By Heath Jarrett
Most heresies in the history of the church have involved a denial of the Trinity. Some, attempting to maintain monotheism (there is only one God), denied that there are three persons in the Godhead. Others rejected the equality of each of the persons. For example, Arius (256-336 AD) taught that Jesus was less God than the Father. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons hold the Arian position today.
Is Jesus God? Yes. Is Jesus equal to the Father? Yes. Is Jesus the Father? No. That’s the difference. Just as unity does not preclude diversity (see last week’s article), diversity does not mandate inequality.
John 10 helps us here. Jesus proclaimed, “I and the Father are one,” after which, the Jews picked up stones to kill him, reasoning, “because you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 10:30, 33). Like heretics of the past, they believed one aspect of God (monotheism) while denying the other (the three persons).
There is only one God (unity). Jesus is God just as the Father is God as well as the Spirit is God (equality). But Jesus is not the Father or the Spirit (diversity/plurality). While that’s not easy to understand, that’s the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity.
This concept of unity, diversity, and equality also extends to the church. Church relations reflect divine ones, albeit in a limited sense.
The church at Ephesus suffered from the supposed superiority of Jews over Gentiles, and Corinth elevated certain spiritual gifts in ministry. Each needed a theology of equality. Regardless of ethnicity, all Christians “are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:6). Regardless of spiritual gift, each Christian is equally necessary for body life to function. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Cor 12:22).
Church equality is evidenced by the one body, the one hope, and the one baptism, just as there is only one Spirit, one Lord, and one God (Eph 4:4–6). These verses simultaneously portray unity, diversity, and equality between the persons of the Godhead as well as between the members of the church patterned after their likeness.
All Christians, as they have been united to Christ in his one body, are therefore equal in the gospel.