The Lord Our God Is One Lord
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.—Deuteronomy 6:4
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.—Mark 12:29
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.—Exodus 20:3
By Richard Evans
Monotheism is the belief in and worship of one God. Polytheism, on the other hand, acknowledges a plurality of gods. In the beginning humankind worshiped one God, but as the earth filled, knees bowed to other gods.
“In the history of all the different nations where polytheism has obtained we may trace a period where the idea of one God was more or less prevalent.” (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature by John McClintock and James Strong. 1890: Vol. VI, page 511)
With but one exception the early history of humankind reveals a constant yearning and search for new gods. The disaffection of nations with monotheism, however, was seldom total. The various religions and mythologies of the world usually maintained some superior deity among their host of gods.
The exception, the nation of Israel, was by no means immune to this malady. Its people were continually being infected by their neighbors.
“And they served their [neighbor’s] idols, which were a snare unto them” (Psa. 106:36).
The God of Israel
Only the valiant efforts of a few faithful ones prevented complete apostasy.
“Go not after other gods to serve them . . .” — Jeremiah 35:15
These men of Israel clearly and conclusively demonstrated the validity of monotheism—the need, the necessity, to worship one God. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me . . . for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God” (Exod. 20:3-5).
In their writings, the Old Testament, they emphatically proclaimed one God, the God by whom all creation exists.
- “Know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him” (Deut. 4:35).
- “The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deut. 6:4).
- “Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou has made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts, the earth, and all things that are therein” (Neh. 9:6).
- “Thou art the God, even thou alone . . . thou hast made heaven and earth” (Isa. 37:16).
- “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it . . . I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isa. 45:18).
- “There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me” (Isa. 45:21).
- “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God . . . He that made the earth by his power” (Jer. 10:10-12).
The Spirit of God
These men of Israel also proclaimed the reality of the spirit of God; but, they never addressed this spirit as a separate personage, as another god. The faithful Jew of old never entertained the thought of God’s spirit as another coequal god. As revealed in their writings, the spirit of God was the power, the favor, the influence, emanating from God.
- “And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Exod. 31:3).
- “And the spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel” (Jud. 3:10).
- “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created”(Psa. 104:30)
- “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2).
- “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isa. 44:3).
- “And I will pout my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezek. 36:27).
- “And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live” (Ezek. 37:14).
- “I will pour my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28).
Hence, the Old Testament is monotheistic. Jehovah alone is God. The spirit is an extension of God, not a separate, coequal, entity.
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Psa. 139:7).
The God of Jesus
From his own words we find Jesus of Nazareth believed as did the faithful Jews that preceded him.
- “I thank thee, O Father Lord of heaven and earth” (Matt. 11:25).
- “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:29).
- “That they might know thee, the only true God” (John 17:3).
The title given Jesus, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16; 8:29), conveyed the relationship he enjoyed. At no time did he present himself as coequal with the Father (Phil. 2:6).
- “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).
- “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).
- “I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater that I” (John 14:28).
Jesus continually pointed to his subordinate position to his Father.
- “All things are delivered unto me of my Father” (Matt. 11:27).
- “As my Father hath appointed unto me” (Luke 22:29).
- “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
- “So hath he [the Father] given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26).
- “The Father that sent me” (John 8:16, 18; 12:49; 14:24).
- “As my Father hath taught me” (John 8:28).
- “As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (John 14:31).
- “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
As the Apostle Paul wrote: “[Jesus] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6 NASB).
Jesus not only used the manner of the Old Testament when speaking of God, but also when speaking of the spirit of God, the holy Spirit.
- “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God” (Matt. 12:28).
- “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18).
- “I send the promise of my Father upon you . . . ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
John the Baptist spoke the same.
- “For God giveth not the spirit by measure” (John 3:34)
The Apostle John, when explaining Jesus’ words, wrote: “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him should receive” (John 7:39).
Thus we see the God of Jesus was the God of Israel. Jesus did not teach a different God. His understanding of the spirit of God was the same. He was monotheistic. His God was the God of the Jews. “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God and your God” (John 20:17).
The God of the Apostles
The Apostle Peter declared shortly after Pentecost, “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his [servant] Jesus” (Acts 3:13).
