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 (Q and A on the Basic Beliefs)
Chapter 14: One God in Jesus Christ
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Chapter 14: One God in Jesus Christ

·         Before we discuss the doctrine of one God in Jesus Christ, let’s look at a summary of the doctrine of Trinity:

1.      God is one.

2.      The Godhead consists of three distinct eternal coequal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons are the same in substance, but distinct in subsistence.

3.      God is indivisible and unquantifiable.

4.      All three persons of the triune God are involved in every work of God in the world. All acts of God proceed from the Father, through his Son or Word or Image, in the power of his immanent Holy Spirit1. For example, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit can individually be said to raise the dead because, as God, each one does raise the dead2. The act is one act, performed by one God, but involving all three ways in which God is God3.

5.      Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is God, but he is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit.

The trinitarian view of God came as a result of an attempt to understand God rationally. Although the language of trinity was found in Christian confessions before this time, the word “trinity” itself was first formally used at the synod held at Alexandria, in A.D. 317, and took its place in the language of Christian theology for the first time in a Biblical work of Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, in Syria from A.D. 168 to 183.

·         Based on the Bible, we do believe and agree that God is one, that Jesus Christ is God, and that the Bible does make a distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But we cannot fully agree with with the trinitarian view of God for the following reasons:

6.      The use of words and concepts such as “trinity,” “three persons,” “coequal,” “substance,” and “subsistence” are often misleading. If these terms would clarify the concept of God, the Bible would have used them. The fact that they are absent shows that we must be careful about using our own terms when we explain God. Even theologians such as the Cappadocians, Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin all used the word “person” reluctantly and with much qualification4. Many well-respected trinitarians feel that it is misleading and should actually be dropped from contemporary trinitarian creeds5.

7.      We must admit that all theories about God’s being fail to accurately explain God. It is not wise to define God with human concepts and put him neatly into a model because in so doing, we easily step beyond and sometimes contradict God’s self-revelation through the Scriptures. For example, the belief that Jesus Christ is not the Father or the Holy Spirit contradicts certain passages in the Bible. Such misconception has led to teachings that do away with baptism in the name of Jesus Christ or restricting believers to praying to the Father alone but not to the Lord Jesus.

14.1 Do you believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the same person?

·         We do not like to apply the word “person” to God because it is misleading. We believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God and one Spirit.

14.2 Do you believe that the Son is the Father and the Holy Spirit?

·         We believe that the spirit of the Son is also the spirit of the Father and the Holy Spirit based on the following reasons:

8.      There is only one God, and the Scriptures does not say that the Son is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit.

9.      The fullness of God is found in Christ (Col 1:19; 2:9). The Lord Jesus also said that the Father was in him (Jn 10:38: 14:10,11).

10.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God is to be identified with the Father (Isa 9:6; Jn 10:30; 14:9).

11.  The Lord Jesus indirectly identified himself as the Holy Spirit. When referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus said, “I will come to you” (Jn 14:18) and “a little while, and you will see Me” (Jn 16:17).

12.  The disciples baptized in the name of Jesus even though they were commanded to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Salvation is found in no one else than Jesus, and there is no other name than the name of Jesus by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

13.  The Bible calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7; Rom 8:9; Gal 4:6; Phil 1:19; 1Pet 1:11). The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of the Father (Mt 10:20), the Spirit of God (Mt 3:16; Rom 8:9; 8:13,14; 1 Cor 2:11; 3:16; 6:11; 12:3; Phil 3:3; 1Jn 4:13; 3:24), or the Holy Spirit of God (Eph 4:30; 1Thess 4:8). So the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son and the Spirit of the Father.

14.  The work of Jesus is often attributed to the Father or the Spirit, and vise versa. For example, the Holy Spirit that lives in believers is also called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9-11); The resurrection of Jesus Christ by the Father (Gal 1:1) is also done by Christ himself (Jn 2:19). Jesus answers prayers (Jn 14:14) and the Father answers prayers (Jn 15:16). The Holy Spirit will speak for the believers (Mk 13:11) and this Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father (Mt 10:20) and Jesus himself (Lk 21:15).

14.3 The Trinitarian formula in the New Testament proves that Jesus is not the Father nor the Spirit.

·         The New Testament does distinguish between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit by mentioning them side by side and in relation to one another. The Father sends and works through the Son and the Holy Spirit. But the Bible never says that Jesus is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit, and we should not assume so simply because Jesus is mentioned alongside the Father and the Spirit. By the same token, although Jesus is often mentioned alongside and in relation to God (e.g Acts ; 1 Tim ), we cannot conclude from this that Jesus is not God.

·         When we think of God in terms of “persons,” there is always a tendency to assume that one person cannot be another, the way one human being cannot be another human being. We should not place such restrictions on God when the Bible does not.

·         The Bible often emphasizes the oneness of God (Deut 6:4; Mal ; Mk ; Rom ; 1 Cor 8:4,6; Gal ; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Jas ). We never read about God’s “threeness.” It is not wise to fit God into a trinitarian formula when the Bible does not speak of such a formula. In fact, the Bible pairs the Son and the Father (Jn 14:1; Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2,3; Gal 1:1,3; Eph 1:2,3; Rev 5:13; etc) or the Son and the Spirit (Mt 4:1; Lk 4:1; 1 Cor 6:11; Rom 15:30; Heb 10:23) much more frequently than it puts the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit together. Does this somehow suggest a “twoness” within the “threeness” of God? By no means. When we begin to think of God as “three,” which the Bible does not do, we tend to conclude that one is not the other. Such a conclusion already goes beyond biblical revelation.

