Sabellius (3rd century heretic) started a teaching that God was one Person, not three and that the Father appeared in three modes/manifestations but was the only Person in the Godhead.
Enter the “Jesus Only” Movement
1913 – Sabellianism revived and updated – R. E. McAlister told people they were to baptize in the name of “Jesus only” (based on Acts 2:38) and not in the name of the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” (as instructed by Jesus in Matt 28:19). During this time, early teachers of this belief stated that Jesus is God but appeared as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost during different times of the Bible. They claimed Jesus manifested Himself in these three ways and is One Person as One God and not Three Persons in One God. They rejected the historic and fundamental view of the Trinity, and new churches and denominations sprang up under Oneness Pentecostalism (ex the United Pentecostal Church). Not all Pentecostals are “Jesus Only”, but many are.
Modalism – the belief that Jesus appeared as different modes or manifestations of God throughout time with different names
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE IF WE SAY JESUS IS THE ONLY PERSON OR ONE OF THREE AS LONG AS WE RECOGNIZE JESUS IS GOD? WHY IS THIS SUCH A BIG DEAL?
(I’m so glad you asked!)
Trinitarian position of Jesus – The Father, Son & Holy Ghost are three separate Persons that are co-equal, co-existent, and co-eternal. They are all God having all power (omnipotence), all knowledge (omniscience) and all presence (omnipresence) except when Jesus was on earth in bodily form. Jesus exists from everlasting to everlasting. He was sent from the Father to fulfill the will of the Father. He willingly submitted but is no less God.
Modalist position of Jesus – Jesus existed as a “thought” in the mind of the Father before creation because God the Father was alone with no other Beings (Son or Holy Spirit) beside Him. He appeared as the Father in the Old Testament. (Depending on who you talk to) He split Himself or sent Himself to be born of Mary and was then Jesus on earth. After His death and resurrection, He left as Jesus and came back as the Holy Spirit to His believers.
There is a HUGE difference between believing Jesus always existed with the Father & Holy Spirit and believing He didn’t exist until His birth on earth because it claims Jesus had an origin whereas traditional understanding is that God had no origin but has always been. Having the right understanding of Who Jesus is is crucial to salvation.
“Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible
Many words don’t appear in the Bible that we have come to recognize as things in the Bible. For instance, “demon” is not in the KJV. While Trinity does not appear, the Godhead does (Acts17:29, Romans 1:20, Col 2:9). Throughout the Bible we see verses that show the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. The Lord also states He is the only God. There were no gods before Him and shall be no gods after Him (Isaiah 43:10). He is the only God.
The modalist version of God makes Him look as if He has some psychiatric disorder because He doesn’t know His name until He settles on Jesus in the NT, has multiple personalities or is a liar that enjoys pretending to be multiple People while having monologues. The explanation they use would be like you saying that you are a father, a brother and a son. You have those three roles, but you’re still one person. Sounds good, but since we assume that you are in your right mind, you are not going to say you are a father to yourself! You are the father to your children and the son to your father. If you say you’re going to send your son, people expect to see someone that resembles you (may look, sound, or act like you) but is a totally different person. You and your children “one” in the sense that if someone asks for “Brown” (for example), it addresses one or all of you because Brown is your name and who you are. You have different roles and positions in the family, but each one is equally a Brown.
But God is “One” God
Some verses where One is used in the plural form
Deut 6:4 (God – Elohim is plural, one – echad is a corporate oneness), Gen (creation – let US, create man in OUR image and in OUR likeness), 1 John 5:7 (Three are One), Isaiah 6:8 (who will go for Us?)
Some verses showing the Three at the same time
Matt 3:16-17 (baptism of Jesus), Matt 28:18-19 (great commission), Luke 1:35 (Mary learns how the Father will send the Holy Spirit to overshadow her so she can give birth to Jesus), John 14:26 (Jesus explains the Father will send the Holy Spirit to remind them what Jesus taught), John 14:16-17 (Jesus states He will pray the Father send the Holy Spirit), Rev 4:8 (Holy – Father, Holy – Son, Holy – Spirit)
See this website for more examples and a clearer explanation of how God showed Himself in three forms in the Old & New Testament. explanations
When you read the Bible and let it speak for itself, it shows numerous places that identify separate Persons in the Trinity.
– God stated He would send His Son as a Redeemer for mankind. (God doesn’t lie, so if He was sending Himself, wouldn’t He just say it?)
– During the baptism of Jesus, the voice of the Father spoke from Heaven while the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. (Was Jesus being a ventriloquist and throwing His voice from Heaven and referring to Himself in the third person while casting an image to appear as a different spiritual being resting on Himself?)
– Jesus stated He was sent by the Father and prayed to His Father. (If He was just the One, wouldn’t He be praying to Himself?).
– On the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples of Jesus hear the Father (again) instruct them to hear and obey Jesus.
– Jesus had to ascend to His Father after His death and would pray to send the Holy Spirit. He had to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come to remind the disciples of what Jesus taught. (Was He presenting His blood to Himself and leaving to send Himself again?)
– Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and will return again with a shout. (Who is Jesus sitting beside if it isn’t the Father, and how can He be seated and not return until it’s time to receive His church while simultaneously being on earth as the Holy Spirit?)
