Oneness Perspectives On The Incarnation
By David K. Bernard, Associate Editor
The Basic Oneness Position
Oneness believers do not accept three distinct centers of consciousness in the Godhead, but they hold that God is absolutely and indivisibly one.’ they affirm that in Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and that Jesus is the only name given for salvation. The Father was revealed to the world in the name of Jesus, the Son was given the name of Jesus at birth, and the Holy Spirit comes to believers in the name of Jesus.3 Thus the apostles correctly fulfilled Christ’s command to baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” by baptizing all converts with the invocation of the name of Jesus.4
Oneness believers affirm that God has revealed Himself as Father (in parental relationship to humanity), in the Son (in human flesh), and as the Holy Spirit (in spiritual action).5 They acknowledge that the one God existed as Father, Word, and Holy Spirit before His incarnation as Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and that while Jesus walked on earth as God Himself incarnate, the Spirit of God continued to be omnipresent.
Like trinitarians, Oneness believers confess that Jesus is true God and true man. The Incarnation joined the fullness of deity to complete humanity, resulting in one divine-human person. We can distinguish these two aspects of Christ’s identity, but we cannot separate them.
The Oneness view differs from trinitarianism, however, in stressing that Jesus is the incarnation of the full, undivided Godhead, not merely the incarnation of one of three divine persons.6 When the Old Testament speaks of the Messiah as “God,” it does so in the context of absolute monotheism. Likewise, when the New Testament speaks of Jesus as “God,” it does so with the Old Testament definition of “God.” As to His eternal deity, there can be no subordination of Jesus to anyone else, whether in essence or position. By contrast, trinitarian scholar Norman Geisler stated that, for technical accuracy, Trinitarians should not say that “God” was manifested in the flesh but that ‘God the Son” was manifested in the flesh. Citing I Timothy 3:16, Oneness believers emphatically proclaim that the former phrase, not the latter, is accurate.’
Turning to the humanity of Christ, Oneness believers agree with trinitarians that Jesus possessed all the elements of authentic humanity as originally created by God. Thus we can speak of Jesus as human in body, soul, spirit, mind, will, and so on.9 According to the flesh, Jesus was the biological descendant of Adam and Eve, Abraham, David, and Mary.10 We must not speak of two spirits in Jesus, however, but of one Spirit in which deity and humanity are joined.
Christ’s humanity means that everything we humans can say of ourselves. we can say of Jesus in His earthly life, except for sin. Moreover. in every way that we relate to God, Jesus related to God, except that He did not need to repent or be born again. Thus, when Jesus prayed, when He submitted His will to the Father, and when He spoke of ‘my God and your God John 20:17), He simply acted in accordance with His genuine humanity.
Trinitarians, however, see these examples as proving that the Father and the Son are two distinct persons. This difference of interpretation lies at the heart of the Oneness-trinitarian controversy. Most of the passages that trinitarians cite to demonstrate a distinction of persons, Oneness believers interpret as relating to the human identity of Jesus Christ.
The Trinity in Light of the Incarnation
We can go so far as to say that the trinitarian doctrine stands or falls on the New Testament distinction between the Father and the Son. The Old Testament does not explicitly teach the doctrine of the trinity. The New Testament says very little that could distinguish the Father and the Holy Spirit -two persons. The strongest texts that could establish a trinity are those in the New Testament, particularly in the Gospels, that make some sort of distinction between the Father and the Son. If the focus of these passages is the genuine humanity of Christ and not trinitarian distinctions, then the doctrine of the trinity loses it strongest support.
At this point, we need to define the trinitarian distinction of persons. According to classical trinitarian thought as formulated by the Cappadocian theologians of the fourth century, the one Godhead mysteriously subsists in three coequal, coeternal, coessential persons. There is communion of substance but distinction of personhood. This trinity is a perfect, inseparable union, and the persons work together in all things. The unique distinguishing characteristics of the persons are as follows: the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten, and the Holy Spirit is proceeding. The generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit are mysteries, however. While the persons are coequal and coeternal, the Father is in some sense the head and the origin.”
