As Christians, our goal is to see the Lord build His house, His temple, in our time. This is not a physical brick or stone building but rather a house of relationships, a house composed of God’s people. This building requires a foundation, already laid by the apostles of the Lord and which no man can replace. Undergirding that foundation is the bedrock substrate—an even more fundamental truth. To understand the nature of this bedrock, we turn to Matthew 16, where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I … am?” More pointedly, He asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responded with his anointed confession, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” And Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you …. and upon this rock [of who Christ is] I will build My church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16: 13-18, NKJV, NASB). A proper understanding of Christ’s nature is the most basic bedrock truth and starting point for any lasting church.
Christ’s response to Peter entails that God assembles the foundation stones outlined in Hebrews 6—repentance, immersions, church order, resurrection, judgment—only on the bedrock of our understanding of Christ’s nature (Heb. 6:1-2, NKJV).
Before proceeding, we must ask: does a proper view and understanding of the incarnation even matter? Does it really matter whether we see Jesus as the second person in the trinity or as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15)?
Relationship Is Salvation
In John 17:3, Jesus says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” This seminal statement defines salvation—not in terms of forensic formulas or theological checkboxes—but as a relationship with God. Jesus does not say, “Eternal life is to know about the only true God,” but rather, “to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” So, if relational knowledge constitutes salvation, nothing could be more pertinent to this relationship than an understanding of how God was incarnated in Jesus Christ. Later in the same chapter, Jesus says, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:25-26).
How does Jesus manifest the Father’s name to His disciples? Notice He does not say that He has manifested the name of a yet-unheard-of entity called “God the Son.” Instead, He speaks of being the incarnation of the Father—manifesting the Father’s name. Somehow, unity, love and relationship with God only become possible when we correctly understand His name, authority, and who He truly is—thus fulfilling His prayer.
“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). The Jews certainly accepted Jesus as an existential creature. He was speaking to them, after all. So He wasn’t suggesting that they must simply believe He exists. When He says, “If you do not believe that I am He,” we need to know whom “He” is referring to. The revelation of who He really is somehow is tied to our victory over sin.
In John 8, the Jews brought the following challenge to Jesus, “‘You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’” (John 8:57-58, NKJV, NASB). The Jews would have understood the significance of the categorical statement “I AM.” This was a phrase no human being used for himself. No Jew would have said, “I am this” or, “I am that.” Only God, as the origin of life, has being within Himself and can claim “I AM.”
The Jews would have remembered the question Moses posed at the burning bush, “When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And “God replied to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. Say to this people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations’ ” (Exod. 3:13-15, NKJV, NLT).
So, when Jesus stood before the religious Pharisees to answer their probing question: “Who are You” (John 8:25), He did not equivocate or identify as one-third of the godhead. He did not say, “I am God the Son” (a phrase never found in the Bible). He simply responded, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” They knew He was calling Himself Yahweh, and so they picked up stones with which to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:31-33).
Scripture Consistently Depicts God’s Nature
Hundreds of Old and New Testament scriptures consistently, repeatedly and emphatically confirm, without qualification, that God is one. For centuries, while those in pagan cultures worshiped countless gods, Abraham’s Jewish descendants were unique in all the world for worshiping one God without qualification. Jewish monotheism may be seen as the cornerstone and starting point of all Biblical faith. And though Jesus brought many adjustments, fulfillments and clarifications to Jewish theology, the one aspect of the Hebrew faith that He categorically endorsed was their view of God.
When speaking to a woman of another religion, the Samaritan at the well, Jesus powerfully stated that salvation belongs to the Jews because of their proper understanding of the nature of God. The Amplified Bible renders it like this, “You [Samaritans] do not know what you are worshiping [you worship what you do not comprehend]. We do know what we are worshiping [we worship what we have knowledge of and understanding], for [after all] salvation comes from [among] the Jews” (John 4:22, AMPC).
