Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The LORD Is One

Is there one God?  The bible speaks clearly on the subject: 2Sam. 7.22 “...there is no God but you...,” Ps. 86.10 “ alone are God...,” 1Cor. 8.4 “...there is no God, but one....”   However, there are many verses that also speak of the divinity of Jesus: John 1.1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” Phil. 2.6 “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped...,” Tit. 2.13 “...our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ....”  Christians can be excused for being confused.  Paul wrote in 1Cor. 8.4 that God the Father is the only God, but then in Titus 2.13 he wrote that Jesus is our God and Savior.  To make matter worse the most common word translated God in the Old Testament is plural.  Also, in some verses, where God is speaking, he refers to himself in the plural:  “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...” (Gen. 1.26).  Nowhere in the bible is this explained to us, but God has given us a great deal of data to help us come to some sort of understanding of it.

The most basic statement about God is found in Deu. 6.4: “Hear O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”  Most people would say that this verse teaches that there is one God, but if you look closely that is not what it says.  It says “the LORD is one,” not “there is one God who is the LORD.”  Keil and Delitzsch comment about this verse “The idea is not, Jehovah our God is one (the only) God, but ‘one (or the only) Jehovah...’” (p. 323).  Kalland makes these helpful comments “To the Jews v.4 is not only an assertion of monotheism, but it is also an assertion of the numerical oneness of God...This kind of oneness, however, runs contrary to the use of אחד (ehad) in the sense of a unity made up of several parts” (p.65).  He observes that this is the same word used by Ezekiel when God commanded him to join two sticks together to represent Judah and Ephraim being joined together to make one nation (Eze. 37. 17, 19, 22).  Also, in Exo. 26.6 and 11 the fifty golden clasps are used to join the tent together so that it will be one (ehad).  This verse seems to be indicating the oneness of God rather than one God.

In chapter 8 of First Corinthians Paul discussed whether there are multiple gods.  In verse 4 he wrote “...there is no God but one.”  Paul wrote there may be beings that some people call gods (vs.5), but for Christians “…
there is but one God, the Father,

from whom all things come
and for whom we live;
there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things come
and through whom we live.”

The contrast Paul makes between the Father and Jesus is fascinating.  We have our existence from God, but that existence is through Jesus.  This statement is very much like Heb. 1.2 where it is written that God made the universe through Jesus, and what Paul wrote in Col. 1.15-20 “By him all things were created....”  

But what about the “one God” and “one Lord”?  Is Paul putting Jesus in a lower category than the Father?  Is Jesus God, but with a little “g”?  Let’s be clear at the outset that this idea of God with a big “G” or little “g” is a modern concept.  Hebrew doesn’t have upper and lower case letters, and in the New Testament times Greek was normally only written in upper or lower case letters, they didn’t mix the two.  Paul routinely used “Lord” when he referred to Jesus, but would it have been understood by Christians as meaning “God?”  The word “Lord” is commonly used in the Old Testament to refer to God.  For example: Ps. 69.6 “O Lord, the LORD Almighty,”  Isa. 6.1  “I saw the Lord seated on a throne,” Dan. 9.4 “O Lord, the great and awesome God.”  Also, rather than speak the name of God Jews would say “Lord” in place of it (a tradition that is continued in most English translations of the Old Testament by using lord in all caps). “Lord” was a title often given to gods in Greek inscriptions (Nicoll, p.841), and we see it used to refer to God in the New Testament: Mat. 4.7 “Do not put the Lord your God to the test,” Mat. 22.37 “Love the Lord your God,” and  Acts 2.34 “The Lord said to my Lord.”  Of course we can’t overlook Mark 12. 29 “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  Did Paul have this verse in mind when he wrote 1Cor. 8.6?  Yes, I think he did, and if that is so, he definitely used “Lord” with the meaning of “God.”

How can Jesus be God if the Father is God?  They both share the same divine nature.  Jesus has the “very nature of God “(Phil. 2.6), he “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1.15), “in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives...” (Col. 2.9) and he is the “exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1.3).  My son is made of the same human material as I am.  He looks just like me and he has the same personality as me.  In those regards we are the same, we are both human, but we are different people; I am his father and he is my son.  That is a simple concept for us to understand.  Why is it so hard to understand that Jesus, the son, is God like his Father?

Jesus and the Father are different beings.  The Father is source of all creation,  “...from whom all things come and for whom we live...” (1Cor. 8.6).  Jesus is the means by which the world was made, “...through whom all things come and through whom we live...” (1Cor. 8.6).  He only does what he sees his Father do (John 5.19) and only speaks the words his Father gives him (John 12.49-50).  They are one in purpose (John 10.30, 38).  Jesus now sits on his Father's throne (Rev. 3.21) until all enemies have been conquered then he will hand the kingdom over to his Father (1Cor. 15.24).  “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1Cor. 15.28).

Deuteronomy 6.4,  “Hear O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one,” does not contradict the teaching that Jesus is God.  The word “one” implies more than one part forming a whole, this verse supports the New Testament teaching of this doctrine.  The fact that the word translated “God” in the Old Testament is plural fits well with the idea that the “LORD is one” is describing the unity of God, not his singularity, and this oneness of God also explains why “we” is used in Gen. 1.26.

 Does this blog answer all your questions?  I certainly hope not.  This post is simply what I have learned from my studies and I hope to continue to grow in my understanding of this mystery.  I would be grateful to know your thoughts on this topic.


Nicoll, W. Robertson. The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1983.

Kalland, Earl S.  Deuteronomy, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein general editor, BMH Books, 1992.

Keil, CF; Delitzsch F.  Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1, Eerdmans, 1983.


  1. Thanks Raj. I just came from debating this concept with two Jehovah Witness ladies. This adds to what I thought I know. My understanding is that Jesus is God in essence / nature but is subordinate to the Father at various instances in scripture.
    Thanks again.