TRINITY: IS IT BIBLICAL TRUTH OR HERESY?
By Brandon Stephens
Findlay, IL 09 May, 2001
1. Oneness (Modalism) theology defined……2
2. Trinitarianism defined……2
3. Examining Oneness and Trinity in early writings….4
4. Jesus is God in the Old and New Testament….8
5. Scriptural contrast of the Trinity and Oneness Theology…17
6. Trinity fact or fiction….21
7. Mystery or confusion….22
1. Oneness (Modalism) theology defined
2. Trinitarianism defined
3. Examining Oneness and Trinity in early writings
A. Transeus and Arius
B. Emperor Theodius
C. Michael Servetus
D. John Biddle
E. Emperor Constantine
4. Jesus is God in the Old and New Testaments
B. Let us make man (Gen. 1:26)
C. The Baptism of Christ
D. The voice from Heaven
5. Scriptural contrast of the Trinity and Oneness Theology
A. Matthew 28:19
B. Isaiah 9:6
C. John 5:43
D. John 10:30
E. John 14:6-11
F. Colossians 1:19: 2:9 G. 1 John 5:7
6. Trinity factor fiction
7. Mystery or confusion
A. Who is God?
B. Are Jesus and God Co-equal
The Trinitarian controversy is one of the most crucial events in the annals of Christendom. World renowned Christian historian Edward Gibbon points out that the Trinitarian controversy, which raged particularly during the fourth century, has successively penetrated every part of the Christian world.’
On one hand, the Pauline Church (currently known as the Roman Catholic Church) has for centuries fought for the global acceptance of the Trinitarian doctrine. The idea of Trinity is the nucleus of the Athanasian Creed that states that:
“There is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty coeternal… The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. Yet they are not three Gods, but one God … For like as we compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there are three Gods, or three Lords.” 2
The nature of this creed has for centuries been so controversial and mysterious that even its own author, Athanasius of Alexandria, one of the principal leaders of the Pauline church, failed to comprehend it. This champion of Trinity himself confessed that, “Whenever he forced his understanding to meditate on the divinity of the Logos, his toilsome and unveiling efforts recoiled on themselves; that the more he taught, the less he comprehended; and the more he wrote, the less capable was he of expressing his thoughts.” 3
The nature of the Trinity is so mysterious that, as Edward Gibbon remarks, “as often as we deduce any positive conclusions from a negative idea, we are involved in darkness, perplexity, and inevitable contradiction.” On the other hand, the Apostolic Church has over the years advocated the belief in the
1Gibbon, E The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Vols. I & II, ed. New York: AMS Press Inc, 1974.
2Renwick, A.M. The Story• of the Church_ Bristol: Inter-Varsity- Press. 1977
3Gibbon_ E. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Vols. I& II. ed. New York: AMS Press Inc, 1974.
Unity’ of God, and as such ruled out the deity of Jesus. Among those who originally opposed the Trinitarian doctrine were the Ebionites of Nazarenes. They considered Jesus the greatest of the prophets. endowed with supernatural virtues and power.
The mysteries of the Christian faith were dangerously exposed to public debate when Arius, the champion of Apostolic Church, popularly confronted Bishop Alexander, of the Pauline Church. These two were in theological dispute for six years – from 318 A.D. through 325 A.D. Arius, the disciple of Lucian of Antioch, the greatest critic of the Trinitarian doctrine, strongly advocated the view that God is absolutely One and alone Eternal. Such view, which conformed to the original teachings of Jesus and all other prophets, had definitely exposed the Trinitarian doctrine to a critical, controversial state. This, however, did not stop the Pauline Church form gaining control of large of Christendom.
Oneness (modalism) theology defined
The Oneness theology teaches there is only one God. That God is numerically singular that Jesus Christ is that One God. With Duet. 6:4 as their proclamation, they reject any notion of unity that would change the numerical one from its strict singular meaning. Oneness Theology, excludes the modem doctrine of the trinity. This statement leads to at least two historical questions. First, it the Trinitarian dogma is not biblical, when and how did it become part of Christendom? Second, what beliefs about God does the earliest post biblical Christian writings express-Oneness, Trinicarianism, or something else?4
Several different names know those who observe an Oneness Theology. They commonly call themselves “Apostolic” or “Jesus’ name” churches. Most outsiders call them “oneness,” “Jesus-only,” “modalists,” “monarchianists,” “Sabellians,” etc. By far, the largest oneness group is the United Pentecostal Church International (UPC, or UPCI).
Perhaps the easiest way to define a Oneness theology would be to make sonic comparisons. First let us compare it with Mormonism. Mormons teach a polytheistic view of God in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit arc each three different Gods. That is three persons in three Gods, one person
4David K., Bernard. Oneness and Trinity. A.D. 100-300: the doctrine of God in ancient Christian writings Hazelwood, MO.: Word Aflame Press 1991
for each God or what is known as Tritheism (a form of polytheism). On the other hand, Oneness Theology teaches only one person in one God_ With the belief that the Father and the Holy Spirit are merely different “Manifestations” or ‘modes” of the one God, Jesus. This is what is formally called modalism.
The modern day version of a Oneness theology got its start at a Pentecostal camp meeting in April 1913 with one man’s “revelation” that baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 208) was the only correct way to adhere to Jesus command to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). This error concerning water baptism. led others to a conclusion that Jesus Christ is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Out of this they developed the notion that the Trinitarian view of the Godhead was a pagan invention of the early church councils.
