What a Heresy—Two Divine Fathers, Two Life-Giving Spirits, and Three Gods!
Table of Contents
The Basic Revelation of Bible
A False Accusation Repudiated
The Son’s Being Called the Father
Various Twistings of Isaiah 9:6
The Heresy of Two Divine Fathers
The Heresy of Two Life-Giving Spirits
The Lord’s Being the Spirit
The Pure Word
The Heresy of Modalism
The Heresy of Tritheism
The Triune God in Our Experience
When it comes to the matter of the Triune God, many Christians only care for their tradition, not for the clear, accurate word of the Bible. In order to preserve their tradition, they twist the words of Scripture and will not return absolutely to the pure word of the Bible. Because of this tradition, a fight is going on. Although we do not like to fight, we cannot avoid it. Therefore, we must point out that many Christians hold a concept, which is certainly heretical, of two divine Fathers, two life-giving Spirits, and some, even of three Gods. It may be that they are not aware of this or that they hold it unconsciously and, thus, they may deny that they hold it. However, the concept held by them actually is heretical because it implies two divine Fathers, two life-giving Spirits, and, in some cases, three Gods.
The Basic Revelation of Bible
According to the basic revelation of the Bible, God’s economy is to work Christ into His believers that they may become a living church to express God on earth. But in Christian history and in today’s situation, we do not see this. What we see is merely a Christian religion with the Triune God as their object of worship plus a Savior who saves sinners from hell to heaven. In today’s Christianity we see neither the enjoyment of the all-inclusive Christ nor the practice of the proper church life. For this reason, during the past fifty years the Lord has come to show us His recovery of the experience of Christ and of the proper church life. Throughout the years that we have been burdened by the Lord with His recovery, we have been attacked by religion. We have been attacked because we have received a clear vision from the Lord regarding who Christ is. The Lord has shown us that Christ is the all-inclusive, wonderful One. He is all in all. He is God, the Creator, the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and also the proper man. He is the reality of all divine attributes and of all human virtues. The hinge of all the aspects of this all-inclusive Christ is the living Spirit. We have no choice except to tell our fellow Christians that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the living Spirit. Undoubtedly, He is the Lamb of God and the Redeemer, but these are simply two aspects of this all-inclusive One. Christ, the all-inclusive One, is everything. The Bible even describes Him with the term “all in all” (Col. 3:11). Christ is the reality of every positive thing. He is light, life, righteousness, holiness, redemption, salvation, and everything. In our experience, He is the life-giving Spirit indwelling our human spirit. Because we proclaim this, we are accused of being heretical. Our critics say that we teach heresy in telling people that Christ, the Son, is the Father as well as the Spirit. Today, many Christians do not believe that Christ is not only the Son, but also the Father and the Spirit.
A False Accusation Repudiated
Some of our critics say, “When Witness Lee teaches that Christ is the Father and the Spirit, he is teaching modalism and denying the co-inherence and co-existence of the three Persons of the Godhead.” I deny this accusation. If the critics were to ask me whether I believe in Matthew 3:16 and 17, where the Son is standing, the Spirit is descending, and the Father is speaking, I would answer that I believe it at least as much as they do. All three, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit were present at the same time. I fully believe in the co-inherence and co-existence of the Three of the Godhead. I not only believe Matthew 3:16 and 17, but all the verses that pertain to this subject. For example, Revelation 1:4 and 5 say, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ….” In these verses, the Father is the One “which is, and which was, and which is to come”; the Spirit is the “seven Spirits”; and the Son is Jesus Christ, “the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.” Here, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son are not only present after Christ’s resurrection, but even after His ascension and after Pentecost. Many other verses reveal the same thing. Second Corinthians 13:14 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (Gk.). Here we see the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit. Furthermore, Ephesians 3:14-17 says, “I bow my knees unto the Father…that he would grant you…to be strengthened with might by his Spirit…that Christ may make his home in your hearts…” (Gk.). Once again, the Father, the Spirit, and Christ are all present at the same time. The charge that I am a modalist is false, and I absolutely repudiate it. Modalism teaches that God is not at the same time Father and Son and that the revelation of the Son ended with the ascension. The permanence of the Father, Son, and Spirit was denied by modalism. Modalism is a heresy, and we do not believe in it.