As trinitarian scholars have pointed out, much of this formulation has no objective, understandable meaning to us. Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan commented on the problem:
“This puzzling, indeed frustrating, combination of philosophical terminology for the relation of One and Three . . . was simultaneously typical of the theology of the Cappadocians and normative for the subsequent history of Trinitarian doctrine. . . [The] answer to . . . difficult[ies] was to declare that what was common to the Three and
what was distinctive among them lay beyond speech and comprehension and
therefore beyond either analysis or conceptualization ” 12
Trinitarian scholar Harold O. J. Brown likewise acknowledged “that the properties explain nothing; on the contrary, they are merely conceptual tools or symbols to impress on us that the three Persons are and remain eternally distinct, yet also remain eternally one God.”13
Despite its difficulties, this view is the position of trinitarianism today.” In a textbook published by the Assemblies of God, Kerry McRoberts identified these unique personal properties as necessary to distinguish trmitarianism from modalism, even though he acknowledged that they do not offer an explanation of the trinity.15
Although trinitarians say that the unique property of each divine person is a mystery, perhaps we can explore the claimed distinctions by posing a hypothetical question, within the trinitarian framework: In principle, based on what we know about the nature of God, could the Father have become incarnate? Or is incarnation a unique action that only the Son could have taken? Let us examine the two alternatives.
1. If we say that the Father could not have become incarnate then we have apparently discovered a further distinction between the persons, one that classical trinitarianism does not proclaim. Unfortunately, it would make the divine persons different in essence, contrary to orthodox trinitarian doctrine.
Specifically, the Son would be inferior to the Father. Indeed, some ancient writers held, in accordance with Greek philosophy, that the supreme God, being perfect and holy, could not have direct contact with the world of matter. They identified the Father as the supreme God and the Son as a lesser deity. As Origen (c. A D. 220) explained in refuting Oneness concepts of his time, “Some individuals among the multitude of believers . . . incautiously assert that the Saviour is the Most High God; however, we do not hold with them; but rather believe Him when He says, The Father who sent Me is greater than I.'”16
Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 150) did not believe that the Father could manifest Himself even as a theophany, because it would not be suitable for Him to descend to our level.17 Only the Son could do so. Eusebius of Caesarea (c. A.D. 330) similarly argued that the Father is too pure to unite Himself to corruptible flesh except by an intermediary power, namely the Word.18
Finally, this line of reasoning concedes that the uniqueness of the Son lies in the Incarnation, rather than in the eternal generation that trinitarianism teaches. If we reject the subordinationism of the foregoing writers, then we are led to the Oneness position, for it defines the Son in terms of the Incarnation while rejecting any
subordination of Jesus as to His divine nature.
2. On the other hand, could the Father have become incarnate? Most–trinitarians scholars today would probably say yes. One of the foremost Roman Catholic theologians of this century; Karl Rahner, stated, Since the time of Augustine, the theology of the schools has become accustomed to thinking that it is to be taken for granted that any one of the non-numerical three whom we call the persons of the one Godhead could become man.19
If the Father had become incarnate, what would have been the nature of that incarnation? Would heaven have been devoid of the Father during His earthly manifestation? Surely not. The Father would have related in some fashion to the humanity that He thereby assumed. Would this human person have been born of a virgin? It seems that the nature of incarnation would have required it. Who would have been the Father of this child? Surely the Father. Would this man have prayed to the Father? Would he have obeyed the will of the Father? It seems that he would have done these things in order to be a righteous and holy man.
In other words, this divine human person would necessarily have related to the Father in the same way that Jesus related to the Father as recorded in the Gospels. In short, the biblical distinction between the Son and the Father has nothing to do with persons in the Godhead, but it has everything to do with the Incarnation. The begetting of the Son occurred at the Incarnation; it is not an eternal, incomprehensible process within the Godhead. Thus there is no reason to explain the Gospel accounts of the Father and the Son in terms of a trinity.
The conclusion is that the Father did become incarnate in Christ. According to I John 3:1-5, the Father manifested Himself to take away our sins, and He will appear to us again one day.
