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CONFOUNDING THE PERSONS –
MODALISM IN OUR CHURCHES!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, December 8, 2013

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (I Timothy 2:5-7).


At the age of 14 I heard Billy Graham preach for the first time. That was back in 1955. Mr. Graham was a great preacher back then. Moishe Rosen of Jews for Jesus said his preaching was “electrifying.” That’s a perfect description. His sermons were so stirring and exciting that I wanted to hear him every Sunday on the Hour of Decision. My cousin and his friends teased me mercilessly for listening to him. I had to hide from them to hear Mr. Graham. So each Sunday afternoon I would take my little radio and pile all the covers on my bed over it. I would stick my head under the covers, turn the radio real low, and listen to Mr. Graham preach.

That was nearly 60 years ago. In the decades that followed, Mr. Graham was a strong influence in my life. I learned to preach by copying his style of delivery. I actually preached several of his sermons almost word-for-word. As a teenager I was criticized for sounding like him. I always answered by saying, “He’s the greatest preacher in the world. Why shouldn’t I learn from him?”

Now I told you all that for a reason. I want you to know that I have greatly admired Billy Graham all my life, and I still do. But what I am going to say now is very critical of something important he said last month. At the end of his sermon in the “My Hope” evangelistic campaign, Mr. Graham said something that turned my blood cold. At the very end of Mr. Graham’s “My Hope” sermon, he said this,

Today, I’m asking you to put your trust in Christ.

I’m going to ask you to pray this prayer, sentence by sentence, after me.

Dear heavenly Father, I know that I’m a sinner and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you’ve died for my sins and rose from the dead.

I turn from my sins. I repent of my sins. I invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow you as my Lord and Saviour. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
      (Prayer at the end of “The Cross” on the “My Hope” video by Billy Graham).


Mr. Graham led lost sinners to pray “Dear heavenly Father.” So, the prayer is addressed to God the Father. But then he had them pray, “I believe you’ve died for my sins and rose from the dead.” Did God the Father die for our sins and rise from the dead? No, He did not! To make things even more confusing, Mr. Graham had them end the prayer, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

So God the Father died for our sins and rose from the dead! So God the Father is to be followed as “my...Saviour”! Mr. Graham made it clear that lost sinners should believe that God the Father is the one who died and rose from the dead, and God the Father is the Saviour! To underscore the fact that this is a prayer to God the Father, Mr. Graham ended it, “In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Thus this “sinner’s prayer” expresses the Third Century heresy of Sabellianism. That is, Mr. Graham’s prayer teaches a “modal” Trinity. The great theologian Dr. Berkhof said that the heresy of Sabellius was followed by a few Protestants who taught “a species of Modalism, as, for instance....Schliermacher, who regards the three persons simply as three aspects of God” (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977 edition, p. 83). Dr. Henry C. Thiessen pointed out that modalism “speaks of a threefold nature of God, in the same sense in which a man may be an artist, a teacher, and a friend. But this is in reality a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity, for these are not three distinctions in essence, but three qualities in one and the same person” (H. C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963 edition, p. 135).

Modalism teaches that there is one God who manifests Himself in three forms or modes. This false teaching was also taught by the early Socinians, who were forerunners of the Unitarians and the liberal theologians of today (Berkhof, ibid.).

If we look carefully at Billy Graham’s “sinner’s prayer” it becomes apparent that he is teaching a form of modalism, similar to that of Schleiermacher and modern liberalism, “who regard the three persons [of the Trinity] simply as three aspects of God.” In Mr. Graham’s prayer, God the Father moves over to become the Saviour who “died for my sins and rose from the dead.” Then God the Father moves over again, and becomes the Holy Spirit, whom “I invite to come into my heart and life.” And all of this is prayed “In Jesus’ name.” God moves around. Sometimes He acts the part of the Father. Sometimes He acts the part of Jesus, the Son. And sometimes he acts the part of the Holy Spirit. That is an important heresy that has damned thousands of souls to Hell!

Some will say it doesn’t make any difference. But the Athanasian Creed of the early Church warns against “confounding the persons” of the Trinity, and says, “He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.”

Mr. Graham has been preaching for over 70 years. He is a graduate of Wheaton College. He has preached to more people than any man in the long history of Christianity. Surely Mr. Graham should know that he “confounded the persons” of the Trinity in his “sinner’s prayer”! You say, “He’s an old man. At 95 years old his mind may be slipping.” If that is true (and I don’t think it is) then Franklin Graham, his son, should have corrected this horrible theological error! Or Dr. Don Wilton, who spent several months coaching Mr. Graham, should have corrected it (Decision Magazine, December 2013, p. 3). Millions of dollars were spent to send out videos of Mr. Graham’s “modalistic” prayer. Franklin Graham should be ashamed of himself for letting that happen!

