, primarily because he had not yet experienced the blessing about which he was preaching. Condemnation of his message also came from the Holiness Church Association of Southern California with which the church had affiliation. However, not all members of Hutchins' church rejected Seymour's preaching. He was invited to stay in the home of congregation member Edward S. Lee, and he began to hold Bible studies and prayer meetings there.
“Seymour and his small group of new followers soon relocated to the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street. White families from local holiness churches began to attend as well. The group would get together regularly and pray to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. On April 9, 1906, after five weeks of Seymour's preaching and prayer, and three days into an intended 10-day fast, Edward S. Lee spoke in tongues for the first time. At the next meeting, Seymour shared Lee's testimony and preached a sermon on Acts 2:4 and soon six others began to speak in tongues as well, including Jennie Moore, who would later become Seymour's wife. A few days later, on April 12, Seymour spoke in tongues for the first time after praying all night long.
“News of the events at North Bonnie Brae St. quickly circulated among the African American, Latino and White residents of the city, and for several nights, various speakers would preach to the crowds of curious and interested onlookers from the front porch of the Asberry home. Members of the audience included people from a broad spectrum of income levels and religious backgrounds. Hutchins eventually spoke in tongues as her whole congregation began to attend the meetings. Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. A resident of the neighborhood described the happenings at 214 North Bonnie Brae with the following words:
“‘They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.’
“The group from Bonnie Brae Street eventually discovered an available building at 312 Azusa Street in downtown Los Angeles, which had originally been constructed as an African Methodist Episcopal Church in what was then a black ghetto part of town. The rent was $8.00 per month. A newspaper referred to the downtown Los Angeles building as a "tumble down shack". Since the church had moved out, the building had served as a wholesale house, a warehouse, a lumberyard, stockyards, a tombstone shop, and had most recently been used as a stable with rooms for rent upstairs. It was a small, rectangular, flat-roofed building, approximately 60 feet (18 m) long and 40 feet (12 m) wide, totaling 2,400 square feet (220 m2), sided with weathered whitewashed clapboards. The only sign that it had once been a house of God was a single Gothic-style window over the main entrance.
“Discarded lumber and plaster littered the large, barn-like room on the ground floor. Nonetheless, it was secured and cleaned in preparation for services. They held their first meeting on April 14, 1906. Church services were held on the first floor where the benches were placed in a rectangular pattern. Some of the benches were simply planks put on top of empty nail kegs. There was no elevated platform, as the ceiling was only eight feet high. Initially there was no pulpit. Frank Bartleman, an early participant in the revival, recalled that ‘Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there.... In that old building, with its low rafters and bare floors...’
“By mid-May 1906, anywhere from 300 to 1,500 people would attempt to fit into the building. Since horses had very recently been the residents of the building, flies constantly bothered the attendees. People from a diversity of backgrounds came together to worship: men, women, children, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, illiterate, and educated. People of all ages flocked to Los Angeles with both skepticism and a desire to participate. The intermingling of races and the group's encouragement of women in leadership was remarkable, as 1906 was the height of the "Jim Crow" era of racial segregation, and fourteen years prior to women receiving suffrage in the United States.
“Worship at 312 Azusa Street was frequent and spontaneous with services going almost around the clock. Among those attracted to the revival were not only members of the Holiness Movement, but also Baptists, Mennonites, Quakers, and Presbyterians. An observer at one of the services wrote these words:
‘No instruments of music are used. None are needed. No choir- the angels have been heard by some in the spirit. No collections are taken. No bills have been posted to advertise the meetings. No church organization is back of it. All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.’
“The Los Angeles Times was not so kind in its description:
‘Meetings are held in a tumble-down shack on Azusa Street, and the devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication. They claim to have the "gift of tongues" and be able to understand the babel
“The first edition of the Apostolic Faith publication claimed a common reaction to the revival from visitors:
‘Proud, well-dressed preachers came to 'investigate'. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.
“Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly, and immigrants speaking in German, Yiddish, and Spanish all being spoken to in their native language by uneducated black members, who translated the languages into English by ‘supernatural ability.’
“Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit. Visitors gave their testimony, and members read aloud testimonies that were sent to the mission by mail. There was prayer for the gift of tongues. There was prayer in tongues for the sick, for missionaries, and whatever requests were given by attenders or mailed in. There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit. Lawrence Catley, whose family attended the revival, said that in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. The members of the mission never took an offering, but there was a receptacle near the door for anyone that wanted to support the revival. The core membership of the Azusa Street Mission was never much more than 50–60 individuals with hundreds and thousands of people visiting or staying temporarily over the years.
“By the end of 1906, most leaders from Azusa Street had spun off to form other congregations, such as the 51st Street Apostolic Faith Mission, the Spanish AFM, and the Italian Pentecostal Mission. These missions were largely composed of immigrant or ethnic groups. The Southeast United States was a particularly prolific area of growth for the movement, since Seymour's approach gave a useful explanation for a charismatic spiritual climate that had already been taking root in those areas. Other new missions were based on preachers who had charisma and energy. Nearly all of these new churches were founded among immigrants and the poor.
“Many existing Wesleyan-holiness denominations adopted the Pentecostal message, such as the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the Church of God in Christ, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church. The formation of new denominations also occurred, motivated by doctrinal differences between Wesleyan Pentecostals and their Finished Work counterparts, such as the Assemblies of God formed in 1914 and the Pentecostal Church of God formed in 1919. An early doctrinal controversy led to a split between Trinitarian and Oneness Pentecostals, the latter founded the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1916.”
Brother Varnell was 11 when the revival began. We must assume that he associated with friends from what would become the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, as recorded by its associations’ history, and then developed that relationship in his young life leading up to World War I. He was 19 when the war began and 23 at its end, November 11, 1918.
Interestingly, his registration card gives some revealing information about Brother Varnell. He lists his address as 819 E. Second St, Santa Ana, California. He lists his present occupation as “mission work” but states that he was not employed at that time. He also claims exemption to his draft status due to “religious views.” Also interesting is that at age 22, he is still unmarried.
