Concept of One

Concept of One

Article by Paul Chung

"One God" according to Seventh-day Adventists

The Seventh-day Adventist 28 Fundamental Beliefs No. 2 states,

"There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. HE IS INFINITE and beyond human comprehension, yet known through HIS SELF-REVELATION. HE IS FOREVER WORTHY OF WORSHIP, adoration, and service by the whole creation. (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 14:7.) 

According to SDA's 28 fundamental Beliefs No. 2, a singular "God" is described as the "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons."

Seventh-day Adventist 28 Fundamental Beliefs No. 14 also states: "...This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as HIS children."

Thus, "one God" who is composed of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are/is expressed as singular pronouns, "He" or “His” and thereby wittingly or unwittingly invoking orthodox trinitarianism (a combination of 3 persons making one God Being).

Notice such expressions as, "HE IS INFINITE" "HIS SELF-REVELATION" "HE IS FOREVER WORTHY OF WORSHIP" "HIS CHILDREN." 

Are the three Persons of the Godhead really an “He”? The intended implication is difficult to overlook and consequently, you cannot help but to view the expression “He” or “His” as denoting a single God Being. Apparently, much thought went into wording the Statement No 2 to avoid sounding tritheistic, according to the GC minutes.

The above statement of beliefs, notwithstanding, and while there are number of variants within the Church with respect to the trinitarian doctrine, the majority of Seventh-day Adventists espouse their belief in three separate, personal Gods with three distinct personalities and thus, they lean closer to some form of tri-theism. Either way, the idea of "one God" is often debated as to exactly what it means and thus let's take a closer look at how the Bible describes this concept of "one" with respect to God.

"and they shall be one flesh"

When Jesus created Adam and Eve and married them, He said that they are to become one (Strongs H259 'echad) flesh (Genesis 2:24). And when Jesus came to this earth, He further stated that Adam and Eve were no longer two but one (Matthew 19:4-6). It is obvious that Adam and Eve were still two separate individuals but they were to be one in the sense of having a harmonious, loving, and intimate relationship.

In the exclusive sense, there was ONE quantitative "Adam", the first male, Eve’s husband, the progenitor of the human race. But Eve was also "Adam" (Genesis 5:2). Thus "Adam" in latter sense means "Adam-kind" or we would say "mankind." There is STILL ONE "Adam-kind" but the posterity of Adam is now made up of billions of people at the present moment.

In Genesis 5:2, we read, “Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called THEIR name Adam, in the day when they were created”

Did you catch that? It says, “called THEIR name Adam [singular], NOT “Adams”

Thus, the concept of singularity, in the case of “Adam” (mankind) or in the case of “God” or “God-kind” can also refer to persons who are ontological equals, sharing the same substance even though there are more than one individuals.

Note: Coincidentally, the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24, referring to a man and a woman becoming one (’echad), to describe a union of two separate entities, is significantly the same word used of God in Deuteronomy 6:4; “our God is one (’echad).” Therefore, Trinitarians argue that, not unlike marriage being a union of two, One God of the Bible can also be described as a plural unity.

“I and my Father are one.”

In John 10:30 Jesus says, “I and [my] Father are one.

In this passage, Jesus claimed to be "one" with the Father.

Does this mean that Jesus is confirming the concept of Trinity and that He and the Father together make one God of the Bible as part of the triune Godhead? There is no evidence within the passage to suggest this.

In John chapter 17, verse 3, Jesus prays to the Father and says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. Jesus called God "the only true God."

Note: In the above passage, Jesus called the Father "the only true God" and yet He does not include Himself as one being part of that distinction, but added, “AND Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent”.  Never did Christ refer to God as a deity of plural persons.

In verse 11 of the same chapter, Jesus says, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, AS WE ARE.”

John 17:20-23 continues the thought, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I IN THEM, AND THOU IN ME, THAT THEY MAY BE MADE PERFECT IN ONE; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

They are one in the same sense in which Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one. He asked his Father that his disciples might be one. His language is, ‘that they may be one, even as we are one.’

