Is there only one God?
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It is claimed that our Lord Jesus is spoken of as God, and that there is but one God, and that hence God the Father and God the Son must be two names for the one person. Let us examine this question in the light of the divine Word, taking nothing for granted, but proving every step of our way. We labor under the disadvantage that almost all translators of the Old Testament have not been exact or uniform in their translations of the several appellatives to deity. For instance:
Appellations of Deity in
the Old Testament
(1) The name Jehovah is properly rendered only four times, where it seemed impossible to do otherwise (Exod. 6:3; Psa. 83:18; Isa. 12:2; 26:4); it is rendered God 298 times, and Lord over 5,000 times.
(2) The title Adonai, generally properly rendered Lord, is once rendered God.
(3) The title Adon is rendered Sir, Master, Lord.
(4) The word elohim, with its modifications eloah, elah and el, occurs over 2,500 times. These most frequently refer to Jehovah; but in many instances with evident propriety are applied to others: hence the connections must determine who is referred to. We will give Scripture illustrations which will make the matter perfectly clear, and prove beyond a doubt that elohim signifies mighty. It is properly applied to Jehovah, because he is All-mighty, all-powerful. It is properly applied to any angel, for they are mighty, powerful, and in their visits to man recorded in the Old Testament they were specially mighty because representatives of Jehovah, the All-mighty. Great, influential men were also properly described as elohim--mighty. Like our English word "sheep," elohim is used either in the singular or plural as occasion may require.
These are facts, and our quotations from the Common Version Bible will substantiate them thoroughly; and thus will demonstrate the Scriptural propriety and consistency in referring to our Lord Jesus Christ as God [elohim] and as Adon [Master, Lord] and as Adonai [my Lord], and yet never as Jehovah.
Elohim [Mighty] Translated
Psalm 8:5--"Thou [Jehovah, vs. 1] hast made him a little lower than the angels [elohim], and hast crowned him with glory and honor."
That this is a proper rendering of elohim is proven by the fact that the inspired Apostle translated it thus into the Greek, angelos--when, referring to how our Lord humbled himself, he says--"Thou madest him a little lower than angels." Heb. 2:7,9
Elohim [Mighty] Translated
In referring to false gods of the heathen, the word elohim [mighty] is used 196 times; and quite properly, too, for they were mighty or influential to their devotees.
Jehovah the [All-Mighty]
Elohim Contrasted With Other Elohim [Mighty Ones]
Psalm 86:6-8--"Give ear O Jehovah unto my prayer.... Among all the gods [elohim--mighty ones] there is none like unto thee."
Psalm 95:3--"Jehovah is a great God [el--mighty one] and a great King above all gods [elohim--mighty ones]."
Psalm 50:1--"The mighty God [lit. God of gods--el elohim-- the mighty of the mighty], Jehovah, hath spoken."
Psalm 29:1--"Give unto Jehovah O ye mighty [el--gods], ascribe unto Jehovah glory and strength. Give unto Jehovah the honor of his name; and worship Jehovah in the beauty of holiness."
Genesis 17:1--"Jehovah appeared to Abraham and said unto him, I am the Almighty God [el]."
Exodus 15:11--"Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods [el--mighty ones]." See margin.
Genesis 14:22--"Abraham said, I have lifted up my hand unto Jehovah, the most high God [el], possessor of heaven and earth."
Psalm 96:4--"Jehovah is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods [elohim--mighty ones.]"
These instances suffice as samples: others may be found by those who desire and seek them.
Elohim Applied to Men
In the aforementioned 196 translations of elohim by the word gods, probably fully one-half refer to men--mighty ones--kings, princes, nobles, etc., but now we notice a few instances in which elohim is applied to the Lord's people.
Genesis 23:6--Abraham is styled elohim, the word being translated mighty in our Common Version Bible. "Thou art a mighty [elohim] prince among us."
Exodus 7:1--Moses is denominated the god [elohim] of Pharaoh. "I have made thee a god [elohim] to Pharaoh."
Exodus 21:6--The judges [rulers, mighty ones] of Israel were styled elohim. "His master shall bring him unto the judges [elohim]."
Exodus 22:8,10--"If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought into the judges [elohim]. ...Both parties shall come before the judges [elohim]; and whom the judges [elohim] shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbor."
