New Testament Salvation

No examination of the Oneness view of God is complete without the discussion of how this view affects the doctrine of the New Birth and our understanding of the nature of New Testament Salvation. A crucial difference exists between the Gospel presentation of mainstream Christianity and what you will find in Oneness Pentecostalism. In essence, the primary differences center on justification. It is an inaccurate over simplification, however, to claim that traditional Christians define justification as being counted righteous by faith alone and that Apostolics somehow believe justification to involve both faith and works. This doctrine is such a major source of tension and controversy between Apostolics and Orthodox believers it is helpful to examine the truth regarding the Apostolic understanding of justification and the New Birth.

In his work Justification and the Holy Spirit, Bernard points out that:

“Traditional protestant theology emphasizes the forensic model of justification. Under this view, justification is essentially something that takes place outside of humans. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for human sins on the cross and God accepts this atoning act as the necessary and sufficient satisfaction for those sins. This remedy is applied to an individual’s heart by grace, though Faith, which enables the person to be justified, or counted righteous. In the theologies of both Martin Luther and John Calvin, even this faith is extrinsic to humans… Luther even insisted on adding the word “alone” to his German translation of Romans 3:28 so that it is said, “a man is justified by faith [alone].” (Bernard 2007.117, 106).

On the other hand traditional Catholic theology goes to the opposite extreme in emphasizing that justification is of works and requires the active cooperation of humans. While this view also has merit, Apostolic theology recognizes that neither position is an accurate representation of the process of the New Testament justification

While justification begins with faith, it nevertheless, also involves the active cooperation of the believer—it is both maintained and increased by works, which are motivated by grace through faith. Justification therefore, involves both being counted as righteous and actually being made righteous by the work of the Holy Spirit. Bernard again:

“The forensic model accurately describes Christ’s death as the necessary atonement for all human sins, and Protestantism correctly insists that…no human works can earn salvation. Nevertheless, the traditional Protestant interpretation of justification does not give sufficient attention to the resurrection of Christ and to the corresponding role of the Holy Spirit. Here the Catholic explanation gives a useful hint by pointing to the work of the Spirit in the believer’s life”. (Bernard 2007, 118)

What is needed for a full and complete theology of justification is something more than either of those two approaches. Bernard explains the Apostolic view as a synthesis of the traditional perspectives. Which is why Romans certainly “serves to invalidate any system of legalism or works—righteousness, it is important to place it in its historical and social context. The Jews who rejected the Christian message were intent on maintaining their identity and their status by keeping the law. Their error was not merely covenantal monism or legal exclusivism, but it was supremely their rejection of the saving work of Christ—specifically, his death, burial, and resurrection. The error was not in acting as opposed to believing; rather it was in acting by the power of the flesh rather than by the power of the Spirit. They sought to obey God by the law, which was outmoded because it relied on the ability of the flesh…When Paul stated that no one could be justified by the works of the law (Roman 3:20), he referred to the inability of the flesh, the inability of a person who has not received the power of the Spirit (Ro 8:3, 7). But when people believe in Jesus and obey his gospel, then they receive the Holy Spirit, with accompanying power to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law” (Bernard 2007.113, 79).

Oneness Pentecostals recognize that the atoning work of Christ is the only basis of salvation in every age. In Apostolic theology, this means that God himself came in the flesh as Jesus Christ in order to provide salvation for his fallen creation. The incarnation was thus, for the express purpose of the atonement. In the context of scripture, salvation means deliverance from all the power and effects of sin, and it has past, present, and future aspects.

Scofield, in his notes on Romans 1:16 states it this way: “the Heb. And Gr. Words for salvation imply the ideas of deliverance, safety, preservation, healing, and soundness. Salvation is the great inclusive word of the Gospel gathering into itself all the redemptive acts and processes: as justification, redemption, grace, propitiation, imputation, forgiveness, sanctification, and glorification. Salvation is in three tenses:

1) The believer has been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin (Lk 7:50; I Cor 1:18 II Cor 1:15; Eph 2:5,8; II Tim1:9) and is safe.
2.) The believer is being saved from the habit and dominion of sin (Rom 6:14; Phil 1:19; 2:12, 13; II Thess 2:13; Rom 8:2; Gal 2:19, 20; II Cor 3:18).
3.) The believer is to be saved in the sense of entire conforming to Christ (Rom 13:11; Heb 10:36; I Pet 1:5; I Jn 3:2). Salvation is by grace through faith, is a free gift, and wholly without works (Rom 3:27, 28; 4:1-8; 6:23; Eph 2:8).”
—-(Scofield 1901, 1192)

Apostolic theology fully recognizes that justification is by faith and not by works of the law. It also recognizes however that biblical faith is far more than mental assent. “It involves trust, reliance, and commitment, which in turns means acting upon what we believe and obeying what we are convinced is true…Faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin”. (Bernard 2007. 74). While conversion is a result of belief in the gospel (Ro 6:16, 17), it is clearly also the result of obeying that Gospel (Ro 6:17). For Apostolics then, true belief in the doctrine of Christ is equivalent to acting in accordance with that doctrine. Thus “it is proper to attribute conversion to faith but also to the response of faith. There cannot be one without the other. This response of faith is not equivalent to works of the Law, or meritorious works in general, but is the essence of saving faith…A lack of obedience is equivalent to a lack of faith.” (Bernard 2007. 75).

I believe this is what Hebrew 4:2 is speaking of when it tells us of those who had the gospel preached to them—“but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with the faith in them that heard it.”
Scripture plainly declares that faith without works is dead—it explains that the reason it is dead is that it is faith “alone”. (James 2:17,20). This presents us with an interpretational or hermeneutical dilemma because Ephesians 2:8,9 says it is “by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, less any man should boast.”

