The greatest tragedy in the church, as seen in a majority of Christian conferences and revivals is the systemic abuse and absence of accurate doctrinal content. However, we are extremely thankful to God, for the minority of pastors who are bound and devoted to the Lord being biblically competent truly understanding their biblical responsibility to boldly teach Christian doctrine to their flock and refute those who oppose it.

 

To demonstrate this point: Think back in the last 10 years at church (or at any conference/revival) have you heard a specific teaching on the Trinity, the deity of Christ, or justification by faith alone?” I have asked this question at churches around the world and rarely do I ever see a single raised hand in affirmation.

 

Along with basic Christian apologetics, ethics, and stressing the importance biblical accuracy (esp. to those who preach and teach), these essentials were a priority with NT church discipline. See, John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 8:58; Rom. 4:4-8; 5:1; 9:5; Eph. 2:8-10; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:14, 16-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13-14; Heb. 1:3, 8-12; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20; Jude 1:4; Rev. 5:13-14; 22:13 etc. In sharp contrast, much of the content in today’s’ Sunday morning sermons and evangelism has become a hodgepodge of biblically disconnected anecdotal stories and textual abuse (esp. misinterpreting and misapplying passages).

Interestingly, we find the opposite with non-Christian cults. When one becomes, for example, a Oneness Pentecostal, Mormon, or Jehovah’s Witness, within a month or so, he (or she) becomes boldly equipped to communicate their distinctive theology and committing to memory particular biblical passages to “prove” their position.

 

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18)

Christians should faithfully acknowledge Scripture as Theopneustos (“God breathed out,” 2 Tim. 3:16). Thus, the commandment to “grow”[1] in the knowledge of God and to always be “ready to give a defense” and reason for the faith is vital (1 Pet. 3:15; cf. also 2 Cor. 10:3-5). Only through a continuous proper study of the Bible does one “grow” theologically, which ensures not only effectiveness in proclaiming an accurate gospel, but also the ability to biblically to discern between true and false teachings.

 

All Christians (esp. pastors) are called to be theologians (i.e., constantly studying God [biblical doctrine], 2 Pet. 3:18), apologists (i.e., defenders of the faith, 1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 1:3), and evangelists (proclaimers of the gospel, Matt. 28:19; Rom. 10:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 4:2[2]).

 

Loving God with all Our Mind!

We are commanded to love God “with all” our mind (Mark 12:29-30). A lack of proper biblical study always results in a dislodged and erroneous doctrine. What is more, when church leaders fail in their biblical responsibility to teach doctrine, completely and accurately, the consequence is this: churches filled with biblically incompetent members, neither able to coherently defend nor affirm from a basic level the essentials of the Christian faith. Thus, they become targets and picture-perfect candidates and devotees of non-Christian false religious and false teachings.

 

The Biblical Pastor

The Apostle Paul does not encourage Christian pastors to assign themselves as mere “motivational” speakers cloaking Sunday morning sermons with entertaining stories and erroneous mottled interpretations of the Bible; so when this occurs in the Christian pulpit, it should utterly pierce our spirit (cf. Acts 17:16).

 

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

 

So necessary are the more than two dozen qualifications of a NT pastor that three major sections in the NT are devoted it—1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9; and 1 Peter 5:1-3. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul stresses specifically to pastors (and indirectly to us) the importance of doctrinal precision:

 

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God [how?] as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

 The phrase, “accurately handling” comes from the Greek verb, orthotomeō, which literally means, “to cut straight” (from temnō, “to cut” and orthos, “direct, straight”; cf. Prov. 3:6, LXX). The term carries the idea of precision. Consequently, pastors (and teachers) have a God mandated responsibility to teach and explain Scripture with precise accuracy.

 

Perils of Inaccurate Teachings

 Note Paul’s instructions to pastors in 2 Timothy 4:2-4: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

The five verbs in verse 2 (“preach,” “be ready,” “reprove,” “rebuke,” and “exhort”) are in the aorist imperative—grammatically denoting the strongest way to express an urgent commandment, a “do it now” verb! These critical actions both protect and encourage the church. In the next two verses, Paul warns what will happen when these urgent commandments are not implemented:

 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

 

“Sound doctrine” is derived from the content of the written Word. In Peter 3:16, Peter underscores the importance of biblical study. He refers to Paul’s letters and says they “contain some things that are hard to understand, which the UNTAUGHT [or ‘unstudied,’ from amatheis] and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16). Naturally, unstudied people distort Scripture.

