Tag Archive | David K. Bernard

Power of The Spirit

Power of The Spirit
By David K. Bernard

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (I Corinthians 2:4-5).
Growing a church is a spiritual work. Therefore, the most important ingredient is not leadership principles, management techniques, or outreach methods, but the work of the Holy Spirit. It is possible to build a strong organization and attract many members by secular principles and methods, but if that were our only goal, we should start a sports franchise, organize an entertainment company, or join some historic denomination that owns great cathedrals and has millions of members. More than filling stadiums, our goal is to grow an apostolic church, called by the name of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, and walking in holiness of life. Thus, from start to finish, we must rely upon God’s direction and power.
Depending on the Spirit does not mean that we can ignore all other principles of church growth. We cannot do what only God can do, but God will not do what we can do. God has designed the church so that 1 lis power is necessary for growth but not sufficient in the absence of diligent effort on our part.
Our dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit reminds us once again of the necessity of prayer. But we cannot measure the value of prayer simply by the number of hours that we pray. We must have effective prayer and that occurs in the context of faith and expectation of the miraculous.
When Jesus gave the great commission, He specifically promised that miraculous power would accompany the preaching of the Word. The early church carried out His instructions to proclaim the gospel to everyone, and the Lord confirmed the Word with signs and wonders.
We find the account at the end of the Gospel of Mark: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen” (Mark 16:15-20). (See also Hebrews 2:3-4.)
The Book of Acts documents the truth of this account. The preaching of the apostles was accompanied by casting out of demons, speaking in tongues, divine protection from accidental harm, and divine healing of the sick. And these miracles were instrumental in attracting multitudes and adding believers to the church. (See Acts 2:6; 3:11; 5:12-14; 8:6-8, 13; 14:3.)
Paul stated that his missionary ministry was accomplished “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:19). The key to his ministerial success was not “persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Corinthians 2:4).
Paul listed nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit that assist in building up the church. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all”: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues (I Corinthians 12:7-10). It is God’s will for these gifts to be manifested in every local body of believers until the second coming of Christ. (See I Corinthians 1:2, 7.) His Word admonishes us, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts” (I Corinthians 14:1). (For further discussion, see Spiritual Gifts by David K. Bernard.)
We must always remember that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, we need spiritual weapons, not merely human programs and methods.
Indeed II Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to obedience of Christ.” In this context, the strongholds are not physical locations or supernatural beings, bid they are located in the human mind and personality. To overcome them, we cannot rely on human planning, but we must have the strategy, power, and work of the Spirit of God.
CREATING AN ATMOSPHERE OF FAITH
In order for the Lord to work in our midst, we must develop an attitude of expectancy. God does not respond merely to need, but to faith. This truth is evident from the words of Jesus Himself:
* “According to your faith let it be to you” (Matthew 9:29).
* “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
* “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).
Peter explained the role of faith in the healing of a lame man: “And His [Jesus’] name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16). Here, we see that the key to experiencing God’s miraculous work is to have faith in Jesus Christ. In its fullest sense, faith means trust in the Lord and reliance upon Him. Instead of depending upon our abilities, we must depend on God’s. Instead of boasting of our qualifications or accomplishments, we must boast about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
How do we create an atmosphere of faith? As we have discussed in previous chapters, prayer, preaching, and teaching are vital in this regard. In addition, praise and worship are also important in preparing a congregation for the work of the Spirit.
David described God as inhabiting the praises of His people Israel (Psalm 22:3). David’s praise to God upon his harp dispelled an evil spirit that troubled King Saul (I Samuel 16:23). A musician’s playing created an atmosphere in which “the hand of the LORD came upon” the prophet Elisha so that he received divine instruction in a crisis (II Kings 3:15). When King Jehoshaphat faced a great battle, he appointed singers to praise God in the beauty of holiness. As “they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the [enemy] . . . and they were defeated” (II Chronicles 20:22). When Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, He delivered them from prison by an earthquake (Acts 16:25-26).
Clearly, worship invites the presence and miraculous work of the Lord. When the church gathers together, then, the leader of the service should foster praise and worship. From the very beginning, he should set a positive tone with stirring, energetic praise that focuses on the Lord. Worship can take many forms and have many expressions, but the worship leader should help the congregation implement two essential principles.
1. Seek the Lord sincerely, diligently, and wholeheartedly. The leader should conduct the service in such a way that people realize the importance of what they are doing. While worship is frequently joyous, there should always be a seriousness of purpose and an intensity of focus.
The people should understand that if they seek I,(11-(1 with all their heart, He will assuredly respond. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). “Serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you” (I Chronicles 28:9).
The first and greatest commandment is: “Hear, 0 Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29-30). From this passage we see that worship should involve our emotions, our personality, our intellect, and our effort.
2. Worship Him with free and heartfelt expression. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Worshiping in spirit refers to the human spirit, including our innermost thoughts and feelings. In short, our worship should be deep, enthusiastic, and in accordance with the truth of God’s Word.
The Bible admonishes, “Do not quench the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19). We must let the Lord work as He wills. When He does, then we can expect great emotional and spiritual freedom. “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Corinthians 3:17).
As Pentecostals often emphasize, worship must go beyond preconception, ritual, and tradition and truly involve the heart. We should consider, however, that there can be Pentecostal rituals and traditions. For instance, some people use certain praise clich’s without seriously considering their meaning. Others think that unless they or the congregation have worshiped in a certain physically demonstrative way, then there has not been deep worship or a great move of God.
These ideas are a hindrance to true worship and the freedom of the Spirit. Not every service will be the same, and not every individual will respond in the same way. Some may cry, some laugh, some dance, some leap, some fall on their face before God, and some may simply bask in His presence.
The worship leader’s job is not to elicit a certain form of worship but to facilitate a move of God by encouraging people to worship freely and yield to the Spirit. He should not try to pump up the audience or become a cheerleader. Instead of coercing or rebuking, he should be a positive example of worship that can inspire others. Instead of pressing people to produce a certain response, he needs to create an atmosphere in which people feel free and safe to express themselves in their own way and therefore an atmosphere in which God can move according to Ills plan for the service.
From the Book of Psalms we see that biblical worship is both individual and corporate, that it is demonstrative, and that it encompasses a variety of expressions. “Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150).
Personal testimonies can significantly add to or detract from the service. They provide a means for each person to participate and for the members of the body to minister to each other. (For an expression of these principles with regard to spiritual gifts, see I Corinthians 14:26-31.) To be effective, testimonies should focus on a great work God has done or an encouraging thought from God’s Word. They should be brief, positive, uplifting, and uncontroversial. In some cases, it may be necessary for the leader of the service to select those who will testify or else diplomatically intervene if a testimony seems to head in the wrong direction.
The worship leader is a key person in helping to form a spiritual atmosphere in which the Lord can work freely. For each service at our church, the Leader has a brief outline and a selection of songs. He is free to vary from this list as the Lord leads, but He has a plan of action to ensure structure, purpose, mid smooth function. The following are guidelines for worship leaders in our church.

GUIDELINES FOR WORSHIP LEADERS
1. Move the service purposefully and progressively.
2. Make quick transitions; avoid dead time.
3. Avoid excessive speaking between elements of the service.
4. Give clear signals to the musicians at all times.
5. When leading songs, keep singing, especially during transitions.
6. Avoid having the people to stand excessively.
7. Testimonies should be quick and positive.
8. Soloists should testify only when asked.
9. Stay in the microphone.
10. Be time conscious. Check with the pastor on when he wants the service.
SPECIAL MEETINGS
Special evangelistic meetings are a good way to build faith. This type of service attracts visitors, gives members a reason to invite their friends and relatives, and creates great expectancy for a move of God. Other special events can do the same, including, gospel concerts, children’s revivals, and services geared to special occasions such as Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas.
A new church or a small church does not have to rely exclusively on its own ability to generate an atmosphere of faith. One of the many benefits of belonging to a fellowship of churches is having rallies, conferences, camps, seminars, and retreats that a local church cannot provide by itself. By participating in these meetings, people have the benefit of outstanding speakers, music, worship, and fellowship on a large scale.
Every year, many people from our church attend sectional rallies, men’s conference, women’s conference, youth conference, youth camp, and camp meeting. And every year, we have people to receive the Holy Ghost at them. In the early years of our church, these meetings were an important means of getting people filled with the Spirit. Now, however, the vast majority of our people receive the Holy Ghost in our local church. Nevertheless, there are always some whose faith rises to a new level at such a meeting. In recent years everyone we have brought to the district youth conference, women’s conference, and men’s conference who did not already have the Holy Ghost has received this gift. Such a great expectation has been created that it is fulfilled through the faith and prayer of the people.
Larger churches sometimes think that they can provide plenty of their own activities and so do not need sectional or district functions. However, if they do not participate, they miss the opportunity to be blessed, to be a blessing, and to be a positive influence for revival elsewhere. When we are kingdom minded, we will seek to promote church growth everywhere and in whatever way that we can, not just in our local church. And even the large church will benefit greatly by its participation. People will be healed, be delivered, receive special answers to prayer, receive confirmations, and rise to new heights of worship, faith, and commitment. For many of our people, these special events have proved to be a life-changing experience, significantly enhancing their spiritual contribution to our assembly.
SENSITIVITY TO THE SPIRIT
In addition to the work of the Holy Spirit in the congregation, the pastor and other leaders need the work of God in their lives and ministries. They should cultivate a personal sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
Instead of developing clever, intricate, extrabiblical strategies for spiritual warfare and achievement, we must appropriate the victory Jesus has already won for us. Instead of trusting in our background, knowledge, or experience, we must rely upon the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Lord. Instead of quenching the Spirit, we must yield to the
Relying on the Holy Spirit requires humility, brokeess, and yieldedness. Humility is vital in the exercise of all spiritual gifts and abilities. (See Romans 12:3-6.) “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (I Peter 5:5-6). “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Humility, brokenness, and yieldedness are important in all aspects of Christian life, but these attributes are particularly vital in allowing God’s Spirit to work through us. We should be neither proud nor self-rejecting, but simply unconscious of self. We need a hunger for the things of God and a sincere love for the kingdom of God. We must repent of sin and pursue holiness, asking the Lord to reveal and remove secret impurities in our life. We should periodically evaluate and purge our motives. We should develop a habit of prayer and a continual attitude of prayer. Self-discipline and self-denial should become guiding principles of our life, and fasting is an important practice in this regard.
We cannot earn favors from God through spiritual efforts, but these attitudes and disciplines will help minimize worldly influences and maximize godly influences. As we lay aside selfish desires and fleshly lusts, we will become more sensitive and open to the things of God.
Learning to walk by faith and to yield to the Spirit is a process. We grow in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18). It is not difficult to allow God to work through us, but it does take mental, emotional, and spiritual adjustments. We must lay aside fear and doubt and let the Spirit flow through us.
As we learn to yield to the Spirit, it is important to act in faith. For example, we may feel a prompting to speak or pray with someone but not be sure it is from God. If what we are feeling is consistent with the Word of God and with the principle of love, then we should act on it. If the prompting is indeed from God, once we act we will feel a confirmation, and often we will see miraculous results. In the process, we learn to discern the leading of God’s Spirit so that we will be more confident the next time it happens.
God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). We who are filled with the Holy Spirit need to recognize the supernatural potential that rests in us and allow God’s Spirit to flow through us. Our God is not distant; He is present in our lives with miraculous power. When we have the Holy Spirit, we have the author of all nine spiritual gifts resident within us, and He can activate: my that we need.
Let us exercise simple faith to receive God’s miraculous gifts, and let us stir up the gifts He has already placed in our midst. Whenever needs arise, WP should believe His Word and believe that He can work through us. His power is at work “in us”; we must let it flow through us to meet the needs.
WISDOM AND LEADING OF THE SPIRIT
Spiritual leaders specifically need divine wisdom in making decisions and guiding people. They need divine leading in many situations.
In counseling and guiding people, I rely heavily upon James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” When faced with a decision, a counseling session, or a problem, I have learned to go to the Lord in prayer. Sometimes I pray inwardly while dealing with a situation outwardly.
Several years ago, a man visited our church after noticing our sign as he drove by. He became very interested in the Lord and began to come regularly, but his wife was not interested. One day, the two of them came to me for counseling. His concern was that his wife did not want to attend church with him; he thought that she should follow his leadership. She said that it was fine for him to attend if he desired, but she was satisfied with her own religious tradition, did not particularly like our style of worship, and saw no reason to come regularly.
As usual, we had prayed at the beginning of our meeting, and I continued to seek the Lord mentally while we talked. The Lord must have prompted me to speak this point, for there was no objective reason for me to say what I did. I told the husband, “Of course, I want your wife to come to church with you. However, I think you should stop putting pressure on her. God is already dealing with her, and she has a hunger for Him. If we will leave her alone, God will (‘raw her.”
When I said this, the wife immediately began crying. She confessed that she was very dissatisfied with her spiritual life and that God had been dealing with her. Her husband stared at her in shock, for he had no inkling that she had any desire for God.
She began attending church regularly after that. Before long, the husband, the wife, and their teenage daughter all received the Holy Spirit. In fact, the wife and the daughter received the Spirit one night before the husband, whereupon the wife called to him as they left the service, “Come on, heathen! It’s time to go home.” She was definitely converted! This conversion did not come about by human wisdom but by the intervention of God.
One young woman who came to our church had I wen addicted to alcohol and drugs and had spent four years under psychiatric care. When she first came, she sat on the very back row in a corner and avoided contact with people. At the altar call, however, she moved closer to the front, evidently interested in what was taking place. I approached her and asked if she wanted to see what was happening. She said yes, so I approached her to the altar area. After a few minutes, I asked if she wanted what the people were experiencing. Again she said yes, so I suggested, “Let’s pray.” She replied, “I don’t know how.” I told her to listen to me as I prayed a prayer of repentance. Then I asked her to pray the same way in her own words.
Soon she was shaking under the power of God, but she could not seem to open her heart to receive the Holy Spirit. After a time of explanation and further prayer, I finally told her that she was at the point of receiving the Spirit; when she decided to move beyond fear and into faith, she would be filled. I stated that it could happen anywhere at any time such as at night in her bedroom whenever she opened her heart in faith and praise.
The next day on her job, she began to think about what I had said, and she made up her mind to receive the Holy Ghost. She took her midmorning break and went into the ladies’ restroom, where there was a small couch and where she knew she would not be disturbed. She knelt down, opened her heart, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost right there. After all, I had said “anywhere”! The experience was so wonderful that, as she later reported to me, “At lunch, I went back to the same place and got it again!”
ANOINTING
In addition to divine wisdom, pastors and other leaders need divine anointing to do their work and accomplish their objectives. They should seek God for anointing to lead worship, preach, teach, pray with people, and operate gifts of the Spirit. In some situations, they need to exercise spiritual authority and claim divine intervention.
A woman came into our church with a glorious experience of receiving the Holy Spirit. However, her husband was quite hostile. He was tormented by evil spirits to the point that he had made cuts on his arms, legs, and hand and even contemplated suicide. Ironically, after reading a negative evaluation of the Pentecostal message by some evangelicals, he concluded that our church was a cult and wanted his family to have no part of it. He finally agreed, however, to meet me in my office to discuss matters.
In our meeting, he acknowledged that he was depressed, frustrated, and tormented, so I began to pray for the peace of God. Immediately, the Spirit of the Lord ministered to him, and by the end of our meeting his attitude had completely changed. He began attending church, but several weeks later at the end of a service I noticed him standing alone in a far corner of the sanctuary while everyone else was praying. He was obviously upset and troubled, so I went to him and began to talk. He was confused about what to believe, so I answered his questions and prayed with him. Again, the peace of God came upon him.
A few weeks later, he came to the front of the church to pray and began to repent. The power of God moved upon him greatly, but suddenly he stopped praying and erected a spiritual wall.
Nevertheless, we continued to lift him up in prayer. A few services later, the Spirit of God moved powerfully. The congregation worshiped with great freedom and demonstration, and several people began praying with this man. After an extended time of worship, I felt that I should preach for a short while, but I told those who were still seeking victory to go to the prayer room and continue praying. Two men took this man into the prayer room, where the Spirit of God came down in a mighty way. He fell to his knees under the power of God, lifted up his hands, was delivered from demonic forces, and instantly received the Holy Ghost.
The battle was not over, however. After a month, the pressures of life began closing in on him again, and I could tell that he was struggling. At the close of a service I went to pray with him, but he responded angrily, “I don’t want to pray. In fact, I don’t even believe your doctrine, because you think that everyone who does not speak in tongues is going to hell.” I quietly answered that we did not try to judge the hearts of people, but we simply tried to follow the Scriptures. Moreover, he did not have to agree with everything we taught in order to come to church and be blessed of God. Indeed, I told him that the real issue at hand was not doctrine but struggles in his personal life and the attack of the devil. Eventually, he agreed to let me lay hands upon him and pray. When, his heart began to melt. I instructed several men to continue praying and talking with him until he opened his heart to the Lord again.
Some weeks later, we were in the midst of another exciting, demonstrative service when suddenly someone began to speak forcefully in tongues. The message was unusually anointed and powerful, and an interpretation soon followed. I was amazed and thrilled to see that the man who had experienced such a struggle was the one who gave the message in tongues. This miracle was a tremendous boost to his spiritual confidence. From that day forward, he had assurance that God loved him, accepted him, and would use him in His kingdom. By his own public testimony, he is no longer on psychiatric medication, “no longer crazy, and no longer psyched out,” but zealous for God.
Sometimes, there is no substitute for a prayer of authority not a self-proclaimed or self-generated authority but authority from God. Frequently, people face situations in which they need someone to take spiritual authority by a prayer of faith. As pastor, sometimes I feel led of the Spirit to pray for someone in an authoritative way rebuking the attack of the devil, proclaiming deliverance, claiming healing, or claiming the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Many times I have seen people instantly delivered, healed, or filled with the Holy Ghost as we prayed the prayer of faith. This work does not take place merely by our wishing it to happen or trying to make it happen by “confessing it,” “naming and claiming it,” or “speaking it.” The unction must come from God, and the person must respond in faith. For instance, while Paul was preaching in Lystra, he noticed a lame man and called out to him, “Stand up straight on your feet” (Acts 14:10). Instantly the man was healed. Paul did not speak merely from a human whim, hope, desire, or plan, however. Rather, after “observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed,” he spoke with spiritual authority (Acts 14:9). And Paul’s spiritual perception in this case was undoubtedly an impartation from God Himself.
EXPECTING THE MIRACULOUS
In short, to see apostolic church growth, we must cultivate an expectation of the miraculous. The leadership and the congregation need to believe that nothing is impossible with God. He can and will save people to the uttermost, regardless of background, past life of sin, evil habits, or addictions. He can heal all diseases, even when the doctor says there is no hope. He can salvage and restore marriages, even when the family counselor recommends divorce. When a church develops this expectation, they will see the Lord do amazing things. Their faith will grow as they see God’s mighty works, and more faith will in turn lead to more miracles.
Our assembly has seen so many miraculous con-versions that they now believe literally anyone can be saved. People in our congregation have come to the Lord and received the Holy Spirit from a wide variety of religious backgrounds, including Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhist, Muslim, no religion, agnostic, and atheist. A variety of professions and occupations have been represented among our converts, including businessman, college professor, college student, computer programmer, construction worker, corporate executive, denominational preacher, engineer, housewife, lawyer, mechanic, prisoner, prison security chief, former prostitute, salesman, and unemployed homeless. In our church are people who formerly were involved in serious crimes, abortion, sexual promiscuity, witchcraft, adultery, homosexuality, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, and attempted suicide. Among our converts and members are some who grew up with little parental care, had half a dozen stepparents, were repeatedly abused sexually as children, were severely abused physically by a spouse, lived on the streets for a significant time, or were committed to a mental institution. Our congregation has included people from eighteen nations on five continents Albania, Canada, Chile, El Salvador, Germany, Czech Republic, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Poland, United Kingdom, and of course the United States. Marriages have been restored after adulterous affairs, and divorced couples have been reunited. We have literally seen God save people from all walks of life, from the up-and-outers to the down-and-outers. The following are some examples.
Salvation of an entire family. A woman received the Holy Ghost and was delivered from alcoholism. That same week her husband said he wanted a divorce, and her daughter attempted suicide. I told her to hold on to God, to pray for her family, and to believe God for a miracle. Over time, God worked miraculously in her family. Through much prayer and counsel, today the husband, wife, and children are all serving the Lord, and they have won others to the Lord also.
Salvation of a marriage. A young couple who were our converts came to a crisis in their marriage, with the husband on the verge of leaving his family. The wife called me in the middle of the night in desperation. I urged her to pray for God to intervene, and in the next few days I told her to bind together with family members and close friends to believe God for a miracle.
During that time, I met with the husband and counseled with him regarding his future. He had had a very difficult childhood and home life, he had developed detrimental patterns of behavior, and before coming to God the couple had begun their relationship on a faulty foundation amid much conflict. Through prayer and counsel from the Word of God, I showed him that it was not God’s will for him to leave his wife. At this point, however, he said, “It would take a miracle to change my heart.” I assured him that if he truly wanted to do God’s will and would make the right choice, God would work a miracle, transform his emotions, and restore his feelings and relationship with his wife. For a few days, he weighed his decision, and those who knew the situation prayed intensely.
God did intervene in a miraculous way, breaking the man’s spirit and bestowing great grace upon him. His relationship with God was fully restored, and so was his relationship with his wife. While counseling and communication were an important part of the restoration, the key was not human ability but the supernatural power of God.
Healing of digestive system. One Sunday night after church had begun, I received a message that one of our men had been rushed into emergency surgery, and the prognosis was not favorable. I turned over the service to our assistant pastor, asking him to lead a prayer meeting while my wife and I hurried to the hospital.
At the hospital, the surgeon explained that a blood clot had cut off circulation to the man’s intestines and gangrene had already set in. His only hope was immediate surgery to take out ninety percent of his intestines. The doctor said the man had about a fifty-percent chance of surviving the operation, and if he lived, for the next week he would be at great risk of fatal infection. Moreover, he would have to be fed intravenously for the rest of his life.
The church continued to pray. As my wife and I prayed in the hospital room with the family, tongues and interpretation came forth. The message from God was one of assurance and victory.
The man survived the surgery and the subsequent week. The doctor later inserted a permanent feeding tube into a blood vessel so that the man could receive a costly liquid diet called TPN (total parenteral nutrition) for about twelve hours per day. He could eat some solid food but could not derive any nutritional value from it.
Some months later, an infection set in where the tube was attached, and the TPN had to be stopped until the infection could be cured. To the surprise of his doctor, the man continued to thrive without TPN, actually gaining weight. The doctor finally decided to discontinue the liquid nutrition altogether; and today, despite losing most of his digestive system, the man is completely sustained by solid food.
Healing after a brain tumor. A young couple came to our church off and on for several years. They had been baptized and had received the Spirit, but they did not remain faithful to church, and they had significant family difficulties. One day, however, they came with the report that their young daughter had a brain tumor. It had displaced part of her brain and was affecting her ability to walk. They began to seek God with all their heart, and the church began to pray for a miracle. The doctors performed surgery and removed the tumor but were concerned about a possible recurrence. Soon after the surgery, they conducted a brain scan. To their amazement, not only was there no new tumor, but the brain had almost immediately filled the space left by the old tumor a medical miracle. The doctors reported that it appeared as if the girl had never had a tumor or surgery at all!
This healing proved to be a turning point in the life of the couple. Soon they were renewed in the Holy Ghost, and their daughter also received the Holy Ghost. Since that time, they have won eight adults to the Lord, and they are still witnessing to family and friends.
Healing after a gunshot wound to the brain. In a family who had visited our church, a teenage son attempted suicide by shooting himself in the forehead one night. His mother found him the next morning in bed, unconscious but alive. He was rushed to the hospital, where the doctor did not give much hope. The immediate concern was that the brain would swell, creating so much pressure that the boy would soon die.
Sure enough, the brain did swell until the doctor said that either he had to perform emergency surgery and remove part of the brain or else the boy would surely die. If he performed the surgery, however, the boy would have some permanent brain damage with unforeseeable consequences. After prayer and counsel, the mother decided not to risk the surgery but to leave the boy in the hands of God.
We called upon the church for concentrated prayer.
Soon, to the amazement of the doctors, the swelling began to subside, and the boy fully recovered, albeit with the loss of one eye where the bullet had entered. The doctors could not understand how he had survived because the pressure on the brain had been far more than enough to kill him, and it had remained for a significant amount of time. Finally, they concluded that the instrument used to measure the pressure must have been faulty. But we knew that it was a miracle for the boy to survive a close-range gunshot wound to the brain.
Summary. Miracles such as these have helped lead people to the Lord and establish them in the church. In addition, such miracles have inspired the entire congregation to believe for the supernatural intervention of God in their lives and the lives of others. And of course, they are eager to share their faith with family and friends, offering them hope for their own needs. In this way, miracles spur church growth, making an impact that extends far beyond the individuals who receive them.
As we discussed in chapter 3, in a new church or a new pastorate it will take time to mold the congregation so that there is a continual atmosphere of faith, worship, and revival. Yet this should be our goal, and it is a goal that we can and must achieve through persistent prayer, preaching and teaching, worship, and personal sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
The supernatural work of God does not come by our pursuing miracles but by our pursuing a relationship with Him and trusting Him to supply every need. When we fulfill the greatest commandment of all” to worship and love God with all our being” then miracles will become a regular occurrence. At the same time, we also need to fulfill the second-greatest commandment, which is closely associated with the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This commandment leads us to the sixth principle of church growth personal care.

The above article “Power of The Spirit” is written by David K. Bernard. This article was excerpted from chapter five in Bernard’s book Growing A Church.
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.

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The Union Of The Father And The Son

The Union Of The Father And The Son
By David K. Bernard

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gayest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:21-22).

An Example for Believers

Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father on behalf of His disciples (John 17). We should note that the prayers of Christ do not teach us that He was a second divine person but that He was an authentic human being. He prayed “in the days of his flesh” (Hebrews 5:7).

It is from this perspective that we must examine Christ’s prayers, including His request in John 17 that the disciples would be one even as He and the Father were one. Trinitarians often attempt to prove from this statement that Jesus and the Father are two persons in the Godhead. They hold that since believers are distinct persons from each other, Jesus must be a different person from the Father.

Unfortunately for trinitarians, this argument proves too much. When carried to its logical end, it does not establish trinitarianism (the doctrine of three persons in one divine substance) but tritheism (the doctrine of three gods). If Jesus meant that He was indeed a distinct person from the Father exactly as believers are distinct from one another, then the three persons of the trinity would be three gods. Moreover, since believers are to be “one in us,” arguably they could become members of the Godhead just as Jesus would be.

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Christian Monotheism

Christian Monotheism
By David K. Bernard
“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4). “God is one” (Galatians 3:20).

There is one God. There is only one God. This doctrine is central to the Bible message, for both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach it plainly and emphatically. Despite the simplicity of this message and the clarity with which the Bible presents it, many who believe in the existence of God have not understood it. Even within Christendom many people, including theologians, have not comprehended this beautiful and essential message. Our purpose is to address this problem, and to affirm and explain the biblical doctrine of the oneness of God.

Monotheism Defined

The belief in only one God is called monotheism, which comes from two Greek words: monos, meaning alone, single, one; and theos, meaning God. Anyone who does not accept monotheism can be classified as one of the following: an atheist one who denies the existence of God; an agnostic one who asserts that the existence of God is unknown and probably unknowable; a pantheist one who equates God with nature or the forces of the universe; or a polytheist one who believes in more than one God. Ditheism, the belief in two gods, is a form of polytheism, and so is Ditheism, the belief in three gods. Among the major religions of the world, three are monotheistic: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

Within the ranks of those labeling themselves Christian, however, there are several divergent views as to the nature of the Godhead. One view, called trinitarianism, asserts that there are three distinct persons in the Godhead God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost but yet one God.

Within the ranks of trinitarianism, one can discern two extreme tendencies. On the one hand, some Trinitarians emphasize the unity of God without having a carefully developed understanding of what is meant by three distinct persons in the Godhead. On the other hand, other Trinitarians emphasize the threeness of the trinity to the point that they believe in three self-conscious beings, and their view is essentially tritheistic.

In addition to trinitarianism, there is the doctrine of binitarianism, which does not classify the Holy Ghost as a separate person but asserts belief in two persons in the Godhead. Many monotheists have pointed out that both trinitarianism and binitarianism weaken the strict monotheism taught by the Bible. They insist that the Godhead cannot be divided into persons and that God is absolutely one.

These believers in strict monotheism fall into two classes. One class asserts that there is only one God, but does so by denying, in one way or another, the full deity of Jesus Christ. This view was represented in early church history by the dynamic monarchians, such as Paul of Samosata, and by the Arians, led by Arius. These groups relegated Jesus to the position of a created god, subordinate god, junior god, or demigod.

