“Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. . . .” (KJV).

The United Pentecostals Church International (UPCI) uses this passage (among others) to support its view that water baptism MUST be done “in the name of Jesus” only to be valid. Since the UPCI theology holds to the idea that Jesus IS the “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit.” The UPCI’s position is clear: Peter commands new converts to (a) repent be water baptized and (b) be baptized only by way of the exact formula: “in the name of Jesus.” Therefore, as the UPCI asserts, the remission or forgiveness of sins is accomplished only by water baptism “in the name of Jesus,” and repentance. However, only by disregarding the historical context and particular grammar, can the UPCI hold to such a heterodox view. Furthermore, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration controverts the theology of Luke (e.g., Acts 10:43). Even so, UPCI leader David Bernard remarks on the necessity of water baptism, as he understands Acts 2:38:

We should remember that water baptism is administered because of our past life of sin; it is for the ‘remission of sins’ (Acts 2:38). Since the name of Jesus is the only saving name (Acts 4:12), it is logical that the name be used in baptism (The Oneness of God, 139).

In proper biblical interpretation: Context governs word meanings. This is a vital point in exegesis. In other words, whatever Acts 2:38 is saying, it cannot oppose the NT as a whole in which the constant theme is justification (salvation) is through faith (as the sole instrument), apart from works—any works, such as the work of water baptism (cf. John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-8; 5:1; 1 Cor. 1:17, 30-31; Eph. 2:8-10; 1 John 5:1 et al).   

Note, that there at least four acceptable interpretations of the passage. However, of the interpretations offered by competent Christian theologians, none provide for baptismal regeneration. Thus, Paul says: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. . . .” (1 Cor. 1:17).  

For example, noted Greek grammarian J. R. Mantey offers one such acceptable interpretation. He argued that the preposition eis (“for”) could be causal, hence the passage could read: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized—each one of you—at the name of Jesus Christ because of/for/unto the forgiveness of your sins.’” In other words, the preposition eis should be translated “because of,” or “in view of” not “in order to” or “for the purpose of” forgiveness of sins. But keep in mind there is at least four different interpretations of Acts 2:38. Mantey believed that a salvation by grace would be violated if a causal eis were not evident in such passages as Acts 2:38. This way of handling the text is also concurred by one of the world’s premium and most quoted NT Greek grammarians A. T. Robertson:

My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the NT taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received (Word Pictures, 3:35-36).

There is also another grammatical aspect to be considered. There is a shift from second person plural to third person singular and back to second person plural. Notice below:

  1. The verb “repent” (metanoēsate) is second person plural and is in the active voice.
  2. And “be baptized” (baptisthētō) is third person singular and is in the passive voice.
  3. The Greek pronoun translated “your” (humōn) is in a second person plural.

 Therefore, the grammatical connection is: “repent” (active plural) with “your” (active plural) as in “for the remission of your [humōn] sins” and not “be baptized” (passive singular) with “for the remission of your sins.” Moreover, the same wording “for the remission of your sins” is used in reference to John’s baptism (cf. Luke 3:3; Mark 1:4) and that baptism did not save, it was a preparatory baptism and of the coming Messiah and a call to repentance, as we will deal with below. An additional view, however, is that baptism represents both the spiritual reality and the ritual which is an acceptable view that works well in the scope of the context.

Notwithstanding the different shades of interpretation, which in fact do not contradict, but only enhance—they are all in accord with good exegesis. Contrary to the UPCI position, which violates not only the theology in Acts (e.g., 10:43) but also the entire theology of the NT (e.g., John 6:47; Rom. 4:4ff.; Gal. 2:16).

Lastly, in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, foremost Greek scholar Daniel Wallace provides insightful comments regarding the four main interpretations of Acts 2:38:

  1. Causal εἰς [eis, “for”] in Acts 2:38? An interesting discussion over the force of εἰς took place several years ago, especially in relation to Acts 2:38. The text reads as follows:

Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς Μετανοήσατε, φησίν καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν. . . . (“And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized—each one of you—at the name of Jesus Christ because of/for/unto the forgiveness of your sins…”).

On the one hand, J. R. Mantey argued that εἰς could be used causally in various passages in the NT, among them Matt 3:11 and Acts 2:38. It seems that Mantey believed that a salvation by grace would be violated if a causal εἰς was not evident in such passages as Acts 2:38.

On the other hand, Ralph Marcus questioned Mantey’s nonbiblical examples of a causal εἰς so that in his second of two rejoinders he concluded (after a blow-by-blow refutation): It is quite possible that εἷς is used causally in these NT passages but the examples of causal εἰς cited from non-biblical Greek contribute absolutely nothing to making this possibility a probability. If, therefore, Professor Mantey is right in his interpretation of various NT passages on baptism and repentance and the remission of sins, he is right for reasons that are non- linguistic. Marcus ably demonstrated that the linguistic evidence for a causal εἷς fell short of proof.  

If a causal εἷς is not in view, what are we to make of Acts 2:38? There are at least four other interpretations of Acts 2:38. 1) The baptism referred to here is physical only, and εἰς has the meaning of for or unto. Such a view, if this is all there is to it, suggests that salvation is based on works. The basic problem of this view is that it runs squarely in the face of the theology of Acts, namely: (a) repentance precedes baptism (cf. Acts 3:19; 26:20), and (b) salvation is entirely a gift of God, not procured via water baptism (Acts 10:43 [cf. v 47]; 13:38-39, 48; 15:11; 16:30-31; 20:21; 26:18).

2) The baptism referred to here is spiritual only. Although such a view fits well with the theology of Acts, it does not fit well with the obvious meaning of “baptism” in Acts—especially in this text (cf. 2:41).

3) The text should be repunctuated in light of the shift from second person plural to third person singular back to second person plural again. If so, it would read as follows: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized at the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. . . .” If this is the correct understanding, then εἰς is subordinate to Μετανοήσατε alone, rather than to βαπτισθήτω. The idea then would be, “Repent for/with reference to your sins, and let each one of you be baptized.…” Such a view is an acceptable way of handling εἰς, but its subtlety and awkwardness are against it.

4) Finally, it is possible that to a first-century Jewish audience (as well as to Peter), the idea of baptism might incorporate both the spiritual reality and the physical symbol. In other words, when one spoke of baptism, he usually meant both ideas—the reality and the ritual. Peter is shown to make the strong connection between these two in chapters 10 and 11. In 11:15-16 he recounts the conversion of Cornelius and friends, pointing out that at the point of their conversion they were baptized by the Holy Spirit. After he had seen this, he declared, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit…” (10:47). The point seems to be that if they have had the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit via spiritual baptism, there ought to be a public testimony/acknowledgment via water baptism as well. This may not only explain Acts 2:38 (viz., that Peter spoke of both reality and picture, though only the reality removes sins), but also why the NT speaks of only baptized believers (as far as we can tell): Water baptism is not a cause of salvation, but a picture; and as such it serves both as a public acknowledgment (by those present) and a public confession (by the convert) that one has been Spirit-baptized.

In sum, although Mantey’s instincts were surely correct that in Luke’s theology baptism was not the cause of salvation, his ingenious solution of a causal εἰς lacks conviction. There are other ways for us to satisfy the tension, but adjusting the grammar to answer a backward-looking “Why?” has no more basis than the notion that εἰς ever meant mere representation.”

Final thoughts: the fundamental problem with the groups who embrace baptismal regeneration is that their view challenges Paul’s main thesis that “God credits righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6) and justification is through faith (sole instrument) alone (not by works). Although the “work” of water baptism is a biblical commandment, it is a work that man does. It does not contribute in any way, shape, or form to the atoning work of God the Son (gospel), which is the very ground (cause) of justification. So Paul says to the Corinthian church: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. . . .” (1 Cor. 1:17).                         

See Oneness Tract

NOTE: the answers provided to the questions below are a simple and quick guide for the interested person wishing to compare Oneness theology with Trinitarian theology. The answers do not represent a *full exegetical presentation—rather it simply and basically demonstrates (a) the fundamental Oneness unitarian assumptions (viz. asserting that God is one Person) and (b) the basic theological errors of Oneness theology (e.g., denying the deity of the Son). For an expanded exegetical refutation of Oneness unitarian theology see Oneness Theology (Modalism).

Important Question: If Jesus is the Father, why is there not a single passage that states this in the NT or the OT? The fact is, Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over 200 times in the NT–never as Father or Holy Spirit. In the NT, Jesus refers to the Father over 200 times as someone else.

Further, the Father and Jesus are mentioned in the same verse over 50 times. Further, 179 times, Jesus refers to the Father as “the Father,” “my Father,” or “your Father” in the Gospels as distinct from himself, at no time does he refer to “my Son” or anything of the sort as distinct from himself! Forty times in John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as “sent by the Father,” but never does he refer to himself as the Father who sent the Son

Also, in Isaiah 9:6, where the name of the coming Messiah will be “Everlasting father,” is of no help for Oneness advocates trying to prove Jesus is the Father See Isaiah 9:6: Oneness Refuted

 

1. Where in the Scripture does it say that God is unitarian? (or that God exist as one person?)

Note: Nowhere in Scripture is God defined as one person, but rather as one Being: mono (from monos, meaning, alone or only one) and theism (from theos, meaning, God). Oneness adherents (along with Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses) wrongly assume that the concept or word “one” when referring to God (e.g., Deut. 6:4) has the strict denotative meaning of absolute solitude. Arguing unipersonalism (unitarianism) assumes a conclusion that is meant to be proved.

2. If God is unitarian, how do you explain passages such as Genesis 19:24 where Yahweh (“LORD”), rained brimstone and fire from Yahweh out of heaven?

Note: there are many places in the OT where God is presented as multi-personal (e.g., plural nouns, verbs, nouns, prepositions, and plural adjectives were used of God, i.e., “Us,” “Our,” in Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; Isa. 6:8; 54:5; Prov. 30:3; John 14:23]; Yahweh to Yahweh and Elohim (“God”) to Elohim correspondences in passages such as Gen. 19:24; Ps. 45:6-7; Hos. 1:6-7; etc.).

3. If God is unitarian, why are there so many plural descriptions in the OT (viz. plural nouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions) to describe the one God? (as seen above).

Example: in Isaiah 54:5, “Maker” is plural in Hebrew, lit., “Makers”; same with Psalm 149:2 where “Maker” is in the plural in Hebrew. The same can be said in Ecclesiastes 12:1, where the Hebrew literally reads, “Remember also your Creators” (plural in Heb.). Thus, because God is tri-personal He can be described as both “Maker” and “Makers” and as “Creator” and “Creators.” He is one Being, not one Person—a point that is repeatedly brought to bear by the OT authors.

4. If God is unitarian, why is it that there are so many places in the Bible where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are clearly distinguished from each other in the same verse?

Example, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Also see passages such as Matthew 3:17-17; 28:19; Luke 10:21-22; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:3-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 1:2-3; and Jude 1:20-21 where all three persons of the Trinity are referred—in the same verse or context.

5. If Jesus is the Father, why is it that Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over two hundred times in the NT, and never once is he called “Father? Note, that over two hundred times, the Father is referred to by Jesus or someone else as being clearly distinct from Jesus. Over fifty times, the Father, and Jesus are presented as explicitly distinct in the same passages (cf. Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; 6:37-39, 44; 14:23; 17:5; 2 John 1:3; 2:22; Heb. 1:1-13; Jude 1:1; Rev. 5:13 et al. (see above). Further, almost one hundred and eighty times, Jesus is presented as referring to “the Father,” “My Father,” or “your Father” in the Gospels as distinct from Himself, and at no time does Jesus refer to “my Son.” Forty times, in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as “Sent by the Father,” but never does Jesus refer to Himself as the Father who sent the Son (cf. John 6:38). And over two hundred times, Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit and Jesus as Distinct Persons- and Never once does Scripture call Jesus the Father or the “Holy Spirit.”

 6. If the “Son” has not eternally existed with (personally distinct from) the Father why then is the Son presented as the agent of creation, that is, the Creator Himself? (for in Oneness theology *only Jesus as the “Father” mode existed prior to Bethlehem).

Note: in passages such as John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 1:2, 10-12, the “Son” is clearly presented as agent of creation, the Creator Himself. Specifically, in John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2 and 2:10, the Greek preposition dia (“though”) is followed by a pronoun (autou, “Him”) in the *genitive* case (or possessive case). Grammatically, when dia is followed by the genitive (as in these passages), the preposition indicates “agency” (cf. Daniel B. Wallace, GGBB, 368; J. Harold Greenlee, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 5th ed. 31; A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:478-79; and cf. also Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed. [hereafter BDAG], 225).

Hence, exegetically these passages do not indicate that the Son was a mere instrument of creation (as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe), nor, as Oneness teachers argue, these passages indicate that the Son was only a “thought” or “plan” in the Father’s mind when the Father (Jesus’ divine nature) created all things. Rather the Son is biblically (exegetically) presented as the Creator of all things Himself. That the Son was the Creator clearly disproves the Oneness position. This is the greatest weakness of the Oneness position: For if the Son created, then, He eternally existed with the Father.

7. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” can say, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had [or shared, eichon] with You before the world was.”? How did the Son have (literally, actively possessed) glory with (para) the Father before time if the Son did not exist before Bethlehem?

Note: In this beautiful passage (Jesus’ high priestly prayer) the “Son” (for Jesus says, “Now, Father”) says that He possessed or shared glory with the Father, before time.

To avoid the plainness of the passage (namely, the preexistence of the Son and His personal distinction from His Father), Oneness teachers argue that the glory that Jesus (the Son) had with the Father, only signified the future glory or “plan” in the Father’s mind, thus anticipating the Son’s coming at Bethlehem. But the Son, they say, was not really there with the Father “before the world was.” However, consider the following:

First, note that the glory that the *Son* said that He possessed or shared (eichon) was when? Answer: Before time. The Son said that He *HAD* glory *before* time—with (para) the Father. Exegetically, it cannot refer to the Father thinking of the Son or having the Son in view or in His mind, for Jesus uses the imperfect tense [eichon, *had*), which shows that the Son had or possessed it, not in the Father‘s mind. The Son is speaking of something that He had, that He shared with the Father; the Son is not speaking of something that the Father had (in view).

Second, when did the Son have this glory (which only God has, Isa, 42:8)? Before time, with the Father. The term *with* is para in Greek. Grammatically, when the preposition para (“with”) is followed by the dative case (as in this verse: para seautō, para soi), especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of.” Noted Greek scholar Daniel B. Wallace provides the precise meaning of the preposition para followed by the dative: “In general, the dative uses suggest proximity or nearness. a. Spatial: near, beside, b. Sphere: in the sight of, before (someone), c. Association: with (someone/something) (BBGG). This is agreed by recognized Greek Grammars and recognized Lexicons of the NT such as BDAG, 757. Noted Greek grammarian, A. T. Robertson says of the passage that “This is not just ideal pre-existence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side (para soi, “with thee”) ‘which I had’ (hē eichon, imperfect active of echō. . . . ” (Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:275-76).

In sum, John 17:5 the Son first commands/asks (doxason, aorist impart.) the Father to glorify Him together with Him (para seautō, thus, a shared glorification, a glory that only God can have, Isa. 42:8), which shows that the glory that the Son had was in together in the presence of the Father. The *Son* said that He possessed (note the imperfect of echō) the glory WITH (para, in the presence of) the Father (not in the Father’s mind, for eh Son had it). And when did the Son have this glory? Before time. Also, only that the Son was God can He God make this request/command to the Father, not mere man. For God does not share His glory with no one (cf. Isa. 42:8).

So when a Oneness advocate says that the Son did not exist before time, remember, that assertion is not based on biblical exegesis, but rather on what he or she has been taught by Oneness pastors/teachers. Also, John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:10-12 teach exegetically that the Son was God, the agent of creation, the Creator, thus preexisting with the Father.

Note, of all the times para is followed by the dative in John’s literature (10 times), not once does para indicate with/in the mind, but rather, a literal association or in the presence of someone else or others, unless one (as Oneness advocates do) makes John 17:5 the exception to John’s usage:

For example,

John 1:39: He *said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him [par’ autw] that day, for it was about the tenth hour

John 8:38: “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father [para tō patri ]; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

John 14:23: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and we will make Our abode with him.'” Note the first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”).

John 17:5: “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had/possessed [eichon] with You before the world was.”

John 19:25: “Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross [para tō staurō] of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

Revelation 2:13: “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed AMONG YOU [par’ humin], where Satan dwells.”

8. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” is said to be “sent” from the Father “out of heaven”?

Scripture presents in plain and normal language that the preexistent person of the Son was sent from the Father (e.g., John 3:13; 16-17; 6:33, 38, 44, 46, 50-51; 62; 8:23, 38, 42, 57-58; 16:28; Gal. 4:4). Nowhere in the New Testament, however, is it said that Jesus sent the Son. If Jesus were the Father, as Oneness believers contend, one would expect to find a clear example of this—at least one passage (cf. John 3:13; 6:38, 46, 62; 8:23, 38, 42; 16:28).

“No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from [the] heaven [ek tou ouranou]: the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

References of the Son coming down from the heaven appear nine times in John chapter 6 alone!- – In Verses 32, 33, 41, 42, 50, 51-ek tou ouranou; verse 38 – apo tou ouranou; and verse 58 – “came down ex ouranou).

27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread ek tou ouranou, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread ek tou ouranou.

33 For the bread of God is that which comes down ek tou ouranou, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36: But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.” 

38: For I have come down apo tou ouranou, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me

41: Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down ek tou ouranou

42: They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down ek tou ouranou?”

50 This is the bread which comes down ek tou ouranou, so that one may eat of it and not die.

51: I am the living bread that came down ek tou ouranou

58: This is the bread which came down ex ouranou; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

Thus, the person of the Son of Man was in heaven prior to being sent. That the “Son of Man” was in heaven prior to Bethlehem creates a theological problem for Oneness doctrine. For the “Son of Man” in Oneness theology was not the Father, but the human Son who emerged not until Bethlehem, but here, the Son of Man came from heaven, that is, the Son (cf. Phil. 2:6-11).

 

 

9. If Oneness doctrine is biblically true, why then do the biblical authors use grammatical features that personally distinguish between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

Example,

First and third person personal pronouns: Throughout chapter 14, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) to refer to His Father (e.g., John 14:7, 10, 16). This case of marked distinction is also evident when Jesus differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [allon]3 Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16; also see 14:7, 10, 26).

 

Granville Sharp’s grammatical rule #6: Specifically, the repetition of the article tou (“the”) before each noun and the conjunction kai (“and”) that connects the nouns clearly denote a distinction between all three persons named.4 Note Matthew 28:19: “in the name of the [tou] Father and of the [kai tou] Son and of the [kai tou] Holy Spirit.” Further, Paul clearly presents the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not as three modes of a unipersonal deity, but rather as three distinct persons. The same grammatical distinctions are observed in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ, and [kai] the love of God [tou theou (lit. “the God”)], and [kai] the fellowship of the [tou] Holy Spirit be with you all.” .

In Revelation 5:13, the Lamb and the Father are presented as two distinct objects of divine worship, as they are clearly differentiated by the repetition of the article tō:

“To Him who sits” (tō kathēmenō [lit. “to the one sitting”—the Father]) “and the Lamb” (kai tō arniō—the Son) are grammatically differentiated by the repeated article (“the”), which precedes both nouns and are connected by the one conjunction kai (“and”). Further, turning to 1 John 1:3, not only does John show that believers have fellowship with both the Father and the Son, but the Father and the Son are clearly distinguished as two Persons by the repeated article tou (“the”) and the repeated preposition meta (“with”):

“We proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with [meta] us; and indeed our fellowship is with the [meta tou] Father and with [kai meta] His Son [tou huiou], Jesus Christ.”

There are many other passages where this construction applies clearly denoting distinction between the Persons in the Trinity (e.g., 1 Thess. 3:11; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 John 2:22-23).

Different prepositions: Throughout John chapter 14 (and chaps. 15-16), Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. This use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them,”5 and clearly denotes essential distinction, e.g., “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me” (John 14:6); “he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (v. 12; cf. also John 15:26; 16:28). Paul, too, regularly uses different prepositions to clearly differentiate the Father from the Son. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul teaches that by the agency of the Son, Christians have access to the Father by means of the Spirit: “For through Him [di’ autou—the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera] (Eph. 2:18).

10. If Oneness doctrine (or Modalism) is the so-called doctrine of the apostles, then, why was it universally condemned as *heretical* by the early church Fathers (some of who were disciples of the original apostles) and condemned by all the important church councils and creeds?

Example, Theodotus (the first known dynamic monarchianist) was excommunicated by Victor, the bishop of Rome, around A.D. 190; Noetus (the first known modalist) was condemned by Hippolytus and by the presbyters around the same time; Praxeas was marked as a heretic by Tertullian; Paul of Samosata was condemned at the Third Council in Antioch (A.D. 268); Dionysius of Alexandria and Dionysius bishop of Rome along with many important church Fathers condemned Sabellius and his teachings as Christological heresy. Moreover, significant Christian church councils affirmed the Trinity and explicitly rejected Oneness doctrine: e.g., Council of Nicea (325); Chalcedon Creed (A.D. 451); Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381); etc.

Consider this, Trinitarians, not Oneness believers, conducted all of the major revivals worldwide. Virtually all of the great biblical scholars, theologians, and Greek grammarians, historically have been and presently are Trinitarian, not Oneness—for obvious reasons. The church has branded Oneness theology as heretical since the days of Noetus at the end of the second century. Moreover, when it found its way in the twentieth century, departing from the Trinitarian Pentecostals, it was again rejected by the church.

Modalism rips the heart out of Christianity—it denies Christ by misrepresenting Him. To be sure, Modalism embraces another Jesus, another Gospel, and another Spirit. There is only one true God. The Apostle John was very concerned as to the false beliefs and teachings of Jesus Christ, as he gives this warning:

“Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).

By promoting the Son as a temporary mode or a role of the unitarian deity whose life started in Bethlehem, denies the Son, as well as the Father.

1. Oneness theology rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, for they are unitarian (i.e., believes that God exists as one Person—unipersonal).

2. Oneness theology rejects the eternality of the Person of the Son.

3. Oneness theology rejects that the Son was the actual Creator.

4. Oneness theology rejects the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

5. Oneness theology distorts and thus rejects the biblical concept of the Son being Mediator (Intercessor) between the Father and men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). For if Jesus is the Father, then, between whom would He Mediate since by definition a mediator/intercessor represents two distinct parties, other than Himself. Biblically, only Jesus, God the Son, can rightfully represent the Father (because He is God a distinct person from the the Father), and represent man because He is fully man. Again, in its proper sense, a “mediator” is one who is other than or distinct from the parties, which are being mediated. However, since in Oneness theology Jesus is both Father and Son, Jesus cannot be properly “Mediator” between two parties–God the Father and man.

6. Many Oneness churches especially the UPCI rejects justification through faith alone by teaching that one must be water baptized (“in the name of Jesus” only) to be saved—with the evidence, as the UPCI teaches, of speaking in other tongues.

7. Virtually all Oneness churches reject that water baptism should be done in the *triune* formal as instructed by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, rather, as they insist, it should be dome in the name of Jesus only.

NOTES

[1] In Phil. 2:7, the participle labōn, (“taking” as in “taking the nature of a servant”) is a participle of means (cf. Wallace, BBGG, 630). The participle describes the means or manner of the emptying. Hence, the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation (cf. John 1:14). Note that the emptying did not involve His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: hos en morphē theou huparchōn (“who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance God”; author’s translation).

[2] Cf. Wallace, BBGG, 350-51; Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology, 263.

[3] BDAG defines allos here as “pert[aining] to that which is other than some other entity, other . . . distinguished fr. the subject who is speaking or who is logically understood. . . .” (BDAG, 46).

[4] This grammatical rule is also know as “Granville Sharp rule #6: when multiple personal nouns in a clause are each preceded by the article ho (“the”) and linked by kai (“and”) each personal noun denotes a distinct person as in Matthew 28:19 (esp. 2 Cor. 13:14; also cf. 1 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:3; 2:22-23; Rev. 5:13).As NT scholar Harold Greenly points out, “When the article is used before each member, each is to be considered separately” (Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 23).

