The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
September 15, 1991
1) The Godhead and an Expose of the "Jesus Only" Doctrine (Tom
The Godhead and an Expose of the "Jesus Only" Doctrine
by Tom Edwards
There are many people today who have difficulty in reconciling the
concept of there being three persons in the Godhead (referred to by
man as the Trinity) but only one God. Does this then mean that each
of these Divine beings makes up just one-third of God like that of a
pie that has been sliced into three separate divisions in which each
is a part and not the whole? Let us search the Scriptures for God's
answer concerning this.
First of all, there are numerous people today who believe and teach
what has been referred to as the "Jesus only" doctrine, such as
today's Apostolic Church. What this teaching emphasizes -- which has
become a peculiar distinction to those who advocate such -- is that
there is only "one person" in the Godhead or, in other words, Jesus
is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all combined. This
belief, therefore, portrays the Godhead as being different
manifestations of the same person and not three different persons
that make up that one eternal Godhead.
One of their "proof texts" used to try to substantiate this position
is Isaiah 43:10 in which the Lord makes known that "...Before Me
there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I,
am the Lord; and there is no Savior besides Me." (Incidentally, some
of our Jehovah Witness friends who believe that Jesus is not
eternal, but was created, have also used this same passage to allege
that Jesus is not God; but as we shall see in this lesson, Jesus is
just as much God as the Father or the Holy Spirit is.) This
particular verse, however, actually says nothing at all about the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit being one person; rather, it is
a statement wherein God is contrasting Himself to the idol-gods
which did have a beginning and in essence are not even true gods at
all (vv. 11,12); for He emphasizes, there were no real gods before
Him and there would be no real gods after Him. (Compare also Isaiah
Another so-called "proof text" sometimes used is Matthew 28:19 in
which the Lord states, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit," It has been asserted that because this verse
speaks of "name" (singular), rather than "names" (plural), it means
that there is only one person in the Godhead -- for the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit all have the same "name." Those who hold to this
belief do not recognize the terms "Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit"
as being names, but only titles; and these titles, therefore, are
merely different descriptive terms that identify the same person
just as the words father, husband, and brother could all be
characteristic of the same individual. Is this true of Jesus,
though? Are the terms "Father" and "Holy Spirit" simply other
"titles" that He wears? Not according to my Bible, and this we
shall see more of.
Luke 24:47 has also been used to further elaborate on this concept
by saying that Jesus "opened their minds to understand that
`baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,' simply
meant baptizing in the name of Jesus." As a result of this belief,
many people sincerely teach that one must baptize in the name of
"Jesus only" -- and not in the name of the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit. The seriousness of this dogma is also seen in the
following quote by one who holds to this persuasion: "Once this
question is faced squarely you will have to admit that baptism `into
Jesus' name' is not merely a correct formula -- it is the only
correct formula. You will have to admit that the Triadic formula
commonly used today is not equal to the one used in the Acts of the
Apostles -- it is wrong and is totally invalid." The real irony,
however, of this misconception is that there is not even one such
example in which this exact phrase is used.
As for the remark that "Jesus is the only name for God," this isn't
so. In the Old Testament the Tetregrammaton is seen as being applied
to both the Father and the Son. This term, which might be unfamiliar
to many of you, simply stands for the four consonants in the Old
Testament that pertain to the name of God. In some versions, its
English equivalent is "Jehovah," whereas in other translations, it
is "Yahweh." Actually, no one knows the correct name or spelling,
for in whatever the rendering, the vowels have been presumptuously
added by the translator and, therefore, the word has had various
renderings. In some Bibles, the term is often translated as "LORD"
with each letter being in small caps. Regardless of the correct or
incorrect rendering of this name, however, the point is that this
term pertains to both the Father and the Son -- and it is a name and
not a mere title.
But what is wrong with using titles anyway when baptizing one into
Christ? Peter used a title when he said in Acts 2:38, "Repent, and
let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the
remission of sins...." "Christ" actually means "anointed one," and
it is not Jesus' last name. He is not "Mr. Christ." Because of this,
one of my brothers feels more comfortable when using this term along
with the Lord's first name to always say, "Jesus the Christ" instead
of just "Jesus Christ." The reason why I mentioned this particular
passage, though, is to point out that if it were wrong to use
nothing but the name "Jesus" -- and no titles -- when baptizing one
into the Lord, then why did Peter use a title? The use of this same
title is also seen in Acts 8:16; and in Acts 10:48: Peter commanded
the penitent believers at Cornelius' house to "be baptized in the
name of the Lord...." In this latter passage, there is not even a
trace of the name "Jesus" mentioned; but, of course, we realize that
Jesus is the Lord. Still, the point must be made that Peter, again,
did not need to stress that one must "be baptized into the name of
JESUS ONLY." Rather, he used a title when he said "baptized into the
name of the Lord." "Lord" means "ruler."
It is also helpful to realize that the expression "in the name of"
does not always mean some particular name. For example, when a
police officer with a warrant pounds on a locked door and shouts to
the one inside to "open up in the name of the law," I doubt that
anyone has ever responded by saying, "What's the law's name?" The
police officer who does things "in the name of the law" simply means
that he is acting in accord with the "authority" that has been
invested in him by the civil government. Therefore, when we see in
Colossians 3:17 that whatever we do in word or deed, we are to do
all "in the name of the Lord Jesus" this means that we are to
conduct ourselves in our every activity within the harmony of God's
authority, as revealed in the Gospel -- and not that we are to
literally state His name, as in some formula, with everything that
In view of these thoughts, whether one is baptized "into the name of
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit" or baptized "into the
name of Jesus," it is still speaking of the same thing: the
authority of God.
