A Statement of Faith
An(other controversial) Essay
It isn’t easy to grow up in a family where beliefs and values are mocked simply because they come from the Bible and the only person who shares those beliefs is your mother. There was always this idea that the Bible is this antiquated book that’s full of fairy tales and that Christianity was this creaky old religion that was used to control the masses by brainwashing them into thinking that there was this cruel ogre of a God who would throw you into the burning fires of hell if you so much as said the wrong word, and that Jesus was this masochistic coward. A Oneness Pentecostal view of God didn’t earn any brownie points, either. Now it wasn’t just an old belief; it was a cult. If there was any one in the family who may have shared your belief in a God, the belief that Jesus is the one true God was scoffed at. That or you were seen as a dabbler in witchcraft because of the belief of the Holy Spirit; or, in other words, demonic possession. Or according to the atheists in the family, it was simply an emotional high, or you were just retarded. Plain and simple. Not exactly an 11-year-old’s idea of fun to debate these things, and the only response that can be formulated is “Because the Bible/God says so.” It's these kinds of things that push people to dig. It pushes us to dig, to ask questions, to find answers. We as Oneness Pentecostals believe this answer to be our core truth; Jesus isn’t this sissified persona that the world presents. He is God Almighty, and He alone provides us salvation through His word. This can be seen by searching His word, which shows itself as the authoritative source of our belief and doctrine, as well as how we live our lives (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV). It’s this very same word that proves to us that Jesus is not an entity separate from God but God Himself (2 Cor. 5:19 NKJV). Not only that but it teaches us that Jesus provides us with His salvation and welcomes us into His family, which is signified by the Holy Spirit which resides in us (Rom. 8:15 NKJV).
That being said, let’s look at scripture. The Bible is one of the most well-known books of scripture in the world. It is the book of scripture which most Christian denominations base their beliefs on. The accepted canonical biblical scripture consists of sixty-six books, with the Old Testament numbering at thirty-nine and the New Testament numbering at twenty-seven books. The Bible, however, makes a bold claim. It does not simply claim to be a scriptural text. In fact, it claims to be God’s only authoritative word, and the only true scripture.
“For all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16 NKJV).
Why don’t we break this down a little bit? First, let’s begin with the word ‘inspiration’. What does it mean for scripture to be inspired by God? According to Strong’s Concordance , the words inspired and inspiration in this context come from the Greek word theopneustos which translates to ‘God-breathed’. In essence, it’s like saying God breathed His word into existence. It is His divine word. It holds power through the promises He made in His word.
Now let’s look at the rest of the scripture; “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” How does it profit us to know scripture? What benefits do we receive from it? If one were to want to study doctrine, the Bible contains it. It can tell you about God’s oneness. It can teach you the path to salvation, who God is, who Jesus is. How Jesus is God Himself. The Bible can teach you about the Holy Spirit. It can teach you about the kingdom of heaven and the promises that God has for us. What does it mean to live a righteous life? The Bible has information on how to live a life that is pleasing to God. Norris states,
“A rabbi once told me that the books of Moses are not burdensome – not heavy shackles or staid tradition; these laws are not seen as merely prohibitions and rules. Rather, the six hundred and thirteen laws in the Torah are celebrated as six hundred thirteen ways to please God.”
The Torah, according to Jewish tradition, is the law of God found within the first five books of the Bible. Although as Christians, we are no longer bound by the law and tradition found in these five books, they still serve as a good basis for righteous living. It’s not just limited to the Torah either. Proverbs teaches the value of wisdom, James teaches us how to control our speech, and so many other books in the Bible serve as instructions on how to live a life that is not only fulfilling but pleasing to God. Nor does this mean that the Old Testament is no longer relevant. The early church used the Old Testament as their Bible.
Now one may argue that we shouldn’t get our morals and standards, nor our history, from an antiquated religious book that no longer has any place in society as we know it today. This is the case which Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, puts forward, even going as far as to use Jesus as his example for this.
“But the moral superiority of Jesus precisely bears out my point. Jesus was not content to derive his ethics from the scriptures of his upbringing. He explicitly departed from them, for example when he deflated the dire warnings about breaking the sabbath. ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath’ has been generalized into a wise proverb. Since a principal thesis of this chapter is that we do not, and should not derive our morals from scripture, Jesus has to be honoured as a model for that very thesis.”
While this may seem to be the case, that Jesus is breaking away from scripture, it is only the case when one looks at that line alone by itself without first looking at the scripture in its entirety. Mark 2:23-27 reads,
Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
Jesus is not breaking away from scripture. He is breaking away from the law of man. The Sabbath was a manmade institution and tradition. Nowhere does Christ ever say that man should leave scripture behind.