“Varnell was drafted into military service in 1917-18 for WW1, but the PAW had ministerial exemption from combat, and apparently he was not required to serve. By 1919, he was living in Sacramento (CA), according to the 1919-20 PAW Minute Book.
“His passion for ministry was nurtured by Booth-Clibborn, whom he traveled with doing tent revivals for the next few years. When Booth-Clibborn felt Varnell was sufficiently ready, he gave him all of his accroutraments (tent, piano, platform, chairs, and pulpit). Upon examining the pieces, Varnell discovered that Booth-Clibborn had left a surprise gift in the pulpit compartment – a copy of many of his sermon notes.
“Varnell and his wife, Rachel (who played piano) conducted tent revivals until money ran out, then would go back to California and do odd jobs until they could afford another revival. Their strategy was to plant churches, raise up leaders, and turn the churches over to those leaders. Following numerous invitations to conduct tent revivals, they were invited to Illinois. There they began to settle and plant churches in the Midwest.
“Perhaps due to his evangelistic work, a 27 year old Varnell was appointed to the PAW Missionary Board, chaired by Elder William Mulford in 1922. The following year, he served on the PAW Credentials & Grievances Committee.
“1924 was a year that PAW Historian Morris Golder called “the year of disaster.” It was also the first convention that Elder Garfield T. Haywood served as Chairman. The Texas delegation had come to the 1923 convention with a proposal to split the organization into two separate operating units—one ‘colored’ and one white.
“At the 1924 convention, they moved for action on this, with other additions. They included:
* a name change for the organization,
* a division of the signing of credentials by race,
* and separate printed material and literature.
“It was also learned that the southern brothers had been holding a separate regional conference since 1922.
“When their proposal was rejected, the majority of white PAW ministers (led by Howard A. Goss and William E. Kidson) met in a separate room, in the same hotel. There they formed a new all-white organization (the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance), and left the PAW.
“Meanwhile, Albert F. Varnell, the son of the segregated south, did ‘not’ join this organization. . . opting to remain a member of the interracial PAW. The strength of that decision is even more impressive when you consider that his mentor and friend, Elder William Booth-Clibborn, did join. Booth-Clibborn, a longtime member of the PAW, was the grandson of William Booth (who founded the Salvation Army).
“The next year, when the organization moved from a presbytery to an episcopal style leadership, A. F. Varnell was selected one of the first five Bishops of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.
“Having faithfully served through the contentious ‘23 and ’24 conventions, Elder Albert F. Varnell of Vandalia (IL) became Bishop Albert F. Varnell at the 1925 PAW Convention. He and Bishop Glen Beecher Rowe of Mishawaka (IN) joined African-American Bishops Alexander R. Schooler, Joseph M. Turpin and Garfield T. Haywood as the organization’s first five Bishops.
“Varnell served as Bishop until 1929, when he exited the PAW. He remained a staunch defender of baptism in Jesus name, taught that “speaking in tongues is the highest form of worship,” and taught that all believers should earnestly seek the pentecostal experience. However, he differed with the organization’s orthodoxy that tongues is the initial evidence of the indwelling Holy Ghost. Even so, Varnell kept fellowship with several PAW colleagues after his separation.”
“Varnell’s wife, Rachel wrote two articles in the July 1932 issue of The Apostolic Herald, official publication of The Pentecostal Church Inc. This indicates that Varnell apparently associated with the PCI (founded by Howard A. Goss) after leaving the PAW. However, when the PCI required all ministers to accept initial evidence in 1933, “and preach it or they would not be permitted to remain in good standing,” Varnell also left the PCI.
“He had recently accepted the invitation of a group of 15 Christians in Evansville (IN) who had no pastor, but had begun meeting together. So Varnell returned to Evansville and resumed pastoring the Emmanuel Gospel Lighthouse.
“The following June, he convened a group of 20 pastoral colleagues and founded the Apostolic Bible Conference in Kokomo (IN), near Indianapolis. Before that meeting concluded, the group became known as the Evangelistic Ministerial Alliance.
“In 1935, Varnell assumed the pastorate of the Apostolic Church of Belleville (IL). He was there until 1937. Apparently, juggling pastorates in both Illinois and Indiana during that time, Varnell resigned the Belleville congregation (which is currently affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church).
“Rev. A.F. Varnell returned to Evansville (IN) and pastored at Emmanuel until 1947. He then released the leadership to Rev. R.R. Schwambach, one of his protégés. That church, now named Bethel, currently touts more than 2,000 members.
“Varnell returned to lead the EMA, and in 1951 changed its named to Bethel. He established the Bethel Publishing House and distributed more than 20 self-authored doctrinal tracts on various subjects. The EMA is now known as the Bethel Ministerial Association.
“Following the death of his wife Rachel around 1959, Varnell returned again to California— this time to Santa Ana. There he married Ruth Seely, whom his first wife recommended for him. He lived there and mentored young ministers, including R.R. Schwambach’s son Steve (when he entered the ministry) in 1967. Rev. Steve Schwambach pastored Bethel for 33 years, following his father.
“Albert Franklin Varnell passed in April 1979 and was buried in his native Arkansas, at Booneville’s Oak Hill Cemetery.
“His legacy in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is a significant one. Whether as an evangelist, Foreign Missions Board member, Credentials & Grievance Committee member, he is a key historical figures that maintained defense of Jesus name baptism and advocated speaking in tongues throughout his life.
“One of the PAW’s first roster of Bishops, A.F. Varnell should be remembered as one that stood tall in the face of enormous tension, at a pivotal time in our history.” He was a “little known, yet significant contributor to the PAW Legacy and was one of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World’s first five Bishops, during a time that took great courage for him to support the organization.
“Albert Franklin Varnell is an unsung figure in the history of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Yet, at a pivotal moment in this organization’s early development, A.F. Varnell stood admirably against the prevailing winds of society, in favor of a strong and united PAW.
“We find that A.F. Varnell was, in fact, a very active voice for name of Jesus baptism and oneness theology throughout his life . . . even after departing the PAW. And importantly to our organization, his service to the PAW itself was significant. Rev. Don Matthews, who was mentored by “Doc” Varnell, recalls accompanying him to Christ Temple (Indianapolis) to preach. On another occasion, Matthews later recalls sitting in Pastor Morris Golder’s office, prior to his preaching at Christ Temple, and seeing a photo of Varnell on the pastor’s desk.”
