As Christians, we serve one God. In fact, it is an essential part of our faith to believe that there is only one true God. One Creator. One Savior. And one King of kings. When it comes to proving the existence of only one true God, we do need to look at Scripture. How did God prove Himself to His people throughout the Bible? For starters, He showed them He was holy. He demonstrated that He was different from all of the other foreign gods. And He clearly demonstrated His power and authority over all.
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What is monotheism?
According to Merriam-Webster monotheism is “the doctrine or belief that there is but one God.” The earliest known use of the term comes from the 1600s and examples of monotheistic religions include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (This is directly opposed to polytheism, which is the “belief in or worship of more than one god.”)
When God called Abraham…
Judaism is the first well-known religion to take on monotheistic beliefs. In fact, many scholars find themselves baffled by the fact that Abraham chose to serve one God when he undoubtedly was surrounded by an extremely polytheistic culture… perhaps even within his own family. He certainly broke cultural norms to worship only one God instead of many.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3
One way that God showed Abraham He was different than the other “gods” was through Isaac. Through Isaac, God demonstrated that He was a promise keeper and a miracle worker. And if that wasn’t enough, there was the sacrifice. You see, at this time in history, child sacrifice was unfortunately quite common. Many “gods” required it. God, however, gave Abraham a clear lesson in His love and intent for mankind. While other gods were requiring people to give up everything for them, God would be the one to give up everything for us. This concept would have certainly resonated with Abraham proving yet again why God was supremely unique from other gods.
The one true God…
“…Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, only I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me.” – Isaiah 43:10-11
“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” – Isaiah 45:22
“Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” – Deuteronomy 6:4
God is the one true God according to Scripture. He is the only Savior of the world. He is the only Creator. And He is the only one to be worshipped. God repeatedly tells us that there is no one like Him. He is the beginning and the end, the Most High God.
“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.” – Isaiah 46:9
The Israelites were surrounded by polytheistic cultures. This was one of the many reasons God wanted them to be set apart. It would be far too easy for them to give in to polytheistic ways (as we clearly saw happen throughout Scripture when they repeatedly fell away from God.)
What is a “god”?
First… we need to define the term “god.” Merriam-Webster defines the term as “the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped (as in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism) as creator and ruler of the universe.” They also define it as “a being or object that is worshipped as having more than natural attributes and powers.”
Now it may seem odd that I went to the dictionary to define “god,” but it’s important to clarify the term from an outside perspective. The Bible is certainly the place we go to when learning more about God and defining who He is as our Creator and Savior. But the world defines the term a bit differently because they aren’t always referring to the God of the Bible, rather they are referring to someone or something that is worthy of worship.
Can a person make gods for himself? But they are not gods! – Jeremiah 16:20
What about other “gods”?
This is where things get a bit… interesting. With so many polytheist religions throughout history, how does one reconcile with the idea of there being only one God? While there are many verses throughout Scripture that tell us God is the “one true God,” what about all of the other verses that tell us to not worship other gods? Why would this be commanded of us if no other gods actually existed? Why is He called the “Most High”? Doesn’t that imply a comparison to “gods” or spiritual beings below Him?
These were many of the questions we were asked to discuss in some of my theology courses in seminary. And some of them were definitely easier than others to answer.
As we have already established, there is only one true God. But if a “god” is simply something we give worship to, then technically, anything or anyone can be a false “god.”
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands so as not to worship demons and the idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. – Revelation 9:20
Notice the false “gods” in the above passage. Some key phrases include “works of their hands,” “demons,” and “idols…which can neither see nor hear nor walk.”
When you look at polytheistic cultures, gods come from many different sources. Some worshipped creation itself by worshipping the sun, moon, stars, animals, rivers, etc. Others created elaborate stories for their gods. (Greek mythology comes to mind.) And they created statues or images to depict their gods. Today, some have even gone as far as to worship the god or goddess within themselves.
But Revelation 9:20 gives us an interesting piece of information. The phrase “so as to not worship demons” implies that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to false gods. While it’s easy to dismiss false gods as nothing more than fake stories and inanimate statues, there may in fact be demons involved.
A false god can be inanimate, created by our own hands or our own imaginations. But false gods can also be personified by demonic forces. There is no doubt when reading through the Bible that demons are often at play when it comes to idolatry and the religious worship of false gods.
Do false “gods” have any power?
I am reminded of stories throughout Scripture where false gods demonstrated some finite power. The Egyptian magicians come to mind. They were able to replicate some of the miracles Moses was presenting before Pharaoh. (Exodus 7-8) There are times in the Bible when fortune-tellers or the king’s “wise men” would tell the future. (Acts 16:16-18) And then I’m reminded of Jesus being accused of doing miracles by the power of “Beelzebub.” (Matthew 12:22-24) This was obviously something that the Jewish people felt was possible… miracles, signs, and wonders done by the power of the enemy rather than God.
Scripture certainly backs up the idea that “signs and wonders” are possible by the powers of darkness…
For false christs and false prophets will arise and will provide great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. – Matthew 24:24 (emphasis added)
All of this being said, false gods are not always made up and fake. There are clearly demonic forces at work as well vying for our attention and worship. And as Revelation 9:20 clearly demonstrates, the worship of idols and worship of demons often go hand in hand. This is one of the reasons why God forbid certain things throughout Scripture… worshipping other gods, witchcraft, speaking with the dead, fortune-telling, etc.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 (emphasis added)
There is only one true God. But there is also a very real spiritual world. These “rulers” and “forces of wickedness” are certainly at work today just as they were throughout the Old and New Testaments.
God demonstrated that he was different. He was willing to give everything for us, unlike false gods who desire everything from their worshippers. He proved time and time again that He was superior and had authority over every idol or spiritual being who was impersonating a god. The plagues of Egypt, where God directly demonstrated His power over each of Egypt’s gods, proved His authority. He also demonstrated His authority over false gods at Mount Carmel with Elijah. (1 Kings 18:16-39)
Christians serve one God because He has demonstrated throughout history as well as in our own lives that He is the one true living God.
Next week, we will be diving into the basic doctrine of the Trinity, and how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one… so stay tuned!
For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. – 1 Corinthians 8:5-6
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.