by Jacob Allee
The Assemblies of Yahweh is a religious movement headquartered in Bethel, Pennsylvania, that was founded on February 5, 1966 1 by Jacob O. Meyer who is the “Directing Elder” of the Assemblies of Yahweh. The following is how the Assemblies of Yahweh introduce themselves on their website:
"The Assemblies of Yahweh is a nonprofit religious organization with its International Headquarters located at Bethel, Pa. Doctrinally the Assemblies of Yahweh holds a conservative position in biblical interpretation. We affirm that the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures must be interpreted as literally as possible and its precepts faithfully obeyed by dedicated believers. Standing between the great religions of the west, Christianity and Judaism, the Assemblies of Yahweh today holds a similar position to that of the Nazarenes, mentioned in (Acts 24:5). As did the Nazarenes, the Assemblies of Yahweh today strives to fulfill the description of the True worshipers found in (Revelation 12:17 and 14:12), by keeping the commandments of Yahweh and holding a living faith in the Messiah."2
ASSEMBLIES OF YAHWEH DOCTRINE:
The AOY is something of an amalgamation of Orthodox Judaism and Christianity. In some respects they are a kind of messianic Judaism, although they are not about to align themselves with Jews for Jesus.
The AOY recognizes both Old and New Testaments of the Bible to be inspired Scripture, and they hold to a very literal reading of the text. The Old Testament is believed to be the “Basis of our faith” through which the New Testament is viewed and by which it is to be interpreted. 3AOY doctrine teaches that the laws of the Old Testament are still to be observed with great strictness today by those who recognize Yahshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. As such all of the commandments, festivals, fasts, feasts, Sabbath’s, etc., are to be upheld exactly as they are stated in the Old Testament. The only exception is that animal sacrifices and food and drink offerings are now celebrated in a “spiritual” sense rather than in a literal fashion. 4
The AOY are also an anti-Trinitarian group. In Article 5 of the AOY statement of faith it states “We find the trinitarian doctrine to be foreign to the inspired Scriptures.”5The AOY does believe that Yahshua was preexistent with the Father, but they distinguish Him from sharing the deity of God with the Father.6The Holy Spirit, in AOY doctrine, is treated not as a person belonging to the one being of God but is rather spoken of as a power that emanates from God the Father. They believe the Holy Spirit is received at a person’s baptism.7
Concerning baptism, the AOY teaches that believers are to be Baptized in Yahshua’s name only, stating,
“We affirm that water baptism is a necessary act following repentance, (Acts 2:38; Matt. 3:13-17); that this baptism is immersion in water, backward, one time, into the Name of Yahshua the Messiah.”8
Furthermore, the AOY also adheres to the heresy of annihilationism 9 teaching, that “eternal punishment” equals “complete destruction,” meaning that the unbeliever will eventually cease to exist after an undetermined time of suffering. The AOY statement of doctrine specifically says they “disavow an eternal torment in an ever-burning hell.”
1. Concerning the inspiration of Scripture we may have little disagreement. Both Old and New Testaments are indeed the inspired, inerrant word of the living God. Furthermore, it is crucial that any reading of the New Testament be grounded in the reality that it is inextricably linked to the Old Testament and that Christianity is a very “Jewish” religion. If we do not ground ourselves in the history of God’s redemption through the Jewish people, and that which He spoke to them and through them, we will most certainly miss much of what the New Testament is saying to us. Truly the apostles and the Lord Jesus Himself often quoted and made use of the Old Testament in their teaching.
Where we may want to insert some caution concerning the AOY’s view of the Bible is that they seem to not take into account the bearing that Christ’s sinless and obedient life, death, and resurrection had on the Old Covenant; namely, Jesus established the New Covenant through His life, death, and resurrection. The teaching of Christ is clear that, although He did not come to abolish the law, he did come to fulfill it on our behalf. Matthew 5:17-20 says:
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
So then God’s law is still the measure by which the world will be judged apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, but in Christ the law was fulfilled for all who believe in Him. Jesus’ statement, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” is haunting if we are left to the task of conforming to the law better than the Pharisees did! The Pharisees were experts at keeping the outward commands of the law but they were not cutting it according to Jesus. Thankfully the Bible teaches that our righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ who’s perfect obedience will be applied to those who trust in Him. Romans 3:21-26 says:
"21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
So then, while we may appreciate the AOY’s high view of Scripture, it should be noted that they are not interpreting Scripture in light of the New Testament’s teaching concerning the effect that the New Covenant had on the Old. We are no longer under obligation to keep the law of God in order to attain righteousness because Christ, the supreme righteous one, has fulfilled the law on our behalf through His perfect obedience to the Father.
