This material is also available for sale as part of our professionally printed book entitled The God of the Bible. For more information go to www.gospelway.com/sales.
The Bible repeatedly teaches that there is only one true God, in contrast to the many warring, conflicting, different gods of heathen idolatry (Deut. 4:35,39; 6:4; 32:39; Psa. 86:10; Isa. 43:10-13; 44:6-8; 45:5,6,21-23; Matt. 4:10; Mark 12:29).
However, the Bible also mentions three individuals, "persons," or spirit beings, each of whom is called "God," or other such terms used for God.
The Heavenly Father - Matt. 16:16,17; John 6:27,44,45; 20:17; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:3; etc.
Jesus, the Son - John 1:1,14; 20:28,29; Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 1:8,9; Col. 2:9; Isa. 9:6.
The Holy Spirit - Acts 5:3,4; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 4:8.
Some people conclude that "one God" means God is just one individual or personal being. Hence, they conclude that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same individual or personal being. It is argued that these are just different titles used to refer to the one individual, or that the different terms refer to different parts of the one individual ("Son" = the fleshly body, "Father" = the Divine Spirit that inhabited the body, etc.). This one individual is named Jesus, so the position is often called "Jesus only."
To illustrate what we mean by separate and distinct beings or individuals, consider the various living intelligent beings that exist:
* Angels are intelligent spirit beings or individuals - Heb. 1:13,14.
* Satan and his servants (demons) are intelligent spirit beings or individuals - Matt. 4:1-11; 12:43-45; Mark 1:21-27.
* Humans are intelligent beings or individuals (before death a human consists of a spirit inhabiting a physical body, but at death the spirit departs from the body) - Gen. 1:26,27; 2:7; James 2:26; etc.
The Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate & distinct from one another as individual beings like these various other intelligent beings are separate and distinct from one another. We do not claim the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are physical beings, like humans, though Jesus did have a body on earth. Nor do we claim they are like these other beings in character, authority, etc. We simply say that these other living beings illustrate the concept of separate and distinct individuals or personal beings. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each an individual, distinct from one another like angels are distinct from one another, etc.
So, the Father is not the same individual being as the Son, the Son is not the same being as the Spirit, etc. However, each possesses all the characteristics and privileges of Deity, so each is part of the Godhead. The one true God, then consists of three separate and distinct individual divine beings.
We do not claim we understand all about God, nor can we answer all questions that can be raised about the subject of the number of individuals in the Godhead. Some things are simply not revealed; limited, finite humans simply cannot understand all about the infinite, unlimited God (Deut. 29:29; Job 26:14; 36:26; 37:5,23; Isa. 55:8,9). However, the Bible does reveal enough that it definitely teaches, by necessary implication, that there are three separate and distinct individuals in the Godhead.
Consider the following references:
Hebrews 1:5 - I shall be to Him a Father and He shall be to Me a Son.
Matthew 3:17 - This is My beloved Son.
Matthew 16:16,17 - Thou art the Son of God My Father in heaven revealed this.
Matthew 17:5 - This is My beloved Son (spoken by God the Father - 2 Pet. 1:16-18).
John 3:16 - God gave His only-begotten Son.
John 5:17 - My Father has been working, and I work.
Romans 15:6 - Glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3 - Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:3 - Have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
2 John 3 - Grace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father.
2 John 9 - Abide in the teaching and have both the Father and the Son.
A father and his son are necessarily two separate and distinct individuals. A single individual can be both a father and a son at the same time - a father to one person and a son to another person. But no one can be the same person as his own son, and no person can be the same individual as his own father!
If Jesus and His Father are the same individual, as some claim, then Jesus is both His own Father and His own Son!
Further, the passages describe both an "I" and a "He" (or "me" and "him"). Use of both these terms also necessarily implies plurality of individuals.
And further note that 2 John 9 expressly mentions "both" the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son are a "both" - two individuals.
Further, 1 John 1:3 and 2 John 3 clearly show that Jesus is the Son, as distinguished by the language from the Father. The Father is never called Jesus in the Bible.
When Jesus came into the world, He said, "a body didst Thou prepare Me" - Hebrews 10:5. "Thou" = God the Father (v7). "Me" = Jesus the Son (v10). The "body" = the body in which Jesus came into the world (v5,10).
Again, "thou" and "me" necessarily refer to a plurality of individuals. Jesus was the "me," not the "thou" (the Father).
