Sabellianism: Third and Twentieth Century Heresy
by Rick Branch
As with many other early heresies, Sabellianism can be found in many cults
of the twentieth century. Historically, this theological movement is
actually a sub-category of Modalism or Monarchianism.
Dr. Samuel Mikolaski, professor of Historical Theology and Christian
Heritage at North American Baptist Seminary, provides a historical setting
for the rise of Sabellianism.
“Sabellianism was an attempt to solve the problem of how to accept the
deity of Christ and also maintain the unity of God. Sabellians achieved
this at the expense of a trinity of persons in the Godhead. They reduced
the status of the persons to modes or manifestations of the one God. The
term is frequently coupled with the word ‘monarchy’ to denote the primacy
of God as the Father.
“The Son and the Holy Spirit are thus revelatory and apparently temporal
modes of God the Father’s self-revelation,” (The New International
Dictionary of the Christian Church, J.D. Douglas ed. pp.870-871).
Thus, the Son and Holy Spirit are merely modes (i.e. modalism) in which the
Father revealed Himself or masks donned by the Father at various times so
that He might reveal Himself to man. According to Sabellius, there is no
separate Person of the Son or Holy Spirit.
How has Sabellianism or Modalism been revived in the Twentieth century
cults? It can be found in many groups, but for the sake of space, only two
will be briefly discussed.
United Pentecostal Church
According to the Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions, around 1916 the
“Jesus Name” or United Pentecostal Movement began. “Led by Frank Ewart,
they rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and taught that Jesus Christ was
at one and the same time Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” (Keith Crim, Gen.
In a UPC pamphlet, “The Truth About ONE GOD”, the following information is
set forth as evidence for their theological position:
“God, the invisible Spirit, made Himself a body born of the virgin Mary,
and dwelt among us… The Sonship was planned from the foundation of the
“Jesus confirmed that He was not a separate Person, but God manifest in the
flesh… Definitely the Father and the Holy Spirit are the same Spirit…
The Bible proves that the ONE Spirit is the Father… The Bible proves that
the ONE Spirit is Jesus… By no means did Jesus teach that the Holy Ghost
was another Person.
“A Trinitarian concept contends that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one
in holiness, love, glory, wisdom and eternal power; but, three in Person.
No scripture can be found to support such a concept.
“History also proves that the truth about God was universally preached by
the New Testament Church for many years after Christ, until the development
of the ‘Trinity’ doctrine…
“No record you will find that the New Testament Church ever believed or
taught the doctrine of the Trinity. For the Scriptures prove that the
Father, Son and Holy Ghost are only manifestations (not three Persons) of
the ONE GOD; and God is ONE IN PERSON.
“In Creation God was manifested as the Father… in redemption God was
manifested as the Son… and in emanation God was and is being manifested
as the Holy Ghost…”
While many in the UPC movement believe they have found the true biblical
doctrine, in actuality, they have simply reintroduced a third century
Branham’s Bible Believers, Inc.
Nearly 20 years after the formation of the UPC, a Baptist pastor named
William Branham began to veer away from biblical Christianity and into
Modalism. According to Branham’s 1189 page book “Conduct, Order, Doctrine
of the Church,” the “First thing is to straighten out you on your ‘trinity’
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
“God is like a three-foot rule… The first twelve inches was God, the
Father; the second twelve inches, God, the Son, the same God; the third
twelve inches was God, the Holy Ghost, the same God,” (pp.182 and 184).
Branham clarifies his position in a speech given October 2, 1957 when he
exclaims, “See, there cannot be an Eternal son, because a son had to have a
beginning. And so Jesus had a beginning, God had no beginning,” (Ibid,
About two year later he was again expounding on his heretical views.
“Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is offices of one God. He was the Father; He
was the Son; He is the Holy Spirit. It’s three offices in three
dispensations, the Fatherhood, the Sonship, and the Holy Ghost
dispensation. But Father, Son, and Holy Ghost has one name, the Lord Jesus
Christ,” (Ibid, p.392).
Like the UPC and many other similar groups not mentioned in this article,
William Branham exchanged the simplicity of the Gospel for the heresy of
The Biblical view of God: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three
separate Persons who have always existed as one True God. The Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit are not three Gods nor are they three names for the same
Although the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the idea or teaching
is found throughout Scripture.
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