 

A Doctrine of Tolerance

When pastors abdicate their biblical responsibility of expository teaching, the church body writhes and relishes in distorted theology—, which effects their view of the nature of God and virtually every dimension of their spiritual, psychological, and physical life. Due to a laxity of proper biblical study and/or a recurring attendance at non-teaching churches, it is not surprising that many professing Christians severely lack theological discernment in which bad theology and, in many cases, immoral worldly behavior is tolerated and accepted. Observably, many clear biblical mandates are rejected by professing Christians merely because they are incompatible with one’s lifestyle or comfortable ideology.

 

For example, why is it that T. D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter’s House church in Dallas, TX, one of most popular “Christian” voices and authors followed, read, endorsed, and praised by literally millions of professing Christians, yet he still embraces a Oneness view of God rejecting the Trinity? Why would any “Christian” pastor endorse him, and/or keep silent while naïve members uncritically follow him? [3]

Acute biblical ignorance of fundamental doctrine is not a satisfactory excuse before God—He is a God of precision.

 

In point of fact, confronting and refuting biblical error is a divine command to all Christian pastors (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-4:1-4; Titus 1:9, 13). Jesus Himself openly commends the pastors of Ephesus for it (Rev. 2:2-3). Today, too many pastors and leaders are more accepting of those who are talented in their speaker abilities than those who communicate doctrinal truth and precision. Pastors have an enormous responsibility before God to diligently lead, equip, and guard the people of God from destructive bad theology and heresies that shame the Lord. In the first century, as Paul says: “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).

 

We too, as Christians, have an obligation and responsibility: Since we follow a God that calls Himself “Truth,” we must therefore provide to all men an accurate and substantive presentation of the gospel and boldly contend earnestly for that faith, “which was once for all handed down to the saints.” It is a terrible thing to hear an unread Christian offer a mushy incomplete gospel to the unsaved—and when a pastor does this to his church, it is absolutely disgraceful.

 

Evangelizing the Saved & Unsaved

Romans 10:15: “just as it is written [Isa. 52:7], ‘How beautiful [or timely] are the feet of those gospelizing good things.” The same participle (euaggelizomenoi, “gospelizing”) appears in Luke 9:6 when Jesus sent out the Twelve: “Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel [lit., ‘gospelizing’] and healing everywhere.” Note, the gospel is simply the atoning work of the Son in His perfect vicarious life, substitutionary cross work, and resurrection.

 

Romans 1:1, 3: “the gospel of God….3 concerning His Son.”

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

 

2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.”

Paul’s definition of the gospel, which evangelists must proclaim, was exclusively focused on the work of the Son, not man—namely, His nature (as incarnate God, viz. God-man) and person, His death (justification), and His physical resurrection. This, according to Romans 1:16, is the power of God for salvation. However, note the previous verse. Paul says to these Roman “Christians” that he is “eager to preach the gospel [from euaggelizō].” It seems clear that Paul was eager to “evangelize” the Christians in order for them to grow in biblical accuracy regarding the gospel and general theology—as should be the task of all pastors.

 

Finally, brothers and sisters we are in a spiritual war both foreign and domestic, and as such – we must satisfactorily train and arm our fellow members before we can hope to engage our foes. Put on the “whole armor” of God!

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NOTES

[1] In 2 Peter 3:18, the term translated “grow” is from the Greek, auxanō. The verb is in the imperative mood (auxanete), thus, a commandment.

[2] Although 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are directly applied to pastors, there are indirect applications relevant to all believers.

[3] To those assuming that Jakes changed his Oneness position, consider 1) Jakes is still the Vice-Prelate and National Executive Board of Senior Bishops of – Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies, which is a network of Oneness Pentecostal churches, and esp. 2) on the Potter’s House Belief Statement, Jakes still defines God as existing in “Three Manifestations,” which is Oneness not trinitarian. See >> http://thepottershouse.org/explore/belief-statement <<.

Theological Identification: “Oneness” theology, historically known as “Modalism.”[1]

Who: Oneness churches include the United Pentecostal Church International (hereafter UPCI), which is the largest Oneness domination. In addition to the UPCI, there are many other Oneness churches having generic names such as “Apostolic,” “Bethel Temple,” “Higher Ground,” “Jesus’ Name,” or even “Jesus Only,” etc. Further, there are many popular and prolific preachers on the airwaves that propagate Oneness theology (e.g., Trinity Broadcasting Network [TBN] features one of the most recognized Oneness preachers, T. D. Jakes of the Potters House, Dallas, TX.[2]

The basics of Oneness theology:

The Father: Jesus’ divine nature, God.