The Son’s Being Called the Father
Some of the critics, however, may reply, “Don’t you say that the Son is the Father and that Christ is the Spirit? This is exactly what the modalists say.” To this I would answer that I do not care for modalism, but only for the pure word of the Bible. Isaiah 9:6 says that a child is born unto us, that a son is given unto us, that the child is called the mighty God, and that this son is called the everlasting Father. To say that the Son is the Father is not an interpretation; it is a quotation. If you read this verse carefully, you will see from the context that the mighty God refers to the child and that the everlasting Father refers to the Son. Throughout the centuries, all fundamental students of the Bible have agreed that the child born in the manger was the mighty God. Only Jews and unbelievers would deny this. However, the vast majority of Christians only believe half of this verse. They either neglect or twist the other half regarding the Son’s being called the everlasting Father. Let us now consider this verse in some detail along with the different ways of twisting it.
Isaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” In this verse there are two lines with two points. The first line is, “Unto us a child is born,” and the second line is, “Unto us a son is given.” In the middle of the verse it says that He is the One who carries out God’s administration, for “the government shall be upon his shoulder.” This indicates that the child born unto us and the Son given unto us carries out God’s administration. In the latter part of this verse we see the name of the child and the name of the Son. “His name” refers to the name of the child and of the Son. His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Prince of Peace. Between these names, we have the mighty God and the everlasting Father. Undoubtedly, “the mighty God” is the name of the child and “the everlasting Father” is the name of the Son. Therefore, according to the two lines of this verse, the child born to us is called the mighty God and the Son given to us is called the everlasting Father. All Christians agree that the child born to us is the child named Jesus born in the manger at Bethlehem. Furthermore, we all agree that this child was truly the mighty God. Every bona fide, fundamental Christian recognizes this. Whoever does not recognize this is not a genuine Christian. However, a number of fundamental Christians have a problem with the second line. They simply do not believe that the Son is the Father.
Because we believe that Isaiah 9:6 means what it says, we are accused of being modalistic. Those who accuse us of this fall into the danger of being tritheistic. The divine Trinity has the side of the one and the side of the three. Modalism stresses the side of the one, misunderstanding and misappropriating the side of the three, and tritheism stresses the side of the three, denying the side of the one. But the pure revelation in the Bible contains both sides of the truth. All fundamentalists believe that the child born to us is the mighty God, but some neglect, or even oppose, the second point—that the Son given to us is the everlasting Father. They have a big problem here. Because they have a problem, they twist this verse.
Various Twistings of Isaiah 9:6
The first twisting is exemplified by a brother who said, “The Son is calledthe Father, but He is not the Father.” I said, “Brother, isn’t it ridiculous to say this? Can we say that Mr. Smith is called Mr. Smith, but that he is not really Mr. Smith? Can we say that the Bible is called the Bible, but that it is not the Bible? The same is true with the matter of the Son’s being called the everlasting Father. How can we say that He is called the everlasting Father but is not the everlasting Father? What kind of logic is this?”
A second twisting claims that because, according to the Hebrew, “the everlasting Father” should be rendered “the Father of eternity,” the Son cannot be the Father. I agree that “the Father of eternity” is a better translation than “the everlasting Father.” But who is this Father of eternity? Is He not the Father among the Three of the Godhead? Apart from the Father in the Godhead is there another divine Father who is called “the Father of eternity”? Certainly not! Nevertheless, some twist Isaiah 9:6 to say that the Father of eternity is not the Father in the Godhead. They say that He is another Father, the Father of eternity, which, according to them, means the origin, the source, of the ages. This twisting implies that they believe in two divine Fathers—the Father in the Godhead and the Father of eternity. This is really heretical. According to the Bible, the Father of eternity is the Father in the Godhead. I appeal to you to be honest, fair, and sincere. Do you believe that besides the Father in the Godhead there is another Father who is the Father of eternity?
