Oneness or Trinity?
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)
Here Christ is speaking after his ascension back to heaven. He states that He will confess the name of the overcomer before His Father. If, in Heaven, He still speaks of His confessing men before His Father (and If He is the Father) He will be confessing before Himself?
The Bible speaks of God as being The Father, The Son AND The Holy Ghost/Spirit.
Around A.D. 190, Theodotus of Byzantium advocated the absolute personality of God. Asserting that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were one person, he sought to propagate his views in the church at Rome. He is said to be “the first representative of Dynamistic Monarchianism whose views have been recorded” (Newman 1931, 198).
In the 3rd Century Sabellius of Libya maintained that God is uni-personal and that the names Father, Son, and Holy Ghost merely designate the same person in different capacities. As the Father, God created the world; as the Son, he redeemed it; as the Holy Ghost, he sanctifies the elect. These three, he said, are no more different persons than the body, soul, and spirit of man are three persons (Sanford 1910, 827).
The first time that the word, “Trinity” is used to describe God was in the writings of one Theophilus, a Bishop of Antioch. In Theophilus to Antolycus Book II, 15 he says: “in Like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries are types of the Trinity, of God and His Word, and His Wisdom.” The use of this word “Trinity” implies that it was already in use and understood.
Tertullian of North Africa also uses the term. In “Against Praxeus”, II he wrote:
“…in the case of this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the very selfsame person. As if in this way also One were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation (economy) is still guarded which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: three, however, not in condition, but in aspect; yet of one substance, but in form; not in power, but of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from Whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Both Theodotus and Tertullian sought to define the nature of the Godhead. Both were contemporaries and both were around in the latter part of the 2nd Century and early part of the 3rd. They are both considered to be Ante-Nicean church Fathers.
These men were writing at a time when there was no formal theology concerning the Godhead. To accuse these men of paganism is an injustice.
Critics of the doctrine of Tri-unity attempt to point out that 1+1+1=3. Proponents of the Tri-unity point out that 1x1x1=1.
The Bible leaves us in no doubt that all three (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are one God contrary to the teaching of Arius who rejected the Deity of the Son and that of the Holy Spirit.
Part of the problem is the fact that in the Gospels we see the Son limited to time and space in human form, yet at the same time we see the Holy Spirit descending upon Him in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven speaking of Him as being, “My beloved Son.” Here we have a clear instance of the three existing at the same time, as three distinct personalities yet no one would say these were three gods!
Then we have the problem of the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Son prays the Father. Some would argue that this is because the humanity of Christ is distinct from the Deity that on these occasions Christ is speaking as a man. If Christ is fully human and fully God then whenever He speaks it is both as God AND man, otherwise Christ is then partly God and partly human which would make Him a demi-god (definitely a pagan idea)!
Christ commanded the disciples baptise people in “the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” and the disciples baptised “in the name of Jesus.” In 1913, after hearing a sermon by R.E. McAlister concerning Baptism being in the name of Jesus, a young minister by the name of John G. Schaepe felt moved to pray and read the Bible all night. At some point he claimed to have received a revelation that the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was “Lord Jesus Christ”. Thus was born the Oneness Pentecostal Movement that soon gave birth to several schisms.
Probably the most well known of these Anti-Trinitarian preachers was William Branham who went as far as to state that Trinitarian doctrine was “of the devil”! In the present, although not always understood by a number of Pentecostals, is the ministry of T.D. Jakes.
By John Hayworth
The author acknowledges Bill Freeman whose book The Testimony of Church History Regarding the Mystery of the Triune God (published 1976 by The Stream Publishers, Anaheim, California) was invaluable in producing this article.
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