The Doctrine of the Oneness of the Godhead
By J. Mark Jordan
In the beginning, God….” In this brief manner, the Bible introduces God to mankind. It does not explain justify or prove God’s existence. It merely assumes as an incontrovertible fact that He is. From that premise begins the long narrative of God’s relationship with the world and with mankind. Throughout the biblical era and into our own time controversy has raged among men as to who God is, how or in what form He exists, and whether He is one or many. The Bible speaks for itself clearly on this subject, and we must not allow either history or tradition to distort its message.
The Godhead: A Mystery Revealed
The contemplation of God is an awesome undertaking. Given the finite human mind, it is indeed humbling to reflect on the Godhead in an effort to capture the divine essence in a proper definition. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. . . ” (I Timothy 3:16). Here Scripture acknowledges that the matter is mysterious, but does not leave it as such. The verse continues on to reveal the mystery: “. . .God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. ”
This passage does not purport to explain mechanics of the Incarnation. Nevertheless, the Bible does set forth with clarity and divine inspiration, that the Godhead is a glorious truth which the mind of man is meant to receive. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Who is Jesus?
Not only is it possible to understand the Godhead, the pursuit of this knowledge is critical to discipleship. In fact, the paramount question of the New Testament concerns the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the following verses illustrate:
“Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?. . .But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:13, 15).
“All the city was moved, saying, Who is this ?” (Matthew 21:10).
“What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42).
“What sagest thou of him?” (John 9:17).
The import of these questions cannot be ignored. John devoted his entire gospel account to this all-important matter. It was the manifest purpose of every miracle, healing, act of forgiveness and demonstration of Christ’s power and glory from Bethlehem to Bethany. It was the recurrent theme of His controversy with the Pharisees. It was the very reason behind His crucifixion. “For which of those works do ye stone me?” Jesus asked of His eventual murderers (John 10:32). They replied, “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God ” (John 10:33).
Old Testament Foundation
Since the New Testament is an outgrowth of the Old Testament, any concept we have about God must agree with the Old Testament teaching. Jesus expressed complete confidence in the law and prophets. He quoted them extensively and often. By His own word we know He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. It is therefore of vital importance when we discover that the absolute oneness of God is the bedrock concept of Old Testament theology.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4). If a Hebrew child, from young Moses or Miriam to one of their twentieth-century descendants, knows nothing else about their religion, they have learned this: there is but one God./ “Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears” (II Samuel 7:22). Other passages of Scripture, notably in Isaiah 41-45, echo this axiom of faith. Mono theism, without hint or taint of plurality, has been the hallmark of Jewish identity throughout the centuries.
God’s oneness, therefore, is firmly established as the absolute doctrine of the Old Testament. Jehovah, as He is known in the Old Testament, possesses every attribute and office of deity. Here is a representative list from the abundant evidence of the Scriptures that testify of His Godhead. Any one of these appellations would qualify Him for worship as the Almighty:
He is omnipresent (I Kings 8:27).
He is omnipotent (Jeremiah 32:17).
He is omniscient (Psalm 147:5).
He is self-existent (Exodus 3:14).
He is the pardoner of sins (Psalm 78:38).
He is absolute in truth (Psalm 33:4).
He is the giver and source of life (Isaiah 44:24).
He is the seat of authority (Psalm 119:89).
He is the Creator (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 45:12).
He is the King (Isaiah 44:6).
He is the Savior (Isaiah 45:21).
He is the Redeemer (Psalm 130:8).
He is the Judge (Psalm 50:6).
Given the strict monotheism of the Old Testament, it is easy to imagine the reaction of the Pharisees, students of the law and prophets who knew only Jehovah of the Old Testament, when Jesus advanced the truth of His own deity. Their theology would not allow the Godhead to be pluralized. God’s glory could not be shared. Never could they brook such an idolatrous blasphemy. There were only two possible alternatives: either Jesus was an imposter– whether mad, crafty, ambitious or ingenious–or He was the visible, personal manifestation of the Lord God Jehovah Himself. He could be no other, else the integrity of the Old Testament would collapse into shambles.
Jesus is Jehovah
With this in mind, let us venture into the New Testament to explore the qualities and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is both amazing and exciting to discover that the same attributes and offices attributed to Jehovah God also hold true for Jesus Christ!
He is omnipresent (Matthew 18:20).
He is omnipotent (Matthew 28:18).
He is omniscient (John 2:24-25).
He is self-existent (John 8:58).
He is the pardoner of sins (Matthew 9:2).
He is absolute in truth (John 14:6).
He is the giver and source of life (John 11:25).
He is the seat of authority (Matthew 5:18).
He is the Creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).
He is the King (I Timothy 6:15).
He is the Savior (Matthew 1:21).
He is the Redeemer (Titus 2:14).
He is the Judge (Acts 17:31).
The inevitable answer to the inescapable question, of Christ’s identity then, is this: Jesus Christ must be the self same Jehovah of the Old Testament! For this reason, Jesus could claim, “I and my rather are one” (John 10:30). When Philip said, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us, ” Jesus replied, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip ? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:8-9). In an earlier discourse with the Jews, Jesus stated, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
Perhaps nowhere is the lofty revelation of Christ stated more succinctly than in Colossians 2:9-10: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him which is the head of all principality and power. ” Titus 2:13 ascribes to Christ the title, “The great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Elsewhere in the New Testament, other writers and references identify Christ as the Supreme Deity. Hebrews 1:8 and I John 5:20 clearly call Him God. Revelation 1:8-13 and 1:17-18 name him as “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. . .the Almighty. . .the first and the last.” Jesus is worshiped, praised, exalted, and honored throughout the closing book of the Bible. He is crowned “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords ” (Revelation 19:16). The sheer magnitude of such praise reveals His divinity. The Humanity of Christ
Yet, while we acclaim the deity of Jesus, He possessed another dimension that is vital to our understanding of Him. He was also clearly and unquestionably a man. He had a human mother (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25). He experienced normal human development (Luke 2:52). He was subject to His mother Mary and foster father Joseph (Luke 2:51). He felt His need of prayer (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). He hungered (Luke 6:1). He grew weary (Luke 8:23). He was tempted (Hebrews 4:15). He needed divine power (Acts 10:38).
No, Jesus did not merely act like a man. He was a man. He had a body (John 2:21); a soul (Acts 2:27); a spirit (Luke 23:46). In His humanity, He had limitations (Mark 13:32). He was not an angel, acting out a charade, but a true man, embroiled in the same inner human conflicts that affect us all. Hebrews 2:9-18 is a classic discourse on His manhood. The only distinction between Christ’s nature and our nature is that He was free from sin. Otherwise, His thoughts, attitudes, feelings, desires, longings and hopes–toward Himself, others around Him, life in general, and even God-were like ours.
God Prepared a Body
Why was Jesus Christ both God and man? He was true man because the entire humanity of Christ was necessary to His mediatorship. I Timothy 2:5 teaches, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. ” God’s requirement for the expiation of sin has always been a blood sacrifice. The overarching lesson of the Old Testament is the need of a sacrificial offering to God to atone for sin. The lamb sacrificed had to be the superlative specimen of the flock, perfect and unblemished.
Jesus Christ, in His sinless humanity, became the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of the world. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. . .By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:4-5, 10). The man Christ Jesus made God approachable. The man Christ Jesus became the touchstone of mankind’s infirmity. Isaiah 53:4-10 ennobles this role of the Man Christ Jesus in majestic prose. He was “a man of sorrows…. We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4).
God was in Christ
How could Jesus be both God the Father and the Son of God? How could He claim both deity and humanity? How could He be the Father, and yet maintain a relationship of mutual love, communion, and glorification with the Father? Given the language of the Bible, as well as the traditions of men, such questions are legitimate ones.
The key to understanding the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God, is to recognize the dual nature of Christ. The deity of Christ is well documented as to His attributes, His offices, His self appropriated prerogatives, and His mighty acts. Jesus carefully pointed out the identity of His indwelling deity. “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). In other words, the flesh, or the Son of God, was not God. But the Spirit that indwelt the flesh was indeed God the Father. Therefore, Jesus was able to say, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).
The astounding truth of the matter is simply this: To know Jesus is to know the Father! “If ye had known me, ” Jesus said, “ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him” (John 14:7). In His human frame dwelt the Almighty Spirit of God. The Son was the temple; the eternal Father was the occupant enthroned. The Son was the vessel; Jehovah was the indwelling substance. The Son was the visible image; the Supreme God was the invisible power.
In His humanity, Jesus prayed. As God, He answered prayer. In His frailty, Jesus hungered. As God, He multiplied the loaves and fishes. In His weakness, Jesus slept in the hold of a ship. As God, He stood on the bow and commanded the winds and waves to obey Him. In His vulnerability, He suffered and died on the cross. As God, He dispensed with death and rolled away the stone!
Jesus was not half man and half God. He was fully man and fully God! This was His uniqueness. In His full orbed humanity, He loved the Father (the Spirit that indwelt Him), communicated with the Father, submitted His will to the Father, and glorified the Father. In His full-orbed deity, He loved the Son (the sinless, human flesh which He indwelt), communicated with the Son, worked His will through the Son, and glorified the Son with His own self. By analogy, when we as Spirit-filled mortals pray, we understand that God’s Spirit is in us. Similarly, the Father was in the Son. The obvious difference is that the Spirit dwelt in Christ without measure (John 3:34), whereas we are limited as ambassadors for Christ. Jesus was God by nature, identity, and right, whereas we are not deity in any sense.
The Concept Before Bethlehem
Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am, ” yet He received His body of flesh and blood at Bethlehem. In what sense did He pre-exist His body? He pre-existed as God Himself, the eternal Spirit. Moreover, the plan of the Incarnation existed in the mind of God from the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).
Word is translated from the Greek term Logos and refers to the mind of God, the self-revelation of God. The concept for redemption–the need for a human form and the need for a visible extension of the invisible God into the world of time and humanity–was present in the mind of God before He ever created one atom of physical matter. In fact, Revelation 13:8 shows that Calvary was projected on the screen of time from eternity past: “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. ”
Many religious theories of the Godhead have imposed divisions on the divine essence, splitting God into two or three persons, denying Christ the fulness of the Godhead, or relegating Him to an inferior position. Our objections to these dogmas could easily consume the space of several chapters. Instead, let us conclude on a more positive note. Jesus Christ is truly the most magnificent personage of all time. Why? It is not because of His brilliant teaching, His philanthropy, His penetrating intellect, or His martyrdom. Rather, it is because the Incarnation was the agency through which the Almighty Creator God implemented His “amazing grace.” Jesus Christ was God’s “modus operandi.” “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself’ (II Corinthians 5:19).
If a person is searching for God, his search must begin and end in the Lord Jesus Christ. All of God we will ever see, need, want, or receive will be found in Jesus!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Mark Jordan, raised in Jackson, Michigan attended Texas Bible College. Later he received a B.S. in Human Relations from the University of Toledo. He and his wife Sandy evangelized several years before he became Associate Pastor to First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. In 1978 he founded Apostolic Christian Academy. He served the Ohio District as Youth President, UPCI, from 1977 to 1983. Since 1983 he has pastored First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. He has written numerous articles for Pentecostal publications. He now resides with his wife Sandy and three children in suburban Toledo.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM MEASURES OF OUR FAITH, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1987, PAGES 55-64. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.