Brother Varnell certainly impacted the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in an extremely positive way. But, as one chapter with the PAW ended, he could be easily found championing the cause of Christ in what was to become the Bethel Ministerial Association.
The Apostolic Bible Conference
The date is May 31, 1937. On this date, Wilbur Shaw will win the Indianapolis 500 mile race in a blazing 4 hours and 24 minutes. German battleships will bombard Almeria, Spain. Just three days prior, Neville Chamberlain became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Already throughout the year, Russian Premier Joseph Stalin has been purging the country of his enemies, executing hundreds of its citizens. In January, millionaire Howard Hughes set a transcontinental air flight record. In February, the first Charlie Chaplin talkie movie, “Modern Times” was released. In March, the first State contraceptive clinic opened in Raleigh, North Carolina. On April 27th, the first U.S. Social Security payment is made. May 1st, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Act of Neutrality and five days later, the German airship Hindenburg exploded in flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36. Just five days from then, Henry Ford will initiate the thirty two hour work week, less than a hundred miles from Kokomo, Indiana.
In other breaking news, the Apostolic Bible Conference convened in Kokomo with a “much larger delegation than was expected.” Brother Varnell is now 41 years old. He has been working an apostolic ministry now for over a decade, starting churches and ministries in many locations and establishing them as growing works of God.
From information we already considered, we know that not only did Brother Varnell grow up under the influence of the work resulting from the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival in the 1910s, but at an early age he started evangelistic ministry under Rev William E. Booth-Clibborn. His move from California to Illinois in the 1920s was due to this call to evangelistic work, tent revivals and church planting. His close association with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) and its first presiding bishop, Garfield T. Haywood, led him to be selected as one of their founding bishops and a position as assistant pastor for Rev. Haywood at Christ Temple in Indianapolis.
In the historical records of Christ Temple Apostolic Faith Assembly, there is a photo of “Bishop Haywood at the Ground Breaking ceremony in 1923 marking the beginning of the construction of the new building on Fall Creek Pkwy. Second from left is a young Robert F. Tobin. He would later become Christ Temple’s second pastor. The brothers at second and third from the right are white - The significance of this is that there was extreme segregation by law in Indianapolis at this time. Never-the-less, Christ Temple maintained a multicultural congregation.” It is our considered opinion that the second man from the right is Brother Varnell.
As previously mentioned, though, Brother Varnell had a serious disagreement with first the PAW and then later with the Pentecostal Church, Inc. Doctrinally, Brother Varnell could not agree with their insistence that the gift of tongues had to be the initial evidence of not only Holy Spirit baptism, but salvation as well. With love for the brethren yet healthy respect for these doctrinal differences, 1929 saw him leave the PAW. He and wife Rachael tried to maintain fellowship with the PCI, but as early as 1934, the same doctrinal difference caused him to leave them to go pastor a new fellowship in Evansville, Indiana at Emmanuel Gospel Lighthouse.
The work in Evansville grew rapidly. A very few years later, the photo below of “charter members” of Emmanuel shows their early growth.
A previous quote from the PAW history bears repeating because it shows the real heart of ministry of Brother Varnell. He cherished the idea of true evangelism....starting fresh works, establishing congregations and providing them with sustainable leadership.
“In 1935, Varnell assumed the pastorate of the Apostolic Church of Belleville (IL). He was there until 1937. Apparently, juggling pastorates in both Illinois and Indiana during that time, Varnell resigned the Belleville congregation (which is currently affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church).
After a few years, not only was the work at Emmanuel Gospel Lighthouse growing and flourishing, but history tells us that Brother Varnell was instrumental in establishing other works, especially in Indiana and Illinois. We don’t know how far back before 1937 the “Apostolic Bible Conference” was being held. But it is clear from our records here that the Lord was blessing many works in this region.
Many of the ministers, pastors and evangelists of this association have been bi-vocational. In other words, they must work at secular occupations as well as their jobs as preachers of the faith. Throughout the history of this group, however, there can be no doubt that these men....and women.... faithfully follow the challenge of Paul to Timothy to “preach the Word.” That is the tone of these first recorded minutes of what we can assume is a newly organized group of ministers, the “Apostolic Bible Conference.”
On this Monday in May, three men speak to a large assembly. Rev W. J. Logan, certainly reminding himself that he is newly appointed to be shepherd of the people represented by this pulpit, speaks on “The Need of the Hour”. Rev A. F. Varnell spoke on “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” and then, at the evangelistic service at 7pm, after what most likely was lively music, hymns and special singing, Rev Carl Fraese spoke on “The Way of God.”
Tuesday, June 1st, the conference began with a Bible discussion on how a Christian should spend Sunday. BMA conferences have always taken on topics that not only would be instructive but also could be grounds for discussion. Some discussions have been known to even be “heated” from time to time. This session was led by Sister Rachael Varnell and included talks on things like family renunions and other secular activities that might interfere with worship. It might not be recognized by many current-day readers that not that long ago, businesses and most activities were not open and available on Sundays. This may very well might have been one of those “heated” discussions.
That afternoon, Brother Paul Grant of Logansport spoke on the topic, “The Kingdom of Heaven.” It might be worthy to note that this association has had a long history of not only allowing laymen in the local church opportunity to speak, but often licenses ministers who do not necessarily pastor a church at the time. We don’t know Brother Grant that well....possibly because he may have been just such an individual.
The evening “Evangelistic Services” started at 7pm with the first message being presented by Rev Charles Rhoades of Decatur, Illinois. He was followed by Rev Holloman who spoke on “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” An altar call was given by Brother Hoag of Evansville, Indiana.
