“I and the Father are one.”

Ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν (Egō kia ho Patēr hen esmen), lit., “I and the Father one thing we are”).     

Both historically and currently, Christians have pointed to this passage to show that Jesus indeed claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be truly God (Matt. 12:6; John 5:17-18; 8:58-59 et al; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 22:13; etc.), the response of the Jews in verse 33 hence, is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

This passage also provides a clear refutation to the Oneness view (as discussed below), which erroneously asserts that Jesus is the Father (the same person). Ironically, Oneness advocates actually use John 10:30 as a so-called proof text, aside from the fact that throughout chapter 10, Jesus and the Father are clearly differentiated as two persons (vv. 15, 17, 18, 25, 29, 30, 36, 37, 38).

 However, the following points regarding John 10:30 clearly refute Oneness theology:     

Not one person within conservative recognized Christian scholarship agrees with a Oneness interpretation. Neither historically nor contemporaneously has any Christian writer interpreted John 10:30 in a modalistic (Oneness) way. Rather, all standard scholarly sources (patristics, commentaries, grammars, lexicons et al), interpret the passage in the plain intended way, within the defining context: The person of the Son claiming equality with the distinct person of the Father.

Plain reading. Jesus simply says, “I and the Father ARE one.” Only by pretexting can one read something into this text beyond the simple plain reading.              

The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is used—contextually indicating a unity of essence, not personal identity. If Jesus wanted to identify Himself as the same person as the Father (same person), He certainly could have used the masculine heis to indicate this (e.g., John 12:4; Rom. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:5 et al.). In this passage, the Father and the Son are the two subjects of the sentence (egō, “I,” and Patēr, “Father”—both in the nominative [subject] case).

The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is the predicate nominative and it precedes the plural verb esmen (“are”). The predicate nominative “one” is describing the essential unity of the two subjects, Jesus and the Father. [1] In other words, Jesus is explaining that the Father and Son are one thing, not one person, in the context of unity, not identity of person. The same neuter adjective is used in John 17:21, expressing unity (not person) where Jesus prays that His disciples “may be one [hen]” even as Jesus and the Father are one. However, in verse 30, it was a unity in ontological coequality that Jesus expressed—thus, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him” (v. 31).       

The plural verb esmen (“are”). Again, in sharp contrast to the false Oneness interpretation (viz., that Jesus is the Father), the Greek contains the plural verb esmen (“I and the Father are one”), and not a singular verb such as eimi (“am”) or estin (“is”) in which case, the passage would read: “I and the Father am/is one.”

Furthermore, Jesus’ claim to deity is not merely found in verse 30. But rather, the passages leading up to verse 30 undeniably prove His claim. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd that gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His nor His Father’s hand (same words of YHWH in the LXX of Deut. 32:39[2]). The Jews were well acquainted with Deuteronomy 32:39: “And there is no one who can save anyone from My hand” and Psalm 95:7: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” The Jews knew that only YHWH could make these claims of having sheep in His hand and giving them eternal life (cf. also Isa. 43:11).

It was after Jesus made these familiar and exclusively divine claims that He stated, “I and the Father are one.” Again, not mere unity, rather, unity in ontological coequality. So, it is easy to understand the response of the Jews wanting to kill Him for blasphemy: “You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God [poieis seauton Theon]” (vv. 31, 33).[3] If Jesus were only claiming to be “one” with the Father in the sense of mere unity, then Jesus’ claim would not have warranted blasphemy (Lev. 24:16).


 NOTES

[1] Renowned Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the 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” (Archibald T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament [Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1932], 5:186).

[2] Deuteronomy 32:39 (LXX): “And there is no one who can deliver ek tōn cheirōn Mou [‘out of the hands of Me’].” John 10:28: “they will never perish; and no one will snatch them ek tēs cheiros Mou, “out of the hand of Me.” John 10:29: “no one is able to snatch them ek tēs cheiros tou Patros (“out of the hand of the Father”). 

[3] As in John 5:18, in John 10:33, the second person reflexive pronoun seauton (“Yourself”) indicates that the Jews understood that Jesus’ claims in John 10, which culminated in verse 30 (“I and the Father are one”) were by and for Himself—namely, He Himself made Himself “out to God.”   

 

 

             

“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 us the Father?’”

