Monday, July 10, 2017

The Unbiblical God of Modalism

There are different versions of Modalism (also known as Sabellianism), but the predominant one claims that Jesus alone is God. Jesus is the Father in heaven, the Son is the flesh only, and the Holy Spirit is Jesus among His people. That is, there are not three divine Persons as orthodox Christians believe. The modalist denies that the Son is God in Himself, or that the Holy Spirit is God in Himself. They believe that there is only one divine Person who has three different titles, depending on the work that occupies Him at any given moment. But note that they never refer to the Son as a divine Person. They insist that the Son is the flesh only, inhabited by Father Jesus.

There are a lot of problems I see with that doctrine, but I will make no attempt to address them all in one post. Rather, there are two biblical teachings that I think utterly exclude the possibility of the modalist deity.

First are the descriptions of circumstances in which all three Persons are present at the same time. Consider the account of the baptism of Jesus: "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from
Sabellius, Founder of Modalism
the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'
" (Matthew 3:13-17). Thus, we have, at one simultaneous moment, the Son's coming up from the water, the Holy Spirit's descending like a dove, and the Father's address from heaven. This cannot be the single unitary deity described by the modalists!

Second is what we are told about Jesus after His ascension: "Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing" (Acts 2:33; see also 4:31 and 7:55, both of which are after the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost). When He ascended, where did He go? He didn't come back here as the Holy Spirit, as the Modalists claim. Rather, it explicitly states that He is at the right hand of the Father (and thus distinct from Him), from where He sent the Spirit (requiring that they also be distinct). Paul told us even more: "Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (Romans 8:34). Where did Jesus go? Again, to the right hand of the Father. What is He doing now? Interceding for us. Paul tells us both where Jesus is and what He is doing right now, and it isn't what the modalists claim! And one final verse to clinch it: "After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). Again, the Scriptures tell us where the ascended Jesus is, and it isn't where the modalists try to put Him.

That old diagram has it right: the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; however, the Father is not the Son or Holy Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son. And our salvation depends on it. If there is no heavenly Son to plead for us before His Father, then the believer has no hope of justification.

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