Trinity and Oneness, Part 9
Harlot of Babylon According to Irvin Baxter; Trinity and Oneness, Part 9
Summary: The fact that the apostle Peter and the other apostles baptized in the name of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost had absolutely nothing (zero) to do with their holding a oneness view of God, which they didn't. We will discuss Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; and Col. 2:8-10 which are important passages. Oneness Christians lean heavily on their understanding of Col. 2:9.
We continue the discussion on baptizing in the name of Jesus in the book of Acts here in Part 9, especially dealing with the Day of Pentecost.
As Acts 2:36-42 show, Peter was calling the Jews to repent of their sin, and especially for the super-serious sin of having rejected their Messiah, and to submit to Him and God's new-covenant plan of salvation. I'll quote ACTS 2:36-42: " 'Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God [God the Father] has made Him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus whom you crucified.' [Jesus is the Son of God who became the God-man. The name Jesus is never used for the Father or the Trinity, and the Father didn't become incarnate - the Son did. The oneness view is wrong.] (37) Now when they heard this they [some of those who heard Peter (by the Holy Spirit) speak on the day of Pentecost] were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?' (38) Peter said to them, 'Repent [Note that Peter said, "Be saved from this perverse generation" in verse 40.], and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) For the promise [[The promise was for new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus. The promise that God would give/pour out His Spirit on believers was a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about. See, for example, Acts 1:4, 5; 2:33; Ezek. 36:27; Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:16-21; John 7:37-39; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:5, 16-18, 22, 23, 25, and there are many more such verses in the New Testament and in the Old Testament.]] is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God [[Peter is referring to God the Father. On the word "Lord" for God the Father (Greek "kurios"), see Acts 2:25, 34, for example; in Acts 3:22 the Greek behind "the Lord God" (which clearly refers to God the Father) is exactly the same as the Greek here in Acts 2:39.]] will call to Himself [compare, for example, Rom. 8:28-30; 9:24; 1 Cor. 1:9, 24, 26-31.].' (40) And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation!' [On being saved, see Acts 2:21.] (41) So then, those who had received his word [in faith] were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (42) They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching [[They would begin to get solidly grounded in super-important details like the virgin birth, deity of Christ, and the Trinity here (and His atoning death, resurrection, second coming, etc.). Under normal circumstances, believers should be grounded in such details before they are baptized. Those who were baptized that day might have been taught these things before they were baptized. If not they would have been grounded in those details shortly thereafter.]] and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
It was totally appropriate for them to baptize in (or, into) the name of Jesus in that setting. Jesus was the Messiah God had sent, and Israel (centering in most of its leaders) had rejected Him. They must repent and submit to the One who had died for them, bearing their sins. He was the only One who could bring them to the Father and to His new-covenant salvation. ((I had a footnote: Ananias, who had been sent to Saul/Paul, said to him, "Now why do you delay: Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16). It is appropriate for us to call on the name of God the Son, who condescended to become the God-man and then, after living a sinless life, died for us bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin) so we could be born-again and begin to live in the righteousness and holiness of God, on the road that leads to eternal glory.)) And, as Acts 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; and 1 Cor. 1:13 show, they continued to baptize in the name of Jesus Christ (or the Lord Jesus) for many years. Some may have been baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (with Matt. 28:19 it wouldn't be surprising), but no examples are recorded in the New Testament.
I am totally sure that when the apostles or those associated with them were baptizing in the name of Jesus in those early years it was super-clear that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who had been sent by the Father. There was no idea whatsoever that "Jesus" was the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or that Jesus (the Son) was in the spotlight while God the Father was in the background. Everything the Son did was directly tied to God the Father and His plan of salvation. I wonder if you could have found one Jew in Israel who thought that the name Jesus included God the Father (or the Holy Spirit). (The name Jesus is used over nine hundred times in the New Testament but it is never used for the Father, or the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity.) Some thought Jesus was Elijah, or John the Baptist come back from the dead, or another prophet, etc., but nobody thought He was the One we call God the Father.