[5] Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 34. Additionally, the repetition of the preposition distinguishes the Father and the Son as two distinct self-aware Subjects (e.g., 1 John 1:3).

As discussed, the absence of the article before the first personal noun in the Pauline salutations, clearly distinguishes the Persons of the Father and the Son. Even more, the real personal distinction between the Persons of the Trinity is well observed in constructions where the article is repeated before all of the personal nouns.1 For example, Reformed theologian B. B. Warfield shows that the repeated article in Matthew 28:19 demonstrate that the three Persons are numerically distinct and are under the one Name: Jehovah:

He commands them to baptize their converts ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.’ The precise form of the formula must be carefully observed. It does not read: ‘In the names’ (plural)—as if there were three beings enumerated, each with its distinguishing name. Nor yet: ‘In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,’ as if there were one person, going by a threefold name. It reads: ‘In the name [singular] of the Father, and of the [article repeated] Son, and of the [article repeated] Holy Ghost,’ carefully distinguishing three persons, though uniting them all under one name. The name of God was to the Jews Jehovah, and to name the name of the Jehovah upon them was to make them His. . . . (Warfield’s brackets).2

A “repeated article,” Harris explains, “shows unambiguously that nouns are separate items.”3 As well, Paul’s grammar clearly denotes a presentation of three distinct Persons—not three modes of a unipersonal deity:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [tou kuriou Iēsou Christou], and [kai] the love of God [tou theou], and [kai] the fellowship of the Holy Spirit [tou hagiou pneumatos] be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14).

In Revelation 5:13, the Father and the Lamb are presented as two distinct objects of divine worship, differentiated by the repetition of the article tō:

“To Him [tō] who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb [kai tō arniō], be blessing and honor and glory and dominion for ever and ever” (emphasis added).

There are many other passages where this “construction of distinction” (viz. Sharp’s rule #6) applies, clearly demonstrating the real distinction between the three Persons of the holy Trinity (e.g., Matt. 28:19; 1 Thess. 3:1; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 John 1:3; 2:22-23).

Subject-Object Distinctions: Simply, if Jesus and the Father were not distinct cognizant Persons, we would not expect to find a clear subject-object relationship between them:

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water . . . behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My [subject] beloved Son, [object] in whom I [subject] am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17; emphasis added; see also 17:5).

“I [subject] glorified You [object] on earth, having accomplished the work which You [object] have given Me [subject] to do” (John 17:4; see also Luke 23:34, 46).

The Father and the Son stand in an “I”–“You” relationship of each other; the Son refers to the Father as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Father likewise refers to Jesus as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Son personally relates to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the reverse is altogether true of the Father and the Holy Spirit relating to each other.

Salvation is predicated inextricably on the Tri-Unity of God. Scripture knows of no other God. God the Father infallibly saves according to His mercy whereby the sinner is regenerated by means of the Holy Spirit, through the God the Son, Jesus Christ:

He [God the Father] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6).

Also, as pointed out in several places, the OT uses plural verbs, nouns, adjectives, and prepositions to describe the one Being of God.

http://www.christiandefense.org/article_Trinity in the OT.htm

Notes

1 As seen above, in constructions involving multiple personal nouns linked by kai and the first noun lacks the article; each noun must denote a distinct person (viz. Sharp’s rule #5). However, when multiple personal nouns in a clause are each preceded by the article ho and linked by kai, each personal noun also denotes a distinct person (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:3; 2:22-23; Rev. 5:13). This rule is known as Sharp’s rule #6 (cf. n. 39 above; also cf. Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definite Article). Pertaining to Sharp’s rule #6, I had consulted Professor Daniel B. Wallace as to the question of its absoluteness and its utilization against the anti-distinction of the Modalists. He expertly affirmed that predominately (not absolutely; cf. John 20:28) the rule does provide a valid case against Modalism. Clearly, this rule indicates, particularly in Trinitarian contexts where all three Persons are juxtaposed in the same verse, a personal distinction between the three Persons of the Godhead.

2 Warfield, Biblical Doctrines, 204. Pertaining to the same passage (Matt. 28:19), Warfield further explained that

With stately impressiveness it asserts the unity of the three by combining them all within the bounds of the single Name; and then throws up into emphasis the distinctness of each by introducing them in turn with the repeated article: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Authorized Version). These three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, each stand in some clear sense over against the others in distinct personality: these three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, all unite in some profound sense in the common participation of the one Name” (ibid., 153-54).

3 Harris, Jesus as God, 310.

Salvation is predicated inextricably on the Tri-Unity of God. Scripture knows of no other God. God the Father infallibly saves according to His mercy whereby the sinner is regenerated by means of the Holy Spirit, through the God the Son, Jesus Christ:

He [God the Father] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6).

As seen above in Revelation 5:13 the “Lamb” and the “Father” are presented as two distinct objects of divine worship:

“To Him [tō] who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb [kai tō arniō], be blessing and honor and glory and dominion for ever and ever” (emphasis added).

And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen,”

And the elders fell down and worshiped.

*Note: “To Him” (the Father) and “the Lamb” (the Son) are grammatically differentiated by the repeated article, tō, (“the”) in which precedes both nouns and are connected by the one conjunction, kai, “and” (cf. Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; cf. Sharp’s rule #6).

Distinction was indisputably in the Apostle John’s mind as he distinguishes the Father and the Son (“the Lamb”). Further, in 1 John 1:3, John shows that believers have fellow-ship with BOTH the Father and the Son. The Apostle John repeats the Greek preposition meta to show that the Father and Son are distinct from one another:

we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with [meta, meta] us; and indeed our fellowship is with [meta, meta] the Father and with [meta, meta] His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).

In his Trinitarian benediction, Paul grammatically emphasizes the distinction (viz. by the repetition of the article tou, “the”) between the three divine Persons:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [Iēsou Christou], and [kai] the love of God [tou theou], and [kai, kai] the fellowship of the Holy Spirit [tou hagiou pneumatos] be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14; cf. Matt. 28:19).

(SHORT OUTLINE)

The Preexistence of the Son and Oneness Theology

(Short Outline)

Oneness theology (Modalism) rejects the eternality of the Person of God the Son, Jesus Christ. They claim He had a beginning and He will have an end. Conversely though, Scripture presents unequivocally that the Person of the Son eternally existed WITH (pros, para, meta) the Father (esp. John 1:1; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:2, 10-12). The Son is said to BE the very Agent of creation (e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17: dia + the genitive). Demonstrating that Jesus Christ, God the Son, was the actual Creator demolishes Oneness theology. Thus, Oneness teachers sacrifice many clear biblical passages that teach the preexistence of the Son at the expense of their unitarian pre-committed doctrine of Modalism.

Hence, Oneness theology dishonors God by asserting that (a) the Person of the Son was a mere creation at Bethlehem and (b) it was the Father who came down and wrapped Himself in flesh (not becoming flesh) and that flesh was called “Son”—Jesus’ human nature.

By Him [en autō] all things [ panta] were created . . . all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [ eis auton]. He is before all things [autos estin pro pantōn], and all things [ panta] in Him [en autō] hold together (Col. 1:16-17; lit. rendering).

In sharp contrast to the Oneness theological position, Jesus, the Son, declared: Unless you believe that I am [egō eimi] you will die in your sins (John 8:24).

NOTE: The full force of Jesus’ assertion is striking: ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi, apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn (“For if you shall believe not that I am [egō eimi] you will die in the sins of you”). Hence, “I am” (egō eimi) and not “I am He” (i.e., there is no supplied predicate) is the literal rendering. Jesus clearly asserts here that salvation rests on believing that He (as the Person of the Son; cf. vv. 16-18, 27) is the eternal God. Jesus applied the divine title “I am” (egō eimi) in the absolute (i.e., appearing at the end of the clause) to Himself on seven (or possibility eight; cf. Mark 6:50) different occasions, these would be: John 8:24, 28; 8:58; 13:19; and John 18:5, 6, 8). Egō eimi was a frequent title used of YHWH alone (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; cf. LXX).

 

MAIN ARTICLE

The pre-existence and deity of the Person of Jesus Christ was formulated in the early Councils of the Christian church such as Nicea and in the theology and hymns of the Faith. It is the very bedrock of historical biblical Christianity. Jesus Christ made this point clear many times in His life (e.g., Matt. 8:26; 12:6, 18; John 2:19; 3:13; 6:35-40; 8:58; 16:28). In contrast, as we have clearly shown, Oneness doctrine rejects the unipersonality, deity and eternality of the Son. Oneness Christology further maintains that only for the sake of redemption did the unipersonal deity named “Jesus” manifest as the “Son.” Prolific Oneness author and teacher David K. Bernard (1983: 104-5) explains the Oneness position concerning the non-eternal Son:

The Sonship—or the role of the Son—began with the child conceived in the womb of Mary. The Scriptures make this perfectly clear … The Son was made under the law—not before the law (See also Hebrews 7:28) … Hebrews 1:5-6 also reveals that the begetting of the Son occurred at a specific point in time and that the Son had a beginning in time …From all of these verses, it is easy to see that the Son is not eternal, but was begotten by God almost 2000 years ago.

As delineated below, the exegesis of particular passages and analysis of biblical terms proves false the Oneness position of a non-eternal, non-personal Son. Specifically, the biblical presentation of 1) the eternality of the Son, 2) His role as the Agent of creation, and 3) His eternal existence with the Father will be the driving force that demolishes the Oneness theological position.

THE “ONENESS” POSITION

Bernard (1983: 105) declared, “There was a time when the Son did not exist,” thus rejecting the pre-existence of the Son. This resembles the very center point of the controversy at Nicea. Bernard’s statement here is theologically comparable to the key phrase in Arius’s teaching: “There was a time when He [the Son] was not.” However, the historic Christian church’s belief was quite different, for Arius was roundly condemned for his teachings. As vividly shown, the early church was not tolerant in any way, shape or form towards heresies that denied the nature of God and the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Oneness theology (or Modalism) maintains that God exists as a unipersonal deity. Hence, the fundamental Oneness position regarding Jesus Christ is this: the unitarian or unipersonal deity named Jesus has two natures: divine, as the mode of the Father/Holy Spirit and human, as the mode of the Son of God (though not God the Son). In Oneness thinking, the meaning of “Son of God” (or “Son of Man”) refers primarily to the humanity (viz., the human nature) of Jesus, not to the deity. Bernard (1983: 99, 103) indicates that the “Son of God” may refer to

God manifested in flesh—that is, deity in the human nature … We can never use the term “Son” correctly apart from the humanity of Jesus Christ … The Son always refers to the Incarnation and we cannot use it in the absence of the human element … The Son did not have pre-existence before the conception in the womb of Mary. The Son pre-existed in thought but not in substance.

Since unitarianism is the starting point, Oneness teachers (e.g., Paterson, 1966: 22; Bernard, 1983: 102-3) see Jesus as the Father, not as the Son, existing before time. Only in this sense, can Oneness advocates say that Jesus (as the Father) is eternal in that He preexisted. Therefore, as sufficiently documented thus far, Oneness theology rejects the idea that the Son preexisted with the Father (cf. Bernard 1983: 184).

Oneness teachers (e.g., Bernard, 1983: 103-4; Magee, 1988: 25) further argue that according to John 3:16, Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5,[1] the Son cannot be eternal because the Bible says He was “begotten” on a certain day. Although the translation of monogenēs is subject to translators, Oneness teachers, nevertheless, assume the meaning, of “origin” or “beginning” to show that the Person of the Son had a beginning. However, as pointed out below, the lexical support and contextual meaning of monogenēs militates against this assertion.

Passages that depict the Son’s preexistence (e.g., the “sending” of the Son passages; John 3:16; Col. 1:16-17) are explained away by Oneness teachers as mere references to the so-called future plan of the coming of the Son mode to earth. Bernard (1983: 102-3) explains that the “plan of the future Sonship existed with God [the Father] from the beginning—an idea in the mind of God.” The Son pre-existed as a divine thought, but not as a divine Person in Oneness theology. While this may sound plausible as an explanation in denying the pre-existence of the Son in those passages, it is a hollow claim lacking exegetical support. To adopt such a view is to rip the heart out of passages that specifically speak of the Son as the divine Agent of creation, the very Creator of all things.

 

AN ORTHODOX RESPONSE TO THE “ONENESS” POSITION

As demonstrably established, when Monarchianism (modalistic and dynamic) first emerged early in the second century, it was roundly and universally condemned as non-Christian. What marks Oneness theology as non-Christian, as thus far substantiated, is their denial of the deity and unipersonality of the Son. It re-defines the biblical doctrine of the Son, sinking Him to the level of a mere mode or office of a unitarian deity named “Jesus.” We will also show subsequently that the Old Testament authors, the apostles, the earliest of church fathers, early important ecclesiastical councils and creeds, present-day scholarship, and the people of God directly attested to and positively proclaimed the pre-existence of the pre-incarnate Son.

The Christian church has stalwartly refuted the denial of the pre-existence of the Son by Oneness and other unitarian groups. The words of Christ Himself in John 8:24 should send shock waves through the many groups that deny His pre-existence: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [egō eimi, i.e., the eternal God], you will die in your sins.”

 

THE PRE-INCARNATE SON

Thus far, we have seen the New Testament affirmation of the full deity of the Person of the Son, and hence, His eternality. Here in this article the biblical declaration and establishment of the Son’s eternal existence with the Father (preincarnation) will be the chief focus. Although this presentation will consist of specific passages primarily from the New Testament, the Old Testament provides many references to the pre-existence of the preincarnate Son (e.g., Gen. 19:24; Prov. 30:4; Isa. 6:1ff.;[2] Dan. 7:9-14; Micah 5:2; “the angel of the Lord” appearances [e.g., Gen. 16:7ff.; Exod. 3:2ff.; Judges 13:9-25]; etc.; cf. Morey, 1996: 306-13).

Of the many New Testament passages and terms that exegetically affirm the preexistence of the Son, John 1:1; 17:5; Philippians 2:5-11; and the “sending” of the Son passages (esp. in John) provide a weighty amount of exegetical evidence. Further evidence (viz., John 1:3, Col. 1:16-17 and Heb. 1:8-10) will include passages that clearly designate the Son as Creator, that is, the Agent of creation. In conclusion, there will be a discussion of the theological implications of the participle ōn (articular and anarthrous) as applied to the Son (John 1:18; Rom. 1:3; 2 Cor. 8:9; Heb. 1:3) and the implications of the Son as the monogenēs huios/theos.

John 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (En archē ēn ho logos, kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, kai theos ēn ho logos).

From a theological and grammatical standpoint, the three clauses of John 1:1 powerfully and effectively refute the theology of every non-Christian group that denies the eternality of the Son, the distinction between the Persons of the Father and the Son, and the full deity of the Person of Jesus Christ. Consider the three clauses of John 1:1:

John 1:1a: En archē ēn ho logos, literally, “In [the] beginning was the Word.” The first clause of John 1:1 teaches the eternality of the Son. The Greek verb ēn is the imperfect tense of eimi. The force of an imperfect tense indicates a continuous action normally occurring in the past. Hence, the Word did not originate at a point in time, but rather in the beginning of time the Word ēn already existing. Note the contrast between ēn and egeneto (the aorist indicative form of ginomai). The aorist indicative normally indicates a punctiliar action normally occurring in the past (cf. Greenlee, 2000: 49). In the prologue of John, ēn is exclusively applied to the eternal Word in verses 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10, while in verses 3, 6, and 10, the aorist egeneto is applied to everything created. Not until verse 14 does egeneto refer to the Son denoting His new nature—“the Word became [egeneto] flesh.”

John 1:1b: kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, literally, “and the Word was with the God.” The second clause of John 1:1 teaches the absolute personal distinction between the eternal Logos and ton theon (the Father), as we will thoroughly discuss below.

John 1:1c: kai theos ēn ho logos, literally, “and God was the Word.” The third clause of John 1:1 teaches the deity of Jesus Christ. The deity of Jesus Christ is so stunningly clear that one would have to alter the actual rendering of the clause to circumvent John’s intended meaning.

A full treatment of John 1:1 is not necessary here. Although Oneness doctrine sees the Word as God, they insist that the Word is the Father’s spoken Word or thought/plan, hence denying the unipersonality of the Word and His identification as Son. It is John 1:1b that is particularly relevant concerning the Oneness denial of the pre-incarnate Son: kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon.

In spite of the clear differentiation between ho logos and ton theon denoted by the preposition pros (“with”), Bernard (1983: 102-3) claims:

The Word or Logos can mean the plan or thought as it existed in the mind of God. The Word can also mean the plan or thought of God as expressed in the flesh, that is in the Son. What is the difference, therefore, between the two terms, Word and Son? The Word had pre-existence and the Word was God (the Father), so we can use it without reference to humanity. However, the Son always refers to the Incarnation and we cannot use it in the absence of the human element (emphasis added).

Thus, the “Word” in Oneness theology was merely a plan of the Father. This is the most abnormal application of the passage, thoroughly distorting what John was actually saying. In spite of Bernard’s position, other Oneness teachers have dissimilar views as to exactly what or who the Word was. One group of Oneness teachers (e.g., Paterson, 1966: 29 and Graves, 1977: 35) seems to be saying that the Word was the Father Himself, but manifested in the flesh, while others (e.g., Weisser, 1983: 35; Bernard, 1985: 22) see the Word as merely the thought or plan of the Father. This, however, prompts the question: “Who is the Son in Oneness theology?” As previously recognized, Oneness theology says the Son is the humanity and not the deity of Jesus. They also assert that since the Sonship began (was created) in Bethlehem, the Sonship will cease to exist after time (cf. Bernard, 1983: 106).

Historically, the early church used John 1:1 to show that the eternal Word was fully God and distinct from the Father. Clement of Alexandria (Fragments 3, in Alexander and Donaldson, 1994: vol. 2:574) declares: “The Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreated. That the Son was always the Word is signified by saying, ‘In the beginning was the Word.’” Hippolytus (Against Noetus 14, Alexander and Donaldson, 1994: vol. 5:228) likewise comments on John 1:1 to refute the first known modalist, Noetus of Smyrna:

If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit.

In his commentary on the Gospel of John, John Calvin (1994: 15) remarks on the distinction of the three divine Persons expressed in John 1:1b:

We have already said that the Son of God is thus placed above the world and above all the creatures, and is declared to have existed before all ages. But at the same time this mode of expression attributes to him a distinct personality from the Father; for it would have been absurd in the Evangelist to say that the Speech was always with God, if he had not some kind of subsistence peculiar to himself in God. … This passage serves, therefore, to refute the error of Sabellius, for it shows that the Son is distinct from the Father.

Expounding on John 1:1, Warfield (1988: 190-92) remarks:

In three crisp sentences he declares at the outset His eternal subsistence, His eternal intercommunion with God, His eternal identity with God: ‘In the beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God’ (John i. 1) … He was nevertheless not a separate being from God: “And the Word was”—still the eternal “was”—“God.” In some sense distinguishable from God, He was in an equally true sense identical with God. There is but one eternal God; this eternal God, the Word is; in whatever sense we may distinguish Him from the God whom He is “with,” He is yet not another than this God, but Himself is this God … John would have us realize that what the Word was in eternity was not merely God’s coeternal fellow, but the eternal God’s self (emphasis added).

“The Word was WITH [pros] God”

The modalistic interpretation of John 1:1 is annihilated by both the grammar and syntax of John 1:1b: ho logos ēn pros ton theon. To highlight the intimate loving fellowship that the Word shared with the Father, the Apostle John specifically used the preposition pros, translated “with” here. The preposition pros has various meanings depending on the context (e.g., to, toward, in the presence of, pertaining to, against, etc.; Greenlee, 1986: 39-40). When applied to persons, however, pros regularly denotes intimate fellowship and always their distinction. Of all the prepositions that John could have utilized, which can be mean “with” (e.g., en, meta, para, sun), he chose pros (lit., “facing”/“toward,” with the accusative, theon as the object of the preposition). Hence, pros with the accusative clearly indicates that the Word was “at, with, in the presence of … God” (Greenlee, 1986: 39). In reference to John 1:1b, pros indicates “by, at, near; pros tina einai: be (in company) with someone” (Bauer, 2000: 875).

Robertson (1932: 5:4) elucidates the significance of the preposition pros in John 1:1b:

With God (pros ton theon). Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Pros with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other. In 1 John 2:1 we have a like use of pros: “We have a Paraclete with the Father” (paraklēton echomen pros ton patera). See prosōpon pros prosōpon (face to face, 1 Cor, 13:12), a triple use of pros.

Protestant apologist White (1998: 52) remarks as to the personal intimacy expressed by the preposition pros:

Just as Greek verbs are often more expressive than their English counterparts, so too are Greek prepositions. Here John uses the preposition pros. The term has a wide range of meanings, depending on the context in which it is found. In this particular instance, the term speaks to a personal relationship, in fact, to intimacy. It’s the same term the apostle Paul uses when he speaks of how we presently have a knowledge comparable to seeing in a dim mirror, but someday, in eternity, we will have a clearer knowledge, an intimate knowledge, for we shall see “face to (pros) face” (Corinthians 13:12). When you are face-to-face with someone, you have nowhere to hide. You have a relationship with that person, whether you like it or not.

Commenting on the intimate nature of pros, Robertson (1934: 625) correlates John 1:1b and 2 Corinthians 5:8: “It is the face-to-face converse with the Lord that Paul has in mind. John thus conceives the fellowship between the Logos and God.” Vincent (1973: 2:34) says,

The preposition pros, which, with the accusative case, denotes motion towards, or direction, is also often used in the New Testament in the sense of with; and that not merely as being near or beside, but as a living union and communion; implying the active notion of intercourse … Thus John’s statement is that the divine Word not only abode with the Father from all eternity but was in the living, active relation of communion with Him.

Lenski (1943: 32-33) similarly shows that pros in John 1:1b signified the inseparable communion that the distinct Person of the Word had with the Father:

The preposition pros, as distinct from en, para, and sun, is of the greatest importance …The idea is that of presence and communion with a strong note of reciprocity. The Logos, then, is not an attribute inhering in God, or a power emanating from him, but a person in the presence of God and turned in loving, inseparable communion toward God, and God turned equally toward him. He was another and yet not other than God. This preposition pros sheds light on Gen. 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Pros expresses the intimate and special relationship that Christians will experience “at home with [pros] the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

In Romans 5:1, Paul teaches that the believer, having been justified from faith (ek pisteōs), presently and permanently has (echomen) peace with God (pros ton theon). Notwithstanding the mass of biblical scholarship, Oneness teachers postulate a unitarian assumption, denying the appropriate and natural meaning of pros in John 1:1b. Evading the lexical denotation and contextual substance of pros in John 1:1b, Bernard (1983: 188-89) states:

We should also note that the Greek word pros, translated here as “with,” is translated as “pertaining to” in Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1 … Furthermore, if God in John 1:1 means God the Father, then the Word is not a separate person for the verse would then read, “The Word was with the Father and the Word was the Father” To make this imply a plurality of persons in God would necessitate a change in the definition of God in the middle of the verse.

Here Bernard attempts to make a grammatical connection, asserting that pros in John 1:1b means the same in Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1. He then commits the fallacy of equivocation when he implies that theos in 1:1b and theos in John 1:1c refer to the same thing: the identification of the Father. First, let us deal with the use of pros in John 1:1b and Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1. Bernard’s assertion overlooks the grammatical differences.

In both Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1 (and Rom. 15:17), the phrase ta pros ton theon appears. Note that the neuter plural article ta (“the things”) precedes the preposition pros, while in John 1:1b, the imperfect form of eimi (i.e., ēn) precedes the preposition pros. The neuter plural article points to impersonal concepts, “the things pertaining to God,” while pros is preceded by the imperfect verb (ēn) in John 1:1b, which points to a personal interaction—the Word “was with God.”

Second, the specific phrase pros ton theon as in John 1:1b and Hebrews, occurs twenty times in the Greek New Testament (NA28). In each occurrence, pros differentiates between a person or persons and God (except, of course, the three times where the neuter plural article precedes the phrase). However, even at those places, “the things” pertaining to God are still distinct “things” from God.

In 1:1b, John envisages a marked distinction between two Persons—ton theon and ho logos. Pros ton theon, expresses the distinct personality of the Logos, which the preposition en would have obscured. It is a “face-to-face” with God or “at home with God” that is indicated (Plummer, 1900: 64).

Next, Bernard attempts to make theos in both 1:1b and 1:1c have the same referent (the Father) and thus, the same semantic meaning (definite). As a result, he implies that the equative verb ēn carries the same force as the mathematical equal symbol, asserting that theos in 1:1c (the Word) equals theos in 1:1b (the Father). In other words, his assumption of unitarianism brings about his conclusion that “God” can only refer to the Father. Therefore, Oneness teachers see both occurrences of theos in John 1:1 as referring to the Father, which tags theos as semantically definite.

In response, grammatically speaking, logos, is the subject of the clause (1:1c) and theos, is the predicate nominative, technically, an anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative. The predicate nominative describes the class or category to which the subject (logos) belongs (Wallace, 1996: 262, 265). Theos, is the category to which the logos, belongs in terms of nature, not identity. Specifically, there are three semantic categories to which the anarthrous predicate nominative theos may belong: definite, indefinite, or qualitative (see Wallace, 1996: 263 for a detailed diagram of the semantic categories). As Wallace points out, to which category theos belongs is determined by the grammar, syntax, and context of the passage:

Is theos Definite? If theos were tagged as definite it would indeed force Modalism into John 1:1. The predicate nominative tells what the logos is, not who He is (Greenly, 1986: 24). John could easily have established Modalism in John 1:1c by definitizing theos (i.e., ho theos ēn ho logos, “the God was the Word”), turning John 1:1c into a “convertible proposition” (i.e., the subject, logos being interchangeable with the predicate, theos, in contrast to a “subset proposition”). Rebutting the Oneness position, New Testament scholar Harris (1992: 61) provides this analysis:

What is grammatically admissible [viz. the rendering: ho theos ēn ho logos, “the God was the Word”] is contextually inadmissible. If theos were taken as subject and as equivalent to ho theos … the clause would contradict what precedes (“the Word was with God,” distinguishing two persons) and would reduce the logos to merely a divine attribute (cf. 1 John 4:8: ho theos agapē estin).

In the same vein, Robertson (1932: 5:4) comments on the way John actually guards against Sabellianism (i.e., Modalism):

And the Word was God (kai theos ēn ho logos). By exact and careful language, John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho logos ēn ho theos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article.

Oneness teachers that comment on John 1:1 (e.g., Paterson, 1966: 29 and Graves, 1977: 35; Bernard, 1983: 188-89) do not provide any scholarly sources, which agree or even imply that John 1:1 teaches Modalism or that John 1:1c is a convertible proposition. The pre-decided unitarian theology precludes Oneness teachers from exegetically interacting with the text. Hence, the intended meaning of John 1:1b is removed by the Oneness unitarian conviction. Even though the theological consequence of a definitized theos is a modalistic understanding of John 1:1, many well-meaning Christian apologists and counter-cult writers incorrectly regarded theos as definite (e.g., Rhodes, 1993: 107; Martin, 1997: 138; Ankerberg and Weldon, 1999: 170).

This is mainly due to a sizeable misunderstanding of E. C. Colwell’s grammatical rule (viz., asserting the converse; cf. Wallace 1996: 257-62).[3] In sharp contrast to a definite tag, Wallace (1996: 26) indicates that

Calling theos in 1:1c definite is the same as saying that if it had followed a verb it would have had the article … (i.e., “the Word” = “God” and “God” = “the Word”). The problem with this argument is that the theos in 1:1b is the Father … This, as older grammarians and exegetes point out, is embryonic Sabellianism or modalism. The Fourth Gospel is about the least likely place to find modalism in the NT.

Adding even more credence against the modalistic definite view of theos is John 1:1c (“and the Word was with [pros] God”) and the unalterable fact the three Persons of the Trinity are constantly differentiated throughout John’s Gospel (esp. 14-16). Therefore, to say that theos is definite (i.e., seeing 1:1c as a convertible proposition) would clearly induct a unitarian/modalistic concept of God into the passage. Against such a view is both the grammar of the passage and the context and John’s own theology envisaging a distinction between the Persons of the Trinity.

Is theos Indefinite? An indefinite rendering (such as the rendering, “a god,” in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ NWT, 1984) reduces Jesus to an indefinite non-eternal god (one of others). Whereas a definite tag throws Modalism into John 1:1, an indefinite tag throws polytheism (i.e., many gods) into the passage. If Jesus is a true “mighty god” (“a god”) and Jehovah is a true “Almighty God,” as Jehovah’s Witnesses argue, this would also present a decidedly Gnostic theological construct: a supreme God (Almighty) and a demigod (mighty god). Either way, an indefinite rendering introduces the idea of multiple true gods/Gods. The NWT’s grammatical assumption at John 1:1c that the anarthrous theos = an indefinite rendering, “a god” (Watchtower, 1989a: 212) is both flawed and inconsistent.

If the NWT were to be consistent, then John 1:6 should read: “There came a man sent from a god” (theos is anarthrous). Verse 12 should read: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of a god” (theos is anarthrous). Verse 13 should read: “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of a god (theos is anarthrous). And verse 18 should read: “No one has seen a god” (theos is anarthrous).[4]

If John had envisaged Jesus as an indefinite “god” that would be utterly cacophonous with his entire presentation of Jesus Christ as fully God (e.g., 1:3; 2:19; 8:24; 58; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 22:13). Besides the polytheism that an indefinite rendering produces, there are two additional problems with an indefinite tag. The first problem is that theos in 1:1c is placed in the emphatic position, which makes an indefinite rendering all the more improbable.

 

The second problem is that John 1:1a indicates clearly that the Word was eternal: “In the beginning was [ēn] the Word” (emphasis added). We have already seen above the import of the imperfect ēn. In addition, John 1:3 teaches that the eternal Word was the actual Agent of creation: “All things came into being through Him [di’ autou]”[5] (emphasis added). It was not the grammar that determined how the NWT was to render John 1:1c, but rather it was the theological bias (unitarianism) of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Is theos Qualitative? In view of John’s theology, along with the grammar and context, the highest semantical possibility for theos in 1:1c is qualitative. Pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives fall predominantly into this category (Wallace, 196: 269). As a predicate nominative (pre-verbal), theos is the category or class to which the divine Logos belongs. The Word as to His essence or nature was definitely God. He was “identical” to ton theon in 1:1b, not in identity or Person, but rather identical (i.e., co-equal) in ontological “quality” (cf. Heb. 1:3).

There are numerous examples in the New Testament of anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives that are qualitative in semantic force. In John 1:14 we read: “the Word became flesh.” He did not become “a flesh” (indefinite), or “the flesh” (definite), but rather He became “flesh”—as to His nature (qualitative).[6] Robertson (1932: 5:4-5) refers to 1:14 to exemplify the qualitative force of theos in 1:1c and the semantic problem of a definite tag:

The subject is made plain by the article (ho logos) and the predicate without it (theos) … So in John 1:14 ho Logos sarx egeneto, “the Word became flesh,” not “the flesh became Word.” Luther argues that here John disposes of Arianism also because the Logos was eternally God, fellowship of the Father and Son, what Origen called Eternal Generation of the Son … Thus in the Trinity we see personal fellowship.

In clear opposition to Oneness unitarian assertion of a definite theos in 1:1c, Reymond (1998: 300) expositorily notes that John wrote theos anarthrously most likely to his desire to keep the Word hypostatically distinct from the Father to whom he had just referred as ton theon.

In conclusion, the Word as to His very nature was God. Though God, He was not the very Person of Father, in which case theos in 1:1c would be definite (ho theos). Nor was He one of a pantheon of gods or aeons, which an indefinite rendering of theos would produce. Rather, as to His inherent sum quality, He possessed all the fullness (plērōma) of God in human flesh, as Scripture loudly presents: “The Word was God.” Only by reading the Bible through the lens of unitarianism/unipersonalism can one maintain the false Oneness notion that God was only one Person (the Father) and the Word was the Father.

The Personal Attributes of the Word

Before we leave John 1:1, there is one more point to address. It is the question of who or what the Word is in Oneness doctrine. We have seen the disagreement among Oneness writers as to the identity of the Word (the Father Himself or the “plan or thought” of the Father). In spite of the differences, one thing is clear in Oneness doctrine: the Word is the Father (either in Person or in thought/plan). Let us deal first with the Oneness view that the Word is the Person of the Father (i.e., viewing theos in 1:1c as definite). As we have shown, along with John 14-16, John 1:1b provides a clear refutation to this notion: the Word was (ēn) with (pros) God (the Father). In refutation of the alternative view postulated by Oneness teachers (e.g., Weisser, 1983: 35; Bernard, 1985: 22) that the Word was a mere plan or thought (or prophecy) of the Father, and thus an impersonal concept, the Word possessed personal attributes:

Ø “The Word was with [pros] God” (1:1b).

Ø “In Him was life and He was the Light of all men” (v. 4).

Ø John “came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through Him” (v. 7). John did not testify about the Father’s impersonal future concept or a plan, but rather, He proclaimed the Person of the Word, the Light of all people.

Ø The Word created “all things” and “the world was made through Him” (di’ autou, vv. 3, 10). The Word is the Agent of creation and not a mere instrument, which John’s use of dia followed by the genitive autou, shows. There will be a thorough discussion of this exegetical characteristic below (4.6).

Ø “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave them right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (vv. 11-12).

Ø “And the Word [not the Father] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten [monogenēs] of the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14; emphasis added).

The prologue of John proves false the Oneness idea that the Word was only a plan, thought, or a mere concept in the Father’s mind. This beautiful prologue presents the Word as the Light of all people, the monogenēs (“one and only/unique One”) of the Father, and the Creator of all things, to whom personal pronouns are applied. We have shown above that John 1:1 powerfully and exegetically refutes those who deny 1) the eternality Christ (because of the imperfect ēn in 1:1a), 2) His distinction from the Father (because of the preposition pros in 1:1b), and 3) the full deity of Christ (because of the qualitative force of theos, in 1:1c).

 

John 17:5

Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself [para seautō], with the glory which I had [eichon] with You [para soi] before the world was” (emphasis added).

One of the most attacked doctrines launched by “unitarian” groups (i.e., seeing God as one Person) such as Muslims, JWs (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Oneness Pentecostals, is, of course, the full deity of Jesus Christ.[1] If Jesus Christ is really God in the flesh, then, the very core theology of these groups is utterly demolished.

There is quite a lot of scriptural evidence that clearly shows Jesus Christ as being fully God. One such strong and undeniable proof, however, is His preexistence. Demonstrating that the Person of the Son preexisted firmly establishes the eternality of Jesus Christ—especially at passages that present Him as the Creator.[2] There are many passages in both the OT and NT that affirm the Son’s preexistence (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 3:13; 8:57-58; 16:28; 17:5; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; etc.).

In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to the Father, He requests or commands (as we will see)[3] the Father to glorify Himself together with the Father, with the glory that He had (or shared [eichon]) with (para) the Father before the world was. Hence, according to the Son’s own words, He pre-existed with the Father—“before the world was.” Again, this passage strongly refutes not only the claims of unitarian groups who deny the deity of Jesus Christ, but specifically the modalistic claims of Oneness Pentecostals who deny both the Son’s deity, pre-existence, and unipersonality.[4] As we will see, the exegetical significance is undeniable.

“Glorify Me together with Yourself.” First, the glory mentioned here is a shared glory—Father and Son. It is the divine glory that Yahweh does “not share” with anyone else (cf. Isa. 48:11). Notice that the glorification applies to both the Father and the Son, the glory they shared before the creation. It is not glory apart from the Father that Jesus seeks, but rather glory alongside (para) the Father. The glory of which Jesus speaks is a “Me with You” glory. No creature can make this claim. In terms of the divine unshared glory that the Son possesses, Hebrews 1:3 corresponds in a remarkable way to John 17:5: “He [the Son] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His [the Father] nature.” In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah saw (eidon) the glory of Yahweh (lit., “the glory of Him”; cf. also v. 2).

Amazingly, this glory that Isaiah “saw” was the glory of Jesus, according to the Apostle John: “These things Isaiah said because he saw the glory of Him [referring to Jesus, cf. v. 37] and he spoke of Him” (John 12:41). The same terms found in Isaiah 6 verses 1 and 2 in the Greek translation of the OT (i.e., LXX; horaō, “I saw” and ho doxa, “the glory”) are found in John 12:41 to reveal that the glory of Yahweh that Isaiah saw was the glory of Jesus Christ. As Calvin says: “For assuredly the God who appeared to Isaiah was the one true God, and yet John declares that he was Christ (Isa. vi; John xii. 41)” (Institutes, 1.13.23).

And second, aside from this passage, which clearly displays the distinction and intimate relationship between the Father and Jesus, there is the issue of the aorist imperative form of doxazō (i.e., doxason, “glorify [Me]”). Although the imperative mood can denote a simple request, the most common usage of the imperative is for commands. Recognized Greek grammarian Daniel Wallace comments on the imperative verb: “with the aorist [as in John 17:5], the force generally is to command the action as a whole. . . .”[5] Since Jesus is presented in Scripture as ontologically (i.e., by nature) co-equal with the Father, His “commanding” the Father to glorify Him would not infringe on the doctrine of the Trinity—one divine Person commanding another divine Person of the same ontological class or category.

As stated, it is possible that the imperative here can be one of request, it is in the assumption of unipersonalism (i.e., believing that God is one Person), thus denying that the Son is a divine Person co-equal with Father, that we find a natural and automatic rejection of the imperative of command. To recall, the main reason why, for example, Muslims, JWs, and Oneness believers reject the deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, is due to their false notion that God exists as one Person (unipersonal). Hence, they would ask, “How can another person (Jesus) be God, if God is one Person—the Father?” So, due to this misunderstanding of what Trinitarianism actually teaches, they accuse Christians of believing in three separate Gods.

Para with the Dative. What erases the Oneness notion is that, grammatically, when the preposition para (“with”) is followed by the dative case (as in this verse: para seautō, lit., “together with Yourself”; para soi, lit., “together with You”) especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of” (cf. Wallace, 1996: 378).

In the exhaustive Bauer (BDAG, 2000: 757), the preposition para with the dative is well defined: “[para] w.[ith] the dat., the case that exhibits close association … marker of nearness in space, at/by (at the side of), beside, near, with, acc.[ording] to the standpoint fr.[om] which the relationship is viewed.” Robertson (1932: 5:275-76) brings to light the exegetical particulars of verse 5:

With Thine own self (para seautōi). “By the side of Thyself.” Jesus prays for full restoration to the preincarnate glory and fellowship (cf. 1:1) enjoyed before the Incarnation (John 1:14). This is not just ideal preexistence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side (para soi, with thee) “which I had” (hēi eichon, imperfect active of echō, I used to have, with attraction of case of hēn to hēi, because of doxēi), “before the world was” (pro tou ton kosmon einai), “before the being as to the world” (cf. verse 24).

Likewise, Reymond (Systemic Theology, 1998: 230) remarks on the Son’s eternal preexistence as taught in John 17:5:

The Gospel of John witnesses that Jesus claimed eternal preexistence: “Glory me, Father,” Jesus prayed, “with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was” (John 17:1, 5), indeed, with “my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This claim in Jesus’ part to an eternal preexistence with the Father is not an aberration, for he speaks elsewhere, though in somewhat different terms, of that same preexistence.

In a desperate attempt to rescue Oneness theology from the plain teaching that the Son preexisted as a divine Person sharing glory “with” the Father, Oneness advocates find it commonplace to engage in lexical abuse. That is, they will appeal to various lexicons that show para with the dative can have the meaning of “in the mind.”

However, no standard lexicon ever applies that meaning to John 17:5, but only to unrelated passages. In point of fact, all standard lexicons (regarding para + dat.), Grammars, and the mass of biblical scholarship affirm John 17:5 as exegetically affirming the Person of the Son sharing glory with (in the presence/association of) the Father, before time—thus a true preexistence of the divine Son. Again, this “is not just ideal preexistence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side.”

In fact, in John’s literature, para with the dative is used ten times (John 1:39; 4:40; 8:38; 14:17, 23, 25, 17:5 [twice]; 19:25; and Rev. 2:13). In every place, para with the dative carries a meaning of a literal “alongside of” or “in the presence of,” that is, “with” in a most literal sense —thus, nowhere in John’s literature does para with the dative denote “in one’s mind—unless one sees 17:5 as some kind of exception. For example, note John 14:23:

“Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him [par’ autō]” (emphasis added; again, the first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) clearly distinguish Jesus from His Father).

And John 19:25: “Therefore, the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross [para tō staurō] of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (emphasis added).

So with John 17:5, para with the dative denotes a meaning of a literal “alongside of” or “in the presence of.”

What is also worth mentioning (as referenced in Chapter 5, 5.6.2.1) is the remarkable parallel in Ignatius’s letter to the Magnesians (c. A.D. 107) with John 17:5: “Jesus Christ, who before the ages [pro aiōnōn] was with the Father [para patri] and appeared at the end of time” (6, in Holmes, 1999: 153, 155; emphasis added). Specifically, both use para with the dative denoting a marked distinction between Jesus and the Father and both use the preposition pro (“before”) to indicate that their distinction existed from eternity—“before time.”

Thus, Ignatius following the apostolic tradition envisages Jesus Christ as being para (“with/in the presence of”) the Father— pro aiōnōn (“before time”)—, which again is consistent with Trinitarianism, not Oneness unitarianism. Oneness doctrine contorts Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to the Father. It reduces it to a mere un-intimate mirage: Jesus as the non-divine Son praying to His own divine nature (the Father), only appearing to be numerically distinct. In sum, John 17:5 presents a potent affirmation of the preexistence of the Son as outlined in the following points:

Ø The Son, not the Father, is praying (“Now, Father, glorify Me”).

Ø The Son commands the Father to glorify Him, signifying His coequality with the Father.

Ø This divine glory is shared between the Father and the Son, and

Ø The Son declares that He possesses this divine glory alongside of/with (para) the Father, before time.

Ø Para with the dative is used only six times in John’s literature. In every single case, para denotes a literal “alongside of,” “in the presence of,” “in association of/with”).

NOTES

[1] Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus pre-existed, but only as the Father, thus denying the Son’s pre-existence, deity, and unipersonality. In Oneness theology, “Son” represents merely the humanity of Jesus (not the deity), and “Father” (and “Holy Spirit”) represents the deity of Jesus.

[2] E.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12).

[3] Below, we will discuss the significance of the aorist imperative tense (i.e., the mood of command)—doxason (“glorify [Me]”).

[4]. See note 1 above.

[5] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (GGBB), 485.

[6] GGBB, 378; see also Walter Bauer, Fredrick Danker, William Arndt, and F. Gingrich’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG).

[7] Word Pictures, 5:275-76.

[8] Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 230.

 

 

Philippians 2:5-11:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but [He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11, known as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn to Christ”) and also known as the Kenosis Hymn (from kenoō, “to make empty”) was utilized by the early Christian church to teach and magnify the pre-existence, incarnation, and the full deity of Jesus Christ. Hippolytus (The Extant Works and Fragments, Exegetical, On Genesis, in Roberts and Donaldson, 1994: vol. 5:167) says of the Hymn:

For as the only begotten Word of God, being God of God, emptied Himself, according to the Scriptures, humbling Himself of His own will to that which He was not before, and took unto Himself this vile flesh, and appeared in the “form of a servant,” and “became obedient to God the Father, even unto death …” And it is for this reason that, when He had assumed, by divine arrangement, the lowly estate of humanity, He said, “Father, glorify me with the glory which I had,” etc. For He who was co-existent with His Father before all time, and before the foundation of the world, always had the glory proper to Godhead.

The context of Philippians 2 is clear: Paul stresses to the Philippians that they ought to act in a harmonious and humble way. Paul then instructs them to have an attitude in themselves “which was also in Christ Jesus”—humility (v. 5). Which then leads Paul in verse 6 to present the ultimate act of humility: Christ, who was always subsisting as God, “emptied Himself [heauton ekenōsen], taking the form of a bond-servant … becoming obedient to the point of death.” In these seven short verses, Paul provides a beautiful delineation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This Hymn to Christ as God systematically encapsulates Jesus’ nature as subsisting as God (pre-existing), His incarnation, His cross-work, His exaltation, and His distinction from God the Father whom He glorifies. The philosophy of Modalism, conversely, eradicates the high Christological significance and Paul’s summit illustration of humility.

To avoid the Hymn’s Christological significance, Oneness teachers have offered various views, all of which are unusual, awkward, and out of context. There exists no single united or standard interpretation in the writings of Oneness supporters. There seem to be two main interpretations offered by Oneness teachers: 1) the Hymn is not referring to eternity past; rather, the time-frame of the words “existing in the form of God” is actually the earthy life and human ministry of Christ, as the Son (see Boyd, 1992: 106-7, 222); or 2) the Hymn is a reference to the Father who supposedly emptied Himself (cf. Bernard, 1983: 220-24).

First, let us address Paul’s clear presentation of the deity of the Son. Unquestionably, the consciousness of Paul was so fixed on the deity of Christ that he implicitly and explicitly asserted it in virtually every one of his epistles (e.g., Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 5:5; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; 2 Thess. 1:12; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13). In verse 6, Paul utilizes very specific terms to bolster his case in which he plainly asserts that Jesus was always subsisting as God: “Who although He existed [huparchōn] in the form of God [morphē theou]” (emphasis added). The word translated “existed” is huparchōn, which is the present active participle of huparchō. The participle here indicates a continuous existence or state of continually subsisting (Thayer, 1996: 638; Bauer, 2000: 1029).

Hence, Jesus, the Son of God (cf. 1:2; 2:9, 11), did not become the very form or nature of God at a certain point in time, rather He always existed as God, just as Paul definitely expressed. The word translated “form” (NASB) or “nature” (NIV) is morphē. This word denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. Here, it denotes “the expression of divinity in the pre-existent Christ” (Bauer, 2000: 659). It expresses that which is intrinsic and essential to the thing. Thus, here it means that our Lord in His pre-incarnate state possessed essential deity (Ryrie, 1986: 261). Warfield (1988: 177) clearly expresses its semantic force:

Paul does not simply say, “He was God.” He says, “He was in the form of God,” employing a turn of speech which throws emphasis upon Our Lord’s possession of the specific quality of God. “Form” is a term, which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is … And “the form of God” is the sum of the characteristics which make the being we call “God,” specifically God, rather than some other being—an angel, say, or a man. When Our Lord is said to be in “the form of God,” therefore, He is declared, in the most expressed manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God.

To deny that the Son was truly the morphē of God is to deny that the Son was truly the morphē of man, “taking the form [morphē] of a bond-servant.” This obliterates the Oneness argument that “existed in the form of God” is a reference to the non-divine human Son’s earthy ministry, posited by such Oneness writers as Robert Sabin (cf. Boyd, 1992: 106-7). However, Bernard’s view differs from that of Sabin. Bernard holds to the view that “existed in the form of God” is a reference to Jesus as the Father who took on a new nature—the Son. He thus concludes that the “Lord” mentioned in verse 11 is merely Jesus as the human non-divine Son (cf. Bernard, 1983: 222). Because of his theological commitment to unitarianism, Bernard (1983: 222) says of the Hymn: “From the Oneness point of view, Jesus is not God the Son, but He is all of God, including Father and Son [i.e., the human nature]. Thus, in His divinity, He is truly equal to, or identical to God.”

In the face of both Oneness interpretations, which deny both the deity and the pre-existence of the Son, there are several grammatical and contextual reasons, which (a) refute the Oneness exegesis of the Hymn and (b) positively affirm the deity and pre-existence of the distinct Person of the Son:

1. Throughout this Epistle, Paul plainly distinguishes between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as two distinct subjects (e.g., 1:11; 2:5-11; and esp. in Paul’s salutation [1:2] as exegetically established. In the Hymn itself, Paul clearly differentiates between the Father whom Jesus glorified (v. 11) and the Lord Jesus Christ whom the Father exalted (v. 9). In effect, we see the distinction between the Father and Jesus uncomplicatedly.

2. Oneness teachers err to think that the phrase “equal with God” (isa theō; v. 6) means “identical to God.” In Bernard’s (1983: 222) claim that Paul is speaking here of Jesus as the Father, he distorts the meaning of the word translated “equal” (isa): “In His divinity, He is truly equal to, or identical to God. The word equal here means that the divine nature of Jesus was the very nature of God the Father” (emphasis added). Contrary to Bernard’s understanding of the term, the adjective isa, is the neuter plural of isos, meaning “equal, in quality, or in quantity … to claim for one’s self the nature, rank, authority, which belong to God, Jn. v. 18” (Thayer, 1996: 307). The term means, “pertaining to being equivalent in number, size, quality, equal” (Bauer, 2000: 480-81). There is no standard lexicon that offers “identical” (or a synonym) as a possible meaning for isos. Boyd (1992: 106) says, “There are a number of ways in Greek for saying one thing is ‘identical to’ or ‘the same as’ something else, but Paul does not employ them here.” The passage is indisputably teaching that Jesus was in very morphē theou huparchōn, literally, “nature of God subsisting.” What the passage is not saying, however, is that Jesus “existed in the form of the Father.”

3. It was the Son who voluntarily “made Himself nothing [heauton ekenōsen], taking [labōn] the nature of a servant” (vv. 7-8). Note the reflexive pronoun heauton, “He Himself.” It indicates a “self-emptying,” in that “He emptied Himself” (Wallace, 1996: 350-51; Reymond, 1998: 263). Next, the participle labōn (“taking”), is semantically a participle of means (cf. Wallace, 196: 630). The participle of means describes the means or manner of the emptying. Hence, the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation (cf. John 1:14). The emptying did not involve His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: hos en morphē theou huparchōn, “Who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance of God” (translation mine). It was not the Father, as Oneness teachers suppose, but the Son who voluntarily emptied Himself and became obedient to death—“even death on a cross” (v. 8).

4. Verse 9 reads: “Therefore God [the Father] exalted Him [the Son; cf. v. 5] to the highest place.” Hence, God the Father did not exalt Himself, but rather the Father exalted Jesus, God the Son. It was God the Son who Himself emptied Himself (heauton ekenōsen) by taking (labōn) the nature (morphē) of a servant (cf. John 1:14) and being obedient to death, even death on a cross.

5. In verses 10-11, Paul concludes his glorious Christological Hymn with a “purpose of exaltation” (hina) clause: “So that [hina] at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [kurios Iēsous Christos], to the glory of God the Father.” Most English translations read, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” whereas the Greek reads, kurios Iēsous Christos, literally, “Lord Jesus Christ.” In biblical Greek, the placement of a word in a sentence was not always dependent on the subject-verb word order, but rather on emphasis. In verse 11, the anarthrous predicate nominative kurios, occupies the “emphatic position” (i.e., first word of the clause): “Lord Jesus Christ.” As we have shown, the same is true in John 1:1c where the anarthrous predicate nominative theos, is also in the emphatic position: theos ēn ho logos, drawing attention to the Word’s nature as God.

In verses 10-11, Paul coherently emphasizes that Jesus is the Lord, the Yahweh of Isaiah 45:23 (cf. Rom. 14:11). Without question Paul here is loosely drawing from Isaiah 45:23, which is an undeniable reference to Yahweh. Paul, however, applies it here to Jesus Christ the Lord who glorifies the Father. According to Paul’s own theology, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that the Son, Christ Jesus, is Yahweh (cf. Rom. 14:11). There are further exegetical details that enhance the force of Paul’s Jesus-Isaiah connection.

First, both Isaiah 45:23 (LXX) and Romans 14:11 use future indicatives: “every knee will bow [kampsēi] … every tongue will confess [exomologēsetai]” indicating the future certainty of the event. However, Paul modifies the original moods and tenses of the verbs in Isaiah and Romans to make Philippians 2:10-11 a purpose and result clause (cf. Wallace, 1996: 474). The purpose of God the Father exalting the Son, then, was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Yahweh—hence fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic word.

Second, as shown, Oneness teachers maintain that according to the phrase onomati Iēsou, in verse 10, the “name” of the unipersonal deity is “Jesus” (cf. Bernard, 1983: 223). However, the grammar of the text does not indicate what Oneness believers assume. It was not the mere name Iēsous that was “above every name,” rather, it was the onoma that belonged to Jesus, thus, Iēsous being a genitive of possession, as previously mentioned. In light of Paul’s own argument, the “highest name” in which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess was the name that belonged to Jesus, the name that Jesus possessed. Verse 11 reveals that name (i.e., authority): “Lord Jesus Christ”—thus, Yahweh, the fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23.

Therefore, both Oneness interpretations of the Hymn cannot stand exegetically. The view that the Hymn is merely referring to the non-divine non-eternal Son’s “earthy ministry” goes against Paul’s words in verse 6: “He [continuously] existed in the form of God.” Bernard’s view (Jesus as the Father who became flesh, i.e., the Son) goes against Paul’s words in verse 10-11: “So that [hina] at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” There is another serious defect shared by both views. They both assert the “Lord” in verses 10 and 11 is the human non-divine Son. If so, this would mean that a man (viz., the human Son according to Oneness belief) could be Yahweh (the name that He possessed) and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic word pertaining to Yahweh alone.

The Oneness interpretations of the Hymn do not follow theologically or contextually. From start to finish, the Hymn presents a positive affirmation that the Son was in the very nature of God subsisting and pre-existing. It was the Son who emptied Himself, becoming incarnate, taking the very nature of humanity. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The Son is the Yahweh of Isaiah’s prophecy in 45:23 who glorifies the distinct Person of God the Father.

 

The Pre-Incarnate Son sent from the Father

“The very works I do testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent” (John 5:36-38).

Scripture presents in plain and normal language the pre-incarnate Person of the Son that was sent from the Father (e.g., John 3:13; 16-17; 6:33, 38, 44, 46, 50-51, 62; 8:23, 38, 42, 57-58; 16:28; Gal. 4:4). Nowhere in the New Testament, however, do we see Jesus sending the Son. If Jesus were the Father, as Oneness teachers contend, one would expect to find a clear example of Jesus sending the Son—at least one passage. As we have shown, in Oneness doctrine, the Father (Jesus’ divine nature) came down out of heaven and put on a flesh outfit, calling it “Son.” In full denial of the incarnation of the pre-incarnate Son, Bernard (1983: 122) states: “God the Father so loved the world that He robed Himself in flesh and gave Himself as the Son of God to reconcile the world to Himself” (emphasis added; see also Bernard, 1983: 104-5; Magee, 1988: 32).

This teaching unquestionably contradicts the unadorned words of Jesus Christ: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13). The Bible so fluently states that the Person of the Son pre-existed in heaven prior to His coming to earth. The Son prior to Bethlehem was with the Father who sent Him (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:1b; 17:5). The Father sent the Son of Man ek tou ouranou (“from out of the heaven”; John 3:13). The massive amounts of biblical evidence confirming that the Father sent the pre-incarnate Son crushes the Oneness unitarian/unipersonal view of Christ. It proves false the entire Oneness system of a Jesus who as the Father existed in absolute aloneness prior to creation.

Notwithstanding the overwhelming biblical evidence of the Father sending the pre-incarnate Son, Oneness exegesis maintains that passages that speak of the sending of the Son are in reality speaking of Jesus as the Father sending His “plan” (i.e., the future Son) to earth. It claims that the Father “put flesh on” (without actually becoming flesh) at Bethlehem. Bernard (1983: 184) further explains this decidedly modalistic notion:

He [the Father] gave of Himself; He did not send someone else (John 3:16). The Son was sent from God as a man, not as God: “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). The word sent does not imply pre-existence of the Son or pre-existence of the man. John 1:6 states that John the Baptist was a man sent from God, and we know he did not pre-exist his conception. Instead, the word sent indicates that God appointed the Son for a special purpose. God formed a plan, put flesh on that plan, and then put that plan in operation … God [the Father] manifested Himself in flesh in order to achieve a special goal (emphasis added).

Bernard argues, “The word sent does not imply pre-existence of the Son,” concluding that the word “sent” in Galatians 4:4 is the same “sent” as in John 1:6, where we read that John was “sent.” This assertion, however, is erroneous. His assumption that the word “sent” carries the exact same meaning in both passages displays his unfamiliarity in the area of Greek grammar. Simply, in John 1:6, the word translated “sent” (“There came a man sent from God”) is apestalmenos (the perfect passive participle of apostellō). The term carries the normal meaning of “to send” with no indication of pre-existence (cf. Liddell et al, 1996: 219; Bauer, 2000: 120-21).

However, the word translated “sent forth” in Galatians 4:4 (“God sent forth His Son”) derives from a different Greek word than that of John 1:6. The term is exapesteilen, the aorist active indicative of exapostellō. This verb, unlike apostellō, has the meaning of being sent from a place, “to send away from one’s self … out of the place” (Thayer, 1996: 221) or “for fulfillment of a mission in another place” (Bauer, 2000: 345-46). Note the prefixed preposition ek (“out of/from”) of the verb exapostellō (ek + apostellō), which clearly expresses the pre-existence of the Person of the Son (cf. Wallace, 1996: 371; Bauer, 2000: 295). Hence, God the Father sent Jesus Christ, God the Son, from heaven to earth:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him … For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me … I am the bread that came down out of heaven … This is the bread, which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven … What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (John 3:17; 6:38, 41, 50-51, 62).

JESUS CHRIST THE SON AS CO-CREATOR

As shown in may other places, we demonstrated the overwhelming Scriptural evidence for the full deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; 8:24, 13:19; 17:5; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 5:13-14). We have also shown that the New Testament presents the Son as the very object of divine worship. In addition to these verifiable proofs of the Son’s deity, the New Testament shows that the Son was the very Agent[8] of creation, the Creator of all things. Keeping consistent with the assumption of unitarianism, Oneness teachers (e.g., Bernard, 1983: 116-17; Segraves, 1996: 31-32) reject this idea. The normal Oneness response to passages that apparently show the Son as Creator is to argue that the Father (Jesus’ divine nature) was the Creator and had the future human non-divine Son in view or on His mind when He created. Thus, Oneness teachers are quick to point out that the Father, through the Son (i.e., the Son in view) created all things (cf. Bernard, 1983: 183; Weisser, 1983: 35).

To establish that the Son was the Creator would mean that He pre-existed, hence refuting all Oneness claims. It would turn the Oneness position on its head. For if the Son were the actual Creator, that would mean that He 1) existed before time, thus, was not a part of creation, 2) co-existed with the Father, and hence, 3) is a distinct Person alongside of the Father, as co-Creator. We shall now examine John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1:2, 10, which affirm that the Son was the actual Creator.

John 1:3

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The Greek reads: panta di’ autou egeneto, kai chōris autou egeneto oude en ho gegonen. As noted, in the prologue of John (viz., vv. 1-14) there is a distinct contrast between all things created or that had origin (i.e., egeneto; cf. vv. 3, 6, 10, 14) and the eternal divine Word (ēn; vv. 1, 2, 4, 9) who created all things.

In verse 3, we see the creative activity viewed as one event in contrast to the continuous existence in verses 1 and 2 (Robertson, 1932: 5:5). The phrase panta di’ autou seems to be particularly appropriate to describe the role of the Logos vis-à-vis God and the world (Rodgers and Rodgers, 1998: 175). What deepens the argument even more is John’s usage of the preposition dia, followed by the genitive autou. This is a very significant aspect as it relates to the exegesis of the passage. In Greek, dia followed by the genitive clearly indicates “agency” or “means” (cf. Greenlee, 1986: 31; Wallace, 1996: 368; Bauer, 2000: 225). The Apostle John communicates in such a comprehensible way that the Son, the eternal Word, who was “with” the Father, is the Creator of all things.

 

Colossians 1:16-17

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”

Despite the biblical simplicity, Bernard (1983: 116-17) attempts to circumvent the biblical truth that the Son is the Creator of all things:

Perhaps these scriptural passages have a deeper meaning that can be expressed as follows: Although the Son did not exist at the time of creation except as the word in the mind of God, God used His foreknowledge of the Son when He created the world … The plan of the Son was in God’s mind at creation and was necessary for the creation to be successful. Therefore, He created the world by the Son (emphasis added).

This is an obvious case of eisegesis. Bernard’s assertion is clear: passages that speak of the Son as the Creator mean that when the Father created all things, He had the “plan of the Son” in mind or in view, that is, “God used His foreknowledge of the Son when He created the world.” Bernard’s conclusion assumes unitarianism and disallows normal exegesis.

In the first place, Colossians 1:13-15 clearly differentiates Jesus from the Father. These verses contextually prohibit the Oneness notion that Jesus is both the Father and the Son: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He [the Son] is the image of the invisible God [the Father].”

Consider also, as we have shown, that the main purpose for writing the book of Colossians was to provide a meaningful refutation of the Gnostic ideology concerning spirit versus matter. The Gnostic system did not allow for Jesus to be the Creator of something as evil as “matter.” In light of this, Paul provides a clear anti-Gnostic polemic by firmly demonstrating that Jesus the Son of God did in fact create all things. Note the clear and forceful (and even redundant) way he presents this: “By Him [en autō] all things [panta] were created … all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [eis auton]. He is before all things [autos estin pro pantōn], and in Him [en autō] all things [panta] hold together” (emphasis added). The following grammatical aspects pointedly codify Paul’s argument:

1. Along with John 1:3, Paul employs the neuter panta, which indicate that the Son was the actual Creator of all things. White (1998: 213) remarks on the theological implication of Paul’s use of the neuter:

It is significant that Paul does not use the more popular terms pas or pan, both of which had meanings in Greek philosophy that allowed the creation to be a part of God or God a part of creation (as in pantheism). Instead, he uses a term that makes the creation a concrete, separate entity with the real existence.

2. Paul utilizes three different prepositions to magnify his affirmation that the Son was the Agent of creation: All things were created “by/in Him” (en + dative; vv. 16, 17); “through Him” (dia + genitive; v. 16); and “for Him” (eis + accusative; v. 16). To say again, Paul is speaking here of the Son, not the Father (cf. v. 14).

3. As a final point, as with John 1:3, what immediately demolishes the “Son in view” theory is that Paul specifically states that “all things” were created “through [dia] Him [autou]” (viz., the Son). As observed above, we find the preposition dia, followed by the genitive autou grammatically revealing that the Son was the actual Creator Himself. There is no stronger way in which Paul could have articulated that the Son was the real and actual Agent of creation.[9]

If Paul wanted to convey the idea that the Son was merely “in view” of the Father or an absent instrument of creation, as Oneness teachers assert, he would not have used dia followed by the genitive. Rather, he would have exclusively used dia followed by the accusative, but he does not.[10] The Oneness theological assumption that the Son was not the Agent of creation,[11] but merely in view of creation, cannot stand grammatically or contextually—it changes the intended meaning of the text and ignores the chief theme of Paul’s letter.

 

Hebrews 1:2, 10:

“In these last days [God the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world … And, ‘YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.’”

The prologue of Hebrews annihilates the Oneness position regarding its rejection of the pre-existence of the Person of the Son. In this prologue the full deity and unipersonality of the Son is cogently expressed (esp. vv. 3, 8). Relative to the pre-existence and creatorship of the Son, verses 2 and 10 more than adequately communicate both truths. As with John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16-17 (and 1 Cor. 8:6), verse 2 affirms that the Son was the Creator.

In this passage we find again the preposition dia, followed by the genitive: “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom [di’ hou] also He made the world” (emphasis added).

Contextually, the core line of evidence that the author presents, which promptly affirms the Son’s creatorship, is the well defined contrast between created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternality of the divine Son (cf. vv. 2-3, 8-10). In verse 10-12, the author (quoting the Father) applies Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX) to the Son. This is so heavily significant because (a) the Psalm is a reference to Yahweh and (b) the Father is speaking to the Son, differentiating Himself from the Son (esp. in light of vv. 8-9). The referent to the pronoun su, “You” at the beginning of verse 10 (kai su) is back in verse 8: pros de ton huion— “but of the Son He [the Father] says.”

Irrefutably, it is the Son whom the Father directly addresses. In verse 8, the nominative for the vocative of address[12] is used, whereas in verse 10, the actual vocative of kurios (kurie) is used, which strengthens the author’s argument even more: “YOU, LORD [kurie], IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.” Conclusively, the prologue of Hebrews is one of the most theologically devastating prologues in all of the New Testament for Oneness defenders. Not only does the prologue affirm the deity and eternality of the Son as well as the distinction between the Father and the Son, but also it clearly presents the Son as the actual Agent of creation, the Creator Himself.

 

THE IMPLICATIONS OF MONOGENES HUIOS

On several occasions, the phrase monogenēs huios (and monogenēs theos, at John 1:18)[13] is applied specifically to the Son at John 3:16, 18; and 1 John 4:9).[14] Because of the standard translation of monogenēs huios, as “only begotten Son,” Oneness advocates, along with other leading non-Christian groups (esp., Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons), pour a meaning into the term monogenēs that is foreign to the biblical meaning—namely, assuming a meaning of “origin” in some sense. We must first address the Oneness interpretation of the term before examining the term in its original significance. As we have consistently shown, the Oneness theological conclusions are largely based on English word meanings (esp. that of the KJV) not on the original. For this reason, Oneness teachers detach monogenēs from its lexical (and contextual) denotation. Bernard (1983: 103-4), for instance, with no contextual markers or lexical support, explains that the term means:

“To procreate, to father, to sire.” Thus, begotten indicates a definite point in time—the point at which conception takes place. There must be a time when the begetter [the Father] exists and the begotten [the Son] is not yet in existence, and there must be a point in time when the act of begetting occurs … So, the very words begotten and Son each contradict the word eternal as applied to the Son of God.

In the same unscholarly fashion, Oneness teacher Gordon Magee (1988: 25) states: “Indeed the Bible flatly and plainly contradicts the eternal ‘Son idea’ in John 3:16 and everywhere it mentions the ‘begotten Son.’ The Words eternal and begotten are contradictory and mean completely opposite things” (emphasis his). The fundamental problem with these definitions is that they conveniently impose a concept of origin or derivation to the term monogenēs. Monogenēs is a relational term. As applied to the Son, it has nothing whatsoever to do with origin or derivation. Thus, when used in reference to the Son, the term signified the unique relationship that He has with His Father. The English phrase “only begotten” (KJV, NASB) is translated from the single Greek term monogenēs.

“Only begotten” is ambiguous and misleading, and could indeed imply a concept of begettal and/or generation. However, the English meaning of any New Testament word or phrase “must, in all cases, be consistent with the Greek original, and we must take any emphasis from the Greek, not from the English” (White, 1998: 201). Some modern translations (e.g., NIV, NET, NLT), recognizing the lexical meaning, render monogenēs as “one and only.” The compound word monogenēs is derived from monos meaning “alone,” or “one” (Bauer, 2000: 658) and genos meaning “class” or “kind” (Bauer, 2000: 194-95). Hence, monogenēs huios simply means “one and only Son,” “unique Son,” or “one of a kind Son,” lacking any notion of origin or beginning. Warfield (1950: 56) says of the term: “The adjective ‘only begotten’ conveys the idea, not of derivation and subordination, but of uniqueness and co-substantiality: Jesus is all that God is, and He alone is this.” The lexical support is undeniable and overwhelming (cf. Moulton and Milligan, 1930: 416-17; Liddell et al, 1996: 1144; Thayer, 1996: 417-18; Bauer, 2000: 658).

As noted, the term monogenēs is a compound word, monos, “alone/one” + genos, “class/kind.” Erroneously assuming that second part of the word (genos) comes from gennaō, which does mean “to beget” or “to give birth” (or “to bring forth”; Bauer, 193-94), Oneness teachers grossly misinterpret the term, asserting that the Son had a beginning (cf. Magee (1988:25). Quite the opposite, the second part of the word is not gennaō, but genos. Notice the two nu’s (nn) in gennaō, compared to the one nu (n) in genos. It is genos, not gennaō, which forms the second part of monogenēs. This shows that the derivation of genos is from a different word than that of gennaō.

The derivation of genos is from gignesthai/ginomai, and gennaō is from gennasthai (cf. White: 1998: 202). “Etymologically,” Harris (1992: 86-87) observes, “monogenēs is not associated with begetting (gennasthai) but with existence (gignesthai) … This leads us to conclude that monogenēs denotes ‘the only member of a kin or kind.’” Hebrews 11:17 provides even more clarification as to a proper understanding of the term. In this passage, Abraham’s son Isaac is called, ho monogenēs. Yet, Isaac was not his first or only son (cf. Gen. 16:15-17). Thus, Isaac was the unique son or one of a kind son from whom God’s “covenant would be established” (Gen. 17:19-21). For God’s covenant was with Abraham’s monogenēs son Isaac, not with his first son Ishmael.

Therefore, the lexical and contextual evidence shows that the term does not carry the idea of “beget,” “to give birth,” “origin,” etc., as Oneness teachers claim (Bernard, 1983: 103-4).[15] Certainly, it would be utterly nonsensical for the authors of the anti-Arian Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) to use the term if it had any denotation of origin. The Creed positively affirmed the full deity of the Son (against Arius) and His distinction from the Father (against Modalism): “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only begotten [monogenē]; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance [homoousion] with the Father …” (emphasis added). Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God. He is God’s Son in a one of a kind sense. In every use of monogenēs contained in the Gospel of John (1:14, 18, 3:16; and 3:18), we observe this meaning.

The correct understanding of the term monogenēs in its proper sense when applied to the Son negates the idea of origin, derivation, or beginning. It establishes the Son’s unique status as the “one and only God” who is (ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is always subsisting”) in the bosom of the Father explaining (or exegeting) Him (cf. John 1:18).

CONCLUSION

To remove the Person of the Son from the Trinity is to remove God from Scripture: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; cf. John 5:23; 8:24; 1 John 5:20). The customary term agennētos (i.e., “uncreated”) was used by the early church to denote God’s eternal nature and His self-existence (i.e., His unoriginateness). In his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius (7, in Holmes, 1999: 140-41), applies agennētos to the Son: “There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made [agennētos]; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord” (emphasis added). Explicitly demonstrated, Scripture presents the pre-existence of the pre-incarnate Person of the Son. In John 1:1, the Son is presented as 1) eternal (on account of the imperfect ēn), 2) co-existing with the Father (on account of the preposition pros), and 3) co-equal with God the Father (on account of the qualitative theos, in 1:1c).

In John 17:5, the Son Himself states that He possessed/shared (eichon) glory with (para) the Father before the world was (pro tou ton kosmon einai). In the Gospels (esp. John’s), the Son expresses His preexistence by consistently claiming that He was sent by the Father out from heaven (e.g., John 3:13; 16; 6:38, 46, 62; 8:23, 38, 42; 16:28). In Paul’s high Christological Hymn (i.e., Phil. 2:5-11), Paul poetically and directly delineates both the humiliation and exaltation of the God the Son, who, as Paul so deliberately points out, was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in 45:23. These passages are so clear, so expressive, that Oneness teachers, must resort to the most unnatural and eisegetical ways of interpreting the passages.

The biblical presentation of the Son as the Agent of creation annihilates the Oneness notion that the Son’s life started in Bethlehem. Exegetically, the Son is the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12). Scripture militates against the Oneness idea that the non-eternal non-personal Son was a mere thought or plan that originated in the Father’s mind. The apostles of Jesus Christ clearly and cogently affirmed that Jesus Christ the eternal Son was the Agent of creation, God in the flesh.

 

NOTES

[1] Cf. note 15 below for a discussion of these passages.

[2] John 12:41 reveals that the “Lord” (adonay, lit., “sovereign master”) and His divine glory that Isaiah saw (6:1-2) was the pre-incarnate Son.

[3] In 1933, Ernest Cadman Colwell published an article entitled, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature (52:12-21; cf. Wallace 1996: 257). We must distinguish, however, between “Colwell’s construction” and “Colwell’s rule.” The Colwell construction is an anarthrous pre-verbal (before the equative verb) predicate nominative, whereas Colwell’s rule states:

Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article … a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a ‘qualitative’ noun solely because of the absence of the article; if the context suggest that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun (cf. Wallace 1996: 257; emphasis added).

