Oneness advocate and popular TV evangelist T. D. Jakes (of the Potter’s House church in Dallas, TX) has changed (reworded) his doctrinal statement regarding God. His old statement read:

THREE DIMENSIONS OF ONE GOD. . . . Triune in His manifestation, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is Sovereign and Absolute in His authority. We believe in the Father who is God Himself, Creator of the universe. (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1).

Here his denial of the biblical definition of the Trinity is crystal clear. Describing God as “THREE DIMENSIONS” and saying God is “Triune in His manifestations” is decidedly Oneness, not Trinitarian. His statement before this one (1998) read in part: “God-There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three Manifestations: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

But as of recently, he changed it again, going back to the 1998 description: “There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” As we can see, the “Belief Statement” on the Potter’s House website: http://thepottershouse.org/explore/belief-statement/) still provides a unitarian and distinctly Oneness concept of God- using the term “manifestations” (thus avoiding the use of “Persons”) to describe God is consistent with Oneness doctrine, not Trinitarianism.

For those who still defend Jakes insisting that he holds to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and not Oneness theology, please refer to the Potter’s House website and read his own Belief Statement. Denying the Trinity denies the biblical revelation of the nature of God. See A Concise Look at Oneness Beliefs.  

 

  

 

The fundamental difference between biblical Christianity and Oneness theology is this: the Oneness view of God holds to a unitarian starting point, namely, the assumption that monotheism equals unipersonalism.

First, since Oneness doctrine asserts a unipersonal God without the distinction of three Persons, it sees Jesus then as the mere “name” of the unipersonal deity, who manifested as the modes or roles of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thus denying the unipersonality of Jesus Christ. Second, since it asserts that only the Father is God (i.e., Jesus’ divine nature/mode), the “Son” represents only Jesus’ human nature/mode, thus denying the Son’s deity. Third, since it rejects the idea that the Son is God, Oneness Christology denies (a) the Son’s pre-existence, (b) the Son’s active role as the agent of creation (the Creator), and (c) the Son’s eternal and intimate relationship with the Father. Pertaining to redemption, Oneness doctrine maintains that Jesus as the Father took flesh, hence denying the incarnation of the divine Son.

In contrast, an exegetical analysis of particular biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments establishes the fundamental data for the doctrine of the Trinity. Hence, Scripture reveals in the clearest way that there are three distinct Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—that share the nature of the one God. Thus, the three Persons are co-equal, co-eternal, co-existence, and co-distinct. The full deity, incarnation and pre-existence of the Son, as a distinct Person from the Father, are especially expressed in the Apostle John’s writings.

In the Pauline corpus, the deity, unipersonality and distinction of all three Persons are seen frequently either in the same passage or same context. Both John and Paul present the Son as God and Creator of all things. In the prologue of Hebrews, the author asserts clearly and coherently that the Person of the Son is the eternal Creator; this assertion demolishes the Oneness position, which sees the “Son” representing only the human nature of Jesus whose life started in Bethlehem. This work concludes that the concept of the Trinity is inescapable in the light of biblical exegesis. Oneness theology cannot stand exegetically. It must circumvent and redefine the plain reading of many passages that state or imply, for example, the grammatical and contextual distinctions of the Persons in the Trinity, the pre-existence and deity of the Son, and the deity and unipersonality of the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, contrary to the historical revisionism frequently employed by Oneness authors and teachers, the early church prior to Nicea held to the concept of the Trinity universally rejecting both modalistic and dynamic forms of Monarchianism.   

In light of the theological views of Oneness theology, we must evangelize Oneness believers. We must proclaim to them the truth of the Jesus Christ of biblical revelation. And we must pray for them praying that God saves them and makes them alive to the gospel of the Son, “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Colossians 1:15,: “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

Because Jesus is called “firstborn,” the JWs assert that Jesus was created—the “first of Jehovah’s works.” Since this is probably their most utilized passage against Christians, we need to know how to respond to it in order to proclaim the truth of Jesus to them. In simple refutation, note the following:

1. The term “firstborn” (prōtotokos) denotes supremacy, preeminence, or first in rank as the context of Colossians demands. For example, in Exodus 4:22, Israel is called “firstborn” and certainly they were not the first nation created, but as God’s people they had preeminence. In Psalm 89:27, David, because of his status (i.e., his preeminence), is called “firstborn” and he was technically “last born” (note: in the LXX, both passages have prōtotokos). Even the Watchtower acknowledges the correct meaning of the term by admitting:

David, who was the youngest son of Jesses [sic], was called by Jehovah the “first-born,” due to Jehovah’s elevation of David to the preeminent position in God’s chosen nation (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 584; emphasis added).

Further, note that in Genesis 41:51 Manasseh is called “firstborn” and Ephraim is called “second.” But in Jeremiah 31:9, Ephraim is called “firstborn” because it is was Ephraim who now had the preeminence or supremacy, and not Manasseh.

2. The context of the book of Colossians is a sharp refutation against the Gnostic heresy (Gnosticism). The Gnostics (viz. the Docetic Gnostics) denied all matter (creation). In contrast, Paul affirms that Jesus is the Creator of all things (cf. 1:16-17) in which He calls Christ “firstborn” of all creation. As Creator, Christ has supremacy (prōtotokos) over all creation.

3. If Paul wanted to convey that Jesus was “first-created,” he certainly could have used the word prōtoktistos literally meaning, “first-created” to do so (as in 2 Cor. 5:17). Hence, Jesus was not the first-creature, rather He was the Creator of ALL THINGS (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12), whereby in everything He has supremacy (cf. Col. 1:18). Points to remember:

  • In the context of Colossians, “firstborn” (prōtotokos) means supremacy or preeminence—Christ as Creator is preeminent over creation (cf. Exod. 4:22 and Ps. 89:27).
  • Even the Watchtower acknowledges the correct meaning of “firstborn” (“preeminent position”).
  • If Paul wanted to express that Jesus was created, he could have used prōtoktistos (“first created”).

Additional lexical information:

The term translated “firstborn” denotes Jesus as “having special status associated with a firstborn” (BDAG, Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, 894). Biblical scholar 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 JWs 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).

John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The one true God has revealed Himself as three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Oneness Theology is non-Christian

Oneness Christology is a clear and major departure from biblical orthodoxy. Similar to Islam, it teaches a unitarian/unipersonal (i.e., one person) concept of God. Hence, the chief Oneness Christological divergences from that of the biblical teachings are as follows:

  1. Oneness Christology denies the unipersonality and deity of the Son. It teaches that “Jesus” is the name of the unipersonal deity. Accordingly, the “Son” merely represents the human nature of Jesus, while “Father/Holy Spirit” represents the divine nature of Jesus—thus, the Son is not God, only the Father is (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 99, 103, 252). 
  1. Along with the deity, Oneness Christology denies the preexistence and incarnation of the Son, and thus, His role as the Creator (cf. Ibid., 103-4; Magee,Is Jesus in the Godhead or Is The Godhead in Jesus?, 1988: 25). By denying the preexistence of the person of the Son, Oneness doctrine rejects the incarnation of the divine Son holding to the erroneous notion that it was Jesus as the Father, not the Son, who came down and wrapped Himself in flesh, and that “flesh” was called “Son” (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 106, 122).

In sharp contrast to Oneness Christology, Scripture presents clearly and definitely that the distinct person of the Son 1) is fully God (cf. Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:18; 5:17-18; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:13, 8, 10; Rev. 1:8, 17), 2) was the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12), 3) eternally coexisted with and is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. Gen. 19:24; Dan 7:9-14; Matt. 28:19; John 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13-14), and 4) became fully man in order “to give His life a ransom for many” (cf. John 1:1, 14; Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:6-11). This is the Jesus Christ of biblical revelation. 

Jesus Christ is the only mediator and intercessor between God the Father and human beings. The Jesus of biblical revelation is the divine Son, the monogenēs theos who always is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), a personal self-aware subject, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Hence, in biblical opposition to Oneness Christology, Jesus is not the Father, but “the Son of the Father” (2 John 1:3).