A third twisting claims that, according to the Hebrew, the everlasting Father is the Father of creation. To this, I would ask, “Who is this Father of creation?” If they answer that He is Jesus, I would reply, “Do you believe that besides the Father in the Godhead, Jesus is another Father, the Father of creation?” They would have to admit that they believe this. If they do, then they have two divine Fathers. While they condemn us for being heretical, they themselves are exposed as being heretical.
According to the fourth way of twisting, the “Father” in this verse is the Father of Israel. The ones who twist the verse in this way use Isaiah 63:16 and 64:8 as their basis. They say that the everlasting Father in Isaiah 9:6 is the Father of Israel. But I would ask, “Who is this Father, the Father of Israel?” Surely, it must be the Father in the Godhead. If anyone says that this Father, the Father of Israel, is not the Father in the Godhead, he implies that there are two divine Fathers. This is certainly heretical.
A fifth twisting is based upon a note in an edition of the Septuagint. (The Septuagint is an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.) This note renders “the Father of the age to come” for “the everlasting Father.” Some say that, based on this, the everlasting Father in Isaiah 9:6 is not the Father in the Godhead, but the Father of the coming age. They claim that He is the Father who brings in the new age, just as Edison was the father who brought in the age of electrical science. But the Hebrew word for “everlasting” in this verse means eternity, eternal, everlasting, evermore, perpetually, old, world without end (see Strong’s Concordance).However they twist this verse, they cannot twist away the title, “the Father.”
Actually, what is revealed in Isaiah 9:6 is very personal and subjective to us. It does not say, “A child is born, a son is given.” It says, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” The phrase “unto us,”**especially by its repetition, indicates a strong emphasis, showing that whatever is revealed in this verse is “unto us” in a very personal, subjective, and experiential way. Not only is the “child,” the “son,” for our personal experience, but also all that His five names unfold is for our personal experience. Christ as the wonderful One, the Counselor, the mighty God, and the Prince of Peace is all for our personal experience. In this context, “the everlasting Father” must also be for our personal experience. He is our wonderful One, our Counselor, our mighty God, our Prince of Peace, and also our everlasting Father. Since the wonderful One, the Counselor, the mighty God, and the Prince of Peace are ours, the everlasting Father must also be ours. To interpret “the everlasting Father,” or “the Father of eternity,” as the “Father of the coming age” does not fit the context, but rather makes it objective and impersonal, thus rendering this aspect of the Lord meaningless as far as the context of the entire verse is concerned.
Furthermore, Isaiah 63:16 says, “Thou, O Lord, art our Father; our Redeemer from eternity is thy name” (Heb.). And Isaiah 64:8 says, “O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are the work of thy hand.” The prophet Isaiah used these two verses as a further development of what he prophesied concerning Christ as the Father of eternity in Isaiah 9:6. In 64:8 Isaiah tells us that the Father of eternity in 9:6 is our Creator, and in 63:16 he tells us that the Father of eternity is our Redeemer. In the whole Bible, Christ is revealed as our Creator and especially as our Redeemer (John 1:3; Heb. 1:10; Rom. 3:24; Titus 2:14). The Father of eternity being both our Creator and our Redeemer not only confirms but also strengthens the understanding that the Redeemer, Christ, is the Father of eternity, the holy Father in the Godhead. Hence, to say that the everlasting Father, or the Father of eternity, in Isaiah 9:6 is some kind of Father, other than the Father in the Godhead, is not according to the context of the whole book of Isaiah.