 

 

 

Before we look at John 14:9, note the obvious fact: Nowhere in the NT, did Jesus Christ ever state that He was the same person as the Father, nor did anyone in the NT ever call him Father, rather He is “the Son of the Father”– a distinct person (Dan. 7:9-14; Matt. 28:19; Luke 10:21-22; John 1:1b, 18; 5:17-18; 6:38; 10:17, 30; 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 1:3; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12; 1 John 1:3; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13 et al.).

The Oneness people routinely quote this passage, usually in the same breath with John 10:30, as though it was part of the passage. Only by removing this passage from the document and immediate context can Oneness advocates posit a modalistic understanding. At the outset, as with John 10:30, Jesus never states in this passage, “I am the Father,” only that “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Oneness advocates confuse Jesus’ representation of the Father (John 1:18; 14:6; Heb. 1:3) with their unitarian assumption that that Jesus is the Father.

There are five exegetical features, which provide a cogent refutation to the Oneness handling of this passage.

  1. Context: In verse 6 Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In verse 7, He explains to His disciples that if they “had known” Him they would “have known” the Father also. Jesus then says to His disciples, “From now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Thus, by knowing Him they “have known” and “have seen” the Father (note the parallel: “have known” – “have seen”).

    Still not understanding (i.e., by knowing Jesus they know and see the Father), Philip says to Jesus, “Show us the Father” (v. 8). Jesus then reiterates (as a corrective) that by seeing Him they can see, that is, they can “know” or recognize the invisible Father (v. 9). The context is obvious: by knowing and seeing Jesus (as the only way to the Father; cf. v. 6), they could really see (i.e., know/recognize, cf. John 9:39) the invisible Father (cf. John 1:18; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 6:16). The OT and NT present that the Son is and has been eternally subsisting as the perfect and “exact representation” (charaktēr) of the very nature (hupostaseōs) of Him (autou, “of Him,” not “as Him”; Heb. 1:3).

    Therefore, when they see Jesus, they “see” the only way to, and an exact representation of, the invisible unseen Father, for Jesus makes Him known, He explains or exegetes Him (John 1:18). Thus, “He [Jesus] has made known or brought news of [the invisible God]” (BDAG, 349). One cannot have the Father except through the Son, Jesus Christ: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; see also John 17:3). Note also that in 14:10, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father when He declares: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” To repeat, not one time in the NT does Jesus (or any other person) state that He Himself is the Father.

 

  1. 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 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.

 

  1. First and third person personal pronouns and verb references: Throughout John 14 and 16, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father. He does so by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) and verb references to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) and verb references to refer to His Father.

    Notice John 14:16:I will ask [kagō erōtēsō, first person] the Father, and He will give [dōsei, third person] you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (also cf. 14:7, 10, 16; etc.). In the same way, Jesus also differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. Different prepositions: Throughout John chapters 14-16, Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. Beisner[1] points out that the use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them [i.e., the Father and Son]” and clearly denotes essential distinction. Jesus says in John 14:6 and verse 12: “No one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me . . . he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (cf. also John 15:26; 16:28).

    Further, Paul frequently uses different prepositions to differentiate the Father from Jesus. 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, i.e., the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera].” Only by circumventing these significant details can one establish Modalism from John 14:9.

 

  1. The first person plurals in John 14:23: “We will come,” “We will make.” In verse 23 of the same chapter, Jesus declares, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and [lit.] ‘to him We will come’ [pros auton eleusometha] and ‘at home/abode with him, We will make’ [monēn par’ autō poiēsometha].” Against the Oneness notion, Jesus specifically used two first person plural indicative verbs (eleusometha, “We will come” and poiēsometha, “We will make”). Oneness advocates typically cherry-pick passages (esp. with v. 9) and then pretext into them a modalistic unitarian understanding.

 

Conclusion

Again, in the NT, Jesus is identified as the Son, never as the Father; no one ever addressed Him as the Father or the Holy Spirit. Nor did Jesus ever refer to Himself as the Father or the Holy Spirit. If fact, Jesus primarily referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” (80 times). Son of Man was His most used title of Himself. (cf. Dan. 7:13).