And Jesus is not just the "body." The body was prepared for the "Me" (Jesus). Here are two separate and distinct individuals discussing the body. Did the Spirit that inhabited the body prepare the body for the body? Is Jesus talking to Himself, saying You (Jesus) prepared this body for me (Jesus)?
The Father does not judge any man, but has given all judgment to the Son. If the Father and Son are the same individual, then when Jesus judges someone, the Father IS judging them. But the Son judges and the Father does not judge. Therefore, they must be separate individuals.
Jesus lifted His eyes to Heaven and prayed to the Father (v1). He said, "I have glorified Thee I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do" (v4). I and Thee = plural individuals. But if the Father and Son are the same individual, then Jesus prayed to Himself!
The "Word" (1:1) is the only begotten Son of the Father (1:14,18). He was in the beginning with God and was God (v1). He (Jesus) said "Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory I had with Thee before the world was" (17:5). Further, the Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world (17:24).
Even before Jesus had a fleshly body on earth, there was a Father (thou or thee) who was His own self - one individual. Sharing glory with Him was Me or I (Jesus) - a second individual who was with the Father and was loved by the Father before the world began.
Thou and Me implies separate individuals. The Father was His own self, but Jesus was with Him. All this was before there ever was any fleshly body. Was Jesus with Himself before the world began? Did He love Himself and share glory with Himself??
As the Father sent Jesus, even so Jesus sent His disciples. Does a person send himself elsewhere? When Jesus sent His disciples, He was one individual sending other separate individuals to do a job for Him (cf. John 1:6). Even so, when the Father sent the Son, the Father was one individual sending another individual to do a job.
Note again that a Father and His Son are two distinct individuals. And Thou and Me are separate individuals.
The Father raised Jesus from the dead and made Him sit at His right hand. Clearly this describes a relationship between two separate individuals. If Jesus and the Father are the same individual, then Jesus is sitting at His own right hand! (See also Acts 2:33; 7:55,56; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; 1 Pet. 3:22.)
Jesus prayed, "not My will but Thine be done." My will and Thy will make two distinct minds each capable of making its own decisions. The Father's will and the Son's will agree and are united, but each has individual power to choose and to will. Each has His own mind and intelligence separate from the other.
Two distinct wills necessarily imply two distinct intelligent beings.
Jews accused Jesus of testifying of Him self (v13). Jesus said the law required two witnesses (v17; cf. Deut. 19:15). He claimed He was not alone because there was "I and the Father that sent me" (v16). Further, I am one that bears witness of Myself and the Father bears witness of Me (v18). This fulfills the requirements for two witnesses (v17). So, He that sent me is with Me; He left Me not alone (v29).
Again, I and My Father make a plurality of individuals. If Jesus and the Father were the same individual, then Jesus would be alone and would have only one witness. But Jesus said He was not alone and He and His Father fulfilled the requirement of two witnesses. This can only be true if they constitute two separate and distinct individuals.
Jesus ("me") and "my Father" love those who obey. "We" will come and dwell with them (14:23). The Father and Son are an "Us" and a "We" (17:21,22). How can "we" and "us" be one individual?
When Jesus was on the cross, the Father forsook Him (Matt. 27:46). Clearly the Father's spirit was no longer with Jesus. Yet Jesus continued to live awhile, having His own spirit which then departed when He died (v50). When He died, He commended His spirit into His Father's hands (Luke 23:46). So Jesus had His own Spirit separate from His Father's spirit. Or did Jesus commend His own Spirit into the hands of His own Spirit, and then give up His spirit?
Death is the spirit of a person leaving his body and returning to God (James 2:26; Ecc. 12:7; Acts 7:59). Just like any man, Jesus had His own spirit separate from the spirit of His Father. Jesus' spirit remained in His body even after the Father forsook Him, then it left when Jesus died.
The fact a man has his own spirit, separate from the spirit of other beings, is what makes him a separate individual. Since Jesus had his own spirit separate from the Father's spirit, He must have been a separate and distinct individual from His Father.
Note again that there is a Thy and a Me, each of whom had his own spirit. Clearly this is two separate individuals.
Jesus and His Father are one even as He wants His disciples to be one. How are disciples to be "one"? Do we all become one and the same individual - one living being? No, we remain separate individuals, but we are one in purpose, faith, goals, character, doctrine, practice, etc. (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 12:12-20, 2527; Eph. 4:1-4; etc.)