As stated above, Oneness Theology sees the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as mere “modes” or “manifestations” of God in various activities. During the creation, God is seen as the “Father” (Deuteronorn2., 32:6; Malachi 2:10; Galatians 4:6; Hebrews 1:5; 12:9); during the incarnation, God is seen as the “Son” (Luke 135; Galatians 4:4 Hebrews 1:5-6); and when working in people, God is seen in the “Holy Spirit” (Genesis 1:1-2; Acts 1:5-8). In sum, the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit describe God’s multiple roles and works, but they do not reflect an essential thereness in God’s nature.
Trinitarianism is the belief that there is “one God in three persons “5 or “three persons in one substance.”6 The names of these three persons are God the Father, God the Son (or Word), and God the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit). The three persons arc distinctions in God’s very being, not simply
5 “Trinity Holy”..” The New Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw Hill, 1961
6Van Harvey. A Handbook of Theological Terms. New York: Macmillan, 1964_
manifestations or distinctions of activity..? “There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence … In this one Divine Being there is three persons or individual subsistence. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”‘
Orthodox Trinitarian doctrine holds that the three divine persons arc (1) coequal in power and attributes, (2) coeternal in the past, present, and future, and (3) consubstantial-that is, in each person the same divine substance or essence is fully contained .9 Each person has one unique characteristic when viewed in relation to the others: the Father is begotten, the Son is begotten or generated, and the Spirit is proceeding.° Trinitarians may say that the uniqueness of the Father is displayed in creation that of the Son in redemption, and that of the Spirit in sanctification, yet all three actively share in each work, with varying stress of functions.’
Modern Trinitarianism is a doctrine formulated in the 4th century to describe the view of some leading churchmen concerning the nature and relationship of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It was first officially affirmed in a series of creeds: The Nicene Creed (325 ad), The Constantinopolitan Creed (381 ad), and the Athanasian Creed (5′ century ad).
Examining Oneness and Trinity in early writings
The Trinitarian view of Christianity came into being many years after the resurrection of Jest’s. Undoubtedly, Jesus did not profess it nor by the other prophets. In fact, the true followers of Jesus continued to affirm the Oneness of God until about PO A.D. This belief in the Unify of God was manifested in the Shepherd of Hernias, which the earlier Christians wrote during this period and regarded
7Williarri Stevens. Doctrines of the Christian Religion. Nashville: Broadman 1967.
8Louis Berkhott Systematic Theology Reprint. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941.
9Charles Hodge. Systematic Theology Reprint. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
10 Otto Heick. A History of Christian Thought. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965.
11Trinity, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.
12Calvin Beisner. God In Three Persons. Wheaton, IL.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1984
as a book of revelation.” Besides its precept on the Oneness of God, this scripture also contains other related commandments on sincerity, truthfulness, purity, patience, uprightness, piety and self-control. More specifically, the first of these commandments states:
“First, believe that God is One and that He created all things and organized them out of what did not exist made all things to be, and He contains all things but alone is Himself un contained. Trust Him therefore and fear Him, and fearing Him he self-controlled. Keep this command and you will cast away from yourself all wickedness, Put on every virtue up uprightness, and you will live to God if you keep this commandment.”
The Apostles Creed “I believe in God the (Father) Almighty” began to be known to the earlier Christians in 12L A.D. and 210 A.D. Most of the Apostolic Church leaders condemned this innovation, for they found it abominable to inject new ideas into the original teachings of Jesus. One early leader of the Apostolic Church was Iranaeus, who succeeded bishop Pothinus of Lyons in 177 A.D. In 190 A.D., Iranaeus wrote to Pope Victor to stop the massacre of dissenting Christians whose belief did not agree with the doctrine of the Rome-based Pauline Church. Iranaeus believed in One God and supported the doctrine of the manhood of Jesus.
Iranaeus and The rest of the early Unitarians abhorred the Trinitarian dogma, being a deviation from the pristine teachings of Jesus. Before 200 A.D. the term “Trinity” was not at all known to the Pauline Church. “Trinity” was derived from the Latin word Trinitas, which was first used by Tertullian in 200 A.D. to explain in Latin ecclesiastical writings the strange doctrine of the Pauline Church.” Tertullian belonged to the African Church. He believed in the unity of God and identified Jesus with the Jewish Messiah. He opposed Pope Callistus for teaching that capital sin could be forgiven after doing canonical penance. Tertullian was the one who opened the way for a doctrine of salvation.
13 Ali, A.A.W. The Christ As Seen in the Sources of the Christian Beliefs. Cairo: Wahba Bookshop, 1985.
14Oneness and Trinitv.A.D. 100-300: The doctrine of God in Ancient Christian Writings. HazleWood MO.: Word Aflame Press, 1991.
Indeed, those who belonged to the Apostolic Church accepted the Plain meaning of the words spoken by Jesus as embodied in the earlier scriptures. Without resorting to mysterious dogmas, they continued to uphold the article of faith “I believe in God, the Almighty” until 250 A.D. In his attempt to refute the Trinitarian View of Christianity, Lactaneus (orthodox father) Wrote in 310 A.D. that “Christ never calls himself God.” In 320 A.D., Esuebius of Nicomedia wrote, “Christ teaches us to call his father the true God and worship Him.”