As the context clearly shows, Jesus in John 14:9 Jesus expresses to His disciples that as the only way to (v. 6) and thus, representation of the Father, they could “see,” that is, know the Father. Jesus is presented as 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 (cf. John 1:1; 17:5). The Son is clearly presented as the divine Priest (cf. Heb. 7:1ff.) who revealed His Father to mankind (cf. John 1:18). The Son is the one and only Mediator between the Father and humans (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5).

The Oneness pretexting of John 14:9 is based on a unipersonal assumption of God, which nullifies Jesus’ own authentication: “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another [allos: other than the one speaking] who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (John 5:31-32; cf. 8:17-18).

Who is the liar except the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22-23).

 

Notes 

[1] Calvin Beisner, Jesus Only Churches, 34.     

Unfortunately, a vast number of “professing” naïve Christians, that may be seriously seeking a biblical education, will willingly be proselytized to the false doctrines of T. D. Jakes—esp. his distorted Oneness anti-Trinitarian teachings of God, his prosperity nonsense, women pastors, and many more bad doctrines.   

–          

As for all the uninformed and biblically dim who still insist that Jakes is Trinitarian, note the current Faith Statement posted on the school’s website, which defines God as “existing in three manifestations” (same as the Potter’s House), which is patently Oneness-unitarian. See – https://jakesdivinity.org/about-jds/faith-statement/

 

Using “manifestations” to describe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is neither a biblical nor a historical definition of God (it never has been for the “Christian” church)—words do matter.  “Manifestation” is not a semantic (nor ontological) parallel to “person.” A manifestation is a mere appearance of a thing, and not the thing itself. Manifestation does not have an ontological reference.

 

Again, and as pointed out by many, If Jakes now embraces the basic biblical definition of the Trinity, then, these questions must be answered,

 

1) Why does he still hold to a Oneness description of God (“existing in three manifestations”) found on the faith statement of both his church (Potter’s House) and his new school?   

 

2) Why is Jakes presently (for many years) the Vice Prelate of the decidedly Oneness organization, Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies? 

https://www.highergroundaaa.com/national-officials?fbclid=IwAR2Zktzsp3fsG6HOQSAoC_W76SNTfXEFbBcIVqLs3hdkjS5hgbPJrd10n0Q And, 

 

3) What of all Jakes’ previous affirmations of Oneness doctrine? He has never recanted those.

Such as in an interview with Jakes on the LA radio show, KKLA, Living by the Word, hosted by Jim Coleman (August 23 and 30, 1998). Coleman had asked Jakes “How important it is for Christians to believe in the Trinity.” Jakes responded, “I think it’s very, very significant that we first of all study the Trinity apart from salvation. . . . The term ‘Trinity,’ is not a biblical term, to begin with. . . . When God got ready to make a man that looked like him, he didn’t make three. He made one man. However, that one man had three parts. He was body, soul, and spirit. “We have one God, but he is father in creation, son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in regeneration.”

 

This last statement is a standard and historical Oneness phrase (found in many Oneness doctrinal statements), “Father in creation, Son in redemption, Holy Spirit in regeneration,” which is historically congruent with Sabellius’s (early third cent.) “successive” Modalism.          

 

Or in 2000, Christianity Today also posted a response by T. D. Jakes, in which his statements show clearly that he is indeed, a Modalist.

Regarding the questions of the Trinity, Jakes had stated, “While I mix with Christians from a broad range of theological perspectives, I speak only for my personal faith and convictions. I am not a theologian, and I avoid quoting even theologians who agree with me. To defend my beliefs, I go directly to the Bible. . . . I believe in one God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe these three have distinct and separate functions. . . . I do not believe in three Gods” (Feb. 2000; Jakes, “My Views on the Godhead,” Christianity Today, online ed.).

Or, when Jakes expressed his consistent view of God in “Spirit Raiser” (in Time Magazine, Sept 17, 2001). Note his clear Oneness definition: “And God said, ‘Let us. Let us . . . .’  One God, but manifest in three different ways, Father in creation, Son in redemption, Holy Spirit in regeneration.” Again repeating the standard and historical Oneness phrase, “Father in creation, Son in redemption, Holy Spirit in regeneration,” which is congruent with Sabellius’s (early third cent.) successive Modalism.          