This article is excerpted from a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, held at Evangel University; Springfield, MO, on March 11-13, 1999.
1 Deuteronomy 6:4; Galatians 3:20.
2 Colossians 2:9; Acts 4:12.
3 Matthew 1:21; John 5:43; 14:26; 17:6.
4 Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16.
5 See, for example, Deuteronomy 32:6 and Isaiah 63:16 (Father); Luke 1:35 and Galatians 4:4 (Son); Genesis 1:2 and Acts 1:8 (Holy Spirit).
6 Colossians 2:9. Significantly, this passage uses three words that are logically redundant to emphasize this position: “all,” “fullness,” and “Godhead.”
7 Norman Geisler, lecture at the Symposium on Cults, the Occult, and World Religions (sponsored by Apologetic Research Coalition, William Tyndale College, Farmington Hills, Ml, November 1988).
8 Even if we adopt the alternate reading of “He was manifest in the flesh,” we still must ask what is the antecedent of the pronoun “he.” it appears in the preceding verse: “God.” The alternative proposed by trinitarians–“Son of God”–does not appear in the entire book.
9 See Matthew 26:38; Luke 2:40; 22:42; 23:46; John 1:14; Acts 2:31; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 10:5, 10.
10 See Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:16; 4:4; Romans 1:3; Hebrews 2:14-17; 5:7-8.
11 “See Basil, On the Spirit 16:37-38 and Letters, 38, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., The Nicene and PostNicene Fathers, 2d series [hereinafter NPNF) (Reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976) 8:23-24, 137-40; Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Spirit and On the Holy Trinity, NPNF 5:314-30; Gregory of Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration, On the Son 29:3 and Fifth Theological Oration, On the Holy Spirit, 8-10, NPNF7:301-2. 320-21.
12 Jaroslav Pelikan. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1971) 1:223.
13 Harold O. J. Brown. Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984), 151. emphasis in original.
14 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4” ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), 89.
15 Kerry D. McRoberts, “The Holy Trinity,” in Stanley Horton, ea., Systematic Theology (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1994), 167.
16 0rigen, Against Celsus 8:14, in Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A.Cleveland Coxe, eds., The AnteNicene Fathers [hereinafter ANF) (1885; repr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981) 4:644.
17 Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 127:13, in ANF 1:263.
18 Eusebius of Caesarea, Oration in Praise of Constantine 11:11:5-7, in NPNF 1:596-97.
19 Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the
Idea of Christianity, trans. William Dych (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), 214.
The Marvel Of The Incarnation
By J. L. Hall- Editor In Chief
The Birth of Jesus Christ
Each year the Christmas season offers us an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and to reflect upon His identity and mission. Although many activities and customs associated With this celebration may have little or nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, these should not distract us from scriptural and spiritual recognition of this world-changing event. Neither should secular opposition diminish our joy, praise, and worship to God in celebration of the birth of the Son of God.
Not everyone who honors and believes in Jesus recognize that He is the one true God manifested in flesh. But we must not let their failure in knowledge and faith keep us from believing and teaching that He is the one true God incarnate.
Although the word incarnate does not appear in the Bible. its meaning, “-to give bodily form and substance to, or invested With bodily and human nature and form,” is reflected in verses such as Matthew 1:23–“Emmanuel. .. God with us”; John 1:14–“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”; I Timothy! 3: 16 “God was manifest in the flesh”; II Corinthians 5:19–” To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself”; and Colossians 2:9 “For in him [Chest] dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead [Deity] bodily.”
The one true God united to Himself a human body and nature in order to reveal Himself to us and to reconcile us to Himself through the sacrificial, atoning death of His Son on the cross. The Incarnation began with the birth of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son Of God. In His Son God dwells in all His fullness. The Incarnation is not God dwelling in a separate human being but God taking on Himself a human body and nature: the Son of God was God united with human flesh and nature, andtherefore the Son is the brightness of his [God s] glory, and the express image of his person (Hebrews 1:3). In His deity Jesus God the Father; in His humanity He is the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father.
