The Fire Baptized Holiness Church Part 3

Theological Emphases of the Fire Baptized Holiness Church

Overall, the doctrine of the FBHC was quite orthodox. They maintained justification from sin through faith in Christ alone. They also listed many organizations which they stood firmly against, like the Unitarians and the Mormons. They also stood for premillennialism, a newly revived doctrine in its day. There are, however, three aspects of the theology which set the FBHC apart from many others: second-blessing theology, third-blessing theology, and divine healing.

Second-blessing theology: Entire Sanctification

The doctrine of entire sanctification was not new with the FBHC. The source of this doctrine was John Wesley who proposed that Christians could be entirely sanctified in a moment of time, just like justification.[1] This state, according to Wesley, was “a total death to sin, and an entire renewal in the love and image of God, so as to rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in everything to give thanks.”[2]

By the time of the FBHC, there was a question as to whether a sanctified believer could become apostate. Wesley claimed that if a person sinned after he claimed to be sanctified, he was never really sanctified but rather had deceived himself.[3] Others claimed that it was unlikely because the sanctified man no longer was prone to leave God.[4] This was evidently the position of the first few councils in the FBHC, because the Basis of Union read:

  1. We believe also that entire sanctification destroys and eradicates inbred sin (Rom. 6:6; Heb. 13:12; I. John 1:7-9; I. Thes. 5:23; John 17:17; Acts 26:18).
  2. We believe that entire sanctification is an instantaneous, definite, second work of grace, obtainable by faith on the part of the fully consecrated believer.[5]

However, J. H. King rejected this theology. He argued that while entire sanctification removed every vestige of inner temptation, it did not remove outward temptation. For example, Adam and Eve were not tempted from within but were tempted from without when they apostatized. Also, King pointed to the holiness movement and noted how many of them apostatized from the faith, Irwin being the prime example. Thus, he convinced the council to remove the fourth statement of faith in the 1908 version of the Discipline.[6]

Today, the IPHC holds to virtually the same position, although it has been reworded from the original 1911 Basis of Union. They added language that recognizes that sanctification includes a process toward holiness.

We believe in sanctification. While sanctification is initiated in regeneration and consummated in glorification, we believe it includes a definite, instantaneous work of grace achieved by faith subsequent to regeneration (Acts 26:18; 1 John 1:9). Sanctification delivers from the power and dominion of sin. It is followed by lifelong growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Peter 3:18).[7]

Third-blessing theology: Spirit and fire baptism

In the Wesleyan traditions, second-blessing theology is nearly universally believed. Third-blessing theology, however, was something new at the end of the nineteenth century. This third blessing is the baptism of the Spirit which empowers a person for service.

Before Irwin, there was only a little discussion of a third blessing. In 1884, Asbury Lowrey indicated that there was something beyond the second blessing that the Christian needs.

The new birth is holiness in embryo form and infancy; entire sanctification is holiness in manhood and maturity. But while entire holiness is perfective and crowning, we must not fall into the mistake of supposing it is only a finishing touch.[8]

According to Lowrey, entire sanctification is not the finishing touch on the Christian life. Nor is it capable to keep a man from sinning. He needs the baptism of the Spirit and fire to fight temptation:

There is an explosive power in grace. A heart charged with it becomes a natural repellent of temptation. As heat resists the penetration of frost, and expels the chill of winter, so the baptism of fire, and of the Holy Ghost, makes the heart proof against the incursion and havoc of temptation.[9]

Where Lowrey left this third blessing a little vague, Ralph C. Horner wrote one of the clearest descriptions of the third blessing in 1891:

There is power received when the soul is regenerated, and much more when it is sanctified wholly; still there is a special anointing of the Spirit, which is not received with either of these experiences. This baptism is to be ‘filled with power by the Spirit. . ..’ It is power for service.[10]

And then in 1892, C. W. Rishell conceded in The Methodist Review (a widely published journal at that time) that “it is entirely possible that a third crisis might come, and a third blessing of a nature similar to the second be received.”[11] These ideas were circulating in the Methodist and Holiness camps when Irwin arrived on the scene.

