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 Edwards)


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 44:6-19.)

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 we do.  

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 one Lord."

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 to Himself.  

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 Christ (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; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

First published for the Tri-state church of Christ in Ashland, Kentucky, at 713 13th Street.

evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards