That there is but one God is the first principle of the Christian faith. It is the chief commandment given by God, on which all religion, doctrine and faith depend (Mk 12:28-30). He that says there is more than one God is as much a fool as he that believes there is no God. Indeed, Tertullian observed, “If God is not one, He is not at all.” This premise is a most certain truth, and most surely to be believed, as it is affirmed by the voice of reason and revelation.

1. The Light of Nature.

As the light of nature teaches men there is a God, so it also teaches them there is but one God. This is observable even among those nations which neglected the true God and chose not to retain Him in their knowledge—having been given over to a reprobate mind, or to judicial blindness, to believe the father of lies—they were led by degrees into the grossest idolatry. Nevertheless, the wiser of them maintained a belief in one supreme Being, whom they often called the Father of the gods and men. For instance, the chief God of the Assyrians was called “Adad”, signifying “one”; and the chief God of the Phoenicians was called “Adodus”, meaning “the King of the gods”.

2. The Light of Scripture.

In addition to the light of nature, God has also affirmed that He is one through the light of scripture. It is no surprise this remains an article of the Jewish Creed, for it shines brightly through the Old Testament. And that “we” Christians also “know” assuredly “that there is none God but one” (1 Cor 8:4) is founded on those same scriptures, together with the New Testament.

Yes, that there is but one God is a truth agreed upon by all—Jews and Gentiles, Jewish doctors and heathen poets/philosophers, Old and New Testament saints. In fact, the apostle James goes so far in commending this truth that he writes—James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble.”

However, for the better establishment of this first principle of our most holy faith, answers are given to the following three questions:

I. How Do We Know God Is One?

1. The Express Statements of Scripture.

The Old and New Testament scriptures are replete with statements referencing one God—Deut 6:4; Ps 86:10; Is 43:10, 44:6,8; 45:5,6,14,18,21,22; 46:9; Mk 12:29; Jn 17:3; Rom 3:30; 1 Cor 8:4-6; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:5. The meaning of these scriptures will be explained in answer to the second main question (see below).

2. The Necessary Existence of God.

The existence of God must be either of necessity, or of will and choice. If it is of will and choice, then it must be by the will and choice of another, or of His own. It cannot be by the will and choice of another, for then that other would be prior and superior to Him, and so be God, and not He. It cannot be of His own will and choice either, for then He must be before Himself—in such as case, He would be and not be at the same instant. These are such absurdities and contradictions as cannot be endured. It remains, therefore, that He necessarily exists. If so, there can be but one God, for no reason can be given why there should or could be, more than one necessarily existent Being.

3. The First Cause of All Things.

As God is the first Being, so He is the first Cause, and last End of all things. Effects are traced to the knowledge of causes—from one cause, to the cause of that. Each cause is followed until is found the first Cause, which is without a cause, and is what is truly called God. Subsequently, as there is but one first Cause, so there can only be but one God. Pythagoras and Plato admit this argument, when identifying unity as the principle of all things.

4. The Autonomy of the Godhead.

As God is the first Cause, so He is an absolutely independent Being. While all things owe their existence to Him, yet He receives being from none, and is therefore independent of all. Hence, the creation so depends upon God for the preservation, continuance and comfort of their being, that all live, and move and their being in Him. Yet He, the Creator, lives, moves and has His being in Himself. Since there can only be one independent Being, so there can only be one God.

5. The Eternity of God.

As God is a self-existent and autonomous Being, so He is also eternal. And if He is eternal, then He is from everlasting to everlasting, before all things, and therefore but one God. He said, “Before me there was no God formed; neither shall there be after me.” (Is 43:10) If there is no other, then there is only one God.

6. The Infinitude of God.

As God is a self-existent, autonomous and eternal Being, so He is infinite. Time and space cannot bind or contain Him, nor any creature comprehend Him, for He exists outside of all and is highly exalted above all. Now, if there were two infinites, one must either be able to reach unto, comprehend and include the other, or not. If it does not, then that which attempts to reach, comprehend and include cannot be infinite, and so not God. If it does, then that which is reached, comprehended and included by the other cannot be infinite, and so not God. It is therefore clear that there cannot be more infinites than one, and if but one infinite, then but one God.

7. The All-Sufficiency of God.

As God is a self-existent, autonomous, eternal and infinite Being, so He is All-Sufficient. The true God is “El-Shaddai”, He who stands in need of nothing, for of Him, and by Him, and for Him, are all things. All-sufficiency can only be said of One—of Him who has the fountain of life and happiness in Himself. Since there can only be one such Being whose own essence is the source of His sufficiency, so there is but one God.

8. The Perfection of God.

As God is a self-existent, autonomous, eternal, infinite and all-sufficient Being, so He is Perfect. Nothing can be added to Him, nor anything taken from Him. So, Christ said, “your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48)—He is perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Now if there are more gods than one, there must be some essential difference by which they are distinguished from one another, either an excellency or an imperfection. If it is an imperfection, then to whom it belongs cannot be God, for God is perfect. If it is an excellency, then in whom it is distinguishes Him from all others in whom it is not, and so must be the one and only God.

9. The Omnipotence of God.

Omnipotence is a perfection of the Godhead. He claims for Himself this title—“The Almighty God” (Gen 17:1). As such, He can do all things whatsoever He pleases; nothing is too hard, too difficult or impossible to Him; nor can any turn back His hand, or stop Him from acting. Now, there cannot be more than one Almighty Being—omnipotence does not exist by degrees. It cannot be said, there is one that is almighty, and another that is more almighty, and a third that is most almighty. There can be but one Almighty, and so but one God. To suppose two almighties, either the one can lay a restraint upon the other, and hinder him from acting, or he cannot. If he cannot, then he who is unable to lay a restraint upon the other is not almighty, for the other is mightier than he. If he can, then he who is subdued by the other is hindered from acting, and is not almighty. Henceforth, there can only be one Almighty Being, and therefore but one God.

10. The Goodness of God.

Goodness is an essential perfection of the Godhead, derived from none. Yea, He is the source and fountain of all goodness enjoyed by others. So Christ said, “There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matt 19:17) There can be, therefore, but one God. The heathens call their supreme God “Optimus”, meaning the best—and there can be none better than the best. Indeed, God is the “summum bonum”, that is, the chief good. As there can be only one chief good, so there is but one God.

11. The King of Heaven and Earth.

As there is only one Creator, so there is but one King and Governor of the world. Not only do all things receive their being from Him, and are preserved and supported by Him, but they are also accountable to Him. (Mal 2:10) Hence, there is but one Lawgiver, who is able to save and destroy. (Js 4:12) The kingdom of this world belongs to Him, for He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Now, if there were more kings than one, the greatest confusion would be introduced in the world. For instance, consider the different and contrary laws, edicts and decrees that might be published—how would the subjects know whom they were to obey, and to which of these laws they were duty bound to follow, and to which king they would ultimately be accountable? So, as there is but one King, so there is but one God.

II. In What Sense Are We To Understand God Is One?

1. False Views Denounced.

(1) The Arian View.

Arius (250-336 AD) was a pastor in Alexandria, Egypt who taught that the second and third Persons of the Trinity are subordinate, or inferior, to God the Father. This view is no doubt borrowed from the heathen nations who worshipped many lesser gods, yet subscribed to and believed in one supreme Being. However, this notion is so absurd and contradictory, as has already been sufficiently demonstrated, that men must be as foolish to believe there are many gods, as others are for believing there is no God. For, (1) If two subordinate and inferior deities may co-exist with one God, why not two hundred, or two thousand? No reason can be given why the one should not stand as much excluded as the other. (2) If two subordinate and inferior deities do co-exist with one God, then they are either creators or creatures—if they are creators, then they are the one supreme God, and therefore not inferior to Him; but if they are creatures, then they are not gods that made the heaven and the earth, and therefore do not co-exist with the one supreme Being. Hence, it is recorded in Jeremiah 10:11: “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” Either the three Persons of the Godhead are equal in deity, and therefore worthy of worship, as the one true God; or, they are unequal in deity, and therefore the subordinate Persons are unworthy of worship, as not being the one true God. (Rom 1:25; Ex 20:1,2)

(2) The Sabellian View.

Sabellius (215 AD) was a priest in Rome, Italy who taught that God exists as one Person, and that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are only manifestations of His indivisible Personality. Although this view has been credited to Sabellius, it was advanced even earlier by Noetus, whose followers were called Noetians and Patripassians. They asserted that in consequence of their belief, it was the Father that became incarnate, suffered and died. Others, such as Victorinus and Praxeas were much of the same opinion, against whom Tertullian wrote, and referred to one sort of the Cataphrygians who held that Jesus Christ was both Son and Father. In fact, this false notion of the Godhead may be traced back as far as Simon Magus, who contended that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were only different names of the one and same person—that they were manifestations of the different ways God chose to operate. Such was the delusion of Simon’s belief, that before and after his false profession (Acts 8:9), he declared himself some great one, and said he was the Father in Samaria, the Son in Judea and the Holy Spirit in the rest of the nations. And, it is from the heresy of these earlier groups that has given rise to the more recent advocates, such as the Socinians and modern Unitarians. There are even some, professing evangelical doctrines, that are tainted with these views—while they fancy themselves as having received new light, they are actually reviving an old stale-error, an ancient work of darkness, which has been refuted over and over through the centuries.

Now, if the Father, Son and Spirit were but one person, they could not be three testifiers, as they are said to be (1 Jn 5:7). To testify is a personal action—if the Father is one that bears record, the Son another and the Holy Spirit a third, they must be three distinct Persons, and not only one. Again, when Christ said, “I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:30), He cannot mean one person, for this is to make His words contradictory and an absurdity—how can He say I and myself are one, or, that I am one, and my Father is one, and we are one person? No, the Sabellian view of God is to be utterly rejected.

(3) The Tritheistic View.

According to this view, it is asserted that there are three essences or beings numerically distinct, which may be said to be one, because of the same nature. Even as free men may be said to be one, because of the same human nature, so it is advanced that the three Persons of the Godhead are said to be one, because of the same Divine nature. Now, this view is incorrect because it ultimately alleges that there are three Gods and not one. Indeed, this is the charge often brought against the Trinitarians, and is as frequently denied by them. For though it is affirmed the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, yet they are not three Gods, but one God. This is the true notion of the TriUne Godhead, which I shall now amplify.

2. Correct View Affirmed.

The TriUnity of God does not consist of the Father having one part, the Son having another part and the Holy Spirit a third part of the Divine Nature. Rather, as the whole fulness of the Godhead dwells in the Father, so it dwells equally in the Son (Jn 15:16; Col 2:9) and equally in the Holy Spirit. There is, therefore, but one God, existing in three Persons who possess the same Nature jointly, equally and eternally.

(1) Clarifying the Truth.

To be clear,

1. This unity of the three Persons is not a unity of testimony only. For it is not said of them as of the three that bear record on earth, that they “agree in one”, but rather, that they “are one” (1 Jn 5:7,8)—this is a unity of Being, not a mere agreement. They have one and the same infinite and undivided Being.

2. This unity of the three Persons is not a composition of parts. While man is a composite of body and soul, yet God is a simple and uncompounded Spirit, and therefore exists as one undivided Essence.

3. This unity of the three Persons is not a unity of genus and species. While there may be many singulars of the same kind in creation, yet God is one in number and nature. He stands opposed to the polytheism of the heathens, who had many gods (1 Cor 8:4,5), and to all nominal and figurative deities, such as angels, civil magistrates, judges &c., and even to all who are not by nature God (Gal 4:8).

(2) Answering Objections.

Sometimes this unity in God is objected to and set aside because,

1. God ascribes to Himself many names, as El, Elohim, Jehovah, &c. But this is no objection to the unity in God since these are names of the one God. Even as one and the same man may have different names, so the one true and living God is known by different names.

2. God ascribes to Himself many attributes, such as love, grace, truth, &c. Neither is this an objection to the unity in God since these attributes do not differ from Him, but are all one in God, and are of the same Essence. Though they are distinctly considered by man, because his understanding is too weak to know the whole of God’s Essence at once, yet they all belong to the one undivided Essence which is God.

3. God exists in three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nor is this an objection to the unity in God since the three Persons differ not from the divine essence, but by their distinctive modes of subsisting, and are but one God.

4. There are various scriptures which appropriate the unity of God to one Person, at the exclusion of the others. Now, this objection cannot be substantiated, for each of these scriptures are to be understood as including each of the three Persons when referencing the unity in God. On this point, several scriptures are selected, which will be opened up, and the unity of God vindicated.

(1) Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:”

It is from this text that Christ spoke to the scribe regarding the first and chief commandment of God (Mk 12:28,29), the beginning of which asserts that there is but one Jehovah. The name Jehovah, however, is not peculiar to the Father, nor is it exclusive of the Son or of the Holy Spirit. For the Son of God is often called by the name Jehovah (Ex 17:7; Num 21:6; 1 Cor 10:9; Jer 23:6; Zech 12:10), as is the Holy Spirit (Is 6:1,5,8,9; Acts 28:25,26), with the Father. Hence, it is the TriUne Godhead which is one Lord, or Jehovah. The same is true for the name Elohenu—this is a common title for God, and it is a word of the plural number. This name may well be rendered, ‘our divine persons are one Lord’, and this is most certainly the case. For the Father is the first of these Persons, Christ the Son is another of these Persons, and the Holy Spirit is the third of these Persons—and these three divine Persons, or Elohenu, are the one Jehovah. And it is to the great three in one, that the same fervent love men have for Jehovah, they are to have for the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

(2) 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.”; 45:21,22: “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

The several passages in Isaiah which refer to the unity of the Divine Being, cannot be understood to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit. For instance, in Isaiah 44:6, the Lord God calls Himself “the first and the last”, a title which also Christ the Son of God claims for Himself (Rev 1:8). In this same text, the Lord God identifies Himself as the Redeemer, a name peculiar to the Son, who agreed to be the Redeemer—and this He did in the fulness of time, obtaining eternal redemption for His people. Again, in Isaiah 45:21, the Lord God is spoken of as a Saviour; and in verse 22, Christ is represented as a Saviour inviting and encouraging His people to look to Him for salvation. This encouragement is enforced with a reason—“for I am God, and there is none else.” And in verse 23, the Apostle Paul makes special application to Christ the Son of God (Rom 14:10,11). Now, as the Father cannot be supposed to be excluded hereby, so neither should the Son and Spirit be thought to be excluded by similar expressions elsewhere.

(3) John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, which affirm the Father to be the only true God. However, they cannot be understood to the exclusion of Christ Himself. This is so, because (1) Christ identified Himself so closely with the only true God, that He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yea, one with Him—of the same nature, power and glory. Not only so, but (2) Christ is called the only true God in Jude 4, and the true God and eternal life in 1 John 5:20. And besides this, (3) Eternal life is made as much to depend on the knowledge of Christ as of His Father (Jn 6:47,53,54). Now, the reason Christ uses this mode of expression in John 17:3, distinguishing the Father from the Son, is because Christ is describing Himself by His office as sent of God.

(4) Romans 3:30: “Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.”

