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Oneness Pentecostalism —
Was There A Divine Spirit
And A Human Spirit In Jesus?

By Gene Frost

            In 1974, I published a two-part study on “Oneness Pentecostalism,” as championed by the United Pentecostal Church, entitled The “Oneness” Doctrine of Pentecostalism And The Bible Doctrine of The Godhead.
            The word “Oneness” identifies their concept of God, that the Godhead consists of but one Personality, who manifests Himself in various functions and roles; He is identified as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In coming to earth, God (as “the Word”) was tabernacled in a body of flesh, which supposedly involved a union of two natures and two spirits in one Person, to make the God-Man.  Thus, we are told, Jesus is a composite Being of both Divine and Human essence; He is the offspring of both.  “Son of God” denotes His Divine Source and “Son of man” denotes His human source.[1]
            We observed in the 1974 study that many facets of Oneness theology can be found in various religious movements historically.  We specifically identified Sabellianism, Marcellianism, Nestorianism, and Swedenborgism.  These references were not given to be scandalous, to find guilt by association; United Pentecostal theologians readily identify with these movements and claim a common heritage:
 
     Sabellianism:
            “Modalistic monarchianism is the term most often used by church historians to refer to the oneness view. ...
            “Since Sabellius was the best known modalist, historians often call the doctrine Sabellianism.[2]
      Marcellianism:
            “For Marcellius, the Logos is God Himself, particularly as thought of in activity. ... The modalists accepted the incarnation of the Logos in Christ, but for them that simply meant the extension of the Father in human form.[3]
     Nestorianism:
            “In other words, He had two distinct natures unified not in substance but only in purpose, action and appearance (Nestorianism).  This view implies that Christ is divided into two persons, and that the human person could have existed in the absence of the divine. ...
            “Many theologians (including Martin Luther) however, think that Nestorius, the chief exponent of this doctrine, did not really believe in such a drastic separation but that his opponents distorted and misrepresented his views. Apparently, he denied that he divided Christ into two persons.”[4]
     Swendenborgism:
               “Emmanuel Swedenborg ... expressed a good understanding of the oneness of God.”[5]
 
            Even though there is an affinity of modern “Oneness” theologians with the above mentioned theologians, and others, we would not call them Sabellians, Marcellians, Nestorians, et al. unless they themselves avowed the relationship.  We realize that these earlier theologians also taught many things which would be unacceptable to them.  We mentioned them for historical background, which when studied shows an evolution of thought to this present time, and helps us to take note of subtle shifts and changes.
            What modern Oneness theologians teach today is our interest in this present article.  When we first noted the Oneness doctrine twenty-two years ago, the relationship of the Divine Spirit and human spirit in Jesus was not well-defined in their theology.  Since then the subject has been enlarged upon, so that what were some unanswered questions then, we have answers now.

Two Spirits

            Oneness doctrine declares that in the incarnation, the divine Spirit was tabernacled in a human body, with a human spirit.  The two forms and two natures constituted the Person of Jesus Christ.
 
               “But being born of Mary, the Form of God is in union with the form of man. ... But in robing Himself in man, there is a difference inasmuch as Creator and created are united in the virgin womb”.[6]
            “Jesus Christ is the composite of God and man.  He had two distinct forms and natures.  These two forms and natures were incorporated together, but not irretrievably lost in each other.  Possessing these characteristics, of God and man, Jesus was and is unique from pure God and pure man, in that He was and is both.”[7]
            “The Sonship of Jesus was actually formed because of His virgin birth, in which He was brought forth into this world, with both a human form and nature and a Divine Form and Nature.”[8]
            “... Jesus Christ was born with four elements instead of three — He had body, soul, and spirit (as we have) plus the WORD.”[9]
       “It is apparent that Jesus had a human will, mind, spirit, soul, and body, but it is equally apparent that He had the fulness of the Godhead resident in that body. ...
       “He was human in body, soul, and spirit with the fulness of the Spirit of God dwelling in that body, soul, and spirit.”[10]
       “That Jesus had a human spirit seems evident ...”[11]
       “The distinction is: Jesus Christ was born with four elements instead of three — He had body, soul, and spirit (as have we) plus the Word. And just as the soul and human spirit in man are in connection, yet can be distinguished (Hebrews 4:12;1 Thessalonians 5:23), so the Word incarnate is not absorbed and lost in Jesus Christ. But rather He possessed two natures alloyed together by means of the Virgin Birth.”[12]
 
       As a result of this union, the power of God was diminished in the person of Jesus.  The omnipotent God upon inhabiting a body of flesh was then limited in His power.
 