The second class of true monotheists believes in one God, but further believes that the fullness of the Godhead is manifested in Jesus Christ. They believe that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are manifestations, modes, offices, or relationships that the one God has displayed to man. Church historians have used the terms modalism and modalistic monarchianism to describe this view as held by such early church leaders as Noetus, Praxeas, and Sabellius. In the twentieth century, those who believe in both the indivisible oneness of God and the full deity of Jesus Christ frequently use the term Oneness to describe their belief. They also use the terms One God and Jesus Name as adjectives to label themselves, while opponents sometimes use the misleading or derogatory designations “Jesus Only” and “New Issue.” (The label “Jesus Only” is misleading because to Trinitarians it implies a denial of the Father and the Holy Spirit. However, Oneness believers do not deny the Father and Spirit, but rather see Father and Spirit as different roles of the One God who is the Spirit of Jesus.)

In summary, Christendom has produced four basic views of the Godhead: 1) trinitarianism, 2) binitarianism, 3) strict monotheism with a denial of the full deity of Jesus Christ, and 4) strict monotheism with an affirmation of the full deity of Jesus Christ, or Oneness.

Having surveyed the range of human beliefs about the Godhead, let us look at what the Word of God the Bible has to say on the subject.

The Old Testament Teaches There Is But One God

The classic expression of the doctrine of one God is found in Deuteronomy 6:4. “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.” This verse of Scripture has become the most distinctive and important statement of faith for the Jews. They call it the Shema, after the first word of the phrase in Hebrew, and they often quote it in English as “Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” (See also the NIV.) Traditionally, a devout Jew always tried to make this confession of faith just before death.

In Deuteronomy 6:5, God followed the announcement of the preceding verse with a command that requires total belief in and love for Him as the one and only God: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” We should notice the importance which God attaches to Deuteronomy 6:4-5. He commands that these verses be placed in the heart (verse 6), taught to the children throughout the day (verse 7), bound on the hand and forehead (verse 8), and written on the posts and gates of houses (verse 9).

Orthodox Jews literally obey these commands today by binding tefillin (phylacteries) on their left forearms and on their foreheads when they pray, and by placing mezuzah on their doors and gates. (Tefillin are small boxes tied to the body by leather straps, and mezuzah are scroll-shaped containers.) Inside both types of containers are verses of Scripture handwritten in black ink by a righteous man who has observed certain purification rituals. The verses of Scripture usually are Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:18-21, Exodus 13:810, and 13:14-16.

During a trip to Jerusalem, where we gathered the above information,1 we attempted to buy tefillin. The Orthodox Jewish merchant said he did not sell tefillin to Christians because they do not believe in and have the proper reverence for these verses of Scripture. When we quoted Deuteronomy 6:4 and explained our total adherence to it, his eyes lit up and he promised to sell to us on the condition that we would treat the tefillin with care and respect. His concern shows the extreme reverence and depth of belief the Jews have for the concept of one God. It also reveals that a major reason for the Jewish rejection of Christianity throughout history is the perceived distortion of the monotheistic message.

Many other Old Testament verses of Scripture emphatically affirm strict monotheism. The Ten Commandments begin with, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). God emphasized this command by stating that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). In Deuteronomy 32:39, God said there is no other god with Him. There is none like the LORD and there is no God beside Him (II Samuel 7:22; I Chronicles 17:20). He alone is God (Psalm 86:10). There are the emphatic declarations of God in Isaiah.

“Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:1011).

“I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).

“Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any” (Isaiah 44:8).

“I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself” (Isaiah 44:24). “There is none beside me. I am the LORD and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:6).

“There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:21-22).

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9).

“I will not give my glory unto another” (Isaiah 48:11; see also Isaiah 42:8).

“O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth” (Isaiah 37:16).

There is only one God, who is the Creator and Father of mankind (Malachi 2:10). In the time of the Millennial Reign, there shall be only one LORD with one name (Zechariah 14:9).

In short, the Old Testament speaks of God in terms of being one. Many times the Bible calls God the Holy One (Psalm 71:22; 78:41; Isaiah 1:4; 5:19; 5:24), but never the “holy two, the holy three,” or the “holy many.”

A common remark by some Trinitarians about the Old Testament doctrine of the oneness of God is that God only intended to emphasize His oneness as opposed to pagan deities, but that He still existed as a plurality. However, if this conjecture were true, why did not God make it clear? Why have the Jews understood not a theology of “persons” but have insisted on an absolute monotheism? Let us look at it from God’s point of view. Suppose He did want to exclude any belief in a plurality in the Godhead. How could He do so using then-existing terminology? What strong words could He use to get His message across to His people? When we think about it, we will realize that He used the strongest possible language available to describe absolute oneness. In the preceding verses of Scriptures in Isaiah, we note the use of words and phrases such as “none, none else, none like me, none beside me, alone, by myself,” and “one.” Surely, God could not make it plainer that no plurality whatsoever exists in the Godhead. In short, the Old Testament affirms that God is absolutely one in number.

The New Testament Teaches There Is But One God

Jesus emphatically taught Deuteronomy 6:4, calling it the first of all the commandments (Mark 12:29-30). The New Testament presupposes the Old Testament teaching of one God and explicitly repeats this message many times.

“Seeing it is one God which shall justify” (Romans 3:30).

“There is none other God but one” (I Corinthians 8:4).

“But to us there is but one God, the Father” (I Corinthians 8:6).

“But God is one” (Galatians 3:20).

“One God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:6). “For there is one God” (I Timothy 2:5).

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

Again, the Bible calls God the Holy One (I John 2:20). There is one throne in heaven and One sits upon it (Revelation 4:2).

In subsequent chapters we will explore New Testament monotheism in greater depth, but the above verses of Scripture are sufficient to establish that the New Testament teaches one God.

Conclusion

As we have seen, the whole Bible teaches a strict monotheism. God’s people have always been identified with the one-God message. God chose Abraham because of his willingness to forsake the gods of his nation and his father and to worship the one true God (Genesis 12:1-8). God chastised Israel every time she began to worship other gods, and polytheistic worship was one of the main reasons that God finally sent her into captivity (Acts 7:43). The Savior came to the world through a nation (Israel) and through a religion (Judaism) in which the people had finally purged themselves of polytheism. They were thoroughly monotheistic.

Today, God still demands a monotheistic worship of Him. We in the church are heirs of Abraham by faith, and this exalted position demands that we have the same monotheistic faith in the God of Abraham (Romans 4:13-17). As Christians in the world we must never cease to exalt and declare the message that there is only one true and living God.

This article Christian Monotheism was excerpted from the book The Oneness of God written by David K. Bernard. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
1 November, 1980, Jerusalem, Israel. See also, Sir Norman Anderson, ed., The World’s Religions, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), pp. 73, 77.

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Our Foundation: The One True God

Our Foundation: The One True God
By David K. Bernard

It is important for us to examine our doctrinal foundation periodically, because it is the basis for our salvation. The Scriptures make us wise unto salvation (II Timothy 3:15). As we continue in the apostles’ doctrine we will save ourselves and those we lead. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (I Timothy 4:16, NKJV)

The Bible emphasizes the oneness of God and the identity of Jesus Christ as the almighty God revealed in flesh. These truths are the foundation of apostolic doctrine.

When a scribe asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus replied, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, 0 Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength: This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31, NKJV).

Clearly, Jesus regarded the oneness of God as the foundation of truth. The distinctive message that we preach is based on this foundation:

The oneness of God shows us the necessity of repentance: we must turn away from all other gods, priorities, and desires and dedicate ourselves wholly to the one God. There are no other gods for us to serve.

Water baptism in Jesus’ name is vitally important because Jesus is the revelation of God in all His fullness and the name of Jesus is the only saving name of God (Acts 4:12).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is vitally important because there is only one Spirit of God, not two or three. We do not receive Christ on one occasion and the Holy Spirit on another. The way to receive Christ in His fullness to dwell in our lives is to receive the Holy Spirit.

Since there is only one God and since He deserves all our devotion, we should worship Him joyfully and exuberantly with all our strength. Our worship should involve intellect, emotions, inward personality, and outward effort.

Since there is only one God and since He deserves all our devotion, we should live a holy life dedicated to Him in all aspects, both inwardly and outwardly.

In order to save humans, the one God had to come in the flesh. As sinners, we could not rise to His level, so He came to our level to restore us to fellowship with Him. Only God has power and authority to save us, but only by coming in flesh could He provide the sacrifice of atonement, become our substitute, and shed innocent blood for the remission of our sins.

The saving gospel (good news) is that Christ died for our sins, was buried in the tomb, and rose again on the third day to win victory over death, sin, and the devil. (See I Corinthians 15:1-4.) This message is the basis of Christian initiation we die to sin in repentance, are buried with Him in water baptism, and rise to new life through the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-4; 7:6; 8:2.)

The Incarnation God coming in the flesh to be our Savior is the foundation for everything we believe. Jesus prayed as a human to God as His Father: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, NKJV). To be saved, we must know the one God who created us (our Father), but we must also know that God has become our Savior in Jesus Christ and thereby believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him…. He who has seen Me has seen the Father…. The Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:6-10, NKJV).

Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead incarnate, and we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:9-10). If all we know is Jesus, we know enough to be saved, healed, and delivered. He is the supreme revelation of God to us. His atoning death, burial, and resurrection are the focal point of human history.

From, “Forward Magazine” /March-April 2009/Volume 40, Issue 2/Page 13, by David Bernard

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Oneness Perspectives On The Incarnation

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.

Oneness Christology

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.

Notes

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.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SEVERAL DIFFERENT SOURCES AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.

Posted in AD - Apostolic Doctrine, ADGH - Godhead/ Oneness, AIS File Library0 Comments

Oneness Perspectives on the Incarnation

Oneness Perspectives on the Incarnation
By David K. Bernard, Associate Editor

The Basic Oneness Position

Oneness believers do not accept three distinct centers of conscious ness 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. 2 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.

Oneness Christology

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. 7 Citing I Timothy 3:16, Oneness believers emphatically proclaim that the former phrase, not the latter, is accurate. 8

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. l0 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 as 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. 11

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.” l3

Despite its difficulties, this view is the position of trinitarianism today. 14 In a textbook published by the Assemblies of God, Kerry McRoberts identified these unique personal properties as necessary to distinguish trinitarianism from modalism, even though he acknowledged that they do not offer an explanation of the trinity. 16

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 two alternatives.

If we say that the Father could not have become incarnate, in 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. l7 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.

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 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.” l9

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.

Notes

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, NPNF 7:301-2, 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, 4th 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 ANF0 (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 11:5-7, 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 ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY FORWARD MAGAZINE, FALL 1999, PAGES 8-10. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PUROSES ONLY.

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Oneness Christology

Oneness Christology
By: David K. Bernard

Christology simply means the doctrine of Christ. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as the “theological interpretation of the person and work of Christ.” The heart of Christology is the study of the Incarnation-the union of deity and humanity in Jesus Christ.

The Oneness Pentecostal movement as a whole has given inadequate attention to the nature of this union. This paper seeks to formulate a consistent, biblical Christology compatible with the biblical doctrine of the Oneness of God. It will seek to identify problems in this area, such as unstated assumptions, inconsistencies, and uncritical acceptance of trinitarian terms and ideas. It will also briefly evaluate various Christological views in early church history.

The Absolute Deity of Jesus Christ

The Bible clearly teaches, and the Oneness doctrine strongly affirms, the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). “The Word was God”
(John 1:1). Many passages refer to Jesus as God Himself)Acknowledging the deity of Christ is essential to salvation. Jesus said, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). The Greek text does not contain the pronoun he, and it places extra emphasis on the pronoun L The effect is to identify Jesus with the name God used for Himself in the Old Testament: I AM (Exodus 3:14-16). A few verses later Jesus emphasized this truth: “Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The Jews understood His point; they immediately took up stones to kill Him for claiming to be God (John 8:59; 10:33).

Christianity rests on Jesus Christ’s identity as God incarnate. Christians look solely to Jesus as Savior. Only if Jesus is truly God does He have power to save from sin, for no one can forgive sins except God (Isaiah 43:25; Mark 2:7). John 8:24 does not demand a thorough comprehension of the Godhead as a prerequisite for salvation. It is possible and indeed likely for someone to obey John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 without a theologically accurate understanding of the Oneness doctrine. It is impossible, however, to receive remission of sins in the name of Jesus and to receive the Holy Spirit without acknowledging the deity of Jesus Christ.

The Perfect Humanity of Jesus Christ

Oneness believers often give inadequate attention to Christ’s humanity. Oneness teachers stress that Jesus is God but frequently fail to emphasize that He is the Son of God as well. Oneness preachers are sometimes hesitant to call Jesus the Son of God, as if this title were trinitarian. A few refuse to attribute complete humanity to Him. A clear Christology would avoid these problems, enabling Oneness preachers to use biblical themes and phrases with confidence.

Scripture emphatically proclaims the genuine and complete humanity of Christ. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same … For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren” (Hebrews 2:14,16-17). Jesus “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). Hebrews 5:7-8 graphically portrays One who wrestled with human emotions, weaknesses, and fears: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”

In whatever way we define the essential components of humanity, Christ had them:

* Flesh. “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). This does not mean the Spirit of Christ changed into humanity, as Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, but the Spirit was manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). It was not a transmutation but an incarnation.

* Body. “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me … the body of Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 10:5, 10).

* Soul “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). “His soul was not left in hell” (Acts 2:31).

* Spirit. “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit” (Luke 2:40). “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

* Mind. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

* Will. “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus was a perfect human. He was more than a theophany (God in a visible form). He was more than God animating a human body-God in a human shell. He was actually God incarnate-God dwelling and manifesting Himself in true humanity, with everything genuine humanity includes. If Jesus had anything less than complete humanity, the Incarnation would not be real. We could not explain His agony and struggle in Gethsemane. He could not truly be “in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). His life and death could not adequately substitute for ours. He could not qualify as our kinsman redeemer. His atoning sacrifice could not be sufficient to redeem man.

Belief in Christ’s true humanity is essential to salvation. “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3).
Again, this does not mean a complete theological understanding of Christology, but a belief that Jesus actually came in the flesh. Christ’s humanity is necessary to salvation because without it there is no death, burial, and resurrection for justification, no blood for remission of sin, no sacrifice of atonement.

The Sinless Humanity of Christ

Christ’s true humanity does not mean He had a sinful nature. He was without sin, He did not sin, and sin was not in Him (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Sin includes a sinful nature as well as sinful acts, and Jesus had no sin whatsoever. True human nature does not have to be sinful, for God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in a state of moral innocence. In fact, sinful human nature is a distortion and perversion of God’s original design for humanity. Neither does temptation require a sinful nature, because Satan tempted Adam and Eve in their state of innocence.