The Heresy of Two Divine Fathers
When our critics twist the verse in these ways, we would ask them this question: Do you mean to say that besides the Father of the Three of the Godhead there is another divine Father? If anyone would answer this question with a yes, we must tell him clearly that there are not two divine Fathers in this universe and to say that there are is a great heresy. Any Christian who holds the concept of two divine Fathers must abandon it immediately. However the critics interpret this verse, they must recognize that the Son is called the Father and that in the whole universe there is only one divine Father and that this Father is of eternity, without beginning or ending, not the Father of any one age with a beginning and an ending. Regardless of how they interpret “the everlasting Father,” whether as “the Father of eternity,” “the Father of creation,” “the Father of the age to come,” “the Father of Israel,” or the Father of something else, they cannot twist away the title, “the Father” in Isaiah 9:6. There is only one divine Father in the whole universe. Hence, “the everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6, regardless of how people twist it, must be the unique divine Father in the Godhead. While some twist the phrase “the everlasting Father,” they do not twist the phrase “the mighty God.” But if “the mighty God” should not be twisted, then neither should “the everlasting Father” be twisted, for this is against the principle. We should not accept the first term according to the pure Word and then twist the second. Some twist the second phrase because they are influenced by the traditional teachings concerning the Trinity. But we do not care for traditional teachings; we only care for the pure word of the Bible. Isaiah 9:6 says that the child born unto us is called the mighty God, and we believe that the child is the mighty God. This verse also says that the Son given to us is called the everlasting Father, and we also believe that the Son is the everlasting Father. We say this according to the Bible, but others twist this verse to fit their traditional teaching. People may twist Isaiah 9:6, but they cannot change it. This verse has two lines, and if we accept the first line without twisting it, then we must also accept the second in the same way.
Let us go on to John 14. In John 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, shew us the Father.” To this, the Lord replied, “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, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (John 14:9-11). The Lord Jesus seemed to be saying, “Philip, I have been with you such a long time. Don’t you know Me? You have been seeing Me for three and one-half years. If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” In John 10:30 the Lord Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” These verses in the Gospel of John support what is revealed in Isaiah 9:6. Isaiah 9:6 reveals that the Son is the Father of eternity. When the Son came, He told His disciples that He and the Father were one. Since the Son is called the Father of eternity, how can people say that He is not the Father in the Godhead, but another Father, the Father of creation or of the age to come? It is heretical to say that besides the divine Father in the Godhead there is another divine Father of creation or of the age to come.
There are, then, two main views of Isaiah 9:6—the view which says that according to the clear, printed word of the Bible the Son is called the everlasting Father, who is the Father in the Godhead, and the view which says that this Father is not the Father in the Godhead but some other Father. If you were the judge in the heavenly court, what decision would you give on these two understandings of this verse? As for me, I would stand with what the Bible says, not with any twistings. Those who twist this verse do not believe the Bible according to the clear word. Instead, they believe the Bible in their twisting way. Whatever fits their understanding they take, but whatever does not fit their understanding they twist. If you twist the words of the Bible, you will suffer a loss, for you are changing the holy Word. You are either taking something away from the Word or adding something to it. This is very serious. Whether or not I understand what the Bible says, I believe whatever it says. When the Bible says that the Son is called the everlasting Father, I say, “Amen, the Son is the Father.” I do not care how men interpret this verse; I only care for what the Bible says.
The Heresy of Two Life-Giving Spirits
Let us now turn to 1 Corinthians 15:45. This verse says, “The first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam became**a life-giving spirit” (Gk.). According to this verse, the last Adam, who is Christ, became a life-giving Spirit. Some twist this verse, saying that it speaks of “a life-giving Spirit,” not “thelife-giving Spirit.” But besides the Holy Spirit who gives life is there another Spirit who gives life? To say that there are two Spirits giving life is to teach another great heresy. Whether the article is definite or indefinite, the last Adam, who is Christ Himself, became a Spirit, a life-giving Spirit. At this point we must refer to John 6:63, where the Lord says, “It is the Spirit that giveth life” (Gk.). In this chapter the Lord Jesus said that He was the bread of life to give life to people. Eventually, He indicated that in order to be life to people as the bread of life, He must be the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who gives life. Furthermore, 2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” Is not the Spirit in this verse the Holy Spirit? Can we say that besides this Holy Spirit who gives life there is also another Spirit who gives life? No, we dare not say this.