How many times did Jesus take issue with the Jews? While, as stated, significant portions of the Gospels and much of the Epistles are devoted to adjustments and clarifications of Jewish theology, there is absolute silence on the subject of the trinity. The word appears nowhere in the Bible, whether Old or New Testament. There is not a single sentence or paragraph devoted to its exposition. One could claim that it is inferred, but that inference is only seen by those who are already thoroughly indoctrinated in triune theology. Those steeped in Jewish monotheism perceive no such conception. To repeat, in His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus unequivocally stated that salvation belongs to the Jews because they know whom they worship, tying their understanding of God directly to their salvation.
“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’” How many times did Jesus compliment a scribe or Pharisee? Not often. Yet, in this encounter, we experience the only time in the entire New Testament when Jesus and a Jewish leader were in complete unity. “Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; you have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:28-34). In this unprecedented encounter, when the Scribe reiterated that there is one God and none beside Him (and he said this as a Jew from a Jewish perspective), Jesus responded, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Triune theology has altered and obscured the definition of the word “one,” superimposing forced interpretations on Scripture that are antithetical to the Jewish understanding of God.
Before proceeding, we should remember the words of Christ and the apostles concerning strange doctrines that would corrupt the church. Yet it is peculiar how defensive present-day Christians who ostensibly hold to sola scriptura become when confronted with questions about post-biblical doctrines. Merely raising a question often brings the accusation of “betraying Christian orthodoxy.” Yet if “orthodoxy” is simply defined as any tradition or belief (whether scriptural or otherwise) that is held by the religious majority for an extended period of time, why should we not accept the pope as the head of Christ’s church? Such “great traditions” also gave us the doctrine of transubstantiation, which resulted in persecution and death for those spiritual forefathers of the Reformation who refused to bow and worship a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. They died for rejecting the “orthodox” notion that the communion food magically turned into Christ Himself and, therefore, required homage and supplication. Indeed, a quarter of Europe’s population was wiped out through wars in which both sides claimed to be defending “orthodoxy.” “Orthodoxy” destroyed Paul’s meaning of justification by faith, teaching people to rely on dead works and sacramental formulas instead of a reliance on Christ through faith. “Orthodoxy” gave us the Papacy and Cardinals, the forbidding of scripture reading (except in Latin), the use of indulgences, pilgrimages, the veneration of saints, relics, and other such anti-Christian nonsense.
In fact, it’s difficult to point to any defining feature of Protestant theology that is not by nature a protest against and rejection of what was once called “orthodoxy.” Why, then, do Christians today so quickly reject the scriptural examination of taken-for-granted doctrines by simply invoking “orthodoxy”?
As the people of God, we must recognize that we are on an exodus, a journey of restoration, out of darkness and back into the light. “Luther and Calvin were great and shining lights in their times,” John Robinson said to the first group of Christians leaving for America; yet, “it is not possible that the Christian world should so lately come out of such thick anti-Christian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.” He charged them to press on to receive whatever light God would bring forth and to test it with Scripture.
History of the Trinity
There is little consensus about the trinity. Neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth avoided the use of the term “persons” when referring to the trinity, stating that the theologian’s task “would be hopeless” if it involved saying “what is really meant by ‘person’ in the doctrine of the Trinity.” Barth stated that the “idea of three self-consciousnesses or a threefold individuality is scarcely possible without falling into tritheism.”
Perhaps the twentieth century’s most influential trinitarian theologian, Karl Rahner, writes that the difficulty with the term “ ‘persons’ is one of linguistic usage which exists nowhere else.” In other words, we’re using “person” to describe the trinity, but it’s a usage that appears nowhere else. Rahner writes further, “Honesty finally forces us to inquire, not without misgivings, why we still call ‘persons’ that which remains ultimately of God’s threefold ‘personality,’ since we have to remove from these persons precisely that which at first we thought of as constituting a person. Later on, when the more subtle remarks of the theologians have been forgotten, we see that once more we glide probably into a false and basically tritheistic conception….” This is a widely respected evangelical and trinitarian theologian acknowledging the grave problems with the current construct of the trinity.