On Wednesday, June 2nd, there was a prayer service from 8 to 9am conducted by Rev M.D. Hornbeck of Bloomington, Ill. At 11am, Rev I.E. Wilson of Decatur, IL led a Bible discussion on “When is the Blood Applied?” and was followed by Rev Grant of Logansport. It is worth noting that Rev Hornbeck was called to pastor the church at Bloomington after Brother Varnell had started it, built up the local body and then brought Brother Hornbeck to assume the mantle of leadership. As we said, this model was followed many times by Brother Varnell to establish local church bodies in many locations in the midwest. Evidence seems to indicate that he did the same thing in Logansport with Brother Grant. The minutes indicate that “many brethren took part in the discussion, a Christian spirit prevailed througout the afternoon. Decision was, that the Blood was applied by the channel of faith when one made contact with God, and should by all means be followed with Baptism by immersion in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
One thing has always been consistent in the BMA.....discussion was free and often challenging. But as an association of ministers, this group never had any problem deciding what the “decision” should be about what the Scripture meant. This was especially true under Brother Varnell’s leadership. He wrote many dissertations on Scriptural doctrine and published them for wide dispersal. (This will be shown later in this book.) He rarely expressed that he did not have an opinion on a doctrine. More often enough, as many a young minister would remember, he would ask the listener, “would you rather get it right?” This meant that, having thoroughly studied the Word for a lifetime, discussed it many times over and over, he could easily lead anyone to a consensus about what any particular passage of Scripture might be saying. And, as important as Scripture was, there was no topic mentioned in the Bible that was not worthy of rigorous discussion and ultimate conclusion as to exactly what it meant. Witness the vital discussion of how many people did Jesus really baptise? More about that later.
This session was followed by a missionary talk given by Rev Jacob DeVrise of Royal Center, Indiana. The evening service began at 8:30pm and a message was given by Brother Hoag on the subject, “God’s Verdict.”
|A major concern I have in writing a history such as this is how much I write about individuals. It will be obvious to anyone reading that some individuals had a much greater impact on the BMA than others, if for no other reason than the amount of space spent describing them and what they did. My concern centers on the fact that some may think that because not much space is spent on one name or another that it would be our opinion that their contribution is less significant. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, there are no small contributors.
It should be accepted however, that sometimes the reason one name receives so little attention in the story telling is just because we know so little about them. I’m sure that in heaven, some of the people the world knew the least will be ones the Lord rewards the most. But sometimes when you try to tell a story that happened so long ago, someone will be mentioned less because the story teller just doesn’t have any more information on them. There are also other individuals who, through the years, come into our lives very briefly and then we might never see again. The same has been true in the BMA. Throughout the history of the association, the Lord has led folks into our lives who we see only briefly and then we never see them again....but that does not mean that the Lord doesn’t use them vitally somewhere else. We just don’t end up knowing about it....at least as far as the telling of this story goes.
Now, there are certainly others whose lives have had a great and lasting impact on our association. These individuals have invested huge amounts of time, money and personal investment into the ministry of our association. Of course, as the founder of what we now know as the BMA, Brother Varnell’s impact provides a greater input to the narrative. But there are lots of other men and women who, because they have devoted many, many years of their lives to the BMA, the impact of what they have given to it is of great significance. Some of those folks can not even remember a time when they weren’t serving the Lord through some avenue of this ministry.
Rev I. E. Wilson is one of those individuals. To this point in the story, his name has not been mentioned much. However, there would literally be no story without his input. As the secretary of this association, it was he that has written what we have shared so far from these early beginnings in the minutes. He was certainly not the only secretary of the BMA, but he was the first. And his contributions go way beyond this ledger. (We will discuss that much more when we get into talking about the Youth Camp.) As an individual who has personally benefitted from this ministry throughout my life, I know I will always thank the Lord that people like him chose to give so much to the work.
Brother Wilson now tells us that on Thursday morning, June 4, 1937, the conference opened with a morning prayer service from 8 to 9am led by Brother Hollman. At 10am, Brother Logan began a discussion about “When should a church member be excommunicated.” I have no indications in these minutes about what was decided or what caused this discussion to be raised, but I do not doubt that the topic was a very serious one. Brother Varnell preached an afternoon message on the “Different Fillings of the Spirit.”
In the evening service, Sister Katie B. Laurence of Decatur spoke on “Adam, Where Art Thou?” She was followed by Brother Wilson whose subject was, “God’s Plan for Divine Healing.” The minutes indicate that “quite a number were healed.” Praise the Lord!
After the service, a business meeting was called by Brother Varnell, who presided over the session in Brother Logan’s apartment. In this meeting, the membership resolved to change the name from Apostolic Bible Conference to the Evangelistic Ministerial Alliance. The following “alliance platform” was agreed upon:
OUR AIM, UNITY OF THE SPIRIT
OUR PURPOSE, EVANGELISM
OUR FAITH, THE BIBLE
(WHERE THE BIBLE SPEAKS, WE SPEAK. WHERE THE BIBLE IS SILENT, WE ARE SILENT)
It was “resolved that the officers of the Apostolic Bible Conference be carried over and have the same position in the E.M.A.” and that they would “hold their present position for one year which will end June 4, 1938.” (Author’s note: The above statement is specifically the reason I surmise the date of this first recorded conference to be 1937. In the minutes, Brother I.E. Wilson recorded the first date with writing that could have been perceived to have been 1934 or 1937. Since at this meeting the officers would hold their positions for one more year and it specifies that to be until 1938, I must assume that the last number in the date is a 7 and not a 4.)
The minutes go on to state that “Officers of the present time consist of I.E. Wilson, Secretary, Paul Grant, W.M.K. Hoad, A.F. Varnell, Conference Committee. Due to the fact that Brother Varnell was selected to act as chairman of the E.M.A., he resigned as member of the Conference Committee. Motion was made, seconded and carried that Brother Hornbeck serve in Brother Varnell’s place.” It was also “resolved that the conference committee act as an advisory board and grievance committee for the organization.”
June 5th would be the sixth day of this conference. Many of the pastors and ministers had been to the meeting now for six straight days. There are no signs of fatigue in the minutes. All indications are that, unlike present day conferences, this one was set to go the distance. At 10am, a discussion on “Methods of Modern Warfare” was presented by Sister Varnell and followed by others. The evening service at 7:30pm was an Ordination Service. Messages were given by Brother Varnell, I.E. Wilson and J.D. Logan. Brother Varnell then ordained Brother Grant and Brother Hornbeck. The evening message was delivered by Brother Atkins of Kokomo, Indiana. At the conclusion, the conference was closed.