John chapter 17 clearly points out that the oneness Jesus has with the Father is not referring to some concept of Trinity, rather a spiritual oneness He experiences with His Father.  Apparently, this oneness is something all of us can also experience as His disciples through an abiding or indwelling Spirit of the Father and Jesus in us; “I in them, and thou in me.”  Jesus prayed that His disciples might become one EVEN AS HE AND HIS FATHER ARE ONE. Was Jesus saying that He, His Father and the disciples are to become the same person or a singular God? Of course not! Again, He was simply stating that there is a unity of purpose and spiritual oneness between the three. 

Regarding the intimate unity between Jesus and His Father in John 17, Ellen White explains:

"The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each.... The personality of the Father and the Son, also the unity that exists between Them, are presented in the seventeenth chapter of John, in the prayer of Christ for His disciples... The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one.” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 421, 422)

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (THERE ARE THE TWO PERSONALITIES, but GOD AND CHRIST ARE ONE IN ‘PERFECTION OF CHARACTER’).” (Ms116-1905.15)

Note: Here, Sister White refers to the concept of “one” as it relates to how the Father and Son “ARE ONE IN PURPOSE, IN MIND, IN CHARACTER, BUT NOT IN PERSON.” She says, “IT IS THUS THAT GOD AND CHRIST ARE ONE.” (It is not saying the Father and Son together make up the one God of the Bible.)

“With what firmness and power he uttered these words. The Jews had never before heard such words from human lips, and a convicting influence attended them; for it seemed that divinity flashed through humanity as Jesus said, "I AND MY FATHER ARE ONE." The words of Christ were full of deep meaning as he put forth the claim that he and the Father were of ONE SUBSTANCE, POSSESSING THE SAME ATTRIBUTESThe Jews understood his meaning, there was no reason why they should misunderstand, and they took up stones to stone him." (ST. November 27, 1893 par. 5)

Note: Here, Sister white refers to the Father and the Son having “one substance” but she qualifies the statement by adding, “possessing the same attributes.” The Father and Son are two separate, distinct personalities and yet they have the SAME divine nature—“one substance, possessing the same attributes”. (Ellen White is not saying: the Father and Son are an amalgamation of one indivisible being nor is she saying Father and Son together make one God.)

James White commenting on John 17 

Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one as he was one with his Father. This prayer did not contemplate one disciple with twelve heads, but twelve disciples, made one in object and effort in the cause of their master. Neither are the Father and the Son parts of the “three-one God.” They are two distinct beings, yet one in the design and accomplishment of redemption. The redeemed, from the first who shares in the great redemption, to the last, all ascribe the honor, and glory, and praise, of their salvation, to both God and the Lamb.” (James White, 1868, Life Incidents, page 343)

One but two personalities

"Here the position of Jesus Christ in reference to his Father is brought to view. While they are one in purpose, and one in mind, YET IN PERSONALITY THEY ARE TWO." {RH August 15, 1907, Art. A, par. 4}

The oneness existing between the Father and the Son DOES NOT AFFECT THE DISTINCT PERSONALITY OF EACH. And though believers are to be one with Christ, their identity and personality are recognized through the whole of this prayer. {14MR 220.4}

Christians should bear in mind that God HAS A PERSONALITY AS VERILY AS HAS CHRIST. They should so represent Christ’s person and conduct that by doing His work they will manifest the character and spirit of the Father. {18MR 110.1}

Note: While Christ and Father are "one" in substance and character, you will not find a single statement from Ellen White’s writings where she refers to “one” God as God of plurality made up of three persons.

"One Good"

"And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? NONE IS GOOD, SAVE ONE, THAT IS, GOD.” (Luke 18:18,19)

"The ruler had addressed Christ merely as an honored rabbi, not discerning in Him the Son of God. The Saviour said, 'Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.' On what ground do you call Me good? GOD IS THE ONE GOOD. If you recognize Me as such, YOU MUST RECEIVE ME AS HIS SON and representative." (COL 390.3)

"'Why callest thou Me good?' said Christ, 'THERE IS NONE GOOD BUT ONE, THAT IS, GOD.' Jesus desired to test the ruler’s sincerity, and to draw from him the way in which he regarded Him as good. Did he realize that the ONE TO WHOM HE WAS SPEAKING WAS THE SON OF GOD? What was the true sentiment of his heart?" (CSA 14.3)

Note: The noted Scripture, Luke 18:18,19 and the above statements seems to suggest that “God” is the Father and that He alone is “one good” exclusively and that Christ is the Son of that “one good.”