Rahner continued, “[That] the concept of person…is not used from the start in the doctrine of the Trinity (neither in the New Testament, nor among the early Fathers) is of itself not yet a matter of concern. Nevertheless, this fact allows us to adopt a critical position, and to state that a concept of this kind is at any rate not absolutely constitutive of our knowledge in faith about Father, Son and Spirit as the one God. This faith can exist without reference to this concept.” Rahner is forced to conclude that, because the trinity appears nowhere in the Bible, nor in the early church fathers’ vocabulary, then it must not be absolutely constitutive of our faith in Christianity, nor our understanding of God as Father, Son or Holy Spirit.
This is the critical stance that we take. We accept the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; we do not accept an ontological trinity that divides God’s very essence and being into three distinct persons or personalities. This dangerous confusion obscures and limits our access to and relationship with God.
The word “trinity” is never found in the Old or New Testament. No Bible translation contains the term “God the Son” nor “God in three persons” nor any other classical trinitarian phraseology. These terms were established as church dogma only towards the end of the fourth century. The debate began toward the end of the third century, and by the middle of the fourth century, the emperors Constantine the Great and Theodosius had made it official church doctrine. As a frame of reference, more time elapsed between the days of the apostles to the creation of the trinity than from the signing of the Constitution until today (this paper was release in 2022).
The oneness perspective holds that the ancient Judaic view that God is one (without qualification) is accurate. It acknowledges that this one God is Spirit and that He has manifested himself in three primary ways—as “Father” in creation, “Son” in redemption and “Holy Spirit” in regeneration.
At the end of the twentieth century, with a resurgent interest among the Jewish people in Jesus the Messiah, the international coordinator of the highly regarded Evangelical Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism declared:
“The traditional Jewish attitude is still that Jews who believe in the Triune God are idolaters….It is characteristic of the mainstream of Messianic Jews in recent years that they do not use the term Trinity in their statements of faith. It simply feels too un-Jewish. But it does not necessarily imply that the doctrine of the Messiah or the Holy Spirit has been weakened. The point is that they want to use biblical language and biblical categories, not terms found only outside the Bible.”
This statement intrigued our fellowship. From the beginning, we’ve had many Jewish members, even Israeli members, in our congregation. And to us, it always seemed that the end would bring a return to the beginning.
The first several hundred years of New Testament church history record nothing even vaguely resembling classical trinitarian doctrine. Oxford University’s Archibald Robertson spoke of “the sub-Apostolic Church simply holding the Divinity of Christ and the Unity of God [and therefore using] language which may be called ‘naively Monarchian [teaching that God is one person as well as one being].’ This holds good even of Asiatic theology, as we find it in its earlier stage.” The early church was, then, both East and West, Monarchian not trinitarian. University of Notre Dame’s John Howard Yoder similarly noted that the “early church was rigidly, loyally, and Jewishly monotheistic.” These “earliest Christians were . . . clearly Jews” who saw God not as a “philosophical Absolute or unique metaphysical being” but simply as “the God of their story, the YHWH of Old Testament history.”
Perhaps the first to suggest that God was plural was the second-century apologist and Greek philosopher Justin Martyr. He believed, not in a trinity, but that God was a twofold being. He claimed that no one with any sense could believe that the Supreme God Himself could become incarnate. Steeped in Neo-Platonism, he believed that supremacy and sovereignty precluded interaction with mere mortals like us. Both Plato and Aristotle believed in the “unknowable knower and the unmoved mover.” Plato taught that “god” was out there casting the shapes of morality and objective truth in the world like shadows on a wall. Since he didn’t know this god, he didn’t believe this god could be known. This notion remained in Greek thinking and eventually infiltrated the church as these Greek-trained philosophers reinterpreted Scripture.