The Father and Son are described as Thou and Me, I and Thee, clearly identifying separate individuals. They are also called We (v22) - plural individuals.
And they are one even as the disciples are to be one - not one individual. If the Father and Son are one individual, then to please Jesus all His disciples must become one individual - an impossibility! But if we are not all one individual, but the Father and Son are one even as we are one, then the Father and Son cannot be one individual.
God said let Us make man in Our image after Our likeness. Man was created in God's image, not the image of angels or animals (cf. v27). Yet God is referred to as Us and Our - terms implying plural individuals. (Similar instances exist in Gen. 3:22; 11:6,7; Isa. 6:8). In fact the most common Hebrew word for God (ELOHIM) is plural in form.
Other verses show that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all three present at creation. The Father was present (Heb. 1:2; John 1:1-3; 17:5,24), the Son was present (Heb. 1:2; John 1:1-3; 17:5,24; Col. 1:16,17), and the Holy Spirit was present (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4).
We have already shown that the Father and Son are a We or Us (John 14:23; 17:22). Clearly the one God does include a plurality of individuals.
Jesus was on earth, having been baptized, and He was praying. The Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove (this does not say the Spirit is a dove, but at that time took a bodily form like a dove). A voice from heaven said, "Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
This voice was clearly the Heavenly Father because He said Jesus was His Son. A similar thing happened at the transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), and Peter said the voice was God the Father who spoke (2 Pet. 1:16-18). The voice of God comes from God and demonstrates His presence (Gen. 3:8). The very words spoken prove the speaker is not Jesus, because Thou and I refer to separate individuals. And a son cannot be the same person as his father.
So in this story all 3 are present and are presented as being 3 separate individuals.
When Jesus left the earth, He requested that the Father send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles, remind them of Jesus' teachings, etc. These verses distinguish all three as separate individuals.
The pronouns used distinguish individuals - I and He, etc. The language implies these are different individuals, just as surely as Jesus meant He and the apostles were different individuals when He referred to them as I and You.
The Father and Son acted together in sending the Spirit (i.e., the Son requested the Father to do it and He did do it - 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7). As when Jesus sent His disciples and when the Father sent the Son, so the language implies individuals sending another individual, not themselves (cf. notes on John 17:18; 20:20,21). Jesus did not send Himself and the Father did not send Himself. The Holy Spirit was a separate individual.
The Holy Spirit would be another comforter (Greek for another is ALLOS meaning another one of the same sort). Jesus had been a source of strength & comfort, an advocate on behalf of the disciples. Now He was leaving, but did not want the disciples left alone. So He sent another comforter who would teach the disciples and remind them of Jesus' teaching (14:26; 16:13-15). If the Spirit is the same person as Jesus, then Jesus did not send another comforter, but the same one.
The Holy Spirit would not speak from Himself (His own initiative), but would speak what the Father and Son provided for Him to declare (16:13-15). This distinguishes both the Father and Son from the Spirit - they must be different "selves." If the Father or the Son are the same "self" as the Spirit, then He would be speaking from Himself.
This passages mentions seven things of which there is only one each in God's plan for unity: one body (the church - 1:22,23); one Spirit (the Holy Spirit - Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:3-13; Luke 4:1); one hope; one Lord (Jesus - 1 Cor. 8:6); one faith; one baptism; one God and Father.
Note that each item listed is separate and distinct from each other item. The body is not the hope. The baptism is not the Lord. The faith is not the Father, etc. Likewise, the Father is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Lord, and the Lord is not the Father.
It follows that this passage is distinguishing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three separate and distinct individuals.
The apostles were commanded to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the basis of the material we have studied, it is clear that the Father and Son are two separate individuals. Surely then the term "Holy Spirit" also refers to a living being who is a separate individual from the other two. Why list two separate beings and then list a third term which is just another title for one of the others, or just a part of the others, etc.?
2 Corinthians 13:14 - The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:18 - Through Him (Christ) we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
1 Peter 1:2 - Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:11 - Justified in the name of our Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Matthew 12:31,32 - Blasphemy against the Son would be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be. Hence the Son is not the Holy Spirit, for if He were, then to blaspheme the Spirit would be the same as blaspheming the Son.
John 14:17,19 - The world did not behold the Spirit, but it did behold the Son. Hence, Jesus is not the Spirit.