Exodus 22:28--"Thou shalt not revile the gods [elohim-- margin, judges]." Note the Apostle's sanction of this translation. Acts 23:5
The Saints Called Elohim
Psalm 82:6,7--"I have said, Ye are gods [elohim--mighty ones], all of you sons of the highest, ye yet shall all die like [other] men, falling like one of the princes [heads]." The saints must all die, but like Christ Jesus their "head," sacrificially, and not as Adam for his own sin. This passage was quoted by our Lord Jesus, and applied to those who received the word of God at his lips--those having ears "to hear": and it applies still to the same class."Beloved, now are we the sons of God," reckonedly, hoping by divine grace to "become partakers of the divine nature." John 10:34,35; 1 John 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:4
Elohim Rendered "Great,"
This word is sometimes rendered strong, power, great, etc., in connection with inanimate things; as "Great [elohim-- mighty] tremblings" (1 Sam. 14:15); "Great [elohim-- mighty] wrestlings" (Gen. 30:8); "Great [el--mighty] mountains" (Psa. 36:6); "The strong [el] among the mighty" (Ezek. 32:21); "It is in the power [el] of my hand." Gen. 31:29
"God" and "Lord"
in the New Testament
In the New Testament the matter is simplified by the use of fewer words; but it may be said that nothing whatever in the words used distinguishes the Father from the Son in the words rendered Lord and God. The matter is left entirely to the judgment of the reader, and indicated only by the construction of the sentence--except that where the word Theos is used twice in the same clause the Greek Prepositive Article is sometimes used, so as to give the effect of the God in contrast with a God. An illustration of this is found in John 1:1-- "The Word was with the God [ho theos] and the Word was a God [theos]." But the careful student (freed from prejudice) will generally have no difficulty in determining the thought of the Apostle. Indeed, the language is so explicit that the wonder is that we were heedless of it so long.
The word God in our New Testament, whether in referring to our Heavenly Father or to his Heavenly Son, our Lord Jesus, or to false gods, is almost invariably the translation of the Greek word Theos. Exceptions are that the word kurios is once translated God when it should have been rendered Lord or Master, namely in Acts 19:20; and in Acts 17:18 daimonion is rendered gods, and should be demons.
The title "Lord," whether applied to Jehovah, or Christ, or man, or angels, is generally the translation of the Greek word kurios signifying Master, or Lord. It is frequently translated Sir and Master. Exceptions are that in five places Lord is the translation of despotes, where it would better have been translated Sovereign or Autocrat. The cases are:
(1) Luke 2:29--"Lord [despotes] now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace."
(2) Acts 4:24--"Lord [despotes] thou art God which hast made heaven and earth....The rulers were gathered together against the Lord [kurios] and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy Son Jesus, whom thou hast anointed,...were gathered."
(3) 2 Pet. 2:1--"Heresies, even denying the Lord [despotes] that bought them."
(4) Jude 4--"Denying the only Lord [despotes] God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
(5) Rev. 6:10--"How long, O Lord [despotes], holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood?"
Rabboni [master] is once rendered Lord. Mark 10:51
Kurieno [to be lords] is once rendered lords. 1 Tim. 6:15
What about Jesus, Is he
or is he not God?
Searching the Scriptures carefully to note just what they do say, and what they do not say, respecting our Lord Jesus, we find their testimony very explicit, harmonious and satisfactory. We will first state, in synoptical form, what we find to be the Scriptural teaching, the proofs of which we will give further along.
(1) Our Redeemer existed as a spirit being before he was made flesh and dwelt amongst men.
(2) At that time, as well as subsequently, he was properly known as "a god"--a mighty one. As chief of the angels and next to the Father, he was known as the Archangel (highest angel or messenger), whose name, Michael, signifies, "Who as God," or God's representative.
(3) As he was the highest of all Jehovah's creation, so also he was the first, the direct creation of God, the "Only Begotten," and then he, as Jehovah's representative, and in the exercise of Jehovah's power, and in his name, created all things--angels, principalities and powers, as well as the earthly creation.
(4) When he was made flesh, to be our Redeemer, it was not of compulsion, but a voluntary matter, the result of his complete harmony with the Father, and his joyful acquiescence in carrying out every feature of the divine will-- which he had learned to respect and love, as the very essence of Justice, Wisdom and Love.
(5) This humiliation to man's condition was not intended to be perpetual. It accomplished its purpose when our Lord had given himself, a human being, as our ransom, or "corresponding price." Hence, his resurrection was not in the flesh, but, as the Apostle declares, "He was put to death in the flesh but quickened in spirit." 1 Pet. 3:18
(6) His resurrection not only restored to him a spirit nature, but in addition conferred upon him a still higher honor, and, as the Father's reward for his faithfulness, made him partaker of the divine nature--the very highest of the spirit natures, possessed of immortality.
(7) It is this great One, who has been thus highly exalted and honored by Jehovah, whom we delight to honor and to worship and to serve, as one with the Heavenly Father, in word, in work, in purpose and in spirit.