Doctrine – UPCI beliefs – beliefs
– Bible is infallible and completely the Word of God
– Father, Son & Holy Spirit are God but are not three separate Persons
– Water baptism is essential to salvation and must be performed only in the name of Jesus by an ordained oneness minister
– Speaking in tongues is required to prove the baptism of the Holy Ghost (speaking in tongues – modern tongues)
The beliefs link to other pages explaining the “oneness” of God and detailing their doctrines.
Oneness Pentecostalism – website
What about the Acts 2:38 command to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus?
This is not a formula for what Name to be baptized in but to come under the authority of Jesus Christ. Remember the Sanhedrin didn’t want anyone preaching or teaching in the name of Jesus? They had no problem with God or teaching about the Father under Old Testament laws, but they did not want to recognize Jesus as being God. The Apostles had to specify Jesus as Jesus was the One that had given them authority to heal, baptize, cast out demons, do miracles and preach in His name. No one disputed the deity of the Father.
There is sometimes difficulty determining who believes God is one Person or Three in One. What I’ve noticed is those false teachers who are oneness believers will dance around the question with different phrases in order to blend in with those with a historic Christian view. For instance they will state “God manifested Himself as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”, God is too big to explain in our terms, and other things to avoid specifically denying the Trinity.
What did the Early Church Founders believe?
The term “Trinity” may not have been in the Bible, but it was certainly understood before the Council of Nicea in 325AD.
“Tertullian contended against Praxeas concerning the new doctrine we now call Modalism. Praxeas took his beliefs from Sabellius. This view of Modalism teaches that there is one in the Godhead and He takes different forms: the Father = the Son = the Holy Spirit. They are different modes of the same God. Sabellius refined his doctrine around the beginning of the third century. He explained his belief:
“the existence of a divine monad (which he named the huiopater) which by a process of expansion projected itself successively in revelation as the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. So each appeared in different periods of time, instead of existing simultaneously. The Father was the creator and law giver, the Son was the redeemer and the Holy Spirit was the giver of grace and the regenerator.”
Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis wrote in 375 in his volume about heresies,
“Their doctrine is, that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same being, in the sense that three names are attached to the one substance. A close analogy may be found in the body, soul and spirit of man.”
This is similar to the ‘modes’ of God claimed by Oneness Pentecostals today.
This was never accepted by the church and was considered heresy. Tertullian argued against this by stating the church’s historic belief that,
“We define that there are two, the Father and the Son, and three with the Holy Spirit, and this number is made by the pattern of salvation…[which] brings about unity in trinity, interrelating the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are of one substance and power, because there is one God from whom these degrees, forms and kinds devolve in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Against Praxeas p. 156-7).
“The connection of the Father in the Son the Son in the paraclete (Holy Spirit), produces three coherent persons, who are yet distinct one from another. These three are one essence, not one person, as it is said, ‘I and my Father are one,’ in respect of unity of substance, not singularity of number.”… “Yet we have never given vent to the phrases ‘two Gods’, or ‘two Lords’: not that it is untrue the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, each is God.” ( Ante-Nicene fathers vol.3,p.621, Against Praxeas.)” – What the Early Church Believed – early church beliefs
What the Early Church Believed – beliefs – Read quotes from over a dozen 1st and 2nd century Christians regarding the Trinity. Some were disciples of the Apostles of Jesus and would have direct information to know whether or not God is three Persons is One.
T. D. Jakes – A wolf with a large following
T. D. Jakes is a Modalist. He will skirt around the issue when confronted, but he still believes and teaches the same way. Recently, Jakes attended the Elephant Room 2 which was supposed to be a round-table discussion featuring evangelical pastors. His attendance was controversial because most pastors knew his stance on the Trinity which is a major doctrinal issue – a salvation matter. Well-known pastors were bold enough to turn down the invitation to speak because Jakes teaches another Jesus, also promotes the prosperity gospel and is leading the movement to acceptance of all religions by refusing to tell people the truth about hell and those who deny Jesus.
Reviewing the Comments of TD Jakes in the Elephant Room
– Dr. James White reviews how Jakes dodges and answers questions regarding Who God is. He also reviews previous teachings/quotes from Jakes stating that God manifested Himself in three ways and is not three Persons, discusses terms and phrases modalists use to sound like Trinitarians and takes questions during the last hour.
TD Jakes believes he is the kingdom, power & glory –
Perverting the Gospel – TD Jakes
Prosperity Gospel – link
This is not meant to cause anger but to bring about an awareness that there are major distinctions between the doctrines. Having the correct Jesus is important. Having the correct understanding of salvation is important. Apparently, many of our televangelists believe the same way. This website stated clearly that water baptism in the name of Jesus and speaking in tongues are essential to the experience of salvation. faith statement That is works-based faith added to the grace of God. Jesus Christ did everything that was necessary to provide salvation. It is a gift a God and not of works lest any man should boast.
One or Three Persons in God/Godhead? – website
Pentecostalism has bred “Jesus Only” Movement – website
Apostolic Church Apostasy – website
Modalism refuted: UPCI’s Sixty Questions on the Godhead Refuted – website
Association of Former Pentecostals – support website
Oneness & the Trinity – website
Trinity vs. Oneness Debate (White v. Sabin)