Matthew 1:18 - The Holy Spirit conceived Jesus is the womb of Mary. Did the Spirit conceive Himself, or did He conceive a separate individual?
The Bible definitely teaches that there is only one true God. But we have also seen from the Scriptures that there are three separate and distinct individuals or living personal beings that possess Deity and are therefore in the Godhead. If the passages we have studied do not establish the plurality of individuals in the Godhead, then what is the point of these statements? Why would God make such statements if in fact there is only one individual in God?
John 17:20-23 explains the sense in which these three individuals are ONE (see previous notes). They are one even as all true believers should be one - not one individual, but united and harmonious in faith, doctrine, character, purpose, etc.
People who believe that there is only one individual or living personal being in the Godhead ("Jesus only") also offer evidence for their view. We will consider just a few of the main arguments, so it will become clear how they can be answered.
Scriptures are cited showing terms for God are used to refer to Jesus - John 20:28; Col. 1:16 (creator); Matt. 1:23 (God with us); Acts 20:28 (God's blood); Rev. 1:8,17 & 2:8 & 22:13 & 21:5-7 (Almighty and First and Last); John 8:58 (I Am); 1 Tim. 3:16; Micah 5:2 (everlasting); Tit. 2:13; etc.
References are cited to show there is one God, and singular pronouns are used to refer to God - Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10-13; 44:6,8,24 (God is "alone, and formed the earth "by myself"); 45:5,22; 52:6; Zech. 14:9; Matt. 4:10; Mk. 12:29; Eph. 4:4 cf. Rom. 8:9 (one Spirit must be Jesus' spirit); James 2:19.
John 10:30 - I and the Father are one. 1 John 5:7 - Father, Word, and Spirit are one (KJV). So it is concluded that there can only be one individual in the Godhead, and that individual is Jesus. The Father and the Spirit are just different titles or different parts of that individual, etc. However:
* We agree there is one God, and we agree Jesus is called God because He possesses Deity. But we have seen that the Father and Holy Spirit are also called God because they possess Deity. The question is: HOW is God "one" - in what sense? Is it one individual, or is there some other sense in which three individuals could be "one"?
* The word "God" does not necessarily mean an individual, such that "one God" is equivalent to one individual. God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, Deity, whatever is worshiped. God is one, but not necessarily one individual.
* We have shown evidence that the Father, Son, and Spirit are separate individuals, yet one God. To say there is one God does not disprove our position because it does not prove God is only one individual living Being.
* John 17:20-23 explains HOW the Father and Son are ONE - even as believers should be one. We are not one individual, but many different individuals. We are united as one body, one church, united in faith, practice, goals, character, etc. The inspired comparison is that there is one God or Godhead that consists of plural members, just as there is one church that consists of many members (Acts 4:32; Rom. 12:4,5; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 12:12-27; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:22,23; 2:14,16; 4:1-6,16; Phil. 1:27; 2:2; etc.)
* Another illustration is Gen. 2:24 - the two become one. A man and his wife are two separate individuals, but in marriage they are united. Yet they remain separate individuals. So God can be so united as to be called "one," yet three separate individuals.
* We have cited many examples where the pronouns imply plural individuals ("we," "us," "I and Thou," "I am not alone," etc.). The very passages on which this argument is based, themselves imply plural individuals: "I and my Father" (an individual and his father make two individuals); "these three are one."
Consider Jesus' inspired illustration of one-ness - plural individuals in the one church (John 17:20ff). Sometimes the believers are referred to by plural terms that emphasize the plurality of individuals - 1 Cor. 12:12,14,18,20; Rom. 12:4,5; etc. But sometimes singular terms are used to emphasize the one-ness or unity of the church - Eph. 5:25*,26*,27 ("it" is translated "her" in NASB & NIV); Eph. 4:16 ("itself"); Gal. 1:13*; 1 Tim. 5:16; cf. 1 Cor. 12:12,14,18,20,24,27,28; Gal. 3:28; Rom. 12:4,5 (* asterisks indicate the Greek pronoun is feminine).
The instances of singular pronouns simply emphasize the one-ness of God, while the plural pronouns point out the plural individuals in that one God. This is completely legitimate grammatically. Our position can explain both the singular pronouns and the plural pronouns. But the "Jesus only" view cannot explain the plural pronouns.
