What is the difference between what the message of the hour teaches versus the United Pentecostal Church (Jesus Only Church)? How does our viewpoint differ from theirs? What is the truth of the Godhead?
More often than not we are charged with holding to the Jesus only doctrine. To its adherents it is typically referred to as “the Oneness of God” and historically it is referred to as Sabellianism. In Chapter 4 of the Oneness of God by David Bernard (President of the United Pentecostal Church) he explains the belief that since Jesus is God therefore Jesus is the Father. You can read for yourself as to why he makes this statement, based upon misunderstanding of various verses. Jesus is not the Father and he is not his own Father. As William Branham states in the sermon Questions and Answers in 1959, “Now, somebody says, “Brother Branham is a oneness.” No, sir, I am not a oneness. I do not believe that Jesus could be His own father. I believe that Jesus had a Father, and that was God.”
In Matthew 16 Jesus asks his disciples who they say he is and Peter responds by stating, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In John 14:9 Jesus tells his disciples that he that has seen me has seen the Father. By this he does not mean that he is the Father, but rather he is the image of the invisible Father. Read Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3.
In the Jesus only doctrine prior to the incarnation the Logos of John 1:1 is merely a thought or a plan in the mind of God.
Then in the incarnation this plan comes into expression. To the Jesus only disciple the Logos has no real existence separate from the Father. Rather it is merely a modal or nominal [in name only] difference.
In order to show why this teaching is erroneous I want to point out the teachings of the early church fathers in regard to the Logos. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Theopholis of Antioch speak of a pre-existing Logos that went forth or proceeded from God in the beginning just before creation. In eternity this logos was in the mind of God as his plan. Then just prior to creation this eternal thought came forth from God. Wisdom speaking in Proverbs 8:22 in the NIV states, “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old.” This bringing forth of the logos is part of God’s self-limitation and expression to mankind. The logos is Yawheh, the self-existing one who reveals himself. Amazingly, Brother William Branham uses the same conception to describe the Logos. In the Sermon “We Would See Jesus” he states,
“In the beginning God was a Spirit…And then the Logos that went out of God in the beginning become what we would call a theophany, or a–a supernatural body.”
Dr. Jean Danielou, in a History of Early Christian Doctrine Volume II, page 35 states when discussing the writings of Theophilus, Justin Martyr and Athenagoras, early church fathers, “There are two states of the Logos, the one where it exists eternally in God as his thought and counsel, but without a separate subsistent entity of its own, the other where it is brought forth or begotten, so that it acquires such an entity before the creation of the universe, as a means to that end.”
Adolph von Harnack, church historian, writes, “On the principles underlying this conception of the Apologists [Aristides, Justin, Tatian, Melito, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, and others…] were all agreed. The history of the Logos is as follows: God was never alogos (with the word); he ever had the Logos within himself as his reason…For the sake of the creation God put the Logos forth from himself through the simple act of his will, generated him out of his own Being…he is not separated from God [ie-a separate person as in the Trinity of three persons]…and is also not a mere mode or attribute of God [as in the Jesus only doctrine]; but is the independent result of the self-unfolding of God [a dynamic concept involving process], and, although being the compendium of the Divine Reason, he did not rob the Father of his reason; he as God and Lord, possesses the essence of the Divine Nature…” (Outlines of the History of Dogma, Adolph von Harnack pages 126, 127)
The problem with Jesus Only doctrine is that to them Father and Son are simply one thing twice named.
So the same becomes at one time the Father and another time the Son and then renaming him again as the Holy Spirit. For the early church and the doctrine that we hold to there is a self-unfolding of God into different forms or aspects of his being. Just before creation he brings forth his logos and enters into that form in order to reveal himself. Then in the fullness of time he brings forth that logos into a body of flesh and the Son of God is born. All the while when he works among mankind invisible he is the Holy Spirit. That invisible Spirit (Greek-Wind) that works in and through his people. These various forms are not merely different titles of the Father. The forms are the real and genuine unfolding of the invisible God.
To further describe the doctrine that we hold to; the invisible God brought forth his logos thus coming into a form that man can relate to. This logos later becomes the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The logos is not merely a divine being like an angel, but is the image and expression of God. This is the glory of the LORD (Read Exodus 24:9-11, 15-17. Ezekiel 1:27, 28, Luke 2:9, Matthew 17:5-9, etc.) We also know that the image of God is as the appearance of a man. (Read 2 Chronicles 18:18, Ezekiel 1:26, Genesis 18:1-2) So when God brought forth his logos in the beginning it was his “body” or “theophany” and therefore self-revelation to mankind. The one who covers all space and time limited himself to a body that he could manifest himself in to the world. This is the Logos and by delimitation [the act of marking or setting a limit for] the Son of God. The Son of God is not a separate subsistence of the Father, but rather the Father limiting himself to a form by which he can be revealed through. There is one God who progressively through time revealed himself as Father in the Son and works amongst his church as the Holy Spirit. These are three aspects or properties of the one (ousia) being who is God.
Jesus Christ is not merely a divine being, he is not the Father, he is the Son of God in whom the fullness of God dwells. Adam was a created son of God. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Adam was made in the image of God. Jesus Christ IS the image of God. Luke 1:35 tells us that the Father had begotten the Son on earth through the Holy Spirit. Galatians 4:4 tells us this happened in the fullness of time. The Logos in heaven, prefigured what the Son would become on earth, the prosopon (Greek for “face”) where the glory of God is revealed. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Jesus is the prosopon (face) that God is revealed through.
For the Jesus Only or Oneness doctrine the Father, Son and Spirit are different in name only. For the biblical doctrine the differences are real in the unfolding process of God.
John 4:24 tells us that God is a Spirit. So this is what God is made up of. We are made of flesh and God is made of Spirit. In the Old Testament God reveals himself in the pillar of fire, the man that appeared to Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre, the angel in the burning bush, the pillar of cloud, the man walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, etc. We refer to all these forms that God appeared in as the logos, that which went out from his own being in order to reveal himself. Then this logos is born in the New Testament and at birth he is referred to as the Son of God. After his death, resurrection and ascension the Holy Spirit comes upon the true believers. This Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26) and is referred to as the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20, Luke 12:12) and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:19) Father, Son and Spirit are three distinct aspects of God’s being just as body, soul and spirit are distinct aspects of our being.