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Matthew 3:16-17 NIV

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

If there is no distinction between the Father and the Son, as Oneness adherents believe, how do they explain the voice from heaven?

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Ventriloquism perhaps? –  curiousdannii Mar 10 at 3:19

4 Answers 4

In general most of these things are interpreted by Oneness advocats as symbolic, or delivered to us in a way that we can relate to or will provide us with an example how we should act. For example, seeing the Spirit of God descending as a dove may be seeing an actual dove as a sign that the Spirit of God has testified. A voice from heaven means a voice from God as the Holy Spirit (which communicates silently to one's spirit) who's nature is heavenly.

There are innumerable scriptures with similar symbolic challenges (Jesus praying to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane, On the cross "forgive them Father for they know not what they do", Stephen seeing Christ on the right hand of God, Christ saying no man knows His return not even Christ knows but the Father does, "God is a Spirit" verse vs. "a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have", and the list goes on).

I have learned to not wrest the scriptures to prove anything - but to live and let live ... in fact such interpretations may be correct but that doesn't invalidate someone else's belief that they are distinct personalities who are one in spirit and purpose. To me the entire 2nd chapter of Corinthians tells me when we argue over such things we miss the mark. "To know God is life eternal" has more to do with emulating the Savior than understanding the metaphysical differences between embodiments of God, the Trinity, members of the Godhead, or whatever you might call the construct that you call God.

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Welcome to the site! This next is just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites?, and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Apr 17 at 2:19
Hello Davers, are you a oneness adherent? –  Sarah Aug 26 at 15:04

Interestingly, Oneness Pentecostals do not fail to see a distinction between Father and Son as many suppose. The United Pentecostals explain the distinction of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as follows: "God is Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in sanctification." Note however, that the distinction is in what God is doing and how he is doing it, not in person-hood.

The doctrine of Oneness denotes that there is only one God who manifests/reveals/expresses Himself at various times in various ways. This is in contrast to Trinitarian doctrine which sees God as always having existed as three separate and distinct persons, though one God.

One United Pentecostal theologian, David Bernard, in his book, the Oneness of God, points out that Scripture uses the term Son when referring to Jesus' humanity, never His divinity. Thus, they see a distinction between Father and Son in terms of humanity. Jesus the Son says He is one with the Father, in the Father and the Father is in Him. They therefore see one God existing simultaneously on Earth in the Son and in heaven as the Father.

Having established that background, in Matthew 3:16-17, God is in the Son, who is getting baptized. God speaks from heaven as Father, addressing His Son. God also alights upon the Son, in the likeness of a dove. But He is only one God simultaneously in three places, doing three things, in three different ways.

Bernard writes:

With the omnipresence of God in mind we can understand the baptism of Christ very easily. It was not at all difficult for the Spirit of Jesus to speak from heaven and to send a manifestation of His Spirit in the form of a dove even while His human body was in the Jordan River. The voice and the dove do not represent separate persons any more than the voice of God from Sinai indicates that the mountain was a separate intelligent person in the Godhead.

The rest of what he writes in regard to Jesus baptism is found on page 172-175 of his book, The Oneness of God.

There are various Oneness adherents, and even various Pentecostal Oneness groups. I have answered based on the doctrines of the United Pentecostal Church.

See also my answer to a related question:
How do United Pentecostals and other Oneness groups interpret Hebrews 2:9?

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I believe in the oneness doctrine, I am a former trinitarian baptist believer. Before I am confused with that verse Matthew 3:16, and including Genesis 1:26.

First it doesn't demonstrate distinction of God, as God is only one. The dove is only a sign given to John the baptist by God that whosoever he baptized with the Spirit descending will be the Messiah.

See the testimony of John the Baptist here: John 1:33 ~ And I knew him not: "BUT HE THAT SENT ME TO BAPTISE" with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 3:16 is not confusing, Jesus as GOD the Father was in heaven, while as man he was baptized to FULFILL the scriptures and to give us an example.

Even the scriptures proves that the Messiah is the God the Father in flesh: Micah 5:2, Isaiah 9:6, 1 Tim 3:16,

Again Matthew 3:16 doesn't denote Trinity, its like how you (trinitarians) accept the fact that God is omnipresent. That Jesus as the Holy Spirit can go to thousand churches SIMULTANEOUSLY worldwide every Sunday. (Matthew 18:20).

My two cents. God bless!

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Welcome to the site! This next is just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites?, and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Mar 14 at 11:22
I answer the question from the oneness point of view then I got -2 votes? SO every oneness people who will comment on this question will get a negative points? –  LayoutPH Mar 15 at 1:44
Getting this site isn't easy. It might not hurt to check out Newcomers: Be patient. You will get there if you follow our direction. Keep trying Believe it or not, I struggled with "getting it" for a good year before I really "got it". Long story short, this site isn't an open discussion forum, and writing answers that avoid "personal opinion" and focus on clear doctrinal teachings are hard to write. –  David Stratton Mar 15 at 2:15
I didn't vote it down, but I don't think the issue was that it was from a oneness perspective, but rather that it reads like you answered it from your personal point of view. That may represent one person who adheres to the oneness POV, but it reads more like a post in a discussion forum than what's typically expected here. Please see at least that last two links in my comment above for further clarification. –  David Stratton Mar 15 at 3:04
I think the downvoting was probably for grammar, punctuation, capitalization issues. –  david brainerd Sep 7 at 19:19

Many scriptures , like I and My Father are one, or that from His Word He says that Jesus is the exact representation of His being...It would be easier to understand the oneness by realizing that God talks to Himself in the 3rd person, while some are listening...Have you ever talked to yourself, whether quiet or outloud? of course. We all have...Jesus is God manifested from the spirit into the flesh and while He had flesh He condemned it on the cross, conquering death by taking all the sin of the world onto Himself, saving you, He has gone to prepare a place for you, that where He is, you may be also... hope this helps

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