In light of this coming Wednesday’s scheduled discussion (1/25/12) between evangelical leaders and the modalist T. D. Jakes, it is important once again to assert what the Bible teaches on the nature of the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity.
Although it is not the main point of Matthew 3:13-17 to teach it (The text is about Jesus’ being anointed by the Spirit for His Messianic work.), the existence of three distinct persons of the Trinity is evident in verses 16 and 17.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Here we see the three distinct persons present in whose name the disciples are instructed to baptize in Matthew 28:19. The Son of God is coming up out of the water, the Spirit of God is descending from heaven like a dove, and the Father’s voice is heard from heaven.
This text rules out any form of the heresy of modalism which says that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are only three different manifestations or modes of God’s activity rather than distinct persons. But the Bible teaches there is one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three persons are co-existent, co-equal, and co-eternal. They have distinct roles which they perform, but all three exist simultaneously and all three are fully God. This text alone prevents the heresy of modalism as being a viable option for Bible believing Christians.
For more information, see this helpful post on the definition of modalism and whether T. D. Jakes is a modalist.