* Statements affirming the one-ness of God are intended to contrast to the plural gods as in heathen idol worship, not to deny there are a plurality of individuals in God. The contexts are not discussing the relationship of Father and Son, for example, but are contrasting the true God to the plurality of different gods such as heathen idol worshipers embrace - gods having different character, authority in different areas of life or different areas of the earth, and often disagreeing and even warring among themselves in their beliefs, purposes, teachings, and their wills for men. We worship, not such gods as these, but a united, harmonious God with one will and plan for us.
It is affirmed that, since the Father is in the Son, this explains how they are the same individual - the Father is the Spirit that dwells in the Son's body.
* Many other passages speak of separate persons being "IN" one another. To say one is "in" the other does not prove they are the same individual. For example, Christians are "in Christ" and "in the Father"; and Father and Son abide "in" us - John 14:20,23; 15:4-7; 3:21; 6:56; Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 6:16; Gal. 2:20; 3:26-38; Eph. 3:17; Phil. 1:1; 3:8,9; Col. 1:27; 1 Pet. 5:14; 1 John 2:6,24; 3:24; 4:12-16. Do these verses prove that we are the same individual or personal being as the Son or the Father?
* Again, John 17:20-23 explains the real meaning of the expression. For Jesus to be "in the Father," and vice-versa, simply means for them to be "one." "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us ; that they may be one, even as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one "
To say that one person is "in" another simply means that they have fellowship and unity - a harmonious, united relationship. It does not mean they are one individual.
It is argued that these expressions prove the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same individual. However:
* We have already seen that the expressions used in the very context of these passages show a plurality of individuals. They use the terms "Father" and "Son" which must refer to separate individuals. The Father and Son sent the Spirit, etc. (See previous discussion.)
* No man has literally seen the Father - John 6:46; 1:18; 5:37; 1 John 4:12. So Jesus' expressions must be taken symbolically, not literally. What is the meaning of the expression then?
* John 14:10,11 explains the meaning of 14:7,9 (and the other expressions likewise). The disciples "saw the Father" because Jesus was "in the Father and the Father in" Jesus. The Father abiding in Jesus did His works.
But this is the phrase we have just studied above. We showed that the meaning of the expression is, not that they are the same individual, but that they are in fellowship, unity, harmony. So harmonious were their character and wills that, when Jesus worked, the work He did was the Father's work.
* John 1:18 also explains. No one has literally seen the Father, but the Son declared Him. The Son is not the same individual as the Father, but He is so like the Father and knows the Father so well that He is the one best qualified to reveal what the Father is like. In fact, the Father and Son are so alike that, when we know what Jesus is like, we know exactly what the Father is like.
* Hebrews 1:3 - Jesus is the "express image" of God's person. Colossians 1:15 - He is the image of the invisible God. An image is not the same thing as that which it is a likeness of (cf. Gen. 1:26,27). We cannot literally see the Father when we see Jesus. But they are so alike that, when you see Jesus, you have seen exactly what the Father is like.
Compare this to our expressions: "Like father, like son." "He's the exact image of his father." "When you've seen one, you've seen 'em all."
* Other passages use this kind of representative language. Separate individuals are involved, but one is viewed as a representative of the other. So when we do something to one person is taken to be the same as doing it to the other person.
For example, Mark 9:37 - Whoever receives a child in Jesus' name, receives Jesus. Likewise, whoever receives Jesus receives the One who sent Him. This explains the languages perfectly. Is Jesus the same individual as the child? No, but the way we treat the child is taken as the way we treat Jesus. So the way we treat Jesus is the way we treat the Father. But Jesus' own illustration proves that Jesus is not the same individual as the Father any more than the child is the same individual as Jesus. If Jesus is the same individual as the Father, then the child is also the same individual as Jesus!
Luke 10:16 - He who hears Jesus' messengers, hears Jesus; he who despises the messengers, despises Jesus; and he who despises Jesus, despises the one who sent Jesus. Again, by Jesus' own authority, the language is exactly parallel to the verses we are studying. How we treat the messengers is how we treat Jesus, just the same as how we treat Jesus is how we treat the Father. But are the messengers the same individual as Jesus? No, and no more is Jesus the same individual as the Father. In fact, the parallels in these verses proof the opposite of "Jesus only." The language here proves Jesus is NOT the same individual as the Father. (Cf. John 13:20).
Other examples are:
Matthew 25:40,45 - Doing good to others is the same as doing good to Jesus.