“But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 NKJV).
These are the words of Jesus Himself. He emphasizes following scripture, not tradition.
Reading through God’s word also allows for us to know Him more. It doesn’t just tell us about doctrine, creation, or about salvation, or how to live a righteous life. It also teaches us who God is. The Pentecostal Bible Study Course had this to say about His word.
Knowing Christ makes the Bible a new book to its readers. A woman was given a copy of a certain book. She found the book boring, so she took it to the attic, where she left it for several months. One day she became acquainted with a well-known author. Later, this man asked whether she had read a certain book he had written. Recognizing the name of the book as the one she had carried to the attic, she went home, took the book from its hiding place, and read it. This time she found the book to be one of the most fascinating she had ever read. What made the difference? She had become acquainted with the author!
If one wants to learn about Christ, they must read His word. It is God-breathed, and it holds information on everything we would want to know about Him. By comparing scripture to scripture or scripture to even the most antagonistic of views on the Bible or God, one can always conclude that God’s word is true and utterly infallible, and as Oneness Pentecostals we can take comfort knowing that the doctrine we preach is true.
How does all this explain who Jesus is? After all, it seems an impossible task to explain the identity of a being who is known as not only the son of God, but God Himself. After all, Jesus is not a person separate from God, nor is He a lesser form of God. Jesus is simply God, although He did take a human form while on this earth. In his book, Brother Norris states,
“Jesus was divine. He did not become divine, say, at His baptism or at His resurrection, or at His ascension. When Jesus was born, the angels worshipped Him and declared Him Yahweh, Savior, divine. […] Jesus was human […] Humans have real limitations. So did Jesus. Really. Jesus got hungry. Bread satisfied His hunger. Jesus did not merely sleep as an example to others that He was human. He slept because He got tired.”
In essence, Jesus, while on this earth, was every bit as human as everyone else, yet completely divine, still fully God. But what does this mean? What does it say about Him? If one were to look in the dictionary to find the definition of God, this is the definition which would most likely be found,
a being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith in monotheistic religions. b. the force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being. 2. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshipped by a people, esp. a male deity held to control some part of nature or reality. 3. An image of a supernatural being. 4. Something worshipped or idealized. 5. A very handsome man.
While some of these are pretty good definitions, they’re just that, definitions. Definitions of what a god is, not who God is. It doesn’t say anything about Jesus. It doesn’t say anything definitive about His identity as Christ. It doesn’t even say if Jesus meets these qualifications. Only the Bible does. When it comes to Jesus and learning about who He is, the best source is always His word. It will always give us the most accurate depiction of who He is.
The Bible says that God was in Christ and that He saved us from our sins.
“that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19 NKJV).
This scripture determines the fact that Jesus is God by stating that God was in Christ. It also shows Jesus to be a savior, merciful and loving towards His creation, to the point that He would not charge them for would not charge our sins against us. In Isaiah 44:24, the Bible describes Him as a redeemer. A redeemer is someone who forgives or removes certain responsibilities or transgressions from someone. This has now established Christ as God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine, and as a redeemer of His people.
But what if that isn’t the case? What if, in fact, the Jesus that has just been described here, is false? Richard Dawkins describes Jesus in the following manner,
“But now, the sado-masochism. God incarnated himself as a man, Jesus, in order that he should be tortured and executed in atonement for the hereditary sin of Adam. […] I have described atonement, the central doctrine of Christianity, as vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent. […] Progressive ethicists today find it hard to defend any kind of retributive theory of punishment, let alone the scapegoat theory – executing an innocent to pay for the sins of the guilty. In any case (one can’t help but wondering) who was God trying to impress? Presumably himself – judge and jury as well as execution victim. To cap it all, Adam, the supposed perpetrator of the original sin, never existed in the first place […] Oh but of course, the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic? So, in order to impress himself, Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin committed by a non-existent individual? As I said, barking mad, as well as viciously unpleasant."
The idea here is that Jesus is this pathetic, low, weak, and pitiful being, not to mention so arrogant and nihilistic in His way of thinking that He would harm Himself for nothing more than pleasure and impression of self. But this is far from the truth. We’ve already established that God’s word is infallible and absolute truth. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t make sense whatsoever for the Bible to compare Christ to Adam if Adam was only ever symbolic. The Bible doesn’t tell just the story of creation, but also gives a detailed account of how man was made in Genesis 2:7. Nor would it make sense, if Adam was only ever symbolic, for him to be included in multiple genealogies throughout the Bible, including the genealogy of Christ. Nor is Jesus the spineless and sissified persona which Dawkins presents to us in his argument. His goal was never to impress humanity or Himself. He came to present Himself a sacrifice for us. A perfect and unblemished sacrifice. This could only be done if Jesus was both fully God and fully man. “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22 NKJV). That kind of dedication, that kind of love, that kind of commitment is not weakness. The amount of strength and willpower it took to keep from destroying the mob of accusers and His torturers in an instant is impossible to imagine. There was a preacher who once said the maddest God ever was, was up on the cross. So filled with anger at the sin of the world, at the hold which Satan held over the people, so filled with anger at the helplessness of humanity, that He decided to take matters into His hands, and take the sin of the world upon Himself, defeating Satan and hell in that very moment, rendering him powerless, and giving us salvation. THAT IS NOT A WEAK GOD!
