The Baptism of Jesus
QUESTION: "According to Oneness ('Jesus Only') Pentecostals, the baptism of Jesus is against there being three persons in the Godhead. The voice of the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit were manifestations, both audible and visible, for John the Baptist. There were two manifestations in Acts 2, tongues like as of fire and speaking in tongues (audible and visible). Would we say there were two persons there? No, because audible and visible manifestations do not make two persons any more than the smoke from an exhaust and the sound from an engine (audible and visible) would make two engines. So, they say, there was only ONE person at the baptism of Jesus. Would you please explain?
REPLY: If one has no theory to project or protect, the baptism of Jesus clearly presents to us three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead; namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
"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 comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. And 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 upon him; And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:13-16).
"And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of 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" (Mk. 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 from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Lk. 3:21, 22).
"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 unto 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 bear record that this is the Son of God" (Jn. 1:29-34).
These simple, sublime accounts eloquently depict the words and actions of four separate and distinct persons; namely, John the Baptist, Jesus, the Christ, God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. By noting the pronouns, we know that John the Baptist is not Jesus Christ. The record of their conversation in Matthew's account and the words of John the Baptizer in John's record show us that John and Jesus are two different persons. Just as surely as one can see and acknowledge that fact, so by using the same reasoning and analysis, one can understand that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three persons, not one.
God spoke to John and referred to one whom he (John) did not yet know, Jesus, the Son of God--how many persons is that (John. 1:33)? In Mark's account, at his baptism, Jesus prayed. To whom did he pray? To himself?
Was Jesus a ventriloquist? Did he, while on earth, "throw" his voice to speak "from heaven"? Should he have said he was his "own Son," rather than "my beloved Son"? ("I am my own Son, and I am well pleased in myself"?)
All surely admit that John and Jesus are two persons. John conversed, yea, argued with Jesus (Matt. 3:14, 15). So, John heard the voice of Jesus. From where did Jesus' voice come? It came from his body, just as John's voice while speaking to Jesus came from his own body. After the baptism, "a voice came from heaven" (Matt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22). Whose "voice" was it? John has heard Jesus' voice emanating from "the body of his flesh" on earth, but now he hears a "voice from heaven." Again, whose voice was it?
It was not John's voice, was it? No, for John is on the earth; his voice comes from his body. Was it Jesus' voice? No, for his voice comes from his own fleshly body. Was it the Holy Spirit's voice? No, for the "voice" in question referred to Jesus as "my beloved Son" (Matt. 3:16). We know that Jesus is "the Son of the Father," not of the Holy Spirit (2 Jn. 3). It was not John's voice; it was not Jesus' voice, and it was not the Spirit's voice. Remember, the voice came "from heaven." That excludes Jesus as the source, for he was on earth. Oneness Pentecostals, the "Jesus Only" people, need to tell us whose "voice came from heaven."
Consider Genesis 3:8, "And they heard the voice of the Lord God...and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God." God's voice indicated God's presence. On the mount of transfiguration, God's "voice" indicated God's presence, "For he received from God the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son" (Matt. 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:17). Jesus was on the mount with Peter, James, and John, but a "voice" came to "him" (Jesus) "from heaven" (2 Pet. 1:18). So, likewise, at the baptism of Jesus, the "voice (which) came from heaven" indicated God's presence in heaven while Jesus was in the water and the Spirit was descending in the "bodily form" of a dove (Lk. 3:22).
Again, simply take the pronouns and the references to individuals. As one can distinguish between the apostle Peter and the Lord Jesus in 2 Peter 1:16-18, so he can perceive the difference between the person of Christ on earth and the person of the Father in heaven.
The response of the Pentecostal is seen (though through a glass darkly) in the extended question above. They say that Jesus "manifested," or "made known," Deity on earth. In other words, Jesus, as man, was in the water on earth, but, as God, he was the Father in heaven. If that be true, Paul spoke of Christ who lived in him and of Christ who dwelt in heaven (Gal. 2:20; Heb. 4:14). Was Paul, therefore, Christ? God forbid! However, that is the consequence of the Oneness argument.
It is true that Jesus was "God with us" (Matt. 1:23). Jesus was "God...manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). No one denies that Jesus manifest Deity (Jn. 1:14, 18). Jesus himself "was God," and he was also "with God" (Jn. 1:1). Thus, he manifest "glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (Jn. 1:14). The fact that he made known or manifested God does not mean that he is the same person as the Father.
"Manifest" does not mean identity. God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, but the burning bush was not God (Ex. 3:2-4). John "manifest" (made known) Jesus to Israel, but John was not Jesus (Jn. 1:33). Jesus "manifest" the glory of the Father, but he is not the Father. Paul made "manifest" the life of the Lord Jesus "in" his body, but he was not Christ (2 Cor. 4:10). When Christians manifest Jesus in their lives, are they Christ? Further, Paul "manifest" the "mystery of Christ," but he, himself, personally, was not the mystery of Christ (Col. 4:3, 4). Paul made known the gospel, but he was not the gospel (Col. 1:27, 28). Likewise, Jesus manifest the glory of the Father, but he was not the same person as the Father.