So in one place we are told that it’s all of faith not works and yet the very same New Testament tells us that faith without works is dead and cannot save us—that man is, in fact, justified by works and not by faith alone; on the surface a seemingly clear and unavoidable contradiction. The confusion is not resolved by reaching for your Strong’s concordance of your copy of Zodhiate’s either. In both passages the Greek word for works is exactly the same–ergon. As students of scripture, we must accept the reality that when faced with two scriptures that seem to contradict one another—we can’t simply pick the one we like and ignore the other because it doesn’t fit our theology. This is precisely what orthodox Christianity has done in this case. Most people never even consider that the reason it might not fit their theology because their theology is in error.

How then do we resolve this? The solution is simply to realize that despite their use of the exact same Greek word, Paul and James are nonetheless speaking of two completely different things. Paul is speaking of works of the law or works of the flesh which are activities done in an effort to impress God and somehow earn favor with him—while James is using the very same word—ergon—to refer to legitimate works done in obedience to the command of God.

So we see that a crucial difference exists between Apostolic theology’s definition of “faith” and the common understanding of orthodoxy. Some have found it helpful to understand that “faith without corresponding actions is dead;” Not the “works” of the flesh spoken of by Paul but rather the “corresponding actions” of faith.

In a similar way, in Apostolic Theology grace is viewed not merely as “God’s unmerited favor” as in orthodox theology, but as an endowment of power from God. For Apostolic believers grace is the power from God that enables us to do what he has called us to do. In New Testament times…”The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we all should live sensibly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11,12). In the biblical mind then, Grace must be understood as inspiring and requiring action on our part in obedience to faith.

The “Formula” for Water Baptism

Formula for Water Baptism

   The actual significance of the name of Jesus in water baptism simply cannot be overemphasized. The combination of the theology of the name and the explicit rejection of trinitarianism demands the use of a Christological formula for water baptism. Therefore, Apostolic Theology teaches that water baptism should be administered with the verbal invocation of the name of Jesus. Usually the titles Lord and/or Christ are also used for the purpose of further identification as seen in the book of Acts. Outsiders or those with little knowledge or understanding of Apostolic Theology or church history have often used this fact to ridicule or minimize the Oneness Movement–labeling it as the “Jesus only” movement.

  Exponents of Oneness however, simply point out that every time the Bible describes the formula used at an actual Baptism, it is always the name of Jesus alone that is used (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16). Were the apostles then “Jesus only,” or did they perhaps understand something essential and vital that the modern church has long forgotten? In addition to these historical accounts in Acts, the Epistles make several allusions to the Jesus name formula (Ro 6:4; I Co 1:13; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12).

  The controversy over this issue surrounds the fact that the vast majority of Christendom views the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 as the only valid formula of baptism to be used by the church. Oneness exponents however, believe that even Matthew 28:19 refers to the name of Jesus, for it describes a singular name which represents all the redemptive manifestations of the Godhead.

  The Apostolic understanding of Matthew 28:19 can be summarized as follows;

  • The grammar of Matthew 28:19 itself denotes a singular name. Jesus said we are to baptize “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. We know that the Name of the Son is Jesus, however, “son” indicates relationship or modes of activity of the One God. Since Jesus is at once Father, Son, and Spirit, since he came in his Father’s name and sends the Spirit in his name, this supports the view that the one name of Matthew 28:19 is Jesus. Many trinitarians readily admit that “the name” is singular, though they assert it to be a reference to Jehovah. As we have seen Apostolic theology points out that God’s redemptive name in the New Testament is not Jehovah but Jesus.
  • The very concept of Matthew 28:19 demands a Christological formula. Christ was saying in effect, “I have all power and authority, so go and make disciples unto me, baptizing them in my name”. Many trinitarian scholars have openly acknowledged the force of this argument. Many also claim that this verse represents either a paraphrase by Matthew or a later insertion by a copyist rather than the ipsissima verba  or actual words of Jesus.
  • Significantly, Eusebius often quoted this verse prior to the Council of Nicaea, as “in my Name.” Many other early writers do this as well. Still other trinitarians suggest that the church did not originally see this verse as an actual baptismal formula. The accepted wording poses no problem for Apostolic believers who recognize it simply as descriptive of the full authority of the Name of Jesus.
  • The parallel accounts of the Great Commission in Mark 16 and Luke 24 both prescribe the Name of Jesus.
  •  The early Church, of which Matthew was a prominent part, carried out Christ’s instructions in Matthew 28:19 by baptizing in the Name of Jesus. The significance of this must not be overlooked. 

   Church historians now generally admit that the original formula for water baptism was indeed “in the Name of Jesus”. Not all trinitarians however, accept that this denotes the oral invocation of the Name of Jesus. Apostolic theology affirms that it does because:

  • This is the most natural, literally reading linguistically.
  • In Acts 22:16 Paul was instructed by Ananias to invoke the Name of Christ in baptism.
  • Both Acts 15:17 and James indicate that the Name of Jesus was orally invoked over Christians at a specific point in time. The Amplified Bible identifies James 2:7 as a reference to water baptism.
  • When the disciples prayed, laid hands on the sick and cast out devils in the name of Jesus, it always involved the oral invocation of the name. (Acts 3:6; 16:18; 19:13).
  • While the phrase does indeed represent the power and authority of Jesus. That power and authority is always invoked by the actual use of his Name.
  • If Acts 2:38 doesn’t represent a biblical formula, then neither does Matthew 28:19, because in the original language the grammatical structure is identical.
  • Although the precise wording of the various baptismal accounts differ, all, (including Mt 28:19), describe the Name of Jesus alone.

  The book of Acts establishes beyond question that the apostles and the early church consistently baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ. This should be the pattern and norm for the church today as well. It is our responsibility to obey the commands and follow the example of scripture regardless of whether or not we understand the reasons for this practice or the importance of it.