Confusion about the “Word” or “Logos”
Christian authors, influenced by the ideas of Greek philosophy, forsook the Hebrew relational and experiential knowledge of the word or logos and then attempted to apply these Hellenistic ideas (which were indeed valid terms within their Hebraic context) to the Christian revelation of God. (Logos is the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word, davar, “word,” in the Septuagint; for examples, see Ezek. 34:1; 35:1; 38:1; Eccles. 1:1). These men of growing influence during the second century, known as the Apologists, eventually turned the whole Hebraic understanding of the nature of God on its head. To see this at work, we will turn to the opening verses of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). When John says, “In the beginning was the Word,” he’s speaking of the creative agency of God’s nature whereby He spoke creation into existence. But the Greeks had a different definition for “logos”; it merely described anything logical. Therefore, if God was logos, then whatever was logical was God.
Oxford’s Henry Chadwick doesn’t hesitate to tell us that “towards” Greek philosophy “Justin could hardly be more positive and generous,” and that “he more than anyone else” constructed “the platform upon which” later influential theologians “Clement and Origen” stood. Justin wrote that Plato “spoke well in proportion to the share he had in the … logos spermatikos [the “seed” of the logos].” To Justin, the Greek philosopher possessed the same “seed” of reason that motivated the Hebrew prophets. Church historian Philip Schaff long ago pointed out that, for Justin, “the Logos is the pre-existent, absolute, personal Reason, and Christ is the embodiment of it, the Logos incarnate. Whatever is rational is Christian, and whatever is Christian is rational. The Logos endowed all men with reason and freedom, which are not lost by the Fall. He scattered seeds of truth before his incarnation, not only among the Jews, but also among the Greeks and barbarians, especially among philosophers and poets, who are the prophets of the heathen. Those who lived reasonably and virtuously in obedience to this preparatory light were Christians in fact, though not in name; while those who lived unreasonably were Christless and enemies of Christ. Socrates was a Christian as well as Abraham, though he did not know it.” According to Cambridge’s patristic scholar G.W.H. Lampe, Justin saw “the Logos who is Christ” as “none other than the ‘Reason’ in which all men participate.” Through the perversion of this meaningful word, the Apologists were able to posthumously assign a status to the ancient Greek thinkers that the Bible gives no evidence for.
Tertullian was the first to popularize the term “persons,” though he used it differently from how it is commonly used today. Oxford’s Alister McGrath says the following, “Tertullian, writing in the third century, used the word ‘person’ with a different meaning. The word ‘person’ originally derives from the Latin word persona, meaning an actor’s mask—and, by extension, the role which he takes in a play. By stating that there were three persons but only one God, Tertullian was asserting that all three major roles in the great drama of human redemption are played by one and the same God. The three great roles in this drama are all played by the same actor: God. Each of these roles may reveal God in a somewhat different way, but it is the same God in every case. So when we talk about God as one person, we mean one person in the modern sense of the word, and when we speak about God as three persons, we mean three persons in the ancient sense of the word …. Confusing these two senses of the word ‘person’ inevitably leads to the idea that God is actually a committee.” McGrath was saying that Tertullian used person as persona. We all have multiple personas. One person can be known as a father with his children, in another role as a pastor, another while interacting with strangers, as a son and so on. These personas may even be offices that all describe critical functions of one life, but this does not necessitate separate beings.
It is on this basis that A Dictionary of Christian Theology points out that “Tertullian’s Trinity is economic and functional, not essential and ontological.” In other words, Tertullian’s original conception of the trinity was not ontological (i.e., pertaining to the study of being) in that he did not envision God’s very essence as being comprised of three distinct beings. Instead, he viewed God as simply manifesting Himself through different functions or offices within the “economy” of His government. Tertullian, himself, went as far as to remark that his doctrine maintained the “Monarchy” or “single and individual rule” of God.
As the economic trinity (which has just been described) was gradually replaced by an ontological trinity, the lapsed philosophical mindset of the Apologists removed the reality of God from human life, by first distancing God’s authority, consistent with the view of the ancient Greeks, shrouding it in mystery and finally dividing it co-equally.