“As God, Jesus had all power, but as the Son He was limited in power.  Jesus was both God and man.”[13]
       “Jesus is God’s only body, and in the resurrection, the weakness of God as caused by the flesh is largely, if not altogether, removed by the immortality given the flesh thereby.”[14]
 
       The two spirits remained distinct, and each had His own will and a separate consciousness; therefore, it was necessary that they communicate with the other.
 
         “The Bible does indicate that Jesus had a human will as well as the divine will.”[15]
       “I can see clearly Jesus as a man and Jesus as God communing together because as a man Jesus had a separate consciousness.”[16]
 
       The two-spirit concept poses many questions, some of which we have asked of others who take the same position as do the Pentecostals:
            “If God indwelled the body of Jesus along with a human spirit, which spirit was in control of the body?  Did the human spirit prevail over God so as to be responsible for what Jesus did?  Or, did the Divine Spirit control the will of the human spirit, and hence the body?  Or, was Jesus schizophrenic, with the will of each surfacing at times — one time God would be in control and at others the human spirit?  Or, was there an amalgamation of the two, so that the spirit of Jesus was neither fully God nor fully human — a hybrid spirit?
       “If the Divine Spirit was in control, so that the human spirit was passive, was the Divine Spirit tempted?  If, on the other hand, the human spirit was in control, and God was only passive in the body, had Jesus sinned would the Divine Spirit have been guilty of sin; or, would the Divine Spirit have engaged to prevent the sin?
       “In Jesus' death, when the spirit departed from the body (James 2:26), was that a simultaneous departure, or did the Divine Spirit leave the body first (since some argue that "God could not die," i.e. be a part of death)?”[17]

The Divine Spirit Predominate

            The Oneness Pentecostals believe that the Divine Spirit was predominate and controlled the human spirit and thereby the activities of the body.  Therefore, since God dwelling in the body of Jesus prevailed, whatever the human spirit felt was inconsequential and Jesus could not have sinned.
 
       “Certainly the divine part of Jesus could not sin and could not even be tempted to sin (James 1:13 ). The human part of Jesus, when viewed alone, theoretically had the capacity to sin. But this is only theoretical, and not actual.  Viewed alone, it seems that the humanity of Christ had the capacity to choose sin.  However, His human nature always willingly submitted to the divine nature, which could not sin.  So, as a practical matter, Jesus Christ — viewed as the combination of humanity and divinity that He was — could not sin. The Spirit was always in control and Spirit-controlled humanity does not commit sin. (See I John 3:9 for an analogy.)”[18]
“We conclude that the human nature of Jesus could be and was tempted.  Since the divine nature was in control, however, Jesus could not and did not sin.”[19]
 
       This poses some interesting questions.  Why did Jesus have to have a human spirit, seeing that His divine Spirit controlled the body?  Was temptation just a show?  Or, did the human spirit have to communicate with the Divine and explain what he was experiencing, as if this was something the Divine Spirit Himself could not experience through the flesh?  What was there about the human Spirit that the Divine could not understand and appreciate, seeing that He created the human spirit in His own likeness?  What qualities did the human possess that the Divine did not, and therefore could only learn by sharing a body?  And why share a body — could He not learn as well outside of the body as well as in?  How does this qualify Jesus as an example?  I am not so wonderfully made; there is no Divine Spirit indwelling my body to control my activities so that it is impossible for me to sin.  If one is to engage in theological discussion, he needs to address these questions.  (Personally, Scripture is of greater interest and value than religious philosophy.  We, first of all, need the Scripture that says that the body of Jesus housed two spirits.  More on this later.)

