The UPCI and Divine Flesh
By Vonelle Kelly
Vonelle Kelly received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry, from Metropolitan State College of Denver, while employed at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Her ministries include prison work, counseling, and music. She was co-founder of Notes of Joy, a national music company, and also taught music at Jackson College of Ministries. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Theological Studies degree from Urshan Graduate School of Theology.
H-Genealogy: Adam, Abraham, and David
I-Mary: Mother of Jesus
I’-Mary: Mother of Jesus
H’-Genealogy: David, Abraham, and Adam
In recent years there has been some debate among Oneness Pentecostals in regard to the constitution of Jesus Christ. Our traditional view has been that He was both fully God and fully man. An opposing view within the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) is proclaiming that Christ was only fully God in the form of divine flesh, a type of flesh made by God, as opposed to normal human flesh.’ Some of our ministers have taken a very firm stand against this. Others have felt at ease for it to continue to be taught in our churches, while still others of our ministers are without an understanding of the complexity and severity of the controversy.
The four goals of this paper are to: (1) scripturally reveal how this doctrine undermines the plan of salvation; (2) inform UPCI preachers of the necessity of addressing the issue of the divine flesh doctrine; (3) bring our understanding and study of the oneness of God to unity, as it pertains to the cleansing and saving blood of Jesus Christ; (4) recognize our doctrinal strengths and weaknesses. These will be formulated using a chiasmic structure, giving first the teachings of the divine flesh, followed by the scriptural position formally endorsed by the UPCI.
These goals can only be met by going to the Word of God, of which there is no private interpretation? “Any investigation of the Son that exceeds what is revealed in the Word of God has exceeded its grasp and is likely to result in heresy. To investigate the mystery of the Son, then, offers much opportunity to develop heresy.” “This is something to be seriously considered. We are indeed told in the Scriptures that `God … manifest in the flesh’ is a great mystery (I Timothy 3.16).5 Anyone who tackles this `great mystery’ of God-manifest-in-the-flesh risks being misunderstood.”
In his book, Bible Writers’ Theology, Teklemariam Gezahagne says that Jesus was not from the biological lineage of Abraham, David, or Mary.’ Rather, Gezahagne explains that Jesus had divine flesh, made by God, not at all comprised of human elements. He explains, “Christ did not come to partake of our earthly clay, but came instead that we may partake of His divine nature.”‘ Isaiah 42:13 is used in attempt to prove this doctrine, “Isaiah describes the mightiness of Christ’s ‘divine humanity. Proponents say that it is a human presupposition that Jesus would need to have chromosomes, since it is a glorification of humanity in making God fit our human description.
The divine flesh view of Jesus’ temptations is that they were only for fulfillment of prophecies and were not actual temptations to Jesus. Gezahagne says, “Earthly man’s experience including temptations are a result of inherited sinful nature. The experiences of the heavenly man Christ Jesus including His temptations are the result of the fulfillment of prophecies for reconciliation and propitiation for our sins.” Further, supporters of this doctrine say, “The God-man had no lust. The purpose of temptation was not for Him to have a choice to sin, but was for our example. He experienced everything for our sakes. The only purpose of the body was to die for our sins, not for Him to feel everything we do.”
This teaching says that Jesus Christ did not come to earth in the same flesh as the rest of humanity. Using Hebrews 10:5 which states that God prepared a body for Jesus, the divine flesh doctrine says that Jesus came in flesh that was heavenly, rather than in flesh like ours. An issue in question by the believers of divine flesh is how Jesus could be born of a woman without sin being imparted to Him. The question of whether or not humans are born sinful seems to be the origin of the doctrinal changes made by the divine flesh proponents in their effort to maintain Christ’s purity. Job 14:4 is used to demonstrate the view of the divine flesh doctrine: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” Hermeneutically, it is suspect to determine a doctrine based on Job, a book of poetic genre.” In effort to answer the question of a sinful nature, beliefs such as docetism, gnosticism, apollinarianism, monophysitism, and the doctrine of the Trinity were born.
Proponents of the divine flesh doctrine believe that if we say that Christ is from the biological seed of the woman, then it would be true that we believe that Christ has a sinful Adamic nature, which in the sight of God would be blasphemy. Bible Writers’ Theology says, “If the word ‘seed of woman’ is the biological seed of Adam… we can dare say Jesus has a sinful nature. Since human flesh and blood is not an acceptable means of atonement for the sins of mankind, and because it cannot inherit the kingdom of God, Christ cannot possess earthly flesh at all.” Also, Gezahagne wrote that Adam and Christ had the greatest affiliation in both being “directly begotten by God.”
In addition to our volitional sins, divine flesh proponents believe that humanity is born with sin inherited from Adam. They feel that prior to being baptized, people must understand that it is to wash away inherited sins, as well as for personal sins committed. Many proponents of divine flesh have been re-baptized now that they have this “revelation” of Christ’s body being composed of divine flesh. The divine flesh dogma teaches that in baptism we “put on Christ,” quoting from Galatians 3:27, meaning that more than identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection, we actually put on the flesh of Christ. “This would entail that baptism identifies us with the natural body of Christ more than the spiritual body of the church. This doctrine “does not imply a physical change in its original Adamic nature, but a fact accepted by faith until its fulfillment at the Second Coming of Christ.”
Because the tenet of divine flesh says that Christ was in a heavenly body, we can deduce that there was no change in His body prior to or subsequent to Calvary. “It appears that the followers of the divine flesh teaching believe that there is no difference in the pre resurrection mortal body of Jesus and the glorified, postresurrection body.” They say, “Scriptures, such as Philippians 3:19-21, don’t show that Jesus changed; further in John 7, glorified doesn’t mean transmutation.”
Don Rogers explains that God had to come through the human race because Satan came through the animal race. He says that the Father had to come in His own flesh because at issue is the singularity of God. Therefore, Rogers feels that the doctrine of Christ having the same flesh as the rest of humanity is to place Him in corruptible flesh, which is to reiterate the problem of the divine flesh proponents, concerning God having a sin nature.
Gezahagne says about Jesus, “He was truly God and was truly heavenly Man” and that the understanding of Philippians 2:5-11 is generally misinterpreted.” He explains, “The focus of most theologians is not on the transcendent nature of God the Father incarnate, but on the supposed `God the Son,’ who Himself is incarnated, partaking of Mary’s nature as the Son of Man-“” This closely follows the philosophy of Clement of Alexandria who felt that Jesus merely went through the motions of life without truly experiencing life as we know it. Using I Corinthians 15:39-40 as a proof text for Christ’s flesh being divine, Gezahagne wrote, “If we say Christ is the earthly human person in nature, then we are denying the oneness of God’s person.”
H-Genealogy: Adam, Abraham, and David
Bible Writers’ Theology says that Luke 3:23-38 names “all the supposed fathers all the way to Adam. This shows that the mystery of the promised seed is hid from all readers of the Bible, and it needs revelation.” Proponents of the divine flesh doctrine see the messianic prophecies of Scripture as referring to a promised, rather than biological seed. In regard to Hebrews 2:14-16, which discusses the seed of Abraham, Gezahagne wrote, “The statement concerning the seed of Abraham does not mean the biological seed. The scriptural meaning of the seed of Abraham is the promised seed of God which is seen in Genesis 17:1-14 and Galatians 3:8-29.” He says, “Furthermore, David could not be the biological father of Christ, for Christ is not from human seed. He was the heavenly Adam. “Indeed, David is not the natural father or biological father of Christ.” Gezahagne’s reasoning prompts the question of how Jesus could have a human nature if He had no human predecessors.
I-Mary: Mother of Jesus
Bible Writers’ Theology declares that no man can prove the biological relationship of Christ with Mary’s flesh and blood. The question of original sin is seen in the dogma of divine flesh. The feeling is that Jesus could not be pure with Mary as His biological mother, basing this view on Job 4:17.3$ In an effort to explain the doctrine of divine flesh, its followers remind us that Jesus did not specifically call Mary His mother. Rogers asked, “If He is God, why can’t He make a man without Mary? He did it without Joseph. God did the conceiving; nothing refers to Jesus as the `begotten Son of Mary.”