Since, all evidence (much more than provided here in this terse article) reveals clearly that Jakes holds to and teaches a Oneness doctrine of God, and to date, no evidence exists showing that Jakes unambiguously believes in the Trinity, – unless he,    

 

1) Removes his Oneness description of God contained in both his church’s Belief Statement and school’s Faith Statement,

 2) Openly renounces his numerous and unequivocal Oneness affirmations of God in literature and interviews,

 3) Resigns as Vice Prelate from the Oneness organization, Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies, and

 4) Positively affirms a basic biblical definition of the Trinity, we must see Jakes as a consistent heretic embracing Oneness-unitarian theology, which rejects the triune nature of the only true God of biblical revelation—thus denying Christ and His gospel.                

 

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.  

 

  

 

Spanish edition Here- 

 

John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (cf. John 4:24). The one true God has revealed Himself as three distinct persons, the Father and the Son, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Unbiblical Teachings of Oneness-Unitarian Theology

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).

2. 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, 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. 1:3, 8, 10; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:8, 22:13), 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 of biblical revelation. Jesus Christ is the only mediator and intercessor between God the Father and human beings. Jesus is the divine Son, the monogenēs theos (“unique God”) who is always in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), a personal self-aware subject, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. In contrast to Oneness Christology, Jesus is not the Father, but “the Son of the Father” (2 John 1:3; cf. John 17:5ff.; 1 John 1:3).

Worshiping the unipersonal God of Oneness theology is not worshiping the true God in spirit nor truth. The Oneness concept of God is fundamentally the same as Islam and the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses): a unipersonal deity with no distinction of persons. The true God of biblical revelation is triune—the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each one of you ‘be Baptized’ [βαπτισθήτω- verb is imperative, not ‘allow yourself to be baptized’] In the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Note, the same author who wrote Acts 3:38 wrote Acts 10:36 and 43:

Acts 36: “You know the message he sent to the sons of Israel, gospelizing [preaching] peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).”

Acts 43: “About Him [Christ] ALL the prophets testify, that every one believing in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

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 especially regarding the preposition eis (“for [eis] the remission of your sins”). However, of the interpretations offered by competent Christian theologians, none provide for baptismal regeneration or Baptismal justification. 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”) has a causal force, as with the thought of, “be baptized because of, in view of, unto, for, the remission 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:

IT [eis] is seen again in  Matthew 12:41 about the preaching of Jonah (εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰωνᾶ). They repented because of (or at) the preaching of Jonah. 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” (baptisthētw) is third person singular and is in the passive voice.
  3. The Greek pronoun translated “your” (humwn) 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 [humwn] 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
See Isaiah 9:6: Oneness Refuted
See Was the Trinity Conceived in the 4th Century?

 

Oneness Theology (Modalism)[1]

 Oneness churches are characterized by and go by many names such as Jesus Only, Apostolic church, Oneness Pentecostal[2] etc. Today, the largest Oneness denomination is the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI). All Oneness advocates reject the Trinity. Rather they believe God is unitarian or unipersonal (one person). The name of the one God is “Jesus,” who is both the Father/Holy Spirit and Son. Oneness advocates claim that Jesus has two natures (or modes, manifestations, roles, etc.), divine as the Father/Holy Spirit and human as the “non-divine,” “non-eternal” Son, whose life started in Bethlehem. In this sense, the “Son” was created in the womb of Mary and is not eternal. In the Oneness doctrinal system then, the terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” are not three persons, but rather the three roles or modes in which Jesus manifested.

Although not all Oneness advocates agree on every point of Christology, all forms are a clear and major departure from biblical orthodoxy. Oneness doctrine rejects the personhood, deity, and incarnation of the Son. Many Oneness denominations also reject that justification is through faith alone, not by works, by teaching that the work of water baptism is necessary for salvation (e.g., UPCI). 

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 person of the “Son” is God. As stated, Oneness theology teaches that Jesus’ divine nature represents the Father and Holy Spirit, but not the Son, that is, the “Son” is not God; the Son is merely the human nature/mode of the unitarian deity, Jesus.[3]

 

  • Oneness Christology denies the preexistence and incarnation of the person of the Son and His role as the agent of creation, hence, the Creator of all things.[4]By denying the preexistence of the person of the Son of God, 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 (while not actually becoming flesh), and that flesh body was called “Son.”[5]

 

  • Oneness Christology claims that Jesus is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (same person), hence denying the concept of the Trinity[6] Oneness theology is “unitarian” seeing God as a unipersonal deity.  