Death and Resurrection

       Who died on the cross?  Oneness Pentecostals argue that “God cannot die;” therefore, the Divine Spirit had to abandon the body on the cross.  (This facet of Oneness theology was introduced by Cerinthus, a Gnostic of the first century.  He taught that “‘Christ’ descended on him (Jesus) at his baptism in the form of a dove and deserted him before the crucifixion, leaving the man Jesus to suffer.”[20]) Some tell us that this is indicated by the cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)  That is, it was the human spirit crying out to the Divine Spirit as He (God) abandoned the body, and left a human being (body, soul, and spirit) to die for mankind on the cross.  (And so, in reality, it was man, not God, who died for us!)
 
       “Jesus (Humanity) cried out on the cross My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me, thereby proving that the Spirit (God) that dwelt in Jesus had to leave that human body before it could have even died because God cannot die. ... When Jesus said receive My spirit, it was the humanity of Jesus speaking to the divinity of Jesus or to the Spirit (God) that indwelt Him (body).”[21]
 
       Not only was it just a man who died on the cross, but it is only a man who is our Mediator.  The body and human spirit were resurrected.  The humanity was reconstituted (reconstructed, reorganized) and the Divine Spirit returned to that body to remain forever ... eternal manhood (with a Divine resident).
 
       “And after a three and one half year ministry, He, in His manhood, went to Calvary and through His shed blood purged our sins.  The humanity was resurrected and installed as mediator priest on the right hand of majesty on high.[22]
       “It is not God who mediates between God and man; nor is it ‘God the Son’ who does so.  Rather it is the man Jesus who mediates; only a sinless man could approach a holy God on behalf of mankind.”[23]
       “The temporary disintegration of the man Jesus is seen when He commends His spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46); His soul is in Hades (Acts 2:27), and His body is dead (Acts 2:23).  In the resurrection His humanity was reconstituted; as well as His Deity to His humanity at the same time.  It was not Deity that was raised from the dead, but Deity raised humanity from the dead.”[24]

Who Is Savior?

       The conclusion that demands a human spirit — God manifest in flesh is not sufficient — is that only a human can save humanity.  It is assumed that the consequence of sin demanded the death on the cross, and that Jesus offered himself as a human (body, soul, and spirit) to be a substitute for the whole human race.  While giving lip-service to God, it is in reality a man who delivers us.  God was in the body of Jesus simply to keep the human spirit undefiled and prepared for his “substitutionary” role.
 
       “Of course, the only way Jesus could be our substitute and die in our place was by coming in flesh.”[25]

Conclusion:  One Spirit or Two?

       Where in the word of God is there any mention of two spirits in the body of Jesus?  This conclusion is arrived at not by divine expression, but through theological discussion — man’s attempt to “explain” who God is and how He does what He does.  In the final analysis, such explanations have to be couched in finite terms, and here is where men get into trouble.  Imagine the infinite being explained in the finite!  Would it not be simpler, and certainly safer, and one can be positively right, to just accept what God says about who He is, what He does, and how He does it?  If He doesn’t tell the “how,” could it be that God knows that we could not fathom it if He told us, or that it is not our business to know.  Do we have to “understand” all about God in order to have faith in God?  Do we have to understand how God operates in order to accept His appointments and obey His will?
       There are things about God we will never understand in this life; the finite mind cannot grasp it.  But what God has revealed, I know.  This I do know about Jesus and the Spirit that dwelled in His body:
 
