The Fundamental Doctrine Statement of the UPC reads as follows:
“The basic and fundamental doctrine of this organization shall be the Bible standard of full salvation, which is repentance, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,1 and the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance. We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith,2 at the same time admonishing all brethren that they should not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body.”3 (underscore added for emphasis)
This statement goes to the very heart of the heresy of modalism. Two basic issues, modalism's heretical view of a non-triune God and a doctrine of salvation by works will be considered next.
THE MODALISTIC VIEW OF GOD
Modalists contend that the Bible does not teach three separate, coequal, and co-eternal members of the Godhead, but rather, "One God who manifested himself as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Holy Spirit in regeneration." This is reminiscent of the modalists of old. They further believe that Jesus is the literal name of God, and that the terms "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" are merely titles. They contend that these "titles" were turned into the idea of a trinity by the Roman Catholic Church at the Nicene Council in 325 AD. This is not to be confused with the "economic trinitarian" position in that wild both hold that the terms "Father, Son & Holy Spirit" are merely dispensational titles, economic trinitarians hold to the eternality of the three persons whom the titles represent in the Godhead. Modalists believe they are thre titles of one person.
Modern as well as ancient modalists misuse passages in the Bible to prove their case. Three such passages are Isaiah 45:5 ("I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me"), John 10:30 ("I and my Father are one"), and John 14:9 ("he that hath seen me hath seen the Father"). We will look at these passages now.
The Modalist and Isaiah 45:56 -
"I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other." (NASB)
By using this passage, modalists imply that those who do not hold the "oneness" view of God are polytheists. That is, they believe in more than one God. Monotheism is, after all, the main point of this passage ("besides Me there is no God"). Trinitarians, however, also reject polytheism. God, to the orthodox Christian, is a plurality of persons, not of deities. Actually, the word "God" used in this passage is a translation of the Hebrew "ELOHIYM," a plural word. This passage actually does more to affirm the triunity of God than to deny it.
The Modalist and John 10:30 - "I and the Father are one."
The error modalists make in this passage is in their misunderstanding of the word "one." They hold the idea that if Jesus says that He and the Father are "one" then He means that they are one and the same person. Actually the Greek is clear: in the original language, Jesus actually says, "I and the Father, we are one" (underscore mine). A simi-lar sentence is found in John 17:21:
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." (KJV, underscore mine).
Of course the "they" Jesus speaks of are those "…also which shall believe on me" (17:20, KJV). No one would say that the use of the word "one" in this passage implies that all believers in Jesus are really one and the same person! The main point here is of unity. In 10:30, Jesus and His Father are united (one), and in 17:21, Jesus prays for his believers to be united (one). Once again, the trinity is not denied here, it is affirmed.
The Modalist and John 14:9 - "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
At first glance, this passage seems like a point blank statement by Jesus that He is actually the Father. But after a closer look at the context, we can see that the opposite is true (Jesus is not the father). The context begins at verse 2 with the phrase "In My Father's house are many dwelling places;" Jesus could have easily have said, "in my house," but he didn't. Actually, one glaring fact throughout this passage is that Jesus constantly refers to His Father in the 3rd person. That is, He refers to His Father as if He were another person! Here are some more examples:
Verse 10: "I am in the Father and the Father is in me." Being "in" the Father is not equivalent to being the Father any more than believers being "in" God (17:21) makes the believer God.
Verse 12: "because I go to the Father." If Jesus were the Father, then this verse makes no sense.
Verse 16: "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper."4
One can only ask something of someone else, so Jesus, by saying that he will "ask the Father" implies that the Father is someone else.
THE MODALISTIC VIEW OF SALVATION
According to the UPC doctrinal statement,4 (which is consistent with the doctrinal statements of all modalistic organizations), salvation is broken down into three steps:
2. Water baptism (in Jesus' name).
3. Baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
Each of these steps will be considered next in this fact sheet.
The Modalist and Repentance.
Modalists define repentance as the instrument, which causes us to turn around from that which we have done contrary to the Word of God, and thus, become sorrowful for living life as a sinner. Further, one must see the right way and turn from the wrong way, having a change of mind. As one's mind changes from the wrong, it is placed on the right, and thus we move forward in pleasing the Almighty God. At first, this statement seems give an accurate description of repentance, the problem, however, is not with this definition, but the next step to which it leads.
The Modalist and Water Baptism.
Water baptism isn't merely a symbolic act to the modalist. According to "The Apostle’s Doctrine," a tract put out by the UPC, baptism is "an essential part of New Testament Salvation." "It is,"according to the UPC, "a part of entering into the kingdom of God" (UPC). The main text modalists use to “prove” this idea is Acts 2:38:
"And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (NASB)
This passage is a little more complicated in the Greek. Peter changes his focus in mid sentence with a non-essential clause, "and let each of you be baptized." An examination of the person and number of each word reveals that Peter switches from the 2nd person plural (Repent) to the 3rd person singular (let each…be baptized) and back to the 2nd person plural again (for the forgiveness of your sins). This is equivalent to placing a parentheses in the middle of the sentence: "Repent, (and let each one (who repented) be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ) for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." In essence, Peter is telling them that repentance brings forgiveness, and that baptism follows repentance. Faith in Christ is assumed here, given the content of Peter's sermon (verses 14-37).
The Modalist and Baptism of the Spirit and Speaking in tongues.
"Speaking in other tongues as the Spirit of God gives utterance is the manifestation God has given as the definite, indisputable, supernatural, witness…" (UPC). Since modalists believe that the "baptism of the Spirit" is the 3rd step in salvation, and that "speaking in tongues" is evidence of Spirit baptism, than modalists believe that all true believers in Christ must speak in tongues. Actually, the Bible contradicts this point of modalist doc-trine on every count. Consider 1 Corinthians 12:13,30.
"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." (verse 13)
"All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do
not interpret, do they?” (verse 30, [both references NASB with underscore added for emphasis)
The obvious conclusion one reaches from these passages is that although every believer has indeed been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (verse 13), not every believer speaks in tongues (verse 30). Hence, the modalist view is false.