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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 '14 at 3:19
@curiousdannii - It's funny that you say that. I think mormons view trinitarians the same way trinitarians view oneness pentecostals. This is the scripture most commonly used to illustrate that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings. – ShemSeger Dec 10 '14 at 2:51

5 Answers 5

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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No, sorry, but this can't be true. Oneness believe that only one person (i.e., either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) exists at any given time, unlike the Trinity which believes all three co-exist. If Oneness allows more than one person to exist at a time, then they are no longer Oneness --- they no longer believe that God is one person (the fundamental belief of Modalism or Oneness theology). Therefore, a Oneness can't actually believe this -- "God speaks from heaven as Father, addressing His Son" -- without contradicting his own theology. – H3br3wHamm3r81 Feb 14 at 2:31
When you say, "this can't be true," do you mean it cannot be true that Oneness adherents believe this; or do you mean this doctrine of Oneness cannot be true? – Sarah Feb 15 at 12:51
While, I would say that a Oneness wouldn't believe that because it's not logical, but then again, neither is Modalism/Oneness theology. – H3br3wHamm3r81 Feb 15 at 19:10

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 Apr 17 '14 at 2:19
Hello Davers, are you a oneness adherent? – Sarah Aug 26 '14 at 15:04

Jesus is the Almighty God. John 1:1 says God was the Word and then in verse 14 says the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his gory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.John 10:33 the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for saying He was God. John14:8-10 Phillip asked to see the Father and Jesus said I've been with you so long and still you don't (me). Right there Jesus was calling Himself the Father. 1Tim 3:16 says (God) was manifested in the (flesh). There's alot of other scriptures on Jesus being God. But there's no scripture in there that says there is a trinity. The word trinity isn't even in the Bible. It's a false doctrine and it's man-made. If it's not in the Bible, I don't believe it. John 14:16-18 Jesus talks about the Comforter and He calls Himself the Spirit of truth which is the Holy Ghost-verse 26. Colossians2:9-In Jesus dwell all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The only time we will ever see God is in the glorified body of Jesus Christ. Also read 2 Corinthians5:19-God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. And the only reference that I have and will ever need is Jesus Christ Himself and the pureness of His Word. All we have to do is spend quality time with Jesus in studying His Word and He will open up our understanding. He does it for me everyday. Isaiah7:14 and Matthew1:23 a virgin shall conceive and he shall be called Emmanuel, meaning (God) with us. Isaiah 9:6 says the child shall be called the mighty (God), the everlasting (Father). I believe that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the one and only true God.I'm not a Pentecostal, I am just striving to perfect holiness in the fear of God. If I would label my self to be anything, I would say I am holiness. He said be ye holy for I am holy, and without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Holiness is not a denomination, it is the way of life.

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Do you have any references to support your answer? Is your answer representative of the Oneness Pentecostalism movement? – Double U Feb 14 at 1:32

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 out loud? 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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This doesn't address the passage in the question, and hence is not, really, an answer. – TRiG Dec 11 '14 at 13:30

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 Mar 14 '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 '14 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 Mar 15 '14 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 Mar 15 '14 at 3:04
I think the downvoting was probably for grammar, punctuation, capitalization issues. – david brainerd Sep 7 '14 at 19:19

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