Apostolic Identity is Victim Identity

by E.L. Anglin

Within Oneness Pentecostalism "Apostolic Identity" is the doctrine that salvation depends upon a correct understanding of the godhead, whether one has been baptized properly, spoken in tongues, and whether one dresses properly.

Some Oneness Pentecostals believe that standards are merely "lifestyle choices," but many of their leaders disagree. In their minds, standards are a dividing line between the saved and unsaved.

A prominent Apostolic speaker, Raymond Woodward, in one of his most recognizable sermons, 'Threefold Cord of Apostolic Identity - Oneness, New Birth, Holiness,' makes the following statement...

The Threefold Cord of Apostolic Identity: Holiness. on Vimeo.

"The 'holiness strand' is most likely to get pulled from the threefold cord -but a 'twofold cord' won't hold together, you need the third." (1)

Apostolic Identity is the modern repackaging of what used to be called "standards" or "holiness" and born from a desire to show separation from other non-standards-keeping Christians. There are Trinitarian Pentecostals and Pentecostals who don't believe baptism or standards are necessary, but to Woodward and others those Pentecostals aren't Apostolic.

How do Apostolics accomplish "holiness?" In their minds it's accomplished by self-denial. For men it's no shorts or beards. There is no other visible difference between Oneness Pentecostal men and other Christian men. For women it's much more involved. They must abstain from trimming their hair and wearing jewelry, pants and make-up. In future posts I will dissect each of those standards individually, but at this point it's only important to note that obedience to these standards supposedly makes one Apostolic. Standards prove that anyone can know a true Apostolic by his or her visible "identity."

Stop for a moment. Let's define terms.

Webster defines 'apostolic' as "of, relating to, or conforming to the teachings of the New Testament" and 'identity' as ": who someone is : the name of a person : the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others."

Are there New Testament scriptures that forbid ladies to wear jewelry, slacks and make-up? Any that forbid men to wear shorts or grow beards? Absolutely not. So how are those standards in any way "Apostolic?"

What of this fascination with the word "identity?" In what way were the Apostles different from their culture? We have no record that they dressed different than their contemporaries. It's safe to assume they had beards and wore robes and sandals, just like everyone else. One thing is sure, they didn't wear suits, ties and dress shoes.

Jesus gave the real evidence of Apostolic Identity in John 13:35.

"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." New Living Translation

Love, not clothes, proves discipleship.

Perhaps Dr. Steven Stosny's work gives insight into the real purpose of the Oneness Pentecostal definition of Apostolic Identity.

Writing in 'Psychology Today' he says "Victim identity is focus on damages suffered at the hands of other people. The desire to be identified as a victim creates a sense of entitlement and a motive to devalue anyone who does not offer special recognition and validation of victim status or compensation for it." (2)

Those who follow standards resent those who don't because to question standards is to strike at the standard-keepers' identity. Anyone who speaks against any of those unnecessary sacrifices is considered an abuser. Bitter. Hateful. They are told that they don't love truth.

In my opinion Apostolic Identity is victim identity. It's holding one's sacrifices up as proof that one is misunderstood by the world and held to a higher standard by God.

It's the Pharisee as victim saying, "I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don't cheat, I don't sin, and I don't commit adultery. I'm certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income." Luke 18:11-12 New Living Translation

Standards provide Oneness Pentecostals a sense of entitlement. The idea is "I am saved by what I do and don't do. Here's the evidence."

This strikes at the heart of the Gospel. It replaces the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross with insufficient human effort.

"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." Ephesians 2:8.9 New Living Translation

In the end, Apostolic Identity serves to maximize unnecessary differences. It excludes through the gospel of me. Above all it misses the grand point. Christ never asked us to imitate the Apostles, He asked us to imitate Him.


1 http://storage.cloversites.com/capitalcommunitychurch1/documents/Threefold%20Cord%20of%20Apostolic%20Identity%20-%20Holiness%20_LA%20Camp_.pdf

2 The Line between Victims and Abusers: Who are the victims, who are the abusers? Post published by Steven Stosny, Ph.D. on May 15, 2009 in Anger in the Age of Entitlement

This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.

Page added March 3, 2015


August 23, 1997
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