  In 1913 when R.E. McAlister noted that the Church in the book of Acts always baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and not in the traditional trinitarian formula of “the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost,” it was quickly recognized as the restoration of a vital and significant truth from the Word of God, His observation stirred immediate interest as well as controversy.

  By the following spring, Frank Ewart had likewise concluded that the singular name in Matthew 28:19 was Jesus Christ. To support this assumption he pointed to the baptismal accounts in Acts, as well as to the multiple references in the epistles, while noting the full deity of Christ in Colossians 2:9.

  Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is not an arbitrary practice; it is inextricably linked with the very purposes of baptism itself. All of the reasons for being baptized in water in the first place are the very same reasons for the use of the Name of Jesus.  Those who refuse to acknowledge the significance of the Name of Jesus in water baptism have simply not grasped the significance of water baptism itself, or the reasons why baptism is commanded in the first place. Let’s examine some of those reasons:

  1. All Christian groups or denominates agree as a minimum, that water baptism is to express faith in Jesus as Lord and savior. When the listeners on the day of Pentecost accepted Jesus as their Messiah and Lord, they were baptized (Acts 2:36-38, 41). When the Samaritans “believed Philip preaching…concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized” (Acts 8:12). The disciples of John at Ephesus, upon hearing that Jesus was the fulfillment of John’s prophecy, were baptized (Acts 19:4-5). When the Corinthians “believed on the Lord” they were baptized (Acts 18:8).  The proper way to express faith in Jesus is to confess his name. In all of the above cases, the Baptismal candidates expressed their faith in Jesus by being baptized in his Name. (Acts 2:28; 8:16; 19:5; and Co 1:13).
  2. Water Baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), or to “wash away…sins” (Acts 22:16), and the name of Jesus is the only name given for remission of sins. It is “through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Thus the proper way to seek remission of sins at baptism is to invoke the name of Jesus in obedient faith. Acts 2:38 and 22:16 not only connect the remission of sins with water baptism, but they specifically link remissions of sins to water baptism in the Name of Jesus.
  3. Baptism is part of our experience of salvation (Mk 16:16; I Pet 3:21), and the name of Jesus is the only name given for salvation. “Neither is there salvation in any other way: For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; 2:21; Romans 10:9, 13). Thus the proper way to integrate water baptism with New Testament salvation is by invocation of the name of Jesus in the waters of baptism.
  4. Baptisms represents our burial with Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4; Col 2:12). The Spirit of God did not die for us, neither did the Father; only the man Jesus died for us and was buried in the tomb. To be buried with Christ, we must be baptized in his Name.
  5. Baptism is part of our personal identification with Christ. so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death” (Ro 6:3). “For as many of you that have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27). If we truly want to be identified with him, we should take his Name.
  6. Baptism is part of the New Birth by which we are born again into the spiritual family of God (Jn 3:5; Titus 3:5). It is also compared to our adoption into God’s Family (Ro 8:15, 16). A newborn or adopted child always takes on the name of his new family. Since we seek to enter the Church of Jesus Christ, his body, and his bride, we must therefore take on his name (Eph 5:23, 24-32).
  7. Baptism is part of our spiritual circumcision—our initiation  or entrance into the New Covenant (Col 2:11-13). Under the Old Covenant a male child officially received his name at the ceremony of circumcision (Lk 2:21). Water Baptism is the New Covenant equivalent and the time when our new family name is invoked upon us. In this connection, we know that the identifying name of our new spiritual family is Jesus, for at least two reasons. First, it is the only name in which we can receive salvation (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12). Second, it is the supreme name by which God has chosen to reveal himself to us—the name “above all names”. (Phil 2:9-11) (Essentials of Oneness Theology, David K. Bernard, Word Aflame Press, pp 24-26).

  Colossians 3:17 says “whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” This does not require us to pronounce the Name of Jesus orally before every activity, but rather deals with the attitude of heart with which we approach and conduct those activities. All of our words and actions should be consistent with our declaration of Jesus as Lord. When we have cause to invoke the name of Jesus formally, as in water baptism, this verse is particularly relevant. It tells us that we are to approach Holy God in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  Just as we pray, lay hands on the sick, and cast out  demons in the Name of Jesus, so should we baptize in his name. Using the Name of Jesus in the formula for water baptism expresses our faith in the person of Christ (who he really is); the work of Christ (his death, burial and resurrection—the gospel); and the power and authority of Christ (his ability to save us by himself).

  In short, water baptism in the Name of Jesus signifies that we trust in Jesus alone as our savior, and thus it expresses the essence of saving faith. Since the only one who can take away sins is Jesus—not the water, and not the preacher—we call upon Him in obedient faith, depending on him to do the work he has promised to do.

  The Bible teaches plainly that everyone should be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. It also reveals that every single one of the reasons for water Baptism is intimately connected to the Name of Jesus. Thus we understand that water baptism in the name of Jesus demonstrates reverence for and obedience to the Word of God over and above man-made tradition, convenience or peer pressure.

  In the view of the scriptural significance of the name of Jesus, why would anyone doubt the need to be baptized into his name? Why would anyone hesitate to take on the precious name of the one who died for us and to identify publically with him? Why would anyone reject the only saving name, that name that is above every name?

  The Early Church continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42) and the Apostles held water baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins to be essential to the New Birth constituting the entry into the New Covenant—both their preaching and their example makes this clear and indisputable.

The “trinity” in Creation?

     In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

                                                                                            –Genesis 1:1, 2.

          Based upon a misunderstanding of the Hebrew language and occasionally, even outright misrepresentation–trinitarians often advance the idea of plurality of persons involved in creation. This comes not only from the misuse of the Hebrew Word for God–Elohim which is found here in Genesis 1:1; but also from a failure to understandthe nature of the Spirit of God and the removal of certain other passages from their context of scripture as a whole, which are then misinterpreted in isolation to support their views.