Based on Matt. 28:19 and other considerations, most Christians think we should baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and I agree. (Oneness Christians speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but they believe there is only one Person and His name is Jesus.) There is nothing wrong with baptizing in the name of Jesus (we do a lot of things, including praying in the name of Jesus, and we have Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5 and 1 Cor. 1:13), but why exclude the Father and the Holy Spirit when we have Matt. 28:19. (Of course oneness Christians don't believe in the Persons of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but it is clear to me that they are wrong.) God the Father has the preeminent role in the Trinity, and we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us as born-again Christians. Through the Lord Jesus, with whom we are united when we become Christians, and through whom we come to God the Father, we become born-again children of God the Father, and the Spirit of God dwells in us.
It is important to see that Peter made a clear distinction between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in his message on the Day of Pentecost, which is a distinction consistently made throughout the Bible. He spoke of the two Persons of God the Father and the Lord Jesus in Acts 2:22-24. So too we see God the Father and the Lord Jesus in the words of Psalm 16:8-11 that Peter quoted in Acts 2:25-28, verses that prophesy of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. (The word "LORD" [Yahweh in the Hebrew] near the beginning of Acts 2:25 refers to God the Father.) We also see God the Father and the Lord Jesus mentioned in Acts 2:30-32, in Acts 2:33 (where we see the Trinity), in Acts 2:34, 35, and in Acts 2:36. You don't have to strain to see the two Persons of God the Father and God the Son. The Bible is literally packed with examples. You have to really strain though to try to see one Person.
We have a big problem with the typical oneness interpretation of Jesus' words in Matt. 28:19 in our day. I'll quote MATT. 28:19 again, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." They believe that, based on the passages in Acts and 1 Cor. 1:13 and other considerations, we can see that Jesus is the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and that there is only one Person. (Oneness Christians speak a lot about the divine nature and the human nature of the one Person [Jesus] interacting with one another.) They totally reject the idea of the distinct Persons of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The oneness viewpoint may seem to fit a few verses OK, but there are a very large number of passages throughout the Bible that show that that view is wrong.
For one super-important thing, as I mentioned, the name Jesus is NEVER used for God the Father, the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity in the Bible, nor would it be appropriate to use that name for God the Father, the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity. The name Jesus, which is the same as the name Joshua, (more accurately "Yeshua" or "Yehoshua" in the Hebrew) is used 911 times in the New Testament of the NASB, 1995 edition. (One of those 911 uses, in Col. 4:11, refers to a different person, and three times the NASB translated "Joshua" (referring to the leader who followed Moses in the Old Testament) not "Jesus," in Luke 3:29; Acts 7:45; and Heb. 4:8.) The name Yeshua (Jesus) means "Yah [which is short for Yahweh] saves," or "Yah is salvation." That name was given to the God-man by revelation (Matt. 1:21; Luke 1:31) when the Son of God took upon flesh, and it is still used for Him after He was glorified and went back to sit at the Father's right hand.
I'LL QUOTE A SMALL PART OF WHAT GREGORY A. BOYD SAYS IN HIS CHAPTER 3, "IS JESUS HIS OWN FATHER?" ("Oneness Pentecostals & The Trinity" [Baker Books, 1992], 234 pages). He points out in the first paragraph that the cornerstone of oneness teaching is that Jesus is God the Father incarnate. "Jesus is explicitly referred to as 'the Son' over two hundred times in the New Testament, and never once is he called 'Father.' By contrast, over two hundred times 'the Father' is referred to by Jesus or someone else as being clearly distinct from Jesus. ... This typical New Testament way of speaking is, of course, exceedingly strange if Jesus is himself God the Father.
[After continuing with such statements for another page Boyd says:] In the light of these facts, I think it is small wonder that the Oneness phrase 'Jesus is the Father' sounds so 'off' to unprejudiced biblically trained ears, just as it did to the biblically astute ears of the early church fathers WHEN MODALISM FIRST RAISED ITS DIVISIVE HEAD IN THE LATE SECOND CENTURY [my emphasis]. Given this general pattern of speaking and teaching in the New Testament, could anything be more natural than to assume that Jesus is in fact 'the Father's Son' (2 John 3)? And, conversely, could anything be more unnatural by biblical standards than to think that Jesus is also 'God the Father,' indeed, that he is his own Father?