  • · From everlasting to everlasting, the Word is God immutable:  John 1:1-3, Psalms 90:2, Mal. 3:6.
  • · The Word (God) came down from heaven:  John  6:38.
  • · A body was prepared for Him: He was made in the likeness of man:  Heb. 10:5, Phil. 2:7.
  • · He was God manifest in the flesh:  1 Tim. 3:16.
  • · As God, He could declare the Father:  John 1:18.
  • · As God, He was all-knowing:
— He knew what is in heaven:  John 14:2.
— He knew why He came to earth:  Luke 19:10.
— He knew when He would die:  John 12:23, 13:1, 17:1.
— He knew how He would die: John 3:14, 12:32-33, 18:4.
— He knew who would betray Him:  John 6:64.
— He knew when all was accomplished:  Luke 9:51, John 7:6-8, 18:4, 19:28.
— He knew where He was going:  John 6:62, 7:33, 20:17.
  • · As God, He had power over life:
— He was in complete control as to when He would die:  John 7:30, 8:20.
— He would lay down His life in keeping with His Father’s will:  John 10:17-18.
  • · As God, He had power to forgive sins:  Mark 2:5-11.
  • · As God, He accepted worship:  Matt. 8:2, 9:18, 14:33, 15:25, 20:20, 28:9, 28:17.
 
       Of what mere man can this be said?  All of this evidences the fact that the spirit in Jesus was divine.  So He was; He was God manifest in the flesh.  The spirit which animated and governed the body of Jesus was fully God: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9). 
       “But wasn’t Jesus a man?”  Certainly.  A man is a spirit housed in a physical, fleshly body. (Gen. 1:27, 2:7, Zech. 12:1, Heb. 2:14, James 2:26.)  Jesus was a man.  The divine Spirit experienced in the flesh all that a created spirit, created in His image, would. Remember that the appetites of the body were not created as evil desires.  Jesus experienced the natural feelings and desires of man.  He experienced pain and sorrow, and joy and pleasure;  He was hungry, thirsty, tired, rested, energetic, etc.  But He never lusted after evil to satisfy the normal desires of the body.  There did not have be a created spirit, residing with the Divine, for Jesus to live in the body that was prepared for His Spirit for His earthly sojourn.  The addition of a human spirit is unnecessary to explain the human nature of Jesus.
       Where in all His descriptions is it declared that the Word shared the body with a human spirit, that Jesus the Divine Spirit of God was not alone.  Where do we read of the “spirits” of Jesus?  Men may theorize and “theologize,” but where is the Scripture that states what they assert?
       We need to be careful not to be wise above that which is written. (1 Cor. 1:20)  Consider what the Bible says, and what it does not say:
 
  • · Romans 1:3 — “our Lord, who was born of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh [not flesh and the spirit] ...”
  • · Hebrews 10:4 — “a body [not a person] hast thou prepared me [not us].”
  • · Luke 23:46 — “Father, into thy hands I [not we] commend my spirit [not our spirits] ...”
  • · Luke 23:43 — “To day shalt thou be with me [not us] in paradise.”
 
       In every effort on the part of those who would justify the two-spirit concept, we have observed a dearth of Biblical references.  Human reasoning supplants Bible authority.  It must be rejected.
 

 


[1]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Godhead (Revised), pages 70-73.

[2]  David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, Word Aflame Press, page 239, 240.

[3]  David K. Bernard, op. cit., pages 248-249.

[4]  David K. Bernard, op. cit., pages 90-91.

[5]  David K. Bernard, op. cit., page 243.

[6]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Supreme Godhead, Book II, page 96.

[7]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Supreme Godhead, Book II, 132.

[8]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Supreme Godhead, Book II, page 143.

[9]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Godhead, page 68.

[10]  David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, page 92.

[11]  David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, page 93.

[12]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Godhead (Revised), page 104.

[13] David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, page 122.

[14]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Godhead (Revised), page 33.

[15]  David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, page 93.

[16]  Paul Ferguson, in debate with Wayne Jackson, The Godhead One Or Three?, page 18.

[17]  Gospel Anchor, March 1994, pages 128-129.

[18]  David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, page 96.

[19]  David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, page 97-98.

[20]  David Christie-Murray, A History of Heresy, page 26;  John H. Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties and Schools of Religious Thought, page 105.

[21]  Maurice Hutchinson in debate with Jimmy Tuten, “Debate on The Godhead,” Apostolic Doctrine, July 1965, page 110.

[22]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Supreme Godhead, Book II, page 98.

[23]  David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God, page 110.

[24]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Supreme Godhead, Book II, page 134.

[25]  Kenneth V. Reeves, The Supreme Godhead, Book II, page 109.

 

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