Though the rule is more involved than indicated by this summary citation, it nevertheless denotes the main spotlight of the rule. It was from this initial statement that so much confusion emerged—mainly, from citing the converse of the rule, which is “Anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives are definite,” rather than citing the rule itself: “Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.” The other problem in applying (i.e., misapplying) Colwell’s “rule” to John 1:1 was that Colwell had stated at the onset of his study that he only examined definite predicate nominatives (Wallace, 1996: 259). Hence, Colwell was mainly concerned with definite (not qualitative) predicate nominatives. Forty years later in a more expansive work on Colwell’s rule, Philip B. Harner (published in the Journal of Biblical Literature, [1973]: 92:85; cited in Wallace, 1996: 259) remarked and compared his study to that of Colwell: “As Colwell called attention to the possibility that such nouns may be definite, the present study has focused on their qualitative force.”

[4] There are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous theos in the New Testament (NA27). At sixteen places, the NWT has either “a god,” “god,” “gods,” or “godly.” Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators of the NWT were faithful to their translation principle (viz., the anarthrous theos = an indefinite rendering) only six percent of the time (Countess, 1982: 54-55).

[5] We will examine below the significance of the preposition dia + the genitive here in John 1:3 and passages such as Colossians 1:16-17 where the same construct appears.

[6] The qualitative force of the anarthrous predicate nominative is well exampled at John 4:24: ho theos [estin—implied verb] pneuma, literally, “the God [is] spirit,” not “a spirit,” or “the Spirit,” but “spirit”—as to God’s essence or nature (qualitative). Other clear examples of qualitative predicate nominatives include John 5:10; Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 3:19; 2 Corinthians 11:22, 23; Philippians 2:13; 1 John 1:5; and 1 John 4:8.

[7] The prologue of Hebrews provides a marked contrast between things created (viz., the angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 8) whom the author presents as the Creator of all things (cf. vv. 2, 10). There will be a thorough examination of this important prologue below.

[8] In the New Testament, agency is commonly expressed in three ways: ultimate agency (apo, hupo, para, + the genitive), intermediate agency (dia + the genitive), and impersonal agency (i.e., that which the agent uses to perform the act [en, ek + the dative]; Wallace, 1996: 431-32). There are several passages (e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2) that mark the Son as the Agent (intermediate agency) of creation. They do this through (a) the context (viz., where the Son is set in contrast to all things created) and (b) the use of the preposition dia followed by the genitive case ending. That the Son was the intermediate Agent of creation does not mean that He was a mere instrument of creation, but rather, it indicates that He was the actual Agent of creation. Biblically, the Father was the source (ultimate Agent) of creation, the Son being the intermediate Agent in that He carried out the act for the ultimate Agent (cf. Wallace, 1996: 431).

[9] In 1 Corinthians 8:6 and, as discussed below, Hebrews 1:2, dia, is followed by the genitive signifying the Son as the Agent of creation.

[10] Although Paul does use the accusative case in verse 16 (auton), but he uses it after the preposition eis meaning “for” or “because of” and not after dia.

[11] Oneness teachers along with other unitarian groups (esp. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims) argue that the Son could not have been the Creator because passages such as Isaiah 44:24 and 1 Corinthians 8:6 teach that God (viz. the Father) alone created all things. But as consistently pointed out, Oneness teachers assume unitarianism or unipersonalism in that they envisage God as one Person—the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity, in contrast to a unitarian assumption, teaches that God is one undivided and unquantifiable Being who has revealed Himself as three distinct co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent Persons. The three Persons share the nature (ousia) of the one Being. As fully God it can be said that the Father is the Creator (cf. Acts 17:24), the Son is the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10), and the Holy Spirit is the Creator (cf. Job 33:4). For the one God is indivisible and inseparable (cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:5). Therefore, passages like Isaiah 44:24, which speak of God creating by Himself and alone are perfectly consistent with Trinitarian theology. Again, the three Persons are not three separate Beings; they are distinct self-conscious Persons or Selves sharing the nature of the one Being. Unless one clearly realizes what the biblical doctrine of the Trinity actually teaches, the doctrine will be confounded and misrepresented as Tritheism.

[12] The fact that the nominative theos with the vocative force is used does not in any way remove the meaning of direct address. The usual way of addressing God in both the LXX and the New Testament was the nominative for the vocative (cf. Wallace, 1996: 56-57; Reymond, 1998: 272; also cf. John 20:28 with Rev. 4:11). So common was the nominative for the vocative that every time theos is directly addressed in the New Testament, only in one verse (Matt. 27:46) does theos actually appear in the vocative case: thee mou thee mou— “My God, my God …”

[13] In John 1:18, Jesus is called the monogenēs theos. However, there are a few variant renderings contained in extant Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John. The three renderings are monogenēs theos; ho monogenēs theos; and (in later manuscripts) ho monogenēs huios. The textual support is as follows:

monogenēs theos: P66 )* B C* L pc syhmg

ho monogenēs theos: P75 )1 33 pc

ho monogenēs huios: A C3 Q Y f 1.13 M lat syc.h. (Metzger, 1994: 169-70)

Monogenēs theos is contained in the NA27 (1993: 248). It is the rendering theos and not huios after monogenēs that is concurred with most textual scholars (e.g., Westcott and Hort, 1896: 166; Metzger, 1994: 169-70; cf. also Harris, 1992: 82). In support of the rendering monogenēs theos, Robertson (1932: 5:17) states that “The best old Greek manuscripts (Aleph B C L) read monogenēs theos (God only begotten) which is undoubtedly the true text.” Theos (articular and anarthrous) and not huios is also supported by many important early church fathers (e.g., Clement of Alex., Clementfrom Theodotus, Origen, Didymus, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Serapion, Cyril; cf. NA27, 1993: 248). Because the majority of manuscripts contain the rendering ho monogenēs huios, the KJV follows respectively. In the face of the earliest and best manuscripts, Oneness supporters gladly hold to the late variant rendering in order to reinforce their a priori theological commitment, namely, the Son is not God. “We do not believe,” says Bernard (1983: 100), “these variant readings [i.e., monogenēs theos] are correct.”

[14] Although John 1:14 contains a similar phrase (monogenous para patros), it nevertheless carries the same meaning. All together, monogenēs is used nine times in the New Testament: Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; and 1 John 4:9.

[15] Two other passages should also be mentioned, Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5. Oneness teachers argue that the Son had a beginning because both passages contain the phrase “TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN [gegennēka] YOU” (from Ps. 2:7). However, the term sēmeron (“today”) is clearly a relational term. It denoted His Sonship in reference to His Messianic kingship, not deity. His Sonship was openly declared at several different times throughout His life (e.g., at His baptism [cf. Matt. 3:16-17]; at the Transfiguration [cf. Matt. 17:5]; at His resurrection [cf. Acts 13:33]). We also see this open declaration in Romans 1:2-4, where the Son was “declared the Son of God [in reference to Messianic kingship] with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness …” Here the two attributive participles, genomenou (“was born”) and horisthentos (“was declared”) modify huiou at the beginning of verse 3. Hence, verse 3 indicates that Jesus was already the Son of God when He was declared to be the Son of God in verse 4. In Acts 13:32-34, Paul cites the same Old Testament passage (Ps. 2:7), but he applies it to Jesus’ resurrection. Consequently, if “today” in Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 means that the Son did not exist before Bethlehem, as Oneness teachers suppose, then “today” in Acts 13:33 would likewise mean that He did not exist before His resurrection.

Although the doctrine of the Trinity is presented clearly in the Scripture – plainly: One God revealed in three coequal coeternal distinct persons. However, we must keep in mind that biblically the unregenerate man “cannot” hear the words of God (cf. John 8:47) nor does he have the spiritual ability to come to Christ; he not able to do so (cf. John 6:37-40, 44; Rom. 8:7-8). 

Thus, in spite of the arguments of Oneness advocates against the triune God and the the person of Christ, it is the gospel that must be proclaimed to them–, which the power and ordained means of God for setting them free from the darkness of Oneness theology and bringing them to the true Jesus Christ, as He wills.             

Oneness devotees are taught assertively that the Trinity is a false pagan doctrine. They commonly misrepresent the Trinity as the belief in three separate Gods. Does this idea sound familiar? Well it should if you have dealt with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and have read Watchtower literature. Jehovah’s Witnesses (and other unitarian groups) broadcast the same assertion against the doctrine of the Trinity.

We shall consider the most frequently cited objections concerning the doctrine of the Trinity; followed by a biblical and logical response. While these objections are considered within the Oneness framework, it should be noted that these arguments are not confined to the Oneness position. That is, most of these criticisms share a common bond with all anti-Trinitarian groups. In fact, many of the anti-Trinitarian assertions are the very ones used by the fourth century heretic Arius of Alexandria, who, as mention earlier, taught that Jesus was created: “There was [a time] when He was not,” Arius proclaimed. Accordingly, the Christian church universally condemned Arius’s teaching first at the Council at Nicaea (A.D. 325).

Interestingly, note this near identical statement to Arius from Oneness authority and author David Bernard: “There was a time when the Son did not exist” (Oneness of God, 105; a simple and clear refutation against Bernard’s anti-Trinitarian assertions is provided below). 

The differences between Trinitarian theology and Oneness theology are much more than mere semantics (as many assert). The God that Scripture presents is tri-personal. Scripture presents that the three persons share true intimate loving fellowship with each other before time. The Father shows genuine love by sending His real Son, God the eternal Word; divine Mediator between God the Father and man, to die on the behalf of His people. In contrast is the Oneness unipersonal deity (the Father mode). This God lived before time in absolute solitude, having no loving fellowship, no relationship, or no communication with anyone or anything.

In Oneness-unitarian doctrine, the unipersonal deity (the Father), came down Himself, and put on or wrapped himself in flesh without actually becoming flesh- thus, the Father Himself dwells in the incarnate Christ. The Oneness idea of God, then, temporally manifested in the roles or offices of “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit,” but accordingly these roles are only temporary, they are not features of his real nature.

We can never know this modalistic deity as to his real nature only observe what role or mode he decides to project at any given time. Hence, he is the God of illusions, the pretending God, since these roles, modes, or offices, are not part of his real nature.

Let us now analyze some of the primary objections of the Trinity, which are taught and utilized by millions of Oneness teachers and followers. After which we will then examine the specific arguments postulated by the UPCI’s most prolific voice and writer, David Bernard, from his most popular Oneness doctrinal book, The Oneness of God:

The Trinity is three separate Gods

RESPONSE: This is a typical straw man argument that misrepresents the doctrine of the Trinity by assuming that Trinity means three Gods. The biblical doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there are three coequal, coeternal, coexistence, distinct persons who share the nature of the one God. Three separate Gods is not Trinitarianism, but tritheism, which is how the Mormons view the Godhead!

The Trinity is from Pagan origins

RESPONSE: This is an argument of false cause (misrepresents the cause of something). In pagan constructs, they always worshiped and believed in three separate gods. The Trinity asserts one eternal true God revealed in three distinct inseparable persons. The doctrine of the Trinity is indigenous only to Christianity. The burden of proof rests squarely on those folks who make this kind of assertion—merely asserting something does not prove anything.

Only the Father is the true God:

Malachi 2:10, 1 Corinthians 8:6 teaches that the Father is the divine nature (God) of Jesus.

RESPONSE: We have already dealt with this assertion. This is an argument ad ignorantiam, that is, an argument from ignorance. To say that only the Father is God completely ignores the fact that the Son is also “God.” Jesus’ apostles frequently called the Son theos (“God”) (e.g., Matt. 1:23; John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:12; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20). As observed in detail, in Hebrews 1:8, God the Father directly addresses the Son as ho theos (“the God”).

Reminder: Oneness teachers will agree that Jesus was called “God”; however, as they teach, he was only called “God” when he was acting in the Father mode. This then prompts a most difficult questing for Oneness believers: How can the Father call the Son “God” when in Oneness doctrine the Son (when juxtaposed with the Father in the same context) was merely the man, the human nature of Jesus, which was not God?

The absence of the Holy Spirit in many passages:

For example, in all of Paul’s salutations: “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus” (e.g., Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; etc.).’

RESPONSE: This is yet another argument from ignorance. First, the salutations of Paul clearly grammatically distinguish Jesus and the Father–cf. Sharp rule #5, which state when there are multiple personal nouns in a clause (here, God the Father the Lord Jesus Christ) that are connected by kai (“and”) and the first noun lacks the article, each noun must denote a distinct person (Sharp, 1803: 12-14). Paul’s salutations read (Gal. 1:3 for example): charis humin kai eirēnē apo theou Patros hēmōn kai Kuriou Iēsou Christou, lit., “Grace to you and peace from God Father of us and Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice that there are no articles (“the”) proceeding the two personal nouns- “Father” and “Lord.” Paul includes them in the opening of every one of his epistles (e.g., Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2 (partial); 1 Thess. 1:1 (inverted); 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; and Philem. 1:3).

Second, there are many places in Scripture where all three persons are mentioned—in the same verse (e.g., Matt. 28:19; Luke 1:35; 10:21; John chaps. 14-16; Rom. 15:16; 4; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 4:4-6; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5-7; Jude 19-21; etc.). Over sixty-five times the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the same context:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

“For through Him [di’ autou] we both have our access in one [en heni] Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera] (Eph. 2:18; note the different prepositions: dia, en, and pros, which clearly denotes a distinction of persons).

“Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfast of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit. . . . ” (1 Thess. 1:3-5).

“Trinity” is an unbiblical term

RESPONSE: To assume: what is not stated must not be true is an argument from silence. Further, to say that the doctrine of the Trinity is not true because the exact word “Trinity” is absent from the Bible is self-refuting. For if that kind of reasoning were true, then, by way of argument, it would necessarily follow that Oneness doctrine could not be true. For in the original Hebrew and Greek text Oneness terms like, “manifestations,” “modes,” “offices,” “unipersonal,” “monad,” etc., are not contained in Scripture either. Such reasoning is absurd, of course. For even the Oneness position acknowledges, as has just been demonstrated, that simply because a particular word is not contained in Scripture that we cannot use that term to communicate a truth of God.

What is not at all considered is that terms like, “incarnation,” or “self-existent,” are not mentioned in Scripture and both are biblical truths which all Oneness believers agree upon. If we were only limited to strict biblical words, then when teaching out of the New Testament we would have to use only Koine Greek words that the New Testament authors used!

Employing extra-biblical terminology does not violate the rules of sola-Scriptura, (Scripture alone) which says Scripture alone (i.e., teachings therein) is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church, as long as the extra-biblical terminology is wholly consistent with Scripture. Thus, the early church would use extra-biblical terminology to explain and define the biblical data revealed within the pages of the Holy Writ.

In other words, “Trinity” is merely a precise doctrinal word that defines the biblical revelation that is so overwhelmingly found in Scripture: God the Father sent God the Son, the eternal Word (cf. John 1:1; 6:37-40; 17:5) in which He became flesh (cf. John 1:14; Rom. 1:3-4). After which God the Son died in the place of sinners (cf. Rom. 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:17-21) whereby His death provides full atonement for the sins of His people (cf. Matt. 1:21). God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit to empower the church, and dwell with and sanctify the believer (cf. Titus 3:5-7):

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26).

Again, this point must be understood: We cannot confuse the biblical data with doctrinal words that define that data. Hence, the doctrine of the “Trinity” was derived from the Scriptural data. Biblical scholar Benjamin B. Warfield explains the difference:

“The term “Trinity” is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Person, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. . . . And the definition of a Biblical doctrine in such un-Biblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture that the words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when is it crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. . . . In point of fact, the doctrine of the Trinity is purely a revealed doctrine.2

Warfield further explains as to why the “un-Biblical” word “Trinity” is utilized to describe the biblical relation of God:

“Precisely what the New Testament is, is the documentation of the religion of the incarnate Son and the outpoured Spirit, that is to say, of the religion of the Trinity, and what we mean by the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing but the formulation in exact language of the conception of God presupposed in the religion of the incarnate Son and out poured Spirit.”3

Weak arguments: the so-called plural pronouns

Trinitarians typically use Genesis 1:26 where God said, “Let Us make man in Our image” (as well as Gen. 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8) to say that the three persons are communicating. But this cannot be verified. The use of plural pronouns is simply: “plural of majesty.” The queen of England can use the same terms, “We are not amused,” and no one would ever say that she is three.

RESPONSE: First: There are No clear biblical examples of a plural of majesty in the OT. This is yet another straw man argument. The Trinity does not rise and fall on the usage of plural terms. Christians historically have believed in the doctrine of the Trinity because it is squarely based on the biblical exegesis of the text itself:

There is one true God, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and further, the three persons are clearly differentiated from one another. All the persons in the Godhead interact with each other in a loving intercourse, even before time. Plural terms (see below) are used of the one true God, and, as we have seen, Jesus used first person pronouns to refer to Himself and third person pronouns to refer to the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. John chaps. 14-16).

That is why Christians have believed in the doctrine of the Trinity. Moreover, the usage of Hebrew plural nouns (“Our image”; Gen. 1:26);  plural adjectives (“of the holy ones”; Prov. 30:3);  plural verbs (“let Us make,” “come let Us,”  “your Makers, “your Husbands,” “now your Creators”; Gen. 1:26; 11:7 Isa. 54:5; Eccl. 12:1); and plural prepositions (“of Us”; Gen. 3:22) referring to the one God cannot be jettisoned away because Oneness and unitarian teachers sneer at those passages. In point of fact, the early church used Genesis 1:26-27 (“Let Us,” “Our”) to demonstrate distinction between the Persons of the Godhead. Take for instance the early church document the Epistle of Barnabas (c. A.D. 70-100):

“If the Lord submitted to suffer for our souls, even though he is Lord of the whole world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, ‘Let us make man according to our image and likeness,’ how is it, that he submitted to suffer at the hand of men?”4

Christian defender Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 160) comments on the meaning of “us” in Genesis 1:26:

“God speaks in the creation of man with the very same design, in the following words: “Let us make man after our image and likeness. . . .” From this, we can indisputably learn that God conversed with someone who was numerically distinct from Himself, and was also a rational Being.”5

Early church apologist, Theophilus (c. A.D. 180), declares:

“Let Us make man in Our image, after our likeness,” Now, to no one else than to His own Word and Wisdom did He say, “Let Us make.”6

Irenaeus bishop of Lyons (c. A.D. 180) quotes Genesis 1:26 to explain the distinction of Persons in the Godhead before time:

“For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by who, and in who, freely and spontaneously, He made all things. He speaks to Him, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness.”7

While the doctrine of the Trinity does not solely rest on Genesis 1:26 or any other first person plural reference, it can be shown that the early church understood the passage in a Trinitarian context indeed. In addition to Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8, we must also consider Jesus’ use first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) to both Himself and His Father, clearly distinguishing Himself from His Father as in John 14:23:

“If any one loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and we will make Our abode with him.”

The two plural verbs here (eleusometha, “We will come” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) present no difficulty in a Trinitarian context; only if the starting point is modalistic do these passages have to be unnaturally explained away. In fact, Note both Gen. 1:26 (LXX) and John 14:23 contain the same plural verb, poieō (“to make”).

The Trinity doctrine did not emerge until fourth century:

RESPONSE: To be sure, this is an argument from ignorance. First of all, it is completely misleading to say that the doctrine of the Trinity did not emerge until the fourth century. In the East, as early as A.D. 180, church apologist Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, first uses the term “Trinity” to describe God:

“In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity [triados] of God, and His Word, and His wisdom.”8

And in the West, around A.D. 213, the brilliant church theologian and polemicist, Tertullian of Carthage, uses the term “Trinity” (Lat. trinitas, the cognate of the Gk. term triados):

“As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons. . . .”9

Again, it is true the exact English word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. But, as we have seen, this is a meaningless objection since there are many words that are justifiably used to communicate the truth of God, not specifically utilized in the Hebrew or Greek text (e.g., “incarnation,” “self-existent,” “omnipresence”; etc.). The point being that the Christian church has used many extra-biblical terminology words to convey divine revelation. Sola Scriptura is not simply adhering to the words of Scripture, but it is also being faithful to the teaching of Scripture. Regrettably, far too many people are deceived into thinking that the latter must be rejected if it does not incorporate verbatim the language of the former.

Descriptive theological words do not necessarily have to be the exact words form the original languages to communicate a biblical truth. The reason that the Protestant church rejected (and rejects) the dogmas of Roman Catholicism is that Rome holds to the position that the Word of God is contained in both “tradition and Scripture.” Hence, Catholic doctrines like Purgatory, praying for the dead, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, ex cathedra, (i.e., the infallibility of the Pope), etc., are not doctrines derived from Scripture (the written Word), but rather church tradition.10 For these teachings are foreign to Scripture. Thus, the Protestant church repudiates that claim whereby holding to Scripture alone11 as the sole infallible rule of faith for the church—Scripture is sufficient.12 “Do not,” Paul says, “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6 NIV).

We are dealing, therefore, with the biblical data for the Trinity. Again, the precise terms to which define the data (viz. formularized doctrine) came later. So the assertion that the Trinity did not emerge until the fourth century confuses the doctrinal word “Trinity” with the biblical data of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which, as we will enjoy shortly, the early church envisaged. They did not see God as a single undifferentiated Being, but the God who revealed Himself as tri-personal.

The Assertions of David K. Bernard

As mentioned, UPCI representative and prolific Oneness author David K. Bernard, near the end of his book The Oneness of God (pp. 290-93), proposes a list of twenty-six “Trinitarian contradictions” in his endeavor to somehow disprove the doctrine of the Trinity. Under the title, “Contradictions,” Bernard opens this section by saying:

The basic problem is that trinitarianism is a non-biblical doctrine that contradicts a number of biblical teachings and many specific verses of Scripture. Moreover, the doctrine contains a number of internal contradictions. Of course, the most obvious internal contradiction is how there can be three persons of God in any meaningful sense and yet there be one God (290).

Bernard’s criticism is very direct. It is leveled with conviction, and it bears a striking similarity to most objections concerning the Trinity. But is there any truth to the claim? Does the objection accurately represent the position it is supposed to be addressing, or does this criticism incorporate fallacies of logic, and in most cases, wholesale misrepresentations concerning the Trinity? I trust that a careful and thoughtful examination of each of Bernard’s objections will reveal that, in point of fact, they stem not from the former, but clearly on the latter.

Bernard: “Did Jesus Christ have two fathers? The Father is the Father of the Son (1 John 1:3), yet the child born of Mary was conceived by the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:35). Which one is the true father? or is the Holy Spirit Jesus’ Father (Luke 1:35)?”

RESPONSE: Obviously, Bernard’s misunderstands Trinitarian theology. “Father” is clearly a relational term. In 1 John 1:3 (and other passages), God the Father is Jesus’ Father in view of their relationship, not His biological father in which is a concept found in Mormon teaching, but foreign to Trinitarian truth. In a sense, however, it can be said that the Holy Spirit is His father in that He was the means (ek) of how Jesus was conceived (cf. Matt. 1:18: heurethē en gastri echousa ek pneumatos hagiou [lit. “She was pregnant by the agency of the Spirit Holy”]; emphasis added). Grammatically, the preposition ek (“by”) followed by the genitive pneumatos (“Spirit”) indicates agency.

Bernard: “How many spirits are there? Are there three as in trinitarian theology?: God the Father is a Spirit (John 4:24). Jesus is a Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17). And the Holy Spirit is a Spirit by definition. But the Bible says there is only one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:4).”

RESPONSE: Bernard completely misapprehends the doctrine of the Trinity at this point. Christian theologians have stressed this point over and over. That is, the Son is both fully God and fully man. This is wholly unlike the Oneness view, which sees the divine nature as the Father and the human nature as the Son. Moreover, it highlights one of the most frequent errors utilized by those who attack the full deity of the Son. Namely, they are, categorically, arguments against the full humanity of the Son, as opposed to actual arguments against the full deity of the Son. There are not three separate Spirits. This must be drummed in the minds of Oneness thinkers: God is purely spirit; He cannot be divided up into thirds or parts. Hence, since God is unquantifiable, indivisible, and inseparable– the three distinct Persons or Selves share the nature of the one Being of God.

Accordingly, early church theologian, Tertullian, repudiates the suggestion that the distinction between the Three involved any division of separation; it was a distinctio not a separatio (separation).13 Wherever the Being of God is, all of God is there. He cannot be divided into three separate spirits or Beings. Ontologically, the Being of God is an omnipresent spirit. That is why Jesus can say:

“We [the Father and Himself—the Son] will come to him and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Bernard: “If the Father and Son are coequal Persons, why did Jesus pray to the Father? . . . Can God pray to God??

RESPONSE: Bernard, along with Jehovah’s Witnesses, confuses Jesus’ position as man with His nature as God. Hence, this type of argument is a categorical fallacy (i.e., confuses categories: Jesus’ deity with His humanity). By nature, Jesus was always subsisting as God (cf. John 1:1a: ēn [“was”]; Phil. 2:6: huparchōn [“subsisting”]). At His incarnation, it was the Person of the Son, who voluntarily emptied Himself (heauton ekenōsen; recall the reflexive pronoun heauton: “Himself He emptied”), by taking the nature of man (morphē doulou labōn). So, of course, Jesus in His humility can look to the Father in glory and pray:

“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

Yes, Jesus has two natures: divine and human. That is, the Son is both fully God and fully man. This is wholly unlike the Oneness view, which sees the divine nature as the Father and the human nature as the Son. Moreover, it highlights one of the most frequent errors utilized by those who attack the full deity of the Son. Namely, they are, categorically, arguments against the full humanity of the Son, as opposed to actual arguments against the full deity of the Son. Bernard makes these same categorical errors throughout his writings.

Bernard: “How can there be an eternal Son when the Bible says that He was begotten, clearly indicting that the Son had a beginning? (John 3:16; Hebrews 1:5-6).”

RESPONSE: Regrettably, this is an objection based on an English term, and not on the actual meaning used by the New Testament authors. Ignorant of biblical languages, Bernard, in full agreement with Jehovah’s Witnesses, thinks that the word “begotten” means created or born at some point in time. As fully addressed (see Ho monogenēs huios, “The only begotten Son”) the word translated “begotten” (e.g., KJV; NASB) comes from the Greek word monogenēs: monos, meaning, “alone” or “only” and genos, meaning, “kind” or “type.”14 Hence the NIV reads: “one and only Son” (John 3:16; cf. John 1:18; Heb. 11:17). Monogenēs is clearly a relational term when Jesus is called the “only begotten,” as in, say, John 1:18. Here He is called “unique God” who explains or reveals God the Father (cf. John 14:6-11; also cf. Isa 6:1ff. with John 12:40-41). It would be much more useful to have Bernard engage the actual meaning of the term monogenēs than to confuse his readers with definitions foreign to the intent of the New Testament authors.

In their effort to show that the Son had a beginning, Oneness teachers also assert Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 (“Today I have begotten [gegennēka] You”). This assertion was firmly dealt with (Go Here). To review, the term “today” (cf. Heb. 1:5; 5:5; and Acts 13:32-33) is clearly a relational term: He was openly declared to be the Son referring to His Messianic kingship, not His deity. His Sonship was openly declared at several different times throughout His life (e.g., at His baptism [Matt. 3:16-17]; the Transfiguration [Matt. 17:5]; at His resurrection [Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:2-4]). As stated, if the phrase in Hebrews 1:5, “Today I have begotten You” excludes Christ from existing before Bethlehem, then the same quotation in Acts 13:32-33 would exclude Him from existing before His resurrection!

Bernard: “If the Son is eternal and existed at creation, who was His mother at that time? We know that Son was made of a woman (Galatians 4:4).”

RESPONSE: Who was His mother at the time? This is a non-sense question. The answer is as above: “Father” was a relational term, not literal as in LDS theology. Bernard’s arguments go from bad to worse—which only confuses the issue.

Bernard: “If the Son is eternal and immutable (unchangeable), how can the reign of the Son have an ending? (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).”

RESPONSE: Discussed previously, Scripture teaches that His earthly Messianic Kingdom will end, not Jesus’ position as Son. There is no passage that provides for that assertion. Bernard begs the question by arguing that the actual Sonship will have an end without proving it from one single biblical passage. It is the Son who will sit on His own throne in Revelation 3:21. It is to the Son that the Father can say, “Your throne O God [ho theos] is forever and ever . . . You [the Son] are the same, and Your years will not come to an end (Heb. 1:8, 12; emphasis added).

Bernard: “Whom do we worship and to whom do we pray? Jesus said to worship the Father (John 4:21-24), yet Stephen prayed to Jesus (Acts 7:59-60).”

RESPONSE: Failing to understand that the Trinity teaches that God is one Being, Bernard again confuses the doctrine by this implication. We can worship all three; each of the Persons are fully divine. When one worships the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit are also worshiped. This point must be driven to maximum repetitiveness: God is unquantifiable—He cannot be divided into parts. The three persons of the Trinity are not separate Beings where one can be worshiped or prayed to and the others excluded; rather they are distinct. God is one Being, not three Beings. Only because God is tri-personal do we find in Scripture that all three persons are the objects of prayer and worship. Example, in Revelation 5:13-14 there are two distinct objects of divine worship, the Father and the Son:

“And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “’To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.'”

Note: “To Him who sits” (tō kathēmenō [lit. “to the one sitting”—the Father]) “and the Lamb” (kai tō arniō—the Son) are grammatically differentiated by the repeated article (“the”), which precedes both nouns and are connected by the one conjunction kai (“and”; see: “Grammatical Distinctions”).

Bernard: Can there be more that three persons in the Godhead? Certainly, the Old Testament does not teach three but emphasizes oneness. If the New Testament adds to the Old Testament message and teaches three persons, then what is to prevent subsequent revelations of additional persons?

RESPONSE: Bernard here assumes what he has yet to prove—namely that “oneness” means that God is unipersonal. Monotheism simply means, one God, that is, one Being. Moreover (as we will see), the Jews did not envisage a unipersonal God. Further, the abundance of first person plural verbs and plural words that God applied to Himself are clear multi-personal references:

“Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the LORD God [Yahweh] has sent Me, and His Spirit” (Isa. 48: 16; emphasis added; see also Ps. 45: 6-7; Hos. 1:7).

Militating against this very objection, as we will examine more carefully in the sections that follow, are the Old Testament passages where Yahweh (“LORD”) is referring to and interacting with Yahweh 15 Example:

“Then the LORD [Yahweh] rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD [Yahweh] out of heaven. . . .” (Gen. 19:24). 

Lastly, due to Bernard’s unitarian assumption: God is one equals God is one Person, he cavalierly asserts that the doctrine of Trinity “adds” to the Old Testament “message,” moving him to ask: “What is to prevent subsequent revelations of additional persons?” However, he errs in his reasoning to assume that the Trinity “adds to the Old” Testament.” The Old Testament firmly establishes that God is multi-personal (e.g., Gen 19:24; Isa. 48:16; Ps. 45:6-7; Hos. 1:7; etc.)16.

Moreover, in reference to Bernard’s, question (“What is to prevent subsequent revelations of additional persons?”), I would point out first that Scripture presents only the divine persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the true God (ontologically). Second, the tri-personality of God did not first emerge in the New Testament. As if to think that the New Testament authors “added” two more persons to the Old Testament unipersonal God as Bernard suggests. The references to the Father and the Son may find their fullest expression in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, but the foundation for the tri-personalism of God is clearly laid in the Old Testament:

Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fist? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know! (Prov. 30:4; cf. Ps. 2:7, 12; 102:25).

Therefore, to speak of “adding to the oneness of God” is only Bernard’s pre-decided conclusion that the Old Testament God was unipersonal in which he argues there from.

Bernard: “Are there three Spirits in a Christian heart? Father, Jesus, and the Spirit all dwell within a Christian (John 14:17; 23; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 3:14-17). Yet there is one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:4).”

RESPONSE: Again, Bernard misapprehends the doctrine of the Trinity ad nauseam, which does not teach that there are three separate Spirits or three separate Beings. See above response to Bernard’s assertion: “Whom do we worship and to whom do we pray?”

Bernard: “If Jesus is on the throne, how can He sit at the right hand of God? (Mark 16:19). Does He sit or stand on the right hand of God? (Acts 7:55). Or is He in the Father’s bosom? (John 1:18).”

RESPONSE: Bernard makes a grave mistake in hermeneutics: figuring that terms like “throne,” “right hand” and “bosom” are to be taken in a literal wooden sense. I spent countless hours with Mormon missionaries explaining to them that terms like the phrase “right hand of God” could not mean that God has a literal “right hand.” For Scripture indicates that God the Father is invisible without body parts (cf. Col. 1:15: tou theou tou aoratou, lit. “the God the invisible one”; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16).

Think about it, if “right hand” means God’s (the Father) literal right hand, then, when He says, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet,” (Matt. 22:24; Heb. 1:13; 10:13) would imply that God would literally make Jesus’ enemies a giant footstool comprised of millions of His enemies! Obviously, the Bible, like any literary work, is composed of various kinds of style, speech, etc. And it clearly uses, at times, figures of speech, metaphors, and euphemisms to communicate various principles or truths. We certainly do not take Jesus literally when He says that He is the “door,” or the “vine,” do we? In the same way, then, “right hand” was a Jewish idiom that meant position of authority, as demonstrated many times in Scripture (e.g., Deut. 33:2; Ps. 20:6; 110:1; Matt. 26:64). Finally, it is rather odd that Bernard would even appeal to this passage. For in a strange case of irony, this passage actually poses a tremendous problem for Oneness adherents. Specifically, how is it that Jesus can be at the “right hand” of the Father if they are the same undifferentiated Person.

Bernard: “Is Jesus in the Godhead or is the Godhead in Jesus? (Colossians 2:9 says the latter).”

RESPONSE: First, Bernard completely ignores the historical setting as to why the book of Colossians was even written. As discussed, Paul wrote the book for the express purpose of refuting the docetic brand of Gnosticism. Recalling, they held to a dualistic system: God (the supreme deity) is purely spirit and “matter” (flesh) is inherently evil. The thought of, in their mind, God dwelling in “flesh” was revolting. Consequently, Paul demolishes this idea by first declaring that Jesus created all things. These gnostics denied that a “good god” would ever create something as evil as “matter.” In defense, Paul claims that not only did Jesus create “all things” (i.e., all matter) but also He is the “Supreme God,” who lives in actual flesh! (sōmatikōs). Unless we understand the historical background to this letter, we will not be able to properly exegete the passage.

Second, Colossians 2:9 reads: “For in Him dwells all the fullness of Deity in bodily form.” In dealing with the passage, consider first that the Being of God is inseparable and indivisible (see “Colossians 2:9”). Hence, all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in all of the three Persons. The verse does not say that the Godhead only dwells in Jesus. Remember, Paul’s emphasis was to refute the Gnosticism and specifically exalt the Person of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh (theotētos sōmatikōs [lit. “Deity bodily”]). As Jesus prayed: “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).

Jesus had a different view of the Godhead than that of UPCI writers, namely that according to Jesus, He is in the Godhead (“I in You”) and the Godhead is in Him, which is in solid harmony with Trinitarian doctrine—not Oneness.

Bernard: “Who raised up Christ from the dead? Did the Father? (Eph. 1:20), or Jesus (John 2:19-21), or the Spirit? (Rom. 8:11).”

RESPONSE: Since God cannot be separated; we would expect to find that all three Persons were involved in all the works or operations of God (i.e., the economical [see n. 17 below] and soteriological Trinity [see: “The Soteriological Trinity ]). For example, as seen, in the Bible we read that the Father created (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6), the Son created (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17), and the Holy Spirit created (cf. Job 33:4). And yet, Isaiah 44:24 says that the LORD created all things alone, by Himself. This is entirely consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father created all things through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence, any of the three Persons can say, “I created all things alone because I am fully God.”

Bernard: “If the Son and the Holy Ghost are co-equal persons in the Godhead, why is blasphemy of the Holy Ghost unforgivable but blasphemy of the Son is not? (Luke 12:10).”

RESPONSE: Bernard here makes another category mistake. He confuses ontological Trinity (essence or nature) with the economical Trinity (works/functions).17 He thinks that Trinitarianism teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are identical as their function or position. But this is not so. As I have pointed out, Scripture teaches clearly that the three Persons do have different functions—economical Trinity. The three Persons of the Godhead are co-equal ontologically (in terms of essence or nature). But they have different functions and perform different tasks.

For instance, Acts 4:12 states that “there is no salvation in no one else.” So, does that mean that Jesus’ authority was superior to that of the Father because the Father is not included in the passage? Or, in 1 Corinthians 12:11, when we read that spiritual gifts were distributed by the Holy Spirit, “as He wills” does this mean because there is no passage that says the Father distributes these types of sign gifts that the Father is not “coequal” or less divine than the Holy Spirit? Not at all, for difference in function does not equal difference in nature. Consider the differing roles that husbands and wives share in the covenant of marriage. Given the argument, are we to actually assume that because the husband is the “head of the wife” that he superior in nature than that of the wives (cf. Eph. 5:23). Or, even the differences in function between the employer and the employee, would one seriously see these differences in function as necessitating an inequality in nature?

Thus, as with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the scribes were attacking the very Agent of God, the Holy Spirit, who was working through Christ: they said that Jesus was possessed by a demon (cf. Mark 3:30). Here again, though, the argument actually works against the Oneness position itself. For if God is unipersonal, that is, one person, how can anyone blaspheme only the Holy Spirit without blaspheming the Father and Son? Of course, Jesus did not say this, rather He clearly pointed out that blaspheming the Holy Spirit, not the Father or Himself, was an “unforgivable sin.”

Bernard: “If the Holy Ghost is a co-equal member of the trinity, why does the Bible always speak of Him being sent from the Father or from Jesus? (John 14:26; 15:26).”

RESPONSE: God the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 5:3-4; Heb 10:15-17) is omnipresent, so then clearly the passages that speak of the Holy Spirit as “being sent” cannot mean that the Holy Spirit can truly be absent from or limited to locality. That the Holy Spirit was sent refers to His relationship with believers (cf. Joel 2:28-29; Acts 1:5, 8; 10:15-17, 45). However, Bernard contradicts himself here. On page 128 of his book, Bernard tries to explain who the Holy Spirit is:

“The Holy Spirit is simply God. . . . There is only one Spirit of God. . . . If the Holy Spirit is simply God, why is there a need for this term? The reason is that it emphasizes that He who is a holy, omnipresent, and invisible Spirit works among all men everywhere and can fill, and indwell human lives.”

So, since Bernard teaches that the Holy Spirit is God and is omnipresent, how is it that this Spirit, assuming Bernard’s position, can be sent by the Father (who is the same Person as the Holy Spirit) according to John 14:26? That the Holy Spirit was “sent” clearly indicates that He is distinct and not the same Person as the senders—namely the Father and Jesus (cf. John 15:26).

Standing Groundlessly

It should be fairly clear that the objections most leveled by the Oneness position are really shallow lacking any real substance at all. Equally clear is the great lengths that Oneness teachers will go (Bernard in particular) in avoiding the plain meaning of the text, in defense of the sine qua non of their position: namely, that God is unipersonal.

Even more, misapprehensions, and in many cases, misrepresentations of the doctrine of the Trinity, have been the core reason as to the abundance of unbiblical and illogical arguments.

The word “Person”

Before concluding, there is one more Oneness objection that should be dealt with: the term “persons” to describe the three Members of the Godhead. Since Oneness believers assert God to be a unitarian/unipersonal deity who has not revealed Himself in three distinct persons, they repudiate the term “person” when Christians use it to describe the Members of the Trinity. Yet, it is just here that Bernard engages in special pleading, for in his book, The Oneness of God, he appeals to this very term in describing Jesus Christ: “He [the Son] is the incarnation of the Father (the Word, the Spirit, Jehovah) not just the incarnation of a person called “God the Son” (304).

Moreover, as we saw, question 11 of the UPCI tract, “60 Questions on the Godhead with Bible answers” uses the word “person”: “Does the Bible say that all the Godhead is revealed in one person? Yes, in Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Hebrews 1:3” (emphasis added).

Also, question 56 of the same tract uses the word “person” to describe the unipersonal God of Modalism: “Can Trinitarians show that three divine persons were present when Jesus was baptized by John? Absolutely not. The one, omnipresent God used three simultaneous manifestations. Only one divine person was present–Jesus Christ the Lord” (emphasis added).

One of the problems that many Oneness believers have when they hear the word “person” (as used by Trinitarians) is that they limit the word to one and only one meaning: a human person or people, which is a fallacy of equivocation (i.e., equivocating terms that have multiple meanings).

Simply, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are presented in Scripture as three self-aware (or self-conscious) Subjects or Egos who exist in an “I”-“You” personal relationship, being fully cognizant of each other. They use personal pronouns to refer to each other (e.g., “He,” “Him,” “His,” “You”) and refer to themselves as egō (“I”). Furthermore, the Members of the Trinity enjoy personal attributes, not the least of which is the attribute of love (to say nothing of other attributes like their hatred of sin, etc.). In terms of love, they have eternally existed in a loving intimate fellowship with each other. Is this not what we read from the lips of Jesus Himself (e.g., John 14:16, 26; 17:5ff.)?

The early church had no problem utilizing personal terms to communicate the Three in the Godhead. That is why, historically, the church Fathers, in defining the Trinity, used “persons,” not as we would use it today (and therein lies much of the confusion)—denoting individuals or people. Rather, the term was used to simply communicate that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit were distinct from each other, yet personal and self-aware. These definitions became more crucial as the presence of false teaching continued to attack the Person of Christ. Hence, the early church had to delineate and define the doctrine of God so as to defend against these heresies that crept into the church. The churches in the West utilized per-sona (Lat.; from per [“through”] and sono [“speak”]), and the churches in the East used the term hypostasis (Gk). In his refutation and polemic against Modalism, early church theologian Tertullian was not reluctant to use the term “Person” (persona) to refer to the Members of the Trinity:

Whatever, therefore, was the substance of the Word that I designate a Person, I claim for it the name of Son; and while I recognize the Son, I assert His distinction as second to the Father.18

But almost all the Psalms which prophesy of the person of Christ, represent the Son as conversing with the Father—that is, represent Christ (as speaking) to God. Observe also the Spirit speaking of the Father and the Son, in the character of a Third Person: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit You on my right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool. . . . ” Still, in these few quotations the distinction of Persons in the Trinity is clearly set forth. For there is the Spirit Himself who speaks, and the Father to whom He speaks, and the Son of whom He speaks (emphasis added).19

it was because He had already His Son close at His side, as a second Person, His own Word, and a third Person also, the Spirit in the Word, that He purposely adopted the plural phrase, “Let us make;” and, “in our image;” and, “become as one of us” . . . He distinguishes among the Persons: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him.”20

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are, as Origen stated, “three Persons” (hypostaseis).21 What Athanasius says about the Spirit, we should observe, rounds off his teaching about the Trinity. “The Godhead, accordingly to this conception, exist eternally as a Triad of Persons . . . sharing one identical and indivisible substance or essence.”22 Augustine, teaching on the Trinity, explains how the usage of the term “persons” applied to the Trinity was appropriate, but at the same time should not be misunderstood:

For, in truth, as the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father, and that Holy Spirit who is also called the gift of God is neither the Father nor the Son, certainly they are three. And so it is said plurally, “I and my Father are one.” For He has not said, “is one,” as the Sabellians say; but, “are one.” Yet, when the question is asked, What three? human language labors altogether under great poverty of speech. The answer, however, is given, three “persons,” not that it might be [completely] spoken, but that it might not be left [wholly] unspoken.23

Reformation leader John Calvin puts it this way:

“But to say nothing more of words, let us now attend to the thing signified. By person, then, I mean a subsistence in the Divine essence,—a subsistence which, while related to the other two, is distinguished from them by incommunicable properties. By subsistence we wish something else to be understood than essence. For if the Word were God simply and had not some property peculiar to himself, John could not have said correctly that he had always been with God. . . . Now, I say that each of the three subsistences while related to the others is distinguished by its own properties. . . . I have no objections to adopt the definition of Tertullian, provided it is properly understood, ‘that there is in God a certain arrangement or economy, which makes no change on the unity of essence.’—Tertull [ian]. Lib. contra Praxeam [Against Praxeas]” 24.

Earlier still, the three great Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Basil’s younger brother Gregory of Nyssa) appealed to the analogy of a “universal and its particulars” (Basil): The universal being the one Being (ousia) or essence and its particulars being the three Persons (hupostases). Jesus Himself was not at all hesitant to apply personal pronouns to refer to His Father and to refer to the Holy Spirit (e.g., see John chaps. 14-16).

To summarize, the word “person” was and is used to describe the three Subjects, Selves or Egos of the Trinity for the following reasons:

1. In Scripture, personal pronouns are used to refer to each of the three Members or Selves of the Trinity.

2. The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit all possess personal attributes; they are intellectual, emotional, self-aware (or self-conscious) Subjects or Egos that are cognizant of their own existence and each other. They interact and have fellowship with each other; even fellowship and loving intercourse before time. Moreover, each Person referred to Himself as egō—“I” and used first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) to both Himself and His Father, clearly distinguishing Himself from His Father (John 14:23); and referred to the others as “He,” “Him,” “His” or “You” (cf. John chaps. 14-16).

3. A seen, when the Father and Jesus are interacting, in the same context, we find clear subject-object distinctions, which clearly indicate that the three Persons are differentiated from each other (e.g., Matt. 3:16-17; John 14:16, 26; 2 Cor. 13:14). After all, in light of the above is there a better word to denote the Members of the Trinity? Thus, the church has enjoyed utilizing the word “Persons” to define the tri-unity and Being of God.

 

notes

1 “The Word became [egeneto] flesh” (see: “John 1:14”).

2 Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1929), 133.

3 Ibid., 146.

4 Epistle of Barnabas, 5, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers [hereafter ANF], vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899).

5 Justin Martyr, The First Apology, 61.1, in ANF, vol. 1.

6 Theophilus, To Autolycus, 2.18, in ANF, vol. 2.

7 Irenaeus, A Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So-Called [Against Heresies], 4.20.1, in ANF, vol. 1.

8 Theophilus, To Autolycus, 2.15.

9 Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 2, in ANF, vol. 3.

10 This was clearly proclaimed in the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification:

If anyone says that people are justified; either by the sole imputation of the righteousness (justitia) of Christ or by the sole remission of sins . . . or even the grace by which we are justified is only the favour of God, let him be anathema (Canon XI; emphasis added).

11 The Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura does not teach that truth cannot be found outside of Scripture; however, it is Scripture alone that is theopneustos (lit. “God breathed out”; 2 Tim. 3:16). It is Scripture alone (the apostolic teachings) that the church was built upon (cf. Eph. 2:20). Hence, Scripture alone, not tradition, is fully sufficient for salvation. “For divine Scripture” says Athanasius (c. A.D. 359), “is sufficient above all things” (Athanasius, De Synodis, 6, ed. Philip Schaff, in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, [hereafter NPNF] vol. 4, 2nd ser. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953]; cf. Contra Gentes).

12 Dr. John MacArthur provides a working definition of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura:

Sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It does not claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. . . . It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture (John MacArthur, “The Sufficiency of the Written Word,” in Sola Scriptura!: The Protestant Position on the Bible [Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995], 165-66).

13 J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1978), 113; cf. Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 9. Tertullian explains further:

Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess; by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other (ibid., 9).

14 As pointed out (Go Here), it is universally agreed that the term monogenēs carries the precise meaning of “only kind,” “unique one,” or “one and only.” See: Ho monogenēs huios, “The only begotten Son.”

15 The English word, “LORD” in the Old Testament was originally translated from the Hebrew word “YHWH” and with the later addition of vowels (“Yahweh”) is known as the Tetragrammaton, which carries the meaning (being a derivative of the Heb. verb hawâh [“to be”]) the Eternal One, i.e., the Divine Name. However, post-exile Jews apparently lost the correct pronunciation of the term. Hence, in fear of mispronouncing the “Divine Name” when reading aloud the Scriptures, they would substitute YHWH for “Adonai” which was a variant reading for “Lord” (“to rule over”).

16 For example, God is said to be “Maker” and “husband in Isaiah 54:5, but both words are plural in Hebrew (lit. “Makers,” “husbands”; see also Ps. 149:2 where “Maker” is plural in Heb.; lit. “Makers”). Moreover, in Ecclesiastes 12:1 the word “Creator” is plural in Hebrew (lit “Creators”). See: “The Multi-Personal God in the Old Testament and Oneness Theology”).

17 The economical Trinity teaches that each of the three persons has different roles or functions yet are working together—harmony of operation: It was God the Son, and not the Father nor the Holy Spirit who died whereby providing the substitutionary atonement (cf. Rom. 8:32). It was God the Holy Spirit who was “sent” by the Father and the Son (cf. John 14:26; 15:26). To illustrate further, the Jehovah’s Witnesses will argue that because Jesus said that the “the Father is greater that I” (John 14:28), Jesus could not have been be equal with the Father. Committing that same categorical fallacy as Bernard indulges in, the Jehovah’s Witnesses confuse Jesus’ position, that is, His functional subordination as man, with His essential essence or nature as the eternal God (cf. John 1:1; Phil. 2:6). As man, He prayed to the Father; He said, “the Father is greater than I”; He even called the Father “My God” (John 20:17). As the eternal God, though, the Son can apply the divine name to Himself: “I AM” (egō eimi; cf. Mark 6:50; John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8; see Gk.).

18 Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 8.

19 Ibid., 11.

20 Ibid., 12.

21 Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 129.

22 Ibid., 258.

23 Augustine, On the Trinity, 5.9, in NPNF, vol. 3.

24 Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.6, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998).

“I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father [pros ton patera]” (John 16:28; emphasis added).

Recalling the basic Oneness theological assertion: there is only one God—the Father (e.g., Mal. 2:10; 1 Cor. 8:6). Therefore, the consequent proposition is that Jesus had two natures; divine, which is the mode or office of the “Father” (since only the Father is God) and human, the mode or office of the “Son.” Jesus then, was both the “Father” and “Son” while He was on earth. Notwithstanding the Scriptural data, Oneness teachers remove the three distinct Persons of the Trinity and postulate a unipersonal deity:

There is one God with no essential divisions in His nature. He is not a plurality of persons, but He does have a plurality of manifestations, roles, titles, attributes. . . . Jesus Christ is the Son of God [not God the Son]. He is the incarnation of the fullness of God [the Father] in His deity, Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit. . . . Jesus is the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.1

Even though there is no passage that exists in the New Testament, which explicitly calls Jesus the “Father,” Oneness believers firmly insist that Jesus is the Father. And while these adherents certainly claim to have a biblical precedent for their views, having them defend their position on the basis of sound, biblical exegesis is a different matter. Discursive arguments, incorrect proof-texting, the misuse of the primary passages, and a complete disregard for historical accuracy are not uncommon in the Oneness approach. And, let’s face it, in the final analysis, the true test of any position is its ability to withstand the examination of sacred Scripture. So, does this view find any merit in the text or not? For certainly the Bible is clear and able to define this issue for us, is it not? What I find is that all non-Christian groups have to maneuver the text in such an unnatural way in order to conform to their pre-decided theologies.

First, the standard Oneness proof texts used to teach that God is unipersonal, include Isaiah 9:6; Malachi 2:10; and 1 Corinthians 8:6. Second, the passages generally employed to support their modalistic assumption that Jesus is His own Father, are John 5:43; John 10:30; John 14:9; Colossians 2:9. Beyond that there is a technical argument asserted by Bernard and others, which has to do with the Greek conjunction kai (“and”) in the Pauline salutations (i.e., the conjunction kai should be translated not as the connective “and,” but rather as the ascensive “even”). There are others, of course; however, it is these particular passages, however, that they believe most supports their position. In the end, what is painfully clear, is that the Oneness interpretation of select biblical passages is highly resistant to the “plain reading” of the text.

Note first, the maximum redundancy of the way Scripture speaks of the distinct relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Former UPCI preacher Gregory A. Boyd2 observes:

Consider the way that Scripture generally speaks regarding the Father and Jesus. Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over two hundred times in the New Testament, and never once is he called “Father.” By contrast, over two hundred times “the Father” is referred to by Jesus or someone else as being clearly distinct from Jesus. In fact, over fifty times this juxtapositioning of the Father and Jesus the Son is rendered explicit with in the very same verse. . . . whereas one hundred seventy nine times Jesus is presented as referring to “the Father,” “my Father,” or “your Father” in the Gospels as distinct from himself, at no time does he refer to “my Son” or anything of the sort as distinct from himself! Forty times in John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as “sent by the Father,” but never does he refer to himself as the Father who sent the Son (emphasis added).3

To be sure, the Bible is not the theological starting point for Oneness theology: over two hundred times, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the “Son”—and never once is Jesus explicitly called “Father.” That the unambiguous teachings are sacrificed at the expense of doctrinal predilections is no problem for Oneness devotes.

Unitarianism: Only the Father is God

Before refuting the idea that Jesus is the Father, the Oneness foundation of unipersonalism will be the object of our attention. For it is this premise that gives rise to how they understand monotheism and the grid by which they define the Person of Christ. After all, it is due to a unitarian assumption (and a misunderstanding of monotheism). We must understand the Oneness pre-concluded starting point as it relates to the term “Father.” Only the Father is God, the divine nature of Jesus, they argue, and the “Son,” is the human nature of Jesus. Hence, Jesus, as the Son, was not deity. Remember, in Oneness theology, it was the Father that came down and wrapped Himself in flesh—that flesh being the “Son” mode or office. In defense of this premise, then, they appeal to passages that exclusively speak of the Father as “God.”

It is circular reasoning, however, to assume that since the Bible refers to the Father as God that this requires that the Father is God alone. Hebrews 1:8, though, shuts down the Oneness argument where the Father directly addresses the “Son” as God!: “But of the Son He says, ‘YOUR THRONE O GOD IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . .’” (pros de ton huion ho thronos sou ho theos eis ton aiōna tou aiōnos; Hebrews 1:8). In spite of that, the two verses that are normally used to define God as a unipersonal being are Malachi 2:10 and 1 Corinthians 8: 6.

Malachi 2:10

Do we not have one father? Has not one God created us?

Oneness believers see this passage as teaching that there is only one God: the Father. Is this what the passage is actually saying, though? A few initial observations prove otherwise. First, Malachi 2:10 does not support the Oneness assertion, it only asks, “Do we not have one father? Has not one God created us?” It does not say that only the Father is God. Second, the New Testament revelation concerning the intra-personal relationship between the “Father” and the “Son” was more fully revealed in the New Testament, particularly in the incarnation of God the Son (cf. Eph. 3:4-5; Col. 1:26-27). Third, to the Jewish mindset, the plain meaning of “father” in this passage would have meant Creator.4 Hence, “father” was a term that denoted God as Creator, which is well exampled in the Old Testament:

Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you (Deut. 32:6).

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand (Isa. 64:8).

Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? (Mal. 2:10).

Also not considered by Oneness teachers is that “father” was a relational term. The God of Israel was “like that of a father” in the sense that He redeemed, provided, comforted, protected, created etc.: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion is on those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:13).

This thought is perceptibly brought out in Isaiah 63:16: “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.” Again, Jewish mindset did not conceptualize the New Testament revelation of Father and Son. It is anachronistic to put forward such an assertion.

1 Corinthians 8:6

For even there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

From this verse, unitarianism is again asserted: only the Father is God. This verse is also a favorite for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who say that only Jehovah, the Father, is God Almighty. However, as Christian apologist Robert M. Bowman Jr. observes:

1 Corinthians 8:6 distinguishes between “one God, the Father,” and “one Lord, Jesus Christ.” The JWs [and Oneness believers] conclude from this verse that since the Father is the “one God,” Jesus cannot be God. But by that reasoning, since Jesus is the “one Lord,” the Father cannot be Lord! Yet we know that the Father is Lord (Matt. 11:25).5

However, if “one God” means that only the Father (not the Son) is God, then, “one Lord” likewise would mean that only the Son is Lord, not the Father. An examination of the Pauline corpus reveals the literary tool that the apostle used in differentiating the Father from the Son without infringing on the full deity of either. For example, the term Paul used most frequently when speaking of the Father was theos (“God”) while the term he typically used of the Son was kurios (“Lord”). But of course, Paul did explicitly refer to Jesus as ho theos (“the God”; e.g., Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:12).

Hence, when Paul would speak of the Father and Jesus in the same verse, he would naturally distinguish them by the titles theos and kurios. Accordingly, in Paul’s mind, they were two equal descriptions of deity. Consequently, Oneness teachers fail to realize that in a religious Jewish context the terms kurios and theos were equivalent descriptions of God. This is especially seen when one considers that the very term used to translate the Tetragrammaton (the divine Name, YHWH or Yahweh) in the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Septuagint (LXX), is this same Greek term kurios. Biblical scholar B. B. Warfield comments on the way Paul used the two terms:

Paul knows no difference between theos and kurios in point of rank; they are both to him designations of Deity and the discrimination by which the one is applied to the Father and the other to Christ is (so far) merely a convention by which two that are God are supplied with differentiating appellations by means of which they may be intelligibly spoken of severally.6

In the same stratum, Bible scholar Dr. Lawrence O. Richards comments on the use of the term “father” when applied to God in the Old Testament:

God is identified as Father only a few times in the OT. In those instances the relationship is between God and Israel as a people or between God and Christ as the seed of David’s line. In the OT, God is not viewed as being in a father-son relationship with individuals or as the father of mankind in general.7

Along with 1 Corinthians 8:6 to prove that only the Father is God, Ephesians 4:6 is also employed but the same refutation above suffices. It is this foundation, then, that gives formulation to Jesus as the one Person behind the disguises or masks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Conversely, though, and it will be clearly demonstrated below, Jesus as God, was essentially distinct from His Father—even before time (e.g., John 1:1; 18; 17:5; Phil. 2:6). Such exegetical evidence leaves the Oneness position without any textual refuge.

Oneness Standard Proof-Texts

The most common proof texts that Oneness believers constantly present are Isaiah 9:6; John 5:43; 10:30; John 14:9; and Colossians 2:9. There is also a technical argument asserted by Bernard, which has to do with the Greek conjunction kai (“and”) in the salutations of Paul.

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6: “Everlasting Father”: The Error of Oneness Theology Refuted

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Because of the phrase Eternal Father”

Oneness advocates argue that the passage is teaching that the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the Eternal Father. Aside from the fact, that nowhere in the NT is Jesus ever called “Father,” there are several flaws in this kind of modalistic interpretation:

1. Oneness teachers commit the fallacy of equivocation by asserting that the term “father” has only one meaning. The term father (ab) has various meanings in the OT, depending on the context.

2. When the term father is applied to God (or YHWH) in the OT (only nine times), it denotes His parental character to His children, namely, Israel (e.g., Isa. 63:16). Primarily though, the usage of father denoted God as Creator. As a matter of fact, the term “father” is not even a standard recurring title for God in the OT; it is used only nine times.

3. The word translated name (shem) as in His name will be called (shem + qara) was not a formal title for God, but rather it denoted the essence or essential characteristics of who someone is (cf. Young, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, 1972: 331).8 This was clearly the Semitic concept of name. Hence, as to the essence and character of the Messiah, He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

4. Along with the primary meaning of Creator, the term father correspondingly carries the idea of possessor or founder, as with His creation. For example, 2 Samuel 23:31 speaks of Abialbon, which name means father (or possessor) of strength, strong one. Exodus 6:24 speaks of a man named Abiasaph, whose name means father of gathering, he who gathers. Thus, the Messiah is ab of eternity, that is, possessor of eternity. Richards further explains:

The key word for father in the Bible is ab. It occurs 1,191 times in Hebrew and 9 times in Aramaic form. It is a complex word. Although it usually indicates a literal father or grandfather, it may also be used as a title of respect for a governor or prophet or priest. . . . Ab is also used to indicate the founder of a guild. Thus Ge 4:21 identifies Jubal as father of all who play the harp and flute, i.e., he was the first musician. . . . It is probable that the title Everlasting Father ascribed to Messiah by Isaiah (Isa 9:6) is better understood as father of eternity, i.e., founder of the ages..9

5. Syntactically, the Hebrew term father precedes the word translated eternal (lit. father eternal) indicating the eternal nature of the Messiah. The Aramaic Targums reveal this thought well:

For us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . and his name will be called the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, existing forever [or He who lives forever ]. The Messiah in whose days peace shall increase upon us 10.

6. There has never been a Jewish commentator, Rabbi, or Christian scholar or writer that has interpreted Isaiah 9:6 as Oneness teachers do. Beisner dismantles the Oneness exegesis here simply by pointing out that “I am a father, but I am not my father.” Oneness teachers must prove that Jesus is specifically called the “Father” of the Son of God (i.e., His own Father). Isaiah 9:6 only calls Him father of eternity.11

“Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 1:3; emphasis added).

John 5:43

“I have come in My Father’s name, and you did not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.”

In Oneness theology, the name of the unipersonal deity is “Jesus.” So, Oneness teachers tell us when Jesus here claims that He comes “in His Father’s name,” He is actually declaring that the name of the Father (and the Son) is “Jesus.” To make sense of the passage, that is, to make it teach Modalism, Bernard has this to say:

The Bible plainly states that there is one Father (Malachi 2:10; Ephesians 4:6). It also clearly teaches that Jesus is the one Father (Isaiah 9:6; John 10:30). . . . It is important to note that the name of the Father is Jesus, for this name fully reveals and expresses the Father. In John 5:43, Jesus said, “I am [sic] come in my Father’s name.” In other words, the Son inherited His Father’s name. . . . He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy that stated the Messiah would declare the name of the LORD (Psalm 22:22; Hebrews 2:12). In what name did the Son come? What name did He obtain from His Father by inherence? What name did the Son manifest? The answer is apparent. The only name He used was the name of Jesus, His Father’s name.12

As seen in other places, context is no friend of Oneness theology. At the outset, when the entire chapter is plainly read one cannot escape the clear distinctions between the Father and the Son. For example, notice in John 5:30-32 the straightforwardness in which the Son differentiates Himself from the Father:

“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another [allos estin] who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (emphasis added).

“There is another,” Jesus said, not one, but ANOTHER (allos).13 Do Oneness advocates really think that Jesus’ audience would have understood Jesus as saying, “Oh yes, there is “another” witness however what I really mean is the “other” witness that I keep talking about, well, that is really Me—as the Father.” In candidness, to completely abandon the plain reading, “There is another witness,” and trade it for Modalism, is beyond a simple read-out interpretation, it is completely eisegetical, reading into the text a meaning that is external to the passage itself. Furthermore, there is even a larger strike against the Oneness rendering of the passage. We touched on it above. It is concerning the term “name” again. Simply, the term onoma (“name”) is found no less than one hundred and fifty-six times in the New Testament. Note that the normal first century application of the term “name” predominantly was used to signify “authority” or “on behalf of.” This New Testament meaning extends back to such Old Testament passages as the David and Goliath narrative:

You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD [Yahweh] of host, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted (1 Sam. 17:45; emphasis added).

David had informed the Philistines that he came in the “name” of the Lord, that is, by the authority of the Lord. Hence, Oneness dogma: Jesus is the name of the Father, does not follow, for just as David was not claiming to be the Lord himself, only coming in the authority of the Lord, so also Jesus was not claiming to be the Father, only coming in His authority. We can see this meaning even in modern parlance, as in the phrase, “Stop in the name of (or authority) of the law!” In the same way, then, Jesus here (John 5:43) comes in the authority or in behalf of the Father.

Philippians 2:10-11: “At the name of Jesus”

Philippians 2:6-11 is a beautiful high Christological hymn known as the Carmen Christi (Hymn to Christ). This hymn is discussed in greater detail here. However, what is relevant to our discussion of the Oneness claim is the phrase “at the name of Jesus” in verse 10. It is used by Oneness adherents to assert that the name of the unipersonal deity is “Jesus” (cf. Bernard, The Oneness of God, 223).

First, it was not the mere name Iēsous (“Jesus”) that was “above every name,” for Iēsous was a common name in first century Palestine. Rather, it was the onoma, “name” that belonged to Jesus. Grammatically, Iēsous here in verse 10 is in the genitive case, namely, a genitive of possession. Therefore, the “highest name” in which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess was the name that Jesus possessed or the name that belonged to Him. For the name that belonged to Him, keeping with Paul’s context (i.e., Jesus the Son as the fulfillment of Isa. 45:23)14 is revealed in verse 11: kurios Iēsous Christos (lit. “Lord Jesus Christ”)—thus, Paul identifies Jesus as the Yahweh of Isaiah 45:23 (cf. vv. 21-25). For Yahweh, which is translated kurios in the LXX, is the name that the Son possessed. Hence, Paul places kurios in the emphatic position15 emphasizing the Son’s exaltation as Yahweh—the name that belonged to Him.16

John 10:30

“I and the Father are one”

Colossians 1:15 is a Jehovah’s Witnesses favorite and most utilized verse, because it calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation,” as if this verse teaches that He was created.17 This text is probably the single most cited passage in all Oneness dialogues. Its significance to this movement is rather straightforward: Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” therefore, Jesus and the Father are the same Person. Moreover, the use of this text is not new to the modern era, for there have been many through the centuries who have sought to maintain the Oneness premise by appealing to this verse. But again, is this what the text is asserting? Is this what Jesus meant? A careful look at the passage in its grammatical structure, actually proves the very opposite of the Oneness assertion. Sabellius himself utilized this passage.

First, Jesus does not say that He “is” the Father, only that He and the Father “are” one. The Greek reads: egō kai ho patēr hen esmen (lit. “I and the Father one we are”). Simply, the verb esmen (“are”) is plural in the Greek, hence, Jesus did not say, “I and the Father am [eimi] one,” but rather, “I and the Father are [esmen] one.” When Modalism first emerged, Christian theologians brought out this grammatical point in their apologetic refutation. For example, Tertullian grammatically refutes the John 10:30 assertions made by the modalists of his day:

He says, “My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all,” adding immediately, “I am and my Father are one.” Here, then, they take their stand, too infatuated, nay, too blind, to see in the first place that there is in this passage an intimation of Two Beings–“I and my Father;” then that there is a plural predicate, “are,”—inapplicable to one person. . . .They argue that this passage teaches that Jesus unquestionably claims to be His own Father.18

In the same way, early church polemicist and defender of Christian Orthodoxy, Hippolytus, corrects the grammatical error of the first known modalist, Noetus of Smyrna:

If, again, he [Noetus] alleges His [Christ’s] own word when He said, “I and the Father are one,” let him attend to the fact, and understand that He did not say, “I and the Father am one, but are one.” For the word are, is not said of one person, but it refers to two persons, and one power (emphasis added).19

Lastly, there is another grammatical element, which is normally overlooked by Oneness believers. The word translated “one” (hen) is in the neuter gender. In Greek, the neuter hen indicates unity of essence not absolute identity.20 If Jesus wanted to communicate that He was Himself the Father, He certainly would have used the masculine heis (cf. Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5). Renowned Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the specific application of the neuter hen in John 10:30: “One (hen). Neuter, not masculine (heis). Not one person (cf. heis in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature.”21 Likewise, New Testament scholar Murray Harris observers that

This dual conception of “distinction of person-community of essence” also comes to expression in John 10:30, egw kai o pathr en esmen, which refers to neither personal identity (which would require eiV esmen) nor simply to agreement to of will and purpose (since John 10:28b, 29b implies at least an equality of power).22

In his competent commentary on the Gospel of John, biblical exegete David J. Ellis notes:

The neuter gender rules out any thought of meaning ‘one Person.’ This is not a comment on the nature of the Godhead. Rather, having spoken of the sheep’s security in both Himself and the Father, Jesus underlines what He has said by indicating that in action the Father and He can be regarded as a single entity, because their wills are one.23

The grammatical certainty of the passage terminates the Oneness presupposition mainly due to the plural verb esmen (“are”) and the neuter hen (“one”) being utilized rather than the masculine heis. Thus, John 10:30 actually contradicts Oneness theology. As Robertson concludes: “By the plural sumus [“are”] (separate persons) Sabellius is refuted, by unum [“one in essence”] Arius.”24 For if that was the message that Jesus wanted to convey why did He not plainly do so? After all, He was a masterful communicator. On the contrary, He taught the opposite of what Oneness preachers are forcing their followers to believe.

John 14:9

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show is the Father’?

This passage is routinely quoted by the Oneness people, usually in the same breath with John 10:30—as though they were part of the same verse. Removing this verse from the immediate context, Oneness teachers manage to squeeze-out a modalistic understanding. To start with, as in John 10:30, Jesus never said in this passage (or anywhere else in the NT) that He Himself was the Father, only that “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” More than that, there are four exegetical features, which provide a lucid refutation to the Oneness handling of the passage.

1. Context: In verse 6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In verse 7, He then explains to the disciples that by knowing Him they “know” and “have seen” the Father (note the parallel: “know,” “seen”). Still not understanding, Philip said to Jesus, “show us the Father” (v. 8). Jesus then reiterated (as a corrective) that by seeing Him they can see, that is, “know” or recognize the invisible Father (v. 9). The context is apparent: by knowing and seeing Jesus (as the only way to the Father), they could really see (i.e., know/recognize) the invisible and incapable of being seen Father (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16). For Jesus makes Him known, that is, He explains Him (cf. John 1:18).25

As God, the Son in His preexistence was always (hos ōn, lit. “who being”) the prefect and “exact representation” (charaktēr) of the very Person (hupostaseōs) of Him (autou; hence, “of Him” not “as Him”; Heb. 1:3). Therefore, when they saw Jesus, they “saw” (viz. as the only way to and in exact representation) the invisible unseen Father. Further, in verse 10, Jesus clearly differentiated Himself from the Father by declaring, “The words I say are not My own. Rather it is the Father living in Me (emphasis added).”

2. The Father is spirit: When Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” the only thing His disciples literally saw was Jesus’ physical body. Both Oneness believers and Trinitarians agree to that the Father is invisible and does not have a physical body. Hence, Jesus could not have meant that by seeing Him they were literally seeing the Father.

3. First and third person personal pronouns: Throughout chapter 14, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) to refer to His Father (e.g., John 14:7, 10, 16). This case of marked distinction is also evident when Jesus differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [allon; see n. 13 below] Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16; also see 14:7, 10, 26; emphasis added).

4. Different prepositions: Throughout John chapter 14 (and chaps. 15-16), Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. This use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them,”26 and clearly denotes essential distinction, e.g., “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me” (John 14:6); “he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (v. 12; cf. also John 15:26; 16:28). Paul, too, regularly uses different prepositions to clearly differentiate the Father from the Son. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul teaches that by the agency of the Son, Christians have access to the Father by means of the Spirit:

For through Him [di’ autou; the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera] (Eph. 2:18).

Only by circumventing these points can Modalism be established from John 14:9. Tragically, we see the external influence of both tradition and the authority of the Oneness church on its adherents, robbing passages like John 14:9 of their true contextual meaning.

Colossians 2:9

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.

What I find is that most Oneness believers, including UPCI leaders and teachers, are not biblically coherent to the fact that the very foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity is unequivocal, unmodified monotheism: one true God. However, as mentioned, Oneness teachers presuppose that monotheism equals one divine Person. As shown, however, monotheism is the belief in one Being and does not necessitate unitarianism.

Scripture reveals that God is an indivisible unquantifiable spirit, which cannot be separated into thirds. Thus, because God is an omnipresent Being, He exists everywhere: “But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? . . .” (2 Chron. 2:6; cf. 6:18; Jer. 23:23-24; Heb. 4:13). Therefore, in Colossians 2:9 we would expect that “all the fullness of Deity” dwells in Christ, as it also dwells in the Father and the Holy Spirit—God cannot be divided into parts.

We should consider additionally that the book of Colossians was written as a pointed refutation against the dualistic ideology (i.e., spirit vs. matter) of Gnosticism.27 The Gnostics repudiated such an idea that the supreme God (who is pure spirit) would ever dwell in evil “matter” (e.g., Jesus’ physical body). For that reason, Paul firmly presented his argument by saying in essence: Jesus created all things, in fact, all the fullness (plērōma)28 of the supreme God (theotētos)29 presently, continuously and permanently dwells (katoikei)30 in His human flesh (sōmatikōs).”31

Thus, Paul’s sole intention and purpose in his letter to the Colossians was to refute Gnostic speculations by asserting that (a) Jesus Christ (the Son; cf. 1:14-15) was absolutely God in flesh (theotētos sōmatikōs; cf. 2:9) and (b) man could be fully reconciled in His [the Son’s] “fleshly body [sōmati tēs sarkos] through [His physical] death [dia tou thanatou]” (1:22; again emphasizing His real flesh).

Therefore, against the Gnostics, Paul specifically emphasized that in the Person of Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of God in human flesh. Paul was not teaching here that Jesus was the Father, which would have been completely out-of-flow with his anti-Gnostic polemic (and his entire theology). Nor was Paul providing an expressive dissertation on the doctrine of the Trinity, this was not his aim. Paul’s main purpose was to present Jesus Christ as the God-man, Creator of all things, whose physical death provides redemption. The Jesus that Paul preached sliced directly through the Gnostic system. So, all the fullness of God dwells in the Son, for He is fully God, but this “fullness” does not only dwell in the Son (cf. John 1:1c).32 The Being of God is indivisibly and inseparably one. Therefore, any of the three distinct Persons can say subjectively and objectively that they, as fully God, possess ALL the fullness of God.

By way of review, the issue of the Gnostic controversy did not surround the Father, but rather it centered on the idea that the Son was fully God in human flesh. Accordingly, Paul specifically emphasized that in the Person of the Son, Jesus the Christ, “all the fullness of Deity” dwells permanently and continuously in human flesh.

kai and the Salutations of Paul

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and [kai] the Lord Jesus Christ.

The specific benchmark of the Pauline corpus was his salutations. He included them faithfully in the opening of every one of his letters. He worshipped God the Father and Jesus Christ from (apo)33 whom grace and peace flowed. As we have already seen, Paul comprehended the terms theos (“God”) and kurios (“Lord”) as equal designations of deity. Furthermore, a plain reading of the salutations, without a prior theological bias, clearly distinguishes God the Father from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, Oneness teachers force Modalism into the salutations by asserting that the logical conjunction kai should be translated, not as a simple connective “and,” but as the ascensive “even.” Furthermore, the salutations, they conclude, are not teaching a distinction of Persons; on the contrary, they are teaching that Jesus is the Father. For example, as Oneness teachers surmise, a more correct rendering of Galatians 1:3 would be as follows: “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, even from our Lord Jesus Christ.” To support this Oneness grammatical assumption, Bernard attempts to explain Greek grammar to unlearned Oneness devotees in his most recognized book:

A study of Greek is very interesting in connection with theses greeting passages. The word translated ‘and” is the from the Greek word kai. It can be translated as “and” or as “even” (in the sense of “that is” or “which is the same as”). For example, the KJV translates kai as “and” in II Corinthians 1:2 but as “even” in verse 3 [Bernard then proceeds to give a few more examples]. . . . So the greetings could read just as easily “from God our Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”34

Someone once said ‘a little Greek is dangerous thing,’ Bernard shows this maxim to be true. Fundamentally, however, there are two fatal flaws to the kai equals “even” argument as applied to the Pauline salutations: grammatically and theologically.

Grammatically: The Oneness grammatical assumption is that kai should be translated as “even” in all of the salutations of Paul. However, assertions are nothing more than assertions; they do not prove anything. What Bernard and other modalists do not exegetically consider is that the predominate usage of the logical conjunction kai in the New Testament is the connective “and”—not the ascensive (“even”).35

Unquestionably, then, the burden of proof falls headlong on the one who would assert that kai should be translated as “even” (viz. being the ascensive conj. as in Eph. 5:3: “even [kai] be named among you . . .”; emphasis added). Oneness teachers, though, offer no grammatical or contextual justification to support their view—they merely assert it to be true. Specifically, unless the context deems otherwise, in light of the plain normal predominate New Testament usage, the logical conjunction kai should be translated as the simple connective “and,” not the ascensive “even.”

Furthermore, according to Greek grammar (e.g., Granville Sharp’s rule #5),36 when there are multiple personal nouns in a clause that are connected by kai and the first noun lacks the article (ho [“the”]), each noun must denote a distinct person.37 This is seen in ALL of the Pauline salutations.38 In fact, in the salutations of ten of his letters, all the personal nouns lack the article, clearly distinguishing the Father and Jesus Christ (see also 2 John 3). Observing the specific grammatical features that distinguish the Father from the Son in the salutations, Murray Harris notes:

The formula qeoV kai kurioV in reference to one person is not found in the NT or LXX and is rare elsewhere . . . whenever qeoV and kurioV Ihsouj cristoV are conjoined or occur in close proximity (viz., within the same sentence), two person are always being referred to (31 instances).39

In spite of that, Oneness teachers must force their pre-decided theology into the salutations to avoid the obvious: Jesus and His Father are two distinct Persons.

Theologically: Due to their a priori unitarian assumption, Oneness teachers force the most unnatural rendering into the text. On the contrary, Christians do not have to read into passages to support the doctrine Trinity. The end result of the Oneness hermeneutic is the wholesale abandonment of the clear reading of the text. The natural reading is jettisoned, and the most unnatural reading is forced. Otherwise, the passages, as they read, yield unmistakably the truth that Jesus and the Father are two distinct Persons.

In conclusion, the unipersonal deity of Modalism is nonexistent in the salutations. Scripture presents, unambiguously, the Father and the Son as two distinct, self-aware Persons. Paul’s audience to which he was writing would have never understood the salutations as teaching that Jesus was both the Father and the Son. The normal bare reading of the entire Pauline corpus clearly denotes a tri-personal God:

He [God the Father] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6; emphasis added; cf. also Rom. 14:17-18; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; 1 Thess. 1:3-5).

Additional Considerations

The Old Testament Law was clear: “On the evidence of TWO witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (Deut. 17:6; emphasis added). To validate His testimony Jesus Christ referred to the Old Testament Law, which was authoritative to the Jews:

“But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me” (John 8:16-18; emphasis added).

Jesus said TWO, which the Jews would have understood to mean—simply two. He did not say His divine nature testifies for His human nature; that would not work well with the Jews.

There are also further considerations that militate against the Oneness conclusion that Jesus is the Father:

1. The Oneness unitarian position denies the Son’s preexistence: Example: it (a) denies the Son as the Creator,40 (b) denies the Son’s preexistence, (c) denies the biblical teaching of the incarnation by asserting that the Father, not the Son, came down and wrapped Himself (not became) flesh,41 (d) denies Jesus’ role as Mediator between God (the Father) and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). By definition, a mediator is someone other than the recipient being mediated, (e) denies Jesus as Intercessor (cf. Rom. 8:34). Jesus cannot intercede before the Father on behalf of the believer if He Himself is the Father. How can Jesus be “Intercessor” if He is the Father? For whom does He intercede? And (f), Oneness theology denies Jesus as the substitutionary atoning sacrifice that provided satisfaction before the Father [i.e., hilasmos (“propitiation”); cf. 1 John 2:1]. If Jesus is both the Father and the Son, to whom did His sacrifice on the cross provide satisfaction? 42

2. Jesus’ usage of first person plural verbs: As discussed above, Oneness believers are unmoved by Jesus’ use of first person pronouns to refer to Himself and third person pronouns to refer to the Father (and the Holy Spirit; e.g., John 14: 7, 10, 16-17; 26; 15:10; 16:13-14; 17:5). But what is extraordinarily difficult for Oneness believers to reconcile is when Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) to both Himself and His Father, which clearly distinguishes Himself from His Father (cf. also cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; and Isa. 6:8). The use of the first person plural verbs here to refer to Himself and Father obliterates the unipersonal Jesus view:

Jesus answered and said to them, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him” (John 14:23; emphasis added).

Let us stop for a moment and ask the following question, if Modalism is true then, why did Jesus give the impression that He was distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit?

3. Subject-Object Distinctions: Simply, if Jesus and the Father were not distinct cognizant Persons, we would not expect to find a clear subject-object relationship between them:

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water . . . behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My [subject] beloved Son, [object] in whom I [subject] am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17; emphasis added; see also, Matt. 17:5).

“I [subject] glorified You [object] on earth, having accomplished the work which You [object] have given Me [subject] to do” (John 17:4; see also Luke 23:34, 46).

The Father and the Son stand in an “I”–“You” relationship of each other; the Son refers to the Father as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Father likewise refers to Jesus as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Son personally relates to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the reverse is altogether true of the Father and the Holy Spirit relating to each other.

4. The early church universally rejected Modalism: Since its inception, Modalism (and dynamic monarchianism) has been universally rejected by the early church.43

5. The majority of biblical scholarship throughout church history (and subsequently) has rejected Modalism: One should take into account that the world’s greatest biblical scholars, theologians, and grammarians are (and have been) greatly opposed to Oneness theology. As with the Watchtower, there are no recognized Greek grammarians or biblical scholars involved with or endorse the UPCI or any other Oneness organization.

Final Thought

Jesus (nor His apostles) ever claimed He was the Father. The writers of the New Testament (and Jesus Himself) identified Him as the “Son” never as the Father. As seen above, Boyd observed, “Over fifty times Jesus and the Father are rendered distinct in the same verse.” Also significant, is the way in which Scripture presents Jesus and the Father interacting with each other as two distinct Persons (e.g., Jesus prayed to the Father; the “I”–“You” subject-object relationship that existed between the Father and the Son; first to third person personal pronoun references). In addition to the personal interaction among the Persons are the particular grammatical features, which clearly denote genuine distinction between the Father and the Son.44

That Jesus is both the Father and the Son turns their intimate relationship into a mere simulation. Consider the way in which the Persons intimately and lovingly relate to one another: “The Father loves the Son and has given Him all things into His hand” (John 3:35; cf. 5:20; 10:17). The Son really does love the Father: “so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. . . .” (John 14:31). In the same way, the Holy Spirit really does love the believer (cf. Rom. 15:30). Oneness advocates, though, believe that it was merely the “Father” mode loving the “Son” mode. That is, Jesus’ human nature loving His own divine nature. By way of definition and logic, however, two abstract natures cannot have fellowship and love for each other—natures cannot intellectually express emotion. Natures can neither give love nor receive love for they are not self-aware nor cognizant. Only conscious persons are capable of giving love and receiving love. The Son was the object of the Father’s love. In Scripture, all three Persons give as well as receive love (e.g., John 11:5; 14:23; Rom, 15:30; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Thess. 2:16; Jude 1:1).45

Jesus is the God-man, the very image and perfect representation of His Father (cf. John 1:18; Heb. 1:3). In His preexistence (cf. John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17), He had loving intercourse and glory with the Father before time (cf. John 1:1; 17:5). He, as the Son, is the divine Priest (cf. Heb. 7:1ff.) who revealed His Father to mankind (cf. John 1:18). The Son is the only Mediator between the Father and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). Thus, it was Jesus Christ, the monogenēs theos (“one and only God”; cf. John 1:18), who said, “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me (John 14:6; emphasis added). The unipersonal theology nullifies Jesus’ own authentication. The testimony of TWO, Jesus affirms, validates His testimony:

If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is ANOTHER [allos: other than the one speaking]46 who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (John 5:31-32 emphasis added; cf. 8:17-18).

Jesus and the biblical authors utilized plain uncomplicated language that demonstrated real distinction exiting simultaneously between the Persons of the triune Godhead. The essential distinction between the Father and the Son47 were not merely ‘distinctions of illusory,’ modes, or functions, but actual:

“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son, also gives life to whom He wishes. . . . For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:21; 6:38; emphasis added).

Notes

1 David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God (Hazelwood: Word Aflame, 1983), 294-95.

2 Although Gregory Boyd has skillfully provided a pointed refutation against Oneness Pentecostalism and has disarmed the liberal scholarship of the “Jesus Seminar” (e.g., Jesus Under Siege [Wheaton: Victor Books, 1995]), I am in full disagreement with his views on “open theism” (cf. Gregory A, Boyd, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000]). See Bruce A. Ware, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), wherein Ware provides a blow-by-blow refutation against the hyper-Arminian system of “open theism.”

3 Gregory A. Boyd, Oneness Pentecostals & The Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 68-69.

4 Consequently, the KJV (the UPCI’s standard translation) agrees that the term “father” was not a formal title for Jehovah. In recognition of this fact, the KJV did not capitalize “father” in Malachi 2:10 (as with most translations). Hence, the KJV saw “father” signifying God as “Creator” and not the NT revelation of the capitalized formal title “Father.”

5 Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), 73.

6 Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1929), 220.

7 Lawrence O. Richards, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 266.

8 Cf. Edward J. Young, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 331.

9 Richards, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words.

10 The Targums were Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible interspersed with rabbinic commentary, which the Jews utilized as early as Ezra (Neh. 8:1-8) (cf. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody Press, 1986], 501-2).

11 E. Calvin Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 32.

12 Bernard, The Oneness of God, 126-27.

13 BDAG defines allos here as “pert. to that which is other than some other entity, other . . . distinguished fr. the subject who is speaking or who is logically understood. . . .” (Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. Frederick W. Danker [hereafter BDAG] [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 46).

14 Thus, the work of salvation is accomplished solely by mutual operation of the three Persons (i.e., soteriological Trinity.

15 Most English translations read, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” whereas the Greek reads, kurios Iēsous Christos (lit. “Lord Jesus Christ”). In biblical Greek, the placement of a word in a sentence was not dependent on the subject-verb word order, but rather on emphasis. Hence, in verse 11, the anarthrous predicate nominative kurios, occupies the emphatic position (i.e., first word of the clause): “Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. John 1:1c: kai theos ēn ho logos [lit. “God was the Word”]; also cf. 4:24). Thus, Paul coherently emphasizes to his readers that Jesus IS the Lord (viz. Yahweh; cf. Rom. 14:11; Isa. 45:23)

16 Cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 474; Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 312.

17 In Colossians 1:15, Paul calls Jesus prōtotokos (“firstborn”). From this, Jehovah’s Witnesses erroneously think “firstborn” means, “first created.” But this assertion would be totally foreign in a first century Jewish context. The term prōtotokos denotes “supremacy” or “first in rank” (cf. Exod. 4:22; Ps. 89:27) as the context of Colossians indicates. The anarthrous (i.e., without the article) prōtotokos denotes Jesus as “having special status associated with a firstborn” (BDAG, 894). Noted biblical exegete Robert Reymond extracts the true significance of the term:

Paul’s intention behind his description of Jesus as “the Firstborn of all creation” is a universe away from the Arian interpretation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that would insist that the word shows that the Son was the “first” of all other created things; the entire context demands the term is to be understood in the Hebraic sense as an ascription of priority of rank to the firstborn son who enjoys a special place in the father’s love. (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 251).

If Paul wanted to convey that Jesus was “first-created,” he certainly could have used the word prōtoktistos meaning “first-created” to do so (as in 2 Cor. 5:18: kainē ktisis [“new creation”]). Hence, Jesus was not the first creature for He was Creator of all things, whereby in everything He had supremacy (prōteuōn; Col. 1:18). See The New World Translation in which I deal with the Watchtower’s abusive treatment of the Greek NT, in their translation: The New World Translation.

18 Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 22, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 [hereafter ANF], vol. 3 (1885-1887; reprint, Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).

19 Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 7, in ANF, vol. 5.

20 Cf. BDAG, 291; Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1896; reprint, with Strong’s numbering added by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 186.

21 Archibald T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933), 5:186.

22 Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Usage of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1992), 285, n. 38.

23 David J. Ellis, “John,” in The International Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 1249.

24 Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:186.

25 In John 1:18, John says that “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” The word translated “explained” is exēgēsato (the aorist middle indicative of echēgeomai), which means “to lead out . . . to unfold, declare” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, 223). Hence, it is God the Son who is the very image (eikōn) of the invisible Father (cf. Col. 1:15) who brings out, that is, exegetes the Father. “He [Jesus] has made known or brought news of (the invisible God)” (BDAG, 349).

26 Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 34. Additionally, the repetition of the preposition distinguishes the Father and the Son as two distinct self-aware Subjects (e.g., 1 John 1:3; “Grammatical Distinctions”)).

27 I am using the term “Gnostic” (from gnōsis, meaning “knowledge”) broadly to describe the various first and second century sects who share the same basic doctrinal characteristics: spirit vs. matter. Because formal Gnosticism had not yet been developed, critics attack the Pauline authorship of Colossians. It was not, however, the fully developed system that Paul (and John; cf. 1 & 2 John) dealt with. Rather Paul grappled with the main theological predilections of Gnostic philosophy, which was wide-ranging in the first century. Despite philosophical dissimilarities, all Gnostics at least shared one common thread: spirit was good and matter was evil. This system was also described later as “Doceticism” (from dokein, meaning “to seem,” which was first expressed by Serapion of Antioch, c. A.D. 200). However, both generally held to the spirit vs. matter dualistic system. So accordingly, they did not believe that Jesus (a good god or “aeon,” cf. Cerinthus) would ever become something as evil as material flesh. The mere thought of Jesus becoming and remaining in human flesh (cf. 1 John 4:2-3) was utterly repugnant to them.

28 The term translated “fullness” is plērōma. This term was well familiar in Gnostic theology. In Gnostic thinking, the supreme God dwelled in the plērōma and aeons (as with Christ] emanated from him.

29 Recognized Greek lexicographer Joseph Thayer defines theotētos as: “the state of being God” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, 288. Reymond defines the word as “the being of the very essence of deity” (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 252).

30 The word translated “dwells” is katoikei, which is the present active indicative of katoike. The present tense indicates that the “fullness” of absolute “Deity” dwells in Christ permanently and continuously. Hence, there was no beginning of Christ’s Deity.

31 The Greek term sōmatikōs (“bodily”) denotes the physical body of Jesus Christ. Hence, the fullness of “Deity” (which was always subsisting in Him; cf. Phil. 2:6) permanently and continuously dwells now in the physical body of the two-natured Person, the Son of God Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:14).

32 John 1:1c reads: kai theos ēn ho logos (lit. “and God was the Word”). That theos (“God”) is anarthrous leaves room for the other Members of the Trinity as also belonging to the category of theos. Thus, the anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative theos describes the essential (ontological) quality of the logos (“Word”) without excluding the Holy Spirit as belonging to the same category—theos (cf. Acts 5:3-5; and Acts 28:25-27 cf. with Isa. 6:1, 9-10; Heb. 3:7-11 cf. with Ps. 95:7-11; and Heb. 10:15 cf. with Jer. 31:33-34).

33 In the salutations, Paul clearly delivers his point: the grace and peace is from (apo) God the Father and the Lord Jesus. Paul did not say that the grace and peace is from God the Father through (dia) the Lord Jesus Christ, as if Jesus were a mere instrument and not the direct source of the grace and peace. Paul’s passion swells when he stresses that the grace and peace flows equally from both the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (due to the Gk. prep. apo) in which both Persons are the objects of Paul’s praise.

34 Bernard, The Oneness of God, 208-9.

35 There are 9,153 instances kai in the NT (cf. William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993], 422). Of the total NT occurrences of kai, 4,829 times it is translated (in virtually every translation) as the simple connective “and,” with only 97 times as the ascensive “even” (cf. John R. Kohlenberger, III, Edward W. Goodrick, James A. Swanson, The Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997], 401).

36 This rule is named after its founder (not inventor) Granville Sharp (A.D. 1735-1813; cf. Granville Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definite Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament, 3rd ed. [London: Vernor & Hood, 1803]). Because of his passion and solid belief in the deity of Jesus Christ, Sharp’s grammatical research of the Greek New Testament led him to discover six grammatical rules. These six rules mainly had to do with the grammatical constructions wherein the Greek conjunction kai is utilized. Remarking on the validity of Sharp’s grammatical rules, Beisner explains that

Those who know Greek can confirm the accuracy of the conclusions drawn here by consulting C. Kuehne, “The Greek Article and the Doctrine of Christ’s Deity,” Journal of Theology: Church of the Lutheran Confession 13, no. 3 (September 1973): 12-28; 13, no. 4 (December 1973): 14-30; 14, no. 1 (March 1974): 8-19; 15, no. 1 (March 1975): 8-22, in which Kuehne brilliantly explains, illustrates, and defends the six parts of Sharp’s rule (Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 46).

Rule #1 is most recognized, though. Without quoting the rule verbatim, the rule states that when the connective kai (“and”) connects two nouns of the same case (only singular nouns that are not proper, that is, nouns that cannot be pluralized, e.g., personal names; etc.), and the article ho (“the”) precedes the first noun but not the second each noun refers to the first named person. Example, Titus 2:13 reads: tēn makarian elpida kai epiphaneian tēs doxēs tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou (“expecting the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of the [tou] great God and [kai] Savior of us Christ Jesus”).

Thus, theou (“God”) and sōtēros (“Savior”) are the two descriptive singular nouns, which are connected by kai (“and”) and the article tou (“the”) is in front of theou (“God”) and not sōtēros (“Savior”) thus Jesus Christ is tou megalou theou kai sōtēros: “THE great GOD and Savior.” And according most Greek grammarians (e.g., A. T. Robertson), this rule is invariably absolute. Also, we find the rule as applied to the deity of Christ at 2 Thessalonians 1:12 and 2 Peter 1:1 where Jesus is called tou . . . theou (“the . . . God”). Most students of Greek grammar are quite familiar with Sharp’s rule #1, hence many Oneness writers mistakenly assume that Sharp only had this one rule.

37 Ibid.; cf. Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 36, 46.

38 E.g., charis humin kai eirēnē apo theou patros hēmōn kai kuriou Iēsou Christou (“grace to you and peace from God Father of us and Lord Jesus Christ”). However, the earliest manuscripts of Colossians do not contain the last phrase kai kuriou Iēsou Christou (“and Lord Jesus Christ”; 1:2) as in the customary rendering of the salutations. Hence, some late manuscripts added the phrase. Further, the salutations in the pastoral letters contain a variant reading as compared to Paul’s earlier salutations. In 1 and 2 Timothy (v. 2) the Greek reads: charis eleos eirēnē apo theou patros kai Christou Iēsou tou kuriou hēmōn (“grace, mercy, peace from God Father and Christ Jesus the Lord of us”). What is more, as compared to the salutations in 1 and 2 Timothy, in Titus 1:4, Paul substitutes sōtēros, (“Savior”) for kuriou (“Lord”): charis kai eirēnē apo theou patros kai Christou Iēsou tou sōtēros hēmōn (lit. “grace and peace from God Father and Christ Jesus the Savior of us”). Nevertheless, the case of the missing articles before the first noun theou (“God”) in the salutations of all three pastoral letters thoroughly protects against the couriers of Modalism. What is clear, the salutations openly expose Paul’s conception of God as a multiple-personal Being.

39 Harris, Jesus as God, 266.

40 As briefly seen,, in Oneness theology, Jesus as the preexistent Father mode was the Creator. Therefore, since only the Father mode existed before time, Oneness teachers will conclude that the “manifestation” of the “Son” had its beginning at Bethlehem. As seen, Bernard explains that not only did the Son have a beginning, but also the Son will have an end:

The Sonship—or the role of the Son—began with the child conceived in the womb of Mary. . . . From all of these verses, it is easy to see that the Son is not eternal, but was begotten by God almost 2000 years ago (Bernard, The Oneness of God, 104-5).

Oneness teachers have no problem denying the Son as Creator in the face of Paul presenting the Son as the Agent of creation (cf. Col. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 8:6).

41 John 1:14 declares that ho logos sarx egeneto (“the Word became flesh”). The Greek here clearly indicates that the eternal Word (cf. John 1:1a) did not simply “wrap” Himself in flesh as one would put on an outfit or a costume, but rather He actually BECAME (egeneto) flesh (sarx). Unfortunately, too many pastors and commentators miss the grammatical significance of this passage and declare that “God wrapped Himself in flesh” (a popular epithet among them). Hence, they unknowingly gratify Oneness believers who think that it was God the Father that put on or wrapped Himself in a flesh-body without actually becoming flesh. As if the Father dressed in or put flesh on, as an actor would put on a mask without, of course, becoming the person that he or she is playing.

42 The work of salvation is accomplished solely by mutual operation of the three Persons (i.e., soteriological Trinity)).

43 Universally and unambiguously, the early church rejected Modalism (all forms) and condemned those who promulgated it.

44 E.g., the case of the missing articles in the salutations of Paul (viz. Sharp’s rule #5); repeated and different prepositions (cf. n. 26 above); the repetition of the article; and subject-object distinctions between the Father and the Son.

45 There was Personal Loving Fellowship between the Persons of the Trinity.

46 Cf. n. 13 above.

47 Moreover, the real distinction of the Father and Son from the Holy Spirit is, if not more, just as abundant.