... ...[the apostles'] message that Jesus is 'the Son of God' comes through loud and clear. Not a trace of ambiguity is involved here. ... Why is the (supposed) fact that Jesus was his own Father so secretively hidden in the New Testament if indeed one's salvation depends on believing this? ... ...according to most oneness groups, Trinitarians are simply blind to the 'Oneness revelation,' and indeed far more than 99.99% [that sounds a little high] of all lovers of Christ who have ever lived have died without hope of heaven because they, being trinitarians, failed to pick up this 'secret identity' of Jesus. ..." (pages 67-71).
The word "name" is singular in Matt. 28:19, which emphasizes the perfect unity of the Trinity, with the three Persons. We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches on every topic. For one thing, the Bible does not teach three Gods, and those who believe in the Trinity do not believe in three Gods. The preeminent role of God the Father and the subordinate roles of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, who are fully deity with God the Father and who are worshipped with God the Father, demonstrate part of the reason why we don't have or worship three Gods. The Trinity with three Persons is totally different than three independent Gods who are exactly alike one another, including their authority. (Many Trinitarians believe they are the full equivalent of one another, including the authority, except during the time that the God-man lived on the earth. I'll discuss this topic in my next paper.) I am not suggesting, by the way, that we have enough information (or the ability) to fully understand the Trinity. But then again, it isn't difficult to believe. We are not saying three equals one or anything like that. When you seriously seek for the balanced truth of all that the Bible says on this topic, it is VERY MUCH easier to believe in the Trinity than a oneness view of God.
It is important to understand that essentially every person who was there on the Day of Pentecost, very much including Peter and the other apostles and the three thousand souls who were added to the Body of Christ that day, would have rightly understood that the name of Jesus Christ referred exclusively to Jesus the Messiah. None of them (including those who submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ that day and those who didn't) would have thought that the name Jesus could include God the Father (or the Holy Spirit). They knew the difference between the Messiah and the One who sent Him. And Jesus Himself consistently made it clear that He was a Person distinct from the One who sent Him (and from the Holy Spirit). Those Jews weren't about to make that mistake.
Also, the Samaritans who were converted through the preaching of Philip, and the Gentiles who were converted through the preaching of Peter, who were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (in Acts 8:16; 10:38), although they wouldn't have had as much background information as the Jews, would have understood that the Lord Jesus was a Person distinct from God the Father (and the Holy Spirit). So too for those converted through the apostle Paul who were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5; 1 Cor. 1:13). Paul consistently taught about the Persons of God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (See the next two headings, for example.)
1 CORINTHIANS 8:4 (WITH 8:5, 6). "Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that THERE IS NO GOD BUT ONE [my emphasis; referring to God the Father (see verse 6)]." I have heard this verse used to argue for a oneness view of God, but it doesn't teach that at all, as the following verses demonstrate. We clearly see the Persons of God the Father and God the Son in 1 Cor. 8:5, 6, as we so often do. And we see the preeminent role of God the Father, which we so often see throughout the Bible. I'll read 1 CORINTHIANS 8:5, 6, "For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on the earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords [There are evil beings behind many of the gods, idols, and religious, or occult practices of peoples, but they are enemies of the one true God (see 1 Cor. 10:19-22; Acts 16:16-19, for example).], (6) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things [compare Rom. 11:36], and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by [It would be much better to translate "through" instead of "by." The Greek preposition ("dia") that I would translate "through" here with the NIV and NKJV is the same preposition translated "through" later in this verse and in John 1:3; Col. 1:16, for example.] whom are all things, and we exist through Him."
The apostle Paul shows what he meant when he said "there is no God but one" in 1 Cor. 8:4 and "for us there is but one God, the Father" in 1 Cor. 8:6. He was referring to God the Father, who is a Person distinct from the Lord Jesus Christ, in these verses. There are quite a few verses like this in the New Testament (cf. John 17:3; Rom. 16:27; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5, 6; 6:13-16; and Jude 1:25). And there are a large number of passages throughout the Bible that demonstrate the preeminent role of God the Father. (For many examples, see my papers titled, "Who Do We Pray To?" and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son.")