A second way of twisting this verse is to say that the life-giving Spirit here is not the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit of Christ as a person. Those who twist the verse in this manner say that just as we have a spirit, so Christ also has a spirit. Then they proceed to say that the spirit here is the spirit of Christ, not the Holy Spirit. Certainly, the Spirit in this verse is the Spirit of Christ. But do you believe that besides the Holy Spirit there is another Spirit who is the Spirit of Christ? Or, to put the matter another way, do you believe that besides the Spirit of Christ there is another Spirit called the Holy Spirit? If you believe this, your mind must be darkened. No one with an enlightened mind would believe this.
Those who twist 1 Corinthians 15:45 in this manner do not know that the Holy Spirit today is not only the Spirit of God, but also the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) and even the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7, Gk.). Romans 8:9 testifies that the Spirit of God today is the Spirit of Christ, and Philippians 1:19 testifies that the Spirit of Christ is also the Spirit of Jesus Christ. In a chapter entitled, “The Spirit of the Glorified Jesus,” in his book, The Spirit of Christ, Andrew Murray says that after Christ’s ascension the Holy Spirit did not come as before. In the Old Testament, He came only as the Spirit of God, but after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the Spirit came not only as the Spirit of God, but also as the Spirit of the man Christ. Furthermore, John 7:39 says that prior to Christ’s death and resurrection this Spirit was “not yet.” However, the Spirit of God was already there. The critics apparently do not know that the Holy Spirit today is not only the Spirit of God, but also the Spirit of Christ. This Spirit, who is the Spirit both of God and of Christ, is the life-giving Spirit. After and through His resurrection, Christ became such a life-giving Spirit. Undoubtedly, this Spirit is the Holy Spirit.
Paul was careful in writing I Corinthians 15:45. He did not say, “The last Adam became a spirit.” He added the modifier, “life-giving,” saying, “The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” There is no ground for argument. Who is the Spirit who gives life? Do you believe that besides the Holy Spirit there is another divine Spirit who gives life? This is impossible.
A third twisting of this verse says that the spirit here is the human spirit of Christ. But if the spirit here merely denotes the human spirit of Christ, then there was no need for Him to become a spirit it because he had a human spirit already. Several times in the Gospels there are references to Christ’s human spirit. For example, He “perceived in his spirit” (Mark 2:8); He “sighed deeply in his spirit” (Mark 8:12); He “groaned in the spirit” (John 11:33); and He “was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). Hence, there was no need for Him to become a human spirit.
A fourth twisting claims that Adam, as a whole, became a soul; that Christ as a whole, became a Spirit; and that this Spirit is not the Holy Spirit who gives life. I definitely agree that Adam became a soul, for the Bible says so. I also believe that Christ altogether became a Spirit. But I cannot believe that this Spirit is other than the life-giving Holy Spirit. Do you believe that besides the Holy Spirit there is another Spirit who gives life? This is illogical. Which will you accept—the twistings, or the clear word of the Bible? We all should be simple and should say, “Amen” to whatever the Bible says.
The Lord’s Being the Spirit
Now we come to 2 Corinthians 3:17, which says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit.” This verse is so clear and simple that there is nothing for the critics to twist. The Spirit in this verse is the Spirit mentioned in verse 6, where we are told that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now the Lord is the Spirit who gives life. According to Darby’s New Translation, verses 7 through 16 of 2 Corinthians 3 are in parentheses, showing that verse 17 is the continuation of verse 6. Verse 17 says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit.” The Spirit mentioned here is the very Spirit who gives life spoken of in verse 6. The Lord in 2 Corinthians 3:17 certainly is Jesus. A number of Christian writers, including Dean Alford and Andrew Murray, have said that the Lord is Jesus and that the Lord is the Spirit.
Although there is actually nothing to twist in this verse, some still try to twist it in at least two ways. Firstly, some say that the Lord here is not the Lord Jesus Christ, but merely the Lord God. In the book of 2 Corinthians, the title, “The Lord” is always attached to the Lord Jesus (1:2, 14; 4:5; 13:14) and God is called “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3; 11:31). So the Lord in 3:17, as in 3:16 and 18, undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus, not to God the Father. To say that the Lord in this verse refers to God is clearly a twisting to fit the traditional teaching and to avoid the pure revelation concerning the matter of the Trinity.
According to the second twisting, to say that the Lord is the Spirit does not mean that the Lord is actually the Spirit, but that the Spirit represents the Lord. This is more than a twisting of the verse; it is a changing of the Bible by adding to the pure revelation a thought which the Bible does not have. Where is the verse in the Bible giving us the thought that the Holy Spirit represents the Lord? There is no such verse. Why do some twist the Bible in this way? Just because they do not like to stay with the pure revelation concerning Christ’s being the Spirit. They like to remain in their traditional teachings concerning the Trinity.
The Pure Word
Christianity is too old. It is full of opinions, traditions, and concepts. The Lord’s recovery is to bring us back to the pure Word. We do not care for the concepts and traditions of Christianity or for anybody’s teachings. We only care for the pure word of the Bible. We believe whatever the Bible says in a pure way, not in the way of twisting the words of Scripture. The critics claim to believe the Bible and they condemn us by saying that we do not believe it. They believe the Bible in their twisting way; we believe the Bible in the way of taking whatever it says in black and white. When Isaiah 9:6 says that the Son is called the everlasting Father, we say, “Amen.” When 1 Corinthians 15:45 says, “The last Adam became a life-giving spirit,” we say, “Amen.” When 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “The Lord is that Spirit,” we also say, “Amen.” The critics twist these verses because they are still under the influence of traditional teachings.
With these verses before us, who can say that we are heretical? Who is heretical—we who say that according to Isaiah 9:6 the Son is the Father and according to 1 Corinthians 15:45 and 2 Corinthians 3:17 the Lord Jesus today is the life-giving Spirit, or those who have two divine Fathers and two life-giving Spirits? What heresy to have two divine Fathers and two life-giving Spirits! We must tell people of these heresies, and these heresies must be exposed. We are absolutely scriptural, but those who have two divine Fathers and two life-giving Spirits as the result of twisting these verses are heretical. Let us wait and see how they can clear themselves from this charge.
The Heresy of Modalism
The orthodox creed formulated at the Council of Nicaea was a repudiation of modalism, exemplified by Sabellius, and tritheism, represented by Arius. Sabellius did not believe in the simultaneous existence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To him, They were merely three manifestations of the oneGod who manifests Himself in different ways according to circumstances. Arius, on the contrary, believed in three Gods. According to him, the Father was one God, the Son was another God, and the Holy Spirit was still another God. This, of course, is heresy. Although the heresy of Arius was condemned at the Nicene Council, many Christians, probably including some of our critics, today subconscious still hold to three Gods. In the past, many of you, deep within, secretly held to this belief.
Modalism has some ground in the Scriptures, but it has gone much too far, to a heretical extreme. The modalists saw the aspect of the one, but they misused the side of the three, saying that after the revelation of the Father and the Son had ceased only the Spirit remained. They deny the co-existence and co-inherence among the Three of the Godhead in eternity. While they deny this, we believe it. Modalism neglects the safeguard of the twofoldness of the truths in the Bible. Every truth in the Bible has two aspects. If you would be safe, you must be balanced between these two aspects. According to God’s regulation, principle, and law, nothing in the universe can exist without being two-sided. This is even true of a sheet of paper. Because the modalists held to one side and misapplied the other, they lost their balance and safeguard.
