How is God defined as ONE
in the New Testament?
The New Testament also uses "one" in reference to God as "the only one." We find this qualitative use of "one" in a much misunderstood verse in Paul's epistle to the Galatians. Let us examine the use of "one" in Galatians 3:20 in the light of its Scriptural context. We will see that the word "one" is used to qualify God as "the only one" Who bound Himself in the Abramic Covenant.
"Now to Abraham and his seed [Christ] were the promises made [God's unconditional covenant with Abraham]. He saith not, And to seeds [Israel], as of many; but as of one [Greek hen, one in essence], and to thy seed, which is Christ [Greek Christos].
"And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before [the Abramic Covenant of 1916 B.C.] of God [Greek Theos, the Father] in Christ [the promised Seed], the law [the Mosaic Covenant of 1486 B.C.], which was four hundred and thirty years after [the Abramic Covenant] cannot disannul, that it should make the promise [of the Abramic Covenant] of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law [the Mosaic Covenant], it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise [the Abramic Covenant].
"Wherefore then serveth the law [the Mosaic Covenant]? It was added [Greek prostithemi, placed or laid beside (the Abramic Covenant)] because of transgressions [of humans before Moses], till the seed [Jesus Christ] should come to whom the promise was made; and it [the Mosaic Covenant] was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator [Moses].
"Now a mediator is not a mediator of one [Greek hen, one in essence: i.e., a mediator arranges terms between two separate parties], but God [Greek Theos] is one [Greek heis, the only one; i.e., the only party obligated in the Abramic Covenant: no mediator was needed because there were no terms to arrange; the promise of God was unconditional].
"Is the law [the Mosaic Covenant, which required conditions to be met] then against [does it nullify] the promises of God [the Abramic Covenant, which was unconditional]? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law [the Mosaic Covenant].
"But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ [the promised Seed] might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law [the Mosaic Covenant] was our schoolmaster [to teach us the enormity of our sin] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster [the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ replaces the Mosaic Covenant]. For ye are all the children of God [Greek Theos, the Father] by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:16-26).
When we examine Galatians 3:20 in its Scriptural context, the true meaning of "one" becomes evident. The entire passage is a discourse by the apostle Paul on the relationship of the Mosaic Covenant to the Abramic Covenant. Paul explains to the Galatian Christians that the Mosaic Covenant, with all its requirements, in no way affected the unconditional nature of the Abramic Covenant and the promise of grace through Jesus Christ.
In Wuest's Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, we find the following commentary on Galatians 3:20:
"In this verse Paul shows that the promise is superior to the law, for the former was given directly from God to Abraham, whereas the latter was given to Israel by God through a mediator. We will examine the statement, 'A mediator is not of one.' The word mediator is from mesites, which in turn comes from mesos which means middle, the midst. Thus a mediator is one who intervenes between two, either to make or restore peace and friendship, to form a compact, or to ratify a covenant. The word in the Greek text is preceded by the definite article, making the word generic in character. That is, Paul is not referring here to any particular mediator as Moses, but to the office of a mediator, and to mediators in general looked upon as a class of individuals. However, this generic statement is intended to be applied to Moses, the mediator referred to in verse 19. The word one is masculine in gender, and therefore is personal, referring to a person. That is, a mediator does not act simply in behalf of one person. The very genius of the word implies that the mediator stands "in the midst" of two or more persons, thus acts as a go-between.
"It is not that the mediator acts in behalf of a plurality of persons that constitute one party [a class action suit], but that there is a plurality of parties between which he acts. Thus the law is a contract between two parties . . . But the promise of free grace is not in the nature of a contract between two parties. God acts alone and directly when He promises salvation to anyone who will receive it by the out-stretched hand of faith. There are no good works to be done by the sinner in order that he might merit that salvation. Grace is unconditional. There are no strings tied to it. God is One, that is, He acts alone without a mediator in respect to the promise of grace" (pp. 106-107).
Those who attempt to use Galatians 3:20 to limit God to one in number -- or three in one -- are missing the true meaning of this verse and are attaching a false interpretation to Paul's words. The apostle Peter warned that some of Paul's writings are difficult to understand, and we should be careful not to misinterpret these Scriptures. Peter declared,
" . . . even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Peter's words clearly warn us not to interpret Scripture according to our own understanding or the opinions of others. In order to come to a true understanding, we must carefully examine each verse in its Scriptural context. Only by letting Scripture interpret Scripture will we be safe from false reasonings and vain philosophies that seek to ensnare us.
We have studied Deuteronomy 6:4 and Galatians 3:20 in their Scriptural contexts, and we have seen that the word "one" is used to identify God as "the only one." Now let us see how the Scriptures use "one" to proclaim the holiness of God.