These early Unitarian leaders were courageous enough to expose their views to refute the Trinitarian dogmas, in spite of the persecution campaign against them. Their real champion, however, was Arius who in 318 AD. popularly opposed the Pauline view that Jesus was in reality the “Son of God” and “consubstantial and coeternal with the father.”‘-5 One argument propagated by Anus was “If Jesus were in reality the ‘Son of God’, then it followed that the father must have existed before him (the son). Therefore, there must have been a time when the son (Jesus) did not exist. Therefore, it followed that the son was a creature composed of an essence or being which had not always existed. Since God is in essence Eternal and Ever-existent, Jesus could not be the same essence as God.” In 321 A.D., Arius popularly confronted Bishop Alexander the forerunner of the Pauline Church. In refuting the Trinitarian belief, Anus argued that “God is absolutely One … God is alone Unchangeable and Unalterable, and that His being is hidden in eternal mystery from the outward eye of every creature.”I6 Four years later (in 325 A.D.), Emperor Constantine convened the First General Council at Nicea. 318 bishops attended this Council from Spain to Persia. Emperor Constantine allegedly aimed at reconciling chose who were involved in the Trinitarian controversy. Bishop Alexander, however, could not attend this Council, so he delegated Athanasius to represent him and the Pauline Church. Although the Council ratified the Trinitarian Creed, the pro-Arians continued to practice their own Unitarian views.
15M. Hart. The Top 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. New York. Hart Publishing Co.1978.
I6Renwick, A.M. The Story of the Church, Bristol: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977.
In 380 A.D., Emperor Theodius of Rome made the Orthodox faith obligatory for all his subjects, so the state religion since then. By 381, the Council of Constantinople, the second General Council that 186 bishops attended, gave the finishing touch to the doctrine of three persons in one God. Emphatically, this Council asserted the godhead of the Holy Spirit. By 333 A.D., Theodosius threatened to punish all who would not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. This threat, however, did not result in the total destruction of the Arian tenets.
Another outspoken critic of the Trinitarian doctrine during the 16th century was Michael Servetus, whom many regarded as the founder of modern Unitarianism.” He at a time when the Roman Catholic Church was is chaos. This situation caused the emergence of the Protestant reformists such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Servetus, however, found the reformists’ views fundamentally at variance with the teachings of Jesus particularly that of the belief in the Unity of God. So, in 1531 A.D., he published a book entitled “The Errors of Trinity,” in which he writes: ‘The philosophers have invented a third separate being truly and really distinct from the other two, which they call the third person, or the Holy Spirit, three beings in one nature … Admitting therefore these three, which after their fashion they all Persons, they freely admit a plurality of beings, a plurality of essences, a plurality of substances, and taking the word God strictly, they will have a plurality of Gods.”17 Because of his relentless belief in the Oneness of Cod, they threw Servetus into prison in Geneva on a charge of heresy.
In the 17th century, John Biddle published a pamphlet entitled: ‘Twelve Arguments Refuting the Deity of the Holy Spirit.” In 1645 A.D., they imprisoned Biddle for his Unitarian View. Later they summoned him to appear before Parliament, but he firmly denied the deity of the Holy Spirit. In 1648 A.D., they passed a “severe ordinance” stating that “anyone who denied the Trinity, or the divinity of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, would suffer death without the benefit of the clergy.”
In today’s modern world, those who cling to the Trinitarian doctrine identify themselves as Christians largely to quench their thirst for religion. Most of them do not deny the mysterious nature of the Trinity, which is lacking human logic and scientific explanation. This emanates from the fact that it
17Earl Morse Wilburn, trans. 1932; rpt. New York: Kraus Reprint 1969.
was the masterpiece of Athanasius In other words, it was a human innovation of the worst kind, which is nothing bur blasphemy against God and His Unitarian attribute. Unfortunately, most of the Christians are not even aware that such a mysterious doctrine was so controversial for many centuries, particularly during the reign of Emperor Constantine. Many Christians only know Constantine as a “hero.” Let it be known, however, that Constantine – largely due to political consideration – was merely one of those who played roles of various sorts on the Trinitarian controversy. In fact, other Roman emperors and key religious leaders in Christendom – particularly during the fourth century – were involved in the Trinitarian crisis in one way or another.
Jesus is God in the Old and New Testaments
The most commonly used Hebrew word of God is Elohim. This is the original word in almost every Old Testament passage where we see the English word God. It is the plural form of the Hebrew word Eloah, which means God or deity.18
Most scholars agree that the use of the plural word Elohim suggests God’s greatness or His multiple attributes; it does not imply a plurality of persons or personalities. The Jews certainly do not see the plural for as compromising their strong monotheism. Flanders and Cresson explain that the plural usage in Hebrew has a certain function other than to show plurality: “The form of the word, Elohim, is plural. The Hebrews pluralized nouns to express greatness or majesty.19
The Bible itself reveals that the only way to understand the plural form of Elohim is that it expresses God’s majesty and not a plurality in the Godhead, both by its insistence on one God and by its use of Elohim in situations that definitely portrays only one person or personality.20 For example, Elohim identifies the singular manifestation of God in human form to Jacob (Genesis 32:30). The Israelites used the word Elohim for the golden calf they made in the wilderness (Exodus 32:4, 5, 8, 19-20, 24, 35). The
18David K. Bernard. The Oneness of God Hazlewood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1981
19Henry Flanders and Bruce Cresson. Introduction to the Bible. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1973.
