Fear in the Message
On September 12, 2020, the first-ever English language debate between a message pastor (Jesse Smith of Akron, OH) and an ex-message Christian (Rod Bergen from the Off The Shelf podcast) took place. The discussion was moderated by Jay Cox and Tim Kraus.
Given the belief that message believers constitute the Christian elite - The Bride of Christ - it is surprising that the predominant response from those in the message is one of fear. Some feel that those that bring to light William Branham's many failings have unnecessarily put their eternal destination on the line. They point their fingers and say, "What if you're wrong?"
The underlying emotion is that of fear. It is interesting that in virtually all of the emails that we have received from message believers, fear is what they try to use to persuade us not to say anything.
- 1 William Branham's God carries a big stick
- 2 How do you disagree with an angel of God?
- 3 What the Bible teaches
- 4 Footnotes
- 5 Navigation
William Branham's God carries a big stick
William Branham said:
- And--and there, friends, is where my sorrows started. I listened to my mother-in-law in the stead of God. He was giving me the opportunity. And there this gift would've been manifested long time ago, if I'd just went ahead and done what God told me to do. But instead of that, I didn't want her to be angry, and I didn't want to hurt nobody's feelings. And so I just--just let it go like that. Just walked, I just said, "All right, we won't go."
- And right there, the sorrows started. Immediately after that, my father died. My brother was killed a few nights later from that. I almost lost my own... I lost my father, my brother, my wife, my baby, and my sister-in-law, and almost my own life within about six month's time. And just started going down. My church, pretty near everything went down, down, down. Hope taken sick.
If you disobey William Branham's God, then he will kill your wife and daughter, your father and your brother.
How do you disagree with an angel of God?
William Branham clearly used fear on those he preached to. As a result, his followers are afraid to question him.
William Branham claimed to be an "angel"
William Branham stated:
- ...You said, "As it was in that day, so will it be in this day." God, You still have Angels. And we realize that Angel was manifested in human flesh, for soon He disappeared in the presence of Abraham, and Abraham called Him, " Elohim." God.
William Branham claimed to have the true "message"
- ... See? It'll be... But this message that I'm preaching is the true message of this day, and it's the last message.
To question him is death
- And you're on the basis of free moral agency. You can turn this down or you can accept it. To turn it down is to be lost and remain potash, and calcium, and petroleum.
What the Bible teaches
The Bible teaches that Scripture contains all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.
Paul told Timothy that “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The context shows that “sacred writings” here means the written words of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). This is an indication that the words of God which we have in Scripture are all the words of God we need in order to be saved: these words are able to make us wise “for salvation.” This is confirmed by other passages that talk about the words of Scripture as the means God uses to bring us to salvation (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23)
- All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
A similar teaching is found in Psalm 119: “Blessed are those whose way is blameless who walk in the law of the LORD!” (v. 1). This verse shows an equivalence between being “blameless” and “walking in the law of the LORD”: those who are blameless are those who walk in the law of the Lord. Here again is an indication that all that God requires of us is recorded in his written Word: simply to do all that the Bible commands us is to be blameless in God’s sight.
To be morally perfect in God’s sight, then, what must we do in addition to what God commands us in Scripture? Nothing! Nothing at all! If we simply keep the words of Scripture we will be “blameless” and we will be doing “every good work” that God expects of us.
And never in church history has God added to the teachings or commands of Scripture: Nowhere in church history outside of Scripture has God added anything that he requires us to believe or to do. Scripture is sufficient to equip us for “every good work,” and to walk in its ways is to be “blameless” in God’s sight.
The cultic requirements of the message
We are to add nothing to Scripture and we are to consider no other writings of equal value to Scripture.
This principle is violated by almost all cults and sects. Mormons, for example, claim to believe the Bible, but they also claim divine authority for the Book of Mormon. Christian Scientists similarly claim to believe the Bible, but in practice they hold the book Science and Health With a Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, on a par with Scripture or above it in authority.