Let us now consider the Scriptural evidences substantiating these positions. We begin with the first chapter of John's Gospel. Here our Lord, in his prehuman existence, is referred to as "The Word" (Greek, Logos). "In the beginning was the Logos." Dr. Alexander Clarke says, concerning this word Logos: "This term should be left untranslated for the same reason that the names Jesus and Christ are left untranslated. As every appellative of the Savior of the world was descriptive of some excellencies in his person, nature, or work, so the epithet, Logos, which signifies a word, a word spoken, speech, eloquence, doctrine, reason, or the faculty of reason, is very properly applied to him." The Evangelist, in his epistle, uses the same title in respect to our Lord again, denominating him "the Word of life," or the "Logos of life." 1 John 1:1
The title, "Word of God"--"Logos of God"--is a very fitting one by which to describe the important work or office of our Master, prior to his coming into the world. The Logos was the heavenly Father's direct expression of creation, while all subsequent expressions of divine wisdom, power and goodness were made through the Logos. It is said that in olden times certain kings made addresses to their subjects by proxy, the king sitting behind a screen, while his "word" or spokesman stood before the screen, and addressed the people aloud on subjects whispered to him by the king, who was not seen: and such a speaker was termed "The King's Logos." Whether or not the legend be true, it well illustrates the use of this word "Logos" in connection with the prehuman existence of our Lord and Master and his very grand office as the Father's representative, which the Scriptures, in this connection and elsewhere, point out as having been his office.
Be it noted that the Apostle, writing under inspiration, tells us that "The Logos was in the beginning with the God, and the Logos was a God." This is the literal translation of the Greek, as can be readily confirmed by any one, whether a Greek scholar or not. The Greek article ho precedes the first word "God," in this verse, and does not precede the second word "God," thus intentionally indicating God the Father and God the Son in a case where without the article the reader would be left in confusion. Similarly the article precedes the word "God" in the second verse. The entire verse therefore reads--
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [ho theos] the God, and the Word was [theos] a God. The same was in the beginning with [ho theos] the God." John 1:1
What "beginning" is here referred to? Surely not the beginning of the existence of Jehovah, the God, the Father; because he is "from everlasting to everlasting," and never had a beginning. (Psa. 41:13; 90:2; 106:48) But Jehovah's work had a beginning, and it is to this that reference is here made--the beginning of creation. The statement, thus understood, implies that our Lord Jesus, in his prehuman existence, as the Logos, was with the Father in the very beginning of creation. This confirms the inspired statement that the Logos himself was "the beginning of the creation of God": this is the precise statement of the Apostle, who assures us that our Lord is not only "the Head of the body, the Church," and "the first-born from the dead," but also the beginning of all creation--"that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." His words are: "He is the image of the invisible God--first born of all creation; because by him were all things created, those in the heavens and those on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or lordships, or governments, or authorities: all things were created by him and for him, and he precedes all things, and in him all things have been permanently placed." (Col. 1:15-18) Hear also the word of prophecy concerning the Only Begotten, not only declaring his coming exaltation as King of earthly kings, but describing him as already being Jehovah's first-born, saying, "I will make him, my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth." (Psa. 89:27) Note also that our Lord (referring to his own origin), declares himself to be, "The faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." Rev. 3:14
In harmony with this thought of our Lord's pre-eminence from the very beginning, as the "first-born of every creature," and in harmony with the thought that he was the Logos or Expression of the Heavenly Father, in respect to every matter, is the next statement of the Evangelist's record, viz., "All things through him came into existence; and without him came into existence not even one thing which hath come into existence." (John 1:3, Rotherham's translation.) What a grand thought this gives us respecting the majesty of the Only Begotten Son of God, the Logos! From this standpoint of his original greatness and pre-eminence, we have a clearer view than from any other of the import of the Apostle's words, "He who was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 8:9) From this standpoint we can see how rich he was in the honor and glory of which he himself made mention in prayer, saying, "Father, glorify me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (John 17:5) Although everything connected with the divine plan of redemption is wonderful, astounding in its manifestations of divine love, mercy, sympathy for fallen men, yet, from this standpoint of view, all is reasonable--consistent with the divine character and statement.
Those who hold that our Lord Jesus never had an existence until he was born a babe at Bethlehem have a very inferior view of the divine plan for man's succor; and they are left without a use for the many scriptures above cited, and others, relative to our Lord's glory with the Father before the world was, relative to his great stoop, in which he humbled himself to take a nature a little lower than the angelic, leaving therefore a nature that was above that of angels. And the Scriptural view relieves us of all the unreasonable and fallacious theories of men, by which, in attempting to honor the Son, they have gone beyond the Word of God, and have dishonored the Word of the Lord and the apostles, which declare him to have been the Son or offspring of God, and that the Father is greater than the Son. The false view has involved its millions of adherents in inextricable difficulty in every direction.
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