Finally, in this connection, one cannot help but wonder about that one who was "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). If that means the Father and the Son were the same person, observe that the passage also says that person was "received up into glory." Our Oneness Pentecostal friends need to tell us who received him! Someone did (Dan. 7:13, 14)! Who was it?
In the question, reference is made to cloven tongues like as of fire and to speaking in tongues. It is argued that these are "manifestations," one "visible" and one "audible," but they are not "two persons." No, the cloven tongues and the spoken languages are not two persons. They are not even one person! Are there, then, no persons in the Godhead? (The cloven tongues sat upon the twelve apostles, twelve different persons; twelve different men spoke in tongues as "the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 1:26; 2:1-4, 14a., 37, 43). No matter where the Pentecostals turn, it appears they cannot use an illustration that does not require more than one person in order to try and make their argument for only one person!)
When the assembled Jews saw the cloven tongues and heard the spoken languages, they asked, "What meaneth this" (Acts 2:12)? What were they told? Were they told, "These two manifestations (cloven tongues and spoken languages) mean there is only one person in the Godhead"? No, they were told, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God (one person), I will pour out of my Spirit (another person) upon all flesh...And on my servants and on my handmaidens I (God, the Father) will pour out in those days of (from) my Spirit" (Acts 2:17, 18). Note the pronouns and the personal references--"I," "my," and "Spirit." "My Spirit" does not mean that the Father and the Spirit are the same person anymore than the references to "my servants" and "my handmaidens" means they are the same person as the Father.
That the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are identified in Acts 2 as separate, distinct persons may be seen in Acts 2:32-36. Mark the references to them in the text as cited below. Particularly, observe the pronouns. They naturally speak of separate persons. Note, too, the reference to the cloven tongues and to the spoken languages ("this which ye see and hear").
"This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear: For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make Thy foes Thy footstool. Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Does language mean nothing? That which they "now see and hear" are the cloven tongues and the languages spoken by the apostles. Still, separate identities are mentioned in the verses above. What they "now see and hear" (the audible and the visible), does not preclude the text from considering God, Jesus, and the Spirit as distinct persons.
(1) As one can read the passage above and distinguish between references to David and Jesus and know they are two persons, so he can see that Jesus is not the same person as the Father or the Spirit. (2) Jesus was "made" both Lord and Christ. Who made him so? (3) David said, "The Lord (one person) said unto my Lord" (another person). See Psalm 110:1-4 and Matthew 22:42-46. Was David in error when he distinguished between the two? (4) If I say a man is "my right hand man," I necessarily refer to two people. Jesus was seated at God's "right hand." One cannot use such language and speak of only one person. When the mother of James and John asked that her sons "may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left," we know that more than one person was under consideration. Hence, in Acts 2, when Scripture says Jesus is "by the right hand of God," we know he is not at his own right hand (Acts 7:55; 1 Pet. 3:22)!
Therefore, the cloven tongues like as of fire and the speaking in languages by the apostles could not mean there is only one person in the Godhead.
"Jesus Only" Pentecostals tell us that "audible and visible manifestations do not make two persons any more than the smoke from an exhaust and the sound from an engine (audible and visible) would make two engines." Certainly, smoke and sound are not engines; they are produced by an engine. Thus, we have:
In the illustration, the engine represents Jesus. The voice of the Father, i.e., sound of the engine represents the Father; the smoke from the exhaust represents the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Spirit "do not make two persons anymore than the smoke from the exhaust and the sound from an engine (audible and visible) would make two engines." Therefore, we have:
With their illustration, the Oneness people deny both the Deity and the personality of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit. If the "manifestations" of the engine are not "two engines," then the manifestations of Jesus are not Divine persons; they are not God! Let the Pentecostals start their engines and answer their denial of the person and Deity of the Father and of the Spirit.
Since the sound of the engine is a manifestation of an engine and not an engine itself, so the voice of the Father is merely a manifestation and not a real person. If that be so, how could Jesus be the "express image of his (the Father's) person" (Heb. 1:3)? Our Oneness friends need to crank their engine and tell us. They must not make noise and blow smoke. Rather, they need to tell us how Jesus could be the express image of the Father's "person," if, in fact, according to their illustration, the Father is not a person.
Remember, no one argues that sound and smoke from an engine are engines, but this is, as has been shown, fatal to the Pentecostal argument. Jesus is Deity, God; he is divine, as is the Father (Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 18; Acts 9:20; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8). So is the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:4, 5). Those who deny the Son, deny the Father also (1 Jn. 1:22, 23; 5:9-12).
At the baptism of Jesus, we are not confronted with a person and with two manifestations which are not persons. Rather, we have Jesus, one person, being spoken to and addressed as the "beloved Son" of another (second) person ("the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of the Father"-- 2 Jn. 3). Then, the Holy Spirit (a third person), in "bodily shape like a dove," was seen "lighting upon him" (Jesus). As noted, four persons are referred to at the baptism of Jesus-- John the Baptizer, God, the Father, Jesus, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit. As one distinguishes between the person of John and the person of Jesus, so, at the baptism of Jesus, he may observe the different persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
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