20Gordon Magee. Is Jesus in the Godhead or is the Godhead in Jesus? Hazlewood, MO.: Word Aflame Press, 1998
Old Testament often uses Elohim for singular pagan gods such as Baalberith (Judges 8:33), Chemosh (Judges 11:24), Dagon (Judges 16:23), Baalzebub (II Kings 1:2-3), and Nisroch (II Kings 19:37).21 So the word Elohim does not suggest three persons in the Godhead. Only one being called Elohim wrestled with Jacob, only one golden calf was called Elohim, and one Lord Jesus Christ is God made manifest in flesh. Its basic meaning is “strong one, a mighty leader, supreme deity.” The form of the word is plural, indicating plentitude of power and majesty and allowing for the NT revelation of the tri-unity of the Godhead.
The classic expression of the doctrine of one God is found in Deuteronomy 6:4. “Hear, 0 Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.” This verse of Scripture has become the most distinctive and important statement of faith for the Jews. They call it the Schema. Many other Old Testament verses of Scripture emphatically affirm strict monotheism. The Ten Commandments begin with, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). God emphasized this command by stating that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). In Deuteronomy 32:39, “God said there is no other god with him, there is none like the LORD and there is no God beside Him”; (II Samuel 7:22; I Chronicles 17:20). He alone is God (Psalm 86:10). There are emphatic declarations of God in Isaiah.
“Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:10-11).
“I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).
“Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any” (Isaiah 44:8).
“I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself” (Isaiah 44:24).
“There is none beside me. I am the LORD and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:6).
“There is no God else beside me; a just God and a savior; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:21-22).
21The Oneness of God. Hazlewood, MO.: Word Aflame Press, 1981
“0 LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou halt made heaven and earth” (Isaiah 37:16).
In short, the Old Testament speaks of God about being one. Often the Bible calls God the Holy One (Psalm 71:22; 78:41; Isaiah 1:4; 5:19; 5:240 , but never the “holy two, the holy three,” or the holy many.”
As we have seen, the whole Bible teaches a strict monotheism. God’s people have always been identified with the one-God message. God chose Abraham because of his willingness to forsake the gods of his nation and his father and to worship the one true God (Genesis 12:1-8). God chastised Israel every time she began to worship other gods, and polytheistic worship was one main reason that God finally sent her into captivity (Acts 7:43). The savior came to the world through a nation (Israel) and through a religion (Judaism) in which the people had finally purged themselves of polytheism. They were throughly monotheistic.
Oneness apologists claim that Deuteronomy 6:4 denies the Trinity’. Deuteronomy 6:4 does nor deny the Trinity, but rather affirms one of the tenets of the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that there is “one God.” Quite often, those who argue against the Trinity do not understand the doctrine of the Trinity well enough to explain it. Much less refutes it. They exaggerate and distort the doctrine of the Trinity into something that can be easily dispelled. That is known as the straw men’s fallacy. The name of the straw man’s fallacy comes from the idea that if you set up a straw man, he is easier to knock it down. In dealing with Deu. 6:4, the oneness apologists set up a distorted straw man view of the Trinity and then knock it down. They darn that the Trinity is a belief in three Gods to make the doctrine contradict the Bible.
Gen 1:26 “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing creepeth upon the earth.”
To whom was God speaking? Was the Father speaking to the son? Or was the Son speaking to the Father? Was it the Holy Ghost speaking to the “other two?” Is there a proper interpretation of this verse that does not divide God into separate persons? It should be noted, the more knowledgeable advocates of the triune doctrine do not often use Genesis 1:26 to further the Trinitarian suggestion, but merely show an allowance for the doctrine in a “New Testament revelation.” Perhaps reconciling who is speaking to whom in Genesis 1:26 is difficult for them, since a purely Trinitarian defense of this scripture may suggest
tritheism rather than co-subsistence.
H.C. Leupold, a staunch Trinitarian, somewhat angrily declares in his commentary ‘Exposition of Genesis’, “The hortative ‘Let is make,’ is particularly striking because it is plural. Though most commentators of our day reject the view that this is to be explained about the truth of the Holy Trinity and treat this so-called Trinitarian view as a very negligible quantity, yet, rightly consider, this is the only view that can satisfy.” Leopold continues, “K.C. Koeing (another commentator who is Trinitarian), may brush it aside with the briefest remark to the effect that the number three cannot be expressed by the plural.’ yet he like many others labors under misunderstanding of the Trinitarian view.”
Leupold then continues, “Those that hold a reference to the Trinity is involved does not mean to say that the truth of the Holy Trinity is here fully and plainly revealed.” Then Leopold confesses, But they do not hold that God speaks out of the fullness of His powers and His attributes in a fashion which man could never employ.” So we see that Elohim refers not to the Trinity in Three persons. but to the fullness of the Godhead as one God, manifested in the fullness of His powers and attributes, both moral and natural.
Ryrie in his Study Bible points out, “Vs. 1:26, us…our is plurals of majesty. Image…likeness is interchangeable terms (Gen. 5:3) indicating that man was created in a natural and moral likeness to God. When he sinned, he lost the moral likeness, which was his sinlessness, but the natural likeness of intellect, emotions, and will he still retains (Gen. 9:6, James 3:9).”