The Heresy of Tritheism
The tritheists, on the contrary, hold the side of the three, but neglect the side of the one. They say, “If the Father, Son, and Spirit are not three Gods, then how can They be three Persons?” Actually, to use the designation “three Persons” to explain the Father, Son, and Spirit is also not quite satisfactory because “three Persons” really means three persons. Therefore, Griffith Thomas (famous for his exposition on the book of Romans) in his book, The Principles of Theology,wrote in this wise concerning the Trinity of the Godhead: “The term Person is also sometimes objected to. Like all human language, it is liable to be accused of inadequacy and even positive error. It certainly must not be pressed too far, or it will lead to Tritheism.” By denying the fact that the Son is the Father and that the Lord is the Spirit, our critics spontaneously fall into the danger of being tritheistic. Although they would deny that they are tritheistic, unconsciously and subconsciously they hold the concept of the three Persons of the Godhead as three Gods. While most dare not admit this, some do admit it.
In 1965, a brother who had accused me of being heretical teaching that the Son is the Father and the Lord is the Spirit, came to visit me. He told me definitely that he believed in three Gods. When I told him that we should never say this, he attempted to argue with me, using Psalm 82:6, which says, “Ye are gods.” I pointed out that the word “gods” in that verse refers to the angels. In the entire Bible, there is no verse saying that we have more than one God. Rather, everywhere we are told that our God is the only one God. He is God alone.
To press the “three Persons” in the Godhead too far will surely “lead to Tritheism.” Whoever does this spontaneously falls into the heretical extreme of tritheism. Tritheism does not have the safeguard of the aspect of the one. But the Bible says again and again that there is just one God. Because the tritheists hold the side of the three and neglect the side of the one, they also have no balance or safeguard.
Both modalism and tritheism go to an extreme. But we are in the middle and are balanced. When we believe that the Son is the Father and that the Lord is the Spirit, we are simply quoting the Bible. But, as we have pointed out, we also believe verses such as Matthew 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Revelation 1:4-5; and Ephesians 3:14-17. We believe both sides of the truth regarding the Triune God. We condemn both modalism and tritheism as heresies. We believe that God is uniquely one for eternity, yet He is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Some may ask, “How can the Father, the Son, and the Spirit be three and at the same time still be one?” My answer is, “I do not know. I cannot tell you. If you try to understand this, you will be, in Martin Luther’s terms, ‘the teacher of God.’” The Trinity far transcends our mental apprehension, and only fools would try to understand it.
The Triune God in Our Experience
Actually, there is no doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible. In the Bible, the revelation of the Triune God is related to His relationship with man and to man’s experience of Him. The first verse indicating the Triune God is Genesis 1:26, which says, “Let us make man in our image.” This is not a doctrine; it is a revelation of God’s relationship with man. The first time the three of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are revealed is in Matthew 28:19. This verse says, “Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Gk.). This also is not a doctrine, but an experience. Many terms have been invented or adopted by theologians relating to the Trinity: person, substance, hypostasis, subsistence, etc. It is better to avoid these terms as much as possible and to simply quote the Bible, for anything we say may be wrongly understood or interpreted. Nevertheless, for the sake of the experience of the Triune God, we cannot keep from telling people that eventually the Triune God today is the all-inclusive, life-giving Spirit. Examine your experience. Although many of the critics are fearful of experience, our burden is that people would experience the Triune God as the all-inclusive, wonderful Spirit who is God Himself—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
The Trinity is not for doctrinal apprehension; it is absolutely for our experience. Before I came to this country, I did not give a clear word saying that the Triune God is for the dispensing of Himself into man. One day, while I was ministering the Triune God to people, I suddenly received the impression that the Triune God is for His dispensation, for the divine dispensing of Himself into man. God’s intention is to work Himself into human beings. For this purpose, God created man with a human spirit. God created man with a mouth and a stomach that he may take in, retain, digest, and assimilate food. Likewise, God created us with a spirit that we may touch Him, contact Him, take Him in, and retain Him. God is Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit (John 4:24). Throughout the years, I have been more and more confirmed that the Triune God is for the dispensing of Himself into man. This is not a matter of doctrine, but of experience.