Similarly, most people that follow William Branham exalt his words above that of the Bible.
Since these claims violate God’s commands not to add to his words, we should not think that any additional words from God to us would be found in these writings. Even in Christian churches a similar error is sometimes made when people go beyond what Scripture says and assert with great confidence new ideas about God or heaven, basing their teachings not on Scripture but on their own speculation or even on claimed experiences of dying and coming back to life.
The sufficiency of Scripture also tells us that God does not require us to believe anything about himself or his redemptive work that is not found in Scripture.
No modern revelations from God are to be placed on a level equal to Scripture in authority. At various times throughout the history of the church, and particularly in the message, people have claimed that God has given revelations through them for the benefit of the church. However we may evaluate such claims, we must be careful never to allow (in theory or in practice) the placing of such revelations on a level equal to Scripture. We must insist that God does not require us to believe anything about himself or his work in the world that is contained in these revelations but not in Scripture.
If someone claims to have a message from God telling us what we ought to do, we need never assume that it is sin to disobey such a message unless it can be confirmed by the application of Scripture itself to our situation.
The legalistic requirements of the message
Nothing is sin that is not forbidden by Scripture either explicitly or by implication. To walk in the law of the Lord is to be “blameless” (Ps. 119:1). Therefore we are not to add prohibitions to those already stated in Scripture. From time to time there may be situations in which it would be wrong, for example, for an individual Christian to drink coffee or Coca-Cola, or to attend movie theaters, or to eat meat offered to idols (see 1 Cor. 8–10), but unless some specific teaching or some general principle of Scripture can be shown to prohibit these (or any other activities) for all believers for all time, we must insist that these activities are not in themselves sinful and they are not in all situations prohibited by God for his people.
This also is an important principle because there is always the tendency among believers to begin to neglect the regular daily searching of Scripture for guidance and to begin to live by a set of written or unwritten rules (or denominational traditions) concerning what one does or does not do in the Christian life.
Furthermore, whenever we add to the list of sins that are prohibited by Scripture itself, there will be harm to the church and to the lives of individual believers. The Holy Spirit will not empower obedience to rules that do not have God’s approval from Scripture, nor will believers generally find delight in obedience to commands that do not accord with the laws of God written on their hearts. In some cases, Christians may repeatedly and earnestly plead with God for “victory” over supposed sins that are in fact no sins at all, yet no “victory” will be given, for the attitude or action in question is in fact not a sin and is not displeasing to God. Great discouragement in prayer and frustration in the Christian life generally may be the outcome.
In other cases, continued or even increasing disobedience to these new “sins” will result, together with a false sense of guilt and a resulting alienation from God. Often there arises an increasingly uncompromising and legalistic insistence on these new rules on the part of those who do follow them, and genuine fellowship among believers in the church will fade away. Evangelism will often be stifled, for the silent proclamation of the gospel that comes from the lives of believers will at least seem (to outsiders) to include the additional requirement that one must fit this uniform pattern of life in order to become a member of the body of Christ.
The opposite of fear
Scripture teaches that the opposite of fear is love. Why? The Bible states,
- There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
But we have had a rare few that contacted us in the spirit of love. One couple were convinced that the conclusions of our research were wrong, so they left the ninety and nine and came after us. They spent over 400 hours researching. They were afraid for us spiritually and that concern led them to a labor of love focused on rescuing us.
I told them that I had no desire to be wrong and that if they could prove the conclusions on our website to be wrong, we would publish that research.
You can see the research for yourself on their website, Searching for Vindication.
Those in the message believe that the capstone of love is coming down on the virtue of brotherly kindness to complete the Bride. Sadly, what we have found after leaving the message is that the conduct of message believers toward those that have left is, for the most part, lacking in both.
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- 2 Tim. 3:16–17
- Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), Pp. 127-128.
- Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 131-133.
- Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 132–133.
- 1 John 4:18–19 (ESV)