Matthew Henry Commentary says, “Man was to be a creature different from all that had been hitherto made. Flesh and spirit, heaven and earth, must be put together in him. God said, ‘Let us make man.’ Man, when he was made, was to glorify the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Into that great name we are baptized, for to that great name we owe our being. It is the soul of man that especially bears God’s image.” It is amazing how dose some Trinitarians come to Oneness doctrine and baptismal formula.
From the above comments we should understand that God, in Genesis chapter one, was a Spirit. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). Also understand that God, as a Spirit, had no flesh and bones. Note the words of Jesus, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39).
The question arises, how could God come to earth and redeem humanity on the cross of Calvary when He had no body to be crucified! The answer was to beget a body of flesh on earth. How? Through the virgin birth by Mary of the One named Jesus… Emmanuel…God with us. (Matt. 1:23), “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” This body born in Bethlehem was a male child, a son, the Son or Body of God. Where was the Father? He was in Heaven, but was also in Christ. Note Cor. 5:19), “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself…” Jesus was God manifest in flesh. Also (I Tim 3:16), “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness”: God was manifest in the flesh. Where was the Holy Ghost? He also was in Christ. Why and how? Because God in One.
One God and One person. The One and the Same. Inseparable. Not coequal with other persons but One and only One. One person. Jesus is the Father. Jesus is the Son and the Holy Ghost. Elohim all that God is. The fullness of the Godhead is in Jesus Christ. (Colossians 2:9) declares plainly, “For in him dwelled’ all the tidiness of the Godhead bodily.” Ryie comments on this verse, “In Jesus Christ, deity dwelt in His earthly body-a strong statement of the deity and humanity if the God-man.”
So why say “us” and not “me?” (Gen. 1:26). God needed an image after which to mold the first man, Adam. That image was Jesus Christ. ( Romans 5:14), “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” God looked into the future and saw Jesus and formed Adam after his image_ Therefore God said. “let us make man in our own image”: so that man would possess the spiritual or moral attributes of God, and the physical or natural attributes of God in flesh, Jesus Christ. Thus man is not a spirit being only, but a physical being as well. Body, soul, and spirit. (I Thes. 5:23). If God had made man in his image (spirit) only, then man would be spirit only.
Note (Gen. 1:27), “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; lade and female created he them.” It is interesting to see the verse twenty-seven saying that Can created man in his own image, nut their own image. The clarification has already been made and understood in verse twenty-six. Consider (Hebrews 1:2-3), “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his San, whom he hall’ appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, ?”
God looked into the future by His foreknowledge and saw His Son, the body that would redeem the world. That body was the flesh of God. God fashioned Adam after that body so that man would not just be a spirit as God is a spirit, but would posses physical attributes as well. Therefore God said, “Let us….” Spirit and flesh. Created in God’s own image. Man will now posses the moral (spiritual) and natural attributes of His Father the creator, God.
Note (Col. 1:15), as it refers to Jesus, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature”: So, who created man! He? Them? They? Ease the confusion. Believe in only One Creator. The “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ehp. 4:6). (Col. 1:16), refers to Jesus, saying “For Ice him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him”:
Also note (Isaiah -14:24), “Thus saith the LORD, thin redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretched’ forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself”;
Are there “three persons” in the Godhead or “three titles” for one person? A man can be a husband to his wife, a son to his father, and a father to his son. Is he three persons? Or is he one person with three titles? He will relate to his wife in one manner. He will treat his son in a different manner and behave to his father in yet another manner. Yet he is still only one person. One person with an identifying name. God is also one. One with three different manners or modes of operation. One with three different titles or offices. One person with an identifying name, the name Jesus. However, He is the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost. Three offices and manners of manifestations. Yet, the one and only God.
God manifest Himself as Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in regeneration. Jesus told his disciples he would be leaving them in the physical manifestation they see Him in, but He would not leave them comfortless. He said he would send another comforter to them, the Holy Spirit. This comforter would abide with them forever. Jesus then said, “I will conic to -volt” (John 14:16.18). God now would benefit humanity by his indwelling Spirit. He does not vacate one office to fill another, but is always completely and fully God. The same Person, but different modes of operation.
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saving, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Matthew 3:16-17).
According to this passage, the Son of God was baptized, the Spirit descended like a dove, and a voice spoke from heaven. (Luke 3:22), adds the further information that “the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him.”
With the omnipresence of God in mind we can understand the baptism of Christ very easily. It was not at all difficult for the Spirit of Jesus to speak from heaven and to send a manifestation of His Spirit as a dove even while His human body was in the Jordan River. The voice and the dove do not represent separate persons any more than the voice of God from Sinai shows that the mountain was a separate intelligent person in the Godhead.22
Jesus was baptized for manifesting himself, or making Himself known, to Israel (John 12:26- 27,31). Jesus used the baptism as a starting point for his ministry. It was a public declaration of who He was and what He came to do. For example, at Christ’s baptism, John the Baptist learned who Jesus was. He did not know that Jesus really was the Messiah until the baptism, and after the baptism he can declare
22The Oneness of God. Hazlewood, MO.: Word Aflame Press. 1983.
to the people that Jesus was the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29-34).