Everything we preach and teach in this ministry is thoroughly and carefully considered. Years ago, under the leadership of Brother Watchman Nee, we not only studied the Bible, but also church history, biographies, autobiographies, and the writings of the important Christian teachers. After much study and investigation, we were enlightened by the pure Word, and the Lord revealed much concerning Himself as our enjoyment and concerning the church as God’s expression. Before the recovery came to this country, had many of you heard of the human spirit? Had you ever heard that for Christ to be experienced by us as the all-inclusive One, He must be the life-giving Spirit? Had you ever heard that the Triune God is for the dispensing of Himself into us, His chosen people, for our experience? Had you ever heard of the practice of the church life in the localities where we are? Years ago, the Lord enlightened us and revealed these things to us, and we have been practicing them for a long time. Today, we wish to present the truths we have seen to all Christians that they may see them as well. At least, we must clear up the sky for the truth that the Christian public may know where the truth is. Everyone must know the truth concerning the living experience of Christ, the dispensing of the Triune God, and the practice of the proper church life.
After much study, we have been confirmed in believing that, according to the Bible, the Triune God is revealed, not for doctrinal apprehension, but absolutely for our experience. If we try to understand the Triune God as a doctrine and neglect experience, we shall find ourselves in difficulty. When I was young, I was taught about the Trinity according to the Nicene Creed, the creed held both by Catholicism and Protestantism. When I was under the teaching of the Brethren assembly, I was told that we should pray to the Father in the name of the Son through the power of the Spirit. But as I practiced this in my experience, I got into trouble. I asked myself, “To Whom shall I address my prayer—to the Father, to the Son, or to the Spirit?” As I prayed, I had to remind myself, saying, “Don’t make a mistake. You must pray to the Father in the name of the Son through the power of the Spirit.” I took caution to practice in this manner.
When I first stayed with Brother Nee, a Chinese evangelist who belonged to the China Inland Mission was invited to speak to us. Brother Nee told me privately that this brother was supposed to be the most spiritual one among the Chinese preachers in the China Inland Mission. At a certain point in his message, he said, “Don’t think that the Lord Jesus is separate from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit today is simply the Lord Jesus.” After this sentence was uttered, Brother Nee, sitting afar off, loudly said, “Amen!” That surprised me. As Brother Nee and I were taking a walk after the meeting, he said, “Witness, we must believe this and realize that today the Lord Jesus is just the Spirit.” From that time onward, I received the best help to experience Christ as life. In all the years since then, I have entered more and more into the reality of the Triune God.
In doctrine, we may speak of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit as being separate and distinct. But what about our experience? According to our experience, are They three or one? The New Testament reveals that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all in us (Eph. 4:6; 2 Cor. 13:5; John 14:17). Tell me, according to your experience, are there three in you or one? When you exercise your mind to talk about Them, They are three, but when you exercise your spirit to experience Them, They are just one.
Recently, I read the writings of many others who have said affirmatively that the Triune God is not for doctrinal understanding, but for our experience of the reality of our God. If our Savior were not the life-giving Spirit, how could we touch Him? According to fundamental interpretation, we touch Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. But what does this mean? It is meaningless terminology. What does it mean to say that the Son comes to us in the Spirit? The Bible does not say this. Rather, it says “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Christ dwells in us and abides in us directly, not through any power. This is the revelation of the New Testament. But where is the verse saying that Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit? There is no such verse. Neither is it so complicated in our experience. In our experience, the living Christ is in us. As we turn to our experience, we shall see that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one. The all-inclusive Christ, who as the life-giving Spirit indwells our spirit, is everything to us. We must believe the clear Word in a pure way, saying, “Amen,” to whatever the Bible says, and we should take care of our experience. There is no need to interpret. Simply take whatever the Bible says and believe it.
© 1977 Living Stream Ministry. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.