God the Father, and Jesus the Son are not interchangeable. They are not just two different “modes” of God that can be moved around, back and forth, from one to the other. Turn in your Bible to I Timothy 2:5. Please read it out loud.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

What could be clearer than that? God the Father and Christ the Mediator are two different and distinct persons in the Trinity!

Does this matter? Of course it does! My mother was born in 1913. When she was eight years old she asked to be baptized. Her mother sewed her a beautiful, flowing white dress, made out of gauze. But the Baptist preacher only asked her one question. He said, “Cecelia, do you believe in God?” My mother said, “Oh, yes! I believe in God.” So the preacher baptized her.

For the next 72 years my mother lived the sad and bitter life of a non-Christian. The tragedy of Mother’s life might well have been avoided if that preacher had spent some time with her, making sure she trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. But all he did was ask her, “Do you believe in God?” And she answered, “Oh, yes! I believe in God.”

She did believe in God. She was never interested in astrology or “mind-science,” as her sisters were. She had a fairly clean and sincere belief in God, not unlike her hero, Abraham Lincoln – before his conversion, which happened shortly before he was assassinated. But no one is saved by believing in God! No one! No one! Why? Because you have to have the Mediator – that’s why! Mother was finally saved at the age of 80 by trusting the mediator, Christ Jesus! What a tragedy that she was not told to trust Christ 72 years earlier!

Dr. David F. Wells is a professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He said, “We have emptied ourselves of theology, we have emptied ourselves of Christian seriousness in preaching” (David F. Wells, Ph.D., No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993 edition, p. 292).

Dr. Wells said there is no place for theology in most of our churches. He said the result is “the empty and childish stories that are served up as sermons from the pulpit week by week” (ibid.). Serious preaching can only come from seriously dealing with the Bible. This produces living theology, living truth about the living God! Our text says,

“There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (I Timothy 2:5-7).

There are four points in this passage that need to be emphasized in these days of theological confusion.

I. First, the text speaks of one God.

“For there is one God” (I Timothy 2:5a).

Is that important? Yes, it is! The Bible says repeatedly that there is only one God. For instance, Deuteronomy 4:39 says,

“The Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:39).

And in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said,

“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things” (I Corinthians 8:6).

But we should never assume that everyone who comes to church believes in the living God. In our “politically correct” and “pluralistic” society the idea of one God is often rejected. We are told by worldly society that the gods of the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, liberal Protestants, Jews, and the New-Age Movement are all equally true. If a pastor were to ask his people, “Are the gods of all other religions false?” – I think he would be surprised to find that several of his people get their theology from Oprah Winfrey rather than the Bible!

II. Second, the text speaks of one mediator.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

Patrick Fairbairn (1808-1874), the Scottish commentator, said, “There is but one Dispenser of life and blessing [God the Father], and one medium through which the dispensation flows [the man Christ Jesus]” (Patrick Fairbairn, I and II Timothy and Titus, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002 edition, p. 116).

The word “mediator” is translated from the Greek word “mesitēs,” which means a person who intervenes between two individuals to bring peace between them. There is only one God. And there is only one mediator – Christ Jesus. That’s why Jesus said,

“No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

We have no other mediator, not the angels, not the saints, not the Virgin Mary, not a priest. As our only mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ absorbs the wrath of God against our sin (Isaiah 53:11). The Bible says,

“We shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).

“When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

As Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) put it,

O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.
   (“To God Be the Glory” by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).

If you don’t have Jesus the Mediator, you would instantly be burned to death if you came to God!

“For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Nadab and Abihu were burned to death when they tried to sacrifice to God the wrong way. So, today a person who tries to come to God without Jesus, the mediator between God and man, will be consumed in the fire of God’s judgment. That is why every preacher should make it crystal clear, over and over, that people cannot be saved without trusting Jesus, the one and only mediator between a Holy God and sinful man.

Billy Graham’s “sinner’s prayer” spread great confusion on this point. His “modalistic” prayer “confounded the persons” of God the Father and Jesus the Mediator (Athanasian Creed).

Let me show you how important this is. A woman who belongs to a Southern Baptist church came to our service one Sunday night. After my sermon she went to see Dr. Cagan in the inquiry room. She told him that she had doubted her salvation for many years. Then she gave him her testimony. She said she had responded to the invitation and had been baptized when she was nine years old. Dr. Cagan listened to her very carefully, and discovered that she had believed in God at age nine, but couldn’t say anything about Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men” (I Timothy 2:5). Needless to say, since she never mentioned Jesus at all, she had no thought of His Blood cleansing her “from all sin” (I John 1:7). She gave a completely Christless testimony about believing in God. A Unitarian or Muslim could have said what she told Dr. Cagan.

Dr. Cagan told her she was right to doubt her salvation because she had never trusted Jesus! The Bible says,

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
       (Acts 16:31).

But the Bible also says,

“Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father”
       (I John 2:23).

Since the woman Dr. Cagan listened to said nothing about Jesus, the Son – she “hath not the Father” either, but is lost because she has no saving faith in Christ. In Spurgeon’s famous text, Jesus said, “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Again, Jesus said,

“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

So Dr. Cagan explained the absolute necessity of trusting Jesus the one and only Saviour, and the one and only mediator. She seemed to understand. But a few days later Dr. Cagan spoke with her again. She had once more forgotten all about Jesus. Now she said, “I’m saved because I invited God into my life.” Once more, Dr. Cagan explained that only Christ, the Son, could save her. She threw a temper tantrum and ran out of the church. A few minutes later her husband rebuked Dr. Cagan, and said, “It’s just a question of semantics.” But he is wrong. It is not just a question of words. God the Father and Jesus the Mediator are two different, distinct persons in the Trinity.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

This poor woman has been a Baptist all her life, but no one has made her face Jesus, the only one who can save her soul from Hell! All of her Baptist pastors, in her entire lifetime, have been as sloppy with the two persons of God and Christ as was Billy Graham last month! No wonder so many of our churches have become apostate!

III. Third, the text speaks of one ransom.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (I Timothy 2:5-6).

Jesus is the one and only mediator between a holy God and sinful man. And verse six says that He “gave himself a ransom for all.” The Greek word translated “ransom” is “antilutron.” It is an intensified version of “lutron.” Jesus didn’t just pay any old thing to ransom and free us. He “gave himself” as a ransom paid to God for the satisfaction of His justice. This also is an extremely important point. But I am nearly out of time. I must hurry on. I will just quote the chorus of a hymn to help explain this point.

Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
   Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
(“Jesus Paid It All” by Elvina M. Hall, 1820-1889).

IV. Fourth, the text speaks of one message.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (I Timothy 2:5-7).

The Apostle says, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher.” It could be translated, “And for this I was appointed a preacher.” For what? For preaching this message –

That there is one God!
      That there is one mediator!
            That there is one ransom!

“For this was I ordained a preacher.” That is what Paul was “ordained” to do! That is what God appointed him to preach!

It makes me sick at heart that there are so very few Gospel preachers today. Nearly every preacher is teaching lost people how to live the Christian life! What a confusion! We have gotten so far away from preaching the Gospel that hardly anyone even noticed when Mr. Graham glaringly displayed the heresy of “modalism” – confounding the persons of the Trinity – in his “sinner’s prayer” last month. God help us!

I myself was quite literally “ordained a preacher” of the Gospel. It says so right on my ordination certificate! It says, “Robert L. Hymers, Jr. was solemnly and publicly set apart and ordained to the work of The Gospel Ministry by authority and order of the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, California on the 2nd of July, 1972.” Yes, I was “ordained to the work of the Gospel Ministry.” Personally, I believe that every preacher was called by God, primarily to preach the Gospel; primarily to preach that there is one God; primarily to preach that there is one, and only one, mediator – the Lord Jesus Christ; primarily to preach one ransom, through the shed Blood of Christ; primarily to preach one central message. As the Apostle Paul put it,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

That is no small assignment! That is no easy thing to do! Not at all! Spurgeon, the greatest preacher of all time in the English language, preached for forty years. His sermons were almost exclusively centered on “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” I am but a small preacher, pastoring an inner city church. But it is also my calling to “do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5). And it is your duty to listen to these sermons as though your life depended on it – because it does depend on it! And it is your duty to seek for Christ the Mediator – until you find Him and are ransomed from sin by His Holy Blood, which He shed on the Cross to atone for your sins. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: I Timothy 2:5-7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” (by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).


THE OUTLINE OF

CONFOUNDING THE PERSONS –
MODALISM IN OUR CHURCHES!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (I Timothy 2:5-7).

I.   First, the text speaks of one God, I Timothy 2:5a;
Deuteronomy 4:39; I Corinthians 8:6.

II.  Second, the text speaks of one mediator, I Timothy 2:5;
John 14:6; Isaiah 53:11; Romans 5:9, 10; Hebrews 12:29;
I John 1:7; Acts 16:31; I John 2:23; Mark 16:16; John 5:40.

III. Third, the text speaks of one ransom, I Timothy 2:5-6.

IV. Fourth, the text speaks of one message, I Timothy 2:5-7,
I Corinthians 2:2; II Timothy 4:5; Acts 16:31.