Jesus is not another god separate from God. He is not a demigod or a low god. He is God almighty! He is a redeemer to the world. He asks simply for our devotion to Him, and in exchange, He gives us a never-ending supply of mercy and love.
All of this brings us to the idea of salvation. As Oneness Pentecostals, our doctrine on salvations differs a bit from other groups within Christianity. Not only do we believe that Jesus is God, but that it’s through His name that we receive salvation, as is stated in Acts 2:38, which is why we baptize in the name of Jesus Christ. Big Ideas reads,
While in the Old Testament, the name of Yahweh was invoked in covenant initiation, so in the New Testament, the name of Jesus was invoked as well […] The name of Jesus was orally invoked over those being baptized as a part of initiation into covenant.”
But there’s one more thing that also sets us apart; our belief that receiving the Holy Spirit is essential to salvation. This is view is not widely shared in the world of Christianity, and is seen by some as demonic possession, others as a thing of the past, and by others as simply false. However, Romans 8:15 states “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” This scripture mentions a spirit of adoption. Jesus stated John 14:26 that He would send us a comforter, and that this comforter would come in His name. Comparing these two scriptures to each other, we notice something. There’s this mention of bondage and fear, and then of adoption. If in this world, we are orphans without Christ, wouldn’t it be a comfort to us that we receive a spirit of adoption, a holy spirit, that welcomes us into the family of God, telling us that Christ dwells in us, removing all feelings of fear, of abandonment, of loss? David Norris, once again, states, “Jesus tried to tell His apostles just what was about to happen. Although He was not going to physically present with them, He would be with them constantly.” If Christ is with us constantly, then how could the Holy Spirit be a thing of the past? If it is a HOLY spirit that comes from Christ Himself, not to mention is Christ Himself, how can it then be demonic possession? Nothing that comes from God is unholy. As far as the atheistic argument that it’s an emotional high or just mental retardation, the only response this paper has is this; someone has to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit for themselves to see it’s anything but an emotional high. And if it is the result of a mental illness, well, to put it bluntly, we would rather look like a bunch of sanctified idiots than give up experiencing what Jesus has promised to us.
All that is left to say is this; Christ is the only way to salvation, and His word proves it true. No matter what anyone or anything says, we will always believe that He alone is God. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). It may not align with what the rest of the world believes but it aligns with the word of God and that’s what matters. We as Oneness Pentecostals can rest easy in the salvation we have received.
Dawkins, Richards. “Is The New Testament Any Better?” Pages 285–287 in The God Delusion. Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006
Multiple Authors. “The Word of God.” Page 11 of Pentecostal Bible Study Course. Vol. 1. Edited by David K. Bernard, Johnny Celey, Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press, 2001
Norris, David. “The Big Idea About The Spirit of God.” Page 197 in Big Ideas. Florissant, Missouri: Apostolic Teaching Resources LLC, 2010
Norris, David. “The Big Idea of God’s Word.” Page 113 in Big Ideas. Florissant, Missouri: Apostolic Teaching Resources LLC, 2010
Norris, David. “The Big Idea of Invoking God’s Name.” Page 81 in Big Ideas. Florissant, Missouri: Apostolic Teaching Resources LLC, 2010
Norris, David. “The Big Idea of Jesus Identity.” Pages 160–161 in Big Ideas. Florissant, Missouri: Apostolic Teaching Resources LLC, 2010
Strong, James. ed. The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of the Words in the Greek New Testament. Pg. 114, definition 2315, Nashville Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers,2001
Webster’s II New College Dictionary. see “god.” Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999, 1995
About the Creator
I love music, books, and poems. Poems are to express, stories to create, essays to expound, music to feel. This is a place for my writing to be shared, poem, essay, and short story alike. May you enjoy what this awkward writer has to share.
I find it amusing that people will read self-help books written by total strangers and declare the information as truths. But, the Bible? Naw, that's just a bunch of nonsense. The salvation of Jesus Christ is real, palpable and true. Only Christ can change our hearts. I know.