Acts 9:1,4,5 - Persecuting the church is the same as persecuting Jesus.
John 3:22; 4:1,2 - When the apostles baptized, it is said that Jesus' baptized, because they acted as His representatives.
It is argued that God has one name (Zech. 14:9; cf. Isa. 52:6). Jesus came in the Father's name (John 5:43; 10:25), and the Spirit came in Jesus' name (John 14:26). So it is argued they must all have the same name ("Jesus") and must therefore all be the same individual. ("Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit" are said to be "titles," not names). Other verses are added to show how important God's name is.
Further, we are told we must baptize in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; cf. 4:12; 2:21 - salvation in no other name), and this is what must be said. Matt. 28:19 says to baptize in the name (one name) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; but we are told they all have the same name, and that name is Jesus, so we must baptize in the name of Jesus only.
* Even if Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all did have the same name, that would not prove they are the same individual. Often different individuals have the same name. My father and I have the same name, but we are not the same individual. In marriage, a woman takes her husband's name, but she is still a separate individual.
In fact, however, these expressions do not mean the three do have the same name, as we will see.
* One individual can act "in the name of" another individual, yet they are still two distinct individuals. To say that one acts "in the name of" another does not prove they have the same name, still less does it prove they are the same individual. For example:
Inspired men gave commands in the name of the Lord - Acts 9:27,29;
2 Thess. 3:6; James 5:10.
Christians should assemble in Jesus' name - Matt. 18:20.
We can receive a child in Jesus' name - Mark 9:37.
Apostles did miracles in Jesus' name - Acts 3:6; 16:18.
The name of God would be called upon the Gentiles - Acts 15:17.
Note: if you baptize a person "in Jesus' name," does that make YOU the same individual as Jesus is?
Everything we do, in word or deed, should be done in Jesus' name - Col 3:17.
Clearly when a person acts "in the name of" another person, that does not mean the first person has the same name the other does, and even less does it prove they are the same individual. In fact, the expression does not even mean we must say "in Jesus' name" every time we so act.
* The expression "in the name of" actually means "by the authority of," "on behalf of," etc. (Random House College Dictionary). It is an expression showing that one individual is acting as the representative of another, acting in accordance with his will and instructions, by his authority. We have here another instance of two separate individuals, but one represents or acts on behalf of the other, just as in the previous expressions we have discussed.
* Note carefully Acts 4:7-10. "By what name" (v7,10) = "by what power" (v7) = "by what means" (v9) = "by Him" (v10). (Cf. Eph. 1:21.)
* Other examples: "Stop, in the name of the law," means the person commanding you is a representative acting by authority of the law. Likewise, an ambassador acts "in the name of" a country - by the authority of that country, empowered by its laws, as its official representative, acting on its behalf. When you sign a check, your name is the symbol of your authorization for the bank to transfer funds on your behalf, paying your money, acting in your name.
So Jesus came in His Father's name because the Father sent Him, He was the Father's representative, acting on His behalf, to do the Fathers' will. Likewise, the Spirit came in Jesus' name in the same way. (See Scriptures about these matters listed previously.)
* This also shows the harmony between Matt. 28:19 (in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and Acts 2:38, etc. (in the name of Jesus). The will or authority of the three individuals is exactly the same, for they are completely in harmony and united in will. What one authorizes is what the others authorize. What one says to do is what the others say to do. To act by the authority (in the name of) one, then, is to act by the authority (in the name of) all three, for it is the same authority. It is not individuals that are the same, nor the name "Jesus" that all wear alike, but it is the will or authority that is the same.
An ambassador might say he acts "in the name of the President of the U.S.A.," or he might say he acts "in the name of the President, the Congress, and the people of the U.S.A." The two statements are both correct, but they do not say the President, Congress, and people are all the same individual. They say that he acts by the authority of all three. Yet the will of them all is viewed as one and the same will.
It is said that all the Godhead is fully embodied in Jesus - Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Hence, Jesus is all there is. However:
* A proper understanding requires knowing what "Godhead" (KJV) means. Other translations say all the fullness of Deity (NASB, RSV, NIV, etc.). "Godhead" means Deity, Godhood, the essence or substance of God, the state or condition of being God (see Vine, Thayer, etc.).
* Fullness means a full measure - that which completely fills a thing. But it does not mean that no one else can possess the fullness of that quality also. (Cf. Eph. 3:19).