Isaiah 53:2 says, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.” Gezahagne uses this Scripture to mean that Jesus came from Mary. He wrote, “The Son of God grew up out of a dry ground: the virgin womb. Further, Gezahagne says, “The Bible in Isaiah 53 clearly teaches us that Mary’s womb was like a dry ground, and out of that dry ground, Christ, the Word of God, was made a genuine
In dealing with the question of whether Mary was the mother of Jesus, the divine flesh doctrine says that Mary was, in essence, a surrogate mother of Jesus. Again, the question of sin nature is the root of the matter. Ignoring the Bible as the final authority, Gezahagne wrote, “I would like to tell you that Bible Writers’ Theology is the only true doctrine. The mystery of the Father and of the Son is great, and to understand it requires a revelation that comes from the Spirit of God and the Word of God. All that receive everlasting life must have this same revelation.” Thus, this doctrine teaches that salvation is only obtainable by means of this “revelation” of divine flesh. If this were true, salvation was unobtainable prior to the late twentieth century, when knowledge of surrogate motherhood was performed and understood by medical technology.” This poses the question: How then were the apostles saved, since the early church clearly did not propagate a teaching of surrogacy? Due to the absurdity of this question, Segraves responds, “Mary was no mere surrogate mother, no incubator into whose womb God placed a new human nature which never existed anywhere before.”
Isaiah 53:2 is not in reference to Mary’s womb being like dry ground. “The word ‘as’ indicates this is a metaphor, not to be taken literally.” Larry Alred explains, “There is not even a suggestion of any heavenly man. The `dry ground’ is Israel and the prophet is describing what Israel’s condition will be when the Messiah comes. Israel had been 400 years without any word from God when John came preaching in the wilderness.” When making an analogy of dry ground to Mary’s womb, the question arises of why Mary would be the specific one to whom this would refer, when Elizabeth’s conception of her son was also a miracle. Luke 1:36 says, “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.” Just as Mary was a young virgin, Elizabeth was old and barren; it was miraculous for either lady to conceive.
I’-Mary: Mother of Jesus
Proponents of divine flesh believe that “Immanuel,” defined as “God with us,” means that Jesus was completely God, without any human element. With this logic, they say that Mary could not have biologically conceived Jesus. However, not only are there numerous Scriptures throughout the Bible where Jesus is called “seed of Abraham” and “seed of David,” there are also at least twenty-three references in the inspired Scripture where Mary is identified as the mother of Jesus. Additionally, Jesus honored her as His mother, as was seen at Calvary (John 19:26).
Biblical prophecy states that a virgin would conceive the Messiah, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This was confirmed by the angel’s proclamation to Mary in Matthew 1:23. The Scripture does not only say that in Mary’s womb there would be a conception, but it additionally states that she would conceive: “And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS” (Luke 1:3 1). In reference to John 1:14, William Chalfant stated, “Mary did not give birth to the Word, but Mary gave birth to a human being. It is that human being which is called by the angel `the Son of God.’ Therefore, the normative view of Christ’s humanity by Oneness Pentecostals is that the Holy Ghost overshadowed Mary as the Scriptures say, and that the flesh of Jesus was the same as ours, differing only in the fact that He remained sinless. Jesus had to have a real body.
This tenet of divine flesh overlooks God’s ability to do whatever He wishes, including what is humanly impossible. It limits God’s miracle working power by saying that it would be impossible for a human being to biologically descend from a woman without participation of a human male. According to Scripture, Jesus came in the natural manner of human birth after the lapse of the requisite time, insinuating that there had to be proper time for the gestation of the babe (Matthew 1:25, 2:1; Luke 2:7; Galatians 4:4).
Mary questioned Gabriel as to how it would be possible for her to conceive. The angel answered, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Segraves explains that the divine flesh teaching requires that Mary did not actually conceive in her womb; rather, divine flesh was supposedly deposited in her womb by God.” However, Luke 1:35 says, “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Here the Scripture specifically states that what Mary birthed would be holy. This fact alone eradicates the concept of Jesus being born with sinful flesh, though it does not eliminate the fact that He would be in human flesh. In addition to Him being holy, the Scripture indicates that Jesus would be a genuine human being. Bernard says, “Mary’s egg was supernaturally anointed by God to reproduce without the typical male contribution.”
H’-Genealogy: David, Abraham, and Adam
Segraves’ response to the question of how Jesus could have a human nature without a human father is that “Adam had no human father, and he was a genuine human being.” Thus, the Scriptures affirm that Jesus was from the line of David. Segraves describes Romans 1:3 as “a precise statement concerning the biological connection of Jesus with David.” John 7:42 confirms this: “Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was.” Settling any further questions on this, Acts 2:30 declares, “Therefore being a prophet [in reference to David], and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.”
“The fallacy of this argument [belief that the seed was figurative] is evident for several reasons: (1) Isaac, although a ‘promised seed, was nevertheless a biological seed; (2) Paul’s reason for the access of the Gentiles into the status of the ‘promised seed’ is because of the righteousness of Jesus, a biological seed of Abraham, who inherited the promises made to Abraham and his seed.” Genesis 22:18 promised a blessing upon Abraham’s seed. It was not good enough for one born in Abraham’s house (Genesis 15.3); it had to be someone who would come out of Abraham’s lineage. Chalfant explains, “When the bloodline is destroyed, then the entire fabric of the promises of God is ripped apart. That is why the Scripture says, “For verily he took noton [him the nature of] angels; but he took on [him] the seed of Abraham’ (Hebrews 2:16).”
If Jesus had divine flesh, it would be nugatory to list the generations. However, the lineage of Jesus is found in two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke. “Notice by comparing the two genealogies starting with David the king, we have two branches of the family of David. One branch goes through Solomon, the ‘royal’ line, and the other branch through Nathan, the ‘legal’ line.”
Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus’ lineage was of the line of Joseph. Through the royal line of David, Jesus was entitled to the throne (Psalm 132:11, Luke 1:32, Romans 1:3). The genealogy in Luke is of Mary’s ancestry, the only genealogy of a woman given in the Bible, and traces Jesus’ descent from Adam, and ultimately, from God.
Mary’s bloodline came from Nathan (David’s youngest son), from the line of Judah, whose blessing was of inalienable supremacy and power (Genesis 49:10-12, Revelation 5:5). “Despite the royalty of His lineage, Jesus’ ancestors had many moral struggles… . Far from hiding this fact, the Gospel writers seem to glory in it, for this showed that Jesus was of the common fabric of humanity.” Matthew endeavored to show that Jesus was of Davidic descent; Luke, by contrast, seemed to have more interest in affirming that Jesus was the Son of God. According to the genealogy from the book of Luke, Jesus was born in the seventy-seventh generation from Adam. Luke’s genealogy not only attests to Jesus’ biological relationship to Mary; it also proves His biological relationship to all of humanity.
The view of Jesus’ genealogy given by Bible Writers’ Theology takes Luke 3:23-38 out of context. The words “as was supposed” were only used in reference to Joseph being the supposed father of Jesus by the contemporaries of that time period. Scripture is clear that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Matthew 1:24-25 says, “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” For this reason, Luke said that Joseph was the “supposed” father of Jesus.
“The Incarnation was necessary to provide a qualified heir for all God originally intended human beings to possess. The good news for believers is that they are joint heirs with Christ.” Jesus is called the…image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature’ because He is the Incarnation of God, with all that human flesh embodies. “Since Jesus was from the lineage of Abraham and David (John 7:42; Acts 13:22-23; Romans 1:3; Hebrews 2:16), by necessity He received human DNA, genes, and chromosomes.” John Paterson wrote, “He was a creature, the seed of the woman; God reversed creation’s miracle, and, as Eve was taken from Adam, so Christ was taken from Mary!” “Through the umbilical cord, Christ was keyed into the genetic stream of mankind. This related Him even to the dust of the ground and to the whole world of matter. But He never existed except as a ‘holy thing” Because Jesus was born into the line of humanity, it shows that He really was part of the human race. Otherwise, He could have come to earth in divine flesh without the inconveniences of birth and aging. He was holy and He was human. “Since the Logos became human and did not simply enter into humanity, one must take the nature of the divine Logos seriously. If the Logos is of the `same essence’ as the Father, this means that the very life of God is communicated into human flesh in the Incarnation.” In order to become the ultimate sacrifice for humanity’s sins, God took upon Himself human flesh, not divine flesh. The idea of divine flesh does not appear in 1 Corinthians 15:39 or any other Scripture. Christ alone lived within the human race, yet maintained a sinless life. To deprive Jesus of his humanity is to deprive him of His greatness.
