God is One
The Bible very clearly teaches that one God exists. “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” (Deut. 6:4) God said in His First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) This doesn’t mean God is one among many. As the chief rebel angel whose influence has corrupted most people, Satan is called “the god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4), but he was created by the one true God. And some “gods” were created by humans. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods. . . .” (I Cor. 8:4,5) Anything can be called a god, but that doesn’t make it one. The Bible mentions many “gods” who exist only in the minds of those who worshipped them. For example, the ones worshipped by the Assyrians “were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone” (Isa. 37:19). Idols “see not, nor know” (Isa. 44:9). Nor can they speak (Jer. 10:5). They are useless. If you believe the Bible, you believe God’s words: “I am the First, and I am the Last; and beside Me there is no God.” (Isa. 44:6)
The name of the one God is Jesus. The apostle Thomas called Him “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). The apostle Peter told Him, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16) Jesus is the Son of God in the sense that He was born into a human body. He is God incarnate. Isaiah 44:6 says God is the First and the Last, and Revelation 1:17 says Jesus is the First and the Last. Jesus is not a second God, nor is He a second Person, as trinitarians believe. Trinitarians sometimes use the analogy of humans being body, soul and spirit. I may be body, soul and spirit, but I’m still one person. Having a spirit is something humans share with God (I Cor. 2:11), and a human's spirit is not an additional person. Neither is the "Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19) an additional Person. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are different titles for one Person. (Holy Spirit means the same thing as Holy Ghost. All quotes from the Bible here are from the King James Version, in which “Holy Ghost” is used when the two words are together. However, I’m changing “Ghost” to “Spirit” because it’s a far more familiar word used in reference to the Trinity.)
Trinitarians have pointed out that nearly every mention of God in the Old Testament is translated from the Hebrew word “Elohim,” which is a plural noun. But in Hebrew plurality doesn’t always mean more than one. It can also mean bigness, greatness or vastness. The Hebrew noun for water is plural as well, and the Hebrew term “death” in Isaiah 53:9 is in the plural because of the great significance of the Messiah’s death. Pronouns, like nouns, can be in the plural to signify greatness, such as in Genesis 1:26: “And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. . . .’ ” It’s also possible that the pronouns “us” and “our” include angels because they were there when God laid the foundations of the Earth (Job 38:4-7). God alone is the Creator (Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11), and though the Bible no doubt uses the words "make" and "create" interchangeably, they don't necessarily have to mean the same thing. “Make” here is translated from a Hebrew word with a broad list of meanings. It can mean to appoint, govern, maintain, or prepare and have charge of, among other things. Lot’s oldest daughter said to the youngest, “Let us make our father drink wine.” (Gen. 19:32) Something could “make one wise” (Gen. 3:6), and someone could “make mention” (Gen. 40:14), “make ready” (Gen. 43:16), or “make restitution” (Ex. 22:12). It should be noted that singular pronouns are used with the mention of creation: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (Gen. 1:27)
Trinitarians argue that if Jesus is the Father, He was praying to Himself when praying to the Father (Luke 22:41). They think it’s strange for Jesus to pray to Himself, yet they don’t think it’s strange for Him just to pray. Jesus answers prayers (John 14:14), so He didn’t need to pray to anyone at all. He chose to pray to set an example for us. It was flesh praying to Spirit, not one Person praying to another. Jesus spoke of the Father in a way that sounded as though He was speaking of another Person. For example, He told His disciples, “For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matt. 12:50) Jesus didn’t say “My will,” but “the will of My Father.” Before concluding this must mean the Father is another Person, you should take into account that Jesus often spoke of Himself (in the flesh) in a way that seemed to indicate another Person. One of several incidents is when He told His disciples, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again.” (Matt. 20:18, 19).
The apostle Paul’s letters have been used to support the belief that Father and Son are different Persons. Near their beginning he wrote, “Grace to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” This was right after the transition from Judaism to Christianity, so there was good reason for mentioning both of these manifestations of God. Jews only knew of God as their Heavenly Father, but he became a Son also when He was born into the body of the baby Jesus. It was important to acknowledge Jesus as well as the Father because whoever denied the Son didn’t have the Father (I John 2:23). Paul’s use of the word “and” between the Father and Jesus doesn’t indicate two Persons, just as two Persons aren’t indicated in Isaiah 55:5: “. . . because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel. . . .” Lest anyone conclude two Persons are mentioned by Isaiah here, it should be compared to Isaiah 43:3: “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel. . . .” With or without the word “and” between names or titles for God, He is acknowledged as one Person. But even if Paul started his letters by acknowledging two Persons, he would have been indicating that God is not three Persons, but two. This is a problem for trinitarian doctrine.
Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30) They aren’t one in the same way that a husband and wife are “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Jesus also said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Jesus and His Father aren’t one in union, as are husband and wife, but one in Person. Scripture even says the Father’s name is Jesus. In Revelation 7:3, 4 some angels about to carry out God’s judgment on the wicked are warned, “Hurt not the Earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” Revelation 14:1 says these 144,000 servants of God will have their foreheads sealed with a particular name: “And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads.” The Lamb is Jesus (John 1:29, 36), and His Father’s name will be written on the servants’ foreheads. However, Revelation 22: 3, 4 says their foreheads will be sealed with the name of the Lamb Himself: “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads.” This proves that the Father’s name is Jesus. Jesus spoke literally when He said, “I am come in My Father’s name.” (John 5:43) Because He is the Father incarnate, Jesus said He would raise Himself from the dead (John 2: 19-21) even though it was His Father who raised Him from the dead (Gal. 1:1).
Father, Son and Holy Spirit aren’t one in essence, but one in Person. Father and Holy Spirit are two titles (and two manifestations) for the one God's spiritual nature. Son is a title used for God when He’s in the form of the Man Jesus, “who is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). It’s that simple. The Father is a Spirit, and the Father is holy. He’s not just a holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit. Jesus indicated this when telling His disciples not to meditate on what to say to those who would arrest them at a later time because they would be given the right words to speak at that moment. Matthew wrote that the Father would do the speaking for them (Matt. 10: 17-20), while Mark wrote that the Holy Spirit would do the speaking for them (Mark 13:11). Trinitarians may argue that in Matthew Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit because He told his disciples, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (v. 20) The Father is a Spirit, so it’s not very reasonable to argue that the Spirit of the Father is a Person separate from the Father.
In the Old Testament God took on the form of a burning bush (Ex. 3:2), and later appeared as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night (Ex. 13:21). No one argues that these manifestations are Persons of God, yet people argue that manifestations in the New Testament are. The account of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus is commonly used to teach that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three Persons. “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from Heaven, which said, ‘Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.’ ” (Luke 3:21, 22) The purpose of this wasn’t to show anyone that God is a Trinity. Its purpose was for John the Baptist to recognize who Jesus was (John 1:32-34). He had been told, “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.” (v. 33) John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit by seeing the dove, because the dove was the Holy Spirit in bodily form. Likewise, those who saw Jesus saw the Father (John 14:9), because Jesus was the Father in bodily form.
A thorough study of Scripture plainly shows that God is one Person. Jude 1 says we “are sanctified by God the Father,” I Corinthians 1:2 says we “are sanctified in Christ Jesus,” and II Thessalonians 2:13 says we have “salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.” One Person sanctifies, not three. God is a Spirit who took on a body of flesh to shed His blood for our sanctification, ending the need to sacrifice animals. “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” (Heb. 13:11, 12) Paul told the Ephesian elders that “the Holy Spirit [had] made [them] overseers, to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Paul didn’t say the Church was purchased with the blood of Jesus, but with the Holy Spirit’s blood. Since a Spirit doesn’t have flesh and blood, this can only be possible if Jesus is the Holy Spirit in bodily form. He is the one Spirit of God manifested in the flesh.
The doctrine of the Trinity became official in A.D. 325 at the Council of Nicea. From the second century until that time, different erroneous beliefs concerning the relation between God and Jesus circulated throughout the Roman Empire. By the fourth century this problem threatened to divide the Catholic Church in the eastern part of the empire, and that’s when Emperor Constantine got involved. He wasn’t concerned about the truth. He just wanted there to be a doctrine that people could agree on, thereby keeping peace. The two prominent doctrines at this time were Jesus being God incarnate (the truth) and a doctrine put forth by a heretic named Arius, who taught that Jesus had been created by God. The greatest threat of division came after Arius was rightfully condemned by his bishop, Alexander. Constantine at first tried getting them to come together to make peace. When that failed, he set up a council at which there was a compromise. Eusebias of Ceasaara suggested everyone accept a creed that was used in the Ceasarian episcopate. It’s now known as the Nicene Creed and is the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three Persons who are equally God. There are various views held by different trinitarians on what exactly this means. Most trinitarians are monotheists who worship the one true God, despite not fully understanding the Godhead. I don't accuse them of believing in three Gods. The purpose of this essay isn't to attack them; rather, I want to help them get a better understanding of God's nature.