Jesus did not come in sinful flesh, but “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). He came as the second Adam, the second representative of the human race, so that through His obedience He could restore to mankind everything Adam lost by his disobedience (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49). God started the human race all over again with Christ, so He might yet have the perfect humanity He originally intended when He created Adam. God will conform His church to the image of Christ, that Christ might become the firstborn of a new, spiritual family of humans who have overcome sin and death (Romans 8:29). To fulfill this role, Christ came with an innocent, perfect humanity like Adam had in the beginning.

Since Christ was a descendant of Adam, how did He avoid inheriting Adam’s sinful nature, unlike the rest of the race? From a legal viewpoint, the sinful nature comes from the father. Although Eve actually sinned first, Adam’s sin had the legal consequences for the race. The Father of Jesus was the Holy Spirit of God, so Jesus did not have a sinful father from which to inherit a sinful nature. Moreover, the Spirit of God would have sanctified Christ in the womb of Mary, separating Him from any taint of sin and keeping Him pure.

The Distinction Between Christ’s Deity and Humanity

It is necessary to distinguish clearly between the deity and the humanity of Christ. While Jesus was both God and man at the same time, sometimes He spoke and acted from the human viewpoint only and sometimes He spoke and acted from the divine viewpoint only. He could speak as man one moment and then as God the next moment. Jesus was fully God, not merely an anointed man. At the same time, He was fully man, not just an appearance of man. We cannot adequately compare our existence or experience to His. What would seem strange or impossible if applied to a mere human becomes understandable when viewed in the context of One who was fully God and fully man at the same time.

For example, as a man He slept one moment, yet as God He miraculously calmed the storm the next moment. On the cross He spoke only from human frailty when He said, “I thirst.” Yet when Jesus said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee;’ He spoke with the power and authority of God alone. When the Bible says Christ died, it refers to human death only, for deity cannot die. When it says Christ dwells in the hearts of believers, it refers to His divine Spirit only.

Only as a man could Jesus be born, grow, be tempted by the devil, hunger, thirst, grow weary, sleep, pray, be beaten, die, not know all things, not have all power, be inferior to God, and be a servant. Onlyas God could He exist from eternity, be unchanging, cast out devils, be the bread of life, give living water, give rest, calm the storm, answer prayer, heal the sick, raise His body from death, forgive sin, know all things, have all power, have equality with God, and be king of kings.2 In an ordinary person, these two contrasting lists would be mutually exclusive, yet Scripture attributes all of them to Jesus, thus revealing the duality of His nature.

Christ’s prayer to God at Gethsemane is a clear example of the distinction between His deity and humanity. The agony, tears, sweat, desire to escape suffering, and reluctance of the will all relate to the humanity and could not in any way represent deity. Since Oneness believers do not acknowledge any person of the Godhead outside of Jesus Christ, the scene shows the vivid contrast and distinction between the humanity and deity of Jesus. One cannot merge Christ’s humanity and deity totally and still maintain the Oneness doctrine.

Trinitarians can more easily merge Christ’s humanity and deity since for them the basic contrast between Father and Son is between two persons of the Godhead, not deity and humanity. Some even teach the kenosis theory, which was once very popular. They base this theory on the Greek verb kenos in Philippians 2:7, which means “to make of no reputation, to make nothing, or to empty.” Kenotic Christology holds that Christ emptied Himself of many attributes of deity, such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, when He came in flesh. This doctrine cannot exist as a part of Oneness theology, because it involves an abdication of deity by Christ. Most trinitarian scholars today reject it also, recognizing that it makes Jesus a mere demigod.3 A correct understanding of Philippians 2:7 is as follows: Jesus did not renounce His deity but His being in the form of God alone. He did not discard His divine attributes but concealed them in the weakness of human flesh. He willingly relinquished His rights and prerogatives to heavenly glory and majesty, but did not give up the nature and power of God. He did not cease being God in every sense.
Oneness believers are sometimes careless in their Christology, bringing ridicule on their doctrine by improper use of terminology. Many use the title God when only Christ’s humanity is in view. For example, they may say, “God died on the cross.” While Jesus is God, He is also man. He did not die in His capacity as God, but only as man. Other examples of faulty terminology are, “Jesus was His own Father” and “Jesus prayed to Himself.” Oneness believers must clearly maintain the distinction between Christ’s deity and humanity and must emphasize the Sonship of Jesus if they are to be biblically accurate and doctrinally credible.

Jesus was both Son of God and Son of man. He was Son of God since God’s Spirit literally caused His conception (Luke 1:35), and He was Son of man (humanity) since He had a human mother. “Son of” means “having the nature or character of,” as in the biblical phrases “sons of thunder, sons of Belial, and son of consolation.” Jesus had the very character of God as well as perfect humanity. “Son of God” actually stresses His deity, for no one can be like God, equal with God, or have God’s complete character without being God Himself (Isaiah 46:9; 48:11; John 5:18). “Son of God” means “God in flesh.”

The Inseparable Union of Humanity and Deity in Christ

Although we must distinguish between Christ’s deity and humanity, it is impossible to separate the two in Christ. From our finite view, His human spirit and His divine Spirit were inseparable. Perhaps it is more correct to speak of the human aspect and the divine aspect of His Spirit.

The Scriptures describe this inseparable union. “The Word was God …. And the Word was made flesh” (John 1:1, 14). I and my Father are one …. The Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:30, 38). “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:10-11). “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Christ’s basic nature cannot change. He will never cease to be God and man united.

Why did not Jesus simply say, I am the Father” instead of I and my Father are one”? Jesus was not only stressing His identity as the Father, but also the union of deity and humanity in Himself. He was more than the Father-He was the Father in the Son, the Deity in flesh. We cannot separate Father and Son into separate persons of the Godhead, for Jesus did not say, “My Father and I agree in one,” as if they were united in purpose only. Rather He expressed that the Father had united with humanity in such a way as to form one being-Jesus Christ, the Father incarnate.

Christ’s statement, “The Father is in me,” is a powerful Oneness text, but why did He say, I am in the Father”? This possibly describes the man Christ dwelling in the omnipresent Spirit of God, as all men can do. The context, however, indicates a deeper significance. His humanity was elevated in a total union with deity. He did not lose the distinctiveness of His humanity, but His humanity was joined with and submerged in deity in a way not true of any other man. His words speak of a permanent, inseparable, essential union.

Even the cross did not destroy this union. Christ offered up His blood to God as a sacrifice of atonement “through the eternal Spirit” (Hebrews 9:14). The Father remained with and in Christ to the end. “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32).

Death separated the divine Spirit from the human body, but Christ’s humanity was more than a body. Even while His body lay in the grave both humanity and deity remained united in His Spirit. At the resurrection Christ’s humanity was glorified, and at the ascension His humanity was exalted. While He is still human, He no longer submits to human limitations and frailties. His humanity is submerged in the deity, and in eternity His human role will disappear into the divine off ice (I Corinthians 15:24-28). He will still manifest Himself through His glorified body throughout eternity (Revelation 22:3-4).

While on earth Jesus differed from an ordinary human (who can be filled with the Spirit of God) in that He had all of God’s nature within Him. He possessed the unlimited power, authority, and character of God. He was God by nature, by right, by identity; He was not merely deified by an anointing or indwelling. In contrast to a Spirit-filled believer, the Spirit of God was inextricably joined with the humanity of Jesus. Without the Spirit of God there would have been only a lifeless human, not the living Christ.

Only in these terms can we describe and distinguish the humanity and deity in Jesus; we know that He acted and spoke from one role or the other, but we also know that the two were not actually separated in Him. We can make only a distinction and not a separation in the humanity and deity that blended perfectly in Him.

The Mystery of Godliness

How were Christ’s humanity and deity united? How did God become man? How did the divine self-consciousness and the human self-consciousness interact in Christ, from birth to childhood to adulthood to death? This is the true mystery of godliness. There is no mystery as to how many gods or how many persons of the Godhead there are. The Bible has always emphatically declared that Yahweh is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). No matter what terminology we use to describe God-being, substance, nature, or person—“God is one” (Galatians 3:20). He is not one God in three persons, He is simply and indivisibly one.

The true mystery of godliness is that God was manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16), and this fact has been revealed to New Testament believers. This is the mystery that the Jews could not comprehend. They could not understand how Jesus, being a man, could also be God at the same time. They thought such an idea was blasphemy (Matthew 26:64-65; Luke 5:20-26; John 5:18; 10:33).

No doubt in this life the Incarnation will always contain areas of mystery for us. First, the Bible does not give us complete information in this area. It does not describe Christ’s childhood, for example, nor does it reveal the inner workings of Christ’s mind. Second, the very nature of the subject places it beyond the comprehension of the finite human mind. The basic question is this: How could and how did the infinite God manifest and incarnate Himself in finite human flesh? We can proclaim the biblical truth that He did, but we cannot offer a complete explanation as to how He did so.

Trinitarians face the same Christological puzzles as Oneness believers, only with added complications. Both groups seek to explain the relationship of deity and humanity in Christ, but trinitarians must
also explain the interrelationships of the three persons in their divine trinity. Moreover, they must contend with two Sons-the human Son, who was born at Bethlehem and died at Calvary, and the divine Son, who existed from eternity past and cannot die. Many trinitarian proof-texts actually result from their failure to understand Christology. For example, if they saw Christ’s prayer in terms of His humanity and deity, they would not see it as proof of two persons in the Godhead. The same is true of many other examples they use, such as love between Father and Son, the Son’s lack of knowledge, and the Son’s lack of power.

Trinitarian failure to explain these texts Christologically is ultimately fatal to their doctrine, for if these texts describe the trinity then they establish a nontrinitarian subordination of the Son to the Father. If trinitarians explain them Christologically then these texts do not support or require trinitarianism.

Ancient trinitarians accused modalists of being Patripassian, that is, of teaching that the Father suffered and died on the cross. To them, this effectively refuted modalism, which was a form of Oneness doctrine, for certainly it is ridiculous to teach that God as Spirit could suffer and die. In actuality, this is a problem of Christology that trinitarians also have. If. as they maintain. Father and Son are co-equal persons in the Godhead, it is just as heretical to speak of the suffering and death of God the Son. In whatever way trinitarians can explain God the Son’s participation in Christ’s human sufferings, so Oneness believers can explain the Father’s participation in Christ’s human sufferings. Apparently these early trinitarians did not actually believe that Father and Son were completely equal in deity or else they were unaware of their own Christological difficulties.

How, then, can we describe the Incarnation? While two distinct wills were present in Christ-divine and human-it seems to divide Christ too much to say He had two separate personalities. Surely He had an integrated personality, not a schizophrenic one. The divine personality permeated and colored every aspect of the humanity to the point that we should probably speak of the divine and human characteristics of Christ’s Spirit rather than of the divine Spirit and the human spirit dwelling side by side.

Most theologians propose that Jesus possessed the complete essence of humanity (whatever humans have in common that makes them human) in an impersonal form, with His personality seated in His deity. Henry Thiessen recognized the distinction between Christ’s humanity and deity and argued for an essential union of the two based on an impersonal humanity:

Christ’s personality resides in his divine nature, because [God] did not unite with a human person but with human nature. Christ’s human nature was impersonal apart from the incarnation; this, however, is not true of the divine nature …. Jesus evidently was aware at all times of his deity in his divine self-consciousness …. Sometimes he would act from his human self-consciousness, at other times from his divine, but the two were never in conflict. The same thing is true of his Will.4

The mystery of the Incarnation has led to several hotly debated issues. We now address them, seeking to maintain a consistent Oneness Christology throughout our discussion.

Christ’s Human Awareness of Deity

How early was Christ aware of His deity? Did He as a child realize His true identity? Was He self-conscious in infancy? Was He a genius in childhood? Were some facts hidden from His adult mind?

The Bible is almost totally silent on this subject, especially regarding His childhood. The Bible indicates, however, that Jesus participated fully in the human experience just like everyone else, grew and developed normally, and received no special help from His deity in facing the difficulties of human life (Luke 2:40, 52; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15). The Spirit of Jesus was certainly omniscient at all times. It seems likely that the Spirit imparted to the human brain as much as that brain could physically comprehend and no more. While the Spirit of God was aware at all times of His divine plan, the young child gradually grew into this awareness. Probably from the earliest times of human self-consciousness and memory His brain had some awareness of His divine identity and mission. Probably there was no single moment of blinding revelation, but simply a growing  understanding that kept pace with the developing brain. Luke 2 reveals that by age twelve His human mind understood His unique mission and  relationship to the Father.

Some describe the adult Christ as unaware of His identity and mission  until a certain time, such as at His baptism, but this view is  incorrect. If we are to uphold the absolute deity of Christ and the  inseparable union of deity and humanity in Christ, we must acknowledge  that Christ’s humanity was fully integrated with His deity at all times  to the maximum extent possible, given human limitations.

Some even teach that Christ became fully God at His baptism or received  the baptism of the Holy Spirit at that time. Either view is completely  inconsistent with the Oneness belief that Jesus is God and with the  Virgin Birth. Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 1:35 teach that Jesus received His  divine nature at conception, and other passages teach the full deity of  Christ from the beginning of His human existence.5 Jesus already had  the fullness of the Spirit dwelling within since He was God Himself.  His baptism simply served a public announcement and a symbolic  anointing to inaugurate His earthly ministry.

The Bible does speak of the Son not knowing the time of the Second  Coming (Mark 13:32), but it also records how Jesus read thoughts,  observed Nathanael supernaturally, and foretold the future. Perhaps we  could say the human mind was not omniscient, but had the omniscience of  the Spirit available at any time. Or perhaps we should not try to  distinguish the human mind sharply from the Spirit, but should  understand Mark 13:32 as follows: In His role as the Son Jesus did not  know all things, but as God He did.

Could Jesus Sin?

This question is more theoretical than practical, more speculative than  substantive, since Jesus did not sin. The human part of Jesus, when  viewed alone, theoretically had the capacity to sin, just as Adam had  originally. Christ’s humanity always willingly submitted to His deity,  however, and God cannot sin or be tempted to sin. As a practical  matter, Jesus-viewed as the union of humanity and deity that He was-  could not sin, for the Spirit was always in control.

If we say Jesus could have sinned then we undercut His absolute deity,  for God cannot sin. If we nevertheless imagine His humanity attempting  to sin, then we must imagine the Spirit of God departing immediately  and the humanity dying, for God cannot participate in sin. If we say  Jesus could have sinned and continued living as a sinful man, then  somehow God could have existed apart from Jesus and vice versa. This  destroys both Christ’s essential deity and the inseparable union of  deity and humanity in Christ.

Although as God Jesus could not sin, this does not mean the temptations  were meaningless. Since Jesus was also fully human He actually felt  the struggle and pull of temptation as we do. Similarly, Jesus did not  have a sinful nature (with its compulsion to sin) as we do, yet this  does not detract from the reality of what he experienced. He overcame  temptation, not as God in Himself, but as a human with the power of God available to Him. He knows by human experience exactly how we feel  when we are tempted. He knew He would be victorious through the  Spirit, but this does not detract from the real agony He experienced.  We also experience real temptation though we too can have supernatural  power to resist and can have assurance of victory.