We have no previous records of what the Apostolic Bible Conference was or how they conducted their business. We do not have any indication of what brought these men, women and their ministries together...although I’m sure it doesn’t stretch the imagination to see Brother Varnell’s evangelistic gifting at work bringing together a fairly large yet united group of people. We do know that they had officers and that they remained in place for the following year. As a result, it is difficult for us to say exactly what date this “organization” actually began. We can sense, however, that to them at least, their purpose is clear and they had established a firm foundation on which to base their future “alliance.”
Recorded already in these first minutes are the following individuals who can be considered members:
Rev. A.F. Varnell, Chairman
Rev. I.E. Wilson, Secretary, Pastor, Decatur, Ill.
Paul Grant, Conference Committee, Pastor, Logansport, Ind.
W.M.K. Hoag, Conference Committee, Evansville, Ind.
Rev. M.D. Hornbeck, Conference Committee, Pastor, Bloomington, Ill.
Bro Atkins, Kokomo, Ind.
Rev. Jacob DeVriese, Royal Center, Ind.
Rev Carl Froese, Apostolic Church of Belleville, Ill.
Bro. Hoag, Evansville, Ind.
Rev W.J. Logan, Pastor, Gospel Tabernacle, Kokomo, Ind.
Rev Chas Rhoades of Decatur, Ill.
Sis Katie B. Laurence, Decatur, Ill.
Sister Ruth Varnell,
Although these fourteen individuals are the only ones mentioned to this point, it would be senseless to suggest that they were the only ones attending this first conference. We have the benefit of a long list of names and addresses that Brother Wilson added on the last page of this ledger that lists some 37 individuals. Many are additions after this meeting, the women and wives are not listed and there are prominent names that do not appear on the list at all. As a result, it is impossible to determine how many people attended this first recorded conference. We do know, however, that “a much larger delegation than was expected” showed up and a very successful conference was recorded.
Today, we have the benefit of looking back on all that God has done through this alliance and we must thank Him and praise Him for it. Certainly, excellent leadership and an uncommon unity of faith and vision helped what this organization started out as to develop into something the Lord is certainly pleased has existed through the years. We all thank Him for it.
EVANGELISING IN THE THIRTIES
THE EVANGELISTIC MINISTERIAL ALLIANCE
Just four months later, the newly named, if not organized, Evangelistic Ministerial Alliance met/convened at South Bend Gospel Light House from November 22-26, 1937. On the first evening, the evangelistic services opened at 7:30 with special singing and music. The service featured a message by Bro A.E. Humbard of Hot Springs, Ark. Who spoke on “Jesus as the Hub of the Wheel.”
Brother Humbard was the father to well-known evangelist, Rex Humbard.. An article about him in the New York Times after his death in 2007 calls Rev A.E. Humbard “an itinerant preacher.” It says that Rex, his well known son, “grew up mostly in Hot Springs, Ark., but his family regularly traveled a gospel circuit. During the Depression, his father bought musical instruments at a pawnshop for his six children. Rex got a guitar. Soon they were performing as the Humbard Singers in a traveling country-western tent show called the Gospel Big Top and building a large radio audience as well.” The article calls Rex, “a guitar-strumming revival preacher who became a pioneer of television evangelism in the 1950s and remained a familiar Sunday morning presence in millions of American homes for almost half a century.” His father, a close associate of Brother Varnell’s opened this conference in 1937. Of special note, Brother A.E. Humbard was one of the 300 pastors, evangelists and missionaries to attend the first General Council of the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Ark. April 2-12, 1914.
The next morning, Tuesday, Nov 23, 1937, a prayer service at 8a.m. was conducted by Bro Holloman. Following this, at 10:30, there was a “discussion” on the subject of current events which portrayed the drama of the End Times, opened by Bro Grant, followed by Bro Wilson, Bro Hornbeck, Bro Holloman and Bro Logan. The 2pm afternoon services opened with songs & prayer. The subject of the afternoon was, “Is There a Difference Between Begotten and Born of the Spirit?” The session was opened by Bro Varnell and followed by Bro Humbard. The consensus decision was that “these terms can be used interchangably and could not run paralell with the natural birth. The natural, after begettal, waits for flesh to develop. With the spiritual, there is no flesh to develop.”
In the evening Evangelistic services at 7:00, the first speaker was Bro. Hornbeck followed by Bro P. Grant.
Wednesday at 10am featured a Bible discussion: namely, “Is there a difference between the righteous and Holy people?” All agreed that “righteousness is Holiness worked out.”
At 1pm, the first recorded “Young Peoples’ meeting” was held. Bro Wilson was in charge and Bro Holloman & Bro Roy Simpkins made a talk on “Faithfulness.” “Plans were presented for young people to work and Bro Wilson was selected for young peoples leader.” This first recorded reference to an interest and emphasis on young people was especially significant. We find later that Brother Wilson’s involvement in organizing future youth events and obtaining grounds for a Youth Camp would be instrumental in developing one of the most significant ministries of the organization that would affect thousands of lives over the years to come and result in commitments to ministries around the world. That evening, the Evangelistic service was led by Bro. Hornbeck.
Thursday morning, Sis Humbard led a prayer service. The same article mentioned above states that Martha Bell Childers Humbard was an assistant to the evangelist Mother Barnes before her marriage. When her son, Rex was 2 days old, his mother consecrated him to God’s service. In his ministry, Rex’s “sermons were televised on Sundays from 1953 to 1999, reaching up to 20 million viewers, his ministry estimated.”
After this morning prayer service, there was a “Morning Service Praise and Testimony Meeting.” At 1pm, the subject, “Christian Standards” was opened by Bro Wilson, followed by Bro Hornbeck and Bro Wellens, “Midget Preacher.”
As a possible interesting aside, this association has never shied away from inviting persons to speak who are well known in the ministry and who have had notable impact to large numbers of people, particularly in the area of evangelism. Although the results have not always been positive, it can be noted that we have never been afraid to try new things and explore the “fascinating” in attempts to reach people, and especially young people, for Jesus. The same claim can be made for using new things and new methods in evangelism. It would be a good bet that Brother Wellens was a good example of this as have been many others through the years, many of which we will mention later. The organization has never been afraid of notariety.
