Modalism? No thank you

I was listening to someone this week and he was talking about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Specifically, he was arguing for a form of modalism that says that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same person. Modalism if you do not know is the belief that God is one but reveals Himself in three modes or forms (Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit). He was arguing from a few texts in the New Testament and from the Shepherd of Hermas in an attempt to show that the early church including the Apostles ascribed to this belief system. I must say that his argument was pretty good. Well, that is until you actually read the Bible.

One place he argued from was Luke 1:25 where the angel Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive the holy one. His point was that it was the Holy Spirit who entered Mary and became the Son of God. He was saying that the Son of God did not exist before the Holy Spirit became the Son. You can pick a few text and try to force this idea but when examined throughout Scripture it does not hold up.

One major problem with modalism is that the Bible does not support it. Conversely, it is my firm belief that the Bible teaches the Trinity. I have argued elsewhere for Jesus’ divinity and the idea of the Trinity but I thought I would offer up just a few short arguments from the Gospel of John as well.

First is from John 14:16-18 where Jesus famously promises the Holy Spirit. More importantly, we can see from this text that Jesus promises that He (Jesus) will ask the Father and He (the Father) will send the Counselor (Holy Spirit). We have the whole Trinity presented here. If Jesus and Holy Spirit are the same person (read homoousion), then I find this statement beyond confusing and just downright weird. Jesus will return to the Father and then ask the Father if He can go back in another form?

But still, maybe I am just reading it wrong however John 14:26 only serves to confuse me more. Jesus here continuing His dialog with the disciples says that the Father will send Him (Holy Spirt) in My name (Jesus) – [He] will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. It would seem here that Jesus seems to think that the Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same person but three.

Again, maybe I am missing something. Jesus says in John 15:26 that the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will come from the Father at Jesus’ request. In 16:7-10 Jesus says more about the coming of the Holy Spirit and how He (Jesus) will return to the Father. It would seem then that Jesus was a pretty strong believer in the Trinity and an opponent of modalism.

There are things in the Bible that are confusing there is no doubt about that. The Trinity and the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit are at the top of the list of things that are confusing because the concept of an eternal divine being that is three in one is beyond what we can, at least currently, grasp but that does not change the fact that what is being taught is just that.

Paul says that we should be careful not to taken captive by philosophy or empty deceit (Colossians 2:8). We must be diligent that when we hear things that sound off or too fanciful that we consider them and search the Scriptures to see what is actually said. Even everything I just said I expect you to look it up that is why I provide links to verses. I expect you to look them up and read the verses before and after what I say. We must be faithful to search and read the Word of God learning to rightfully divide it. Also, if someone comes at you presenting a form of modalism maybe you are little more prepared now.

Just a thought,

Mike

Revelation – Thyatira

The Letter to the Church in Thyatira in a Nutshell

Jesus the one whose eye are like fire and has feet like bronze tells the church in Thyatira that He knows their works. That they have love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. More than that the works they do now are more than when they started. However, they are tolerating or allowing Jezebel to teach their people and she is leading them astray into sexual immorality and idol worship. He is giving her a chance to repent but she will not. He also knows that not all are following her and commends them for this.

There is again a lot going on here. The church in Thyatira is like the reverse of the church in Ephesus. Instead of being tight in theology and lacking in love they are big on love and lacking theology. They are devoted to love and serving those in need. The church is feeding the homeless, giving backpacks to kids for school, teaching skills to the underprivileged, and doing many other acts of love in Jesus name. Not only that they are doing more than they have ever done before. These people understood what it was to love like Jesus. They were committed to the cause of Christ. But there is a problem; they were severely lacking in doctrine.

The church in Thyatira for as good as they were had let in Jezebel and allowed her to lead them astray into sexual immorality and idol worship. If you have read the Bible at all then you might go oh no, and if you haven’t then you might not see the big deal. Jezebel is synonymous with total debauchery, corruption, or depravity. If you call someone a Jezebel then it is a high insult. That is the person the church had let in and was allowing to teach. Jesus said you get the love and that is great but I will not let you go on with this teaching.

We should really look at Thyatira and Ephesus together. We have some churches that are all about truth and some churches that are all about love. Jesus says you need both because I am both. Jesus says in John 8:32 you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. 1 John 4:8 says God is love. Romans 8:29 says we are to be transformed into the image of His (God’s) Son. God is truth, God is love, and God wants us to be like Jesus. That means being truth and love. We cannot be so dogmatic that we place demands on people that God never placed on them, but we cannot let people think it is OK to go on sinning and living like they are not saved. It is a balance just like raising children.

Some say, “people should be allowed to do what they feel is right.” Well no that is not true, and in fact, that is just flat out wrong. If that was the case we would not have laws. Like I said with children it is a balance. My daughter will have a much better relationship with her mother if she is respectful. They will laugh and play and have a grand ole time. However, if she is being disrespectful then they will have conflict so my part of my job is to make sure she is respectful so she can have joy in the relationship. That means boundaries and rules because I love her and want her to enjoy the fullness.

I bet if Ephesus and Thyatira got together they would have a dynamite church but they were too busy thinking their thing was the most important thing. Maybe we should listen to the Spirit and be the most loving caring people out there who are wise enough to know what is true and what is false regardless of personal preference but are careful to love everyone just like Jesus does.

Just a thought,

Mike