By Cecil Willis
A doctrine often taught is the subject of our investigation for the next few weeks. Some time ago I read a proposition affirmed by a denominational preacher. It read: “Resolved: That there is only one person in the Godhead. . . .” There are many good people in the religious world who believe this teaching to be founded on the Scriptures. Perhaps some are unfamiliar with the statement of the doctrine. It maintains that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are not different entities, but are only different manifestations of the same person. It is often referred to as the “Jesus Only” doctrine. It teaches that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are really all just one person. If this doctrine is taught in the Bible, all of us ought to believe it; if it is not taught in the Bible, none of us should believe it.
This week we want to spend our time in studying the passages that have been cited as proof-texts allegedly proving that there is just one person in the Godhead. I have not chosen passages that I think may be used by the proponents of the doctrine, but I have gone through some of their written speeches with one specific purpose of learning what they consider to be the best proof-texts of their doctrine in order that we might investigate them.
First of all, let us notice the passages cited as their proof texts from the Old Testament. Remember now, these passages are supposed to prove that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all one person. Isa. 43:10 is one passage cited as proving this doctrine. It reads: “Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” This passage says nothing about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit all being one person. It does assert that there was no god made before Jehovah, which I believe as strongly as they. Isaiah is contrasting Jehovah with idols, and all one has to do to learn this is to read the next two verses. Of course, our friends who use this passage as a proof-text never seem to do this. But verses 11, 12 read: “I, even 1, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour. I have declared, and I have saved, and I have showed; and there was no strange god among you; therefore ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and I am God.” In contrast to idols, God is the only God. This is the teaching, also, in Deut. 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” No idol can be put in God’s stead.
Furthermore, Isa. 44:6 is cited as proving that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all one person. It reads: “Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.” But what does the context indicate Isaiah is referring to when he quotes God’s words? Verse 9 says, “They that fashion a graven image are all of them vanity.” These people were trying to substitute a graven image for Almighty God.
In seeking to prove the identity of Jesus and God, they argue that Jesus was but another manifestation of God. I turn to the creed book of one denomination which teaches this doctrine and read: “The one true God manifested Himself in the Old Testament in divers ways, and as the Son while he walked among men . . . As the Holy Spirit after His ascension” (Articles of Faith, United Pentecostal Church, page 16, paragraph 4). According to this statement of the creed, Jesus was not really the Son of God; He was just a manifestation of God. This doctrine undermines the Sonship of Jesus Christ, which the inspired writers sought to sustain.
Now this next argument we are about to review may seem a bit far-fetched to some of you, but I stated I am going to investigate the grounds of this belief by reviewing the argument as made by the proponents of the doctrine. They cite 2 Cor. 5:19 in which Paul said, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” From this it is argued that Christ was but a manifestation of God, and hence Christ as He pilgrimaged with man and God must be one and the same person. But does the fact that one is making manifest another indicate that they are identical? John the Baptist said, “And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water” (Jno. 1:31). John said he came baptizing in order that he might make manifest Jesus Christ. Because John made manifest Jesus Christ, are John and Jesus therefore identical? Paul also made manifest Jesus Christ: “But thanks be unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savor of his knowledge in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14). Paul’s work was to make Christ manifest in every place. When Paul made manifest Christ unto the people, did that make Paul the same person as Jesus Christ? Did Paul and Jesus become one person because Paul made Jesus manifest? If not, why did God and Christ become one person when Jesus manifested God? Well, the fact is, Jesus’ manifesting God did not make them one person.
But one other point, and we must proceed to another of their arguments. They argue that since God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (2 Cor. 5:19), God and Christ must be identical. If this argument were sound it would defy man. John said, “if we love one another, God abideth in us” (1 Jno. 4:12). If the fact that God was in Christ proves that God was Christ, then God’s being in us would prove that we are God. This is a fallacious argument, and I think it is apparent to all, so let us proceed to another.
Perhaps the most frequently quoted passage in striving to prove that God and Jesus are one person is Jno. 10:30. At least it sounds like it might begin to hint at what they teach. In this passage, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” But I know of no doctrine that has more trouble than this one. Every passage they cite to prove that Jesus and God are one person denies this to be true. Notice Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” In speaking of Himself, Jesus says “I”, which is one, and “the Father” which is another “are one.” They are not both the same person. Is Jesus His own father? Can one be both his own father and his own son? Certainly not, yet this is exactly what these men would have us believe.
It just so happens that when Jesus said “I and the Father are one” He did not say “I and the Father are one person.” They may be one, and yet not one person. Jesus prayed that the disciples may be one: “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me” (Jno. 17:20, 21). Jesus prayed that the disciples may be one as He and the Father were one. Was Jesus asking that all the disciples of Christ throughout the world become one big man? This is absurd. He was simply praying that they might be united, or work as one.
In teaching on marriage, Jesus declared that man and woman should be one: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. So that they are no more two, but one flesh” (Matt. 19:5, 6). When husband and wife become one, do they become one person? Can one person be both a husband and a wife? The point these passages illustrate is that we may be “one” and not “one person.” All the disciples are to be “one,” yet all of the disciples can never become “one person.” The husband and wife are to be “one,” but they can never become “one person.”
God and Christ are one, but they are not one person. One of them is the Father; the other the Son. But if God and Christ are not one person, how are they one at all? “God and Christ are one in doctrine, 2 Jno. 9, not in person. God and Christ are one in protection, John 10:29, 30, but not in person. They are one in words and work, John 14:8-11, not in person. They are one in name, John 5:43, not in person. They are one in purpose, John 14:16, 28, not in person. They are one in fulness, but not in person” (Wallace-Vaughn Debate, pg. 31).
When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” He did not declare the doctrine men read into his statement. He did not say they were one person. And there is a vast difference in being one, and in being one person.
In John 14, Philip requested that Jesus “show us the Father.” Jesus replied by saying, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” Quo. 14:8, 9). But once again, observe that Jesus spoke of Himself, and of the Father. Was He His own Father? Someone should answer this question either yes or no. Really what Jesus was teaching is the same thing that Paul declared in Heb. 1, in which he declared that Jesus is the express image of the substance of God (verse 3). Furthermore, in Phil. 2:5-7 Paul said that Jesus counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped. Jesus was indeed divinity manifested in flesh, so when they saw the Son of God, Philip and the rest, were seeing God in human flesh.
Jesus said “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” This is another instance in which the proof-text denies the doctrine. Here again Jesus refers to the Father. One cannot be a father before there are two persons. One cannot be a father without there being a son. For example, Adam was created, and was a man, but he was not a husband before Eve was created to be his wife. Neither could God be a father without reference being made to His Son.
Actually, the doctrine we are discussing denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Of course the adherents of the doctrine would say this is not so. But they teach that there is just one person in the Godhead. That one person is both Father and Son. So Jesus is not the Son of God. He is His own father, and His own son. No passage in the Word of God teaches this doctrine. We have tried to be fair in our choosing of the passages cited as proof-texts, and in our review of them. Next week we shall study passages which indicate that there are three persons in the Godhead.
Truth Magazine, XX:18, p. 3-5
April 29, 1976