The apostles also believed as the faithful Jews of old. There was but one God, the God of Abraham, the God of all creation. Jesus of Nazareth, though glorified, was not God. He was the servant of God. As the faithful disciples exclaimed, following the release of Peter and John by the council of priests:
- “Lord [Jehovah], thou art God, which has made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is” (Acts 4:24).
The Apostle Paul was just as monotheistic as those who came before.
- “There is none other God but one . . . there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things . . . and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:4-6).
- “One Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all” (Eph. 4:5, 6)
The Hellenization of Christendom
The Roman world in which Jesus and his followers lived was greatly influenced by Greek thought. As the Apostles passed from the scene this influence severely impacted what was becoming known as Christendom (Christ’s Kingdom). Both the content and the method of Greek philosophy were introduced and embraced.
This Hellenistic influence quickly brought in ideas from the pagan world. Within three centuries polytheism was established. The first great ecumenical council, that of Nicea in 325AD, was summoned and presided over, not by church leaders, but by the Roman emperor Constantine. He not only patronized it, but undertook to direct it. Intervening in the theological discussions, he used the authority of the State to compel assent to a concept of multiple gods in one—multiple gods to suit Greek polytheism, one god to suit Biblical teaching.
The Hellenization of Christendom was not limited to polytheism. Among other doctrines, the concept of the immortal soul was also assimilated early. Though adopted by much of Christendom, it is Greek in origin and stands in direct conflict with the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
The Greeks, because of their belief in an immortal soul, viewed death as a natural, desirable, progression. It completes the liberation of the soul. It frees the soul from the prison of its body. The Jews and early Christians, on the other hand, saw death as an enemy, something unnatural, abnormal, opposed to God. The only hope for a dying creation was a resurrection, a release from the death condition.
The conflict between these two views was graphically demonstrated in the scorn of the Greeks to Paul’s teaching on Mar’s Hill (Acts 17:32). Though the belief of the immortal soul conflicted with the Bible, it won the day, just as did polytheism.
Consequences of Polytheism
God condemned polytheism for a very good reason. It brings about confusion. Jesus taught: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24).
The history of Christendom attests the validity of this axiom. The confusion that has reigned over many centuries vividly sets forth the consequences of disregarding it. In the attempt to serve multiple gods, Christendom loved the Son and hated the Father. It glorified the Son at the expense of the Father. God became a god of vengeance, a god of wrath—a god that required appeasement by the sacrifice of living victims. The Father, the God of love (1 John 4:16), was made into a god like unto Molech (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5).
The confusion does not end with the profaning of God’s holy name. Though Christendom glorified Jesus, it rendered unintelligible his sacrifice and death. Many questions were raised and left unanswered.
If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, did all die at Calvary? Who raised Jesus? (Acts 10:40).
If the Son was divine he was immortal, unable to die. Was his death an act, a pretense, a sham, a deception? (Rev. 1:18).
If Jesus was divine, what did Paul mean when he stated: “by one [man] shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19), “By man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21). “There is one God, and one mediator between Hod and man, the man Christ Jesus “(1 Tim. 2:5).
Preexistence of Jesus
The preexistence of Jesus is a major factor that influenced the development of polytheism in Christendom. There is no question that it is a clear teaching of Scripture.
- “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh” (John 1:1-14).
- “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man” (John 3:13).
- “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world” (John 3:17).
- “For I came down from heaven” (John 6:38, 51).
- “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (John 6:62).
- “I say unto you, Before Abraham was I am” John 8:58).
- “The glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
In every one of these texts it is evident that the Son of God existed, had life, before his life on earth as the man Jesus.
The difficulty arises when Christendom declares that that life was divine. There is no scripture that supports such a declaration. To understand the Son’s preexistent nature it is necessary to understand the various natures that exist in the heavens and on the earth.]
In the earthly realm the human stands at the top. All other earthly life, animal an plant, being subordinate (Gen. 1:28). In the heavenly realm, the Bible reveals two levels of spiritual life, angelic and divine. The angelic, like human life, is mortal—it requires sustenance.
- “Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou has made heaven, and the heaven of the heavens, with all their host . . . and thou preservest them all” (Neh. 9:6).