   It is helpful, sometimes even necessary to remind ourselves that we must not permit occasional “difficult verses” to override the overall testimony of Scripture.

   Typical of those who advance the argument for the presence of a trinity at creation is Wayne Grudem, research professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Arizona. Writing in his volume, Systematic Theology, he says:

   “God the Father was the primary agent in initiating the act of creation. But the Son and Holy Spirit were also active. The Son as the one through whom creation came about. ‘All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made’ (John1:31). Paul says ‘There is one Lord, Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’(Col.1:16). We read also that ‘the son is the one through whom God created the world’ (Heb1:2). These passages give a consistent picture of the son as the active agent carrying out the plans and directions of the Father.” (Grudem.1994; 266).

   Regarding the alleged role of the Holy Spirit, Grudem has this to say: “The Holy Spirit was also at work in creation. He is generally pictured as completing, filling and giving life to God’s creation. In Genesis 1:2, ‘The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters,’ indicating a preserving, sustaining, governing function” (p.267).

   To be fair, a casual approach to scripture, coupled with a trinitarian theology will certainly seem to support these statements. Take for instance the words of the writer of Hebrews who tells us that God, “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.” (Heb. 1:2). Or, consider the words of the Apostle Paul, to the Church at Colossi: “For by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.” (Col. 1:16).

   Here again, on the surface, these are seemingly clear and straight forward assertions of the role of Jesus in creation. But we must not take these texts in isolation and forget that their context is the whole of scripture.

   Highly placed in Jewish religious circles and self-described “Hebrew of Hebrews,” without question Paul’s background would have made him uncompromisingly monotheistic–a dedicated advocate of belief in the One True God as a single person. Paul’s Jewish heritage had placed the single-person God of Israel at the pinnacle of his belief system. His complete devotion to this one God of the Hebrew Bible remained, after his conversion to Christianity, the prime motivating force behind all his activity.

   We have noted earlier that when Paul insists “that there is no God but One,”he also laments the fact that “Howbeit then there is not in every man this knowledge”(I Co 8:4, 6). Paul made repeated and consistent references in his letters to the One True God, meaning the Father alone, even in contexts where both Father and Son are mentioned together. This is a reflection of Paul’s revelatory understanding of the distinction between the Deity and humanity of Christ.

   We must be careful to avoid, at all costs, the tendency of reading our own twenty-first century interpretations into the writings and beliefs of the first century Church. Words must be permitted to mean what they meant in their original context. Paul’s thinking is inherently consistent. He expressed himself with complete clarity, when he spoke of the One True God. So we must guard against the danger of reading Paul as though he must have been familiar with the much later decisions of the multiple Church Councils. Suggestions of a plural Godhead would not appear for almost three hundred years after the ministry of Jesus. Paul’s letters should be read and understood in their own Hebrew context.

   Too many authors and teachers make the mistake of reading later trinitarian tradition into first century monotheistic Hebrew understanding. As noted, this tendency is known as eisegesis, and is quite prevalent in popular Christian literature. Consequently, it is all too easy for those trained in a trinitarian model to fall into the trap of unconsciously, reading scripture through lenses tinted with the doctrines formulated in the second to fifth centuries.

     Referring to the One God of Israel, Paul says: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of Heaven and Earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Compare this with God’s declaration to the Prophet Isaiah: “I am the LORD that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the Earth by myself” (Is 44:24). To interfere with or to ignore this fundamental aspect of Jewish monotheism and introduce another uncreated “person” as an active agent in the creation would have been totally contrary, even offensive to Paul’s belief in the basic tenets of Jewish theology, primarily its uncompromising unitary monotheism.

   Much of trinitarian theology relies on “proofs” heavy on inference drawn from single verses taken out of context. Consider the passage in Colossians1:16 for example. It has been supposed by many that this verse is evidence of an eternal preexistence of the Messiah and that Jesus created the world. This might seem to be confirmed by a casual reading of the King James Version which claims that “all things were made by Him.” Examination of the Greek however, reveals that this phrase is more properly translated “Through Him.” It is the Son, “Through whom also He (God) made the ages [not ‘worlds’].” (Heb. 1:2). Likewise, Paul believed that it was “in” and “through” Jesus that “all things have been created” (Col 1:16). He did not say or mean to imply that in fact they had been created “by Him.” This is an important, if not obvious distinction, which will become clear.

   Paul’s firm belief in monotheism can be seen in his own words:

     “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one…to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by (through) whom are all things and we (through) Him”

—— I Co 8:4,6

   As a Jew Paul understood that the Father alone is Jehovah God. As an expert on Hebrew scripture he was well acquainted with the facts of creation. As Nehemiah explains:

“Thou, even Thou art LORD (Jehovah) alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas and all that is therein; Thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshipeth Thee–Thou art the LORD, the God [Lit. the Jehovah-The Elohim] who didst choose Abraham…”

——-Neh 9:6, 7.

   We might take note here of the relationship between the LORD, Jehovah who “preservest them all” and Jesus, who is the “brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,” who “upholds all things by the word of His power.” It is the same Lord Jesus of whom it is said, “and again when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, ‘and let all the angels (the host of heaven) worship Him” (Heb 1:3, 6). It is this same Jesus who said in Luke 4:8, “it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him alone shalt thou serve.”

   So, how are we to understand, that according to Hebrews 1:2, God made the worlds by, or more properly, through the Son? Well, certainly, the Spirit of God who was in the Son was also the creator of the worlds.  Scripture has much to say on the subject of creation and we must consider all of it in balance and context. Isaiah, for instance, tells us of the prayer of King Hezekiah, who prayed: “O LORD of Hosts, God of Israel, that dwelleth between the Cherubim, Thou art the God, even Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the Earth: Thou hast made heaven and Earth.”(Isaiah 37:16).

