Why the Sabbatarian Churches of God Don’t Believe in the Trinity Doctrine
I want you to understand why the Sabbatarian Churches of God and some other genuine Christian groups do not believe in the Trinity doctrine, and what makes it at best a secondary doctrine. One key thing to consider is that the doctrine itself wasn’t even developed in a rudimentary way until Tertullian (150-225AD) and Origen (250’s AD), and before and even after this time early Judeo-Christians either believed 1) the Holy Spirit was a part of God in some unexplained way, or 2) they simply believed the Holy Spirit was ‘the power of God’. I tend to agree with the first interpretation, that the Holy Spirit is a part of God in some unexplained way, based on all the references to the Holy Spirit found in the Bible. But the Bible in no way shows the Holy Spirit as being a person as such. But if the Holy Spirit was a distinct part of God, it would explain how God is omnipresent throughout the entire universe, and how God, as God the Son, and God the Father could be One God. The doctrine of the Trinity didn’t develop amongst the Judeo-Christians of Asia Minor, but amongst the Greco-Roman churches that became the Roman Catholic Church. Early post-apostolic fathers (90-140AD) did not embrace the idea of a trinity in their concept of God. That historic fact doesn’t necessarily make the concept of the trinity totally wrong, but by the simple fact that it took close to 300 years to “tease out” the doctrine from the Scriptures definitely puts it in the realm of secondary doctrine at best (i.e. God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, all one God somehow). It is the Greco Roman churches under Constantine’s reign that made the Trinity doctrine a “primary doctrine” (some think, in their attempt to label the Judeo-Christian churches as “heretic”). Considering where the doctrine of the trinity came from I can understand why it is such a sore spot with the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch3.htm).
Let’s Take A Look At Something, the Second Interpretation of the Early Church, That the Holy Spirit is Somehow A Part of God
The Jews accused Christians of idolatry in the time of the apostolic Church for believing Jesus is God, saying we were worshipping two Gods by our own admission, God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, which in their eyes amounted to polytheism. Then, in similar manner, some of the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God accuse Sunday-keepers who are Trinitarians of idolatry, polytheism, for the same reason the Jews do of Christians in general for believing in Jesus as God along with God the Father. But if the early Church interpretation is correct, that the Holy Spirit is a viable part of God, and also omnipresent throughout the whole universe, then this would help explain (without us understanding the exact spirit-physics of God’s composition) how Jesus Christ and God the Father can be One-God (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4). So the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God who accuse Trinitarians of polytheism and thus breaking the first and second commandments, are way off base as well. Both sides have to stop using their beliefs about who or what the Holy Spirit is as a means of accusing the other group as being “false Christians” or heretics. It’s baseless and just as wrong as the Jew’s accusations of polytheism is toward all Christians. Let’s grow up folks, it’s time to stop throwing sand in each other’s faces and step out of the sandbox. A real primary doctrine would be one that the apostles, like John, would clearly teach in the Scriptures, would be the Divinity of Jesus Christ. John says in 1st John 2:18-27 that he who denies the Divinity of Christ is not a believer. He who teaches that Christ is not God the Son, come in the flesh is an antichrist. Now that is a primary doctrine. But nowhere in John’s or the other apostolic writings is a similar statement or teaching made about the Holy Spirit. So to judge the Sabbatarian Churches of God as heretic because they hold to an earlier belief is very unbiblical and very unsound apologetics. On the other side of the coin, Sabbatarian Church of God groups and other anti-Trinitarian groups will accuse Trinitarians of breaking the 1st and 2nd commandment, of idolatry, thus making all Trinitarians heretics and thus not true believers, not capable of possessing the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is lame. The clear evidence of God bestowing his Holy Spirit within both groups would tend to invalidate both doctrinal accusations of heresy that each group levels at the other. That said, let’s learn a little more about the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit’s powerful effect on believers. For as Paul said, to have the Spirit is life, and to not have the Spirit is death.
Dwight L. Moody
Moody at the New York Hippodrome, he preached this:
“Now I want this thing clearly understood. We believe firmly [if] any man…has been cleansed by the blood, redeemed by the blood, and been sealed by the Holy Ghost [i.e. Holy Spirit], that Holy Ghost dwells in him. And a thought I want to call your attention to is this, that God has got a good many children who have just barely got life, but not power for service. You might say safely, I think, without exaggeration, that nineteen out of every twenty of professed Christians are of no earthly account so far as building up Christ’s kingdom; but on the contrary they are standing right in the way, and the reason is because they have just got life and have settled down, and have not sought for power. The Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] coming upon them with power is distinct and separate from conversion. If the Scripture doesn’t teach it I am ready to correct it.
“Let us look and see what God says, and if you will look in the third chapter of Luke you will see that all these thirty years Christ had been in Nazareth He had been a son, but now the Holy Ghost come upon Him for service, and He goes back to Nazareth and finds a place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, to recover sight to the blind, and set at liberty them that are bruised.’ And for three years we find Him preaching the kingdom of God, casting out devils, and raising the dead, while for thirty years that He was at Nazareth, we hear nothing of Him. He was a son all the while, but now He is anointed for service; and if the Son of God has got to be anointed, do not His disciples need it, and shall not we seek it, and shall we barely rest with conversion?
“In the 7th chapter of John and 38th and 39th verses, Jesus says, ‘He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because not yet glorified.)’ Now, do you tell me that Peter and John and James and the rest of those men had not been converted at that time? [In Reality they received the Holy Spirit for conversion in John 20, right after Jesus’ resurrection.] Had they been three years with the Son of God and had not been born of the Spirit? Had not Nicodemus been born of the Spirit, and had not men been converted before them? Yes, but they were saints without power, and must tarry in Jerusalem until imbued with power from on high. I believe we should accomplish more in one week than we should in years if we had only this fresh baptism…
Here’s where he gets real honest and gives us Christians a reality check: “Three Classes of Christians”—which are you?
“It seems to me we have got about three classes of Christians: [1.] the first class, in the 3rd chapter of John, were those who had got to Calvary and there got life. They believed on the Son and were saved, and there they rested satisfied. They did not seek anything higher. [Being an old Navy man, I would call this your equivalent of a Seaman Recruit, lowest of the lowest level of sailor.]
[2.] Then in the 4th chapter of John we come to a better class of Christians. There it was a well of living water bubbling up. There were a few of these, but they are not a hundredth part of the first. [So in a congregation of 100, perhaps one is this 2nd class Christian, perhaps this means the pastor, or maybe one sitting amongst the 100. Think about that. I would call this your 2nd class petty officer.]
[3.] But the best class is in the 7th chapter of John: ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ That is the kind of Christian we ought to be… [and in my Navy terminology, this would be your 1st class petty officer.]”
“A great many think because they have been filled once, they are going to be full for all time after; but O, my friends, we are leaky vessels, and have to be kept right under the fountain all the time in order to keep full. If we are to be used by God we have to be very humble. A man that lives close to God will be humblest of men. I heard a man say that God always chooses the vessel that is close at hand. Let us keep near Him.”
Do you want to be a mere 3rd class Christian, just barely alive in the spiritual sense, or do you desire to reach higher and be one of those who will genuinely make a difference for the kingdom of God in a spiritually decaying and dying world? If so, you need to learn more about the Holy Spirit.