2. Concerning the nature of God and the holy Trinity, we should take much exception to the AOY’s stance on the person of Jesus, the person of the Holy Spirit, and the outright disregard of Scripture’s teaching concerning the triune nature of God.
For starters, Jesus is not taught in Scripture to be merely a preexistent being, but THE preexistent being, synonymous with God, albeit distinct in person from the Father and the Spirit. John 1:1-4;14 make this emphatically clear:
"1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
There are many references to the true deity of Christ in the New Testament (Mark 14:61-65; John 20:28; Titus 2:13) to name only a few.
We should further take issue with the fact that the AOY not only denies the true deity of the Holy Spirit, but that they do not seem to even acknowledge the true personality (or personhood) of the Holy Spirit. AOY doctrine reduces the Holy Spirit to an emanation of God’s power rather than taking Him for what He truly is, namely, a real unique person and part of the being of God.
Consider John 14:26 where Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit saying “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Notice the personal pronoun “he,” in reference to the Holy Spirit. The AOY concept of the Holy Spirit as “the mighty power from the Heavenly Father and the Messiah”10 completely misses the boat because the Bible describes the Spirit of God as a person and not as a mere source of power that comes from the Father and the Messiah. Note that referring to the Holy Spirit as a person is not a one-time occurrence, it is also found in John 15:26-27; 16:5-15 and the Holy Spirit is said to do things that are nonsensical unless we are speaking about Him as a person. For instance, can one tell a lie to an impersonal force? Yet in (Acts 5:1-6) we see that Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit, and we also see that the Holy Spirit is identified as God!
"1But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.' 5When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him."
So clearly the AOY has forsaken plain biblical teaching concerning the true deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
3. Concerning Baptism, the AOY ignores and/or rejects crystal clear teaching once again. The AOY doctrinal statement says “baptism is immersion in water, backward, one time, into the Name of Yahshua the Messiah.” It is painfully obvious that the concept of baptizing in the name of Yahshua (Jesus) only is a direct contradiction of Scriptural teaching by Jesus Himself! Matthew 28:19 says specifically “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The AOY’s violation of this command from our Lord is both blatant and obvious. (Note also that all three, Father, Son, and Spirit, are the singular “name” by which believers are to be baptized. This strongly suggests a Trinitarian relationship of three distinct persons in one being.)
Furthermore, there is the teaching by the AOY that the Holy Spirit is received after baptism by the laying on of hand by the church elders. This too contradicts Scriptural teaching from Ephesians 1:13-14 which says,
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
The Holy Spirit enters the believers life when they believe the gospel of Christ, not at a subsequent time after baptism.
4. Finally, concerning the AOY’s false teaching of annihilationism, the Bible is emphatically clear that the punishment of the wicked is eternal torment in hell, a place of conscious suffering. The notion that hell is temporary or that after a time the wicked cease to exist and are totally destroyed is unbiblical. Revelation 20:9-10 states:
9And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Hell is a place where those who go there are “tormented day and night forever and ever;” not a temporary holding place, not a place where the unjust suffer for a time and then fade into nonexistence. Hell is a real place that lasts forever and there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42) because the punishment is conscious.
In summary, the Assemblies of Yahweh are legalists who enforce the Old Testament laws and commands. In spite of the fact that Jesus fulfilled them for us, they reject the biblical doctrine of the Trinity by denying the deity of Christ and the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit, they reject the biblical doctrine of baptism and practice baptism in the name of Yahshua (Jesus) only, and they teach that hell is not a conscious eternal punishment but that the wicked will be totally destroyed.
The AOY is indeed a false expression of Christianity with a works-based gospel that will not save anyone, and they have a skewed understanding of Scripture on numerous other points of doctrine. As believers we ought to pray for them and, if given the opportunity, we ought to share the gospel of grace with them and explain to them from Scripture who God really is.
- 1. facebook.com/pages/Assemblies-of-Yahweh/205177146177938?sk=info
- 2. assembliesofyahweh.com/index.htm#
- 3. assembliesofyahweh.com/SOD.htm#l
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- 8. assembliesofyahweh.com/SOD.htm#9
- 9. assembliesofyahweh.com/SOD.htm#21
- 10. assembliesofyahweh.com/SOD.htm#5