Doctrine | God
What does the Bible teach about God?
Question | How many Gods are there?
Answer | God is the one and only, true and living God, and there are no other gods except Him. No one is like Him, and He cannot be compared to anyone or anything.
Scripture | Isaiah 46:9 “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.”
Explanation| The God that we began to explore with our first question is infinite (among many other characteristics), and, as we’ve already seen, is very much not like us in His God-ness. But how unique is He anyway? Is He the only one like Himself? That’s what this question seeks to explore. How many Gods are there (or exist) and, as our answer explains further, is there anything that comes close to being like Him?
He is One. The God that we’re talking about—the God as revealed in the Bible—is ‘one.’ This certainly means that He is the only God (which we’ll look at below), but it also means that He is unitedin who He is. (I’m going to use unity rather than oneness to describe this particular characteristic of God. Oneness is often used by some who believe [wrongly] that God is so One that He cannot be Trinity.) The unity of God—that He is one—is true, and by His own declaration this truth must be embraced by His people which then impacts the way they live.1 Beyond being true, though, His unity is also important in understanding how all of His characteristics (or attributes) work together. That is, all of the characteristics that make God, ‘God,’ are necessary and perfectly complement each other, and they do so all the time. God’s unity is also important as we hear His words and look at His works across human history and the pages of the Bible. So, for example, the God that we hear and see in the Old Testament is the same God that we see and hear in the New Testament (e.g. comparing God’s wrath and God’s mercy). Taking this even a bit further, God is never—at any time, and in any way—in conflict with Himself. He’s never divided. He never has a bad day where He’s ‘not Himself.’ He is always in perfect harmony with Himself. And because He is one, He is impartial and is always consistent with who He is.2 We’ll move on for now, but keep this truth about God—that He is one—close at hand, for it will be especially important when we get to the next question.
He is the only true and living God. Put another way, ‘there are no other gods except Him.’ He’s it! There are no other gods. He is the only God. He has always been the only God, and will always be the only God. ‘No other’ is a phrase that the Bible uses to refer to the uniqueness of God as God, specifically in relation to everything else (as our verse above states). And it uses this phrase (and others like it) many times. It’s almost as if we need to not only be told but regularly reminded that there is ‘no other’ God. Well, in fact we do! Take the Ten Commandments as an example. Within the first four commands, God tells His people, Israel, that because He is the only God, they are to treat Him as the only God (cf. Exodus 20:1-11). And when God commands them, for example, not to have any other gods before Him or not to make for themselves any carved image, He isn’t saying that there are such things as other gods. He is saying that we have a tendency to treat other things as god or gods.3 The Bible refers to such gods as ‘false’ gods or idols. So even though there actually is only one God, because we are drawn to false gods God often refers to Himself as the ‘true’ and ‘living’ God.4 Anything else that attempts to function like God is artificial and dead.
He is incomparable. Incomparable is another way of saying, ‘no one is like Him, and He cannot be compared to anyone or anything.’ Remember from our previous question, I said that God is so ‘first, best, and highest’ that even any sort of second doesn’t even come close? This is what we’re talking about. Nothing can compare to Him. No one is like Him. We may attempt no-comparison comparisons, like when we say, “It’s like apples and oranges.” Or, we might also try to compare the range of difference between two peoples’ smarts, and then say of the one over the other, “His IQ is off the charts!” But neither of these attempts will do when it comes to thinking about God. Why? Because God is in an entirely separate category all by Himself. Do you think you can compare Him with something, with anything? Interestingly, God, Himself, poses such a question, so that in our attempt to find an answer we might find Him to be who He says He is.5 God is what no one else is. God knows what no one else knows. God does what no one else even can do. This truth, that God—in all that He is—cannot be compared to anyone or anything, leaves us, well, speechless!6 We don’t know how to fully describe Him (that is, He’s indescribable). And even more, we don’t know how to fully describe him, not only because we lack the words but also because we lack the knowledge necessary to understand Him fully (that is, He is incomprehensible). So, we need God to tell us about Himself (and He has, in His word, the Bible). But this also means that whatever sort of descriptions we try to come up with in order to understand God will always be limited, because we can only use what we know to describe what in the end cannot be compared to anything that is.
Our verse calls us to ‘remember’ that God is wholly and entirely unique. If you look at the verse in its context (the verses around it), we are instructed further in our remembering. First, we do need to remember this truth about God, and our remembering happens best when we reflect upon ‘the former things of old’—God’s words and works recorded in His word. Second, we need to remember this truth about God by actually placing what He has said about Himself up against the things in our lives that we may be treating as god(s). As we rehearse what we know about God, and then look at our false gods in comparison with Him, what’s the result? No contest! Nothing even comes close.
This is what the Bible teaches about God.
1 Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
2 Romans 3: 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
3 Romans 1: 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
4 Jeremiah 10: 10 But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
5 Isaiah 40: 18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? … 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. (See also, Isaiah 46:5)
6 Ephesians 3: 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.