   According to Isaiah then, God was unaccompanied at creation. Further on he records:

“Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the Earth by myself.” [Lit. Heb. “who was with me”]

——Is 44:24

   Isaiah makes dozens of references to the oneness of God; references that only make sense if understood to mean, not a compound unity, but rather, an absolute numerical oneness. He has much to say as well, regarding the activities of this one God in creation.

          “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me…there is none beside me. I am the LORD and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness…I the LORD do all these things…for thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited. I am the LORD; and there is none else

         ——-Is 45:5-7, 18

   There is nothing here that allows for or even hints at a second or third person of the trinity present at creation; quite the opposite. We find here as well as in Hebrews, that the One True God, Jehovah, Elohim, was alone present at creation. But He established the ages of human history with Jesus at the very center of His purpose. It is this God who declares: “It is I who made the Earth, and created man upon it…there is none else, no other God.” (Is 45:12, 14).

   How, on the basis of these, and the many similar verses, scattered throughout scripture, can the idea of a plurality of persons in creation be sustained? Even Jesus, in the Gospels, attributes the work of creation to the Father.  He makes no claim of partnership or agency in the Genesis creation (Mk 10:6; Mt 6:30, 19:4; Lk12:28). Why does He seem to make it a point to expressly declare the Father to be the sole creator? If Jesus had indeed played a role as co-creator of the heavens and earth in Genesis, why does He not tell us this? Perhaps more significantly, if He is indeed the physical manifestation of the creator God, why not simply declare, “I did it”?

   I believe that Jesus in fact, does just this, but only to those who have, “ears to hear and eyes to see.” He spoke to His disciples in Mark chapter four, in a conversation that bears directly on our subject. Following His presentation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus responds to a question regarding the purpose and use of parables. Jesus answers:

          “Unto you (true disciples) it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing, they may see and not perceive; and hearing, they may hear, and not understand”

          ——Mk 4:11,12

     Jesus told Philip in John 14: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (Jn14:9).This statement has tremendous significance. As we have already seen, a study of the Hebrew Elohim lends no support to the persistent idea that “God” in Genesis 1:1 refers not only to the Father, but also the Son and Spirit as well. It is important to note that Isaiah, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, identifies Elohim (God), as Jehovah and the Hebrew scriptures plainly limit the name Jehovah to the Father alone (See Dt 32.6; Is 63:16, 64:8; Jer 31:9). Malachi has this to say: “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us”? (Mal 2:10).

   By the careful comparison of scripture with scripture, it quickly becomes clear that the idea of a trinity of persons present at creation is simply not supported by the Biblical evidence. What we find instead, is the declaration of the One True God, who alone is the creator, sustainer, and redeemer. This is the God “which alone spreadeth out the heavens and treadeth upon the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, do we have in this brief passage a clue to the identity of the Man from Galilee? Consider carefully, for we find in the Gospel of Matthew that “…in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the sea…” (Mt 14:26).

   Rather than trying to allege the presence of a trinity at work in creation, a more Biblical approach would be to take the scriptures themselves at face value.  When seen in balance and context, all of the “problem passages” fall into place and our eyes are opened to a simple and marvelous truth:

 “By the Word of the Lord were the Heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath [Heb. Ruach/spirit] of His mouth”

——Ps 33:6

   The One True God of the Bible, who is spirit–Jehovah-Elohim–the Father, that “calleth those things which be not as though they were” spoke the worlds into existence. It’s just that simple. Nothing in the Genesis account or anywhere else in scripture requires a trinitarian explanation or the presence of a supposed co-creator.

The “Us” Verses

The “US” Verses

Closely related to the discussion of the trinity in creation and the Hebrew word for God-Elohim, is the problem created by the mishandling of Genesis 1:26, and the related verses, Genesis 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8.

Many see in these an implicit (some would say explicit) suggestion that God exists as more than one person. After all, what else could the plural verb “let us” and the plural noun “our” mean?

Is not the best explanation the fact that already in the very first chapter of the opening book of scripture, we have an indication of a plurality of persons in the Godhead? We are not told how many persons, and we have nothing approaching a complete or explicit doctrine of the trinity.

It does seem, however, to imply more than one person is involved. Or does it?

Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting in their work, “The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-inflicted Wound,” point out that“An occasionalgrammatical anomaly cannot possibly offset the evidence of thousands of occurrences in which the Divine Name and titles take singular verbs.” (Buzzard and Hunting. 1998. 23).

The singular El and Eloah (God), both affirm the oneness of God. It is amazing the tenacity of those who continue to advance, against the evidence of thousands of texts in which God is described by singular pronouns and verbs, the four “US” verses, as proof positive that God is triune.

Genesis 1:26 is perhaps the most familiar of these:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness…”

To assert this as conclusive of God’s plurality is precarious at best.

As in the case with Elohim, most modern scholars no longer take the phrase “Let us” to mean a plurality of persons in the trinity.

The same can be said of Genesis 3:22,“Behold, the man has become as one of us…,”

 Genesis 11:7“…let us go down, and there confound their language.” and

Isaiah 6:8 “Whom shall I send and who will go for us”.Note carefully thecombination of singular and plural in the same sentence in the Isaiah passage.

This same combination also appears in the Genesis creation account. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make man in our image…,”

However, in Genesis 1:27 we find that “…God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him…”

The use of this so-called “Divine Plural” has puzzled scholars and students of scripture for thousands of years. It has been understood historically in several ways:

  1. God conversing with the angels (The historic Jewish viewpoint)
  2. God counseling with His own will (As also in Eph.


  • A plural pronoun agreeing with and necessitated by the plural noun Elohim
  • A majestic or literary plural
  • A prophetic reference to the future manifestation of the Son of God

It is fanciful to imagine that this verse supports the idea that God was speaking to the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Where in scripture does the Lord ever speak to His own Spirit?