Worshiping the unipersonal God of Oneness theology is neither worshiping the true God in spirit nor truth. The Oneness concept of God is fundamentally the same as Islam: a unipersonal deity with no distinction of persons. The true God of biblical revelation is triune—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is and has been the historic biblical position and foundation of the Christian religion.

But the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrine taught by demons. . . . (1 Tim. 4:1).

Most historically informed Christians should be familiar with the Latin sola’s (sola meaning, “alone”) that were first boldly proclaimed by the Reformers in the early sixteen century: sola gratia (“grace alone”), solo Christo (“Christ alone”), sola fide (“faith alone”), sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone” [1]), soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”).

That is not to say that these important biblical concepts were not proclaimed before the sixteenth century—for they were by many important early church Fathers. For example, Athanasius, the great defender of the full deity of Christ in early fourth century, declares that Holy Scripture “is sufficient above all things,” and “fully sufficient for the proclamation of truth.”[2]

The point here is that because of an out-and-out attack on and a vociferous denial of the sufficiency of Scripture[3] and the perfect and sufficient work of Christ made by the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformers codified (not invented) and determinedly proclaimed these sola’s. For them, sola Scriptura[4] teaches that salvation was by sola gratia,[5] through solo Christo,[6] through the instrument of sola fide,[7] and soli Deo Gloria.[8] For every one of these essential sola’s, Rome categorically rejected as they do today.

Note: the very bedrock upon which all the other sola’s rest is sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”), which groups such as Roman Catholicism and Mormonism (LDS) aggressively deny.[9] To allow Scripture to read for itself would be theologically disastrous to these groups. However, there is one sola that is loyally and tenaciously shared by both: sola Ecclesia (“Church alone”). In fact, sola Ecclesia is absolutely necessary and foundational to their entire theological/sociological system. In other words, for them, it is their Church alone that determines what is and what is not doctrine. Thus, for the Catholic: Rome is correct because she says she is correct—ex cathedra.[10]

Toto Scriptura: “All of Scripture”

Aside from the sola’s, there was also another important principle that came out of the Reformation: toto Scriptura (“all Scripture”). The Reformers, as with the early church Fathers before them, held persistently to defending and affirming Scripture alone. And with this same passion and zeal they saw that “all of Scripture” (toto Scriptura) should be clearly and vigorously taught—since “all Scripture is God breathed out” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Unfortunately, many Christian leaders and pastors today will indeed declare “Scripture alone” yet disregard the principle of “all of Scripture.” Important doctrines are often marginalized and/or flatly avoided because many behind the pulpits of large churches and leaders of Christian organizations are afraid that they might offend someone, and/or lose sponsorships and endorsements. Consequently and inevitably, when a false teaching emerges in a church or on the airwaves, it is gladly accepted and goes unchallenged. For why would anyone see a false teaching as false if they themselves are undiscerning and unstudied?

By consistently avoiding (and distorting) the whole counsel of God, Christian leaders and pastors are raising up biblically illiterate Christians ineffectual in providing an accurate presentation of the gospel. The Apostle Peter rightly says that the “untaught[11] and unstable distort” Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16).

Acts 20:17-31

When the Apostle Paul gave his farewell address to the elders of the church of Ephesus (cf. Acts 20:17ff.), he was very concerned as to what was going to soon take place (cf. v. 25). This was the last time that they would see Paul, for he was martyred roughly 4 to 6 years later under Nero around A.D. 64-66. Next, Paul testifies that he is “innocent of the blood of men.”

For, Paul tells the elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God (v. 26).[12] Paul understood the severity of preaching only “parts” of Scripture or “toning down” what God has said, as many do today. God takes a very dim view at those who preach an edited version of the gospel utterly dodging judgment and apologetic passages of Scripture. In verse 28, Paul then instructs the leaders of the church to carefully watch and protect the church: “Be on guard for yourself and for all the flock. . . .” And as a final point of instruction, in verses 29-30, Paul speaks of the grave consequences of not proclaiming all of Scripture (toto Scriptura):

I know after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves, men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them. Therefore be on alert, remembering that for night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears (emphasis added).