That Thursday evening saw another Ordination Service led by a sermon by Brother Varnell. Brother Elmer Sheperd of Clinton, Ill and Bro Hansom Holloman of Leroy, Ill were ordained. This was followed by a message by Sister Laurence of Decatur, Ill followed by Bro Wilson on the subject, “How Strong is the Church?”
Friday morning, Brother Grant led the morning prayer meeting. This was followed by a Bible Discussion on the Various Judgments led by Bro. Holloman, Bro Varnell and Bro Grant. In the evening service, the first message was given by Bro. Sheperd and the second followed by Bro Holloman.
Several business meetings were conducted during this conference. Wednesday evening after supper, a business meeting was held in the basement of the church. A statement was made by Brother Varnell that “it would be better to have credentials with W.F.M.A and still have our separate unit or council. Resolved that we change our name from E.M.A. to E.M. Council. That motion was carried.” Also, on Thursday evening after supper, another business meeting was held in which it was decided that the next conference would be in Bloomington, Ill, March 1938. Bro. Hornbeck would serve as host pastor.
The Evangelistic Ministerial Alliance now became known as the Evangelistic Ministerial Council. The practice of holding a Spring or Summer meeting as well as a Fall meeting, whether previously established or not, now became the norm.
March 28, 1938, the Evangelistic Ministerial Council Bible Conference convened at The Gospel Lighthouse, 911 West Washington St, Bloomington, Ill, March 28th to April 1. Pastor M.D. Hornbeck served as host. The opening message at 3 p.m. was “Powerful Christians” delivered by Rev I. E. Wilson of Decatur, Ill. The message of the evening was delivered by Bro Ora Dauson of South Bend, Ind and Bro Ransom Holloman of LeRoy, Ill.
Tuesday morning at 10am, a Bible discussion was conducted on the question, “What are the Requirements of Entering Heaven?” It was agreed that what is required is a “born again experience and a faithful consistent Christian life until Jesus comes.”
At 1pm, a discussion about, “Should the present day Christian practice of feet washing serve as a sacrament” was presented by Brother Logan, Evangelist, who declared that it should be observed. His view was opposed by Paul Grant of Logansport, Ind, “who held the position that it was an excellent custom but not considered a church ordinance and when mentioned in the church epistles it came under the heading of good works and not a divine sacrament.”
The Evangelistic message of the evening was by Bro Paul Grant of Logansport, Ind.
Wednesday morning’s Bible discussion was “What are the Scriptural requirements of a minister?” This was presented by I.E. Wilson. It was agreed that a minister must first, “experience a call into the ministry. He needs to be patient and kind, not greedy and money crazy but be willing to sacrifice. He should have his own wife and family under subjection, providing he had one. He must control his own house or he is not capable to take care of the house of God. He must have a good report of those who are without, not given to foolishness or going excessively in debt, one must be prompt in paying bills. He should be careful to observe laws of the land as long as they do not conflict with God’s Word, that in all things he should be an example of the believers.” This was adopted by all.
Wednesday afternoon at 2pm, an exposition on Demonism was presented by Brother Varnell. That evening at 6pm, there was a Young Peoples Service conducted with Brother Wilson in charge. Bloomington was represented first, followed by Tishawa, Decatur, Logansport and Evansville, Ind. A severe electrical storm caused much disturbance. Brother Wolff of Tishawa showed some screen pictures of Rock of Ages and the sermon was given by Brother Logan.
Thursday opened with a discussion on “Who and what constitutes the Bride?” Brother P. Grant took the position that Israel was the bride and the Church was the Body. “It seemed that practically all disagreed with him. The majority believed that the Church is the Bride.”
That afternoon at 2pm, there was an exposition by Brother Grant on current events and “Kings in prophecy.” The evening message was by Brother Wolff.
Friday at 10am, there was a continuation of Bro Grant’s exposition on Prophecy. That afternoon, at 12:30, a discussion, “When was the devil cast out of Heaven?” was presented by Bro Holloman followed by different brethren. Most of them agreed that Satan lost his position when he sinned and fell from his exalted place. Yet he continues to have some access to some parts of heaven or presence of God and that his final casting out will be future prior to Great Tribulation period.
Thursday afternoon, a business meeting was called by Bro Varnell. The subject was presented by Bro Wilson on whether or not we should get new credentials and fellowship cards or just mark out the word “Alliance” and put “Council” in its place. Decision was made for the latter suggestion. It was also decided that Brother Sheperd, Holloman, Grant, Hornbeck, Rhine, Dauson, Logan, Wilson and Bro Varnell would donate monthly on paper on which we are printing “The Evangelistic Ministerial Council Messenger.” Bro Varnell would give $2.00 monthly and all others would give $1.00.
Power was granted to Bro Varnell in a business meeting later to appoint someone to take Bro Hoag’s place on the Conference Committee since Bro Hoag resigned. Bro Holloman was appointed. “This conference had no law but love. No clean minister was barred. Meals and rooms were free to all. Conference was supported by donations and free will offerings. The next conference would be for ministers only and Evangelistic services at night would be held at the Gospel Tabernacle, 800 E. Wm Street, Decatur, Ill, May 30th to June 4th, I. E. Wilson, host pastor.”
The next entry into the ledger was from July 28, 1938. A special fellowship meeting was called of the Ministerial Council at Evansville, Ind. for the purpose of giving Bro Varnell a boost in a tent meeting. The meeting was also conducted to ordain Bro H.L. Rigsby of Hannibal, MO. The Ordination service took place at the tent on the corner of Gorenan and Jackson St, Evansville, Ind. Bro Varnell, Bro Wilson, Bro Hornbeck, and Bro Sheperd did the ordaining. Each minister gave a short talk and Bro Varnell gave a explained the purpose of ordination.
Quite interesting, by its absence, is the fact that no other minutes were recorded by the fellowship until 1941. That is a three year lapse in recorded history! I have no clear answer for why this occurred. There are very mild suggestions above that occasionally, the fellowship experienced disagreement over doctrinal issues. We already know that Brother Varnell himself, left organizations that he literally helped established because of doctrinal differences on issues like speaking in tongues. The statements above like, “this conference had no law but love” and “no clean minister was barred” hint at how difficult it is to hold strong doctrinal stands and maintain a loving, united relationship in any association. Some early “growing pains” may explain why minutes from that time do not exist.
