The Oneness View of Jesus Christ
David K. Bernard
Dr. Bernard, DTh, JD serves as the general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International.
Oneness theology affirms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as simultaneous, not sequential, manifestations of God.
We can state the Oneness doctrine succinctly in two propositions:
• There is one indivisible God with no distinction of persons in God’s eternal essence.
• Jesus Christ is the manifestation, human personification, incarnation of the one God.
All the fullness of God dwells bodily in Jesus Christ, and all names and titles of deity properly apply to him. God’s manifestations as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveal God’s work in salvation history but do not represent different centers of consciousness or personalities.
The scriptural distinction between Father and Son does not describe two divine persons but the transcendent, eternal Deity and the Deity’s manifestation in flesh as the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).
There is only one God, known in the Old Testament as Yahweh, and we are to worship, love, and serve Yahweh alone (Deut 6:4–5; Mark 12:28–31). God is a single personal being who thinks, feels, and acts, not an abstract, impersonal substance in which multiple actors can dwell or in which multiple personalities can participate.
God is revealed in three manifestations: (1) as the Father, the source of all existence and life, God in transcendence and in parental relationship to humanity; (2) in the Son, God coming in human identity; and (3) as the Holy Spirit, God in spiritual presence and action.
These roles are necessary to God’s plan of redemption but do not indicate eternally distinct persons, just as the Incarnation does not indicate that God had eternally preexistent flesh. The Bible never speaks of God as a “trinity” or “three persons.”
Jesus Christ is the one God, the Father, incarnate. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9 NIV). “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor 5:19 KJV).
Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15 KJV) and “the exact imprint of God’s very being” (hypostasis) (Heb 1:3 NRSV). Jesus is the Word, meaning God in self-revelation (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the Lord and the God of all (John 20:28). He is not the incarnation of a “portion” of God but of all the identity, character, and personality of the one God.
As to his eternal deity, there is no subordination of Jesus to anyone else. The Father dwells in Jesus so that Jesus is the visible manifestation of the invisible Father (John 14:9–11). This identity is eternal; in heaven we will see the one God in the person of Jesus Christ (Rev 22:3–4).
Jesus is the Son of God. This title means he is a true human being who bears God’s full likeness, or God manifested in the flesh. The term “Son” relates to Christ’s human identity (e.g., “the Son died”) and encompasses the union of deity and humanity in Christ (e.g., “the Son has power to forgive sin”) but is not used apart from God’s incarnation.
The phrases “God the Son” and “eternal Son” are not biblical. The role of the Son began when Jesus was conceived miraculously in a virgin’s womb by God’s Spirit, so that God was his Father (Luke 1:35). When Jesus walked on earth as God incarnate, God’s Spirit continued to be omnipresent.
As the glorified Messiah, Jesus is now “on the right hand of God” – in the position of divine glory, exercising the power and authority of the invisible, omnipresent Spirit.
Jesus Christ is completely and genuinely human – in body, soul, spirit, and will. Christ’s humanity means that everything we can say of ourselves, we can say of Jesus in his earthly life, except Jesus had no sin. In every way that we relate to God, Jesus related to God, except he did not need salvation.
When Jesus prayed, submitted to the Father, and spoke about and to God, he simply acted in accordance with his authentic humanity. At the same time, God was incarnate in him. Deity and humanity were inseparably joined in Jesus. While there was a distinction between the divine will and his human will, he always submitted the latter to the former.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit that was in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit does not come as another person but comes in another form and another relationship; the Holy Spirit is Jesus coming to dwell in human lives (John 14:16–18). By his Spirit, Jesus fulfills his promise to meet with those who gather in his name (Matt 18:20).
As the manifestation of Yahweh, Jesus is the only Savior (Isa. 45:21–23). His name means “Yahweh-Savior,” and Jesus Christ is the only one who literally personifies this meaning. Jesus is the only name (singular) given for our salvation (Acts 4:12), encompassing God’s redemptive work as Father, Son, and Spirit (Matt 28:19). It has become the name above all names (Phil 2:9–11).
Oneness theology bears some affinity to ancient modalism, but historically there is no link. We cannot be certain of theological links as we do not know the modalists’ full views. Both movements speak of one God in threefold manifestation while protecting the numerical oneness of God and the full deity of Christ. Unlike some descriptions of ancient modalism, however,
Oneness theology affirms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as simultaneous, not sequential, manifestations of God. Some theologians maintain that in modalism God is essentially unknowable because God’s essence is hidden behind three “masks.” The main thrust of Oneness theology is exactly the opposite; we can truly know God’s character, holiness, love, and power in Jesus Christ.
The one true God is not hidden but manifested, for as 2 Cor 4:6 teaches, the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ.
Based on doctoral thesis, The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ (JPTSupp 45, Deo [Brill], 2016). For full discussion, see David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God (Word Aflame, rev. ed., 2000) and The Oneness View of Jesus Christ (Word Aflame, 1994). All available at Pentecostal Publishing House.