When the founders of this country wanted to create a limited government, they made a trinity—a system of power divided into three co-equal branches to slow totalitarianism and prevent sovereignty. We call this the tripartite system. The same pattern is at play when we divide God’s sovereignty, and by dividing the godhead into three co-equal branches, we destroy God’s sovereignty.
Was there an anti-Jewish bias in those who codified the trinity? Two prominent characters stand out: Clement of Alexandria, a famed church leader who lived in Tertullian’s day, was a rabid anti-Semite. He desperately wanted to save the church from any connection to its Jewish roots, especially the ancient belief in one God. A respected trinitarian, Gregory of Nyssa, reflected the growing anti-Semitism of this time within his circles. For Gregory, to believed that God was one in personality was to be “brought under Judaism.” He stated, “The Christian who combats polytheism has need of care lest in contending against Hellenism he should fall unconsciously into Judaism.” In other words, he believed that trinitarianism was a good blend between monotheism and polytheism and, in order to keep people from arguing against him, employed the scare tactic of threatening to slur them as Jews.
Gregory believed that, through the teaching of “three persons in one nature,”the Christian “avoids equally the absurdity of Jewish monotheism, and that of heathen polytheism.” For, to Gregory, “the Jewish dogma is destroyed” by this “mystery of the faith.” Yet we must ask ourselves if this view is consistent with Jesus’ words to the woman at the well when He stated, “Salvation is of the Jews?”
Far from building on the revelation of oneness which is seminal to Jewish faith, and which Jesus endorsed, the fathers of the trinity desired to destroy the Jewish understanding of God, an understanding that was foundational to true Christianity.
Constantine: the Officiation of Triune Theology
When Constantine became emperor of Rome in 313 A.D., he embraced Christianity in hopes of capitalizing on the church’s growing influence for the sake of his own political aspirations. But he was disappointed to discover that the Christians were quarreling among themselves over God’s nature, recognizing that his political power could never be completely united so long as there were theological disputes within the church. Determined to bring unity, Constantine organized a council to force a decision on the nature of God that would “unify the church and stabilize the empire.” The outcome of this debate would be solely political, ultimately having little to nothing to do with theology. The council would come to a decision that would ultimately be enforced by the power of the State. While there are clear examples in Scripture of the church convening councils to come to key decisions, in no way can the Nicaean Council be compared to the Jerusalem Council detailed in Acts 15 and Galatians 2.
Constantine, covered in gold gems and barbarous attire, was the honorary president of the first council of Nicaea. This unbaptized monster sat at the head of the highest assembly of the Church, thinking himself to be the thirteenth apostle. In fact, he refused to be baptized until he was near death because he wanted to commit as much sin as possible before having it all washed away. He never repented, nor did he confess faith in Jesus. He only adopted Christianity for expediency.
When the council finally made a decision at Nicaea, Constantine made a statement that identified his attitude toward the Jews and lent his support to the council’s decision. (Please accept our sincere apology, as the following statement does not reflect our position but is only referenced to reveal its author’s anti-Semitic bias) Here’s Constantine in his own words regarding the celebration of Easter:
“It appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul …. Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Savior a different way. Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. … no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews.”
It was through this lens that a decision was made, and thenceforth, an estimated 3,000 people lost their lives in violent clashes between proponents of rival factions within the trinitarian debate. Thousands of Christians slaughtered each other over their failure to understand the nature of the godhead while a pagan state took the place of the sovereign Spirit of God as the guiding force of the church. And so it was that the trinity became orthodox.