I must point out that the writings of the apostle Paul (in agreement with the rest of the Bible) strongly teach the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son. Paul mentioned here in 1 Cor. 8:6, for example, that, "through whom [the Son] are all things [the Son existed with God the Father before everything that was created was created by God the Father through the Son], and we exist through Him [the Son]," which confirms His full deity. The word "God" is typically used of God the Father in the New Testament, and the name "Yahweh" was typically used of God the Father in the Old Testament, but the fact that both words were sometimes used for the Son of God, along with many other considerations, strongly demonstrate the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
COLOSSIANS 2:8-10. "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (9) For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form [[Colossians 1:19 is an important cross-reference, "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him." All of the wisdom, authority, power, etc. that is included in what the word deity means is available in the Lord Jesus.]], (10) and in Him you have been made complete [[I prefer the translation, "you have been made full," with the margin of the NASB. The NIV has, "you have been given fullness." The Greek noun "pleroma" translated "fullness" in verse 9 was derived from the Greek verb "pleroo," which is used in verse 10. Verse 10 has a perfect participle formed from this Greek verb joined with a verb that would normally be translated "you are." These are the words that I would translate "you have been made full," or the equivalent. However we translate the verb we should recognize the connection between the fullness of verse 9 and our having been made full of verse 10.]], and He is the head over all rule and authority." If He didn't have the authority "over all rule and authority," some evil ruler might be able to thwart God's plans, including His plans for individual Christians.
Colossians 2:9 is one of the few key verses used to argue for a oneness view of God. I suppose they typically use the translation of the King James Version, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." I would translate "Deity" with the NASB, instead of "the Godhead." (Whether we translate Deity or the Godhead, it must be understood that everything that is available in the Trinity is available in the Lord Jesus Christ.) Under the Greek noun "theotetos," which is only used this one place in the New Testament, the BAGD Greek Lexicon gives "deity" as the meaning in this verse.
I don't see this verse offering any real support for the idea of oneness. The fullness of deity dwells in God the Son. He is fully deity with God the Father and God the Spirit, and everything that God the Father and the Holy Spirit have are available in (and through) God the Son. And this is true of God the Son even though He greatly humbled Himself and temporarily laid aside His glory (see Phil. 2:5-8; John 17:3-5, for example) and became the God-man with a physical body. Note the words at the end of verse 9, "in bodily form." Now that He has been resurrected and taken up to the right hand of God the Father, He has a glorified body, but He is still "in bodily form" and always will be.
If God the Son had not become a man (the God-man) with a body and lived a sinless life and died for us, bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin), we could not be saved. See Col. 2:11-15, for example. I'll read verse 15, "When He [God the Father] had disarmed the rulers and authorities [speaking of the evil rulers and authorities, starting with Satan], He [God the Father] made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him [through His unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ]. (We see the two distinct Persons of God the Father and God the Son here, as we so often do throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament.) Satan had gained his authority over man through our sin, especially the sin of Adam (see Rom. 5:12-21), but God "disarmed the rulers and authorities" through the all-important atoning death of His Son. Freedom from sin and from these evil rulers is part of what God the Father has provided for us in the Lord Jesus and new-covenant salvation. The Lamb of God bore the penalty of spiritual death so we could be born again, and He bore our bondage to sin and demons so we could be set free from that bondage and be made righteous and holy with the righteousness and holiness of God. Of course He also bore the guilt of our sin so we could be forgiven. After the Lord Jesus [God the Son, who became the God-man] had completed His assigned work, which centered in His all-important atoning death, He was resurrected, then after forty days He was taken up in glory to the right hand of God the Father. Some ten days later He poured out the Spirit, the promised Holy Spirit, which He received from God the Father, which enabled new-covenant salvation to begin.
