Oneness Doctrine as a Basis for Balanced Living
By James A. Littles Jr
As an Apostolic believer I rejoice in the foundation of Oneness doctrine (I Corinthians 3:13). The challenge for Apostolics today is to build upon this foundation with a lifestyle that brings honor to the One who inhabits the temple (I Corinthians 3:16-17). Serving one God requires complete devotion as Moses proclaimed in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), which is repeated in the greatest commandments in Luke 10:27-28: “And he answered and said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou has answered right: this do, and thou shalt live’
Having apostolic doctrine is necessary but not sufficient in fulfilling our mission today. The wonderful message of a holy God incarnate in a human being must be attended with our head, heart, and hands. Oneness doctrine provides the basis for balanced Christian living.
The right head
Every age in human existence has provided challenges for those who seek to surrender to God’s sovereignty the quest for truth, or even accepting the fact that truth exists, is perhaps the greatest challenge for the twenty-first century believer. Jesus understood this reality in His high priestly prayer in John 17:15-19.
On the way to Calvary our Savior prayed for our protection in the world rather than asking for our release from the world. In Jesus’ prayer we see three key aspects of having this truth in our minds.
Truthis needed for right separation from the world (v. 16). The Incarnation is a model for us to follow. He came into the world with a mission and lived it out in real day-to-day relationships. We too have the opportunity to be victorious in fulfilling God’s mission in the world.
Truth is a required ingredient for sanctification (v. 17). Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). By believing in Him and following His lordship in our lives we can be sanctified to do the work before us. Truth purifies, appoints us to the work, and empowers us as the Spirit moves upon us. Following truth is a key step in changing the world in Christ’s name rather than being contaminated by its influence. We have the choice to be leaven in order to affect the world (Matthew 13:33), or we can let the world’s leaven affect us (I Corinthians 5:6-8).
Truth is needed to stay on the mission (v. 18). Only when every thought is brought to the lordship of Jesus are we able to stay on task. The people of God exist to fulfill God’s mission in the world. Our worship, lifestyle, stewardship, labor, and spiritual gifting are only faithful to truth as long as they contribute to fulfilling His mission. To others, the doctrine of Christ is either a stumbling block or confusion, but to the called, “Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:23-24). Having our mind settled in the truth of Jesus’ identity frees us from confusion so that we may faithfully carry out His mission. A transformed and renewed mind provides the opportunity for fulfilling God’s will in our lives today (Romans 12:2).
The right heart
A second challenge facing people in the twenty-first century is the lasting effect of broken hearts or emotions. Only one answer exists for the current emotional crisis: we must receive the adoption of sons and daughters so that we might cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6).
Oneness believers understand that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Christ that God has sent into our hearts (v. 6). Christ’s Spirit in us creates a right relationship with God. The Holy Spirit brings awareness of God’s love for us. This work of the Spirit is a means for His sacrificial love to transform our emotions.
In Ephesians 3 Paul brackets his discourse on what might be called emotional strength with the eternal purposes of God in Christ Jesus on the one hand (v. 11), and the abiding glory of the church by Christ Jesus on the other hand (v. 21). Between these two brackets the apostle discussed four effects on the heart of this beautiful gospel of Christ.
Boldness and access with confidence comes through faith. The gospel serves as the only antidote to timidity and fear (v. 12).
Stability in times of tribulation is assured for those whose emotions are settled in Christ (v. 13). Rather than failure destroying believers in difficult times, trials can be transformed to our glory! This paradox was modeled by Christ’s own life. Our emotions can be a source of strength rather than weakness if our heart is set on Jesus.
The riches of His glory are invested in strengthening our inner being (v. 16). The truth of who Jesus is and our internal fortitude are inseparable. Perhaps this is why Isaiah called Him the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and why Jesus promised peace that passes understanding (John 14:27).
The message in our hearts provides a grounding in love which allows us to grasp the many dimensions of God’s will (v. 17-19). Too many in the world today are following their own heart in marriage, peer relationships, work, and in their general outlook on the world. How foolish this is when Scripture declares the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9)! The only answer is to have Christ in our hearts so that His will is supreme in all aspects of life.
Our world is looking for solutions to fear, anger, and the abiding stress-ors which result from living in a fallen world. The only answer is to have the fullness of Christ abiding in our hearts. Victorious believers will surrender every emotion to the lordship of Jesus. Perhaps this will be the letters and sermons our world can hear even in the middle of its current state of confusion (II Corinthians 3:2-3).
The right hands
Serving one God requires the right use of hands as well as the right use of heads and hearts as outlined above. In fact, loving our neighbors as ourselves is inseparable from loving God (Luke 10:25-28). When a lawyer asked who was his neighbor, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. The one who saw a person in need and showed mercy was the neighbor (v. 36-37). In fact, those on a mission to engage in right corporate worship alone, the priest and the Levite, failed the test of loving their neighbor.
The world is a confusing place with so many cultures, classes, differing abilities, and age groups clamoring for justice and their share of resources. All of these diverse groups live in close proximity due to migration patterns, a global economy, and a world shrunken by rapid communication and travel. This all harkens back to Genesis. Adam and Eve’s initial failure quickly led to the first funeral for a homicide victim. The problem only got worse with Lamech’s boastful pride (Genesis 4:23-24). Finally, Babel ended with such confusion of languages and cultures that humanity has been forever separated. Today, people not only cannot understand each other’s language they cannot hear each other’s values, strengths, weaknesses, struggles, or dreams.
Only one resource is available to bring our hands to the work of righteousness rather than self justification. God has chosen to reconcile people to Himself through Jesus Christ. This work of reconciliation, a change in status from enemies to peaceful relationship, is now placed in out hands. As ambassadors for Christ we are given both the deeds and words of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18-19). Our work of reconciliation is made possible because God was in Christ; the cycle of sinful separation is broken! Just as Adam and Eve’s sin brought alienation to self, neighbors, God and even nature, our work of reconciliation will affect all relationships. This is the service and word of reconciliation. The service of reconciliation will busy the hands with feeding the hungry, giving water to thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison (Matthew 25:32-40). Following the Master with our hands causes us to do His work in His hands.
Apostolic doctrine is too important only to be relegated to debates with those who believe differently. Apostolic doctrine must be the focus of our discussion wherever we meet. Break bread, pray and share possessions with those in need (Acts 2:42, 44-45). Then, the outcome of out thoughts, emotions, and actions will parallel the experience of the first church:
“And fear came upon every soul and many wonders and signs were done by the apostoles. Praise God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:43, 47).
From, “Forward Magazine”/March-April 2009/Volume 40, Issue 2/Page 14-15 by James A. Littles Jr.