How Is God One?
"Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4).
The Bible also tells us that all other supposed gods are idols— figments of man's own imagination gone awry. Throughout history man has created many false gods. It is with this contrast in mind that we should approach Deuteronomy 6:4—"the LORD is one."
Many do not fully comprehend how the Bible uses numbers. This factor contributes to considerable confusion about God.
How should we understand the oneness of God? As well as the usual straightforward use of numbering, the concept of complete unity is associated with the Hebrew word translated "one" in Deuteronomy 6:4.
Two become one
Let's go to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. There, after the creation of Adam and Eve, we see the institution of the marriage relationship: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). A couple becomes "one flesh" in a marital sexual union. But there is another important metaphorical meaning as well. Though two separate and distinct beings, in this context, the two become one.
Some 4,000 years later Jesus repeated this concept when He said, regarding marriage, that "the two shall become one flesh, so that they are no longer two. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Mark 10:8-9). In marriage the two become one when joined in sexual union. But they still remain two separate individuals, still one male and one female—joined together in marriage as one family unit.
Of course, this oneness is not complete or total. Yet in a physical sense that complete oneness is reached at the moment of conception. As one science book put it: "Human life begins in . . . cooperation of the most intimate sort. The two cells wholly merge. They combine their genetic material. Two very different beings become one. The act of making a human being involves . . . cooperation so perfect that the partners' separate identities vanish" (Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, 1992, p. 199).
Even the separate DNA substances of two distinct human beings combine at conception to form a new, unique human being, one different from all other persons.
How wonderful are the things of God! How sublime are His purposes for the human family. Understanding marriage and the family helps us grasp aspects of the Kingdom of God.
One Church but many members
Continuing with our study of the biblical use of numbers, Paul wrote that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). There is one Church, said Paul, but composed of many individual members possessing various spiritual gifts and talents.
He further explained to the Corinthian brethren: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but the same God who works all in all" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).
Paul spent considerable effort to get this simple point across. He continues in verse 12: "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." Here Paul compares the Church to the human body.
Next he reminds us in principle of what he had previously written in Galatians 3:28 (Galatians was written before 1 Corinthians). "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13).
The Church is the spiritual body of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:2223). So that we fully understand, Paul then repeats Himself by continuing in 1 Corinthians 12 to compare the Church to the human body, which likewise has many members performing different functions: "For in fact the [human] body is not one member, but many . . . But now indeed there are many members, yet one body" (verses 14, 20).
Finally, in verse 27, he makes this basic point yet again: "Now you are the [one] body of Christ and individually [different] members of it" (verse 27, NRSV). In that sense the divine family is similar: one God and only one God, yet two individual glorified family members now constituting that one God—plus many more potential members among mankind (Romans 8:29).
Paul also wrote in another context, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name" (Ephesians 3:14-15, NIV). Although there is only one family, there are many members, called the "firstfruits" (James 1:18). Truly converted Christians, led by God's Spirit, are already counted as members of the family (Romans 8:14; 1 John 3:1-2), even though they have not yet received glorification and immortality in the resurrection to eternal life, which will take place at Christ's return (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Elsewhere Paul tells us that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 15:50). We must be changed at the time of the resurrection (verses 51-54; Philippians 3:20-21). God will accomplish that in due course—provided we have overcome and developed righteous, godly character (Revelation 2:26; 3:21; 21:7-8).
One Church, one God
In John 17 Jesus prayed to the Father, "And this is eternal life, that they [Christ's disciples] may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (verse 3). There is only one God, yet Jesus Christ is a separate Person—distinct from the Father, but at one and in union with Him.
Then, in the course of this incredible prayer spoken shortly before His crucifixion, Christ said, "Holy Father, protect them [Jesus' followers] in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one" (verse 11, NRSV). Earlier He had said, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30).
You need to grasp this enormously important point. The Church is to be one just as God the Father and Jesus Christ are one. That's quite a tall order! The various members should be unified with each other just as Christ and the Father are in perfect union. Although we have to realistically admit that this has rarely been the case in church history, God expects us to strive for that spiritual unity.
The members of the true Church of God are all to be joined together by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:13)—living by that Spirit. It is every individual's responsibility to seek out the organized fellowship that best represents the biblical model of the New Testament Church. (For further understanding, please request our free booklet The Church Jesus Built.)
We see, then, that the Father and Jesus Christ are one in the same sense that Jesus prayed for the Church to be one—one in purpose, belief, direction, faith, spirit and attitude—joined together by the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel of John gives us additional insight into this wonderful truth. Jesus said to the Father during His prayer: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which you gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one . . ." (John 17:20-23).
This spiritual oneness, this unity between and among brethren, can be accomplished only through God's Spirit working in all truly converted Christians. Their unity through the Holy Spirit should reflect the perfect unity—the oneness—of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son.
Another biblical example of oneness
Christ tells us we are to live "by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). Before any of the books of the New Testament were written, the Hebrew Scriptures—what we call the Old Testament—were the only recorded "word of God" available. Often they can clear our foggy vision and help us understand the spiritual intent of the New Testament. After all, we should understand that all the books of the Bible are the revealed Word of God, and all increase our understanding (2 Timothy 3:16).
Consider a seldom-read passage back in the book of Judges that illustrates how oneness can mean unity. "So all the children of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, as well as from the land of Gilead, and the congregation gathered together as one man before the LORD at Mizpeh" (Judges 20:1).
For once, the entire nation of Israel was wholly unified in purpose to meet a serious problem affecting the whole country. The expression "as one man" is used to convey that the nation was fully united at that particular time.
Verses 8 and 11 tell us, "Then all the people arose as one man . . . So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united together as one man." Of course, they still remained many individual citizens of the same nation. Here again the Bible itself sheds light on the meaning of oneness.
Comprehending God's oneness
Paul explains that "there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live" (1 Corinthians 8:6). Scripture reveals two separate, distinct persons, both spirit, yet one in unity, belief, direction and purpose—members of the same divine family. "I and My Father are one," said Jesus (John 10:30).
When we understand what the Bible teaches, we see that there is only one God, just as there is only one human race—one extended family descended from Adam of presently about six billion individuals. Just the same, the one divine family—the family of God—is open to an unlimited number of members.
Each normal human family is a microcosm of that one great divine family (compare Romans 1:20). If we comprehend this marvelous, wondrous biblical principle, we should be reflecting our ultimate destiny in our marriages, families and everyday lives. We should strive to reflect the love and unity of the divine family—God the Father and His Son Jesus—in our family relationships.
|©1997-2007 United Church of God -
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
All correspondence and questions should be sent to email@example.com. Send inquiries regarding the operation of this Web site to firstname.lastname@example.org