Reconciliation with Christ
When Jesus came into the world, mankind was separated from God. Jesus came to earth to accomplish reconciliation between two estranged parties—God and mankind. But this atonement, this at-one-ment, is not limited to just Jesus and the Father, but rather, it is supposed to unite God and His regenerate people. Those seeking reconciliation must understand how Jesus was reconciled—at one with the Father. Their oneness is our pattern for oneness: “That they all may be one as we are one” (John 17:21). To clearly understand the nature of the incarnation is to receive the hope and pattern for reconciliation. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:18-19). Hear the singular entity in this divine equation: God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. And He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
God’s original contract at Eden was with man when He made man ruler over all the works of His hands and gave him dominion over the whole world. “You have made him a little lower than the God and…have him rule over all the works of Your hands” (Psa. 8:5-6). But man brought in a different spirit and made himself the slave of the king of terror, satan. Jesus calls him the god of this world, the prince of this world, the ruler of this world. God could not forcibly take back what He had freely given because the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. Therefore, it had to be a man who would reverse the damage that mankind had caused. Only a man could destroy the devil’s works and reopen a channel for God into this world of judgment by completely surrendering his flesh to the spirit residing within him and making the right choice that the first Adam had failed to apprehend.
The New Testament Scriptures initially speak more of Christ’s humanity than His divinity. The New Testament authors wanted us to know that Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 1:3; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:17-18), that He was the son of man, Jesus of Nazareth, the descendant of David (Matt. 1:1). When Scripture refers to Christ as the bridge between God and man, it emphasizes His humanity again: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5, NKJV). Why is it essential to emphasize His humanity? Because it is through the lens of His humanity that we see His indwelling divinity, which is our hope of reconciliation. If any human being is capable of being completely at one with God, then we, too, can be filled with God’s Spirit and become one with Him.
Jesus had every choice that each one of us has. He had every temptation that we have. He had every opportunity for sin that we have, but He died daily to those choices that would have elevated His fleshly nature above the will of God. He lived in complete obedience. His life continually said, “Not My will, but Your will be done” (Luke 22:42); therefore He could die a death of “not My will, but Your will be done.” In the same way, God pitched His glory inside the tabernacle of Jesus of Nazareth. He now pitches His glory inside the tabernacle of His people. There’s something of God that wants to be born in us even as God was born in Jesus of Nazareth. If we see who Jesus really is, we don’t have to die in our sins because He is the precedent; He is the captain, the pioneer of our salvation; He is the firstborn of many brethren.
The Spirit of Jesus
Jews and Muslims emphasize that God is spirit and therefore cannot be a man. This confuses them about our belief that Jesus was both a man and God. But to understand the union between God, who is spirit, and the humanity of Christ is to catch a glimpse of our path to oneness and reconciliation with God, “that they may be one as we are one.” In His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus stated categorically, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Furthermore, He told this Samaritan woman that salvation is exclusive to the Jews because of their perspective and understanding of God. Nothing could be more precise. He was endorsing the Jewish view of God. In Jesus’ mind, the incarnation did not substantially alter the ancient Judaic understanding of God. It only revealed, explained and manifested it.
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him, explained Him, manifested Him, made Him known” (John 1:18 NASB, NKJV, AMP). This was the big miracle: that invisible spirit could come inside of visible flesh, and the flesh could be utterly subject to the spirit, thus making us fully understand God for the first time. Incarnation is simply a matter of degree and extent. For the Jews and Muslims who say: I don’t know if I can accept that God became a man, the Bible teaches that God would put His spirit in man. Isaiah says, “I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring” (Isa. 44:3). Ezekiel says, “I will give them a new heart…and a spirit” (Ezek. 36:26, NIV). Joel says, “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). So if the Almighty can choose to put His spirit in any measure in anyone, can He not choose how much He gives to His Messiah, His anointed one? Can He not choose to take up residency and give Him all the fullness of the godhead in bodily form (Col. 2:9)?
Consider the words of Isaiah written 800 years before Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because [He] has anointed Me” (Isa. 61:1). From Ezekiel: “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezek. 36:27). So the idea that the God who is spirit would come inside of flesh is not a New Testament phenomenon. It is as old as Isaiah and Ezekiel. It is as ancient as the anointing that rested on Moses, such that he had to hide his radiant face with a veil because it was too glorious for the people to gaze upon.
