Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 1, 1970
NUMBER 21, PAGE 1-3a

Tested By Their Teaching: Oral Roberts

James D. Bales

The Old Testament and the New Testament emphasize that professed prophets and teachers are to be tested by their teachings, as well as by their claims and accomplishments. (Deut. 18:20-22; 13:1-6; Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; I John 4:1) Pat Boone thinks that Oral Roberts is filled with the Spirit. This does not mean that he agrees with everything Roberts teaches, but he does think Roberts has at least some gifts. In two articles we shall very briefly test Roberts by his teaching.

First, did the Spirit lead Roberts to join the Methodist Church a few years ago? Much of the top leadership of this church accepts modernism and denies the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. This church was founded by man, not by Christ. The Spirit would not have led him into the Methodist Church. Why, if Roberts has been baptized in the Spirit, didn't the Spirit warn him against joining this church? In this connection a statement by W. E. Mann in The Christian Century for September 5, 1956 is of interest. He wrote that Roberts might "start a new sect. Or it may be that, like Charles Templeton, he will come to recognize the limitations of his pentecostal tradition and seek a broader education and a definite church connection." (p. 1019)

Second, there were Pentecostals, who have as much evidence of being baptized in the Spirit as Roberts has, who had supported Roberts financially for years. They were not only disappointed, as T. F. McNabb wrote, but thought it was wrong for Roberts to join a denomination which had not endorsed, or sponsored, his work during the time the Pentecostals enabled Roberts to get to his prominent position. (Christianity Today, May 24, 1968, p. 19) Which "spirit" was right? The one that told Roberts to join the Methodist Church or the one which told some Pentecostals that Roberts did not do the right thing?

Third, has Oral Roberts accepted, opposed, or just ignored the doctrines of faith only, infant baptism, and sprinkling as taught in the Methodist church?

Fourth, Roberts once wrote: "The isolation of the Yemenite Jews continued until 1948, when God spoke to their leaders and caused them to organize an exodus from Arabia to Palestine." (Abundant Life, July 1959, p. 6) (a) What proof does Roberts have that God spoke to their leaders? (b) If God had spoken to their leaders, He would have told them to go to Christ, not to Palestine. (c) God speaks today through His Son, and those first century apostles and prophets who were sent by Him. (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1-2)

Fifth, Roberts asked an 85 year-old Rabbi to bless him. "He reached over and put his aged hands upon my hands. Then he began to pray, and he blessed me in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And I tell you that I felt the presence of God in a strangely wonderful way. I could not keep back the tears."

"Then I put my hands upon the hands of the mother, father and children there on the table, and blessed them in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Once again the room was filled with the presence of the Lord. . . What an unforgettable experience!" (pp. 6-7) It is right to pray for all men, but was the presence of God manifested in a strangely wonderful way as a result of the blessing by a Jewish rabbi who did not believe in Christ?

Roberts preached in Israel. Although not every occasion is an opportunity to preach Christ, or to engage in religious discussion, was he moved on any of these occasions to reason concerning Christ with these Jews, and, if necessary, powerfully confute "the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ?" (Acts 18:28)

Sixth, Roberts told Ben-Gurion that he, Roberts, did not have an ear for languages, nor did he know Hebrew. (p. 7) If Roberts had the gift of tongues, he should speak some language, or languages, by inspiration.

Seventh, W. E. Mann attended three meetings during a healing crusade by Roberts in Detroit and, among other things, wrote: "The abrupt manner in which Roberts treats many of these failures is disillusioning." (Christian Century, Sept. 5, 1956, p. 1018). Gordon H. Fraser told of attending a healing service conducted by Roberts among the Navajo Indians. Many were disappointed, for no one was healed. ("Oral Roberts Visits the Navajos," The Discerner, Vol. III, No. 4. Published by the Religion Analysis Service, Inc., 902 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis 3, Minn.)

Eighth, Harland G. Lewis pointed out that some who came to be healed, and were not, may be left with a sense of guilt. " 'If faith heals and I am not healed, then I am at fault. I am being punished. What's wrong with me?'

"Sometimes this guilt, driven deeper by crowd excitement, is left to fester, and thus the faith-healing campaign produces more pain and illness." (Christian Century, Sept. 5, 1956, p. 1020)

Ninth, at least two people died shortly after they were supposedly healed at one of Roberts' services. (V. E. Howard, Fake Healers Exposed, Texarkana, Texas 75501, P. O. Box 1717, pp. 39-40)

Tenth, the Bible teaches that the baptism of the believing penitent is into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is unto the remission of sins, is a part of the new birth, and is into Christ. (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:2-5, 17-18; John 3:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27.)

Oral Roberts teaches that: "It is not necessary to be baptized in water to receive salvation from God. . . we are not saved because we have been baptized, but we are baptized because we have been saved." ("Questions and Answers On Doctrine," p. 2) Pat thinks Roberts has been baptized in the Spirit. The same day Peter was baptized in the Spirit, the Spirit through Peter taught that baptism, of the believing penitent, is unto the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). If Roberts has been baptized in the Spirit, why does he not understand what the Spirit saith concerning the purpose of baptism?

There are some who think it is a matter of no importance as to why one is baptized. The Scriptures do not view it in this light. Paul asked some: "Into what then were ye baptized?" They had been baptized into John's baptism. They now had to be baptized according to the baptism taught in the great commission. (Acts 19:3-5) John's baptism was from heaven, and to reject it was to reject God's counsel. (John 1:33; Lk. 7:29-30) But when the baptism of the great commission went into force, John's baptism was no longer valid. Surely baptisms today, which are not into Christ, are not scriptural baptism. If one thinks he is in Christ and saved before he is baptized into Christ, how can his baptism be the baptism Jesus commanded? Such a baptism was never of divine origin. Since John's baptism, which was of divine origin, was not valid under the new covenant, how much more is a baptism not valid which is based on man's doctrine.

How long would it take Priscilla and Aquila to teach Roberts, and these other individuals who have not received Biblical baptism, more accurately in the way of the Lord on this subject? (Acts 18:24-26)

Eleventh - Was Oral Roberts Baptized into Christ? Pat Boone authorized T. G. O'Neal to publish in his bulletin Pat's letter of January 13, 1970 which said, among other things, that: "You may not know that recently Oral Roberts was baptized in water for the remission of his sins calling upon the name of the Lord. I knew this before I went on his program. . . this makes Oral Roberts our brother, unless we have come up with some other standard of membership." (Signs of the Times, 318 Kings Highway, Murfreesboro, Tenn. 37130) When the author received a copy of this bulletin in July, 1970, it was the first he had heard of such a claim concerning Roberts. However, Pat had said in a letter to the author that he had seen Oral Roberts baptize someone unto the remission of sins.

Although the author was confident Pat was sincere in his statement, he wrote Roberts concerning Roberts' position on baptism. In a form letter on July 13, 1970, Roberts said: "Water baptism is not essential to salvation, but it is a testimony to the world that the old life of sin has been forsaken. In other words, we are not saved because we have been baptized but we are baptized because we have been saved." He enclosed a tract, on "Questions and Answers on Doctrine," which said in essence the same thing. If Roberts and Pat are both recipients of some of the miraculous gifts, as they claim, why this contradiction and confusion?

Twelfth - What does Roberts teach concerning immersion? He was immersed, and would still choose immersion. "But I have seen too many of God's born again Christians who were baptized by some other mode for me to engage in a controversy on the subject." (Oral Roberts, "Questions And Answers On Doctrine," p. 2) The Spirit through Paul said that baptism is a burial and a resurrection (Rom. 6:2-5, 17-18; compare Acts 8:36-39). The vast majority of scholars, even those who practice sprinkling, recognize that baptism involves a burial and resurrection. Paul also said there is one baptism (Eph. 4:4)

Thirteenth - What does Roberts teach concerning the new birth? "Birth (of water) is the natural birth, by which we come into this world. Birth by the Spirit is the second birth, by which we enter the kingdom of God." (The New Testament With Personal Commentary by Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1969, 676) First, Jesus did not speak of one birth of water and another birth of Spirit. He spoke of one birth which involves both the water and the Spirit. As Westcott pointed out in his commentary: "The general inseparability of these two is indicated by the form of the expression, born of water and spirit. . . . as distinguished from the double phrase, born of water and of spirit." Second, the great commission teaches water baptism; therefore the apostles taught that baptism is involved into coming into Christ (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16: 15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:2-5, 17-18; Gal. 3:26; Titus 3:5; I Pet. 3:21; Acts 8:36; 10;47). To be in Christ is to be in His kingdom (Col. 1:13-14). We are baptized, from a heart of faith trusting in Christ's death, burial and resurrection, into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:2-5, 17-18). Baptism is involved in coming into Christ, therefore, it is involved in coming into the kingdom. Why, then, should one fail to see the water of baptism in John 3:5? There is no evidence that water in John 3:5 means one's natural birth when one's mother gave birth to him.

Does Oral Roberts teach against denominationalism? How could he do so when he joined another denomination — the Methodist — a few years ago. In speaking of Pentecost he said: "There are denominations that have guarded and preserved this experience; however, Pentecost is a personal baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire." (690) If they have this experience, why have they failed to learn what the Spirit teaches about the one body? (Eph. 4:4). (To be continued)