- “Praise ye him, all his angels . . . for he commanded, and they were created” (Psa. 148:2-5).
The divine life, the life of God, is immortal—it requires no sustenance.
- “The Father hath life in himself” (John 5:26).
It is manifest that the Son, in his preexistence, did not enjoy divine life. He was a glorious spirit being, the beginning of the creation of God (Rev. 3:14). All else of God’s creation was created through him (Eph. 3:9; yet, he was mortal. Only by being mortal was he able to do his Father’s will (Heb. 10:9). Only by being mortal could he give up his spiritual existence in heaven, become and earthly being (Rom. 8:3), and the die as a man.
- “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9).
- “Who, being in the form of God [a glorious spirit being] . . . made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6, 7).
After being “made perfect” (Heb. 2:10; 5:9), after proving his worth (Rev. 5:9), the Father gave to the Son to have life in himself (John 5:26)
- “Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath obtained by inheritance a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4).
- “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).
Jesus was resurrected not as a human, not as an angel, but as a divine being; and so, death hath no more dominion over him (Rom. 6:9). He is no longer mortal!
- “[God] raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph. 1:20, 21).
The Son was made divine. He is a creation of his Father. As the Lamb he was found worthy (Rev. 5:9); thus, he was greatly exalted by God (Acts 5:31).
The Only True God
In his marvelous prayer the night before his death, Jesus declared: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
No greater motivation can be given for knowing the only true God and for knowing Jesus Christ. To the extent that God has revealed himself we are to know him, to believe him. Knowledge of the true God is crucial. Without it polytheism is certain to flourish.
Paul declared of the Jews: “They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2).
Because of this lack of knowledge pagan idolatry was a snare to them. Christendom has likewise been ensnared through lack of knowledge. A lack that has led to a grievous compromise—multiple gods in one. This compromise is no less idolatrous that the polytheism. The only reply that is heard— “it is a mystery.”
Because of this lack of knowledge pagan idolatry was a snare to them. Christendom has likewise been ensnared through lack of knowledge. A lack that has led to a grievous compromise—multiple gods in one. This compromise is no less idolatrous than the polytheism that stumbled Israel. The oneness of God, without compromise, is clearly set forth in the Bible. As Jesus affirmed, “The Lord your God is one Lord” (Mark 12:29).
Historical Note On The Trinity
From the Bible Study Monthly, England
For many years pagans had been familiar with the Trinitarian beliefs of the East, beliefs which found their strongest expression in the complicated theology of Hinduism and Brahmanism. It is in honor of the three chief Brahman deities, Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma, that a very early hymn to the Trinity was composed. Nearly a hundred years before Christ, Kalidasa, one of the greatest of Indian poets, wrote:
“In those three Persons the one God was shown each first in place, each last—not one alone; Of Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, each may be First, second, third, among the blessed Three.”
The similarity of those words to the later doctrine of the Trinity as defined in the Athanasian Creed is obvious.
It was in the fourth Century., and nearly five hundred years after Kalidasa wrote his hymn, that the controversy which had been gathering force in the Church came to a head. Upon June 17th, A.D. 325, the Emperor Constantine opened the Council of Nicea, which was to last for two months, and at which three hundred and eighteen Bishops, drawn from all over Christendom, including one or two from Britain, sat to debate whether or not the doctrine of the Trinity should be incorporated into the accepted belief of the Christian Church.
Principal opponents in the controversy were Arius and Athanasius, both of Alexandria in Egypt. Arius was an old man, Athanasius a younger man well versed in philosophy and literature, and his ability and energy led the Council to decide in favor of his demand that the doctrine of the Trinity be declared the teaching of the Church. Only two bishops, Thomas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais, supported Arius. The latter, being thus defeated, was excommunicated and banished, and his books ordered to be burnt. Even so, a considerable portion of Christendom refused at first to accept the doctrine. More especially was this the case in Northern Europe and Britain, for although it was nearly three hundred years after this Council that Augustine landed in Kent to convert the English to Latin Christianity, a British Christian Church having little or nothing to do with Rome had existed from very early times. Several centuries elapsed before the Trinity was firmly established as a generally accepted Christian doctrine.