Irwin stated his position on the third blessing in the 1899 Basis of Union: “We believe also that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is obtainable by a definite act of appropriating faith on the part of the fully cleansed believer.” Here, it received full status as a definite post-entire-sanctification work of God. Irwin, however, did not stop here. Being a devotee of fanaticism, he split the baptism of fire from the baptism of the Spirit, creating yet another level of sanctification. The next paragraph in the 1899 Basis of Union read: “We believe also that the baptism with fire is a definite, scriptural experience, obtainable by faith on the part of the Spirit-filled believers.”[12]

It is interesting that he added the words “scriptural experience.” He did, indeed, have Scripture besides Matthew 3:11, “He will baptize you with the Spirit and fire.” Among other references, he used Psalm 104:4 which speaks of how God makes “His ministers a flaming fire.” In Acts 2:1-4, Luke writes of tongues of fire which fell on the Spirit Baptized believers. Perhaps most interesting of all, he claimed Isaiah 33:14 which said, “who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” The answer to the question was, according to Irwin, Isaiah 6:6-7, “Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth.” From these another verses, they quite convinced themselves that fire baptism was a fourth blessing.[13]

But this was not enough. Irwin also found room for four more explosive blessings (as named above). The passage mustered up for these blessings was Acts 1:8, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (cf. Rm. 1:16-17). Irwin drew two key exegetical points: first, there was power. Power is transliterated as δυναμις from which the English word dynamite comes. This power also comes after the baptism of the Spirit. To Irwin, this meant that Christians received the baptism of dynamite, an even more explosive power for Christian service after the baptism of fire. As for the baptism of lyddite et al., no one is sure where he got that from the text.

  1. H. King was not so easily taken in by Irwin’s eccentrics. He saw the many exegetical fallacies of Irwin’s position and he also was repelled by the emotional excess of Irwin’s followers.[14] After he was elected General Overseer of the FBHC, he limited the levels of sanctification to three. In the 1905 Basis of Union, he removed Irwin’s paragraph concerning the baptism of fire. And in the 1906 General Council, he spoke out against “Irwinism,” but it seemed the theology had already died because no one resisted him. This was the end of the controversy, but not to the discussion on the third blessing.[15]

While King and company believed in the third blessing, they did not feel that they had the genuine experience. This all changed in 1906, when they heard of the Azusa Street Revival.[16] Pentecost had come (again) and Spirit baptized believers spoke in tongues. Speaking in tongues, the Azusa crowd claimed, was not just an evidence of Spirit baptism, but the evidence of Spirit baptism. J. H. King at first resisted this claim, because he thought that the Baptism of the Spirit was not always connected with speaking in tongues in Scripture. But after concentrated Bible study for several months, he became convinced that speaking in tongues was a necessary sign of Spirit baptism.[17]

In the FBHC, the spirit of Pentecost swept through the church and all the opposition to tongues was gone within a year.[18] In the 1908 General Council, the church incorporated this doctrine into its Basis of Union:

We believe also that the Pentecostal Baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire is obtainable by a definite act of appropriating faith on the part of the fully cleansed believer, and that the initial evidence of the reception of this experience is speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.[19]

Today, in the IPHC Articles of Faith, this statement remains unchanged. They have, however, added a section called Understanding the Articles of Faith. They clarify that speaking in tongues only comes after the life is sanctified wholly. Further, speaking in tongues is only the initial sign of Spirit baptism and must be followed up by the fruit of the Spirit. They also clarify that the initial manifestation is not the same as the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues only remains on some believers, whereas the initial manifestation should come on all believers.[20]

Divine Healing Theology

The final interesting part of the FBHC’s Basis of Union is their view on divine healing: “We believe also in divine healing as in the atonement.” This exact phrase is found in every extant confession in FBHC (1905, 1908) and those confessions surveyed of the FBHCGA (1990, 2019) and the IPHC (1911, 1913, 1917, 1921, 1925, 2018). Despite the relatively simple nature of this phrase, it has engendered much controversy.

The impetus for this phrase stretches back into the nineteenth century. In 1888, Captain Keslo Carter summarized the debate and the doctrine in the book Divine Healing or the Atonement for Sin and Sickness. The basic concept of divine healing is that when Jesus died, his death not only heals the believer’s spiritual maladies but also his physical maladies (cf. Is. 53:4-5).[21] Thus, because of Jesus’s atonement, a person could be miraculously healed apart from the intervention of medicine.

In Carter’s day there were two camps. One group believed that when God did not heal some people, it was not because they lacked faith but because God had other plans according to His sovereign will. The other group believed that when God did not heal some people, it was because that person did not meet all the requirements of faith.[22] By the start of the FBHC in 1899, there was a further division. Some people believed that a person should pray for divine healing and take medical treatment at the same time. But others objected and claimed that medical treatment should not be used.[23]

There were many in the FBHC that were of the second group. For example, during the year 1900, a tragic story broke about a child named Edward Sack who had died in an FBHC orphanage in Philadelphia. As one newspaper reported, the orphanage administers—Harry E. Sollenberger and Ezra Sheets—claimed that:

While they knew this child to be very sick, they did not call a doctor, but simply let the child die, because of their belief that if God did not want the child to die, He would cure him without human intervention, except as they, the keepers of the Buelah Orphanage, prayed for him.[24]

Their prayers, apparently, did not have enough faith because the child died. They were sentenced to three months in prison for involuntary manslaughter.[25] This incident did not, however, sway the belief that people should not take medicine.

In 1920, the debate over divine healing was growing in the church, and G. F. Taylor wrote an editorial summarizing the positions. He claimed that originally there were only two positions in the FBHC: a person should take medicine while praying for divine healing or that a person should not. In his day, a new position arose claiming that divine healing could come through the agency of medicine. Up until that point, divine healing was considered a miracle that God worked apart from medicine. Taylor staunchly came down against the third position that divine healing came through medicine, but he said the church was open to the first and second positions.[26]

Today, the IPHC maintains the same position that it did in Taylor’s day. In their explanation of the articles of faith, they state:

While we do not condemn the use of medical means in the treatment of physical disease, we do believe in, practice, and commend to our people the laying on of hands by the elders or leaders of the church, the anointing with oil in the name of the Lord, and the offering of prayers for the healing of the sick.[27]


Although surrounded by Irwin’s wild fanaticism in its infancy, through the leadership of King the FBHC produced a well-grounded confession which has been used for over 100 years. And from this little body grew what is now known as the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, boasting a worldwide presence of over four-million members. And most remarkable of all, it still maintains its core statements of faith—a remarkable feat, considering the theological drift of so many organizations.


[1]. John Whitehead, The Life of the Rev. John Wesley with The Life of the Rev. Charles Wesley (Buffalo: John E. Beardsley, 1793), 166.

[2] John Wesley, Christian Perfection (Cincinnati: Jennings and Pye, 1800), 80–81. What is interesting is that the Methodist Episcopal Church (where J. H. King was educated and ordained) adapted Christian Perfection as part of its catechism. the doc, The Doctrines and the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 13th ed. (New York: Ezekiel Cooper and John Wilson, 1805), 115.

[3]. Wesley, Christian Perfection, 87–89.

[4] King, “History of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church: Chapter III,” 10.

[5]. con, Constitution and General Rules of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church (Royston, GA: Live Coals Press, 1905),

[6]. con, Constitution and General Rules of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, 1908,

[7]. Talmadge Gardner et al., eds., The International Pentecostal Holiness Church Manual: 2017-2021 (Oklahoma City: International Pentecostal Holiness Church, 2018), 41.

[8]. Asbury Lowrey, Possibilities of Grace (Chicago: The Christian Witness Co., 1884), 204,

[9] Ibid., 426.

[10]. Ralph C. Horner, From the Altar to the Upper Room in Four Parts (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1891), 86,

[11]. C. W. Rishell, “The Doctrine of Sanctification Psychologically Developed,” ed. J. W. Mendenhall, The Methodist Review 8, Fifth (July 1892): 528.

[12]. Taylor, “Doctrinal Differences!,” 1.

[13]. Ibid.

[14]. King, “Unity,” 5.

[15]. King, “History of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church: Chapter III,” 11.

[16]. For the account of the 1901 Pentecost from primary sources, see the old, “The Old Time Pentecost,” The Apostolic Faith (Los Angeles, September 1906).

[17]. His explanation for his position is long and thorough, so I have not included it here. His methodology for his Bible study can hardly be faulted, even though I do not agree with his conclusion. See J. H. King, “My Experience,” The Pentecostal Holiness Advocate (Franklin Springs, GA, February 3, 1927), sec. From Passover to Pentecost, 11.

[18] King, “History of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church: Chapter IV,” 11.

[19]. con, Constitution and General Rules of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, 1–2.

[20]. Gardner et al., The International Pentecostal Holiness Church Manual: 2017-2021, 47–49.

[21]. Kelso Carter, Divine Healing or the Atonement for Sin and Sickness, Second. (New York: John B. Alden Publisher, 1888), 18.

[22]. Ibid., 9–10

[23]. G. F. Taylor, “Where Does the Church Stand?,” The Pentecostal Holiness Advocate (Royston, GA, April 15, 1920), sec. Editorial, 9.

[24]. “Fake Charities,” The Sun (Wilmington, DE, July 18, 1900), 2.

[25]. “Faith Curists Sentenced,” Marshall County Independent (Plymouth, ID, December 14, 1900), 2.

  1. Taylor, “Where Does the Church Stand?” 9.

[27]. Gardner et al., The International Pentecostal Holiness Church Manual: 2017-2021, 49.

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