Many trinitarian theologians agree that Jesus was impeccable (incapable  of sinning) because He was truly God. Because He was man He could be  tempted, but because He was also God He would certainly resist  temptation:

The idea that temptability implies susceptibility is unsound. While  the temptation may be real, there may be infinite power to resist that  temptation … A person who cannot sin, it is said, cannot be tempted to sin. This is not correct; any more than it would be correct to say that because an army cannot be conquered, it cannot be attacked …. While the human nature of Christ if left to itself would have been both peccable and temptable, because it was joined to the omnipotent divine nature, the person of Christ was thereby made impeccable …. It is foolish speculation to attempt to decide what the human nature of
Christ would have done if not joined to the divine nature. The fact
remains that the human nature was joined to the divine nature and,
while its own realm was entirely human, it could not involve the person
of Christ in sin.6

Was Christ Stripped of Deity on the Cross?

On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). This cannot describe an actual separation between Christ’s deity and humanity at that time, for we have seen how Scripture teaches the inseparability of the two, even on the cross. If the Spirit of God departed at that moment then Jesus was no longer God-He was not God when He made atonement for our sins. This view would seriously undermine the Oneness identification of Jesus as God. Colossians 2:9 would be incorrect if applied to Calvary.

Some object that God could not coexist with the sin placed on Christ at Calvary. This objection does not take into account that Christ’s whole life, not just His last minute, was a substitutionary, redemptive work. Moreover, He did not become a sinner or receive a mysterious substance of sin on His body. He received the punishment for man’s sins. He became the sacrifice for sin-the sin offering.

Christ’s cry on the cross simply expressed genuine human feelings. He felt the separation from God that a sinner will feel in the lake of fire as he experiences the full judgment for sin. The Spirit of God still dwelt in Christ but did not protect the humanity from the full brunt of this feeling. Jesus quoted these words from Psalm 22:1. Just as David felt forsaken by God (although God never actually departs from His people), so the man Jesus felt utterly forsaken. Similarly, when Jesus cried, “I thirst” the Spirit had not forsaken Him even though the Spirit could not be thirsty. In both cases, the Spirit simply did not shield the flesh or alleviate its human feelings.

Historical Development of Christology

For the sake of comparison and analysis we will now discuss some prominent Christological views in early church history:7

Ebionitism was a first century Jewish Christian heresy. It denied the virgin birth and the deity of Jesus, teaching that Jesus was only a great prophet empowered by the Spirit. Gnosticism was a first century heresy. A mixture of pagan religion and philosophy, it adopted Christian elements and tried to absorb Christianity. It denied the true humanity of Christ, by Cerinthianism or by Docetism. Cerinthianism held that Jesus and Christ were separate beings. Jesus was a good human being born naturally, while Christ was a spirit that came upon Jesus at His baptism and left before His death. Docetism held that Christ was a spirit being only. He only appeared to have a human body.

Dynamic Monarchianism denied the trinity, but did so by teaching Jesus was a human being who became the Son of God by the indwelling of the impersonal divine reason (the Logos). It refused to consider Jesus as God in the strict sense.

Arius of Alexandria taught that the Logos was the Son and was a divine being like God and created by God. He thus reduced Jesus to a demigod. The Council of Nicea in 325 rejected Arianism as heresy.

Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea, ignited the ancient Christological controversy teaching that Christ had an incomplete humanity-specifically, a human body and soul but not a human spirit. Jesus was solely animated by the divine Spirit (the Logos). The Council of Constantinople in 381 condemned Apollinarianism.

The Antiochean School emphasized the humanity of Christ against Docetism and Apollinarianism. It taught that the Logos dwelt in a human man, describing this as a moral or cooperative union, not a union of essence. Opponents charged that this view made Christ one person in appearance only, destroying the union of the two natures, the Incarnation, and the Atonement.

Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was the chief exponent of the Antiochean School. He said the Logos resided in the man Jesus as in a house or shrine. The Council of Ephesus in 431 condemned Nestorianism for teaching two persons of Christ, but Nestorius denied the charge. His main purpose was to distinguish between the two natures enough so that one could not call Mary the ” mother of God” but only “God-bearer.” Some theologians, including Luther, have concluded that Nestorius was not as radical as church history has made him and that he was unfairly condemned.

The Alexandrian School emphasized the deity of Christ and the Incarnation. Athanasius, the trinitarian champion of Nicea and the forerunner of this school, taught that Christ had two natures in one person. Ironically, he held that both natures participated equally in all Christ’s work, including the suffering. He also called Mary the mother of God. Later Alexandrians, especially the three Cappadocians, emphasized the union of the two natures. Gregory of Nyssa said that the humanity of Christ was commingled with, and disappeared in, the deity. Cyril of Alexandria, Nestorius’ opponent, emphasized the union of the two natures, held that Christ’s humanity was abstract apart from the deity, and even implied that the two natures were fused in one nature. In a compromise, both Nestorius and Cyril were deposed.

Eutyches renewed the controversy by taking Cyril’s doctrine to extremes, teaching that after the Incarnation Christ had only one nature, a divine-human one. The Council of Chalcedon condemned him.

The Council of Chalcedon in 451 summarized the orthodox view of Christendom: Christ is complete in Godhood and perfect in manhood. Christ has two natures united into one person. Moreover, it called Mary the mother of God.

The Monophysites opposed Chalcedon, teaching that Christ had only one dominate nature after the Incarnation-the divine nature. The Council of Constantinople in 553 condemned them.

The Monothelites taught that Christ had only one will-a divine-human will. The Council of Constantinople in 680 condemned them.

In summary the first six ecumenical councils developed Christology as follows, all in a trinitarian context:

(1) Nicea, 325-Deity of Christ (equal to, but not, the Father).

(2) Constantinople, 381-Perfect humanity of Christ.

(3) Ephesus, 431-Christ is one person.

(4) Chalcedon, 451-Christ has two natures (in one person).

(5) Constantinople, 553-Two natures, but not two “faces.”

(6) Constantinople, 680-Christ has two wills.

Evaluation and Conclusion

How does Oneness Christology relate to these historical doctrines? Clearly we must reject as heresy Gnosticism. including Cerinthianism and Docetism, because it denies the true humanity of Jesus Christ. We must also reject as heresy Ebionitism, Dynamic Monarchianism, and Arianism because they detract from or destroy the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. Trinitarians sometimes falsely accuse Oneness believers of these doctrines through misunderstanding. For example, Oneness believers speak of the Son’s subordination to the Father, but they only mean Christ’s humanity is subordinate to His deity, and do not thereby detract from Christ’s deity.

Occasionally an isolated voice in the Oneness movement will echo a thought from these heresies. For example, some say Christ became fully God or fully aware of His deity at His baptism. Or, God created the Logos at a certain time or gave it some form of substantive existence prior to Bethlehem. We must repudiate any such statements.

The Christology of Apollinaris is also incorrect because it fails to do justice to Christ’s humanity. Since Oneness strongly emphasizes Christ’s deity, occasionally some Oneness believers unintentionally sound Apollinarian, such as when they say, “Jesus is God in a human body.” We should carefully qualify any such statements so as to affirm Christ’s perfect humanity. A few Oneness believers actually refuse to acknowledge His perfect humanity. For example, some say Christ did not need to pray but did so only as our example. Such views are not heretical, since they do accept that Christ came in the flesh in some sense, but they are still deficient and unbiblical.

Eutycheanism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism make sense only in a trinitarian context. One can effectively argue that Christ had just one nature or one will only by explaining the distinction between Father and Son as a duality of persons in the Godhead.

Nestorius was right to teach a clear distinction between Christ’s deity and humanity, and he correctly rejected the title of “mother of God” for Mary. This does not mean we should embrace Nestorius’ position totally, at least as his opponents have reported it. We must reject the implication in his theology that the Spirit could have departed at will, leaving Christ to live as a man only. We must reject any idea that the Spirit dwelt in Christ in the same way that the Spirit dwells in believers.

Oneness does distinguish between Christ’s deity and humanity more than trinitarianism does, such as in its explanation of Christ’s prayers. Some Oneness believers erroneously sacrifice the union of Christ’s deity and humanity in a manner similar to Nestorius, by saying Christ could have sinned and lived, or the Spirit left Christ before His death, or Christ had a sinful nature. Michael Servetus, a type of Oneness believer in the 1500’s, rejected Chalcedon just as he rejected Nicea. There are several independent Oneness Pentecostal teachers who explicitly affirm that there are two persons in Jesus Christ. David Reed’s dissertation on Oneness Pentecostalism concluded that its Christology is Nestorian. On the whole, Oneness Christology sounds somewhat more Nestorian than trinitarian Christology does, but it does not and should not accept Nestorianism in toto.

The Council of Chalcedon expressed the important truth that Christ’s humanity and deity are each real and complete, but inseparable. Christ did not have two separate personalities that could be split apart, and the phrase “two persons” seems to do just that. On the other hand, Chalcedon’s trinitarian orientation and use of the phrase “mother of God” are clearly incorrect. If carefully developed and qualified, the basic idea of Chalcedon is compatible with Oneness Christology.

Actually Oneness believers do not look to the creeds for doctrine but to Scripture alone. While we can find important truths both in the Council of Chalcedon and in Nestorianism, neither is adequate. Therefore, we should avoid the nonbiblical, trinitarian language of the traditional creeds. In particular, we should use neither “nature” nor “person” in the technical theological sense. Instead we should state our Christology in the form of several biblical affirmations. We can identify four major themes in the biblical material on the Incarnation: (1) the absolute and complete deity of Jesus Christ; (2) the perfect, sinless humanity of Jesus Christ; (3) the clear distinction between the humanity and the deity in Jesus Christ; and yet (4) the inseparable union of deity and humanity in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps we can summarize biblical Christology as follows: Jesus Christ is the fulness of God dwelling in perfect humanity and manifesting Himself as a perfect human being. Jesus is not the transmutation of God into flesh, the manifestation of a portion of God, the animation of a human body by God, or God temporarily dwelling in a separate human person. Jesus Christ is the incarnation-embodiment, human personification-of the one God.

Notes

1. Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; John 20:28; Acts 20:28; 11 Corinthians 4:4; 5:19; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3; II Peter 1:1.

2. For scriptural references see David Bernard, The Oneness of God (Hazelwood, Mo.: Word Aflame Press, 1983), pp. 86-87.

3. Donald Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology (San Fran-cisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 1, 138-39.

4. Henry Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, rev. ed.(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 223.

5. Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:23; 2:11; Luke 2:26, 38; Hebrews 1:6.

6. Pentecost, Dwight, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 98-99. The first sentence quotes John Walvoord; the rest is quoted from William G. T Shedd.

7. For a description of these doctrines see Otto Heick, A History of Christian Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965) and Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1937).

Response

by James E. Roam

The author is to be commended for his excellent dissertation on Oneness Christology. He has skillfully dissected this subject. Unquestionably, it has taken a tremendous amount of his time and study. In responding to this paper from a pastor’s view, several points particularly deserve reemphasis. At the same time, there are some questions that should be raised.

“The Oneness Pentecostal Movement as a whole has given inadequate attention to the nature of the union of deity and humanity in Jesus Christ.” This is a key point. As we understand, and we are able to help our saints understand, the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ, a lot of their questions will be answered. Understanding the humanity and deity that is united in the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important factor in “Oneness Christology.”

“It is possible and indeed likely for someone to obey John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 without a theologically accurate understanding of the Oneness doctrine.” This, too, is very important. It is true that our Oneness doctrine is a marvelous and wonderful truth, and we should be studying it as we are here, but there are many people in our churches who do not yet understand the Oneness of God. They need more teaching, just as we are receiving more teaching today. We would do well if we would spendas much time in trying to reach the lost as we do in trying to impress the saved. Maybe we really need to determine that touching the lives of the lost really is the bottom line, and not be as interested in “unsaving” people. We need to be grateful for the revelation they have, and the truths they have received. It would be well if we would appreciate anything God has revealed of Himself to anyone anywhere, not as a complete revelation of God, for none of us can claim to have the ultimate revelation of God.

“Temptation does not require a sinful nature because Satan tempted Adam and Eve in their state of innocence.” This is a wonderful thing for us to understand. There is such a thing as temptation. Christ went through temptation and our people need to understand that. This shows a practical side of theology. This is something we all understand through experience. Our studies here can become very practical. There are nuggets of truth in all of these presentations that could be given to our people that would help them to be better Christians, and to be able to handle all of the difficulties (if living in an ungodly world.”Oneness believers are sometimes careless in their Christology bringing ridicule on their doctrine by improper use of terminology. Many use the title God when only Christ’s humanity is in view.” It is important that we know how to present our understanding of the Oneness of God so that our people can understand it. We do not want to bring confusion into the minds of our people or into the minds of people who do not understand our position. We sometimes over-accent a point. As a result we are losing the person we are trying to reach by saying such things as, “God died on the Cross, God rose from the dead, Jesus prayed to Himself,” and so on.

“His humanity was elevated in a total union with deity. He did not lose the distinctiveness of His humanity, but His humanity was joined with and submerged in deity in a way not true of any other man. His words speak of a permanent, inseparable, essential union.” This is one of the areas that need further examination. What does it mean to say that the union of humanity and deity of Christ was ” permanent and inseparable:’ and is this description accurate?

“It seems likely that the Spirit imparted to the human brain as much as that brain could physically comprehend and no more. While the Spirit of God was aware at all times of His divine plan the young child gradually grew into this awareness.” Trying to find a point, a magical moment, when the man Christ Jesus became suddenly aware of His deity is very difficult. The author’s willingness to confront this question is to be appreciated. His answer certainly sounds logical.

Could Jesus sin? “The fact remains that the human nature was joined to the divine nature and while its own realm -was entirely human it could not involve the person of Christ in sin.” This seems like a very logical point, and it certainly should be a point for us to discuss.

“Was Christ stripped of deity on the Cross? On the Cross Jesus cried out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46). This cannot describe an actual separation between Christ’s deity and humanity at that time. . He did not become a sinner or receive a mysterious substance of sin on His body. He received the punishment for man’s sins.” The idea that Christ only received the punishment for sin but did not receive sin is questionable. How can this be reconciled with 11 Corinthians 5:21: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin”?

The notes on the historical development of Christology are excellent and give adequate documentation for his presentation.