Biblical proof of Jesus’ humanity is obvious. Luke 2:6 tells us that there was a completed time of gestation. As an infant, He relied on Joseph for protection against the jealousy of King Herod (Matt 2:13-14). Jesus grew and increased in knowledge, showing that His humanity was not equal to His divinity (Luke 2:40, 52). Though Jesus amazed the scribes with His knowledge and understanding of Scripture, He still submitted to His parents (Luke 2:51). There were 30 years of silence before Jesus’ ministry was recognized. These were years of obscurity, during which time He learned Joseph’s trade as a carpenter and became known as a carpenter Himself (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). Before beginning His ministry, Jesus was baptized, showing His affiliation with His people in fulfilling righteousness. When He submitted to the baptism of John, He joined the act of water baptism with the efficacy of His redemptive work, making them interrelated and vital to each other. “The baptism in the Jordan, recorded by all four gospels, is an act of Jesus’ maturity.” The early church saw this event as being highly significant, as it was alluded to by at least six books of the New Testament .
The humanity of Jesus was seen in every aspect of His life. He ate (Matthew 12:1) and when He fasted, he was hungry (Matthew 4:2). Isaiah 40:28 says that God does not become weary, but John 4:6 says that Jesus knew the feeling of weariness (John 4:6), and when tired, He slept (Matthew 8:24). “There is no suggestion that this individual was not a man in every sense of the word.” Jesus had a soul, mind, body and will (Luke 22:42, 23:46; Acts 2:31; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 10:5, 10). He accepted all the functional limitations of a human brain and body, all the needs, weaknesses, desires, sufferings and trials of human life apart from sin. Scripture tells us that Jesus expressed emotions such as joy (John 15:11) and sorrow (John 11:35). Jesus remained sinless though He was tempted in all areas of life (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Many Scriptures describe the way in which Jesus prayed, including an exemplary prayer in Matthew 6. He blessed the food before He multiplied it (Matthew 14:19). In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed with great agony prior to His crucifixion on Calvary (Luke 22:44).
In a day when society in the Roman world was falling as low in its moral standards as it had ever been, Jesus displayed a purity that was almost terrifying in its luminescence. “When He reached manhood, his character was tested in two ways: He knew the pressures that come from the vulnerabilities of human flesh (weariness, hunger, thirst) and the temptations constantly requiring one to choose the right.”
Proponents of divine flesh contest that the Word who was made flesh and “dwelt among us” proceeded from the Father without changing His essence so that the blood and the flesh of Jesus Christ are of God’s own nature. This means that there was no difference in Christ’s body before and after His resurrection. An issue left unaddressed by the dogma of divine flesh is that Jesus was glorified in the resurrection.” The glorification of the humanity of Jesus, “which was in the mind of the Father before the world began,” is evidenced throughout the Scriptures “It is also a key to understanding Paul with his references to ‘by Jesus Christ,’ and ‘through Jesus Christ.’ The glorification is inextricably tied to His humanity.”
Believing that baptism is an essential part of salvation, in reference to Galatians 3:27, we do not imply that we put on a divine flesh, rather “we understand this to mean the one baptism of water and Spirit that places us into the body of Christ. Water baptism is necessary to identify us with Christ and to place us in His spiritual family.”
In order to give adequate answers to the believers of the divine flesh doctrine, the UPCI needs to come to an understanding of whether sin is innate and passed through generations, or whether humanity simply has the propensity to sin. Hebrews 10:5 “is not a communication between persons in the Godhead, nor does it apply prior to the Incarnation. The Messiah could have said it at any time during His life on earth prior to His crucifixion.” Rather, “He is speaking to His people and it was Mary (and her ancestors) who prepared the body (in one sense); `the seed of the woman’ [was] the body that He would sacrifice for the sins of the world.”
It is sadly ironic that the Oneness Pentecostal movement is allowing some to compromise doctrine by returning to a heresy already addressed in the New Testament epistles. The apostle John clearly warned against seductive corruption of the truth regarding the identity of the Father and of the Son (1 John 2:21-25). Scripture does not designate anyone as antichrist other than those who deny the identity of Jesus Christ.
Bernard says, “When God created Adam and Eve in the beginning, He did not create them in sin, [therefore,] Jesus actually represents the true human nature … Just as Adam led us into sin, so Christ, by His obedience, His righteous act leads us out of sin.” Certainly the divine part of Jesus could not sin and could not even be tempted to sin (James 1:13). “The human part of Jesus, when viewed alone, theoretically had the capacity to sin.” “If Christ did not possess a human mind/will, then certain biblical statements about Christ would be rendered meaningless. He could not be tempted, since God cannot be tempted (James 1:13), but we find that He was in fact tempted (Hebrews 4:15). Temptation occurs in the mind of man. If Jesus did not have a human spirit/mind, He could not have been tempted.” Romans 8:3 states, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Never, however, does Paul say that the flesh is in itself sinful. The Greek word for “likeness” means “a form; resemblance, made like, shape. In Genesis 3:15, God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman [Eve], and between thy seed and her seed.” The teaching of the divine flesh states that Christ’s greatest affinity with Adam was that each was “directly begotten by God”; however, Scripture does not state that Adam was begotten by God, rather it makes clear that he was a created being (Genesis 1:27).
Many Scriptures confirm that Jesus was made of the same flesh as the rest of humanity and that He shared in the same human experiences throughout His life. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might he a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18). “How could He be identified with His brethren at baptism if His nature and will were not completely human? How could He be tempted ‘IN ALL POINTS LIKE AS WE ARE,’ since by nature He would not be like as we are at any point?” Alred reminds us that no temptation exists where there is no possibility to sin.
Yet, Jesus was able to overcome temptations, as is written in Luke 4:13. “All three questions addressed to Jesus by the tempter assume that Jesus is a human being who can be tempted.” The Scriptures say that He knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:12; 1 John 3:5). The fact that Jesus lived a sinless life should not diminish the reality of His temptations. Some have asked how Jesus could he tempted if He did not have a sinful nature. The easy answer to this is that “Adam was genuinely tempted, though before that first temptation he had no experience of sin,” thus proving that one does not have to be sinful in order to sin.
If God did not truly come in the flesh, then there is no blood remission of sin, no sacrifice of atonement. “The very purpose of the Incarnation was to provide a holy man to mediate between holy God and sinful mankind.” “Because He accepted all the functional limitations of a human brain and body, all the needs, weaknesses, desires, sufferings, and trials of human life apart from sin (or sinning),” He is able to fulfill the role as our Mediator, Savior, and High Priest (1 Timothy 2:5, 2 Peter 1:1, Hebrews 2:17). “Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and humanity. In order to act as such a mediator, Jesus Christ must be both divine and human.” “What we have to accept is that any Mediator between God and man must be both God and Man in one Person.” “The Incarnation demonstrates that God Himself literally assumed an additional nature through the Incarnation for the purpose of fellowship and salvation without duplicating His divine Person. He rather, manifested it in the flesh.”
In order for Jesus to be the Savior, He had to be a perfect and sinless sacrifice. For Him to fulfill the office as a priest, He had to be human. In His sacrifice, Jesus was the Lamb, but after He was made perfect, He became the High Priest. This is seen in the Scriptures where, though priests under the old covenant made sacrifices for themselves, the writer of Hebrews never mentioned that Jesus made a sacrifice to cover Himself. Because of Christ’s sinlessness, He was able to offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, once for all (Hebrews 10:10).109 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
The “integration of the divine and creaturely provides the basis for the mediatorial ministry of Christ. Bernard contends, “Without allowing Christ to be manifest in human flesh is to take away His redemptive power. Why not have Him come straight from heaven and give His life? Why did He have to be born? There seems to be a reason and the reason is that He had to become one of us.”
Refuting the humanity of Christ nullifies His sacrificial atonement. “When we compromise the humanity of the Lord, we compromise our salvation .” To deny His wonderful divinity is to rob Him of His rightful glory. On the other hand, to deny His genuine humanity is to rob us of our blood sacrifice, who hung in our place on the cross of Calvary. If He is not one of us, then we do not have a true Mediator. Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man [anthropos] Christ Jesus.” “If He was not true anthropos and true God, then our faith is in vain. But it is not in vain, because He stood in my place. Through study of the Scriptures, Christ’s complete deity and humanity are proven. Because God did come to earth, robed in flesh (Philippians 2:7), we have forgiveness of sin through the wondrous love of our Savior.
God, in His love and mercy, became the Son of man for our sakes, so that by His grace, we could be called children of God. “For if he did not receive the substance of flesh from a human being, he neither was made man nor the Son of man.” “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). This Scripture is almost redundant in its emphasis. The term “Godhead” is intrinsically God in His totalitarian completion; still the Word emphasizes the description by adding the words “all” and “fullness.” “We must never compromise the deity of Christ and we must never compromise the humanity of Christ. If we do either, I fear that we are preaching another Jesus, whom Paul did not preach and, as a consequence, we will be in danger of preaching, as he said, another gospel and receiving another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4).”
“A genuine heavenly Man’ could not die, but a genuine mortal man could.” This concept must be understood; otherwise many Scriptures have to be viewed as simply metaphorical. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to our sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Here is the crux of the matter: the flesh of Jesus Christ had to he of the same nature as the rest of humanity, albeit lacking sin, in order for propitiation to occur. To say that God dwelt among men in divine flesh is to say that His blood was outside the realm required for the salvation of humanity. The sacrifice of the spotless Lamb had to be of sinless, human flesh. Without such, there is no atonement for the sins of humankind (Hebrews 2:14). “If Christ were anything other than truly human, we would have no intercessor, no kinsman redeemer, no high priest, and no atonement”
By allowing the doctrine of divine flesh to be propagated in our movement, we are opening ourselves up to false doctrine. It seems that some of our beliefs are simply accepted as being understood without properly being studied and taught. Because of this, gradual erosion of the foundational doctrines easily occurs. While we have a thorough understanding of teachings such as holiness standards and Acts 2:38, we need to expand our knowledge and understanding of other biblical doctrines (which are at least of equal importance) and teach the
truth so that when heresies such as the divine flesh doctrine arise, the entire movement will not find itself in such a precarious situation.”‘ Before many more compromises of our beliefs occur, we must stop this doctrine from being propagated. This doctrinal teaching is more than a difference in point of view; it is actually an
adulteration of the Word of God.
The entire authority of the Bible is at stake if the Incarnation is not clarified. Our Pentecostal movement is at a crossroads with this teaching. “Being entrusted with the revelation of Oneness Apostolic Truth presents us with two major responsibilities. The first is that we must love this Truth.” “Secondly, we are charged with the responsibility to evangelize the world with Truth.” It should be kept in mind that once you add something to the truth it is no longer truth.” We would do well to receive the words of Hebrews 3:12, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” When one Scripture is changed, all other Scriptures must be changed accordingly so that agreement is maintained among them. This is what is happening as a result of the divine flesh teaching. To allow Christology to be taught as Jesus having divine flesh is only the beginning of many other doctrinal changes and God will hold us responsible if we support and allow the proliferation of false doctrine to continue.
‘ The terms given to this theology are “divine flesh,” “celestial flesh,” and “heavenly flesh.” For simplicity, in this paper, it will be referred to as “divine flesh.”
Teklemariam Gezahagne, General Superintendent of the Apostolic Church in Ethiopia, wrote a book entitled, Bible Writers’ Theology. This book has been banned (by Nathaniel Urshan, while General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International) from being sold in the U. S. by UPCI constituents and the doctrine within is not to be spread. However, there are UPCI licensed ministers in the U. S. A. who continue to propagate this dogma as well as in other countries. In researching the two views of this theory, I initiated a telephone interview with Don Rogers, a proponent of the divine flesh doctrine. He said that he has studied this doctrine for over five years. He made a subsequent telephone call to me, in which he readily gave answers to questions asked. Numerous attempts were made to interview Yoshua Teklemaiam, Gezahagne’s son, who declined via Daniel Segraves (president of CLC, the Bible college from which Yoshua is graduating, Spring 2002). Ticks Bekele, Gezahagne’s nephew (graduating Spring 2002, planning to attend the Urshan Graduate School of Theology) was contacted and asked about the doctrine, but he said that he did not know what Gezahagne’s book said. Bruce Howell, Director of Foreign Missions, was invited to be a respondent to this paper, but declined, feeling that by responding it would put him in a difficult position due to an upcoming trip to Ethiopia. He suggested Jerry Richardson, who did not respond to the invitation. Various opponents of the divine flesh doctrine were contacted and many of their quotes and materials regarding this issue are given throughout this presentation. The opponents of the divine flesh dogma are as follows: (1) Larry Alred, interview and paper, (2) David Bernard: interview and books, (3) William Chalfant interview, email, and critique, (4) Jason Done, unpublished paper, (5) J. R. Ensey: telephone interview and magazine book review, (6) Robert Ratajczak: interview, (7) Clifford Readout: unpublished papers, (8) Daniel Segraves: closed minister’s meeting at the UPCI 2001 General Conference, books, interview, magazine articles and an unpublished paper. (9) Anthony Tame]: magazine article, (10) Levi Wright: unpublished paper.
2 Peter 1:20.
Clifford Readout, “The Mystery of the Son Outline” (Unpublished paper, 1999),
All Scriptures, unless otherwise stated, are from the King James Version.
William Chalfant, “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology: A Book
Written By Rev. Teklemariam Gezahagne,” (Unpublished paper, 2001)
Teklemariam Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology. (Arkansas: Ozark Mountain Press, Inc., 1999)
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 169.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 106.
Don Rogers. Interview, November 17, 2001.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 157.
Don Rogers, Phone Call, November 19, 2001. In exploring the issue of lust, Tamel says, “Since we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own lust (James 1:14), some say Jesus could not have been tempted because He did not have lust. While he certainly did not have sinful lust, the Greek word for ‘lust’ in James 1:14 is epithumia, which simply means a strong or inordinate desire. In Luke 22:15, Jesus used the same word of Himself, to express a great desire: ‘And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Anthony Tamel, “The Divine Flesh Doctrine ” Forward (Summer 2001): 7-12.)
Divine flesh is a way to prevent Jesus from having a sinful nature by birth. Sinful nature is the topic of a paper I am currently researching.
Daniel Segraves, “Response to Bible Writer’s Theology” (Unpublished paper, 2001), 12. Further, he says, “this verse cannot be used to deny the possibility of the sinless Messiah being born of a woman. It may be that no human being can “bring a clean thing out of an unclean,” but God specializes in this by the miracle of redemption. “But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’ And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common’ (Acts 10:1415, NKJV).”
It is interesting to see the belief from which the Trinity was born has now gone full circle and has renamed into oneness theology. In fact, Rogers said that many Trinitarians are being convened because of this “revelation.”
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology. “The attributes and characteristics of all offspring are hereditary by nature. Therefore, ‘Son of’ always means born of the same nature” (147). “‘The Word who was made flesh and ‘dwelt among us’ proceeded from the Father without changing His essence so that the blood and the flesh of Jesus Christ would be of God’s own nature” (145).
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 148-149. Reference Scriptures used are: I Corinthians 15:50; Acts 20:28.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 174.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 260.
David Bernard, The New Birth, Volume 2 (Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 1994), 158-159. “Baptism is a burial with Christ, an identification with His death and burial (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). Only Jesus died and was buried on our behalf, so baptism is administered in the name of Jesus. Baptism is a personal identification with Jesus Christ, for we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). We are baptized in His name to identify ourselves personally with Him and to take on His name. To become part of the body of Christ, which is the church, we must take on Christ’s name.”
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 260. “He [A sinner] goes by faith, in the Name of Jesus Christ, to the watery grave to put off both [committed sins and sinful flesh], because sin as well as earthly flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Corruptible cannot inherit incorruptible. The Bible reaches us that the Father is Spirit. To receive from His Spirit, we need to have fellowship with the Son of God by pulling off the old (natural) man and putting on the nature of the ‘New Man,’ Christ Jesus, by the washing of regeneration (Galatians 3:26-29; Titus 3:5).” Don Rogers, interview, “By faith we put on His body; His flesh and blood. We will take on the physical body of Christ after death. Until then we wig still fight Adamic nature. Our flesh and nature stay the same until eschatology.” He contends that we are not in the image of Christ when we are bom; therefore, we have to put it on in baptism. “There is no biological change, but spiritual change at baptism.” But this is only for those who have the revelation of the divine flesh doctrine. He said there is a greater witness of the spirit with this revelation and that 97% of those baptized with this revelation remain in the faith, as opposed to 100% baptized who backslide without this revelation.