(John 1:32.34), clearly states that the dove was a sign for the benefit of John the Baptist. Since John was the forerunner of Jehovah (Isaiah 40:3), he needed to know that Jesus was really Jehovah come in flesh. God had told John that the Spirit descending upon Him would identify the One who would baptize with the Holy Ghost.
The voice came from Heaven for the benefit of the people. (John 12:28-30), records a similar incident in which a voice came from heaven and confirmed the deity of Jesus to the people. Jesus said it came not for His benefit but for the people’s sake. The voice was God’s way of formally introducing Jesus to Israel as the Son of God.
The baptism of Jesus does not reach us that God is three persons but only reveals the omnipresence of and the humanity of the Son of God. God did not intend for the baptism to reveal to the monotheistic Jewish onlookers a radically new revelation of a plurality in the Godhead, and there is no indication that the Jews interpreted it as such. Even many modern scholars do not see the baptism of Christ as an indication of a trinity but as a reference to “the authoritative anointing of Jesus as the Messiah.”23
Three times in the life of Jesus a voice came from heaven: at His baptism, at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9), and after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:20-33). In each of these three cases, the voice was not for the benefit of others, and it came for a specific purpose. The voice at Christ’s baptism was part of the inauguration of His earthly ministry. It was for the John’s sake. The voice introduced Jesus as the Son of God: “This is 17/)’ beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) . The voice at the transfiguration unquestionably was for the benefit of the on looking disciples, for the message was, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5). The third manifestation of the voice occurred when a group of Greeks came to see Jesus. Jesus explained that the voice was not for Him but for the people (John 12:30).
23Trinity, Holy (In the Bible).” The New Catholic Encyclopedia, XTV, 306
Scriptural contrast of the Trinity and Oneness theology
The Bible speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as different manifestation, roles, modes, rides, attributes, relationships to man, or functions of the on God, but it does not refer to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as three persons, personalities, wills, minds, or Gods. God is the Father of U3 all and n a unique way the Father of the man Jest’s Christ. Clod manifested Himself in flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, called the Son of God. God is also called the Holy Spirit, which emphasizes His activity in the lives and affairs of people.
God is not limited to these three manifestations; however, in the glorious revelation of the one God, the monotheism of the Old Testament does not deviate from the strict monotheism of the Old Testament. Rather, the Bible presents Jesus as the Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost. Jesus is not just the manifestation of one of three persons in the Godhead, but He is the incarnation of the Father, the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Truly, in Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily_
Oneness apologists claim that Isa. 9:6 proves that Jesus is God the Father.
The Darby Bible and Young’s Literal Translation both render this passage as “Father of Eternity.’ Isa. 9:6 (Darby Bible)
6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.”
Isa. 9:6 (Young’s Literal Translation)
6 “For a Child hath been born to us, A Son bath been given to us, And the princely power is on his shoulder, And He doth call his name Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.”
Dr. Robert Bowman points out that Abiethon – literally “father of strength” (2 Sam. 23:31) means “strong”; Ahiaseph – literally “father of gathering” (Ex. 6:24) means “gather”; and Abigail – literally “father of exultation” Chron. 2:16) is a woman’s name meaning “exulting.” Therefore, “Father of eternity” in Isaiah 9:6 means that Jesus is “eternal.” (Oneness Pentecostalism and the Trinity by Robert Bowman). According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary this infers that Jesus is the creator of the ages (Heb. 1:2; 11:3). It does not mean that He is “the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Cor. 1:3).
Oneness apologists claim that John 5:43 shows that “Jesus” is the Father’s name and thus that Jesus is the Father.
43 “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.’
Notice that the second part of this verse insinuates that one who comes “in his own name” is not to he “received.” If Jesus were actually the Father that would literally make His name Jesus, then he would have been coming “in His own name” and receiving Him would have been wrong. This contrast between “My Father’s name” and “his own name” proves that Jesus did not come “in his own name.” Therefore, “Jesus” is not the Father’s name, and Jesus is not the Father. This turns out to be a proof text against Oneness Theology.
Oneness apologists claim that John 10:30 proves the Father and the Son are one-person.
30 “I and my Father are one.”
The first person plural in the Greek New Testament precludes the interpretation of this verse. A literal translation of this verse would be: “I and the Father we are one.” If Jesus was the Father, He would have ‘Iced the first person singular and said, “I am the Father.” Furthermore, the Greek word for “one” is the neuter gender that points to the idea of one in “unity or one essence” (Margin of NAS\’ Bible). The masculine form would have been used to signify one in contrast to many.
Oneness Pentecostals claim that John 14:6-11 proves that Jesus is God the
6 “Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
7 “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.”
8 “Phillip said unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.”