Finally, it is important to recognize, as the paper has done, that Scripture ultimately must determine our doctrine and our creeds. That is the ultimate source. We have referred to a lot of sources, many books and a tremendous amount of study into history. God’s Word is the ultimate authority. Someone has said, “Nothing in conflict with Scripture can be true; nothing in addition to Scripture can be binding; and nothing less than Scripture can be pleasing.” This most certainly applies to all study of Christology, the Oneness of God and all the other subjects that are a part of this symposium.

The paper ends with this very powerful conclusion: “Jesus Christ is the fulness of God dwelling in perfect humanity and manifesting Himself at a perfect human being. Jesus is not the transmutation of God into flesh, the manifestation of a portion of God, the animation of a human body by God or God temporarily dwelling in a separate human person. Jesus Christ is the incarnation embodiment, human personification-of the one God.” This is a powerful and true statement and a fitting conclusion to a superb presentation.

James E. Roam is co-pastor of New Life Pentecostal Church in Bridgeton, Missouri.

David K. Bernard is the Associate Editor in the Editorial Division of the United Pentecostal Church International and the author of six books and numerous articles. He received his Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Rice University, received his Doctor of Jurisprudence with honors from the University of Texas, and studied at Wesley Biblical Seminary. At the time of the symposium, he was the Assistant Vice President of Jackson College of Ministries.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN A PAPER GIVEN AT THE 1986 ONENESS SYMPOSIUM IN ST. LOUIS, MO, BY DAVID K. BERNARD, PP. 119-149. THIS MATERIAL MAY BE USED FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.

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The Right Hand Of God

The Right Hand Of God
By David K. Bernard

The Bible teaches that God is an invisible Spirit, yet it also describes Him in terms that relate to the human body. Many Trinitarians use these descriptions to support their doctrine, particularly passages that speak of the right hand of God and the face of God. Let us investigate what the Bible means by these terms.

John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit,” or “God is spirit” (NIV). This means His eternal essence is not human or physical. Apart from the Incarnation, God does not have a physical body. “A spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). God the Father is not “flesh and blood” (Matthew 16:17).
Because He is a Spirit, God is invisible to humans. “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). “No man hath seen, nor can see” Him (I Timothy 6:16).

Moreover, the Bible teaches that God is omnipresent: His Spirit fills the universe. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).

These facts about God show that we cannot understand the physical descriptions of Him in a grossly “letteristic” way. We are to interpret the Bible according to the ordinary, apparent, grammatical, historical meaning of its words, just as we do with other forms of speech and writing. In doing so, we will recognize that all human communication, including the Bible, uses figurative language. We are not free to impose an allegorical interpretation upon Scripture, but when the Bible itself indicates that we are to understand certain phrases or passages in a figurative way, then that is how we must interpret them.

When we read about God’s eyes, nostrils, heart, feet, hands, and wings, it is clear from the rest of Scripture that we are not dealing with a human, beast, or fowl. The Bible does not use these terms to describe a physical being, but to give us insight into the nature, character, and attributes of God. For instance, God expresses His sovereignty by saying, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). The Bible describes God’s miraculous power as “the finger of God” and “the blast of thy nostrils” (Exodus 8:19;15:8); His omniscience and omnipresence by saying, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3); His protection by speaking of “the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm 36:7); and His sorrow over human sin as having grieved him at his heart”(Genesis 6:6).

It would be foolish to conclude from these passages that God is a giant who props up His feet on the North Pole, blows air from His nostrils, focuses his eyes to see us, uses wings to fly, and has a blood-pumping organ. Rather the Bible uses concepts taken from our human experience to enable us to understand the characteristics of God’s spiritual nature.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RIGHT HAND

This principle is especially true when the Bible speaks of the right hand of God. Since most humans are right-handed, in most cultures the right hand signifies strength, skill, and dexterity. The very word dexterity comes from the Latin word dexter, meaning “on the right side.” In ancient times, the most honored guest was seated on the right hand of the host. As a result, in Hebrew, Greek, and English the right hand is a metaphor for power and honor.

The Bible uses this metaphor repeatedly with reference to humans as well as God. Of course, in some passages the Bible uses “right” or “right hand” in its locational meaning, in contrast to “left” or “left hand. ” But many times the use of “right hand” is figurative. Since God does not have a physical right hand (apart from the Incarnation) and is not confined to a physical location, when the Bible speaks of His right hand, it speaks figuratively or metaphorically.

A study of the “right hand” passages in the Bible reveals that the right hand of God represents His almighty power, His omnipotence, particularly in bestowing salvation, deliverance, victory, and preservation. “My right hand hath spanned the heavens” (Isaiah 48:13). `Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy…. Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them” (Exodus 15:6,12). “His right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory* (Psalm 98:1). “Thy right hand shall save me” (Psalm 138:7). “I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). There are numerous other examples where the Bible uses “right hand” as a metaphor for power. [1]

In Scripture, the right hand also signifies the position of honor, blessing, and preeminence. “At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). “Thy right hand is full of righteousness” (Psalm 48:10). “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left” (Ecclesiastes 10:2).

When Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, Joseph wanted him to put his right hand upon Manasseh, the older son, to signify that he would have preeminence. Joseph insisted, “This is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head” (Genesis 48:18). Jacob refused, in a reversal of normal procedure, saying, “Truly his younger brother shall be greater than he” (Genesis 48:19). (For other examples where the right hand means a position of favor or preeminence, see Exodus 29:20; Leviticus 8:23; 14:14-28; Psalm 45:9; 110:1; Jeremiah 22:24; Matthew 25:33-34.)

JESUS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD

So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).

Many passages in the New Testament tell us that Jesus sits on the right hand of God. As we have already seen, it would be a mistake to interpret this description to mean that Jesus sits eternally on top of a giant divine hand or at the side of another divine personage. How could we determine what is the right hand of the omnipresent Spirit of God?

The obvious purpose of this description is to exalt the Lord Jesus
Christ. By using this phrase, the New Testament tells us that Jesus is not merely a man, but He is a man who has been invested with the almighty power of the indwelling Spirit of God and who has been exalted to the position of highest honor.

Since verses like Mark 16:19 speak of Jesus as being “on the right hand of God,” some people suppose that in heaven they will see two divine, the Father and the Son, sitting or standing side by side. But no one has ever seen or can see God’s invisible presence (I Timothy 6:16); no one can see God apart from Christ. Moreover, God has emphatically declared that there is no one beside Him (Isaiah 43:11 ; 44:6,8). Christ is the visible “image of the invisible God,” and the only way we can see the Father is to see him (Colossians 1:15; John 14:9). There is only one divine throne in heaven, and only One on that throne (Revelation 4:2; 22:3-4).

New Testament passages make clear that Jesus is “on the right hand of God” in the sense of having divine power, honor, glory, and preeminence. Jesus Himself said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man
sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 16:64). “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). These words do not imply that we will see two divine persons in the clouds or in heaven, but one divine human person who has all he power and glory of the invisible Spirit of God.

Jesus was “by the right hand of God exalted” (Acts 2:33). He “is gone
into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (I Peter 1:22). God “raised him [Christ] from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is lamed, not only in this world, but
also in that which is to come” Ephesians 1:20-21). “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).

When Stephen was stoned, he “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). He did not see two personages, but he saw the glory of God surrounding Jesus, who was revealed in the
position of supreme power and authority. While on earth Jesus appeared to be an ordinary man and He lived as such with His disciples, but after His resurrection and ascension He appeared with visible glory and power as the almighty God. Although John had been Christ’s closest associate while He was on earth and knew Him well, when He saw the ascended Christ in a vision he “fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17). Unlike Christ’s typical appearance on earth, John saw Him in His divine glory.

That is what Stephen beheld also. The only divine person he saw was Jesus, and the only divine person he addressed was Jesus. He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Arts 7:56). He died “calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

F. F. Bruce, one of the foremost evangelical theologians of the twentieth century, explained that biblical scholars past and present recognize Christ’s right-hand position to be metaphoric, not physical:

Christ’s present position of supremacy is described in the Pauline writings as being “at the right hand of God.”… The apostles knew very well that they were using figurative language when they spoke of  Christ’s exaltation in these terms: they no more thought of a location on a literal throne at God’s literal right hand than their twentieth-century successors do…. Martin Luther satirizes “that heaven of the fanatics … with its golden chair and Christ seated at  the Father’s side, vested in a choir cope and a golden robe, as the  painters love to portray him!” [2]

Several passages carry a further connotation relative to the Christ’s  right-hand position: they use this term to describe His present  mediatorial role. “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen  again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh  intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).

This does not mean that Christ has been kneeling for two thousand years, praying to some other deity. As a man, He has been glorified and  has no further need to pray. As God, He never needed to pray and never  had anyone to whom He could pray. Moreover, there is nothing He needs  to add to the Atonement; His one sacrifice on the cross is sufficient  to cover the sins of the whole world. When He said, “It is finished”  and then died, His atoning work was complete (John 19:30). He “offered  one sacrifice for sins for ever” [Hebrews 10:12).

What Christ’s present intercession means is that His sacrifice is  continually effective in our lives. His blood can cover our sins today.  If we sin, we still have “an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the  righteous” (I John 2:1). When we confess our sins to God, no one needs to convince Him to forgive us; He looks at the Cross, and that event is  all the advocacy we need.

To remind us that Christ was a “real man who died for our sins and so  became our advocate, mediator, and high priest, the New Testament  speaks of Him as at the right hand of God.” At the same time, it shows  us the completeless and finality of His work on the cross by saying  that after His mediatorial work, He “sat down” on the right hand. “When  he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the
Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

“We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the  throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). “But this man,  after he had offered one sacrifice for sins foever, sat down on the  right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus “is set down at the right  hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Significantly, the Book of Revelation never describes Jesus as being on  the right hand of God. It looks forward to the time when His  mediatorial role will no longer be necessary. In eternity to come, we  will not see Him in the right hand position as an exalted man who  serves as our mediator, but we will see Him as the One on the throne,  the One who is both God and the Lamb at the same time (Revelation 22:3- 4).

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary explains the significance of Christ’s  right-hand position and its reference to the present age:

The position occupied by Christ [is] the place of authority and of  priestly service. For believers, he both rules and intercedes…. The  rule of Christ will become actual. Meanwhile he patiently waits for the  time when his enemies will be vanquished. There will then be no more  opposition to Christ or his rule. [3]

[1] Deuteronomy 33:2; Job 40:14; Psalm 16:8; 17:7; 18:35; 20:6; 21:8;  44:3; 45:4; 60:5; 63:8; 73:23; 77:10; 78:54; 80:15, 17; 89:13, 25, 42;  108:6; 109:31; 118:15-16; 137:5; 139:10; Isaiah 62:8; 63:12;  Lamentations 2:3-4; Ezekial 21:22; Habakkuk 2:16; Acts 5:31; Revelation  1:16.

[2] Bruce, Epistles, 132-33. The quote from Martin Luther is from  Werke, Weimarer Ausgabe 23, 131.

[3] Robert Ross, “The Epistle to the Hebrews,” in the Wycliffe Bible  Commentary, ed. Charles Pfeiffer and Everett Harrison (Chicago: Moody  Press, 1962), 1419.

=======================================================================
Brother Bernard is the associate editor in the Editorial Division. He  is also the pastor of New Life United Pentecostal Church in Austin,  Texas. This article was excerpted and adapted from The Oneness View of  Jesus Christ, published by Word Aflame Press. This article is from the  Pentecostal Herald, August 1994, Pages 13 & 15-16.

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The above material is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form  without permission of the author and is to be used for study and  research purposes only.

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The Mediator Between God and Men

The Mediator Between God and Men
By: David K. Bernard

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

The central message of Christmas is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). This message is of utmost importance to every human being, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23).Everyone in this world has sinned and needs the Savior.

Humanity’s Need and God’s Provision

Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, sin has separated the human race from God, for the holy God cannot have fellowship with sin. Separation from God means spiritual death, and the ultimate consequence of human sinfulness is eternal separation from God, also called damnation or the second death. In short, God’s holiness and justice demand that sin be punished by death.

The human race could devise no way to escape from this dreadful destiny. No person could be his own savior or a savior for others, for each person is himself a sinner under the judgment to die for his own sins. Sinful man could not make himself holy, and the holy God could not become sinful, so there was apparently no common ground on which the two estranged parties could meet.

But in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom, God designed a plan of salvation that would satisfy the requirements of His holiness and justice and yet provide a means of redemption for sinful humanity. This plan centers around our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who reunites God and man.

Jesus is the only “mediator between God and man,” and as such, He came to “give his life a ransom for all” (I Timothy 2:5-6). He was able to be the unique mediator because He was God manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16; John 1:1,14). Both His humanity and His deity are essential to His mediatorial work. As a true man, He represents the human race to God; and as the one God incarnate He reveals the eternal, invisible God to man.

The Man Christ Jesus

Jesus was the only sinless man who ever lived. Thus He was the only man who did not deserve eternal death for sin, and the only person who could be a substitutionary sacrifice for sinful humanity. Just as Adam was the first representative of the human race, leading us into sin by his disobedience to the plan of God, so Jesus serves as the new representative of the human race, leading us into righteousness by His obedience to the plan of God (Romans 5:19).

When we speak of Jesus as the mediator between God and humanity, we must not think of Him as a second God or a second divine person. The Old Testament emphatically proclaims, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The New Testament does not change this message, for there is no contradiction in the Word of God. Rather, it reiterates the same truth and builds upon it. “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). The new revelation of the New Testament is not that there is another God or an additional person in the Godhead. which would contradict the faith and doctrine of the Old Testament saints. Rather, the New Testament reveals the same God of the Old Testament in a greater dimension: His coming in flesh to redeem His fallen creation.

Significantly, I Timothy 2:5 does not say the mediator between God and men is “the second person,” or “God the Son.” or “the eternal Son.” It identifies the mediator as “the man Christ Jesus” (emphasis added).  Christ’s role of mediation does not imply a separate divine identity; it simply refers to His genuine, authentic humanity. As God incarnate, Jesus Christ literally unites both deity and humanity in His own person. He Himself is the meeting place of God and man. He becomes the place and means of mediation, not by pointing us to someone else, but by bringing us to Himself, placing us in His body, and filling us with His Spirit.

He is not an agent who leads us into fellowship with another person. “God was in Christ. reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). Christ died so “that he might present it to himself [not to someone else] a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). When we see and now Jesus, we actually see and know God the Father, because the Father dwells in Jesus (John 14:7-11).

If there were a second divine person, such a person could not be the required mediator between the holy God and sinful humanity. Only a sinless man could be the mediator, the kinsman redeemer, the sacrifice of atonement, the one to shed blood for the remission of sins.

For the sake of argument, let us imagine that there were two divine persons who were coequal in every way and. in particular, equal in holiness. If a mediator was necessary to bring sinful humanity back into
fellowship with the first person, then a mediator would be necessary to bring sinful humanity back into fellowship with the second person. The second person could not serve as the mediator; being just as holy as the first person, he also would need to find or supply someone else as the mediator! In short, it is not a second divine person who is the mediator; it is “the man Christ Jesus” who is the mediator. And this man is specifically the one man in whom the fullness of God dwells by incarnation (Colossians 2:9).

The Mediator As God Incarnate

The mediator had to be a genuine man, but He also had to be God incarnate, for only God can forgive sin. Only Jehovah is the Savior (Isaiah 45:21-22).

Specifically, the mediator had to be the manifestation of the Father,the Creator, the Lawgiver, the One against whom the human race has sinned from the beginning. If one person wrongs another person, he must confess and apologize to the person he has wronged in order to obtain forgiveness. A third party cannot grant forgiveness and reconciliation. For example, a thief must make restitution to the rightful owner; he cannot give the stolen goods to a third person and secure forgiveness from him. Likewise, as rebellious children we can only go to our heavenly Father to obtain forgiveness and reconciliation. If we look to Jesus as our Savior, we should also acknowledge Him as the revelation of the Father to us. Significantly, Isaiah 63:16 says the LORD (Jehovah) is simultaneously our Father and our Redeemer.

In short, no one else could qualify as the mediator except God Himself coming into this world as a human being. God knew that no one else could be the saving intercessor for the human race, so He provided the means Himself. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation” (Isaiah 59:16).

The Basis of Salvation

The only way for us to be saved from eternal death, then, is to turn to Jesus Christ. In a prayer addressed to the Father, Jesus stated the basis of salvation for all humanity: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

It should not surprise us that Jesus prayed to the Father; in fact, it should surprise us if He had not prayed. Jesus was a real man in every way; as such, He participated fully in every aspect of human experience, enduring hunger, thirst, weariness, and temptation. As a sinless man who served as the new representative of the human race, He exemplified perfect humanity as God intended it to be, including prayer, obedience, and submission to the will of God. He could do no less and be a righteous man. He could do no less and be a role model for us.

The prayers of Christ do not point to an internal division within the Godhead, but they simply attest to His authentic, complete humanity. If the prayers of Christ proved that He was a second divine person, they would also prove what kind of second person He was – not a coequal person, as trinitarianism teaches, but an inferior person who needed help from the first person. In this case, the second person would not truly be God, for by definition God is all powerful and has no need of assistance. Instead of seeing Jesus as a second, inferior divinity, we must simply recognize that He prayed because He was a man. As Hebrews 5:7 says, He prayed “in the days of His flesh.”

In John 17, Jesus prayed as a man to God, addressing the eternal Spirit of God as “Father, “even as He instructed us to do in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. In John 17:3 He identified the twofold basis of our salvation: knowing the one true God and knowing Jesus Christ. By this spiritual knowledge we can inherit eternal life instead of eternal death.

Like I Timothy 2:5, this verse builds upon the Old Testament truth that there is only one God. Jesus identified the Father as “the only true God” and said that knowing Him is vital to our salvation.

But knowing about the one true God is not enough. Many Jews of Christ’s day worshiped the God of the Old Testament but rejected Jesus, and He said they would die in their sins (John 8:24). Believing in the existence of the Creator and Lawgiver is necessary, but this knowledge alone does not reconcile a person to Him. The only means of reconciliation is through Jesus Christ, for He is the mediator that God has provided. We must specifically know Jesus – the manifestation of the one God – as our Savior. Only when we know Him do we truly know the Father (John 8:19).

We must understand that Jesus was sent from God. This phrase does not mean that Jesus was a preexistent second person waiting in heaven for another divine person to send Him down to earth. The word “sent” denotes that the man Jesus originated in the supernatural plan and action of God. He was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the word “sent” reveals that the man Jesus was on a divine assignment and commission. In a similar manner, John 1:6 describes John the Baptist as “a man sent from God,” even though he clearly did not live in heaven prior to his birth. As a human being, as the Son of God, Jesus was sent out into the world from the womb of Mary, empowered by the Holy Spirit and ordained by the plan of God to be our sacrifice of atonement.

John 17:3 says we need to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ.” This phrase does not refer to two distinct persons in a trinity. If there were a trinity of coequal divine persons, then knowledge of each of them would surely be the necessary basis for salvation, yet there is no mention of a third person. If John 17:3 referred to two persons, then the status of the third person would be compromised. How could knowledge of two persons be required for salvation, yet knowledge of the third coequal person be totally unnecessary?

Moreover, if John 17:3 referred to two persons, then only one of them is God. A comparison of verses 1 and 3 shows that Jesus addressed the “Father” as “the only true God.” If Jesus were a different person from the Father, then in this passage He would not be God at all. If “and” in verse 3 distinguishes two persons, then it separates Jesus from God.
That was not the message of either Jesus or John. In John 20:28 Thomas confessed Jesus to be “my Lord and my God.” Jesus commended Thomas for his insight and pronounced a blessing on all those who would believe thesame truth even without having seen Jesus in the flesh as Thomas had. John recognized the immense significance of this incident. He recorded it with approval and used it as the climax of his Gospel, following it with the thesis statement of the book. Elsewhere, in language reminiscent of John 17:3, John wrote that the Son, Jesus Christ, is “the true God, and eternal life” (I John 5:20).

In sum, our salvation is based upon knowing the true God and specifically knowing Jesus Christ as the manifestation of the true God for the purpose of our salvation. We must act in faith upon this knowledge, applying Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to our lives. In other words, we must believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life. “Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” will come upon “them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Our Advocate

In the Old Testament, God saved people, on the basis of the future mediatorial work of Christ, but the saints in that era did not have the privilege of seeing His work of redemption fulfilled. They were saved by faith as they obeyed God’s plan for their day, but they did not enjoy the knowledge of the Cross, the experience of water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the fullness of life in the Spirit. They waited eagerly for the implementation of God’s plan but did not live to see it (Hebrews 11:39-40; I Peter 1:10-12).

One of the most patient of Old Testament saints, Job, walked by faith but longed for the opportunity to encounter God more intimately, to have a mediator to bring him into close personal fellowship with God. He lamented, “For he is not a man. as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman [umpire. referee] betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.” (Job 9:32- 33). In great distress he cried out, “O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!” (Job 16:21).

We have that privilege today. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation [sacrifice of atonement] for our sins” (I John 2:1-2). Jesus Christ is the One who intercedes for us today by His sacrifice on the Cross. No only have we been redeemed by His atoning sacrifice, but we live daily by the power of His blood; if we sin, we can receive forgiveness today through His blood.

Jesus Christ is our advocate – the One called alongside to help. He is our mediator – the One who brings us into a proper relationship with God. In Him we meet God as our personal friend, helper, and Savior.

(The above material appeared in the December 1992 issue of Pentecostal Herald.)
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Who is the Holy Spirit?

Who is the Holy Spirit?
By: David K. Bernard

WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Since Pentecostals are identified by a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit, the question arises, What or who is the Holy Spirit? Various groups have defined the Holy Spirit as an abstract principle, an impersonal force, a fluidlike substance, an angel, a subordinate divine being, or the third person in a triune Godhead. But what does the Bible say?

God in Spiritual Activity

God is “the Holy One” (Isaiah 54:5). Only God is holy in Himself; all other holy beings derive their holiness from Him. Furthermore, God is Spirit (John 4:24), and there is only one Spirit of God(Ephesians 4:4) “The title of Holy Spirit describes the funadamental character of God’s nature, for holiness forms the basis of His moral attributes while spirituality forms the basis of His nonmoral attributes. Thus it describes God Himself, the one Holy Spirit.

For example, Peter told Ananias and Sapphira that they had lied to “to the Holy Ghost” and then said they had lied “unto God” (Acts 5:3-4). Similarly Paul wrote, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” and then, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” (I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).

The Bible calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of the LORD (Jehovah),”my (Jehovah’s) spirit;’ “the Spirit of God” and “his (God’s) holy Spirit” (Isaiah 40:13; Joel 2:28; Romans 8:9; I Thessalonians 4:8). These phrases show that the Spirit is not distinct from God but rather pertains to God or is God Himself in spiritual essence. For example, when we speak of the spirit of a man, we do not refer to another person but to the inward nature of spirit and vice versa.

The Bible compares a man and his spirit to God and His Spirit: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). The former is not two persons, and neither is the latter. We speak of a man’s spirit in order to refer to his thoughts, character, or nature, but we do not thereby mean that his spirit is a different person from him or is any less than the total personality. Nor does speaking of God and His Spirit introduce a personal distinction or plurality in Him.

If the Holy Spirit is God Himself, why is this additional designation needed? What distinction of meaning is intended? The title specifically refers to God in spiritual activity, particularly as He works in ways that only a Spirit can.

The first biblical mention of the Spirit is a good example. Genesis 1:1, speaking in general terms, says, “God created the heaven and the earth:’ Genesis 1:2, focusing on a specific act of God, says, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” Important spiritual activities of God are regenerating, indwelling, sanctifying, and anointing humanity; thus we usually speak of the Holy Spirit in connection with them. (See Acts 1:5-8.)

The roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are necessary to God’s plan of redemption for fallen humanity. In order to save us, God had to provide a sinless Man who could die in our place-the Son. In begetting the Son and in relating to humanity, God is the Father. And in working in our lives to transform and empower us, God is the Holy Spirit.

We should note that the titles “Holy Ghost” and “Holy Spirit” are interchangeable; both are translations of the same Greek phrase. The King James Version uses the former more frequently, but it also uses the latter. (See Luke 11:13; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30.) The latter is usually more understandable to modern English speakers, especially those unfamiliar with the Bible. Frequently, the Bible simply speaks of “the Spirit.”

The Spirit of the Father

The Bible identifies the Father and the Holy Spirit as one and the same being. The title of Holy Spirit simply describes what the Father is. There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). The “only true God” is the Father (John 17:3), and He is Spirit (John 4:24).
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, not a different person from the Father. For example, Jesus said that in times of persecution God would give us proper words to say, “for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20). Jesus spoke of God as our Father in terms of personal relationship, but with reference to supernatural indwelling and anointing Jesus spoke of God as the Holy Spirit.

By definition, the one who begets (causes conception) is the father of the one begotten. The Holy Spirit is literally the Father of Jesus, for Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, 20). If the Father and the Holy Spirit were two persons, then Jesus would have two fathers. When the Bible speaks of the man Christ Jesus in relationship to God it uses the title of Father, but when it speaks of God’s action in causing the baby Jesus to be conceived it uses the title of Holy Ghost so that there will be no mistake about the supernatural, spiritual nature of this work.

The Spirit of Jesus Christ

In Jesus Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). Thus the Holy Spirit is literally the Spirit that was in the man Jesus Christ.

All of Christendom confesses that Jesus is Lord, and II Corinthians 3:17 plainly identifies the Lord as the Spirit: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Bible also describes the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of his (God’s) Son,” and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19). The way that Christ dwells in our hearts is as the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 3:14-17).

“Another Comforter”

Trinitarians often point to John 14:16 as evidence that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” But the context reveals that Jesus was speaking of Himself in another form-in Spirit rather than in flesh.

In the next verse He identified the Comforter as someone who already dwelt with the disciples: “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). Jesus was the One whom they knew and who dwelt with them. The difference was that the Comforter would soon come in them, in a new relationship of spiritual indwelling rather than physical accompaniment.

And in the following verse Jesus plainly identified Himself as the Comforter: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).

Some trinitarians try to avoid this clear designation by saying Jesus was speaking of His physical return, either by the Resurrection or the Second Coming, but both explanations ignore the immediate context. Moreover, the Resurrection would have fulfilled the promise only for forty days, while the Second Coming would not have fulfilled the promise for many centuries, long after the listeners’ deaths. Clearly, Jesus spoke of coming and abiding in Spirit, as parallel promises show: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20); I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

“He Shall Not Speak of Himself”

Trinitarians also point to John 16:13 as evidence for an independent personality of the Holy Spirit: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” The Greek text literally says, “He will not speak from Himself;’ meaning, He will not speak on His own authority” (NKJV).

A trinitarian explanation of the verse is inadequate, however, for the third person would be in a very subordinate role and possibly would not even be omniscient, contrary to the trinitarian doctrine of co-equality. He would not be able to say or know anything except what he received from another person. How then could this third person be God and have the power of God? In fact, this verse says the Spirit does not have independent authority or identity. He does not come under another name but in Jesus’ name (John 14:26).

In actuality, Jesus was describing the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the working of the Spirit in the believer. (See John 16:7.) It seems that He was trying to counter the tendency that sometimes arises among Spirit-filled people to think that they have some kind of supernatural authority in their own right. In other words, people who receive the Holy Spirit do not thereby have authority to establish any doctrine or teaching of their own. Though they may exercise the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues, the Spirit within them will not speak as a separate entity residing within them. Rather, the Spirit in them will only speak what is communicated by the mind of God-what is consistent with the Word of God.

To that extent, John 16:13 makes a conceptual (but not personal) distinction between God as Father, Lord, and Omniscient Mind and God in action, operation, or indwelling. The distinction is similar to that in Romans 8:26-27 and I Corinthians 2:10-16. The latter passage says we can know the mind of God by having the Spirit of God in us, for the Spirit of God knows the things of God. But, as we have already seen, the passage clearly does not envisage a personal distinction in the Godhead, for it compares God and His Spirit to a man and his spirit.

Romans 8:26-27 says, “The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” In other words, when the Spirit prompts us and speaks through us in intercessory prayer, we can have confidence that our prayers are in God’s will. The Spirit of God will certainly make intercession in accordance with the will of God, for the Spirit is God Himself working in our lives. God will act in harmony with Himself as He first motivates our prayers and then hears and answers our prayers.

Conclusion

Pentecostals are sometimes accused of glorifying the Holy Spirit at the expense of Jesus Christ. Oneness Pentecostals are certainly not guilty of this charge, for we recognize that God is one Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the risen, living Christ. Receiving the Holy Spirit is the way we receive Jesus Christ into our lives.

We do not have two or three divine spirits in our hearts, nor can we identify distinct religious experiences with each of three divine persons. Both the Bible and personal experience tell us
that there is one Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As our Father, God has told us how to live; in the Son God has shown us how to live and provided an atonement for our sins; and as the indwelling Holy Spirit God enables us to live for Him every day.

(The above material appeared in a June, 1989 issue of Pentecostal Herald.)

THE ALMIGHTY GOD AS A HUMBLE SERVANT

The central truth of Scripture is the marvelous revelation that God came in the flesh as Jesus Christ to be our Savior.

The very name of Jesus describes who He is and what He did for us, for it literally means “Jehovah-Savior.” Although others have borne that name, Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the only one who truly personifies it. In other words, Jesus is actually the one God of the Old Testament who came in flesh to be our Savior. Thus the name of Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that the Son would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:21-23).

