Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: second work of grace

Man-made churches of God?

John Winebrenner was a minister of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania who was severed from that denomination in 1828 for being too evangelical, i.e.: not Calvinistic, in his preaching. He continued preaching wherever people would hear him and in 1830 he and his followers organized the denomination now known as the Church of God, General Conference. This new Church of God had no written creed, taking the Bible as the sole guide to faith and stated that their objective was to unite all true Christians in one body.

Daniel Warner became a minister of this body in 1867. In 1877 he claimed to have an experience of entire sanctification. The Winebrenner church rejected this doctrine of perfectionism and Daniel Warner was expelled in January of 1878. He continued preaching this doctrine and found many in agreement.

In studying the 7th chapter of the book of Daniel, he calculated the time of the supremacy of the Roman Catholic church as beginning 270 A.D. and lasting 1260 years (counting a year for a day) bringing him to 1530. He was on pretty solid ground thus far, but then turning to Revelation 11:11 he came to a period of three and a half days when the witnesses of God appeared to be dead. Now reading 100 years for a day he discovered that the true witness was scheduled to revive in 1880 A.D.

Thus he organized a new Church of God in 1880 with full confidence that this was the fulfilling of Bible prophecy. I would not call Daniel Warner a charlatan, but it would appear that he was susceptible to mistaking his own wishes and imagination for the leading of the Holy Spirit. He believed that his new movement, with a twin emphasis om the restoration of the Church of God which had long been absent from the earth and on the full and entire sanctification of believers by a second work of grace after conversion.

The new church had many talented and prolific song writers, including Warner himself. Others were Andrew L. Byers, Charles W. Naylor, Benjamin H. Warrren Clara M. Brooks and many more. Most of their hymns were sound evangelistic hymns, but a few point to their distinctive doctrines. Much mention is made of the “evening light,” Warner having interpreted Zechariah 14:7 to be a prophecy that the gospel light would once again shine at the end of the age. Warner died in 1895. The church is now known as the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana.

There have been a number of schisms in that body over the past 75 years. One was the Church of God (Restoration) which was led by Daniel Layne until his death in 2011. There were many who felt the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana had drifted from its original fervency into worldliness. Layne took his inspiration from Revelation 8:1 which speaks of silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. Now taking each minute for a year, Layne concluded that the former church had become apostate in 1950 and the silence in heaven ended when he began his restoration movement in 1980.

The Church of God (Restoration) has about 20 congregations. Some in Canada are made up largely of German-speaking people who were formerly part of Mennonite denominations. These German language congregations are known as Gemeinde Gottes.

All these churches began with considerable sincerity and a fervent desire to unite the people of God. Looking back over their history it seems they have done more to divide the children of God.

How to invent a church

Let’s say that I am a young man on fire for the Lord, thrilled by what God has done for me and eager to share this good news with others. But I can’t find a church that sees things exactly the way I do. What shall I do?

Well, if my name is Daniel Warner, here is what I do. I assume all the churches that exist are spiritually dead, not necessarily all the members, but the churches themselves. Moreover, it seems that since the apostolic age there has not been a church with the true light that God has given to me. And lo and behold! The Old testament prophet Zechariah said that this is the way it would be. There would be a long period of darkness, “but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light” (Zechariah 14:7). This can only mean one thing, now is the evening time of the world, the light has returned and it is up to me to spread the news of the evening light.

Searching the Scriptures a little further, I find in the 7th chapter of Daniel the prophecy of the little horn which shall make war on the saints for a time, and times and half a time. This little horn can be nothing else but the Roman Catholic Church which began in 270 AD. A time, and times and half a time means three and one half years, taking each day for a year, and counting 1260 years from 270 AD, gets us to 1530 AD, when Protestantism overthrew the power of Catholicism. But then the book of Revelation, in chapter 11, speaks of God’s two prophets, the Spirit and the Word, lying dead for three and one half days. Now, in this case the days must represent centuries.

That would bring us to 1880, which is the year I am living in right now. Do you see? There it is prophetically foretold that this year the restoration of the work of God, and His Church, would begin. And that ministry has been committed to me.

The above information has been culled from Birth of a Reformation, Life and Labors of D. S. Warner, written by Andrew L. Byers and published in 1921. Mister Warner’s handling of Scriptures seems more than a little suspect, but he succeeded in gathering a considerable following, known today as the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana).

There were prolific songwriters among the early leaders of this church, among them Daniel S Warner himself, Andrew L Byers, Benjamin B Warren, Charles W Naylor, Dennis O Teasley and Clara M Brooks. The melodies are catchy, some of the messages are standard evangelical fare, but many carry a distinctive message that may escape the notice of the unwary.

For instance, the song Once Again We Come, by C W Naylor, is a celebration of the coming of the evening light, and contains the lines: “Thou hast led us safely on, To the blessed light of the present day, Where the darkness now is gone.” Once one knows that the darkness refers to the centuries when the church of God had ceased to exist and the blessed light of the present day refers to Daniel Warner’s Church of God, the song loses its charm.

Daniel Warner believed that he had received the second work of grace, a second work of the Holy Spirit which eradicated the root of sin from his life and enabled him to live without sin. He earnestly believed that when others received this second blessing it would unite their hearts in Christian unity. This is the meaning behind his song The Bond of Perfectness. Though the second work of grace is not actually mentioned in the song, the idea of sinless perfection is really what the song is celebrating.

There you have it; inventing one’s own church is quite simple. Far too many people have done it and are still doing it. Of course there are big problems with most of the churches around us, but Daniel Warner’s method is not to be recommended as a solution. A better approach would be to ask, where is the church that Jesus said He would build?

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