Jesus: The Visible God
I have question about one of the articles that you have posted on the Apostolic.net website.
I am a former Trinitarian trying to form a biblically accurate Christology in light of the Oneness position. I agree that the Bible teaches the numerical Oneness of God and that Jesus is God revealed in the flesh. My struggle lies in the area of the Father and Son. I am hoping that you can help me to better understand this concept and to clarify a comment you made in your article titled: A Trinitarian's Struggle With the Oneness Doctrine
In the very last paragraph you wrote:
"I do not advocate Sabellianism in the least sense. There are no successive revelations of God, and neither is Jesus Christ only a temporary existence of God. The incarnation is permanent. Jesus, in His flesh, is in heaven right now right alongside of the Father. You are right in pointing out the error of Sabellianism. Successive modes could not pray to one another."
Can you please elaborate on the sentence I have underlined? Unless I am misunderstanding you, this seems to contradict a basic Oneness concept that in heaven we will see only one entity or person, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.
I look forward to your reply and want to thank you for the excellent work you have done. Your articles have been such a blessing to me and have answered so many of the questions I have struggled with in trying to teach others about the Lord Jesus and who the Bible declares Him to be.
I'm glad our articles have been a blessing to you in your pursuit for understanding.
Let me try to clear up any misunderstanding my statement has caused. First, let me make it clear that oneness theology does not maintain a "Jesus Only" view of God, wherein any distinction (which is different than separation) between the Father and Son is denied. Truly oneness theology confesses a distinction. This is not the same as Trinitarianism, however. Trinitarianism teaches three eternal persons within the one essence of the Godhead. Oneness theology, however, sees God as uni-personal. We do not see any personal distinctions within God's essence, and admit a personal distinction only between the Father and Son, not between the Father, Son, and Spirit. Secondly, the Oneness understanding of the personal distinction between Father and Son is not an eternal distinction of persons prior to the incarnation. Oneness theology understands the personal distinction as arising only after the incarnation when the one uni-personal God, YHWH, Himself became a man, acquiring a genuine human existence/consciousness. So whereas the Trinitarian distinction is eternal and unrelated to the incarnation, in Oneness theology the distinction is temporal and exclusively bound up in the incarnation.
Oneness theology recognizes that when God took to Himself a human identity/existence, a distinction arose. Such a distinction is not a distinction between divine persons in the Godhead (Trinitarianism), but between God's existence apart from the incarnation and God's existence in the incarnation (Oneness theology). When God became a man, He did not cease being God. When God became incarnated in a human existence, God did not cease to inhabit the heavens. God now exists both in the incarnation as a genuine human being, and yet continues to exist beyond the incarnation. Biblically this distinction is maintained by the Father/Son distinction. As God exists apart from and beyond the incarnation He is referred to as "Father." As God exists in the incarnation He is referred to as "Son" or "Jesus Christ." This does not make two persons in the Godhead, but makes a distinction between the one uni-personal (as opposed to tri-personal as in Trinitarian thought) God's existence apart from the incarnation and in the incarnation with a genuine human existence. To reiterate, the distinction between the Father and Son is a distinction that arose in the incarnation because of the addition of humanity to God's previously unmitigated existence as exclusive Spirit.
Having set forth the above, the point I was trying to make by saying that Jesus is alongside the Father in heaven right now is to stress that God continues to exist in two ways (in the incarnation, and apart from the incarnation), and will continue to exist this way for eternity. This is not to say that we are going to see the Father and see Jesus in heaven. The Bible is clear that no man can see God (John 1:18; I Timothy 6:16; I John 4:12), which means we cannot see God in His essence. Jesus, however, is the image of the invisible God (II Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). He is God's essence made visible to man. Jesus is the only God we will ever see. He is the one who is on the throne (Revelation 22:3).
Paul said Jesus "is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). The Greek word translated "image" is eikon, referring to a representation of something, and denoting the manifestation of a substance. Notice that Paul contrasted Jesus' image to that of the invisible God. The point Paul was trying to get across to his readers was that Jesus is the visible representation of God to man. That is why Jesus could say, "he that has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9; also 12:45).
The author of Hebrews said Jesus is the "express image of his [God's] person" (1:3). "Express image" is from the Greek word charakter, meaning to impress upon, or stamp. It denotes an engravement from a tool, which impresses an image into that which is being engraved. This impression, then, is a characteristic of the instrument used to do produce it. What is produced corresponds precisely with the instrument.
The Greek word translated "person" is hypostasis. Although rendered as "person," it is more properly understood as essence of being, or the substance of a thing. Jesus, therefore, is not just a representation of God, but is the very visible impression of God's invisible substance and essence. He is God's very nature expressed in humanity. To say it another way, He is the corresponding engravement of God's essence of being, in human form.
Having affirmed that Jesus is the only God we will ever see, we need to guard against taking this to mean that God has become centralized in the person of Jesus Christ so as to exclude His continual existence apart from the incarnation (what the Bible refers to as "Father"). I have heard some oneness believers go so far as to say that we should not call God "Father," thinking such is a Trinitarian word. Clearly such an approach is unbiblical and unnecessary.
IBS | Statement of Faith | Home
| Browse by Author | Q
Links | Virtual Classroom | Copyright | Submitting Articles | Search