We should not think that only a part of God or a measure of God’s Spirit was incarnated in the Son; it was not a second person of the trinity that was incarnate but the fullness of the Godhead (Deity). Neither should we think that the humanity of Jesus was not real or complete or full; the Son of God was not half human but rather possessed a full human nature. Moreover. we should not think that the Son of God was a separate creation from the human family; God chose for His Son to be born of a woman, a virgin who conceived and gave birth by the Holy Ghost.
The Person of Jesus Christ
The Incarnation, God in Christ, is a mystery beyond our finite ability to understand, but we can still believe, accept, and act on this biblical truth to know Him and experience His salvation. We can believe that Jesus Christ is God in His fullness and at the same time believe in His genuine and authentic humanity.
At the Christmas season we celebrate the birth of a child whose mother was Mary and whose Father was God. He was called the Son of God as well as the Son of man. Mary was His mother, she was the prophesied virgin in Isaiah 7:14 and God’s choice to give birth to a Son whom the prophet Isaiah described as “wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). In Genesis 3:15 God prophetically called His only begotten Son “her seed,” and Galatians 4:4 echoes the fulfillment of this prophecy “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”
The Bible therefore indicates that Jesus Christ received His humanity through Mary but His den’s was God Himself. The only begotten Son of God is this union of humanity and deity and His name is Jesus Christ which means Jesus the Messiah or Jesus the Anointed One. Jesus was born as a seed (descendant) of the patriarch Abraham (Hebrews 2:16: Galatians 3:16) and a descendant in the family of King David id (Matthew 1:1; Acts 2:30-31; Romans 1:3). As a part of The human race His genealogy is traced to \dam (Luke 3:38).
Hebrews 2:14 states that inasmuch as “the children arc partakers of flesh and blood he also himself took part of the same that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” In order for God to redeem us He assumed our human nature to become like us. Hebrews 2:17 gives a further reason He took upon Himself our humanity: “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
From these verses and others we understand that Jesus was born into the human family through Mary, His mother, but He also had the deity of God, His Father. Mary conceived the Son of God in her womb by the Holy Ghost, and from this conception the baby developed in her during the normal time until she gave birth to a baby whom God named Jesus. (See Luke 1:31-32.) The angel Gabriel had informed Mary “that the holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:3;). The child was born of Mary, and through Mary came His humanity. In otherwords, Mary was the mother of Jesus’ humanity, but she was not the mother of His deity.
The Scriptures reveal that from His birth as a baby until He reached manhood, Jesus matured physically mentally; and spiritually (Luke 2:52). This normal human growth indicates that Jesus the Son of God lived as a normal human. He did not have the nature of angels, but He had a human nature: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels: but he tool; on him the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16). Thus Jesus possessed a human nature, which would include a human body (John 2:19-21: Hebrews 5:5, 10: Luke 22:51-52; Mark 14:8; 15:43-46; Colossians 1:21-22: I Peter 2:24), a human mind or will (Philippians 2:5-8; Matthew 26:39: Luke 22:42; John 5:21, 30; 6:38: Hebrews 9:14), a human spirit (Luke 23:46; Mark 8:12; Luke 10:21; John 11:33: 13:21), and even a human soul (Acts 2:31: Isaiah 53:11-12, Mark 14:34) It is noteworthy that all of these four aspects of Jesus humanity are associated with His death on the Cross. Yet these human aspects did not constitute a separate human identity but were united with deity in Jesus Christ. It seems that since God made mankind in His own image and likeness God could readily unite with and assume a human nature without compromising His deity.
Jesus Possessed a Holy Nature
But an important and significant difference exists between the human nature of Jesus and the rest of humanity. This was assured by the virgin birth in which He did not inherit the fallen spiritual nature caused by the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. Through the virgin birth God’s holiness, and not Adam’s depraved nature, created the sinless human nature of Jesus. In his comments to Mary, the angel Gabriel called the Son “that holy thing which shall be born ofthee’ (Luke 1:35). In a prayer of the early church, the disciples twice referred to Jesus as a “holy child.” (Acts 4:27, 30). Therefore, from His birth the Son of God had a holy human nature given by God rather than a fallen, depraved; and sinful nature that came from Adam.