9 “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou known me, Phillip! he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”
10 “Believeth thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that 1 speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”
11 “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”
Notice in the passage that Jesus begins by stating. “No man cometh unto the Father but b me” (v.6) Dr. Robert Bowman points out that “the natural sense of these words is that Jesus is, not the Father, but a mediator between us and the Father.” It would be ridiculous for Jesus to claim that no could come “to” the Father except “through” Him it Jesus and the Father were one and the same person. The words “to” and “through” only make sense if Jesus and the Father are distinct persons, with Jesus being the mediator between man and the Father. In verse 7, Jesus states, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” Bowman points out that “this is true, not because Jesus is the Father, but because those who know Jesus are led by Him to know the Father as they see Him imaged perfectly in Jesus. Thus, says Jesus, `from now on you know Him, and have seen Him’ (V. 7b). Existing with the Father as the one indivisible Divine Being, Jesus can say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (V_ 9). Nevertheless, Jesus does not say, ‘I am the Father, ‘but rather, ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in Me’ (V. 10, repeated in V. 11; and 10:38).” Oneness believers frequently cite the second part of this last statement, “the Father is in Me,” to mean that the deity (“Father”) dwells in the humanity (“Son”) of Jesus. This view, however, is clearly faulty in Tight of the first part of the sentence, “I am in the Father,” which oneness terms would mean that the human nature of Jesus dwells in His deity. No oneness Pentecostal believes the humanity of Jesus dwelt in the divinity of Jesus. Moreover, it tads to account for the fact that in this same context, as well as elsewhere, Jesus uses this sort of expression to denote His unity with believers: “In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (v. 20; and 17:21-23).
Oneness writers claim that CA. 2:9 proves that Jesus is God the Father and Holy Spirit.
9 “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
Since Colossians 2:9 says that the fullness of “the Godhead” dwells in Jesus, Oneness writers have argued that the Godhead is in Jesus, not Jesus in the Godhead. This either/or approach, however, causes the oneness interpretation of Colossians 2:9 to contradict their interpretation of John 10:38 where Jesus states, “the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.” Since “the Father” in oneness theology is “the Godhead. When Oneness believers deny that “Jesus is in the Godhead,” what they mean to deny is char Jesus is one person in a triune Godhead. Colossians 2:9, though, does not rule out that possibility. What it affirms is that Jesus is no less than the full and complete revelation of God’s nature in the flesh. While not all three persons of God are incarnate in Jesus, all of God’s essence in incarnate in Jesus.
I John 5:7
The “mystery beyond comprehension” isn’t very evident in the text of Scripture. Indeed the only `clear’ verses in the Bible in support of the Trinity are laughed out of the text by theologians. Take, for example I John 5:7, rarely included in modern translations except as a foot-note: “For there that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (I John 5:7 KJV). It’s “an insertion” (Berkeley). “Added in late manuscripts of the Vulgate” (New International). “Clearly a gloss and rightly excluded from the RSV even in the margin” (New Bibl Commentary Revised). The best authorities do not consider it to be part of the original text” (SPCK commentary). “Not the shadow of a reason for considering them genuine” (Alford on the New Testament). “These words are spurious and have no right to stand in the New Testament” (Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1975). It is “the only passage speaking of tri-unity”, say Protestant scholar Louis Berkhof.
Noted textual scholar F. H. A. Scrivener writes: “We need not hesitate to declare our conviction that the disputed words were not written by Sr. John: that they were originally brought into Latin copies [of the New Testament] in Africa from the margin, where they had been placed as a pious and orthodox gloss on v. 8: that from the Latin they crept into two or three late Greek codices, and thence into the printed Greek text, a place to which they had not rightful claim” (Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 1883, 3rd ed).
Judgment on this text is summed up by William Cunningham:” …most Trinitarians now admit that there is a decided preponderance of critical evidence against the genuineness of I John. 5:7″ (Historical theology v. 2 p. 216).
In this passage, Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” However, this verse or Scripture does not teach that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate persons. Rather, it teaches the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost identify one name and therefore on being. The verse expressly says “in the name,” not “in the names”
To answer any doubt that the singular-plural distinction is significant or was planned deliberately by God, we need only read Galatians 3:16, where Paul emphasized the significance of the singular “thy seed” in Genesis 22:18. Many Trinitarian scholars have recognized at least partially the significance of the singular in Matthew 28:19. For example, Presbyterian professor James Buswell states, “The ‘name,’ not `names’ of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in which we are to be baptized, is to be understood as Jahweh, the name of the Triune God.”24 His insight of the singular is correct, although his identification of the singular name is in error. Jehovah or Yahweh was the revealed name of God in the Old Testament, but Jesus is the revealed name of God in the New Testament. However, the name Jesus includes Jehovah since Jesus means Jehovah-Savior. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost all describes the one name of the one God.
24James Buswell, Jr., A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980
Colossians 1:19; 2:9
The Greek word for Godhead in Colossians 2:9 is Meows, which means the Deity. The word bodily reminds us of the word incarnation, which means the embodiment of a spirit in earthly form.. Putting this together, Colossians 2:9 tells us Jesus is the incarnation of the fullness of Deity-He is the bodily manifestation of everything God is. The Amplified Bible translates Colossians 2:9 as, “For in Him the whole fullness of Deity (the Godhead), continues to dwell in bodily form-giving complete expression of the divine nature.” It translates Colossians 1:19 as, “For it has pleased [the Father] that all divine fullness-the sum total of the divine perfection, powers and attributes-should dwell in Him permanently.” The NIV translates Colossians 2:9 as, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. It translates Colossians 1:19 as, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”
Turning to other translations of 2:9, the Twentieth Century New Testament has, “For
in Christ the Godhead in all its fullness dwells incarnate”; The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips) has, “yet it is in him that God gives a full and complete expression of himself (within the physical limits that he sets himself in Christ}”; and Living Letters: The Paraphrased Epistles (Kenneth Taylor) has, “For in Christ thee is all of God in a human body.”
It is clear then, that Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 describe the full deity of Jesus Christ. We could not apply the statements on Colossians 1 and 2 to ourselves and be correct. We are nor the incarnation of the fullness of God. Nor are we omniscient, omnipotent, and so on.