The text says nothing about an eternal son, the second member of a co-equal, co-eternal trinity.

The “Us” in the text gives no indication of two other equal partners in the Godhead. To claim otherwise is merely creative imagination or faulty exegesis.

If God is indeed a single “person” His use of the word “us” means that He is addressing someone other than Himself, someone other than God.

Even among Trinitarians, different authors take different sides on this issue. Some have suggested these are plurals of majesty, a form of speech a king would use in saying, for example, “We are not amused,” or “We are pleased to grant your request.”

In Old Testament Hebrew there are no other examples of a monarch using plural pronouns of himself in such a plural of majesty. This leads some to conclude that this suggestion has no evidence to support it.

It should be noted however, that both Alexander the Great (152 BC) and King Demetrius (145 BC) refer to themselves in this way in the Septuagint text of I Maccabees 10:19 and 11:31. Of course this is Greek, not Hebrew and written long after Genesis.

Gesenius’  Hebrew  Grammar  rejects  the  Plural  of Majesty as an incorrect explanation for these passages. It prefers, in the case of Genesis 1:26– “A plural of self-deliberation.” (Gesenius. 1910. 124.n2). (Compare this with Ephesians 1:11).

A search for a Jewish interpretation in the Babylonian Talmud, the Targumim and the Midrashim reveals only that the later rabbinic interpreters were unable to reach agreement on a satisfactory interpretation of the passage. The “Plural of Majesty” and “God speaking to angels” are the most commonly suggested interpretations.

Regarding the suggestion that God is here speaking to angels, Buzzard and Hunting agree saying, “It is most likely that the plural pronoun “we” contains a reference to God’s attendant council of angels, who themselves had been created in the image of God and had been witness to the creation of the universe.” (Buzzard and Hunting. 1998. 22).

Wayne Grudem disagrees claiming, “Angels did not participate in the creation of man, nor was man created in the image and likeness of angels, so this suggestion is not convincing.” (Grudem.1994.227).

 Before we reject this idea out of hand, we should carefully consider the passages in I Kings 22:19-22 and II Chronicles 18:18-22.

1 Kings 22:19-22 King James Version (KJV)

19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lordsitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.

20 And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.

21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.

22 And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.

2 Chronicles 18:18-22 King James Version (KJV)

18 Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lordsitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.

19 And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.

20 Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?

21 And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.

22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee.

Regarding Genesis 1:26, Trinitarian commentator G. J. Wenham writes in The Word Biblical Commentary, “Christians have traditionally seen this verse as adumbrating the trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural meant to the original author.” (Wordbook.1987.27).

The related entry in The NIV Study Bible reads: “God speaks as the creator-king announcing His crowning work to the members of His Heavenly court. (See Genesis 3:22, 11:7; Is 6:8; See also I Kings 22:19-23; Job 15:8; Jer 23:18),” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan; 1985).

A reasonable question to pose to Trinitarians who see God as a plurality: Why do they not put an “s” on the end of God?

In the English language, plurals are commonly noted by a final “s.” It is a standard and recognized format of the language, a universally accepted rule of grammar.

If the plural pronoun “us” in Genesis 1:26 refers to a plural Godhead, then the trinity ought regularly to be referred to as “they” and “them”.

Trinitarians are unhappy with this suggestion, showing that their notion of the Godhead in addition to being unbiblical, also defies the rules of language, as well as the laws of logic.

Prominent Trinitarian writers seem to have gone far beyond the evidence of scripture when asserting that the third person of the trinity was involved in conversation when God said, “Let us make man in our image.”

It seems imaginative at best, to say that God here spoke to the Holy Spirit. God never once speaks to His Spirit anywhere in scripture. To do so would make as much sense as you speaking to your own spirit–He would be talking to Himself.

I believe that it is quite reasonable therefore, to assume that this is yet another prophetic reference to the future manifestation of the Son of God. God made all things with Jesus in mind and thus for Him.

Significantly, in fulfilling this verse, God created Adam as one person, with one body, mind, personality, spirit and will. The Bible tells us in Romans 5:14 that Adam was made in the figure or likeness of Him that was to come, which is Jesus.

God in His omniscience and foreknowledge, foreseeing man’s sin and His own ultimate revelation in the flesh as man’s redeemer–looked at Christ as the blueprint for making Adam.

Therefore, Adam was made in the image and likeness of Christ–the Father God’s manifestation in the flesh. God knew when He created Adam that He would become flesh in order to redeem mankind.

We see in Revelation 13:8, Christ as the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. Although it was thousands of years until He actually hung on the cross at Calvary, in the mind of God He was already slain. In the very same way, when God made Adam, he was made in the image of Christ that existed in the mind of God; the image of God Himself.

–Larry L Yates, ThD, DMin

The Baptism of Jesus–A Fresh Look

    Most people believe that at the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven in the form of a dove and the voice of God spoke audibly from Heaven in a dramatic manifestation of the trinity. I suggest this may not in fact, be the best way to understand these passages. There is another viewpoint that many believe better represents the Biblical data; one that is consistent and more in harmony with the Biblical emphasis on the oneness of God.

    First, a careful examination of the relevant passages is in order. Beginning in Matthew’s Gospel we will consider them in order.

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized of Thee, and Thou comest unto me?’ And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘Suffer it to be so now: For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he suffered Him. And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, and lo, the Heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on Him: and lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

                                                                                                      ——–Matthew 3:13-17

    If this were the only thing scripture had to say on this issue, we would probably have to agree with the traditional interpretation of the events. From these verses alone things appear pretty straightforward—Jesus is in the water, the Holy Ghost descends from Heaven and the Father speaks.