Throughout the history of the association, we have always held fundamental many of the doctrines that Brother Varnell preached. He had at least fifteen distinct printings of tracts with these addressed in them over the years. I will post these throughout this history since many of them occurred over time and they can be rather extensive. However, there probably never was a clearer expression of what we came to believe than what he wrote. In expressing, discussing and sometimes arguing what we believed the Word of God was teaching us, Brother Varnell would often ask friends, associates and fellow pastors, “Wouldn’t you rather get it right?”
WHEN GOD BECAME A MAN
WHEN GOD BECAME A MAN
By Rev. A.F. Varnell
827 E. 2nd Street, Santa Ana, Calif
Over 85,000 in print
Mystery of mysteries –
One day a little Babe was born in a very rude and obscure place in a small and humble city. His expected arrival was not announced to the world. His mother was not widely known.
Finding no room in the crowded inn, the lowly couple retreated to a stable and there in the dark hours of the night, while the city was sleeping, the little stranger arrived.
No one suspected anything out of the ordinary, but the birth of that little Babe set all the bells of heaven to ringing. A bright new star appeared in the heavens. An angel hastened to a group of shepherds to announce the glad tidings of great joy while the illuminating light of heaven encircled the astonished shepherds, dispelling the darkness of the night. Suddenly, the lone angel was joined by a whole multitude of the heavenly host chanting the joyful refrain, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.”
When the angels had gone, the shepherds sped to Bethlehem to see the new-born Babe. From the far distant East came wise men with costly gifts to present to Him. Soon, all Jerusalem was stirred. Even the king was troubled. The birth of that humble Child had moved heaven and earth.
Who could He be? Why all this commotion about His birth? It was a mystery, a great mystery, but that newborn Babe was none other than the mighty God, the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, who was born of a virgin and came into the world in the likeness of man to dwell among us. “They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).
The angel announced unmistakably who He was. Said the angel, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
Many times in the Old Testament God is spoken of as the LORD God, the LORD Jehovah, the LORD thy God, etc. And now, the angel announces that the Babe of Bethlehem is Christ the LORD.
Since both the Old Testament and New Testament emphatically declare that there is only one Lord, then it is very evident that the Lord Jesus of the New Testament and the Lord God of the Old Testament is the same Lord.
The following scriptures taken from the Old and New Testaments will prove conclusively that the Lord God of the Old Testament is the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament.
The Lord God created heaven and earth - Isaiah 42:5.
The Lord Jesus created heaven and earth - John 1:10, Colossians 1:16.
The Lord God is the only savior - Isaiah 43:10,11.
The Lord Jesus is the only savior - Titus 1:4.
The Lord God is the First and the Last - Isaiah 44:6.
The Lord Jesus is the First and the Last - Revelation 2:8.
The Lord God said, “I am He” - Isaiah 43:10.
The Lord Jesus said, “I am He” - John 8:24.
The Lord God will reign forever - Psalms 146:10.
The Lord Jesus will reign forever - Luke 1:33.
The Lord God is King of Israel - Isaiah 43:15.
The Lord Jesus is King of Israel - Matthew 27:37.
The Lord God is Lord alone - Nehemiah 9:6,7.
Jesus is Lord - Acts 9:5.
The Lord God is Almighty - Genesis 17:1.
The Lord Jesus is Almighty - Revelation 1:8.
Other scriptures that prove beyond the shadow of any doubt that the Babe of Bethlehem was the Lord God Almighty:
The Child - a Son - shall be called the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father - Isaiah 9:6.
He who was born in Bethlehem was from everlasting - Micah 5:2.
Jesus lived before Abraham - John 8:56, 58.
Thomas acknowledged Jesus to be God - John 20:28.
Now that it has been fully established by Scripture that Jesus is God, the next step is to treat the Sonship.
When Did The Sonship Begin?
Was Jesus a Son in eternity with God before His birth in Bethlehem? If so, when did He become a Son? Was He as old as the Father? Who was His mother? What became of His body when He was born in Bethlehem? Was He born twice - once in eternity and again in Bethlehem? Did He have two Fathers and two mothers?
Oh, no! That is not the right understanding of God and the Son. In eternity, God was an invisible Spirit without flesh and bones, who alone created the heavens and the earth.
O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.
Isaiah 37: 16
Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
He declared Himself that there was no one else with Him and that He created the earth by Himself (Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:5, “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me”). There is no Savior, He said, but Himself (Isaiah 43:11, “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour”).
It was He, the only Lord God and only Savior who came into the world in the form of man to become man’s salvation. His name was called Jesus, which means, “Jehovah has become salvation.”
That is when the Sonship began, when God became a man - the Babe of Bethlehem - a Lamb of sacrifice for sin. It was God in the flesh who died for the sins of the world (Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood”). There was no Son before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, although He who became a Son existed as the invisible Spirit from everlasting.
Jesus Was Both God And Man
Jesus was a man, a perfect man. As a man He slept, He ate and He grew weary. But all of His mighty works prove that He was more than a man. What man other than He could raise the dead, walk on the water, open blind eyes, multiply bread and fish, etc.?
He was God and man united in one image. That is the reason He could say to Philip, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). And did not He say, “I and my Father are ONE.” And did not He also say, “If ye believe not that I am he (speaking of the Father) ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24,27)?
Indeed, it was a marvelous mystery but Jesus was the God-man. His birth was not after the fashion of ordinary man. He had no earthly father. His Father was the Holy Ghost and His mother was the virgin Mary. Therefore, He was both God and man.
As a man He ate; as God He multiplied bread and fish. As a man He slept in the boat; as God He arose and calmed the stormy waves. As a man He prayed at the grave of Lazarus; as God He raised Lazarus from he dead. As a man He died; as God He raised Himself from the dead (“Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” John 2:19). He was God and man - Father and Son - Spirit and flesh - in ONE IMAGE.