Biblically there are two categories of “wolves”: Those outside the church: e.g., non-Christian cults, world religions, etc. and those inside the church to whom Paul is referring. Paul was so concerned about the wolves from “within the church” that he warned the Ephesians elders for three years in tears! So destructive were these false teachers that the Holy Spirit warns and prophesizes of their coming in virtually every New Testament epistle. Hence, it should be paramount that we as Christians (esp. leaders) be biblically equipped to (a) accurately affirm the gospel and (b) detect false teachings so we can warn others and “refute those who contradict” sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).

Jesus said to “watch out for false prophets.” For they always come as “Christians” and they do everything in the “name of Jesus”; even producing “miracles, signs, and wonders” (Matt. 7:15-23; see also 2 Thess. 2:9ff). It is of no great wonder then as to why Paul was so troubled. These particular “inside-job” wolves came as the genuine article deceiving many in their path. Why? Far too many Christians today determine the validity of pastors and evangelists on the way they speak, not on their theology! Hence, the most popular so-called Christian speakers today are the greatest[13] of heretics (e.g., T. D. Jakes).

And according to Paul, these false teachings will be perpetual (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1). Moreover, the Apostle Peter likewise deals with the on-going problem with false teachers within the church. Towards the end of his life, he was directed by the Holy Spirit to state:

But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies . . . bringing swift destruction upon themselves . . . and in their greed they will exploit you with false words. . . . (2 Pet. 2:1-3; emphasis added).

Again, these false teachers exist within the church. The Mormons, JW’s, Oneness believers, Christian Science, etc., are wolves outside the church: But the deception by which most Christians are duped is from the wolves within their own number. So let us be studied Christians being able to defend and affirm the whole gospel (viz. toto Scriptura) with doctrinal precision. It is a biblical command to all Christians and it glorifies God. And to Christian leaders and pastors: you have been called by God the Holy Spirit to shepherd and hence “guard” the flock against the wolves who seek to distort the gospel. If Christians do not speak out against false teachings, the false teachings will be construed and truth!

NOTES

[1] Sola Scriptura simply means that in Scripture alone all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught explicitly and implicitly in which any literate person can understand.

[2] Cf. Athanasius, De Synodis, 6.

[3] I.e., the accepted Protestant cannon, which does not include the seven (or more) “apocrypha” books added by Rome in which they call “Deuterocanonical” (“secondary canon”).

[4] Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) opposes Rome’s view that both Scripture and tradition (viz. oral traditions not contained in Scripture) are the word of God.

[5] Sola gratia (“grace alone”) opposes Rome’s view that justification comes by the grace of God and the meritorious works of man, which includes water-baptism (which Rome calls “the laver of regeneration”), performing the sacraments, good works, and esp. acknowledging all Marian doctrines, which includes religious worship to Mary.

[6] Solo Christo (“Christ alone”) opposes Rome’s view that the sole work of Christ is not sufficient. For Rome teaches that one must merit his or her justification in addition to the work of Christ. Further, doctrines such as Purgatory deny that Christ totally and perfectly propitiated (appeased) the Father (viz. His sacrifice averted God’s wrath *literally* taking away sin). However, that salvation is through Christ alone does not mean that the Father and the Holy Spirit did not participate in the salvation of the believer. For salvation from start to finish rests on the work of the triune God: God the Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner (cf. Titus 3:5) after which the *gift* of faith is granted by God and then exercised by the sinner as a result of being regenerated (cf. John 1:12-13; Phil. 1:29) after which the Father justifies the sinner (cf. Rom. 8:33) and, through that faith alone, imputing to him or her the righteousness of His Son (cf. Rom. 4:4-8). Christ alone simply means that the sole work and righteousness of Jesus Christ passive (allowing Himself to be crucified) and active (His perfect obedience to the Father) is the very ground of salvation. Thus, salvation is through His righteousness alone.

