Paul's inspired words make it clear that our fellowship makes us "one" with whatever God that we worship, whether Jesus Christ -- the only true Lord -- or a false god that actually represents an evil spirit.
"One" used of the Spiritual Unity of Christ with the Father
"One" is also used in the New Testament to show the spiritual unity that Jesus Christ shared with God the Father even while Jesus was in the flesh. Jesus Himself said, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30).
Christians who follow the Modalist definition of oneness interpret this Scripture as saying that Jesus and the Father are "one" in number -- only one divine Being. But does this interpretation fit the true meaning of "one" in John 10:30? Let us examine this verse in its context:
"Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, 'How long dost Thou make us to doubt? If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.'
"Jesus answered them, 'I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one [Greek hen, one in essence; i.e., the Father was doing the work through Jesus].
"Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, 'Many good works have I showed you from My Father; for which of those works do ye stone Me?' The Jews answered Him, saying, 'For a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God.' Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of Him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him' " (John 10:24-38).
Notice that the Greek word translated "one" in John 10:30 is hen, which means "one in essence," and denotes spiritual unity and accord. If Jesus had intended to reveal that He and the Father were one and the same Being, we would find the Greek word heis in this verse. Heis is the Greek word that means "one in number" or "one and the same" (1Corinthians 10:17, Ephesians 4:5-6).
In The Hebrew / Greek Key Study Bible we read,
"Heis means one numerically while hen means one in essence, as in John 10:30; 'I and My Father are one (hen)' (i.e., one in essence although two different personalities). Had it said heis, it would have meant one person" (Zodhiates, p. 1711).
The Greek word hen, or "one in essence," is the same word that is used in other New Testament passages to show the spiritual unity of individual Christians with one another (Romans 12:5), as well as the spiritual unity of Israelites and Gentiles through Christ (Ephesians 2:14). It would be ridiculous to interpret these Scriptures as evidence that individual Christians are "one person" or "one in number." It is equally foolish to claim that the use of hen in John 10:30 means that Jesus and the Father are the same Being!
When Jesus said, "I and My Father are one," He was declaring to the Jews that He was "one in essence" with the Father because the Spirit of the Father was dwelling in Him. In the same sense, individual Christians are "one in essence" because the Spirit of the Father and of Christ dwells in them. It is the UNITY OF THE SPIRIT that joins Christians in "one body" and makes every Christian "one" with Jesus Christ and the Father.
It is important to understand that in John 10:30 the Greek word hen, or "one in essence," is expressing UNITY OF THE SPIRIT. It is NOT defining God as one divine Being, or as one "divine Substance" with three "Persons" or "distinctions." The fact that hen is found in numerous Scriptural references to men and women, both Israelite and Gentile, who have received the Spirit of God -- but who are nevertheless fleshly human beings -- shows that "one in essence" is NOT limited to God alone. There is no Scriptural basis for interpreting "one in essence" as one divine Being, or one "divine Substance" with three "Persons" or "distinctions," when the Scriptures use this same term in reference to individual Christians. The Scriptures clearly reveal that fleshly human beings who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit are "one in essence" in the same way that Jesus and the Father are "one in essence." Notice Jesus' own words as recorded by the apostle John:
"As Thou [Theos, the Father] hast sent Me [Theos, the Son] into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one [Greek hen, one in essence]; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one [Greek hen, one in essence] in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one [Greek hen, one in essence] , even [exactly] as We are one [Greek hen, one in essence]: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one [Greek hen, one in essence]; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me . . ." (John 17:18-23).
These words of Jesus Christ make it abundantly clear that true Christians become "one" EXACTLY as Jesus and the Father are "one." No one is deluded enough to claim that Christians merge and become one "Being" or one indivisible "Substance" when they become "one" with Christ. Then why do so many, who profess themselves to be wise and knowledgeable in the Scriptures, persist in imagining God as "one divine Being" or "one divine Substance with three manifestations"? Why do they refuse to acknowledge that the word "one" in these Scriptural references was used by Jesus to express His spiritual unity with the Father?
Those who cling to the false concepts of philosophy are blinding themselves to the true meaning of God's oneness. If we sincerely seek to understand the oneness of God, we must look to the words of God, and we must be willing to acknowledge what the Scriptures reveal.
We have studied Scriptural examples of the use of the word "one" to express the spiritual unity of God. Now let us examine the usage of "one" in Scriptural references which describe other attributes of God.
