Shorter Catechism #5
Q. Are there more Gods than one? A: There is but One only, the living and true God.
Here the Divines derived their description of God from Jeremiah 10:10: “But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the everlasting King.”
Christians have asserted universally and without question that there is but One only, living and true God.
The Apostle’s Creed states, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.“
The Nicene Creed states, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.“
The Symbol of Chalcedon assumes the oneness of God when speaking on the two natures of Christ.
And then you have the Athanasian Creed with its strong focus on the doctrine of the Trinity. Listen to the great emphasis this creed places on the Oneness of God:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith…And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one….And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal…As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible…And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty….And yet they are not three Gods, but one God…And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord…So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
Notice the strong language used in this creed: One must believe this in order to be saved. The creed repeats at the end: “This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.”
This is a big deal. And it is a big deal because Scripture makes it a big deal. This mono-theistic assertion is expressly supported and everywhere assumed by the entire Bible:
Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one [יהוה אֶחָד, yhwh ˒eḥāḏ].”
Isaiah 45:5: “I am the Lord, and there is no other [אֵין עוֹד, ˒ēyn ˓ôḏ]; apart from me there is no God.”
Mark 12:29: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one [κύριος εἷς ἐστιν, kyrios heis estin].”
1 Corinthians 8:4: “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one [οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς, oudeis theos ei mē heis].”
1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God [εἷς γὰρ θεός, heis gar theos], and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God [εἷς ἐστιν ὁ θεός, heis estin ho theos]. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
That there is ONE God, Scripture is clear. But notice, the Catechism describes this One God as (1) True and (2) Living.
1. God is the true God in opposition to all false gods.
No doubt, a very large number of people would find the words of the Athanasian creed too harsh, unkind, whatever; stating that one must believe that there is ONE God in order to be saved. But there is a logical consistency here that cannot be dismissed, unless of course, you insist on being a fool.
The implication of there being one TRUE God is that there is but one true religion; there is but ONE TRUTH!
Thomas Watson, noting the logical implication, says here:
“If there were many gods, then there might be many religions. Every God would be worshipped in his way; but if there be but one God, there is but one religion; one Lord, one faith. Some say, we may be saved in any religion; but it is absurd to imagine that God who is One in essence, should appoint several religions in which he will be worshipped. It is as dangerous to set up a false religion, as to set up a false god. There are many ways to hell; men may go thither which way their fancy leads them; but there is only one direct road to heaven, viz., faith and holiness. There is no way to be saved but this. As there is but one God, so there is but one true religion.”
Do you see the connection? Since there is one TRUE God, there is ONE TRUTH. And to deny that one true God is to deny the one truth. How then, can you expect to be saved by denying THE truth and believing a lie?
But Scripture not only describes God as the one True God, but the Living God as well.
(2) Just as God is the TRUE God in opposition to false gods, so God is the Living God in opposition to dead gods or idols.
Psalm 115. “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not;’ &c.— Ps. 115:4-6.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “Ye turned from idols, to serve the living God.“— 1 Thess. 1:9.
How is God the LIVING God?
Scripture teaches us that this one true God created the universe.
Heb. 11.3. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
And God did so, not because He was lonely or lacking something, but because he willed to do so for the purpose of Glorifying Himself. But it didn’t end there. After creating the universe, God continues to preserve and govern all his creatures and all their actions.
Notice the connection Paul makes between the “living God”, His providence, and dead idols in Acts 17. ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
GOD is LIVING. GOD is TRUE. And GOD is who He is ALONE.