By Doug Beacham
Recently I spoke at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary on the subject of “Holiness and Missions.” It was a wonderful time and I thought I would share the transcript of my comments at this event.
I am grateful to Dr. Blayne Waltrip for the invitation to return to this campus and speak on this topic. Some of you may remember that nearly a year ago I was privileged to be here for a forum on the topic of Holiness that included messages and panel discussion from the leaders of several denominations in the Wesleyan/Pentecostal tradition. At that time I spoke on “The Beauty of Holiness,” and afterwards Dr. Waltrip mentioned about returning for a future event and continuing this conversation on holiness but with a focus on missions. (1)
It brings me great joy to return to the campus of the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. I sincerely want to thank your administration and faculty for your clarion voice of scholarship and spiritual passion as you emphasize our theological heritage. As a movement, we have needed the kind of scholars and scholarship that you are providing. I commend you and thank you for giving us the theological, biblical, and historical tools we need to speak with confidence as holiness, Spirit-filled people in our generation. (2)
The suggested topic, “Holiness and Missions,” has provided me an opportunity to reflect on the seven years I served as Executive Director of World Missions Ministries for the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. In my present office, I continue to reflect on the global church and how we most effectively serve Christ in our times.
I knew there was Scriptural testimony for combining the themes of “holiness” and “missions.” The call of the prophet Isaiah began with a revelation of God’s holiness as seraphim cried to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3; all references are NKJV). In response to the revelation of human iniquity in the presence of divine holiness, and the removal of that iniquity by holy fire from the altar, our Holy God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (Is. 6:8). In reply Isaiah declared, “Here am I! Send me” (Is. 6:8). It is God Himself who combines the revelation of holiness with His appeal for someone who will respond to His salvific mission.
In 1915 Susan Fitkin became the first President of Nazarene Missions International. One of her major themes was our topic. In 1940 a booklet of her thoughts on this subject was published titled Holiness and Mission. Fitkin wrote, “Holiness and world evangelism are linked together like Siamese twins in God’s Word.” (3)
In my preparation I also encountered a very interesting document on missions from the late Pope John Paul II. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, the Pope wrote: “The call to mission derives, of its nature, from the call to holiness. A missionary is really such only if he commits himself to the way of holiness. . . .The universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission. Every member of the faithful is called to holiness and to mission. The Church’s missionary spirituality is a journey toward holiness.” (4)
Elucidating upon John Paul’s remarks, Catholic writers in Opus Sanctorum Angelorum (“Work of the Holy Angels”), wrote, “True holiness is founded upon faith in Jesus Christ and is perfected in the love which comes uniquely from the grace of Jesus Christ. Faith opens our eyes to see ‘how rich is the glory of the heritage that God offers among His holy people, and how extraordinarily great is the power that He has exercised among His holy people’ (Eph 1:18-20). At the same time it helps us recognize the spiritual misery of countless millions who have no notion of the ‘unfathomable treasure of Christ’ (cf. Eph 3:8) and the great dignity to which they are called.” (5)
From those insights, especially that of John Paul II, I found myself returning to the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica and the two letters he wrote to this Greek city gathering of believers. Acts 17:1-10a describes the ministry of Paul and his entourage in the city. Paul and Silas used their Roman citizenship rights to address their mistreatment in Philippi (Acts 16). From there they traveled about 75 miles west to Thessalonica where they spent three Sabbaths preaching in the Jewish synagogue.
We are not told how long they were there before they began the synagogue ministry. From 1 Thessalonians 2:9 we know that Paul and Silas carried on their tent making occupations while there. One thing is certain, once they began speaking in the synagogue, they had three weeks where “they reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2).
It is those three weeks that form the framework for my comments about holiness and missions. We know from Acts 17 that they declared the gospel message of Jesus as the “Christ,” the Messiah of Israel, and that He “suffered” (euphemism for his death on the cross) and rose again (verse 3). They clearly connected the Messiah with “this Jesus whom I preach to you” (verse 3).
The response of the Thessalonians reveals some who came to saving faith and formed the first fruits of ministry there, as well as those who rejected the message and responded in “envious” disagreement (verse 5). The nature of their complaint, political in nature, indicates that Paul had preached that Jesus was not only Messiah of Israel but also “King” (verse 7).
The impact of Paul’s three week teaching ministry did not really sink into my thinking until I read 1 and 2 Thessalonians in the light of Acts 17 and with three weeks in mind. No doubt Paul not only spoke in the synagogue those Sabbaths but he also shared during the week with the men and women, Jew and “devout Greeks” (Acts 17:4) who were responding to the gospel message. In my mind I see small groups in homes in the evenings, small groups and individuals sitting in the agora (marketplace; verse 5) where Paul was working on tents, all listening and asking questions of Paul and Silas about Jesus, the kingdom of God, ethical implications of the Gospel, and the Old Testament Scriptures.
With three weeks in mind, I draw our attention to a quick survey of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, particularly 1 Thessalonians, and the catalogue of experiences and teachings that Paul deposited among these men and women.
1 Thessalonians – in three weeks:
1:9 – men and women turned from idols to serve the living and true God. Thus, first generation believers abandoned the idolatry of their previous generations.
1:5; 2:2, 5, 9, 10 – Paul emphasized his character and actions among them as consistent with the gospel he preached. Notice the use of “blameless” in 2:10.
2:12 – Paul told them to “walk worthy of God” because they have been called by God “into His own kingdom and glory.” Thus, the reality of the kingdom of God, which was the focus of Jesus’ preaching, was proclaimed among them.
2:13 – The Thessalonians received Paul’s words as “the word of God” (logou theou). Thus, Paul’s words, including his preaching citations from the Torah, were not mere opinion in his eyes but the Thessalonians and Paul understood there was a Holy Spirit anointing present which empowered his speech as “word of God.”
3:1-4 – Paul reminded them that “suffering tribulation” as a believer should be expected and that he had already warned them that he would suffer such.
3:13 – Paul used the phrase “blameless in holiness” (amemptous en hagiosune) with a likely eschatological focus. (6)
4:1-8 – In one of the most significant portions of 1 Thessalonians, Paul uses holiness terminology three times in relation to one of the most basic aspects of life, sexuality (vv. 3, 4, 7). This section has several aspects that should be noted.
1. Instructions on sexual morality are couched in the language of “pleasing God, commandments, uncleanness,” and in verse 8, as Holy Spirit direction and not merely the advice of man (vv. 1, 2, 7, 8).
2. It is “God’s will” in sanctification that believers “abstain from sexual immorality” (v. 3).
3. Sexual immorality is placed within the context of Gentiles who “do not know God” (v. 5).
4. The Lord “avenges” those who abuse sexual relationships (v. 6).
4:9-12 – “Brotherly love” (v. 9) is how believers live with one another (see 4:6) so that our life among those “who are outside” (v. 12) has integrity and bears a suitable witness for Christ.
5:1ff – Paul taught the Thessalonians regarding the return of Christ and how we live in light of that truth.
5:23 – Paul’s references to “sanctify you completely” and “whole spirit, soul, and body” are expressed with an eschatological dimension. But the use of those phrases means that Paul taught a comprehensive view of human existence that indicated the power of complete sanctifying grace.
2 Thessalonians – 3 weeks and a letter:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 – In verse 5 Paul reminded them that his teaching over those three weeks included insights about “the man of sin” (v. 3) and the “mystery of lawlessness” (v. 7).
2 Thessalonians 2:13 – The final reference to sanctification is set within the pastoral/theological connection of the larger work of salvation as being accomplished “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
As I reflect over 1 and 2 Thessalonians, I offer these observations.
First, in three weeks Paul taught about salvation, sanctification, the role of the Holy Spirit, the reality of the kingdom of God, the return of Christ, and specifically about sexual immorality. That may be more teaching in three weeks than most modern congregations receive in a year!
Second, Paul was not concerned that the Thessalonians would be offended by his teaching and application. He was not concerned that his teaching on sexual ethics would drive them away. Instead, a failure to speak clearly to this issue would be a violation of the spirit of truth and God’s will.
Third, Paul assumed they were capable of receiving and understanding much truth. He did not “water-down” his message or the truth of Scripture. He gave them intellectual credit, and more importantly, credit to the Holy Spirit for the Spirit’s ability to reach the human heart and mind with revelatory truth.
Fourth, Paul’s foundations of truth and strength of character speak to me of what can be accomplished through the power of the Spirit in a short time. He did not attempt to build a mega-church; he attempted to build strong believers in community as an active presence of the kingdom of God in Thessalonica. His focus was on sharing the good news of a kingdom that has come, and is coming, over against every other principality and power. An important corollary to this was the personal consistency of his life with what he preached. He lived “blameless” and “holy” among them.
Fifth, Paul knew that the gospel message had clear moral boundaries meant to differentiate a believer from those in the world. Those boundaries included how we treat one another, how we treat and relate to those “outside” the faith, and impacted every dimension of life from sexuality to work habits.
Sixth, in Paul’s mind, saying “no” to the sexual license of his day was not a message, to use modern parlance, of “being against” something or someone; rather, it was a statement of being “for” righteousness, God’s will, and the hope of deliverance from destructive patterns of life.
Seventh, while there are obvious individual applications to what Paul wrote concerning holiness, he writes within the context of a worshiping community of believers. It is the community that is called to demonstrate that God is Holy. The community is the visible Body of Christ in Thessalonica. Their life together, to use the English title of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s lectures, is vital to individually being holy. Holiness is not a privatized personal experience; it is an experience that occurs within the context of Christians who encourage, rebuke, exhort, and manifest grace and mercy to one another even as each has received grace and mercy from our Lord.
I close with the thought that Paul’s method can be duplicated in many settings. I do not mean that the results will always be the same; but that the method of assuming the unreached listener is more capable and more open to receiving biblical revelation, is valid. If someone is going to reject the gospel, let’s at least be sure they reject the gospel and not a watered down parody of it!
Finally, for those of us whose ministry tends to focus on the secular west, there is a troubling essay that warrants our attention from J. Budziszewski in First Things. Titled “This Time Will Not Be the Same,” this professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas remarked, “God willing, the new evangelization will happen, but let us not imagine that this time will be like the first time. The old evangelization proclaimed the Good News among pagan, pre-Christian peoples to whom it came as something new. Nothing like that had been done before. But nothing like our task has been done before either.”
“We proclaim the Gospel to a neo-pagan, post-Christian people to whom it does not come as new. The old had not yet felt the caress of grace; our world, once brushed, now flinches from its touch.” (7)
Budziszewski added several observations about the differences between first century pagans and twenty-first century pagans in the west, “The pagan made excuses for transgressing the moral law. By contrast, the neo-pagan pretends, when it suits him, that there is no morality, or perhaps that each of us has a morality of his own. . . . The pagan wanted to be forgiven, but he did not know how to find absolution. To him the Gospel came as a message of release. But the neo-pagan does not want to hear that he needs to be forgiven, and so to him the Gospel comes as a message of guilt.” (8)
That’s a serious challenge for those of us who still believe that the Bible is God’s Word and conveys divine revelation and truth. Those of us in the West know how difficult it is to speak divine truth and it be heard with any degree of respect. The sexual morality expressed by Paul is ridiculed today as “intolerant, hateful, and judgmental.” Yes, we must speak the truth in love; and yes, we must love enough to speak the truth. Such truth and love is first evidenced within the community of faith and then it is observed by those around us. The “outsiders” are watching to see if our love, our faith, our testimony, is true. The implicit truth-life of the community validates the eternal truth claim of the Gospel.
I close with this story. Sammy Lamanilao is an IPHC Philippines minister who felt called to serve Jesus in Cambodia. He moved there over a decade ago, learned Khmer, and began to lead young adults to Christ. As many of you remember, the communist Khmer Rouge almost destroyed the nation during the reign of terror from 1975-1979. It was so bad that even the communist Vietnamese intervened to stop it. The Khmer Rouge left the nation void of a generation of leaders from every field of service. There were literally millions of young men and women with no living physical, spiritual, or cultural parents.
Sammy and his wife started leading these young men and women to Christ. Many of them were first generation Christians in their families. Naturally, he encountered people whose values and experiences were a far cry from any moral framework that characterizes us in this room.
Sammy shared this engaging story while speaking at a conference in Vancouver. He told of a young woman who came to faith in Christ through their ministry. For the first time she had a living relationship with God. Sammy preached that God hears our prayers and answers our prayers.