Therefore, when God said, “Let us make man in our image” (not images), He was speaking of the two-fold relationship of the Father and Son in one-image. We read: “So God (by Himself) created man in HIS OWN IMAGE” (not images). Genesis 1:26, 27 says: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” What, then is God’s image? Jesus is the IMAGE of the INVISIBLE GOD. Colossians 1:15 says, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.”
The children of Israel had never seen their God. He was always invisible to them. But when Jesus came, the invisible God was made visible. At the same time God was manifest in the flesh on earth, he remained Spirit in heaven. For that reason Jesus could speak of the Father that “dwelleth in me,” and also speak of the Father “in heaven.”
Jesus at the right hand of God does not mean that God and Jesus are two persons sitting side by side on a throne in Heaven, both of them sitting there stationary for centuries. That is a ridiculous and unscriptural idea of God. A preacher once said that Jesus had stood up only one time since He ascended to Heaven and that was when He stood up to welcome Stephen, because Stephen saw Him “standing” at the right hand of God.
But that is not the meaning of the right hand. The right hand is a symbolic term which means power and authority. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth.” When God became Incarnate Man on earth, He did all of His mighty works through the power and authority of that man. And now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, He has all power in Heaven. Matthew 28:18 says, “And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Therefore, Jesus at the right hand of God means that Jesus has all power. It means that Jesus is the power of God. “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
It must be remembered that the Lord Jesus Christ is more than a man. He is both God and man. He is God manifest in the flesh. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
Notice a few symbolic uses of “right hand” in connection with power.
My right hand hath spanned the heavens - Isaiah 48:13
The Lord is at the right hand to the poor - Psalms 109:31
God led the children of Israel by the right hand of Moses - Isaiah 63:12
The Lord was on David’s right hand - Psalms 16:8
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not a third, separate and distinct person from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is God. In John 4:24 we read, “God is a SPIRIT: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” And God is HOLY. Therefore, God is the HOLY SPIRIT. No further evidence is needed to prove that the Holy Ghost is God, than the scriptural fact that the Holy Ghost is the Father of Jesus. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with the child of the Holy Ghost. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18, 20). It must be remembered that Jesus Christ is Incarnate God.
Jesus Is The Holy Spirit
Jesus called His disciples together one day and told them He was soon going away but that He would send another Comforter who would abide with them forever.
Who then is this other Comforter? What is His name? Is He someone else other than Jesus? If the Comforter is someone else, then Jesus is not here; He is not in us. But Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.”
Jesus did not leave His disciples in the dark. He told them very plainly who the other Comforter is. Said He, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). And He further told them that the other Comforter was He who was dwelling with them, and would be in them when He came again. He was WITH them in the flesh and went away to Heaven in flesh, but He came back in Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to be IN them. So, we may rightfully sing, “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart.” Therefore, the name of the Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, is Jesus. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). There is no other name.
The Trinity Theory
Through the confusion of the Dark Ages and the traditions of men, the vision of the greatness and the glory and the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ has become dimmed. He who said, “I am the First and the Last” has been relegated to second place.
After a raging discussion of centuries concerning the Godhead, a doctrine was finally agreed upon known as the doctrine of the Trinity, namely: That God consists of three separate and distinct Persons, thus, placing Jesus Christ, who is declared to be Lord of all, as the second Person.
God, no doubt, has winked at the ignorance of the people as they have piously chanted hymns to the “Blessed Holy Trinity-God in three Persons.” But now the mists are being cleared away and the doctrine as taught by the Apostles is again being revealed, that Jesus Christ is God, the Spirit manifest in the flesh - not three Persons, but One.
This Trinity doctrine is man’s feeble attempt to solve the great mystery of the Incarnate God, but in thus disposing of the mystery they have only added absurdity to mystery.
If the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three, separate Persons, then each Christian has three Persons in him. “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16). “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5). “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
If there are three Persons, each raised Jesus from the dead, “But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 13:30). “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
If Christ and God are two Persons, there are two separate churches because the Church is called the Church of God and also called the Church of Christ.
If the Holy Ghost and God are two separate persons then Jesus had two Fathers. God is His Father and the Holy Ghost is His Father. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18). “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Moreover, Jesus Himself is called The everlasting Father. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
If there are three separate distinct Persons each called God, then there are three separate Gods, or else each one of the three is one-third of God. If there are three Persons, co-equal, then Isaiah had a false vision when he said, “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:25).
If there are three separate, distinct persons, there should be three separate, distinct names, whereas there is only ONE name. Father is not a proper name. Son is not a proper name. Holy Spirit is not a proper name. Peter was not so mistaken after all, as many people think, when he inspiringly said on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of JESUS CHRIST” (Acts 2:38).
Human intelligence can never fathom the mystery of Jesus Christ. Nothing short of divine illumination of the Scriptures can reveal Him as He is. He is hidden in the Scriptures from carnal view but the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit places a halo of glory around His Majestic Being and brings Him to view as the GREAT I AM, The Everlasting Father, The only wise God our Savior, The Creator of heaven and earth, etc. “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Isaiah 9:6. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
Jesus Christ puzzled the world in the days of His flesh, and he puzzles them now. The Jews rejected Him because, “He being a man, made Himself God” (John 10:33).
They were continually asking then, “Who art thou? Whom makest thou thyself? What manner of man is this? Whence hath this man this wisdom? Art thou then the Son of God? Art Thou the King of the Jews? Whence art thou? How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
And still today the world is puzzled. No wonder. He is so great and marvelous. The name of Jesus excels all other names. No tongue of man has ever proclaimed His worth.
The Devil has done his best to conceal the identity of Jesus Christ--to hide Him from the people and so well will he have succeeded until at that end of the age the entire world will reject Jesus Christ and will worship the Anti-Christ as God (all except those whose names are written in the Book of Life).
John warned of this when he said, “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of Anti-Christ.” 1 Timothy 3:16 says God was manifest in the flesh, and 1 John 4:2 says Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. Harmonizing these two scriptures we find that Jesus Christ was God who came in the flesh, and to attempt to place Him on a lower plane than the Mighty God and Lord of all is to join ranks with the Anti-Christ forces.
In Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
For in him (Jesus Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.