DOES THIS MEAN CHRIST IS NOT “GOOD”?

“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? , 'THERE IS NONE GOOD BUT ONE, THAT IS, GOD.” The faith of this young man did not penetrate beyond the surface. HE DID NOT DISCERN IN THE MASTER THE SON OF GOD, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD, who is the way, the truth, and the life. {RH March 28, 1893, Art. A, par. 4}

The ruler had addressed Christ merely as an honored rabbi, not discerning in Him the Son of God. The Saviour said, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” On what ground do you call Me good? God is the one good. IF YOU RECOGNIZED ME AS SUCH, you must receive Me as His Son and representative. {COL 390.3}

“Why callest thou me good?” asks Christ: “there is none good but one; that is God.” CHRIST DECLINED TO RECEIVE THE TERM GOOD, AS APPLIED TO HUMAN BEINGS APART FROM THE ONE WHO ONLY IS TRULY GOOD, AND EQUAL WITH THE FATHER. {Lt3-1897.7}

“Jesus was free from all sin and error; there was not a trace of imperfection in His life or character. He maintained spotless purity under circumstances the most trying. True, He declared, “There is none good but one, that is, God”; but again He said, “I and my Father are one.” JESUS SPEAKS OF HIMSELF AS WELL AS THE FATHER AS GOD, AND CLAIMS FOR HIMSELF PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Manuscript 141, 1901). {7BC 929.4}

Note: Are you seeing what the Inspiration is revealing here? In the above statements, Christ is claiming Himself  “as God” along with the Father and is acknowledged as being “good” with the Him.

When the scripture says, “there is none good but one, that is God”, we (most non-Trinitarians) are likely to view  “one” as a numerical “one” which exclusively refers to the Father at the exclusion of Christ. 

But I hope you are seeing the latter set of statements above as I do where the “one good” can also be viewed as an unified, inclusive sense that includes both the Father and the Son together.

Not unlike Adam and Even noted earlier, when we speak of “one” it can refer either quantitatively (as in appellation/title) to the individual One True God - the Father and in this sense, the Christ is the “Son of God.” Or Son of that “One Good.”  Or it can refer qualitatively to the QUALITY (essence/nature/character) of divinity. In this latter sense, the Son can also be considered as being “one” along with the Father and be considered 100% fully God:

"The law cannot lower the standard or take less than its full demands, therefore it cannot cleanse us from one sin; but God’s Son, who is one with the Father, EQUAL IN AUTHORITY WITH THE FATHER, paid the debt for us. { RH July 29, 1890, par. 8 }.

John 14:9 "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?"

"The world's Redeemer was EQUAL WITH GOD. HIS AUTHORITY WAS AS THE AUTHORITY OF GOD. He declared that He had no existence separate from the Father… HE WAS SO PERFECTLY CONNECTED WITH GOD, SO COMPLETELY EMBRACED IN HIS ENCIRCLING LIGHT, THAT HE WHO HAD SEEN THE SON, HAD SEEN THE FATHER, HIS VOICE WAS AS THE VOICE OF GOD."—Bible Commentary Vol. 5, p. 1142

“As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” SO FULLY WAS JESUS SURRENDERED TO THE WILL OF GOD THAT THE FATHER ALONE APPEARED IN HIS LIFE. Although tempted in all points like as we are, He stood untainted by the evil that surrounded Him. Thus we also are to overcome as Christ overcame. {HLv 258.5}

“The words spoken in regard to this are so decisive that no one need be left in doubt. CHRIST WAS GOD ESSENTIALLY, AND IN THE HIGHEST SENSE. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.” —Review and Herald, April 5, 1906 par. 6

“HE WAS EQUAL WITH GOD, infinite and omnipotent.”—The Faith I Live By, p. 46.6

“Had not the Pharisees been blinded by prejudice, they would have seen that he who was before them was the Christ, and that HE WAS IN THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER IN HIM. ‘I AND MY FATHER ARE ONE,’ he declared.” (RH August 15, 1899, Art. A, par. 9)

Note: Because Christ is the Son of God, being an ontologically equal with the Father, He had an exalted position, ordained by the Father “SO THAT WHEREVER WAS THE PRESENCE OF HIS SON, IT WAS AS HIS OWN PRESENCE. THE WORD OF THE SON WAS TO BE OBEYED AS READILY AS THE WORD OF THE FATHER.”—Lift Him Up, p. 18

The problem with Trinitarian doctrine is that it only recognizes "one God" in the inclusive sense as it pertains to the tri-unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus, according to Trinity, the inclusion of all 3 must be recognized in "one God." Moreover, Trinitarian doctrine fails to recognize the Father as the "one God" in the exclusive sense, in the same way Adam is recognized in the exclusive sense. In fact, in almost all of Scripture, it is the Father who is consistently recognized as the "one God" through out the Bible. 

