I was raised Baptist and became Pentecostal 26 years ago at a Greater Emmanuel Apostolic Church, where I was later ordained a Bishop. I resigned from that denomination 11 years ago, and have continued to fellowship with Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies. This small fellowship of churches is not a denomination, and differs in many ways from traditional Apostolic churches.

Both chapters of my early spiritual journey contributed volumes to my faith and walk with God, helping to hone my character. I was shaped by and appreciate both denominations, but am controlled by neither. My association with Oneness people does not constitute assimilation into their ranks any more than my association with the homeless in our city makes me one of them.

Day-to-day, my affiliation is with the Pater Alliance, an interdenominational network of some 250 churches, which I founded three years ago and serve as CEO, senior minister, and mentor, providing leadership for pastors from Presbyterian, to Baptist, to Pentecostal. My own 23,000-member church, The Potter's House in Dallas, is non-denominational and growing exponentially. There, I serve widely different people whose common desire is to know God, and to grow in the knowledge of, and fellowship with, Jesus Christ.

While I mix with Christians from a broad range of theological perspectives, I speak only for my personal faith and convictions. I am not a theologian, and I avoid quoting even theologians who agree with me. To defend my beliefs, I go directly to the Bible.

My views on the Godhead are from 1 John 5:7-8, "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." (NKJV)

I believe in one God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe these three have distinct and separate functions—so separate that each has individual attributes, yet are one. I do not believe in three Gods.

Many things can be said about the Son that cannot be said about the Father. The Son was born of a virgin; the Father created the virgin from whom He was born. The Son slept (Luke 8:23), but the Father never sleeps (Psalm 121:3-5). The Son took on the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), but God is a spirit (John 4:24). Likewise, several characteristics are distinctive to the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit alone empowers (Acts 1:8), indwells (2 Timothy 1:15), and guides the believer (John 16:14).

In spite of all the distinctives, God is one in His essence. Though no human illustration perfectly fits the Divine, it is similar to ice, water and steam: three separate forms, yet all H²O. Each element can co-exist, each has distinguishing characteristics and functions, but all have sameness.

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In 1 Timothy 3:16, the Apostle Paul says, "Without controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness." Without controversy, it is a mystery, not always to be figured out, but to be entered into.

The language in the doctrinal statement of our ministry that refers to the Trinity of the Godhead as "manifestations" does not derive from modalism. The Apostle Paul himself used this term referring to the Godhead in 1 Timothy 3:15, 1 Corinthians 12:7, and 1 John 3:5-8. Peter also used the term in 1 Peter 1:20. Can this word now be heresy when it is a direct quote from the Pauline epistles and used elsewhere in the New Testament?

I believe Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. I believe He was born of a virgin, crucified on a cross, arose from the dead, and is coming again for His church. I believe He sent the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the Church. And I believe in justification by faith. I also believe that baptism is a commandment to be observed in obedience to God's Word. The rites of baptism are celebrated in our church by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ. I have always, without exception, baptized as the early church did in Acts 2:38, 10:44 and 9:1-4. That is my conviction, based on Scripture.

Nevertheless, many of my respected colleagues quote Matthew 28:19 when they baptize, while others use both, saying, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we do all things in Jesus' name." Our love for the same Lord has enabled us to walk together in love without dissension and in spite of variance in procedures.

I deeply appreciate the chance to respond to any misunderstandings that may have resulted in part from my silence on these subjects. Little if any attention is given to any of them in my books or sermons. My silence has not been some veiled attempt to disguise my faith, which is demonstrated daily in the works I have been called to do. My voice may have seemed muted on these subjects, but I have made a distinct sound regarding the matters that I have been assigned to discuss with my generation. I have spoken boldly against domestic violence—and against physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women in this nation. I have thundered as an advocate of reconciliation between races and denominations, and for restoration of hurting souls to the healing properties of Christ's love.

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I confess that I have remained aloof from the theological controversies. And I confess I have been universal in my associations, purposely ignoring opportunities to be divisive. But it was not lack of conviction, or absence of proper Christian ideals, that had taken my attention—I love the great principles and tenets of our faith, and I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet it is not the oneness of God for which I cry, it is for the oneness of His people.

When I think of the Trinity, I consider how Jesus prayed under the unction of the Holy Spirit that we would be one even as He and the Father are one. To that end, I preach, write and work. No truth exemplified by the Trinity is greater than Christian unity. As we seek to dissect the divine, articulate the abstract, and defend what I agree are precious truths, I hope we do not miss the greater message taught by the concept of the Trinity. And that is that three—though distinct—are still one!

Bishop T.D. Jakes is the founder and Senior Pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, one of the largest churches in the nation.

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See today's related article, " Apologetics Journal Criticizes T.D. Jakes | Christian Research Institute publication questions preacher's view of Trinity"