Tamel, Forward, 11. “Those who believe that Jesus had divine flesh also believe that they put on His flesh in some manner at the time of their baptism, because they are baptized into Christ. We do take on the nature of Christ, but the idea that we take on a new divine body is incongruous. We are not born into Christ’s natural body by faith. We are born into His spiritual body, which is the church. `And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead: that in all things he might have the preeminence’ (Colossians 1:18). Those who believe that being baptized into the body of Christ means receiving Christ’s physical body, would have to believe they will live their- life without ever sinning again. I have not seen a person yet who was baptized and lived for a time who has not sinned at one time or another since he was baptized. The key to holiness is not just to be baptized in Christ but to abide in Christ. Only then will we live above sin. ‘He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk, even as he walked’ (I John 2:6). If we are in Christ, or if we abide in Christ, we will be spiritually sensitized to walk the way He walked.”
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 104.
Chalfant, “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 11.
Rogers, Interview. November 17, 2001.
Rogers, Interview. November 17, 2001. The implications of this teaching in regard to animal versus human race are not clear, but were noteworthy in teens of bizarre propositions that may occur as a result of this tenet.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 159.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 159.
James M. Cannody, S. J., and Thomas F. Clark, S. J. Word and Redeemer (Glen Rock, New Jersey: The Paulist Press, 1966), 27. “For he are, nor for the sake of the body, which was kept together by a holy energy, but in order that it might not enter into the minds of those who were with him to entertain a different opinion of him…. But he was entirely impassible, inaccessible to any movement of feeling, either pleasure or pain.”
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology. 150.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 181.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 131.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 181. Some people have wanted to give Gezahagne the benefit of the doubt, considering English is not his primary language; however, Gezahagne wrote a book, The Identity of Jesus Christ (Hazlewood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 1989), which doctrinally differs from his later book, Bible Writers’ Theology. See pages 70-75: “The Apostle Paul described the origin of Christ plainly as to His humanity and deity; As a man Jesus was the son of David and the heir to David’s throne; [In reference to John 17:31 This verse leaches thrown must know the one true God and His manifestation in flesh; There also arose a man named Apollinaris who taught that Jesus received a human body and soul from Mary, but instead of a human spirit He had the Spirit of God dwelling in him. Thus Jesus had an incomplete human nature; Jesus was truly human, but He was also the one God in flesh. As a man, He had an earthly mother, Mary, but He did not have an earthly father. Thus Jesus was a genuine, perfect, sinless human, and He was also the fullness of God in flesh; He is the Word made flesh.”
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 123.
Job 4:17, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?” Again, recall Segraves’ response to basing doctrine upon the lamentations of Job.
Rogers, Interview, November 17, 2001.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 130.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 149.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 174.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 119-121.
Segraves, “Response,” 28. “We should note the very telling statement [quoting from Bible Writers’ Theology], ‘The mystery of the promised seed is hid from all readers of the Bible, and it needs revelation.’ This is an appeal to extrahiblical revelation, which is specifically rejected by the UPCI: ‘The Bible is the only God-given authority which man possesses; therefore, all doctrine, faith, hope, and all instruction for the church must be based upon, and harmonize with, the Bible’ (Preamble, Articles of Faith)..”‘ To this response, we are reminded that the Scripture itself says, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).
Segraves, “Response,” 3. “If the ‘heavenly flesh’ teaching is true, no one during the past 2,000 years could have understood it; the understanding of it would have awaited the development of surrogate motherhood.”
Daniel Segraves, God in Flesh (Kearney, Nebraska: Morris Publishing, 2001), 9.
Segraves, “Response,” 6.
Larry Alred, (Unpublished paper, March 2001), 9.
Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 151-152. “Jesus Christ is Irnrnanuel, which means God found among us in tangible form as promised by God Himself. As Paul teaches us in Acts 20:28, the blood of Christ is of Gal. If the blood is of God, the flesh is also of God.” However, the Scripture actually states, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he path purchased with his own blood.”
Segraves, Response, 6.
Arthur Custance, Two Men Called Adam (Ontario, Canada: Doorway Publications, 1983), 122. “As to the reference to a virgin (and not just to a young woman, as many would like to argue), there is no doubt that virgin is the correct translation in English since Matthew 1:22 and 23 in quoting Isaiah confirms the fact by using a word in Greek which, for the Jews, unequivocally had this meaning.”
William Chalfant, “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 9.
Arthur Custance, The Seed of the Woman (Ontario, Canada: Doorway Publications, 1980), 252. s’ Segraves, Response, 20,
Segraves, Response, 26; Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 149, explains: “As the combination of the breath of God and the dust of the ground became Adam, the combination of ‘the Holy Spirit,’ and ‘the word of God’ that overshadowed Mary was ‘made the heavenly Man-Christ.’ For the word of God says that God prepared the flesh.”
Chalfant, “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 8-9.
Bernard, Interview, November 28, 2001.
Segraves, God in Flesh, 10.
Segraves, “Response,” 5, further states, “Genome,nou is the genitive masculine singular form of the aorist middle deponent participle from gi,nomai. Jesus was made evk spe,rmatoj (ek spermatos, ‘out of the seed’) of David kata. sa,rka (kara sarka, ‘according to the flesh’). That is, so far as the flesh of Jesus is concerned, it was made out of the seed of David. Mary was, of course, the seed, or a descendent, of David.”
Chalfant, “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 12.
Chalfant “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 13.
Alred, Unpublished paper, 5.
Custanee, The Seed of the Woman, 252. As a side note, due to the biblical tradition of passing the blessing of inheritance to the primogeniture, if Mary had given birth to other children before Jesus, “these children could have contested Jesus’ right to the throne of David and therefore His claim to be the Messiah.
Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database under the commentary for Genesis 49:10.
61 Thomas Weinandy, In the Likeness of Sinful Flesh (Edinburgh, Scotland: Trinity Typesetting, 1993), 129.
Hans Schwas, Christology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998), 82.
J. R. Ensey, citing Larry Aired, “Book Review: Bible Writers’ Theology,” Apostolic
World Report, (August/September 2001): 25. Aired. Unpublished paper, 6. “Luke three is the only genealogy of a woman in the
Bible! It is very significant to note that this genealogy goes all the way back to Adam! Why? Genesis 3:5 ‘the seed of the woman.’ The first
Adam was created sinless and fell. The last Adam, Jesus, was conceived by the Holy Ghost and bom without sin and condemned sin in the
flesh. I Corinthians 15:45, Romans 8:3.”
Chalfant, “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 12. “To reject the genealogies simply because one believes they are ‘prevailing Jewish tradition’ and not inspired of God is dangerous. All Scripture is inspired of God. Why reject the genealogies? Let me give you a real reason: the genealogies demonstrate clearly that Jesus was a bonafide member of the Adamic family (bom without a sin nature and also the Son of God). If one is call into question the status of Jesus as a true descendant of Adam, then one has to call the genealogies into question. Matthew by tracing the line of Joseph through Solomon to David is clearly establishing the right of Jesus as a legal adopted son of Joseph to the throne of David. Luke, on the other hand, by giving the genealogy of Mary is establishing a ‘blood’ line to David, Abraham, and finally, Adam.”
Segraves, Hebrews: Volume 1, 28-29, in reference to Romans 8:17.
Levi Wright, “The Biological Aspects of the Incarnation,” (Unpublished paper, 2000), 22-23; Jason B Dulle, “The Dual Nature of Christ,” available from www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/dualnature.him; Internet; accessed April 5, 2002. 20. “Since God physically fathered Jesus through the miraculous conception He is God’s Son in a physical sense. We are only God’s sons in a spiritual sense. Our existence is not dependent on Him. Our being results from the physical union of two human parents. It is only after this that we can become sons of God through the adoption by His Spirit. The difference between Jesus and us, then, is that Jesus’ existence has its dependence on the Father while ours does not. Daniel Segraves expounded on this truth when he said: ‘The miracle of the virgin conception means that deity and humanity were as inseparable in Jesus as the genetic influence of a mother and father is inseparable in their son or daughter. Just as no human being could exist if all that was contributed to his existence by either his father or his mother were removed, so Jesus could not have existed as the Messiah apart from either His deity [contributed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34-35)] or his humanity [contributed by Mary (Galatians 4:4)].”‘
Dulle, “The Dual Nature of Christ.” 17.
John Paterson, God in Christ Jesus (Hazelwood, Misssouri: Word Aflame Press, 1966), 53.
Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 225.
Christian D. Kettle,, The Vicarious Humanity of Christ and the Reality of Salvation, (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1991), 123. When the Logos became flesh, we mean that God Himself became flesh. “Since the emphasis on Hebrews 1:1-3 is on the Incarnation, and the Incarnation did not preexist the conception in Mary’s womb, the point cannot be that Jesus-as God manifest in the flesh-created all things. The creation predated the Incarnation. God created by His spoken word. (See Genesis 1.) There is no hint in Genesis I that the words God spoke in creation are to be identified separately from Him, for they are the utterance or expression of His very person.” (Segraves, Hebrews: Better Things, Volume 1, 29-30)
Kettler, Vicarious Humanity, 199.
Segraves, “Response to Bible Writers’ Theology,” 20.
H. D. McDonald, Jesus: Human & Divine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1968), 38.
Albert Nolan, Jesus Before Humanity (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1992.), 143.
Merrill C. Tenney, Pictorial Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 96.
McDonald, Jesus: Human & Divine, 31.
Weinandy, In the Likeness, 92.
Schwartz, Christology, 233.
Hugh Ross, Beyond the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1996), 104.
Custance, The Seed of the Woman, 338; Raymond Brown, Christ above All( Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1982), 96. “As T.H. Robinson puts it in his exposition of this letter [Hebrews]: ‘His whole life was one of temptation, and the very fact that he had powers and abilities which we do not possess only added to the stress. He was the fullest and most vivid personality that this world has ever known, and the very richness of His human nature exposed Him all the more fully to the assaults of temptation.’ No-one on earth, before or since, has ever been through such spiritual desolation and human anguish. For this reason he can help us in our moments of temptation. He is aware of our needs because he has experienced to the full the pressures and testings of life in this godless world.”
John 1:14; Gezahagne, Bible Writers’ Theology, 145.
John 7:39; 1 L4; 12:16, 23, 28-33; 13:31-32; 17:4-6: Tamel, Forward, 8. “We read that the body that is sown is different from the body that shall be: ‘And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat or of some other grain’ (I Corinthians 15:37). There are some things we know from this verse. First, the body of Christ that was sown, or planted in the ground, was not the same in nature as the body that appeared after His resurrection. If it was the same, He would not be called the firstfruits. The grain that is sown is not the fruit that appears. Second, if Jesus did not change and yet was the firstfruits, then what hope is there that we will change? The word `firstfruits’ implies that there are similar fruits to follow. Jesus was the firstfruits because of a change, and we will be changed as Jesus was at the time of our resurrection. What is the change that this passage describes? It is natural to spiritual, corruptible to incorruptible. If Jesus’ body was not transformed from being like us to being like He is now, then He could not be the firstfruits ”
William Chalfant, Email, April 18, 2002.
Chalfant, Email, 2002.
Bernard, New Birth, 135.
In other words, are we born with sin because afoot humanity, or are we born sinless, with a propensity to sin? This question is essential to answer but goes beyond the scope of this paper.
Daniel Segraves, Hebrews: Better Things, Volume II (Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 1997), Chalfant, Email, 2002.
Alred, Unpublished paper, 15. “Too much time, effort, and sacrifice have been expended by too many godly and dedicated men and women to build up the Kingdom of God, to allow … corruption of the sacrifices of years with false doctrine. We cannot, in good faith, just sit idly by and hope that this will just go away.”
Robert Ratajczak, Interview, April 13, 2002. In reference to I John 2:21-22, Ratajczak reminds us that there will be many who call Jesus “Lord,” but He will not know them (Luke 13:23-3). What if this Scripture saying, “depart from me” is not to other religions, but to us? Doctrine is what differentiates us from them.
n Bernard, Interview, November 28, 2001.
David Bernard, The Oneness of God (Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 1983), 96.
Dulle, “The Dual Nature of Christ,” 10.
McDonald, Jesus: Human & Divine, 37.
Zodhiates, ed. The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible (Chattanooga, Tennessee, AMG Publishers, 1991), 51. The Greek word is homoioma.
Paterson, God in Christ Jesus, 51.
Alred, Unpublished paper, 3. “To say that Jesus possessed some type of divine flesh that could not really be tempted makes mockery of the statement that ‘He can be touched with the feelings of my infinities.’ If Jesus was heavenly flesh He cannot be truly touched, then it automatically follows that He cannot help me when [ am tempted. The scriptural position is, Jesus when tempted always obeyed the wilt of the Spirit and did not sin. Paul makes this point clear in Romans 8:3.”
Douglas R. A. Hare, The Son of Man Tradition (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress, 1990), 48.
Leon Morris, Lord from Heaven (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1964), 51.
Larry Alred, Interview, April 2, 2002. Aired gives an analogy for the ability to sin yet having the ability to abstain from sin: For someone who like strawberries, yet breaks out into hives after eating them, abstains from strawberries. They could eat them, but chose against doing so.
David Bernard, Essential Doctrines of the Bible (Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 1988), 9.
Ross, Beyond the Cosmos, 104.
Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, Third Edition (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 2001),
Custance, The Seed of the Woman, 291.
Chalfant, Email, December 8, 2001.
Daniel L Segraves, Systematic Theology I (Stockton, California: Unpublished, 1997), 7. “The miracle of the virgin conception means that deity and humanity were as inseparable in Jesus as the genetic influence of a mother and father is inseparable in their son or daughter. Just as no human being could exist if all that was contributed to his existence by either his father or his mother were removed, so Jesus could not have existed as the Messiah apart from either His deity [contributed by the Holy Spirit (Luke t:34-35)] or his humanity [contributed by Mary (Galatians 4:4)].”
Readout, “The Proving of the Son” (Unpublished paper, 1995), 2-3.
On this, see p. 609 of Georg Strecker’s Theology of the New Testament. “While Jesus’ death on the cross is not mentioned, it and its atoning effect are still presupposed (cf. 9:2; 10:10; 12-14; 12:2; 13:12).”
Kettler, The Vicarious Humanity of Christ, 128.
Bernard, Interview, November 28, 2001.
Chatfant, Interview. December 8, 2001.
Chalfant, “A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 15.
Hare, Son of Man, 30-31.
David Bernard, Lecture of “New Testament Foundations,” April 10, 2002.
Daniel Segraves, “The Flesh of God,” Presented at the annual Closed Minister’s Meeting, General Conference, Louisville, Kentucky, October 12, 2001.
Chalfant. ‘A Critique of Bible Writers’ Theology,” 11; Bernard, Interview, November 28, 2001. “I asked But. Tekle personally, ‘Do you really believe Jesus died? And he said, ‘Yes,’ which I was very happy to hear, because you have to believe that or there is no atonement. So l asked, ‘If he had a glorified body, how was he able to die?’ He answered, ‘He was. That was God’s plan.’ [I asked,) ‘But, them was no change in His body from after the resurrection? [He answered,] ‘Right.’ He believed that Jesus had this kind of glorified body all the way through, from the beginning. Then my next question was, ‘Does that mean that Jesus could still die, then?’ He said, ‘No.’ I questioned, ‘Why not?’ [He said,] ‘Because it was not the plan of God.’ [ asked, ‘But as far as his physical nature, in principle, you’re saying He could still die.’ If his body didn’t change, if His body was crucified, he died. So what you would have to believe to be consistent is that if a group of Roman soldiers took Him, they could crucify Him again. That would also mean that we would have bodies that are glorified, but in principle, they’re still capable of dying. This doesn’t go along with Scriptures, which say that we will be changed to immortality.”
Daniel Segraves. Pentecostal Herald (February 2002), 20.
It is my personal opinion that because of its tremendous growth and many miracles, the church in Ethiopia has been elevated as the “choice child” in our movement. Because of this, we have made it the paradigmatic church. Due to this elaborate praise, we are finding it difficult to take a stand and say that this doctrine is false and prohibit its teaching worldwide. This is resultant of a fear that we will lose our multi-thousand member church. Kenneth Haney. One God, One World, One Church, One Vision (Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 2001), 57. “As of October, 2001 we now have in foreign countries 28,416 congregations.” According to the UPCI web page (www.upci.org), last updated September 2000, there are 2,293,184 UCPI constituents (26,137 churches) worldwide, with 1,326,684 being in Africa (12,683 churches), “These figures do not include crusade results.” Accessed May 3, 2002.