·         Philip, who probably concluded that Jesus was not the Father, asked the Lord to show them the Father. Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (Jn 14:9-10). Once again, the oneness is emphasized, not the distinction.

·         The fact that the Bible sometimes speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit interchangeably makes the notion that one is not the other all the more questionable.

14.4 Jesus Christ is always called the Son; never once was Jesus called the Father or the Spirit in the New Testament6.

·         As God who has humbled himself to become flesh (Phil 2:6-8) and as the anointed (Christ) of God, Jesus is called the Son of God. Jesus also identified himself as the Son and acknowledged God as his Father. So it is not surprising that Jesus was never identified as the Father.

·         The disciples also understood the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19) to be the name of Jesus (Acts ; ; ; 19:5). If the name “Jesus” were exclusively for the Son, and not for the Father or the Holy Spirit, the disciples would have failed to completely carry out the Lord’s command in Matthew because they would have been only baptizing believers in the Son’s name.

·         Jesus also did not say specifically, “I am God.” But this does not mean that he is not God.

14.5 If Jesus is the Father and the Son, why did he always say “my Father,” and never “my Son”?7

·         Jesus did not assume the position of the Father. As God who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Phil 2:6-8) and who shared our humanity (Heb ), Jesus identified himself as the Son and called God his Father. But we should not go beyond the Bible and say that he is not the Father.

14.6 Why does the Bible not make it clear that Jesus is the Father but always calls him the Son of God?8 Why didn’t Jesus simply say, “I am the Father”?

·         The Bible has made clear that there is one God. So we should ask instead, “If Jesus is not the Father, as the doctrine of trinity holds, why doesn’t the Bible say so clearly so that there is no confusion?” Why didn’t Jesus say, “I am not the Father” when he said “I and the Father are one” (Jn )?

14.7 The fact that Jesus always spoke of himself in relation to the Father presupposes that he is not the Father, or else, all the things he said about him and the Father would make no sense at all. When he prayed to the Father, he would have been praying to himself.

·         It is tempting to think that since the Father is mentioned in relation to Jesus, Jesus must not be the Father. For example, we may say, “If we substitute Father with ‘I’, he would have meant I and I are one, I am greater than I, or I thank myself.” It is easy to conclude from this simplistic substitution that it is absurd to think of Jesus as also the Father. But this is thinking in human terms, which does not work on God, who is spirit. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, he cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Does this mean that Jesus could not be God because he was addressing God? By no means!

·         We must acknowledge that the relationship between the Father and the Son is beyond human reason, and we do not need to devise a theory so that God’s self-revelation would “make sense.”

14.8 We should not pray to the Lord Jesus but only to the Father. Jesus is the mediator (1 Tim 2:5) and intercessor (Rom ; Heb ) through whom we have access to the Father (Eph ).

·         On many occasions during Jesus’ ministry, people would come to him and asked for mercy and healing. The criminal on the cross also asked the Lord to remember him, and his request was answered (Lk ,43).

·         Stephen prayed to the Lord Jesus (Acts ). Paul gave thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim ) and prayed to the Lord to take away the thorn in his flesh (2 Cor 12:8). Peter called the one who spoke to him in his prayer “Lord” (Acts 10:9-14; the designation “Lord” in the New Testament usually referred to Jesus).

·         When the disciples worshiped the Lord Jesus, the Lord did not refuse their worship (Mt ; 28:9,17; Lk 24:52). The believers in Antioch also worshiped the Lord with fasting (Acts 13:2).

·         The Lord Jesus promised that he will answer us when we pray in his name (Jn ).

·         The notion that we can pray to the Father but not to the Lord Jesus is based on the mistaken assumption that Jesus is not the Father.

Notes

1.        Gregory A. Boyd, Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity (Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992) 88.

2.        Ibid., p 128.

3.        Ibid., p 129.

4.        Ibid., p 173.

5.        Ibid., p 172.

6.        Ibid., p 68.

7.        Ibid., pp 68-69.

8.        Ibid., p 70.

References

1.        Can I Really Trust the Bible? Grand Rapids: RBC Ministries, 1987.

2.        Evans, Stephen C. Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

3.        Geisler, Norman and Ron Brooks. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990.

4.        Kreeft, Peter and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

5.        McCallum, Dennis. Christianity, the Faith that Makes Sense. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1992.

6.        McDowell, Josh. Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1980.

7.        McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands A Verdict, vol. 1&2. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979.

8.        McGrath, Alister E. Intellectuals Don’t Need God & Other Modern Myths. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.

9.        Muncaster, Ralph O. Creation versus Evolution: New Scientific Discoveries. Mission Viejo: Strong Basis to Believe.

10.     Poole, Michael. A Guide to Science and Belief. Oxford: Lion Publishing, 1990.

11.     Sproul, R.C. Reasons to Believe. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982.

 

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