Son: Jesus’ human nature, the Son of God, not God the Son, for only the Father is God. Jesus’ divine nature is the Father (or the Holy Spirit), His human nature is the Son.

Holy Spirit: Jesus’ divine nature. Thus, as to His divine nature, Jesus is both Father and Holy Spirit depending on His particular function (e.g., Jesus as the Father created all things, but Jesus as the Holy Spirit mode is the Comforter).

Oneness Christology is a clear and major departure from biblical orthodoxy. It removes the personhood and deity and incarnation from the Son, thus removing the Son from the Trinity. The chief Oneness Christological divergences from that of the biblical teachings are as follows:

  • Oneness Christology denies the unipersonality of the Son, Jesus Christ. 
  • Oneness Christology denies that the “Son” is God. As stated, Oneness theology teaches that Jesus’ divine nature represents the Father and Holy Spirit, but not the Son—i.e., the “Son” is not God; He is merely the human nature of Jesus (see Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 99, 103, 252; UPCI, website, 2008).
  • Oneness Christology denies the preexistence and incarnation of the Son and His role as the agent of creation (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 103-4; Magee, 1988: 25). Thus, by denying the preexistence 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 (hence, not actually becoming flesh), and that flesh was called “Son” (see Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 106, 122; 1991:103).
  • Oneness Christology claims that Jesus is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (same Person), hence denying the concept of the Trinity (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 57; Weisser, 1983: 2; UPCI, 2008). Thus, Oneness theology is “unitarian” seeing God as a unipersonal deity, same as Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

In sharp contrast, in the Pauline corpus, the deity, unipersonality and distinction of all three Persons are seen frequently either in the same passage or same context (cf. 2 Cor. 13:14). Both John and Paul present the Son as fully God and Creator of all things (cf. John 1:1, 3, 18; Col. 1:16-17; Phil. 2:6-11).

In the prologue of Hebrews, the author in v. 3 and God the Father Himself declares that the Person of the Son is “the God” (ho theos, v. 8) and further, God the Father *directly addresses* the Son as “Lord” (using the vocative kurie, “Lord”), thus, the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator (1:10-12). The Father’s words here totally demolish the Oneness position, which sees the “Son” representing only the human nature of Jesus whose life started in Bethlehem.

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 preexistence and deity of the Son, and the deity and unipersonality of the Holy Spirit. Further, 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 Oneness doctrine, that is, they rejected both modalistic and dynamic forms of Monarchianism.

We must pray that God rescues Oneness believers from the darkness of Oneness-unitarianism. As Christians, we must present to them a coherent presentation of the gospel proclaiming the one true God and Savior of biblical revelation, who has revealed Himself as triune.

For a short outline on the Oneness rejection of the Son’s preexistence see this  See The Preexistence of the Son and Oneness Theology.

See10 Questions to ask Oneness Believers

See and print this short Oneness Tract

NOTES

[1] Oneness theology was first known as monarchianism, which comes from the Greek word monarchia, meaning single principle. There were two forms of monarchianism: modalistic, and the far less accepted, dynamic (or more properly called adoptionism), both of which emerged at the end of the second century. Modalistic monarchianism, known also as Modalism, Sabellianism (named after the heretic Sabellius, who came to Rome and taught it at the beginning of the third century) and even patripassianism (from Lat., meaning, “father to suffer”). Today, however, Modalism is generally classified as “Oneness.” Modalism earned its name from its distinctive theology. Basically, Modalism (or Oneness theology) teaches that God is a unitarian (i.e., unipersonal), indivisible monad. Hence, the titles “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” were merely the different modes, roles, or offices that the unipersonal deity temporally manifested for the sake of redemption. Oneness teachers today tell us that Jesus is the name of the single, lone Person behind the three masks of the “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” (in contrast to early Modalism, which taught it was the Father Person behind the masks).

[2] If you are unsure about the orthodoxy of a particular church (or pastor), examine the church’s doctrinal statement concerning God. If it avoids the word “Person,” and/or describes God as three “manifestations” or “dimensions” (as T. D. Jakes does, see The Potter’s House  use extreme caution! Orthodox Christianity has never described God as merely temporary appearances, manifestations, or even worse, “dimensions.” Oneness churches typically describe God in those terms. However, if a church claims to be Trinitarian, yet uses terms like “manifestations” to describe the three Persons of the Trinity, it reveals theological ignorance or carelessness. In my observation, the term “manifestations” in a doctrinal statement frequently indicates Oneness rather than Trinitarian theology. Therefore, when churches avoid the term “Persons” in their doctrinal statements—beware.