For example, if I say, "In my wife dwells all the fullness of womanhood or femininity," I would not be saying she is the one person who possesses womanhood or femininity, and no one else is feminine. It would mean that she is totally and completely feminine, but it would not prove that she is the only individual in existence who is feminine.
So Col. 2:9 means that Jesus fully and completely possesses Deity or Godhood - the essence and nature of God. The term does not require a single person, nor does it prove no other individual can possess that quality.
The Holy Spirit, it is argued, cannot be a separate individual, because it is not a personal being at all but just a force.
* Consider the following personal characteristics of the Spirit. How can a non-personal force possess these qualities?
John 16:13 - The Spirit hears.
1 Corinthians 12:8 - The Spirit gives gifts.
Acts 15:28 - He decides or determines whether or not an act is good.
1 Corinthians 6:11 - He justifies.
Romans 15:30 - He loves
Acts 5:9 - He can be tried or tested.
1 Corinthians 12:11 - He wills (power to choose).
Romans 8:27 - He has a mind.
1 Corinthians 2:11 - He knows.
Acts 5:3 - He can be lied to.
Ephesians 4:30; Isaiah 63:10 - He can be grieved.
* In addition, many Scriptures we have already cited, list the Holy Spirit right along with the Father and the Son. He is indicated as acted with them. If the Father and Son are living beings, surely the Spirit is just as much so. Why list two personal beings, and then right along side list an impersonal force?
"Trinity" is a word for three persons in the one Godhead. It is argued that, if this is a true doctrine, the word would surely be used in the Bible.
* But we have clearly established from the Bible the truth that there is one God, but three separate and distinct individuals in that God. The fact that a particular word is not found, does not prove the doctrine is not found.
You will notice that, in the present study, we have defended our view at length, but this is the first time in the discussion we have referred to the word "Trinity." The only reason we refer to it now is that we are answering an objection raised by those who disagree with our view. The word "Trinity" is in no way essential to our belief. We can and have established it by the Bible with no reference whatever to the word "Trinity."
* Interestingly, if you discuss long with people who defend "Jesus only", you will soon find that they themselves hold to churches or doctrines which they refer to by terms not found in the Bible. Many, for example, are members of groups called "United Pentecostal Church" or similar names. Not only are these words not found in the Bible, neither can they find the concept in the Bible. Yet they criticize us because the Bible does not contain a particular word which can be used to describe what we believe.
The belief that God consists of just one individual did not come from the Bible, nor can it be proved by the Bible. Where then did the idea come from? Many of its adherents are members of the United Pentecostal Church, and here is their own statement about this:
"In the year 1914 came the revelation on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The pivotal doctrines of the absolute deity of Jesus Christ and the baptism in His name became tenets of faith." (Foreward, United Pentecostal Church Manual, via The Oneness Doctrine of Pentecostalism, G. Frost, p. 3; cf. Wallace-Vaughn Debate, p. 86)
This explains why we did not find the doctrine in the Bible - it was not revealed until nearly 1900 years later! Why then do these folks try to prove it by the Bible?
The Scriptures provide us to all good works (2 Tim. 3:16,17), but this doctrine was not revealed till nearly 1900 years later. To preach and believe it, therefore, must not be a good work.
The doctrine was revealed nearly 1900 years too late to be part of the gospel preached by the original apostles and prophets. Therefore, it must not be true, for they received all truth (John 16:13). Further it must be a different gospel and those who preach it are accursed (Gal. 1:8,9). Those who teach it have neither the Father nor the Son (2 John 9).
Copyright 2000, David E. Pratte
Local churches and individuals may, within limits, distribute this Bible study guide for free, but not for sale. Web sites may link to this page but not reproduce it. For details click here for our copyright guidelines.
in what name (Jesus only)?
What Claims Did Jesus Make?
Is the Holy Spirit a Being in the Godhead?
Evidences for God, Jesus, & the Bible
Bible Teaching about the Holy Spirit
Jesus' Second Coming
How Can You Be Sure Your Sins Are Forgiven?
Studies about Creation vs. Evolution
To enroll in a free online Bible course or to receive free Bible study materials by e-mail or to read other online Bible studies, click on the links below.
Use your "back" button to return to the previous page.
|Free audio MP3s
Bible study recordings
Links from other web sites to this page or to our home page
are welcome and encouraged:
www.gospelway.com The Gospel Way: Free Bible Study Online Materials & Guides
Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.