Incarnation is possible because anointing is possible. Incarnation is a question of degree. It is a question of totality. It is a question of extent. Jesus was the Son of God, and He was a human being. He was the Father because that Spirit, who is God, lived inside of Him without measure. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him, all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things, He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him [Jesus] all the fullness should dwell” (Col. 1:15-19). Now He speaks of that word, which was once non-incorporeal that became incorporeal in Christ, meaning it took on the tabernacle of flesh when He came inside of a baby, born of a woman, born under the law. Joseph heard the angel say to him about Mary, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary as your wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20, NKJV).
If Jesus contained “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), what was left for the Father? And if the Father was in Christ, was He no longer in heaven? The Bible teaches us that the heavens cannot sustain Him nor the earth contain Him (2 Chron. 2:6), that God is everywhere in all places; yet through the incarnation, He chose to express His very essence, His outshining throne, through the human being who walked the streets of Galilee. Jesus was “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3, NKJV). We use the word “fullness” in a qualitative sense, not a quantitative sense. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5, NKJV).
Let’s look at Isaiah 9:6-7 carefully, “For unto us, a child is born.” Who is he speaking of? “To us, a son is given.” Can we doubt that he’s speaking of Jesus? “And the government will be on His shoulders (emphasis added), and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Jesus is the wonderful counselor, which refers to the Spirit, the mighty God and everlasting Father.
Someone with a trinitarian viewpoint would quote the following scripture in this way: Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Us.” Yet, is that what it says? Look at the pronoun—it’s singular, “All authority has been given to Me.” The titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, each represent all the authority, all the offices and functions of God. Let’s look at it again, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in THE name.” The Greek makes it clear: this is a singular name. “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20, NKJV, emph. added).
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47, NKJV).
The Power Is in the Name
In Acts, how did they baptize? When Peter had given his address to the multitude gathered at the birth of the church, the people responded, “Men and brethren, what shall we do [to be saved]?” Peter replied, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:37-38). In Acts 8, after receiving news that the Word of God had gone forth in Samaria, Peter and John went down and prayed for them that the would receive the Holy Spirit because “they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:14-16). Later, Acts 19 recounts that those who had previously only partaken of John’s baptism of repentance were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:4-5).
In Acts 4, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and commanded to teach no more in this man’s name, but Peter responded, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
God after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. (Heb. 1:1-4)
“So they were saying to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also”’ (John 8:19, NKJV). In John 10:30, He said, “I and the Father are one.” He never spoke of being one with some entity called the divine Son. When we refer to His sonship, we refer to His humanity, and when we refer to His divinity, we speak of the one and only Father. Only by knowing Jesus can we know the Father, can we see the Father, can we come to the Father. Jesus is the Father in human form. In John He says, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:37-38). Notice, He doesn’t say, “A divine Son is in Me.” Rather, the Son is always speaking of being in submission to the Father.
Who Is the Holy Spirit?
“There is one body, one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4, NKJV). How many divine spirits are there? When the angel spoke to Joseph concerning Jesus’ conception, he said, “The child who has been conceived in [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). “The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). “Now the Lord (referring to Jesus) is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). Peter says it this way, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:10-12). At the beginning of the sentence, he calls it the Spirit of Christ that was working in them, and at the end, he says it was by the Holy Spirit.
John recounts Jesus’ words, “But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). Matthew recounts, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who are speaking, but it is the Spirit of your Father who is speaking in you” (Matt. 10:19-20). When we compare the same account in Mark’s gospel, He says, “The Father will give you what to say” (Mark 1:11). And in Luke, He says, “I will give you what to say” (Luke 12:11). So who’s going to be giving it? Will it be Jesus? The Spirit of the Father? The Holy Spirit? Or will it be the Father, Himself? The Scriptures aren’t broken. They must all be speaking of the same entity.
Notice how Acts 16 makes the Spirit of Jesus interchangeable with the Holy Spirit. “They passed through the Phyrgian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go in to Bythnia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:6-7). We see a similar exchange in Romans 8, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ…” (Rom. 8:8-9).“If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:10-11). It is all one Spirit.
