This is the eighth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity, available by contacting the MBC or through Amazon.
The Bible consistently declares there is one true and living God, the self-revealed Creator who alone must be loved and worshiped. All other gods are false. The physical depictions of these gods, as carved images or naturally occurring phenomena such as stars and trees, in fact represent demons (see Deut. 32:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:19-20).
Perhaps nowhere is the exclusivity of God stated more clearly than in the Shema, an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and evening since ancient times. It consists of three biblical passages, two of which instruct the Israelites to speak of these things “when you lie down and when you rise up.”
The best-known part of the Shema is from the first biblical passage: “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5).
The prophet Isaiah echoes this cry as he calls the Israelites to return to the LORD. Isaiah 44:6 – 45:25 is a powerful reminder from Yahweh that He alone is God. Consider just a small portion of this passage:
“This is what the LORD, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the LORD of Armies, says: I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me” (44:6).
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God but me” (45:5).
Continuity in covenants
The New Testament consistently upholds the theme of one God. To cite but two examples:
Mark 12:29-30 – In response to a scribe who asks about the greatest commandment, Jesus replies, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
1 Timothy 2:5-6 – Paul writes, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.”
While the theme of one God runs consistently through Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments offer us increasing light into the existence of this one being in three persons – a topic we explore in future columns.
J. I. Packer writes that the basic assertion of the doctrine of the Trinity is that the unity of the one God is complex: “The three personal ‘substances’ (as they are called) are coequal and coeternal centers of self-awareness, each being ‘I’ in relation to two who are ‘you’ and each partaking of the full divine essence (the ‘stuff’ of deity, if we may dare to call it that) along with the other two.”
One in many ways
Not only is Yahweh one God, but the Bible depicts Him as unique. That is, God is one of a kind in a number of ways:
First, Yahweh is the only true God, standing apart from the false gods of the pagan world (Jer. 10:10; John 17:3; 1 Thess. 1:9).
Second, Yahweh is the only eternal God. All idols fashioned with human hands, and every demon behind them, had a beginning and will have an end – in judgment (Gen. 21:33; Isa. 40:28; Rom. 16:26).
Third, Yahweh is the only living God. Unlike lifeless, graven idols, the Lord has life in Himself and is eternally self-existent (1 Sam. 17:26; Dan. 6:26; John 5:26; Acts 14:15).
Fourth, Yahweh is the only God by nature. While other gods compete for our attention, whether the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) or the god of our own appetites (Phil. 3:19), only Yahweh is divine in essence (Rom. 1:25; 1 Cor. 10:20-21; Gal. 4:8).
Fifth, Yahweh is the only Creator. Some forms of counterfeit Christianity ascribe creation to a “council of gods” or even to Jesus as a created being through whom Jehovah created all other things. But the Bible is clear that Yahweh alone is the maker of heaven and earth (Isa. 37:16; 44:24; Jer. 10:10-12, 16).