How Many Gods Does God Say There Are?
Scriptures that show there is only one God
Some Bible passages are difficult to understand. Others are easy. The Bible has many plain, simple, straightforward, unambiguous verses, and these are the verses we should study first when we want to understand what the Bible teaches. Understanding the plain, straightforward verses then becomes our basis for understanding the more difficult verses. The plain verses become the foundation for the rest of our biblical understanding. We build on those.
By building such a foundation, we have something to go back to when we have difficulty understanding other verses. We can take the “difficult” verses and explain them within the context of the plain, straightforward ones. This assures us that our explanations and understanding conform with the foundational verses.
Rather than throw out or ignore those simple, straightforward verses, we should throw out the explanations that contradict them. In theological terms, this is the correct exegetical approach.
The Bible proclaims plainly and clearly that there is one and only one God. When the Bible says that God is one, the word one does not refer to a “God Family,” but to one God. Let’s begin by looking at passages in the Old Testament.
Old Testament verses
Deuteronomy 4:35: “You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other.”
Deuteronomy 4:39: “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Deuteronomy 32:39: “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me.”
1 Samuel 2:1-2: “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”
2 Samuel 7:22: “How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”
2 Samuel 22:32: “For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?”
1 Kings 8:60: “So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.”
2 Kings 19:15-19: “Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: ‘O Lord, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. It is true, O Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.’...”
Psalm 18:30-31: “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.... For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?”
Psalm 83:18: “Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord — that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”
Isaiah 43:10, 13: “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.... Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’“
Isaiah 44:6-8: “This is what the Lord says — Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come — yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
Isaiah 45:5-6: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
Isaiah 45:18: “This is what the Lord says — he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited — he says: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’”
Isaiah 45:21-22: “Declare what is to be, present it — let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.”
Isaiah 46:9: “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.”
As you can see, there is no question about the biblical fact that there is one and only one God, not two or more “Gods.” God speaks in the singular, as “I,” saying that he is the only God, and there is no other being that is even like him. That’s why God commands us, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
The idea of more than one being in a family of gods is condemned throughout the Scriptures. That was precisely the concept that the polytheistic nations surrounding Israel taught. Polytheistic is a word that refers to a belief in more than one god (poly = many; theos = god). The Bible teaches that there is only one God, a belief called monotheism, from mono (one) and theos (God).
A family is made up of more than one being. The pagan hierarchies of gods were made up of more than one “god being,” and at the top of the hierarchy were usually a father god, a mother god and one or more son and daughter gods. The Bible condemns the concept of a family of gods.
The Bible does not allow for the existence of two God Beings. It categorically denies it. Let’s take a look at some New Testament passages.
Matthew 19:17: “‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good.’” The parallel verse in Mark is 10:18: “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good — except God alone.’”
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4 when he affirmed that there is one God. Answering the question about what is the greatest commandment, he said: “The most important one...is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one’” (Mark 12:29).
Mark 12:32-34: “‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”
There is no other being that is worthy of worship (Matthew 4:10).
John 5:42-44: “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me: but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”
John 17:3: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Likewise, Paul taught that there is one God. He wrote:
Romans 3:29-30: “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God.”
Romans 16:27: “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
1 Corinthians 8:4-6: “So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one. 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 but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
Galatians 3:19-20: “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.”
Ephesians 4:6: “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
1 Timothy 1:17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Even while describing the role of Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh, Paul still affirmed that there is only one God. When the Son became flesh, he did not cease to be God — he was God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14). But there was not, never has been, never will be, two Gods.
1 Timothy 6:13-16: “In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time — God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.”
James wrote: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder” (2:19).
James 4:12: “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.”
Jude 25: “To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!”
The Bible gives us two facts that (on the surface) look contradictory. But they only appear to be contradictory because our minds are finite and limited, while God, our Creator, is infinite and unlimited. The Bible tells us there is one God. The Father is God. The Son is also God (John 20:28-29). He was eternally with God and also was God (John 1:1-2). The Father is God and the Son is God, but there is only one God. God is one in one respect, but plural in another respect.
The early church explained this by saying that God is one in being, but plural in persons. This is part of the Christian doctrine usually called the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine does not teach plural Gods, but only one. They are distinct, but not separate. There is no “family” of Gods.
God has a family (we are his children), but he is not a family in himself. People cannot be born into the “God family,” because there is no such thing. We will never be God in the same way that God is God. Rather, we are partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) — children of God, but never Gods. We are children by adoption, but in essence or being. We will always remain created beings. There can be only one God. We are born into God’s family, but not the God family. We belong to God, but we will never be God,
This is not a matter of confusion, as some say. It is a matter of believing the Bible and realizing that God is greater than our finite imaginations can perceive. It is a matter of faith, because we believe the Bible.
The “average” Protestant or Catholic cannot explain God’s nature. Some may even think that there are three God Beings in one Godhead, or a three-headed Being of some sort. But their misunderstandings do not affect the truth of the teaching. The Bible teaching is that there is one God who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is not my idea, nor is it the idea of some fourth-century theologians. It is the teaching of the Bible.
The fourth-century theologians formulated a doctrine that denies certain unbiblical teachings about God that were in vogue at the time. One such teaching was the idea that the Son was a created being. Another heresy is the idea that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not distinct but are really all the same — in other words, the idea that the one God is sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, and sometimes the Holy Spirit, but not all three all the time. This was declared to be false.
God is not like a human
God transcends our world of time and space. He created time and space. He appears in it when he desires, but he is in no way limited to time and space. He does not need time and space to exist. However, we are able to think only in terms of creation, in terms of time and space. God is everything we can conceive of, but much more! He uses all sorts of concepts in the Bible to reveal himself to us, and he does it in terms we can understand — like King, Redeemer, Shepherd, Defender, Fire, Rock, Shelter. He is all those and more, and not just like any of them, because they are all part of the created world.
God does not have or need a “mighty arm,” for example. God uses the human term, “mighty arm,” because it is one we can understand, one that helps us understand something important about the power of God. But it is not a literal description of God. It is a metaphor.
God also speaks of his “right hand.” Is that because his “right hand” is stronger or more skilled than his “left hand”? Of course not. He is conveying the fact that he is powerful, that he intends to do a particular thing, and that he is going to do it in a powerful way. Bible-believers should not take such descriptions literally and think of God as subject to time and space like ourselves.
This brings to mind Paul’s statement in Romans 1:22-23: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” There are stone images, and there are mental images.
None of us would want to make God like a created thing, but if we think that God has a body (a male body, some will attest), or is subject to time and space (who can only be in only one place at one time), and needs to have something in order to create (that he needs a preexisting “substance”), just like we need physical matter to fashion things, then we have inadvertently reduced God to an “image made to look like mortal man.”
God is not created. He does not have a body. Bodies are put together or composed, and God is neither put together nor composed of anything. He is the Creator, not the created. Until God created, there was nothing. Only God is eternal. Only God is uncreated. There is no eternal matter or “spiritual substance” that co-existed with God. That would mean that God did not create everything, and such a God is not the God of the Bible. Such a God is a limited God, a less-than-supreme God, a God who needs something beside himself to act as God.
One other important point. God is personal — and he relates to us in a personal way. We should never think of God as so transcendent, so unlike us, that we cannot relate to him in a personal way. That is precisely why he reveals himself to us in the Bible in human terms, in terms we can understand. That is why the Son of God became human to reconcile us to God. God wants a close and personal relationship with us. He wants fellowship with us. That is the reason he made us, and he has made it possible (despite our sin) through our mediator, the God-made-human Jesus Christ.
Ralph Orr and Paul Kroll