The apostle Paul knew that some of the Christians at Colossae were being tempted to modify the gospel and to look other places for truth, victory over sin, help, etc., rather than to stick with God's new-covenant plan of salvation that centers in the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom God the Father has provided EVERYTHING we need. That's what verse 9 is all about, "in Him [in Christ, with whom all true Christians are united (see Rom. 6:1-11; Col 2:10-15, for example)] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." There is absolutely nothing that we could ever need that has not been provided in Christ. Like Paul said in verse 10, "in Him [we] have been made full." Of course we must abide in Him, which includes abiding in the truth and righteousness of God by His grace through faith, or we will not be able to partake of the fullness He has provided for us.
When Christians face problems they are often tempted to look somewhere else for help, especially if God isn't quick to meet our needs (I'll mention some examples from the apostle Paul in a minute), but that always is a mistake, and sometimes it is a gigantic mistake, because if we aren't very careful, we may end up looking to the work of the devil and his demons for "help." The devil is very "generous" with such help, and it can look good (physical "healing," financial "blessings," "power," for example); he is a liar and a deceiver. That kind of "help" may seem to help for a while, but it is designed to destroy us. God will not permit His children to look to the devil, demons, occult, even if they are cleverly presented as something good. That is no excuse!
In Colossians 2:8 Paul warned against "[being taken] captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." In verse 4 he said, "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive arguments." And in verses 16-23 he added quite a few other items to the list. I'll quote COLOSSIANS 2:16-23, "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - (17) things which are a mere shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (18) Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize [[The BAGD Greek Lexicon says regarding the Greek verb used here, "katabrabreuo," which is not used anywhere else in the New Testament, " 'decide against' (as umpire), and so 'rob of a prize,' 'condemn' someone...."]] by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshy mind [that is, his thinking is not at all in, and by, the Holy Spirit or in line with the Word of God], (19) and not holding fast to the head [[the Lord Jesus, in whom "all the fullness of Deity dwells" (Col. 2:9) and "in Him you have been made full" (Col. 2:10); at least the fullness is available to Christians in Christ, and nowhere else (but we must cooperate with, and appropriate, God's grace in Christ on a continuous basis by faith).]], from whom the entire body [the body of Christ] being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. [The joints and ligaments, through which the body is supplied and held together, probably refers to the ministries that Christ has anointed and placed in the body.] (20) If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, (21) 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (22) (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) - in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men [not of God]? (23) These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." In fact they are manifestations of the flesh (which can include the work of demons). The only place we can find the authority and power to overpower sin (and our sins can be equated with "works of the flesh"; see Gal. 5:19-21) and demons is in Christ and by the Holy Spirit that we receive through Him.
Throughout his writings, very much including the first two chapters of his Epistle to the Colossians, the apostle Paul repeatedly speaks of God the Father and God the Son (who has now been crucified, resurrected, glorified and ascended to the right hand of God the Father) as two distinct Persons. (Paul certainly didn't intend to deny the two distinct Persons of God the Father and God the Son in Col. 2:9.) I'll give a few examples from Colossians chapter 1. Paul mentions both Persons in Col. 1:1, 2, and 3, for example, and in Col. 1:13 he says, "For He [God the Father] rescued [or delivered] us from the domain [or, better, from the authority] of [the] darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son," referring to the kingdom of His now glorified Son, who is at His right hand. All true Christians are in that kingdom, which is here now in an early form of that kingdom (compare Luke 17:21; Rom. 14:17).
We will continue this discussion of Colossians in Part 10 quoting and discussing Col. 1:16 and 17.
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
The last few years I have done a lot of writing. I have written four books ("Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ"; an e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin," which serves as a good introduction for the paperback book; "The Mid-Week Rapture: A Verse-by-Verse Study of Key Prophetic Passages"; and "Introduction to The Mid-Week Rapture." The e-books are easier to read and should be read first, but the paperback books contain a lot of information not contained in the e-books. All the books are available at amazon.com.
I have written a large number of papers, most of them dealing with foundational Christian issues. Most of them are available at karlkempteachingministries.com. I also have been doing some radio broadcasts the past 5 years.