One Sunday after the service she excitedly ran to him and his wife exclaiming, “Pastor Sammy, you preached that God hears our prayers and He does! This week I needed forty dollars and I asked God to meet my need. He did!” Excited with and for her, they asked, “Sister, tell us how God answered your prayer.”
“Oh pastor, after I prayed I remembered that business men come to our hotels in Phnom Penh. So I went to a bar, met a western business man, and he paid me forty dollars for my services to him,” she proudly announced.
Realizing what she had done, the Lamanilao’s asked, “Sister, did you prostitute yourself to him for the forty dollars?” She replied, “Yes, is that ok?”
“Oh dear sister, as Christians we don’t do that. You don’t have to prostitute yourself,” they said with grace.
She replied, “Oh, I didn’t know that. I will not do that again.”
Relieved, the Lamanilao’s continued to minister to her with God’s love and grace, leading her into more and more holiness.
A few weeks later she came back excited about how God was really blessing her financially. They asked, “You’re not prostituting yourself, are you?”
She proudly announced, “Oh no. I’m a Christian and I know now that we don’t do that. I hire other girls to do it and I give them a little money and I keep the rest!”
Again, the pastor and his wife replied, “Oh our dear sister, Christians don’t do that to other people. We don’t use women like that.”
She replied, “I didn’t know that. I am sorry and will not do that again.”
Sometime later I visited Cambodia. When Sammy met me at the airport I asked him if I could meet this amazing woman. He told me that she had returned to her home village and was dying of AIDS. I asked if she remained faithful to Christ and he replied that yes, she had learned what it meant to follow Christ and continued to serve Him faithfully in her village.
That story is very compelling to me, especially about teaching, holiness, love and community. I honor this wise pastor and his wife for their patience and loving care for this woman. They were not afraid to share the truth about her actions. She really did not know that her actions were not pleasing to God. I suspect there are more in the western world like this than we normally want to admit!
They lovingly discipled her and led her to a life that more fully reflected the glory of God. Even facing death, and she has since died, she was established in a life-giving relationship with Christ through holy community.
Holiness and mission go together because they flow from the heart of our Loving and Holy Triune God. Our challenge is to avoid the legalism that marked so much of our holiness traditions, and at the same time not be afraid to live differently in this world.
May God give us the grace and wisdom, whether with first-generation hearers, or with neo-pagans who have abandoned the gospel, to live in holy community with one another as a common witness to our holy, and loving, God. Amen.
(1) The printed version of this address includes additional information that was not in the initial verbal presentation as well as some deletion of comments made in the verbal presentation. However, the primary components of the message are presented in this paper
as originally made in the verbal presentation. The 2013 conference included The Church of God (Cleveland), the
Church of God of Prophecy, representatives from the Church of God in Christ, and IPHC.
(2) Books related to the holiness/Pentecostal tradition can be viewed and purchased at http://www.pentecostaltheology.org/CPT_Press.html.
(3) https://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/holiness.htm. I examined the primary holiness and missions sources from
the International Pentecostal Holiness Church but did not find any substantive discussion of the correlation between the two.
These sources were Noel Brooks, The Biblical Basis of Missions (Franklin Springs, GA: Advocate Press, 1976), Frank G. Tunstall, The Simultaneous Principle (Franklin Springs, GA: LifeSprings Resources, 2005), and B.E. Underwood, Sixteen New Testament Principles for World Evangelization (Franklin Springs, GA: Advocate Press, 1988. On page 227 ff. Underwood references some of the ethical issues we will discuss in relation to 1 Thessalonians without setting them in the context of this presentation. Though not an exhaustive search, I did a preliminary search of The Pentecostal Holiness Advocate that did not reveal any discussion related to holiness and missions that pertained to this presentation.
documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_07121990_redemptoris-missio_en.html; section 90. Under Chapter VII, Section 77, there is a discussion of “missionary cooperation” from the Roman Catholic perspective.
(6) J. Ayodeji Adewuya, Holiness and Community in 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1: Paul’s View of Communal Holiness in the Corinthian Correspondence (New York: Peter Lang, 2003) p. 123. I was not aware of Dr. Adewuya’s work until after the presentation when he kindly introduced himself and presented me a copy of this book.
(7) J. Budziszewski, “This Time Will Not Be the Same,” First Things, March, 2014, p. 24.
(8) Budziszewski, p. 24.