Jesus came to take away our sins and bear our infirmities, but He was not a sinner by birth or by deeds. II Corinthians ;:71 tells US that God “hash made him to be sin ‘or us. who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’ In other words, in His death on the cross, Jesus took the judgment and curse of our sins upon Himself, vet without experiencing sin in His nature or as an act. (See also Galatians 3:13-14.) In I Peter 3:18, the apostle wrote that Jesus’ death was that of the “just [sinless] for the unjust [sinners].” I John 3:5 also states his sinlessness: “And ye know that he was manifested to take awe!’ our sins; and in him is no sin.” The Book of Hebrews Jesus describes as being “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), and states that Jesus as “in all points tempted like as we are, vet [He was] without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Joseph, Man. and Jesus
The Bible is clear that God rather than Joseph, the husband of Mary, was the Father of Jesus Christ. While Joseph provided the legal and social responsibility as His father, he was not His biological father (Luke 3:23). Mary, in scolding Jesus when he was twelve years old, called Joseph “thy father” to reflect his legal and social role. In His response, Jesus reminded her that His Father was God: “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about m! Father’s business?”
On the other hand, Mary is the biological parent of Jesus and thus through her Jesus received His human nature. While she is honored in Scripture to be the mother of Jesus, this close relationship did not merit her a special role in His ministry or a special spiritual relationship with Him. On one occasion He kindly rebuked her when she pushed Him to work a miracle at the wedding in Canal On another occasion He refused to do special favors for her when she and her children came to request an audience with Him as He was ministering. His remarks indicated not a rejection of His mother but that she was no more important in His ministry than any other follower.
Mary w as a virgin who gave birth to the Son of God, but she had no divine origin, nor did she assume a special place in Jesus’ ministry.
The Apostles’ Witness to the Incarnation and Exaltation
To His twelve disciples, Jesus lived an authentic life as a man, vet the! knew that He was more than a man. The! marveled at His miracles and were astonished at His teaching. Still they saw Him when He needed rest and sleep, wanted food and water, was weary, was disappointed, and showed outrage. The!’ saw Him suffer from the whip, thorns, nails, and spear; the!, watched the blood flow from His back, hands, feet, and side; and they heard His cry from the agonizing human feeling of being forsaken as He was dying on the cross. But they were also witnesses of His resurrection.
In his message on the Day of Pentecost, Peter called Jesus “a man approved of God among you” (Acts 2:22) and referred to His resurrection as the fulfillment of a prophecy, “that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 7:31). This fulfilled prophecy teaches us that in the resurrection of Jesus, both His human soul and His human flesh were raised from death. But the apostles knew that His humanity had changed. To the multitude in Jerusalem, Peter climaxed his sermon by a proclamation: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
During the forty days between the Cross and the Ascension, Jesus met several times with His disciples to renew their faith, to point them toward the coming experience of the Holy Ghost, and to renew their mission to evangelize the world. During these visit) the apostles saw Him in His glory and, like Thomas, recognized Him as their Lord and their Cod. They knew that He was the same Christ who had been crucified and had risen from the dead, for they saw the nail prints and heard His familiar voice. Yet His humanity had been glorified beyond earthly description, and they watched as He ascended to the throne of God in heaven to rule and reign forever. But He would come again.
The Incarnation–A Mystery of Compassionate Love
The motivation of the Incarnation was God’s s compassionate love for mankind, whom He had made in His own image and likeness. Since God cannot die, He united with Himself human Flesh, human blood, and human nature so that He could offer a holy, sinless, spotless sacrifice to remit sins and open the door of reconciliation. He came in the form of man “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man,” whereby He ‘might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil” and “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:9, 14-15).
Only His precious, sinless blood given for us at Calvary by His death can remit our sins-and enable us to enter into His fellowship by “a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:18-20).
