I enjoyed reading the PowerPoint "Who Is My Brother?" that is found on this website. I imagine it is sometimes difficult to determine if a particular denomination or other Christian group belongs to the third or fourth layer of fellowship (the third layer being those who are saved Christians and the fourth layer being those who accept Jesus’ deity and salvation for our sins but are not saved). I can see why Catholics would be included in the fourth layer (I am not an expert by any means on the Catholic Church, but I do know many of the things they teach). Here are my questions: 1. However, I do not know why Presbyterians and Assemblies of God are listed in the fourth layer since I don’t know much about these denominations. 2. Assemblies of God form a branch of Pentecostal Churches, so would Pentecostal Churches be included in the fourth layer as well? 3. One of my friends told me Pentecostal Churches scare her because of snakes in worship, but I haven’t found anything else about that. I had visited a congregation a few times while I was in college that called themselves a Pentecostal Church, and they didn’t have any snakes there (if they did, I didn’t see them). Do you know anything about this?
Answer: I do not like to put myself in the place of being the judge of entire groups of people who consider themselves to be Christian. Such potentially divisive talk seems to violate the spirit of the presentation I have given and the Power Point you saw. Let me do my best, nevertheless, to answer your question. The third level of fellowship is based on the essential doctrines. These are people with whom me most likely would not have intimate fellowship, but who are saved and should be treated as such. What are the essential doctrines? They are those which one can reasonably infer may determine of one is saved by the blood of Jesus. In other words, doctrinal issues which are salvation issues define the third level of fellowship. You will have to decide, based on your convictions about what the Bible teaches, what are the salvation issues. To me, a correct understanding of who Jesus is, who the Father is and who the Holy Spirit is are essential. Belief in the inspiration of the Bible and in the bodily resurrection of Jesus are essential. Belief in (and practice of, by the way) discipleship, repentance and baptism for forgiveness of sins is essential. The list would not be much longer than that for me personally. Based on this list, some of the groups you list above are not in the third level of fellowship in my opinion. Let me be specific about our Pentecostal friends. I do not agree with those who practice speaking in tongues, gifts of healing and the like as part of Christian worship today. Because it is not part of this question, I will not go into why I believe this now, but let us just use this as a working assumption. Having said that, I cannot see why this can be a salvation issue. A person can believe in miraculous tongues today who has met every requirement above to be a saved person. My opinion is that some "Pentecostals" are saved and some are not, but it is not based on this particular false teaching. I am unwilling to categorize all Pentecostals as belonging to either the third or fourth circle of fellowship. Your friend is right that most Pentecostals do not include the more radical kinds of miraculous practices such as falling into trances and holding poisonous snakes. We should not impose such stereotypes on all Pentecostals. Instead, we should apply to Golden Rule to all. We should assume the best of everyone until we learn a specific reason to think differently. That is how, I assume, you would want to be treated and that is how you ought to treat others. As for Presbyterians and Assemblies of God, I will let you do your own research into whether or not their teaching on how one is saved is biblical or not. John Oakes