As noted earlier, when we speak of Adam in the exclusive sense, it refers to just one individual-Adam, the husband of Eve; even though Eve is also Adam-mankind. Similarly, Father is the "only true God" in the exclusive sense but we know that the Son is also God in the inclusive sense for He is the Son of God who shares the same substance/attributes as His Father. But again, no where in Scripture will you find Father and Son together as being "one God."

Does 1 John 5:7,8 affirm Trinity?

It reads in the King James Version: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (1 JOHN 5:7-8; Bold emphasis added) (Bold emphasis added—words in bold are considered by many

The words in bold (above) commonly referred to as Johannine Comma (or Comma Johanneum) is a sequence of extra words which appear in 1 John 5:7, 8 and are considered by many, including SDA Bible Commentary to be spurious. Click here to learn more: HERE 

And yet, many Trinitarian’s still refer to these verses to affirm Trinity. They say that 1 John 5:7, 8 establishes 3 Persons of the Godhead (the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost) as one God. Or does it?

Again, there are many evidences to suggest that 1 John 5:7-8 is an interpolation and is spurious. Many suspect that the words in bold are not part of the generally accepted New Testament manuscripts and have valid reasons to believe this.

Even still, the added wording does not by itself proclaim the Trinity doctrine. The addition, illegitimate though it may be, merely presents the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit as witnesses. This says nothing about the personhood of all three since verse 7 shows inanimate water and blood serving as such.

First of all, the passage does not say that these three are a trinity, nor that these three constitute "one God", made up of three co-eternal persons. It simply says: “they are one”. We are admonished not to add onto God’s word (Proverbs 30:6).

Let’s take a look and see what the passage really reveals (with the noted passage included).

1 John 5:7 begins with the words: “For there are three that bear record in heaven”. The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost are one in the record they bear.

Notice also the following verse. “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” 1 John 5:8

Please note, when 1 John 5:7 says “these three are one”, it refers to the record they bear. They are one in witness and testimony.

Now, what is the record they are united in? “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:5

If one interprets 1 John 5:7 to teach a trinity of three co-eternals, they deny that Jesus is truly the Son of God. This is because the trinity teaches that Jesus is only a metaphorical son. Yet only two verses prior, we are admonished that the only way to overcome the world is to believe that Jesus is “the Son of God”!

Furthermore, in verse 6 we read:

“This is he that came by water and blood, [even] Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” 1 John 5:6

Notice that the Spirit also bears witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Now in verse 9, we see the Father’s testimony of His Son. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.” 1 John 5:9(See also Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5).

And what if we do not believe the record, which God gave of His Son? John continues:

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” 1 John 5:10

How important is it to believe in the Son of God? John once again affirms:

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; [and] he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11-1222

Let us not forget the testimony of Jesus Himself, as penned by the same author:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

It is interesting to note that in 1 John 5:7, the term John uses for the Son is “the Word”. This is important because in John’s gospel, he tells us exactly who the Word is.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Thus, one could rightly translate 1 John 5:7 as: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word [the only begotten of the Father], and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” 1 John 5:7

We have seen that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one in the record that they bear, and that record is “that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5).

Amazing! The very text which Trinitarians use to teach a trinity of three co-eternal persons (and thereby deny that Jesus is the Son of God) actually testifies to the record that Jesus is the Son of God. Moreover, the same chapter clearly states that our eternal life depends on us believing this truth.

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life...” 1 John 5:13

Again, the concept of “one” illustrated here do not refer to one triune godhead, made up of three persons but rather of the Father, Son, and their own Spirit’s testimony being of “one” accord.

“…that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge…” 1 Corinthians 8:4-7