    We must, however, always remember that we are never permitted to base our doctrine on a single passage of scripture taken in isolation. The principle laid down for us in both testaments and confirmed to us by both Jesus and Paul, is that two or three witnesses are required to establish truth. So, before we take verses like these in Matthew at face value and build our case from them alone–we should first examine any related passages for any data that might be relevant.

    Jesus’ baptism is one of the few incidents in His life to be recorded in all four Gospels. This is significant for a number of reasons. First of all, it indicates the importance of the event itself. It was considered significant enough to warrant coverage by each of the Gospel writers. Secondly, and more importantly for our purposes, it provides four independent sources and four different accounts from which we can draw the information on which to base our conclusions regarding what actually took place.

“And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and there came a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘Thou art my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness.”

                                                                                                                  —–Mark 1:9-11

“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 Ghost 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

Even when we investigate these additional sources we find little to argue with.

    Jesus was born a Jew under the dispensation of the law; therefore He was baptized under the Law. He was not baptized for sin, for He knew no sin in regard to Himself. John recognized this when he exclaimed that Jesus should be the one to baptize him. Jesus was baptized, according to scripture, to fulfill all righteousness, and as our example. He was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and our High Priest. As High Priest, Jesus fulfills the high priestly function under the law of going to the laver of water–in this case the Jordan River–prior to going to the Altar of Sacrifice.

The Laver of water in the Tabernacle was a type or symbol of water baptism. With all of this in mind, we will now consider our fourth and final witness and see what it adds to our discussion.

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is He of Whom I said, after me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me. And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.’ And John bare record saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, ‘upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”

                                                                                                                —–John 1:29-34 

    This passage presents some interesting details not contained in the other accounts and it is on these we will focus our attention. The scriptures indicate that John did not know Jesus. This is especially intriguing in light of the fact that they were cousins and only six months apart in age. How is this possible? Palestine is not that large of an area. Surely they would have known each other as they grew up. Various theories exist to account for this confusing statement. Some authors believe that Jesus spent a majority of His early life away from the area of Palestine. Another view is that John himself had not been around much, having spent most of his life alone in the deserts, preparing for the work for which he was born. There is however, a third consideration and it is here I believe we should look for our answers.

    In comparing the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 40:3 as well as Malachi 3:1, we discover that John the Baptist had a very unique and quite specific call on his life.

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the LORD, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

                                                                                              —–Isaiah 40:3

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, he shall come saith the LORD of Hosts.”

                                                                                            —–Malachi 3:1

    We understand from these passages that John the Baptist was to be the forerunner of Jehovah God, preparing the way for the one true God of Israel. John’s ministry could not be fulfilled or complete therefore, until Jehovah Himself appeared on the scene in flesh.

    It is, I believe, in this understanding that we find the explanation for John’s declaration, “I knew Him not.” Certainly he knew Jesus, the man from Galilee—but how was he to know and understand that Jesus was the manifestation in the flesh of Jehovah God?  The Lord had spoken directly to John and commissioned him into his calling and ministry as “The Baptizer” and forerunner. He let him know that one day while John was baptizing, there would come to him one desiring baptism who would be the Messiah, the savior and redeemer of Israel. God would identify Him to John in a very specific way. He would give to John a unique vision that would allow him to know that this was the one he had been waiting for (John 1:33, 34). John was to know and bare record that Jesus was the Christ by seeing the Spirit, in a vision, descending and remaining on Him. This then, would be the one who baptizes with the Holy Ghost.

    Who is this Jehovah that John was making way for? Does the Bible reveal this name as the name of the trinity as many claim or does it in fact limit the use of the name Jehovah only to the Father?

“Do you requite the LORD (Jehovah), O foolish people and unwise? Is not He thy father that hath bought thee? Hath He not made thee, and established thee?”

—–Deuteronomy 32:6

“…Thou, O LORD (Jehovah), art our father…”

—–Isaiah 63:16; 64:8

    In Jeremiah 31:9 Jehovah speaks declaring, “I am a father to Israel.”Taken together, these and many other scriptures reveal clearly that Jehovah is the covenant and redemptive name of the Father of the Old Testament. We will see later that, in the New Covenant, God accompanied the revelation of Himself in the flesh with a new name.

    By giving attention to John’s own words and the specific details in the various accounts, I believe we can arrive at a very clear and accurate understanding of the facts more in keeping with the overall testimony of scripture. Rather than finding support for the concept of a trinity, I believe we will have a very satisfactory explanation of the baptismal events more compatible with the oneness of God.

   Returning to the Gospel accounts, I want to focus specifically on the phrase “the heavens were opened” and “the voice from heaven.” Based on a careful study of scripture, I no longer believe either of these statements are to be taken literally. In fact, there is nothing in the text itself to suggest that anyone in the crowd understood what was happening. If either of these events occurred in a manner visible to those gathered at the river, surely there would have been some sort of reaction on their part. An event of this magnitude would have been a notable occurrence.

    Consider the phrase, “the heavens were opened.” In addition to the four accounts we have in the Gospels, the same phrase occurs in several other places throughout scripture. In Ezekiel 1:1 it is connected with Ezekiel’s vision of God beside the river Chebar. Malachi 3:10 speaks of God opening the “windows of Heaven,” and pouring out a blessing on His obedient children. In each of these cases this is obviously, a symbolic figure of speech, pointing to a spiritual reality.

    Turning our attention to the New Testament, Jesus tells the astonished Nathaniel. “…Hereafter ye shall see  heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51). This is hardly a reference to a literal and visible occurrence. In the well-known account of the stoning of Stephen and his vision of Jesus “standing at the right hand of the Father,” we have no indication that anyone but Stephen saw this vision.

    When the “Heavens were opened” to Peter inaugurating his mission outreach to the gentiles at the house of Cornelius we are, again dealing with a spiritual vision and not a literal visible manifestation. Finally, when the heavens were opened to John in Revelation 4:1 and 19:11, we have, as with all seven previous accounts, not the slightest indication that this was anything other than a revelatory vision experienced by only one person.