I am reminded of the last sermon Wayne Rooks preached (May 11, 1997; the Lord took him on May 16, 1997). He told of a lad who found a tiger kitten and took it home to raise. A sage told him that for his own safety, the boy needed to release the kitten. Years passed, and the boy and kitten grew up together. One day the young man and his tiger were playing when the paw grazed the man’s hand. When licking the wound, the animal senses in the tiger were aroused and he killed his owner. There is a real danger to allow our doctrine to be played with as though it were an innocent kitten.
Bobbye Wendell, Interview, April 20, 2002. “It is not enough to simply receive Truth, there also must be a love for it or we may find ourselves in delusion (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). A little leaven leavencth the whole lump, I Corinthians 5:6, even as one drop of poison in a glass of pure water will contaminate the entire contents. We must be guardians of Truth against any doctrinal error. If false doctrine is tolerated in one generation, it will compound in the next generation. We must be vigilant and wise to disallow any belief that undermines the sinless human flesh and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for this is the foundation of our Faith and is our only salvation.”
Bobbye Wendell, Interview, April 20, 2002. “If Truth is diluted, changed in any way, then our evangelistic efforts, no matter how spectacular, will be rendered ineffective for the salvation of souls. There is no Savior but Jesus. His sinless human flesh and atoning blood were given by supreme sacrifice as the only salvation for humankind. May God ever give us courage to love Truth, guard Truth, and share Truth. Anything less will never be enough in light of Calvary. It is not God’s will that any should perish and only Truth will save!” I Corinthians 5:6.
Alred. Unpublished paper. 4.
A result of the divine flesh teaching is the act of re-baptism in which many of the proponents have participated.
Response to “The UPCI and `Divine Flesh�”
Presented by Clifford H. Readout, Jr.
Clifford Readout was converted to Christianity as an Indiana University student in 1971, becoming UPCI’s director of campus ministry for the North Central Region in 1975. In 1977, he became director, dean and teacher for the European School of Discipleship Bible College in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Clifford Readout is currently pastor of the Apostolic Church of Enfield, founder and director of The Foundations Forum, and founding coordinator of Friendship International, He also serves as the Connecticut District Superintendent, and Secretary for Urshan Graduate School of Theology Board of Trustees.
The measure of acceptance within the United Pentecostal Church International, and other Apostolic organizations, of the doctrine expounded in Bible Writer’s Theology is indicative of a failure to establish truth and methods of testing “winds of doctrine” in the hearts and minds of the ministry. At least two of the stated goals of Vonelle Kelly’s paper propose to address this failing, and in some measure do. For this she and her paper should he commended.
The constraints of time and space have proven themselves too great to allow the goals of the paper to be accomplished as adequately as they need to be. They also severely restrict the potential of any response to give proper benefit to the paper. Accordingly, the most significant criticism this paper will offer will be to suggest that too little direct exposition of Scripture is used to refute the errors contained in Bible Writer’s Theology, and too much dependence is given to secondary sources. Kelly’s paper left this author with the impression that she was a bit timid and unsure of her ability to scripturally expose the error herself, This is surely a misleading impression.
The paper’s goals would be better served by its content if it were composed in two sections. The primary section could deal with the obvious exposition of the primary sources of the controversy, i.e., Bible Writer’s Theology and The Bible. The quotes and commentary of other authors would be better left in a secondary section in support of the first. The paper cannot accomplish its goals by reliance upon quotations of secondary sources. The inclusion of the bibliography, and the many footnoted references are helpful for further research into the issue, but the paper makes that further research imperative. It ought to be the end of the research, and, as much as possible, to set the issue at rest by exposition of the authoritative sources. The issue can be decided only by direct examination of the scriptures involved. Again, the constraints of time and space make this a difficult task, indeed, so this complaint must not be taken too seriously.
It needs to be clarified that there are other doctrines which claim that Christ’s flesh was, in some sense, “divine,” but which thoroughly oppose the doctrine this paper calls “divine flesh.” The doctrine in question does not simply espouse the idea that Christ’s flesh was “divine,” but rather that there was no human component in His flesh, that there was no biological relationship between Christ and any human being, that there was nothing of Adam, Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, or Mary, or any of the human race, in Him. In fact, every argument against this doctrine which maintains the deity of Christ must incorporate some measure of divinity in the flesh of Christ! If the Word became flesh, if that flesh was conceived in the womb of a virgin, made of a woman, and if no human father contributed genetic material to that flesh’s conception, then that flesh is not precisely like all flesh since Adam. Neither is it flesh like Adam’s, since Adam’s flesh was formed from the dust of the ground, and none of it was the Word become flesh. Believers must acknowledge the distinctive origin and uniqueness of the flesh of Jesus Christ as defined in the scriptures. This acknowledgement may require that believers not easily reject “divine flesh” as a concept worthy of consideration, while demanding that we completely reject the doctrine defined by this paper as “divine flesh.” This paper will speak more on the need for definitions later.
A few detailed comments may be of value to a future revision of the paper and help it accomplish its stated goals.
The statement “Earthly man’s experience including temptations are a result of inherited sinful nature.” (Gezahagne, Bible Writer’s Theology, 157) needs to be countered with a simple question: “When did Adam “inherit” a sinful nature to allow him to be tempted in the garden of Eden?”
The doctrine of “divine flesh” contradicts its own tenets. It was specified that the purpose of the temptations of Jesus Christ “was not for Him to have a choice to sin, but was for our example,” but this is an impossibility. If humans have a disability which Jesus Christ lacks (the ability to choose to sin), His “overcoming” that disability could not be an example for humanity. Similarly, a man with two good legs walking cannot be an example of overcoming the disability of a legless man.
The whole issue of whether Christ had ability or inability to choose to sin has not been satisfactorily answered, in spite of several authors assuming their arguments to be conclusive. The desire to “protect” the deity of Christ often leads to nullification of various components of His humanity. The inability to answer every “what if” question causes some to propose doctrine which denies Christ the ability to choose. And this denial is a primary tenet of the “divine flesh” doctrine. If He hadn’t the same abilities of a human being, then He must not have been a human being like Adam, and certainly not like Adam’s offspring. But, even in his perfection, Adam had ability to choose to disobey God. The humanity of Christ must have shared that ability for the full testimony of Hebrews 2:17 about Him to be true. The question, “What would have happened if He had sinned?” cannot be answered, nor need it be. It probably ought not be asked! It is, at best, an irrelevancy, and at worst, an objection to the humanity of Christ. He did not sin. If He “could not,” He also “could not” he an example of overcoming for a man who “could.” One does not overcome the doing of that which is impossible for him to do.
P.4-B-Sinful Nature, and throughout the paper:
This section contains a reference to Hebrews 10:5, saying that it “states that God prepared a body for Jesus…” This idea may be challenged, and should be, due to its importance in the doctrine. “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” It is a passage requiring much more examination by Apostolics, not only in English, but also in the Greek of the New Testament and the Septuagint, and the Hebrew of Psalm 40:6, which seems to be its Old Testament reference.
Hebrews 10:5, TR: sw/ma de. kathrti,sw moi “a body hast thou prepared me”
Psalm 40:6, WTT BHS: (yLi t’yrIK’ -yln:z>a) “mine ears hast thou opened” Psalm 39:7, LXX: (wvti,a de. kathrti,sw moi) “mine ears hast thou opened”
This text, which the “divine flesh” doctrine abuses, needs further examination. Several factors, most often overlooked, need to he considered:
1. Messiah makes this statement “when he cometh into the world,” not before the “preparation” of the body. It is not a preexistent Messiah speaking about a body God would in the future make for Him, but Messiah speaking about the reality and purpose of His existence. Nothing in the text itself indicates that the “preparation” of the body is “for” Messiah.
2. The most likely force of the text, in harmony with the context, is that Messiah IS a body “prepared” to satisfy the desire of God, which other sacrifices and sin offerings could not do.