The Incarnation–A Mystery of Oneness
Although Jesus lived on earth as a man, that man did not have a separate identity from God, for in Him dwelt the fullness of God: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell” (Colossians 1:19). This truth is emphatically restated in Colossians 2:9: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” This man, known as the Son of God, was one with God, whom He identified as His Father.
That Jesus could be both God and man is a mystery to us, for how could God become a man without detracting from His being God? And how could God in His fullness become incarnate without diminishing or altering the humanity to which He united? Yet such a thing happened in the birth and life of Jesus Christ.
The union of the human nature and God was perfect and resulted in one person with one consciousness but with two natures: humanity and deity. How these two natures remained distinct vet perfectly joined is a mystery that will await the return Jesus, who may reveal it when our bodies are make like His glorious body. Jesus was conscious that He was God and man, vet as a man He prayed to God, His Father. It was not one God praying to another God but a man praying to God. .At the same time, Jesus was conscious of His deity; that He was the one eternal almighty God, creator of all, author of life, and who alone possesses immortality (I Timothy 6:15-16).
The Father And The Son In Believers
By David K. Bernard
(Taken from the Pentecostal Herald, Dec. 1999)
The Christmas season reminds us that God was manifested in the flesh as Jesus Christ. God came to dwell among us (Matthew 1:23). The eternal Father was revealed in the human person of the Son of God. Thus to know Jesus is to know the Father, and to see Jesus is to see the Father. (See John 14:7-9).
However, Christ ascended to heaven, and we no longer have His visible, physical presence among us. Does this mean that the Incarnation is no longer a living reality in our lives? Not at all.
Jesus promised that if we would believe and obey His gospel, we would have both the Father and the Son in our lives. Specifically, He said, “if a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
Because this verse uses plural pronouns for Jesus and the Father, many people think that it refers to two eternal persons in the Godhead. Instead of teaching us about the Godhead, however, these words figuratively describe the Christian’s daily experience as a result of the Incarnation.
Jesus promised those who love and obey Him, “We [the Father and I] will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” From the context, it is clear that these words do not mean that two persons would literally inhabit or dwell inside believers. In John 14:20 Jesus said, “I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” “Ye in me” cannot mean that the spirit of a believer could actually fill Christ’s physical body or become incarnate in Christ, but the phrase refers to communion and fellowship. The words “I in you” (verse 20) and “make our abode with him” (verse 23) similarly speak of God’s having fellowship with us.
If we interpret John 14:23 to speak of two persons, then we must ask how two persons could inhabit an individual believer. They could only do so in spirit, which would require two divine spirits to live in each believer. But “there is one body, and one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:4). “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). Christians receive only one Spirit, not two.
Therefore, both the context and other passages show that Jesus’ statement in John 14:23 is metaphorical. He said that we would have both the Father and the Son, not with reference to two persons or two spirits inhabiting us, but speaking of divine characteristics that would distinguish the Christian’s life.
How does the Christian actually receive these qualities into his life and thereby have fellowship with both the Father and the Son? In the same context, Jesus explained that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would fulfill His words: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever…. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:16, 18, 26). By receiving the one Spirit of God, we have the abiding presence of the
Father and the Son.
To the person who loves God and keeps His commandments, John 14:23 promises that the Father and Son will abide with him. Elsewhere John used similar language to teach that we know we have God abiding in us because we receive His Spirit. “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, (I John 3:24). “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (I John 4:13).
When we receive the Holy Spirit we receive “the Spirit of your Father” to dwell “in” us (Matthew 10:20). The indwelling Spirit enables us to call God our Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) and gives us access to the Father (Ephesians 2: 18). When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we have the Spirit of the Creator of the universe (Genesis 1 :1-2). We have all the power of the omnipotent Father at work in our lives. The Father imparts wisdom and revelation to us, yet He does so by the Spirit (I Corinthians 2:12; 12:8; Ephesians 1:17). The Father comforts us, yet He does so by the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 1:2-4; John 14:26). Moreover, God pours out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). In sum, the Father loves us, comes to us, and makes His abode with us by filling us with His Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also “the Spirit of his [God’s} Son” (Galatians 4:6). When we receive the Holy Spirit, we specifically receive the Spirit that dwelt in Christ (Romans 8:9-11). The Spirit led Christ continually, enabled Him to offer Himself to God, and raised Him from the dead, and the same Spirit will perform the same works in our lives (Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 9:14; Romans 8:11-14). By having the
“Spirit of Jesus Christ,” we can have the mind of Christ, which caused
Him to be humble and obedient to the will of God even to death
(Philippians 1:19; 2:5-8).