    Each of these references is figurative and symbolic. In Revelation 6:14-17 however, we find a very different picture altogether. Here the “heavens depart as a scroll,” all men see it and are terrified and hide themselves in caves, rocks, and mountains.  Such would be the natural and expected reaction of all men if the heavens were literally and visibly opened to them.

    At the baptism of Jesus the scriptures do not say that the heavens were opened unto all of the people, but rather “to him,” meaning John the Baptist. It was John alone that saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove. This was the sign promised, by which he would recognize the Messiah.

    But what about this “voice from Heaven”? That this is the Father speaking is made clear from His statement “This is my beloved Son…” Was this then an audible voice heard by the multitude? Let’s examine some other scriptural accounts and see what we can learn.

    In Exodus 20:18-19 we have the story of the giving of the Law to the people of Israel at Sinai, the children of Israel who heard the literal and audible voice of God were terrified  (compare Heb. 12: 18-21). The physical manifestation of God, speaking to His people provoked an immediate reaction of tremendous fear.

    Compare the account of Jesus and the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here we find the Father making virtually the same statement as recorded at the baptismal scene.  Upon hearing the audible voice of God, the disciples fell to the ground in terror. Finally, in Acts 9:3-7 we find the account of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. While on the surface, there seems to be no reaction on the part of those present with Saul, the Greek phrase translated as “speechless” is quite reveling. Occurring only here it literally means “breathless.” Do you find yourself a little breathless when you are frightened?

    Quite significantly and contrary to every other recorded instance in scripture in which a voice was heard from Heaven or the heavens literally opened, here at the baptism of Jesus we see not a single reaction from the crowd; not the slightest indication that anyone except John and Jesus were aware of what was taking place. Why? Because the things recorded here were part of John’s vision. The revelation was for him alone; no one else apparently saw or heard anything.

    It is important for us to understand that the phrase, “the Heavens were opened,” is a Hebrew idiom—a figure of speech, signifying that a vision was taking place or that a revelation was being given. John saw the Spirit of God, in what I believe to be a vision, descending like a dove. This served to identify Jesus to John as Jehovah-Elohim manifested in the flesh—the anointed Messiah of Israel. On Jesus’ part it signified His anointing and commissioning for ministry—He was now thirty years old, the age at which Jewish men became eligible to enter the priesthood.

   Additionally, the total lack of response on the part of the crowd gives us good reason to believe that only John and Jesus heard the voice from heaven. Taking all of this together, we can therefore conclude that, according to the scriptures rightly divided, John the Baptist, in a vision only, saw the heavens opened, the Spirit descend like a dove, and heard the voice of the Father from Heaven confirming to him that this was indeed the promised Messiah.

   There was no actual dove sitting on Christ’s shoulder. The Holy Ghost is not a bird—He doesn’t have wings or feathers. This is simply a description of the anointing presence and power of God descending and remaining on Jesus. All that the people saw there on that day was the person of Jesus, standing with John in the waters of the Jordan River. John the Baptist, however, saw by revelation, the carpenter from Nazareth, become the anointed Messiah, now commissioned as the one who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. It is this that John bore record and saw (Jn 1:32-34). It came to him by revelation knowledge to show him that Jesus was the Christ, the Jehovah God of Israel—manifested in the flesh.

   Consider this from another angle: suppose for a moment that indeed, as many believe, the heavens were literally opened, an actual dove floated down from Heaven, landing upon Christ, and the voice of God thundered from Heaven. Without question this would have been one of the greatest events ever to have happened in their day. Were this to have taken place in a manner visible to all, everyone there that day, including John the Baptist would immediately began to broadcast this event to any and all who would listen. News of this momentous occasion would have spread like wildfire, drawing crowds from all the surrounding towns and villages. This would have been a complete contradiction of Jesus’ desire in the early phase of His ministry, as recorded in scripture, of maintaining a low profile. He repeatedly warned people not to broadcast His miracles, so as to minister unhindered.

   Additionally, with the presence of so many eyewitnesses, no one would have been able to long doubt or be likely to forget something of this significance. It is therefore telling that just a short time later, while in prison John sent two of his disciples to Jesus with the question, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” (Mt 11:3). In other words “Are you really Him, or was it all just my imagination at the river?”

   Why not simply confer with the others who supposedly saw the same thing? If John experienced, along with everyone else, the heavens literally opened, a physical dove land on Jesus’ shoulder, and an audible voice from Heaven—can we honestly believe he would so soon forget? Would anyone for that manner be so quick to doubt or call into question such an experience?

   Jesus’ response to this inquiry is highly significant. As recorded in the Gospel of Luke, it seems that Jesus ignored their question. He continues on with His business of healing the sick and ministering to the afflicted. He casts out demons and restores sight to the blind (Lk 7:19-23). Only then does He turn to the disciples of John and with gentle love and patience He says, “Go and show John again those things which you do see and hear: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Mt 11:4-5).

   The baptism of Jesus was not meant to introduce to the devout Jewish onlookers, a radical and innovative doctrine of plurality in the Godhead. Instead it signified the authoritative anointing of Jesus as the Messiah. A proper understanding of God’s omnipresence will dispel any notion that the heavenly voice and “dove” either indicate or require separate persons. But what about Jesus’ enigmatic response to John’s question?  In verses that John would have been intimately familiar with, the Prophet Isaiah prophesies in chapter 35:

   “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not: Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with recompense; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame man will leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.”

—–Isaiah 35:3-6,

(Compare also Isaiah 61:1-2)

   A careful examination of all these accounts in harmony leads one to believe with confidence that before his death, John had the assurance that indeed, the Messiah had come. Jesus Christ—Jehovah-Elohim—the Lord of Glory walked among men.