TEXT: Isaiah 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God
The past several lessons have dealt with the spirituality of God. Now we shall proceed in our study with the infinity of God. This includes the attributes of self-existence, unity, and immutability. These attributes are the result of an infinite being whose nature has no limits or bounds. The attribute of self-existence (infinite spiritual life) was considered already in the study on life, so we shall turn now to the attribute of unity in this lesson.
I. The Attribute of Unity
There is but one God and His divine nature is undivided and indivisible. This is what is meant by the attribute of unity. How can we know that there is only one God? We shall look at proof from Scripture as well as an argument from logic.
The Bible is full of passages that clearly state that there is only one God. Consider the following testimonies from Scripture:
In Isaiah 44:6 God makes the following assertion: Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God (see also Isaiah 44:8, 45:18, 45:21). If you were standing in line for something and you were the first in line, that would mean that there was no one in front of you. If you were the last in line, there could be no one behind you. If you are both the first and the last in line, then no one can be in front or behind you; and therefore you are alone. This is what God has to say: there is no other God except for me. If any one were to know of another God it would be God. Since He says that He is the only one, He must be the only one! Note that there is another who claimed to be the first and the last - Jesus (Revelation 1:17-18).
In John 17:3, Jesus says, this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God. Jesus was speaking of the Father here who He says is the only God. Some may have trouble with the meaning of the word only - it means alone or no other!
Moses declares in Deuteronomy 6:4, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. You may recall, from a previous lesson, that the word translated Lord in the KJV is the Hebrew word "Jehovah". The word translated God is usually the Hebrew word "Elohim". This verse then could be written as: Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah. The name Jehovah is equivalent to "I am" or the self-existent One. The word Elohim, as a name of God, refers to God's power and might as in Genesis 1:1. It is sometimes used in the ordinary sense of gods as in Exodus 12:12. Thus we could say that the word Elohim encompasses the general meaning that the world would attach to a "god". Putting this together with the declaration of Moses, we find that the One who is our God is one self-existent being. What a powerful statement!
Paul also testifies that there is only one God. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul begins dealing with the issue of eating meat offered to idols. In verse 4, he gives part of his argument against this practice based on the fact that there is none other God but one.
Is it possible for more than one infinite being to exist? No, for each would limit the other which is a contradiction of infinity. For example, how could two infinitely powerful and sovereign beings co-exist? One would have to be stronger than the other thus limiting the power of one. Infinity and absolute perfection are possible for only one.
II. The Agreement of Unity
Scripture recognizes three persons as God: the Father (John 6:27, 1 Peter 1:2), Jesus Christ the Son (John 1:1,18; Titus 2:13), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). See also Acts 20:28. Scripture also presents these three persons as distinct from each other. This is clearly seen in Matthew 3:16-17 when Jesus was baptized. In this one passage we see Jesus, we see the Holy Spirit in a form like a dove, and we hear the Father speaking. So, does the attribute of unity agree with Scripture? In other words, how can there be only one God when the Bible ascribes deity to three distinct persons?
The answer is found in 1 John 5:7 - "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." Quoting from Ryrie, "There is only one God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three eternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance, but distinct in subsistence." Bancroft says, "We assert simply that the same God who is one with respect to His essence is three with respect to the internal distinctions of that essence". This is the doctrine of the trinity or tri-unity. It is perhaps one of the most difficult doctrines for us to comprehend because we have no analogies in our finite experience to help us relate to it.
III. The Application of UnityA. Exalted Supremacy
Since there is but one God, there can be no one else as great as God. "Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears" (2 Samuel 7:22). God proved His superiority over the gods of Egypt when He won the contest with Pharaoh. Some of the most magnificent language in Scripture is found in the book of Isaiah where the one supreme, living God is exalted over idols which can neither see, hear, answer, nor accomplish anything. The prophets pronounce God's judgement on the heathen nations that neighbored Israel, thus recognizing God's supremacy over them. As the only God, He is in total control of the universe (Deuteronomy 32:39).
Since there is only one God, He is the one that deserves our greatest love. Both Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and Jesus (Matthew 12:29-30) connect the unity of God with the first commandment to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength."
In Deuteronomy 4:39, Moses tells the children of Israel that there is only one God. Then, in verse 40, he uses the word "therefore" to connect this with the statement that they should keep "his statutes, and his commandments". Since there is only one God, it is He to whom we should give our exclusive obedience. There is really none that we have to obey other than God. Peter used this argument in Acts 5:29 against the rulers of Israel saying, "We ought to obey God rather than men". Of course, this does not mean that there are not times when we should obey other men since God has commanded wives to obey their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), children to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1), servants to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5), etc.
The tabernacle was constructed so that God could dwell with man. If we were able to take a walk around the large, outer court surrounding that magnificent structure, one thing we would notice was that there was only a single entrance. What is the message here? There is only one way to come to God: Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). As the only God, there is no one else that can provide salvation. God says in Hosea 13:4, " there is no saviour beside me".
There are many cults in this present world who profess to be Christian, but deny the unity of God. The Mormons, for example, believe that the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate gods who are one in purpose. This makes it all the more important for true believers to be fully grounded in the fact that the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate persons but one God.