Something that accompanies trinitarian doctrine is baptism using the triune formula. Because Jesus is the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He was telling His disciples to baptize converts in His name when saying it should be done “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). He said name, not names. And these “names” aren’t even names. They are titles. It has been argued that the Greek word translated as “name” here can also mean authority. Though true, a different Greek word is used for every mention of authority in the New Testament, and the word translated as “name” in Matthew 28:19 and elsewhere always means a name. Example: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. . . .” (Matt. 1:21) Even if “in the name of” means “in the authority of,” these words everywhere else would say to baptize in the authority of Jesus rather than in the authority of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The disciples understood perfectly what Jesus meant when He told them, “All power [authority] is given unto Me in Heaven and in Earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. . . .” (Matt. 28:18-20) They first taught the Jews to observe what Jesus commanded them, and it was Peter who said, “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Non-Jews were also “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16; 19:5).
People have argued that because it’s a book of history, Acts has no doctrine in it and can’t be used to teach the formula for baptism. They must think they have more authority than the apostle Paul, who taught the opposite: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Tim. 3:16) Clearly and unambiguously Paul said all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, and if Acts weren’t Scripture, it wouldn’t be in the Bible. It should also be noted that shortly after Peter said to be baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38) it was made very clear that he and the other disciples (also called apostles [Luke 6:13-16]) were teaching doctrine: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. . . .” (Acts 2:42) It’s ironic that people will single out Acts as a book of history when the four Gospels are books of history as well. Jesus definitely taught doctrine. And one of His quotes is found only in Acts: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) Surely no one would say these words don’t apply to anyone today.
It’s unfortunate that some people say Acts is no good for instruction on baptism and try using extrabiblical writings to support the triune formula. It doesn’t matter who wrote, or allegedly wrote, about the triune formula. Absolutely nothing outside of the Bible has authority over the Bible itself. Acts is in the Bible because it’s Scripture. Otherwise it would be in the same category as the Apocrypha, a group of uninspired books included in Catholic Bibles. They have great value for shedding light on some of the history not recorded in the Bible, such as what occurred between the inspired books of Ezra and Nehemiah, but they are not themselves inspired. That is why someone would be correct in saying the Apocrypha can’t be used to teach any particular doctrine. But the book of Acts shouldn’t be treated the same way as the Apocrypha. If an uninspired, unprofitable-for-doctrine book could make its way into the Bible, Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth would undoubtedly be in the Bible too. The book entitled First Corinthians was Paul’s first inspired letter to them, but in it he mentioned a previous letter: “I wrote unto you in an epistle [letter] not to company with fornicators.” (I Cor. 5:9) This letter wasn’t meant for doctrine and therefore isn’t regarded as the first letter to the Corinthians.
Luke wrote Acts as a sequel to the Gospel that bears his name and it is no less inspired by God. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume there really is no doctrine in Acts. I then point you to Romans 6:3, which mentions believers being “baptized into Jesus Christ.” Also, Paul told the Galatians that as many of them who had been “baptized into Christ [had] put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). And he pleaded with the Corinthians “by the name of [the] Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 1:10) to not be divided by associating themselves with himself or another Christian leader when they should have been unified in Christ. To make his point that there shouldn’t be a sect devoted to himself, Paul asked, “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (I Cor. 1:13) Paul wasn’t crucified for them, nor were they baptized in the name of Paul. Jesus was crucified for them, and they were baptized in the name of Jesus. Because we are buried with Jesus in baptism (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), we should be baptized in this “name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). There’s no need to mention the Father and Holy Spirit during baptism. Jesus came in His Father’s name (John 5:43), and the Holy Spirit was sent in the name of Jesus (John 14:26). The fullness of the Godhead (Deity) dwells in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9), so “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17).
I’m Apostolic Pentecostal, and I’ve been told that we’re the only ones who baptize in the name of Jesus. This isn’t true. Churches of other denominations are baptizing in the same manner, and even if this weren’t the case, what most churches preach and practice shouldn’t be the basis for the doctrine you believe in. The Bible should be. There was a time when the vast majority of churches were Roman Catholic, and the vast majority were wrong. And no, the first churches weren’t Catholic. Being spread throughout the then-known world, they were “catholic” only in the sense that this word means “universal.” It’s a sad fact that man-made doctrines were eventually accepted by most churches. Catholic baptism is a great example of this. The apostles never performed baptism by sprinkling water on a person’s head. In fact, the very definition for “baptize” means dipping or immersion. Although most churches now acknowledge this, it used to be that people were called heretics for challenging Catholic doctrine. Like Roman Catholics before them, some Protestants today will call you a heretic for teaching what the apostles taught. They say only a cult would reject the doctrine of the Trinity and the triune formula for baptism. They’ll treat the Nicene Creed as they would Scripture, yet they’ll treat what’s in the Bible as though it weren’t Scripture. It is my hope that these individuals will one day accept the truth that nothing outside of the Bible has authority over what’s inside the Bible.
Copyright © 2013, 2018
For further reading on this topic, I would recommend A Ghost Story by Rick Flores.