This text declares that there is one God of the Jews and Gentiles (Rom 3:29). However, it cannot be understood to the exclusion of Christ the Son or of the Holy Spirit. This is so, with reference to Christ the Son, because (1) The one God that justifies, is Jehovah our righteousness—the Sun of righteousness (Jer 23:6; Mal 4:2); (2) It is not only His righteousness by which men are justified, but He Himself justifies them by His knowledge, that is, by faith (Is 53:11). And this is so, with reference to the Holy Spirit, because He brings men near Christ’s righteousness, and applies it—He works faith to receive it, and pronounces men justified by it (1 Cor 6:11).

(5) 1 Corinthians 8:6: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”

This text expresses the faith of Christians, that there is “but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.” Now, these words do not stand apposed to the other two Persons of the Godhead, but rather, to the many false lords and gods among the heathens (1 Cor 8:5). Nor is the Father called the Father of Christ, or opposed to Him, but the Father of all—that is the Creator. A comparison of this point with Malachi 2:10 shows that Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit are included in the unity of God (Ecc 12:1). At any rate, if Christ could be thought to stand excluded from the one God, the Father, then by the same rule of interpretation, God the Father must stand excluded from the one Lord, which is said to be Christ in the same text—a contradiction that cannot be sustained. Once these observations are applied to Ephesians 4:5,6, there can be no doubt as to the real meaning of Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

(6) 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”

The reason Christ is referred to as distinct from the one God, though He be not different, is for the sake of identifying Him in His office as Mediator. Now, if Christ be not the one God, with the other divine Persons, He could not be a Mediator between God and man. If He be not the one God, how could He be a daysman between God and man, and lay His hands on both? If He be not the one God, how could He draw night to God, and entreat with Him about peace and reconciliation; and much less, how could He make peace for men, and be a ransom for them? For this He must be, as stated in verse 6. Far from this text arguing against the unity in God, it quite clearly affirms it. Though there are three Persons in the Godhead, none of them stand excluded from Deity—there is but one God. This is an article of the Christian faith that must be inviolably maintained.

III. Why Is It Important To Understand God Is One?

The doctrine of the unity of the divine Being is of great practical and religious importance.

1. It Prepares the Mind for Worship.

(1) It Directs the Mind as to the Object of Worship.

The one God is the object of all true worship. Hence, the first and second commandments forbid worshipping or paying homage to any other creature, whether they be angels, men, beasts, trees or rocks (Ex 20:3-6). And, as the three Persons of the Godhead are one with God, so each may and should be worshipped in equal measure. Just as baptism is administered equally, in the name of all three; and prayer is jointly made unto them; so solemn acts of religious worship are to be given to them (Matt 28:19; Rev 1:4,5).

(2) It Guides the Mind in the Right Consideration of the One God.

As the human mind is unable to conceive of the whole of God at one time, so it is liable to create an inaccurate image of God—an image that is subject to change from one day to the next. Subsequently, the doctrine of the unity of the divine Being guides the mind to conceive of God without confusion or division. For, as each Person of the Godhead is one and the same with God, so the Father is considered in the act of worship as the one God, with the Son and the Spirit; and the Son is considered in the act of worship as the one God, with the Father and the Spirit; and the Spirit is considered in the act of worship as the one God, with the Father and the Son. The people of God are led to worship the one God in three Persons, and the three Persons in one God.

2. It Settles the Heart in the Object of Faith.

The object of faith, hope and love is to be fixed on the one true and living God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Upon Him alone are the redeemed of Christ to make their confidence, hope and the centre of their affections (Jer 17:7; Ps 73:25). A knowledge of the doctrine of the unity in God delivers the saint from those distractions in the world that would otherwise pull their minds away from Him in whom they live, and move and have their being.

3. It Promotes Unity Among the Saints.

This doctrine of the unity in God greatly promotes and encourages unity, harmony and concord among the saints of God. For when the brethren worship and serve the same Lord, they share the same faith. This is the intent of the Apostle Paul in writing Ephesians 4:3-6: “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”


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