"One" used to show the Superiority of God
Two Scriptures, one in the Old Testament and one in the New, are often used to support the Modalist and Trinitarian concepts of God's oneness. The primary Old Testament verse is Deuteronomy 6:4:
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord."
And the primary New Testament verse is Galatians 3:20:
"Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one."
In Modalist and Trinitarian theology, all other Scriptures are made to conform to the meaning attributed to these two verses. As a spokesman for one denomination recently claimed, Deuteronomy 6:4 carries the weight of " . . . the full divinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" and is the "biblical foundation for all Trinitarian discussions."
There is no Scripture that generates more controversy concerning the meaning of "one" than Deuteronomy 6:4. What meaning did God convey when He inspired Moses to proclaim,
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord [Hebrew Jehovah] our God [Hebrew Elohim] is one Lord [Hebrew Jehovah]"
Through these words, Jehovah is conveying a message of great significance. He is communicating to Israel through Moses and reminding Israel of an essential attribute of His nature. What conception of Himself did Jehovah desire that Moses and all Israel draw from these words? Did He intend to convey the message that He was only one in number--or three in one--as many have assumed? Is this view of Deuteronomy 6:4 the correct Scriptural interpretation? How can we know the true meaning of these words that God Himself inspired Moses to proclaim?
In order to understand the true meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4, we must first examine it in the light of the Scriptural context in which God has placed it. The true meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4 becomes clear when we read the preceding chapters in the book of Deuteronomy. Let's begin with Deuteronomy 4. The chapter opens with an exhortation to Israel to keep the statutes and judgments commanded by God and delivered to them by Moses. In the following verses, Moses reminds Israel of the greatness of their God, and admonishes them not to turn aside after false gods made in the image of humans or animals, or to corrupt themselves by worshipping the "host of heaven"--gods and goddesses of the sun, moon and stars. Moses proclaims that if Israel fails to heed his warning, God will scatter them among the nations. Then Moses shows God's mercy by declaring,
"But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord [Hebrew Jehovah] thy God [Hebrew Elohim], thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul" (verse 29).
Continuing in Deuteronomy 4, in verse 35 we read,
"Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord [Hebrew Jehovah] He is God [Hebrew Elohim]; there is none else beside Him. "
And in verse 39 we read,
"Know therefore this day and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord [Hebrew Jehovah] He is God [Hebrew Elohim] in heaven above, and upon earth beneath: there is none else."
The reason for this emphasis is revealed in verse 40:
"Thou shalt keep therefore His statutes, and His commandments . . ."
In Deuteronomy 4, Jehovah / Elohim is revealing His exclusive superiority by inspiring Moses to proclaim "there is none else." Jehovah is clearly revealing that HE ALONE IS GOD. In the following chapter, Deuteronomy 5, Moses reminds Israel of their covenant with God at Mt. Horeb (verse 2). Moses then repeats the words of God when He spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel. Moses recounts the fear that filled Israel at the awesome manifestation of God's presence, and their request that Moses act as mediator between them and God. They agreed to keep all the words of God that Moses delivered to them. In verse 32, Moses binds Israel to their promise by declaring,
"Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God has commanded you . . ."
This is the Scriptural context leading up to Deuteronomy 6. Israel is being admonished not to turn aside but to obey the commands of God because He alone is God. As we have seen, Moses emphasizes in Deuteronomy 4 that the God of Israel is the only God when he twice states, " . . . there is none else" (verses 29 and 35). When Moses later proclaims in Deuteronomy 6:4, "The Lord our God is one Lord," he is repeating what has already been stated in Deuteronomy 4: The Lord is the only God.
That this is the true meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4 is verified by the New Testament. In the Gospel of Mark, we find irrefutable proof that Deuteronomy 6:4 and Deuteronomy 4:35 are identical in meaning! Here is that Scriptural evidence as recorded by Mark:
"And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, 'Which is the first [the foremost] commandment of all?'
"And Jesus answered him, 'The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour [the one near] as thyself [Leviticus 19:18]. There is none other commandment greater than these.'
"And the scribe said unto Him, 'Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth: for there is one God [Deuteronomy 6:4]; and there is none other but He [Deuteronomy 4:35]: and to love Him with all the heart, all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices' " (Mark 12:28-33).
The scribe was literally saying, as it is in all Greek texts,
"Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth: that He is ONE and there is none besides Him" (Mark 12:32).
The Greek word translated "one" is heis. This Greek word has several different meanings. It can mean the numeral one (Mark 14:10, the only one (Mark 12:6), one and the same (1Corinthians 10:17), or someone (John 11:49). In Mark 12:32, as the context shows, it means "the only one" (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 231).
When Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, the scribe understood Him to mean that "there is [only] one God; and there is none other but He" (Mark 12:32). Jesus placed His stamp of approval on the scribe's interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4 when He said, "Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34).
Jesus' own words confirm the true interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4. When God inspired this famous utterance through Moses, He did not intend to convey that He is "one" in number, but that He is " the only one" -- the only true God. The fact that God alone is God does not rule out the possibility that God is more than one in number. The phrase "the only one" is qualitative, NOT quantitative. It shows the exclusive superiority of God, but it DOES NOT God to one Being, nor does it indicate that God is three in one.
Many passages in the Old Testament bear testimony to the fact that our God is the only Lord, and there is none other. Here are several prime examples found in the book of Isaiah:
"To whom then will ye liken GOD [Hebrew El]? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?" (Isaiah 40:18.)
"'To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal?' saith the Holy One" (Isaiah 40:25).
"'Ye are My witnesses,' saith the Lord [Hebrew Jehovah], 'and My servant [Israel] Whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He: before Me there was no God formed [nothing formed of God], neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord [Hebrew Jehovah]; and beside Me there is no saviour' " (Isaiah 43:10-11).
"I am the Lord [Hebrew Jehovah] and there is none else, there is no God beside Me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else " (Isaiah 45:5-6).
" . . . there is no God [Hebrew Elohim] 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 [Hebrew El] and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:21-22).
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God [Hebrew El], and there is none else; I am God [Hebrew El], and there is none like Me" (Isaiah 46:9).
These Old Testament examples illustrate the true meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4, and Jesus' own words in the New Testament confirm that "one Lord" in Deuteronomy 6:4 is referring to the exclusive superiority of the only true God.
Rejecting this Scriptural truth, religious philosophers engage in a subtle juggling of words to distort the true meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4. They take a word that functions as an adjective and give it the meaning of a noun. They then empty the noun of its meaning by viewing it as an adjective. Although the order of words has not changed, the noun now functions in their argument as an adjective, and the adjective now functions as a noun.
Their distortion of Deuteronomy 6:4 is a prime example of their skill in word juggling. We have just shown that the Scriptures interpret the word "one" in Deuteronomy 6:4 as an adjective meaning "the only one." Ignoring this Scriptural interpretation, religious philosophers perform their functional operation on Deuteronomy 6:4 by treating the noun "Lord" as an adjective, the noun "God" as an adjective, and the adjective "one" as a noun! "Lord" and "God" are presented in their ill-conceived webs of logic as modifying "One." In this manner, "Lord" (Hebrew Jehovah) and "God" (Hebrew Elohim) are turned into properties or characteristics of the "One," and the adjective "one" is turned into a noun that names God!
The result of this clever reversal of meaning is a logical construct so devious that no one is able to fully understand or explain it! "One," or God, is defined as a "divine Substance" which has three actions or actualizations -- Father function, Son function or Holy Spirit function. In the Athanasian Creed of the Catholic Church, all three are treated as consubstantial "attributes" of the deified "One," with the function of Holy Spirit "in procession" from either the Father or the Son. In the Arian Creed, none of these so-called "attributes" are consubstantial but are, true to ancient philosophical principles, of different hierarchical composition. In this religio-philosophic ranking, the Son is inferior to the Father and the Holy Spirit is "in procession" only from the Father. In both the Athanasian and Arian creeds, the whole is rendered a mystery by the subtle process of "depersonifying" God.
Religious philosophers proclaim to the world that God is not a personal God but is an impersonal mystery defined at any given time by an actualized function. The God of this theology is a VACUOUS empty God. The truth that the Lord is the only God and besides Him there is no other is turned into the lie that God is three functions or "actualizations" in the "One" -- a nebulous "divine Substance."
We can be thankful that God has revealed Himself to us through His Word. We need not be confused or intimidated by the clever arguments of theologians who philosophize on His divine nature. The true meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4 is preserved in the Scriptures for all who are willing to accept it. When we let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures, there is no question that "one" in Deuteronomy 6:4 is referring to the exclusive superiority of God as "the only one."