3. How does the language of Paul’s inspired rendering not conflict with the inspired text he quotes? It seems manifest that Paul references the Greek of the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew, basing his quote on the verb “prepared” (kathrti,sw). The lexical definition of the corresponding Hebrew verb includes the idea of preparing as “making able to hear, hence obey” and “to complete.” The verb is used elsewhere in the New Testament only in Matthew 21:16, quoting Psalm 8:2 (Psalm 8:3 in the LXX), where the corresponding Hebrew verb carries the force of “establishing” or “laying a foundation.” Each of these aspects of the Greek and Hebrew verbs are forceful themes throughout the New Testament, relating specifically to the humanity of Jesus Christ.
a. The body was completed by God to be Messiah, rather than brought into existence whole. The Word became flesh by providing the complement of genetic material lacking in the egg cell of the virgin, which initiates the conception of a son in her womb. This is the preparation of a sin offering, a sacrifice acceptable to God, which could accomplish what the blood of bulls and goats could not. An interesting companion idea exists in the use of another set of verbs translated “prepared”(1 Corinthians 2:9, Isaiah 64:4, Isaiah 64:3 in the LXX, and Luke 2:31).
b. The body thus prepared is also established as the foundation stone, rejected of men but chosen of
c. The relationship of the verb “wouldest not” to the “will of God” (as defined by the use of the word telema), is also a fruitful avenue of investigation, and proves contradictory to the “divine flesh” doctrine.
It is commonly overlooked that there is a notable absence of limiting words in Acts 2:38. The text does not specify that baptism is “for the remission of [your] sins,” or “for the remission of [inherited] sins,” or even “for the remission of [personal] sins.” Can we really understand the text, and the purpose and result of baptism, if we understand it only as though there were such limitations?
The idea that “we actually put on the flesh of Christ” in baptism, an important theme in Bible Writer’s Theology, contradicts I Corinthians 15:52 (We still need to be changed), I John 3:1-3 (We are not yet, but we shall be, like Him), and 2 Corinthians 5:2-4 (We still have a house we desire to put on). If a change does not actually occur at baptism, the doctrine errs in teaching that one does.
P.8, H-Genealogy: Adam, Abraham, and David:
More emphasis should be placed on the fact that the proponents of the “divine flesh” doctrine require an extra-Biblical revelation. Their teaching demands that even the divinely inspired writers of the genealogies were deluded by thinking they were writing truth.
P.9, I-Mary: Mother of Jesus:
The doctrine’s rejection of biological relationship to Mary is based on the insistence that “Jesus could not be pure with Mary as his biological mother.” There is a footnote reference (76) to an unpublished paper by Levi B. Wright, Jr., The Biological Aspects of the Incarnation, which offers insights from current research to explain how it is biologically possible for Jesus Christ to have received half of His genes from Mary without receiving any taint of sin from them. Some simple facts may suffice: The egg cell of Mary could not become a human being without the addition of twenty three other chromosomes. In the combining of the twenty three pairs of chromosomes, one of each pair of genes is either “turned on or off.” The statement that Christ is the express image of God’s person (Hebrews 1:3) may well be an accurate biological description, that is, that only the genes provided by the Word’s becoming flesh were expressed. The Greek “monogeneh” (only begotten, John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9) may also be a precise biological term indicative of “unique genes.” This points out a rather significant distinction between Jesus Christ and the rest of us. He not only differs from us in being without sin, but none of us have genes which are the Word become flesh. He is also not a fleshly container for God. Each cell of His body existed only by virtue of twenty three chromosomes which were God manifest in flesh combined with those of Mary. In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. God did not give the Spirit by measure unto Him as He does to every other man. Jesus Christ is not altogether like other human beings, He is unique, the Monogeneh.
P. 20-21, C’-Sinful Nature:
The question of the means of the transmission of the “sin nature” from one generation to another has not been adequately investigated within the Apostolic movement. Neither can it be, until we arrive at a scriptural definition of what we mean when we say “sin nature.” Adoption and use of undefined, and unscriptural terminology cannot avoid resulting in misconceptions, helping to make heresy palatable, and perhaps even encouraging its development. If we assume that the Bible is incompatible with science correctly so called, or that its terminology must not be considered scientifically accurate, we may never see the truth of the matter. If the biological language of the Bible is accepted-and the proponents of the “divine flesh” doctrine cannot allow this-we may discover that the transmission of sin from generation to generation is through the father’s genetic material. If the evidence for this is expounded, most of the arguments against a biological relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary are eliminated completely.
Some of the difficulty which has allowed the “divine flesh” doctrine to become a problem is certainly the lack of proper definitions, and use of patently unscriptural terminology. It must be acknowledged that we do not have adequate language to express the results of many scriptural investigations. If we cannot be content with the terminology of the Bible, and it is occasionally theologically difficult to do so, we must be sure to give an adequately thorough scripturally-based definition of the terminology we choose to use. What texts justify use of the term, and support the definition? Speaking and writing things like “Certainly the divine part of Jesus could not sin and could not even be tempted to sin (James 1:13),” and the following, “The human part of Jesus, when viewed alone, theoretically had the capacity to sin.” which are quoted in the paper, present seriously flawed concepts. Are we able to make such distinctions, divisions in the Christ? Does He have “parts” which can be viewed alone? Was there any humanity of Christ without the inclusion of the Word become flesh? No. Mary’s egg cell did not have the capacity to become a human being without the complement of the Word becoming flesh. So also Christ did not come into existence without the complement of Mary’s egg cell. There never was a time in His fleshly existence that His deity and humanity were separate. His was a unique existence, and every attempt to define or describe Him in common concepts will fail. He is the Monogeneh. No one else has been, will be, or can be the Monogeneh!
The entire subject at hand could benefit from an examination of the scripturally expressed reasons for the Word becoming flesh (Hebrews 2:9, 17 and Romans 8:3, among others). It will be revealed that He became flesh specifically to enable Him to die, to serve as the high priest for humanity, and to overcome and condemn sin in the flesh. None of these purposes have any significance if not accomplished by human flesh.
Christ’s flesh had to have the fullest human capacity to die and return to dust. Otherwise, the words “neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,” referenced in seven verses (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27, Acts 2:31, Acts 13:34-37), are completely meaningless: “Neither wilt thou allow thine Holy One to experience what he could never experience.” The doctrine of “divine flesh” as recorded in Bible Writer’s Theology makes a complete mockery of these texts.
If Christ overcame sin through His divinity (as would be the only possibility if His flesh was entirely of deity with no human genetic contribution), rather than through human submission to divine authority, then the whole drama of redemption becomes a tragic farce. Christ’s human victory over death-the end result of sin-hell, the destiny of the sinner, and the grave-the destiny of the fleshly body-does two things:
1.It pays the full price for all of the results of God’s creating, i.e. it purchases redemption; and
2.It offers humans a hope of holiness in this life through a perfecting process.
If this hope really does not exist, and our holiness cannot result from and in our humanity, but only by divine power being exercised in us, then why was any such price necessary? God could have more easily and effectively applied the power without the price. The fact that even the redeemed still fail demonstrates the reality that overcoming only results from the human submitting to the divine, rather than by the divine overruling the human.
Finally, this paper will consider further investigation into the historical background of the objections raised by the “divine flesh” doctrine. Fellow respondent John Flowers touches lightly on the theological weakness of the Coptic Church. There is more which ought to be researched. The Coptic Church’s birth can be traced to rejection of definitions adopted by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. The Ethiopian contingent, in particular, objected to the concept and definition of the “dual nature” of Christ codified there.
Teklemariam was the first minister in our fellowship I spoke with about this issue who knew when, where and how the “dual nature” terminology came to be accepted Christian doctrine. My historical research indicated that it was the Trinitarian answer to objections offered by those believers inclined to reject the developing doctrine of the Trinity. The Coptic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and others, completely reject the concept of a “dual natured” Christ. Brother Teklemariam has an Ethiopian Orthodox background, and the doctrine he teaches in Bible Writer’s Theology is a complete rejection of “dual nature” terminology. However, the fact that it objects to something which deserves rejection does not make it true in itself. There is a better answer, a correct answer to reasonable questions.
While it may be true that Oneness theologians intend something different than the theological definition of the term adopted at Chalcedon, the church have not adequately defined the “dual nature” to eliminate its inherent misconceptions. This phrase encourages, perhaps even demands, that opposing doctrines arise among us. Unfortunately, in the end, only one of these opposing doctrines is not heretical, and this truth has not yet established it in the hearts and minds of our ministry. We mean to say that Jesus Christ was uniquely both God and Man, the Monogeneh, the Word become flesh, God manifest in the flesh, the dwelling of all the fulness of the godhead bodily, Immanuel, God with us, rather than Negdanuel, God against us! If one must use the word nature, can believers not be satisfied by defining Him as having one unique nature, which is the result of Him being the Monogeneh, the One and Only Son which is both OF God and OF Man, and keep Him One and indivisible?
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