"Oneness" Doctrine


The Journey



The Trinity


The Attributes of Jesus, The Son of God

At Community Chapel's Bible college we were taught, from the scriptures, a list of the attributes of God. These attributes of God were then used to rule out the possibility that God could be a trinity. An ex-Chapel member who still holds to the Chapel's Oneness doctrine recently wrote on the Chapel Web site that he still sees “the foundational basics of the nature of God as defining who Jesus is or isn't.” This kind of reasoning impressed me when I first came into contact with the Chapel, and all during the time I was a member there, but I should have noticed a fatal inconsistency in that approach. The list of attributes of God were rigidly interpreted and used to rule out the attributes of Jesus Christ shown in the scriptures. A theology of the Godhead was constructed not by building it solely from the scriptures, but by a process of reasoning based on the meaning assigned to the attributes of God, and the significance these were said to hold for who the Son could or could not be.

It is not so much that I don't see “the foundational basics of the nature of God as defining who Jesus is or isn't,” but that I now think that what the teachers at the Chapel called the “foundational basics of the nature of God,” weren't. Some of them were simply statements which were made to a apply in a broader context than intended, and which were handily adopted to the Chapel's purpose of tearing down trinitarian doctrine.

For example, take “God's immutability.” The Chapel teachers said that God was immutable, and by this they primarily meant to say that God could in no sense become man. In the scriptures, however, God's immutability refers to his will and purpose. It clearly means to say simply that God's will cannot be thwarted, and that he will not change his intent. I do not see how the context of the passages that speak of God's “unchangeableness” and immutability can be broadened to such an extent that they could rule out his becoming man if that is part of what God intended to do.

Similarly, other attributes of God are that he is invisible and omnipresent. Here again, I'm not saying that God is not invisible and omnipresent, but that the Chapel drew the wrong conclusion from these “attributes.” In this case its error was more subtle, but it goes to the heart of Oneness theology. That theology has to explain why in John 1:1 the Word is said to have been with God in the beginning, and in fact to be God, but yet why Jesus Christ, who is said in the same passage to be the Word made flesh, did not have an eternal existence which was in some sense distinct from the Father’s. To this end, the Word is said to be an expression of the Father’s purpose, and that Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression and embodiment of that purpose. Onenesss theology then presents us with the proposition that since all we can know of God is contained in this expression, John 1:1 can say that the Word was God. The statement that refers to Word’s deity is thus made to refer not directly to Jesus Christ, but to the Father whose purpose and expression is represented by Jesus, and who dwells in Jesus.

It has become my opinion that this is the fatal flaw in the Chapel's Oneness theology. A rigid distinction has been introduced between that which we can see, and that which is God. If we can see it, it can't really be God, but must only represent God or contain God. Otherwise, the “foundational truth” that God is invisible and cannot be seen would be violated.

However, all we need to do in way of refutation is to note that this contradicts the testimony of Exodus 24:9-11—

9Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. 11And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
    (Exodus 24:9-11 KJV)

I cannot see that this amounts to seeing an angel who represented God, as some Oneness proponents have suggested to me, and as some of the other theophanies in the Old Testament might be. For one thing, the passage notes that “upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God.” The author was well aware that God had decreed that no man could see God and live, but here he notes an exception. In the same way, the incarnation was an exception. Man, on his own, cannot see God. Unless, that is, God chooses to make himself visible in whatever way he wants for whatever reason he wants. I believe that in Jesus Christ man has indeed seen God and that this is not merely a statement of who Jesus represents or who dwells in him.

1 John 4:12 (“No man hath seen God “at any time”), is another passage frequently used to illustrate this ”attribute of God. But here again we have a passage applied in the wrong context by Oneness teachers. The verse is not primarily about God's mode of being but about our love for others. The point is that it is all too easy to talk about love for an unseen God while neglecting to love those we see every day. Exercising that kind of love shows our real love for the unseen God. Note that this section starts off, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (verse 7). It concludes:

19We love him, because he first loved us. 20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
    (1 John 4:19-21 KJV)

Based on these observations, I believe it is wrong to take the phrase about God's invisibility, isolate it from its context, and say that it is an attribute of God’s which must be upheld in spite of everything else the Bible says about his existence and the nature of his revelation of himself to man.

I also say that we should look directly at the attributes of the Son in the scriptures the same way we look directly at the attributes of God. Only then are we properly equipped to come to a scriptural understanding of who both God and His Son are, and of what the relationship is between them. I therefore offer here the very minimum number of things that I now think must be taken into account in any scriptural understanding of the Son of God.

Jesus is a man

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know...... (Acts 2:22)

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus... (1 Tim 2:5)

Jesus existed in the form of God before he was made in the likeness of men

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:5-7)

[The Greek word for “form” here, morphe, denotes an appearance which represents something's inner nature. Therefore some translators have rendered the phrase emphasized above as “Jesus, being by very nature God...”]

Jesus is a separate person from the Father

And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.

...Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done.”  (Matt. 26:39,42)

[Separate wills mean separate persons.]

Jesus is equal with the Father

But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God(John 5:17-18)

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:5-7)

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”

The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. (John 10:27-31)

Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He 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 that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:6-10)

Jesus is the Word that was in the beginning with God, and that was God

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God(Rev 19:11-13)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus existed before Abraham, and had glory with God before the world was

So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:57-59)

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:3-5)

The Son of God has no beginning and no end

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. (Heb 6:19-7:3)

[The logic of the passage demands that the Son of God, in order to be a model for Melchizedek to be “made like unto,” be without beginning of days or end of life. It is clear from the Scriptures that the Son of God is literally without end of life. Therefore, the only reasonable interpretation is that the Son of God is also literally without a beginning of days. To me, this is not only a reasonable interpretation, but the only possible interpretation the passage can have. Any other violates the internal logic and structure of the case the author is making here.]

Jesus is worthy to receive worship

And it came to pass, while [Jesus] blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. (Luke 24:51-53)

Jesus descended from heaven

No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. (John 3:14)

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  (John 6:38)

What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?  (John 6:62)

Jesus is God

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)

Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:27-29)

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18)

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