[7] Sola Fide (“faith alone”) opposes Rome’s view of faith + works. The Council or Trent (1546-63) states categorically:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining [of] the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema (Canon 9).

However, in sharp biblical contrast, the very ground of justification is the work of Christ (as seen above) while faith being the very instrument that God uses to justify the sinner. Note: biblically, faith is never said to be the cause or ground of justification, but rather the sole instrument: “having been justified by faith (ek pisteōs, lit., “from faith”) we [now] have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). If faith (i.e., the faith-act) was the cause of justification, it would become a meritorious work opposing Paul’s “apart from works” theology. Further, saving faith is said to be a “gift” granted by God. “By His doing,” Paul says, “you are in Christ Jesus” (see Acts 13:48; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2:25).

[8] In view of Rome’s official doctrine of salvation, the glory belongs to both man and God, hence rejecting soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”). According to Rome, man must, by way of his required works, cooperate with God to be justified. Thus, man and God working together (synergism) as a team in justification, whereas Paul states that it is God alone that justifies (cf. Rom. 8:33). So, in Roman Catholicism, the glory of salvation is shared by both man and God.

[9] Rome states that “Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (Catechism of the Church, para. 82).

[10] Ex Cathedra (“from the throne”) meaning that any official theological affirmation made by the Pope is infallible, for he cannot error. This teaching was promulgated as doctrine by Pope Pius IX at the first Vatican Council (1870), as he arrogantly stated: “I am tradition.”

[11] The term “untaught” is from the Greek term amatheis, which carries the literal meaning of “unstudied” or “untaught” as the NASB translates. Thus, it is not the biblically studied that distorts Scripture, but rather the unstudied.

[12] Here, Paul seems to be drawing from Ezekiel 33:6ff.

[13] I use the term “greatest” in the sense of most influential.

First, since Oneness doctrine asserts a unipersonal God without the distinction of three Persons, it sees Jesus then as the mere “name” of the unipersonal deity, who manifested as the modes or roles of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thus denying the unipersonality of Jesus Christ. Second, since it asserts that only the Father is God (i.e., Jesus’ divine nature/mode), the “Son” represents only Jesus’ human nature/mode, thus denying the Son’s deity. Third, since it rejects the idea that the Son is God, Oneness Christology denies (a) the Son’s pre-existence, (b) the Son’s active role as the agent of creation (the Creator), and (c) the Son’s eternal and intimate relationship with the Father. Pertaining to redemption, Oneness doctrine maintains that Jesus as the Father took flesh, hence denying the incarnation of the divine Son.

In contrast, an exegetical analysis of particular biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments establishes the fundamental data for the doctrine of the Trinity. Hence, Scripture reveals in the clearest way that there are three distinct Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—that share the nature of the one God. Thus, the three Persons are co-equal, co-eternal, co-existence, and co-distinct. The full deity, incarnation and pre-existence of the Son, as a distinct Person from the Father, are especially expressed in the Apostle John’s writings.

In the Pauline corpus, the deity, unipersonality and distinction of all three Persons are seen frequently either in the same passage or same context. Both John and Paul present the Son as God and Creator of all things. In the prologue of Hebrews, the author asserts clearly and coherently that the Person of the Son is the eternal Creator; this assertion demolishes the Oneness position, which sees the “Son” representing only the human nature of Jesus whose life started in Bethlehem. This work concludes that the concept of the Trinity is inescapable in the light of biblical exegesis.

Oneness theology cannot stand exegetically. It must circumvent and redefine the plain reading of many passages that state or imply, for example, the grammatical and contextual distinctions of the Persons in the Trinity, the pre-existence and deity of the Son, and the deity and unipersonality of the Holy Spirit. Contrary to the historical revisionism frequently employed by Oneness authors and teachers, the early church prior to Nicea held to the concept of the Trinity and universally rejected both modalistic and dynamic forms of Monarchianism.