Jesus Christ was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He was thereby the human Son of God (Luke 1:35) and actually God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). He was truly God, and He was also truly man. In order to provide the way of salvation for us, He did not insist upon His privileges as God, but He lived a humble human life, served human needs, and submitted to death on the cross.

One of the most profound passages relative to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is Philippians 2:5-11. Unfortunately, it has been greatly misinterpreted by trinitarians. Let us look at it afresh to uncover its truths.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a sevant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled hinself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

The Mind of Christ Jesus

First of all, it is important to understand the context of this passage, which refers to Christ’s human life and earthly ministry. Verse 5 introduces the subject by saying, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” The focus is not on the transcendent nature of God, which we humans cannot duplicate, but on the attitude and conduct of the man Christ Jesus, which we can imitate. The passage recognizes Christ’s identity as the almighty God incarnate but emphasizes His human role as a lowly servant.

Verse 6 reminds us that Christ is the true God in order to point out that He had every right to live in this world as a conquering king instead of a humble servant. Nevertheless, as verses 7-8 describe, Jesus did not hold on to His divine prerogatives but relinquished them, living a simple life and enduring a humiliating death. He could have displayed His divine glory to the world and demanded luxury, obeisance, and submission, but instead He voluntarily laid aside these prerogatives in order to atone for our sins.

The New International Version (NIV) translates verses 6-8 as follows: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross.”

Equality with God

Trinitarians interpret this passage to mean that a second divine person (the eternal Son) existed; he was equal to but distinct from the Father, and he became incarnate. But this view destroys ithe numerical oneness of God as taught in Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:4; Galatians 3:20).

As we have seen, this passage draws attention not to the eternal nature of God but to the historical person of Jesus Christ. Verse 6 speaks of One who is both God and man and says that by right He was “equal with God.” In other words, Jesus, as God incarnate, was fully equal in every way to God before the Incarnation. God incarnate is the same as God reincarnate. In the Incarnation, God did not lose any of His nature or attributes, which makes the servant role of Jesus all the more amazing.

The use of “equal” does not require Jesus to be a second person. If it did, the Bibie would have a contradiction, for God has no equal and there is none like Him (Isaiah 46:5, 9). Moreover, if “equal with” indicated a distinct person, then Jesus would not merely be a distinct person from the Father, as trinitarians teach, but a distinct person from God altogether, which they deny; for verse 6 does not say “equal with the Father” but “equal with God.” If God were a trinity and if equality implied a personal distinction, then Jesus would be equal to the whole trinity yet a distinct person from the trinity.

The proper understanding of “equal with” in this context is “the same as; “identical to” Acts 11:17 provides a similar example in which the same Greek word (isos) is translated as “the like,” meaning the same.” In John 5:18 some Jewish leaders accused Jesus of making himself equal with God.” They were not accusing Jesus of calling Himself a member of a trinity, for such a concept was completely foreign to them. As John 10:33 shows, they accused Jesus of claiming to be the one God Himself: “Thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” They understood His assertion, but they erred in rejecting it.

Being in the Form of God

Philippians 2:5-6 refers to “Christ Jesus” namely to the divine-human person after the Incarnation took place, not to a second divine person before the Incarnation. Some trinitarians say that the word being (Greek, huparchon) in verse 6 means “originally being, eternally being, preexisting” and thus speaks of an eternal Son before the Incarnation. But the simple meaning of “being” is more appropriate, as all major translations and Greek dictionaries recognize.

As another example, Luke 16:23 uses the same Greek word to describe a rich man in hades as “being in torments.” Clearly he was not in torment originally, eternally, or by preexistence. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 11:7 uses the same Greek word to teach that man “is the image and glory of God”; it does not speak of an eternal, preexistent state or merely of man’s original state, but primarily of his present state.

Many commentators say that the word form (Greek, morphe) refers to a visible form or an external appearance. While morphe has this general meaning, the context establishes its precise meaning here. Verse 7 uses morphe again (“the form of a servant”), and verse 8 uses a synonym, schema (“found in fashion as a man”). Both Lightfoot and Trench assert that here morphe connotes what is intrinsic and essential while schema connotes what is outward and accidental.

The main subject of the entire passage is the mind of Christ, not His body. “The form of a servant” refers primarily to the nature or character of a servant, not to the physical appearance of a
servant. Likewise, since God is an invisible Spirit who does not have a physical body apart from the Incarnation (John 1:18; 4:24), it seems that “the form of God” refers primariiy to God’s nature or character, not to a visible manifestation, much less a second divine person. Thus, Jesus being “in the form of God” means that He was “in very nature God,” as the NIV renders. From eter-, nity the Spirit of Jesus was God Himself, and from birth Jesus was the one true God incarnate and not some lesser being.

If “the form of God” means a visible image, then it refers to Jesus after the Incarnation, for it is as the begotten Son, who was “made of a woman;’ that He is the “image of the invisible God” and the “express image” of God’s nature. (See John 1:18; Galatians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.) At any time in His earthly life Jesus could have appeared in His divine glory, as in the transfiguration and in the post ascension appearances to Stephen and John. But instead He veiled His glory and displayed an ordinary human appearance, revealing His true identity only to those who had the eyes of faith.

The Emptying

Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” Again, this verse does not focus on the act of incarnation, but upon the total human life
and ministry of Jesus Christ. Certainly the phrase “was made in the likeness of men” has the act of incarnation in view, but the phrase being found in fashion as a man” includes the whole scope of His life. Moreover, verse 8 shows that the culminating act in this process was not the Incarnation but the Crucifixion: “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

The Greek word translated as “made of no reputation” is kenoo, which has the general meaning of “to make empty.” Consequently, many trinitarians say that their second divine person surrendered
mean Jesus was merely a demigod on earth. How could Jesus have lacked divine attributes
and still have been God? How could God divest Himself of His essential nature?

The Scriptures reveal that in His Spirit Jesus was everywhere present, knew all things, and had all divine power (Matthew 18:20; 28:18; Mark 2:5-12; John 1:4-8; 3:13). The King James Version and the New International Version convey the correct meaning here: Jesus did not surrender His attributes but His privileges. As Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich translate, “He emptied himself, divested himself of his privileges.”

Isaiah 53:12 shows that the supreme act of “emptying” occurred at Christ’s death. “He hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” As a man, Christ was completely submissive to the indwelling Spirit of God. He was obedient to God’s plan even to the point of death.

The Exaltation

As the result of Christ’s humble, obedient life and sacrificial death, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name above every name (Philippians 2:9). By implication, if we adopt the same humble, obedient attitude, we can also expect to be exalted (although not in the same measure). (See Matthew 23:12; James 4:10; I Peter 5:6.)

The emphasis here is first on Christ’s humanity, for only as a man could Christ be exalted. As to His deity, Jesus always was the Lord, but by virtue of His human life, death, resurrection, and ascension He conquered sin, death, hell, and the devil. (See Acts 2:32-36; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18). He thus openly declared His lordship and earned the right to be called Lord as to His glorified humanity. He is not only the King of eternity but also the human Messiah and Savior.

If this passage taught that one divine person exalted another, the first person would have to be greater than not equal with the second person in order to exalt him.

And if the second person were preexistent and coequal, why would he need to be exalted?

Moreover, if he lost his exalted status in the Incarnation, how could he still be deity?

Philippians 2:9-11 again affirms that Jesus is truly God and not merely a man. The indwelling Spirit of God resurrected, glorified, and exalted the humanity. As a result, all creation will one day meet God in the person of Jesus Christ and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the universe. In doing so, they will glorify the Father, for the Father chose the Incarnation and the name of Jesus to reveal Himself to the world.

The creation will not confess Jesus as a second divine person, but as the one true God of the Old Testament revealed in flesh. Philippians 2:9-11 fulfills Isaiah 45:23, in which Jehovah (“the LORD”) declared, “Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” All will confess Jesus as the incarnation of Jehovah, who is the rather (Isaiah 63:16).

Jesus, the Supreme Name

Philippians 2:9-11 shows that Jesus is the supreme name by which the one God has revealed Himself to the world. Many trinitarian scholars say that the supreme name described in verse 9 is Lord. That is, God has given the man Jesus the supreme title of Lord. Although Jesus was openly and miraculously declared to be Lord by the resurrection and ascension, this declaration does not detract from the supremacy of Jesus as the personal name of God incarnate. The title of Lord serves to magnify the name of Jesus and underscore its true meaning.

As an analogy, the highest political office and title in the United States is that of president. George Bush is presently the president and thus has the highest title; nevertheless, his unique name-the name that embodies his legal identity, power, and authority-is still George Bush. He cannot merely sign documents as “Mr. President”; he must sign them as “George Bush” in order for his signature to be effective.

Philippians 2:10 specifically states that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. Verses 10-1l do not merely say that everyone will acknowledge the existence of a supreme Lord, for many unsaved people already do that; the significance is that everyone will acknowledge that Jesus is the one Lord. As Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich translate, “when the name of Jesus is mentioned” every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

( The above material appeared in a December 1989 issue of Pentecostal Herald.)

WHOM WILL WE SEE IN HEAVEN?

“If god is a trinity, how many thrones are there in heaven, and whom will we see there?” asked a curious student in the religion class.

“You know, I’ve never thought about that. The Bible doesn’t really say,” replied the lecturer, an ordained denominational minister.

I could not believe my ears! An acknowledged theological expert was confessing his ignorance of a basic Bible fact about his God. I raised my hand to respond, and in my response I read John’s inspired words in Revelation 4:2: “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”

“The Bible does give us the answer. There is only one throne in heaven, and those who go there will see only one God on the throne,” I concluded.

“Well, you’ve offered powerful support for your position,” the teacher conceded as the class period ended.

Such confusion about the God they expect to see in heaven is by no means unusual among trinitarians. Bernard Ramm, a leading evangelical theologian, side-stepped the issue in his Protestant
Biblical Interpretation: “Many are the questions asked about heaven. . . . Will we see the Trinity or just the Son? . . . Where Scripture has not spoken, we are wisest to remain silent” (p. 171).

Trinitarians try to resolve the tension between the many scriptural assertions of God’s absolute oneness and their affirmation of plurality in the Godhead by reciting that God is “three in one.” When accused of tritheism, they indignantly insist, “Oh no! We believe in one God.” When asked if Jesus is the incarnation of all the Godhead, however, they maintain that He is not, for their “one” God exists mysteriously as three distinct persons.

While the concept of “three in one” may be a convenient philosophical concept on earth, it does not provide much help in answering the question “Whom will we see in heaven?” The answer “three in one” is unsatisfactory, for how can anyone see “three in one”?

If a trinitarian answers that he will see three, then he is a tritheist-a believer in three separate and distinct Gods-despite his protestations to the contrary. If there is a trinity of persons with separate bodies, each of whom can interact with us individually, then they are not one God in any meaningful sense.

On the other hand, if a trinitarian answers that he will see only one God, then the next question is “Who will He be?” A study of Scripture shows that the One we will see is Jesus Christ, and once a person agrees to that proposition he has essentially adopted the Oneness position.

Revelation 4:8 describes the One on the throne as “holy, holy,
holy,Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” This Lord is our Lord Jesus Christ, for Revelation 1 describes Jesus in identical terms:

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. . . . I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. . . . I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:7-8, 11, 17-18).

As evidence of two separate divine persons in heaven, trinitarians often point to Revelation 5, which describes the One on the throne and the Lamb. “The Lion of the tribe of Juda” appeared to John as a Lamb and this lamb took a book from the right hand of the One on the throne. This vision is clearly symbolic; no one expects to see a literal lion or lamb in heaven. John’s vision of the Lamb was a symbolic depiction of the Incarnation and the Atonement. The Lamb represented to the Son of God, particularly His sacrificial role (John 1:29). The Lamb was not a second divine person but simply the humanity of Jesus Christ, for the Lamb was slain, and only humanity-not deity-can die.

The Pulpit Commentary, although written by trinitarians, concedes this point. It identifies the One on the throne as the Triune God, and it identifies the Lamb as Christ in His human capacity only (vol. 22, pp. 162, 165). Thus it does not interpret this vision of the Lamb to mean a separate divine person.

The Lamb had “seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God.” Seven is the number of perfection and completion, so the seven eyes represent the fulness of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Spirit is not a third person, separate from the Lamb, but is the Spirit dwelling in the Lamb that He “sent forth into all the earth” (Revelation 5:6).

The passage reveals that the Lamb was not a separate person from the One on the throne; but that the Lamb actually came out of the throne. “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb” (Revelation 5:6). Some translations by trinitarians say merely that the Lamb was in front of the throne, but the lexicon of Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, the most widely used and respected dictionary of New Testament Greek, says the Lamb stood “on the center of the throne and among the four living creatures” (p. 507). Other translations also show that the Lamb was actually on the throne: “Then, I saw a Lamb . . . standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders” (NIV). “Then, standing in the very center of the throne and of the four living creatures and of the Elders, I saw a Lamb” (Phillips).

Revelation 7:17 describes the Lamb as sitting on the throne: “the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne” (KJV); “the Lamb at the center of the throne” (NIV); “the Lamb who is in the center of the throne” (Phillips).

Again, Bauer et al. are very clear as to the meaning of the Greek: “the lamb who is (seated) on the center of the throne” (p. 507).

A beautiful truth emerges: the one God who sits on the throne became the Lamb. Our Creator became our Savior. Our Father is our Redeemer (Isaiah 63:16). God did not demonstrate His great love for us by sending someone else; instead, He came Himself and He gave of Himself. “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19).

The Lamb is the one God incarnate, not the incarnation of a second person in the Godhead. Revelation 21:22 says that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple” of the New Jerusalem. In the Greek, the verb is singular, literally saying, “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is the temple,” Revelation 22:3-4 speaks of “the throne singular) of God and of the Lamb.” It clearly refers to one throne and one being, not one throne and two beings and not two thrones, for it uses a singular pronoun for God and the Lamb.” And his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.”

Who is this One called both God and the Lamb? Only one being is both sovereign and sacrifice, both deity and humanity-Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God at any time except by
manifestation or incarnation (1 John 4:12), so what face will we see? The face of Jesus Christ, the express image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). And whose name will we bear? The only saving name, the highest name ever given, the name at which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess-Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Philippians 2:9-11).

When we arrive in heaven we will see one God on the throne-Jesus Christ. We will recognize Him as rather, Savior, and Holy Spirit, for “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). If someone expects or desires to see other divine persons, he should ponder Christ’s words to Philip: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9).

We do not have to be confused about whom we pray to, whom we worship, and whom we will meet in heaven. In the words of Titus 2:13, let us look for “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)
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