 

Since Oneness theology maintains that only Jesus as the Father is God (for “Son” only represents the humanity of Jesus), it clearly denies the Trinity and deity and preexistence of the Son. As said, God is defined from a unitarian perspective: Only the Father is God (i.e., Jesus’ divine nature). Clearly, Oneness theology is heterodox embracing a false Jesus, different from the Jesus of biblical revelation: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father” (1 John 2:23). Oneness doctrine indeed denies both the Father and the Son.

 Response: The three weakest points of Oneness theology are as follows:

 1) The places where Jesus interacts with the Father especially where He prays to the Father and where the Father loves Jesus (Matt. 3:16-17; Luke 10:21-22; John 10:17; 17:1ff.).

2) The places in the OT and NT that teach the preexistence of the person of the Son (the angel of the LORD appearances; Gen. 19:24; Isa. 9:6; Dan. 7:9-14; Mal. 5:2 et al.; John 1:1; 3:13; 6:38; 16:28; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:10-12; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 22:13).

This would include the places that present the person of the Son as the Creator of all things (John 1:3, 10; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12).

3) The places that present the person of the Son as God, and distinct from God the Father (Mark 14:61-64; John 1:1, 18; 5:17-18; 8:24, 58 et al.; 10:28-30; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Titus 2:13[7]; Heb. 1:6, 8-12; 1 John 5:20; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13-14 et al.). Moreover, in NT, there are numerous passages where all three persons are shown as distinct from each other, either in the same passage or same context (esp. Matt. 28:19; Luke 10:21-22; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 1:21-22). The NT explicitly teaches that Jesus is the “Son” of God, and not once is He called or identified as the “Father”[8] (cf. 2 John 1:3).

Further, 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.

There are many more biblical objections that could be mentioned. But these do suffice in showing that the Bible affirms that God is triune, and militates against Oneness unitarianism. 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 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.

 “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).

NOTES

[1] Historically, Oneness philosophy first emerged around the early second and early third century being popularized by Noetus of Smyrna and Praxeas (Asia minor). It was also called Modalism since all forms of the Oneness idea saw God has merely appearing in three modes (or roles) as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but not in three persons. Subsequently, Sabellianism became a popular brand Modalism. Sabellianism was coined after its chief proponent, Sebelius, the Libyan priest who came to Rome at the beginning of the third century A.D. However, he taught successive Modalism, which saw the modes as successive, that is, “Jesus” (the name of the unipersonal God) first was the Father in creation, then, the Son in redemption, then the Holy Spirit in regeneration. In distinction to simultaneous Modalism, which teaches that all three modes exist at the same time. But the fact is, fundamentally, all forms historically and today are as unitarian (seeing God as one person), as with Islam’s view of Allah and JWs’ view of Jehovah.

[2] Generally, there are two kinds of “Pentecostal” churches – Oneness (such as the UPCI) and Christian Pentecostal, which are Trinitarian (such as the AOG, Foursquare et al.).          

[3] As defined by the UPCI authority and Oneness author, David Bernard in his most recognized book, The Oneness of God (1983), 99, 103, 252.

[4] Cf. ibid., 103-4; Gordon Magee, Is Jesus in the Godhead or Is The Godhead in Jesus? (1988), 25.

[5] Cf. The Oneness of God, 106, 122.

[6] Cf. The Oneness of God, 57; T. Weisser, Three Persons from the Bible? or Babylon (1983), 2.

[7] Jesus as “the God” is grammatically affirmed at Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.  

[8] Oneness advocates typically appeal to John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”). However, as seen above in detail, this passage in its context systematically refutes the Oneness unitarian interpretation and positively affirms the distinction between the Jesus and the Father: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it back (John 10:17). For more information on John 10:30; 14:9 and other passages used by  Oneness advocates to promote a unitarian Oneness God, see, A Definitive Look at Oneness Theology: In the Light of Biblical Trinitarianism, 4th ed. by Edward L. Dalcour >www.christiandefense.org<             

See Was the Trinity Conceived in the 4th Century?

 

See Oneness Theology: Overview

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 m 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.