The Father strengthens us with His might by placing “his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). His Spirit fills us so that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:17). The result is that “ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
In sum, believers not only enjoy the life-giving, creative, miraculous, powerful work of the Father in their lives, but they also receive the humble, submissive, obedient attitude of the Son. Truly, both the Father and the Son come to them and make their abode with them. But the Father and the Son do not come as two persons with two spirits. Nor are they two persons who somehow come via yet a third person. Believers receive both the Father and the Son when they receive the one Spirit of God. This Spirit is the eternal Father at work in our lives, and at the same time He is the Spirit of the Son.
The union of the Father and the Son is not a union of two divine persons, but it is a union of deity and humanity. This union took place in a unique way in Jesus Christ, who is both God and man at the same time. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
While no one else ever was or can be God incarnate as Jesus is, the union of the Father and Son in Christ has important implications for our lives today. First, the Son was a perfect man in a perfect relationship with God, and His human life serves as the ideal model for us to emulate in our own Christian relationships. Second, the Incarnation makes available to us the divine qualities of the omnipotent Father as well as the perfect human attributes of the sinless Son. When we receive the Holy Spirit, the one Spirit of both the Father and the Son, we have everything we need to live for God.
This article was excerpted and adapted from The Oneness View of Jesus Christ, published by Word Aflame Press.
Q. Is Monarchianism The Same As Oneness?
By T. R. O. Daniel
A. Historically, in theology, there have been two types of monarchianism. Both have been concerned with preserving the “sole sovereignty” or “single rule” of God. The first, propagated by Theodotus, denied the deity of Jesus Christ while teaching a type of adoptionism. His basic teaching was that Jesus was just a virtuous man who received miraculous powers when the Spirit descended on E him at his baptism. This doctrine, called dynamic monarchianism, never gained a widespread following and would be considered heretical by Oneness believers.
The second form and more popular form of monarchianism was given the name modalism by the nineteenth-century historian Adolf von Harnack. Consequently they are referred to as modalist monarchians or modalistic monarchians. Historically they are also know as Sabellianists from Sabellius who defended strict monotheism by affirming that the titles Father, Son and Holy Spirit referred to the one being. They have also been accused, even though Sabellius denied it, of being patripassianists (teaching that the Father suffered and died on the cross). Their view of the Godhead, as long as it did not lead to a type of docetism that denied the reality of Jesus’ humanity, would be considered a Oneness view.
The New Dictionary of Theology (I. V. P.) states that modalistic monarchianism, “Started from the firm conviction of Christ’s divinity free from all compromising emanationisms and subordinationisms… It sought to unite the deity of the Son and the oneness of God by declaring the designations Father and Son to be modes, or expressions of manifestation, of the one divine being.” The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity quotes Noetus of Smyrna an adherent of modalism (ca 200), when he was criticized and condemned by the church as replying, “But what harm do I do in glorifying Christ.” Cleomenes, successor to Epigonus, at a religious school in Rome was reported to have taught that Christ, ‘confessed himself to be the Son to those who saw him,
while to those who could receive it, he did not hide the fact that he was the Father.” Erickson in Christian Theology, speaks sympathetically of modalistic monarchianism as “a genuinely unique, original, and creative conception, and one which is in some ways a brilliant breakthrough. Both the unity of the Godhead and the deity of all three-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-are preserved.”
However, as the Oneness viewpoint is rejected by Trinitarians today the modalistic monarchian doctrine was rejected by the historical church which had allowed Greek philosophical concepts to distort their interpretation of the biblical teaching concerning the Godhead.
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