Only one God?
Some time ago now, Pete asked me the question – other than John 14:6 (where Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.") is there anything in the bible that says that there is only one God, and that Jesus is the only way to God?
I understand his point. Most Christians quote that single passage like there’s no other support for their case. I am as guilty as the next man on that charge, however, the bible is far from silent on the topic as I hope to show in this article.
The Jewish faith forms the bedrock upon which Christianity is based; Jesus was, and still is, Jewish. The fierce declarations of monotheism within Judaism comes through loud and clear in the Shema
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Every morning and every evening Jewish prayers reinforce strict monotheism through this declaration. Martyrs down the ages have died with the declaration on their lips. Christianity echoes with the same cry.
In the earliest dealings with the nation of Israel God made things clear:
Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
"For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time."
And God spoke all these words, saying,
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
"You shall have no other gods before me.
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
"You shall not murder.
"You shall not commit adultery.
"You shall not steal.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s."
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die." Moses said to the people, "Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin." The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
New Testament passages such as John 14:6 are like the tip of an iceberg in that they sum up a whole area of teaching we see demonstrated in the Old Testament. In some cases they succinctly draw together, in summary form, common threads from the Old Testament.
The apostles were clear on the issue of Jesus being the only means of salvation, for example Peter:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead — by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
And later in the writings of the apostle Paul
1 Timothy 2:5-6
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The bible is pretty clear that worshipping idols / other gods wont get you anywhere either
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Although these other "gods" seem reasonable on the surface, it does say
2 Corinthians 11:14-15
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
This is a tough message. Its not meant as a slam against people who worship other gods. I feel humbled at times when I spend time with my Islamic friends and see the level of dedication that they show, their dedication to prayer, fasting and living a moral life. I know I (personally) have a distance to go before I could stand on the moral high ground. However, the heart of the individual is not what I am discussing here. If the system that they are participating in is corrupt, then despite their personal sincerity and intention to lead a good life, they’re ultimately being deceived by a higher power.
There is such a thing as ultimate and absolute truth. To say there is nothing absolute is self invalidating – it’s an absolute statement in and of itself.
"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD,
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior.
I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and I am God.
Also henceforth I am he;
there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?"
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who sent His son Jesus to live and die on this planet to provide payment for sins committed here, is the only true absolute. There is no other like Him
To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
"I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any."
Thus says the LORD:
"The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
and the Sabeans, men of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours;
they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will plead with you, saying:
‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
no god besides him.’"
Truly, you are a God who hides yourself,
O God of Israel, the Savior.
All of them are put to shame and confounded;
the makers of idols go in confusion together.
But Israel is saved by the LORD
with everlasting salvation;
you shall not be put to shame or confounded
to all eternity.
For thus says the LORD,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
"I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I the LORD speak the truth;
I declare what is right.
"Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
"Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
"Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory."
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philipi
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
At the end of the day, everyone will recognize the truth, whether they see it now or at the day of judgement; eventually the lies and the liars will be revealed for what they are. Seeing the truth at the point of judgement is too late, since our lot is cast in this one life that we lead.