My Eternal Name
The name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 was Yahweh. And throughout the Scriptures, He revealed Himself in a progressive unfolding of His nature by the use of different variations of His name. At times, He called Himself “Yahweh Yireh,” “our provider;” and other times “Yahweh Ropecha,” “our healer;” and other times “Yahweh Nissi,” “our banner;” then “Yahweh Shalom,” “our peace,” “Yahweh Rohi,” “our shepherd,” “Yahweh Tsidkenu,” “our righteousness;” “Yahweh Shammah,” “our presence.”
These following passages in Zechariah are very important for our discussion. “In that day, Yahweh will be King over all the earth…and His name the only name” (Zech. 14:9). He also prophesies of the triumphal entry, “Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9, NKJV); yet a few chapters later he says, “Yahweh will be King over all the earth…and His name the only name.” So God revealed Himself in progressive manifestations. The name Yahweh means “I AM,” but it means by implication, “I will become whatever I will become.” And the name Jesus is the combination of two words, Yahweh and Hoshea, merged into one and shortened, Yah-Shua, like Joshua, but with a “Y.” It means “Yahweh become salvation.” The English transliteration of Yahshua is Jesus. He is not a new entity, a never before heard of entity called God the Son. He is Yahweh become visible. He is Yahweh fully manifested, revealed. He is Yahweh become salvation.
In Isaiah 63:11, 12 we are told that God caused His glorious arm to go with Moses. Yet we also know there rose one like unto Moses, Jesus. He came in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, that God would bare His arm and show Himself fully. The baring of God’s arm represents God revealing Himself in raw human form. Scripture repeatedly tells us that Jesus inherited a more excellent name, the name of His Father (Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:4). In this sense, did he become heir of all things? This glorified man lived under the mighty right hand of God and then assumed His place on the throne of God, the place of all power and inherited dominion and glory. In this unfolding process, the fullest and most complete revelation of Yahweh entered time and space, declaring His forever name to be Yahweh Hoshea, Yahshua, Yahweh become salvation.
Jesus Is the Name of the Son
She will bear a son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21)
Jesus Is the Name of the Father
I [Jesus] have come in My Father’s name, and you do not accept Me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. (John 5:43)
I [Jesus] will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name—the name You gave Me—so that they may be one as We are one. (John 17:11, NIV)
So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He [Jesus] has inherited is superior to theirs. (Heb. 1:4, NIV)
Jesus Is the Name of the Holy Spirit
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and remind of everything I have told you. (John 14:26, CSB)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor. 3:17, NIV)
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:4-6)
Jesus is the name of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. He is the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. This is why the Scriptures make clear in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 19, Acts 4, Ephesians 1:21 and Revelation 3 that salvation is to be found in only one Name—Jesus.
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. (Rev. 3:12)
Misrepresenting the Nature of God Betrays the Purpose of Incarnation
If Jesus was in fact the incarnation of the Father, “the image of the invisible God,” but we falsely portray Him as a new, separate spiritual entity, the ”divine Son,” then surely we have undermined and betrayed the central purpose of Christ’s coming—to reveal, explain and grant access to the Father. As John poignantly declared, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him, and He has made Him known]” (John 1:18 NKJV, AMPC). The triune formula would have us believe Jesus was the incarnation not of the Eternal Father, but of a distinct never before heard of divine entity called, “God, the Son”—a phrase found nowhere in Scripture. By accepting the trinitarian formula, the Father remains yet undisclosed, obscured and subject to skewed interpretation.
Jesus never speaks of having “God, the Son” with Him. Instead, He constantly refers to the Father abiding in and remaining with Him. In His own words, Jesus claimed, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30, NKJV).
When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him. (John 8:28-29)
If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38)
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replied, “Philip, I have been with you all this time, and still you do not know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you, I do not speak on My own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, performing His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me—or at least believe on account of the works themselves.” (John 14:8-11 BSB)
In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (John 14:20)
Note about scripture references: Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible.