The focal point of this essay is this question: is Jesus the Father? Let me preface this a tad. The Bible reveals the following three truths: there is one God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each distinct persons. That is a rather confusing set of doctrines, because, after all, how can there be one God, if there are three persons? Well, to me, this is sort of like asking how there can be one triangle, yet three sides. The view that Christians throughout the millennia have taken is this: there is one God who is eternally present in these three persons. That seems to make the most sense of the biblical data.
However sometimes, our limited minds have trouble understanding biblical truths, so we try to alter them into what makes sense in our human minds. So some will say Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But is Jesus the Father? Well he is certainly a father; he is the father of eternity (Isaiah 9:6). But is Jesus God the Father? This is a position represented by the Oneness Pentecostal Movement, who argue that Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Though sometimes as I read the gospel of John, I almost begin to think that John encountered Oneness Pentecostals, and therefore included in his gospel sayings of Jesus that directly refuted their view. Every line in John’s gospel seems to be anti-Oneness Pentecostal.
Jesus worshipped God the Father. For example, the Jews sought to kill Jesus, because, they argued, he was making himself equal with God (John 5:18). The next line begins with the word, therefore (v. 19) indicating that because the Jews sought to kill him, Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing.” He argued that he does not do anything unless he sees the Father doing it. He said this as a response to the Jews who wanted to kill him for claiming to be equal with the Father. Jesus said, essentially, “no, I am not. I only do what the Father commands.” He goes on to say, (v. 22) that the Father judges nobody, but has given all judgment to the Son. In Oneness Pentecostal language, this should read, “Jesus judges nobody, but has given all judgment to Jesus.”
Later, Jesus strived to align with the Law Of The Two Witnesses. In a Jewish court, a testimony required two witnesses. Jesus offered two. He said, “I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” (John 8:18). Now in Oneness Pentecostal language, this is sort of like going into a courtroom and arguing, “I have three witnesses who will testify for me. Me, myself, and I.”
Jesus said that the Father who testifies for him is greater than he is (John 14:28). Now this does not mean that Jesus is not God, or not equally God with the Father. It means that Jesus is subservient in duty, even if he is equal in nature, with the Father. This may be comparable to a wife taking a position of subservience under her husband, even if she is equal in nature. Jesus emptied himself of his divine attributes for his love for mankind (Philippians 2:3-8). The Father is greater than he is in that sense. However, in Oneness Pentecostal language, Jesus seems to be arguing that he is greater than himself.
Jesus proclaimed to his disciples that he and the Father are one (John 10:30). Most people take this as a proof-text that Jesus is God, but unfortunately I am forced to disagree. Jesus is God, but this verse does not prove it. Some take this as a proof-text that Jesus is the Father. But all it says is that Jesus and the Father are one. One in what way? Jesus tells us. He prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.” (John 17:11). Unless the disciples are the same person, we are left to conclude that Jesus and the Father are distinct persons.
Is Jesus just making a distinction between his body and his spirit? That is the position of most Oneness Pentecostals. When Jesus says these things, he is just making a distinction between his human nature and his spiritual nature. But let me ask a question. Would anybody really interpret these passages like that? When Jesus told the Jews, “There are two that testify…” was anybody really thinking that he raised a distinction between his body and his spirit? This is a conclusion that one would reach only if they developed their beliefs before reading the Bible. It is crank hermeneutics.
Secondly, if Jesus’s relationship with the Father was just a matter of a distinction between his body and his spirit, how are we to interpret his dying words, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)? How many spirits does Jesus have?
Further, and critically, if Jesus was merely making a distinction between his body and his spirit, how do we interpret the relationship that he had with the Father before the incarnation? He says, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5). Jesus had a relationship with the Father before the universe even existed. What makes the most sense of saying? That Jesus is the Father, or that Jesus and the Father are distinct persons?
Is Jesus the Father? I think if we are honest with ourselves, there is really no question. Jesus clearly made a distinction between himself and the Father. Anybody who wants to say that Jesus is the Father must read between the lines. They must read sentences like, “the Father is greater than I,” or “[let the disciples] be one even as We are,” and say something like, ‘ah, this is what Jesus said, but what did he mean?’
Thus it seems to me that if the Oneness Pentecostal movement is correct, and Jesus is the Father, he seems to be a very deceptive and confusing man. Jesus says that he is greater than himself, and we have to figure out this puzzle to determine what he really meant. He refers to himself as his own Father. He prays to himself. He says that he had a relationship with himself before the world began. What manner of man is this? Is Jesus the Father? To suggest this leads us to, as I say, crank hermeneutics and makes the biblical Jesus, at best, into a man who was very bad at communicating. At worst, he would be a deceiver. The view that Jesus is the Father is not a closely competing view. It is ridiculous, on an intellectual level with the question, “is the moon made of green cheese?”. It is only worth addressing because so many people defend it.
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