“I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” (Is 45:5)
“For 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 says:“I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
(Is 45:18, emphasis mine)
If you were to read Isaiah 45 out loud with all the passion that God felt when hee it (instead of the boring way we often read the Bible), I think anyone who was listening to you would sit down, shut up, and think about their choices.
God is emphatically declaring that he is the only real god. Other spiritual beings exist but they are in a different class of beings; he is far superior to them. He is pre-existent, self-existent (he existed before everything else and exists of his own power). All other beings came into existence when he created them, they continue to exist by his power. He is unique. He alone is worthy of the respect, honor, and worship that we, his creation, have to give. He is the one true God.
You should definitely take a moment and read the whole chapter here. It might take you a few verses to get into it, but try reading it (out loud) with all the passion and gusto that the God who created the universe might have if he was trying to very clearly get his point across. It’ll be fun (unless you’re reading this in a coffee shop or public transit, then it might be a little creepy, or maybe fun, I guess it depends on your personality).
Monotheism, the belief that there is one God, is a cornerstone of the Christian faith and a consistent message throughout the Bible. Some religions are atheistic (do not believe in any gods), others polytheistic (believe in many gods), and a few are monotheistic like us (Judaism and Islam, for example). Writing this from a North American context feels funny because, while there is growing religious diversity in the United States, our cultural default is that if you believe in any god, you believe in one God so saying that there is only one true God feels like I’m stating something as obvious as, “The sun provides warmth to the earth,” or “the sky is blue.” But belief in one true God is not obvious to the majority of the people we share the earth with and there are some significant implications to belief in one God.
Implications of Christian Monotheism:
We believe there is a God (as opposed to no God). More than that, we believe this God rewards those who seek him. “…because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).
We believe this God has no equal. There is no yin to his yang or yang to his yin. He is more powerful than anything he created. God’s enemies are not on a level playing field with him and we do not need to worry that they will conquer him (or us).
We believe this unequaled God is the only one worthy of our worship. He is worthy of the worship we declare with our words and the worship we demonstrate by the way we live our lives.
We believe all other gods are false gods. These false gods, often represented in biblical times by statues and idols, are dangerous distractions from the one true God. Conversely, anything that is a distraction from our relationship may become, for us, an idol or false god. Often these distractions are good things that become bad when they are honored too highly. My biggest distraction tends to be ministry; I have friends who get distracted by relationships, their kids’ sports, the accumulation of wealth, security, food. Anything can become a false god.
The one true God’s unique status is why we should worship him but his character is what will make us want to worship him. Toward the end of Isaiah 45, we see a God who is right and does right, a God who reaches out to save those who are lost and perishing, a God who does not leave us in the filth we create for ourselves, a God of love who sacrifices to be with us. This is the one, living and true God that we will continue to explore next week.
“…And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.”
BONUS MATERIAL: because there is so much stuff that I want to share but doesn’t fit in the post…
WORD MATH (or combining Greek words to make fancy sounding theological words)
-ism=indicates a belief in…
-ist indicates one who believes in…
mono + theos + ism = Monotheism or belief in one God
poly + theos + ism = polytheism or the belief in many gods
a+gnosis = agnostic or don’t know
a+theos+ ism = atheism or belief in no God
heno+theos+ism= henotheism or belief that one of the many gods should be worshiped above the other gods
To Capitalize or not to capitalize?
We capitalize “God” when we are talking about the one true God and leave it lowercase when we are talking about false gods or many gods. At least in English. I’d be interested in learning how other languages, especially languages that are part of largely polytheistic or atheistic cultures, handle capitalization.
The shema refers to the statement in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one…” a clear declaration of the monotheistic nature of the God. It tends to be the go-to verse for indicating monotheism in the Old Testament.
Other implications of Christian Monotheism:
Christians should have some level of unity. This doesn’t mean we all need to believe exactly the same things or act the same ways but it means that we are willing to work together on the same team. Ephesians 4:3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” John Wesley is famous for saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”
I have lots of opinions about our current political situation in the United States and when I get frustrated with the people who are wrong (a.k.a. the people who disagree with me) I need to step back and remember that we’re on the same team. This doesn’t mean I don’t speak up or try to win them over but it does mean that I do it while viewing them as a teammate and not as an enemy.
Acknowledging the truth that there is one God is a good place to start but it is not a good place to end. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Mere assent to truth isn’t sufficient; what you believe about this one God has to change your life. If you believe this one true living God is the God that he reveals himself to be in the Bible you’ll seek justice and care for widows, orphans, and aliens; you’ll act in humility toward those who don’t deserve it; you’ll be transformed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.