The “Trinity ” … fact or fiction? Chapter VI
“—the Trinity is a mystery beyond the comprehension of man”
James F McBride: The early centuries of the Christian church were driven by fierce dispute regarding the nature of God. Is God a “Trinity”?
Our human perception of the nature of God in no way affects the reality. God is what He is no matter what anyone believes! He probably chuckles at the varieties of belief-but undoubtedly gets angry at the violence of the protagonists. Christians through the centuries have literally tortured and killed in support of their particular view. And today scorn is heaped on any professing Christian who denies “The Holy Trinity”.
Of course no one, whatever view he or she holds about God, has any thought of disrespect for Him. All are trying to express their understanding of the Scripture teaching, and few hold “unorthodox” views from malice. So it is at least uncharitable to self-righteously condemn all who differ from a Trinitarian view! This is especially true in view of the large volume of scholarly objections to the orthodox concept.
The doctrine “bristles with difficulties” writes pro-Trinity Louis Berkhof (Systematic Theology p. 2). He points out the “defenses” of early writers on the doctrine-including Tertullian, Origen. It’s not until Augustine (430 A.D.) Do we have what modern protagonists of the Trinity would deem acceptable! Yet controversy continues to this day. Its remains “a mystery beyond the comprehension of man” (Bernd, p. 89)1
The only clear Biblical ‘evidence’ for a view of God as a ‘Trinity’ collapses under the weight of historical judgment. It arrived very late in Christian theology, and can be traced in the teachings of the inspired apostles only by reading into them concepts that derive from sources other than the Scriptures. While all human views of the Godhead are seen “through a glass, darkly” (I Cot. 13:12), and in no way affect what the Godhead is really like-yet acceptance of a non-Biblical view .
For example, the Trinitarian concept of God blinds us to clear and breathtaking Bible teaching that man cars become-through the same indwelling Holy Spirit-a part to the divine Family. It God is a closed “Trinity” a pre-Christian and unbiblical notion-how can mere humans become part of the divine Family-His children? How can we come to be in the very image of God! How can God, as Paul wrote, “become all in all” (I Con 15:28)?
Mystery or Confusion
It is customary in Trinitarian language to speak of God the Father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit. These are assumed to be proper titles, and used extensively. Yet in the Scriptures only one of these appears, “God the Father,” and that not as a tide, but an expression denoting that God is the Father. “There is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things…and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things” (I Cor. 8:6). The term appears 11 times in the New Testament. By contrast. the terms “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit” appears zero times.
The word “God” appears about 1200 times in the New Testament. Nearly all of these refer—no surprise—to God himself. Not even one time does this word refer to the holy Spirit. However, as a word, “god” has a variety of applications_ For example the Old testament Hebrew word “elohim” (god) can describe any high dignitary (Abraham, Genesis 23:6). In the King James translation it is rendered variously: angels, God, gods, mighty, judges. Its Greek counterpart “theos” likewise has a broad usage. Strong’s Concordance defines it as: “a deity or magistrate.” If this word can describe a magistrate, then it can certainly describe Jesus, and it is so used six times in the New Testament (John 1:1, 18, 20:28, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1). It is used in John 10:35 of the worshippers of Jehovah. Once it even refers to Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4).
By contrast, where a Biblical concept of the Spirit is held, human destiny is recognized as becoming, truly and fully, “sons and daughters of the Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:13). While respecting other “guesses” at the nature of God, I strenuously strive to express what I see to be the Bible view of the Godhead_
According to the Scriptures, they clearly are not equal. In every case, where God and Jesus are referred to in one context. Jesus is subordinate, and the Father is superior. Here are a handful of the many texts on this issue:
“Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, god.” (Luke 18:19)
“My Father is Greater than I” (John 14:28)
“The Head of Christ is God” (I Cor. 11:3)
“Then shall the Son also himself be subject…that god may be in all” (1 Cor. 15:28)
Perhaps most telling of all is that Jesus recognizes God as his own God—his superior, to whom he renders adoration, worship and praise (Matthew 27:4, John 20:17, Ephesians 1:17, Revelation 1:6). No scripture says Jesus is co-equal!
To grasp the enormity and significance of what occurred at Nice, we need to review some of the historical Facts regarding the Trinity.
Fact One- The word Trinity is nowhere found in the Scriptures.
Fact Two- Not one of the Apostolic fathers (Clement, Barnabas, Ignatius, Mathetes, Polycarp, Fapias, Justin Martyr) mentioned this doctrine in any of the 1200 pages of text they left us.
Fact Three- When the word “Trinity” first appeared in Christian writings it meant nothing like it does today. It simply implied the existence of God, his word, and Wisdom.
Fact Four- Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Novatiart, Arnohius and Lactantius explicitly affirmed that the Heavenly Father alone is the supreme God and that Jesus is Subordinate to His will and authority.
Fact Five- The early formal statement of Christian belief never mentions the word “Trinity” or any of its concepts. It is termed the “Apostles Creed”- It was extensively in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Christian era. As regards God and Jesus.
By contrast, where a Biblical concept of the Spirit is held, human destiny is recognized as becoming, truly and fully, “sons and daughters of the almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18). While respecting other “guesses” at the nature of God, I strenuously strive to express what I see to be the Bible view of the Godhead.