The very terms "Father" and "Son" establish the fact that there is
more than one person that makes up the Godhead, for how could one
person be a father or a son to himself? In John 3:16, it is clear
that one person loved and gave, and another person came and died for
our sins. In John 14:28, concerning His leaving, Jesus said He was
"going to the Father." How could this be, if Christ already were the
Father. Equally confusing, if God were all one person, is trying to
understand Mark 13:32. Here Jesus speaks of a day and an hour in
which no one would know -- not even the angels in heaven nor the Son
of God Himself -- but only God the Father. If Jesus were also the
Father then would He not also be informed as to this event? In John
8:13-18, the Pharisees had viewed the Lord's witness as being untrue
because they claimed He bore witness of Himself. The Lord then
quoted their law which shows that "the testimony of two men is true"
(Deut. 17:6; 19:15) and pointed out that He was "not alone"
because His Father also bore witness for Him (John 8:17,18). If,
however, Jesus were the Father and the Holy Spirit, then He was
alone and would not be able to say that there was another who has
also bore witness for Him. (Compare also John 5:31-37.)
Let us now examine an Old Testament passage that will help us to
better understand how that there can be a plurality of three persons
who make up the one Godhead: Deuteronomy 6:4, "The Lord our God is
The term "Lord" in this verse is from the "Tetragrammaton" that was
explained earlier -- a personal name that applies to both the Father
and the Son.
"God" is from the Hebrew word "Elohim" which is the plural form of
God. Concerning this word, Robert B. Girdlestone writes, "As long as
the passage above quoted (Gen. 1:26, TTE) stands on the first page
of the Bible, the believer in the Trinity has a right to turn to it
as a proof that Plurality in the Godhead is a very different thing
from Polytheism, and as an indication that the frequent assertions
of the Divine Unity are not inconsistent with the belief that the
Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God" (Synonyms
of the Old Testament, p. 22).
This plurality of the Godhead is seen way back in Genesis when God
said, "...Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our
likeness....(Gen. 1:26). This is also seen in numerous other
verses, such as the following:
"...I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord...and you will
know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you" (Zech.
2:10,11). It is the Lord saying this, and He shows that His
dwelling in their midst will be a sign that the Lord had sent Him.
Here we see a similar thought as the previous verses: "For thus says
the Lord of hosts, `After glory He has sent me against the nations
which plunder you...For behold, I will wave My hand over them...Then
you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me" (Zech. 2:8,9).
At the baptism of Jesus, all three persons of the Godhead were
present (Matt. 3:16,17). Was Jesus doing a ventriloquist act by
having His voice sound as if it were coming down from heaven and
saying, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" or was
this actually the voice of His Father who was in heaven?
Jesus said in John 14:16, 17, "I will ask the Father, and He will
give you ANOTHER helper...." (emphasis mine). This wouldn't be
"another" helper, if Jesus were also the Holy Spirit. And why would
the Lord have to ask the Father, if He Himself were the Father?
Jesus is the Christian's advocate, according to 1 John 2:1. This was
said after the Lord had ascended back to the right hand of God.
Since an advocate pleads to another on behalf of someone else's
cause, how could Jesus actually do this if He were also the Father
and the Holy Spirit? If that be the case, He would be only pleading
If Jesus were also the Father then would not the phrase that the
Savior uttered from the cross, "My God, My God, why have you
forsaken Me?," be just as rightly translated as, "Jesus, Jesus, why
have you forsaken Yourself?"
These passages alone show the need for a plurality of separate
persons in the Godhead and not merely one person who plays all three
parts. The word "one" in Deuteronomy 6:4 is derived from the
Hebrew word "echad," which indicates a "united one," and not an
"absolute one"; for the term for an "absolute one" is "yachid." Let
us consider some other passages where this word is used:
It is seen in the thought of evening and morning together making one
day (Gen. 1:5), and also in Isaiah 65:25 which declares that "The
wolf and the lamb shall graze together...." Obviously, the wolf will
remain a wolf, and the lamb, a lamb; but this term describes the
"oneness," the peaceful existence that would characterized these
animals which are normally viewed as the hunter and the prey. With
this figure, the Lord is illustrating the harmony that will exist
among the people of His spiritual kingdom, for God shows that this
was to take place "in all My holy mountain"; and there they would be
"one" in the Lord.
There are many analogous illustrations that could be cited to show
how that there can be just "one" of something, but that "one" to
consist of a "plurality." For instance, there is only one ball team
called the "Pittsburgh Pirates," but it is made up of many players.
And even Paul spoke about the human body as being "one," yet having
many members (1 Cor. 12), and then he uses this basis to explain the
various spiritual members that serve to make up the "one" body of
Christ. The Lord's prayer for unity in John 17 included the thought
of all His followers being made "one" just as He is one with the
Father (John 17:21-23). If "oneness" only means being one person
then this prayer can not be answered. Therefore, it is obvious that
the Lord is using this term in another sense; the Christian is to be
one in spirit, in purpose, and in unity when it comes to spiritual
matters. This is how Jesus was one with His Father.
When considering the Godhead, we must realize that there is only one
God or Godhead; and this God is made up of three distinct persons:
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Though they are all
different individuals, they are each just as much God as the other.
Until we come to grips with this truth, many Bible passages will not
only remain an enigma, but they will also sound irreconcilable and
silly. May we each strive to be one with God as Jesus Himself
is one with His Father in heaven.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
First published for the Tri-state church of Christ in Ashland,
Kentucky, at 713 13th Street.
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards