There is only one living and true God. This claim is radical because it goes against the grain of majority worldviews in America. Many people adopt an Oprah-like theology, which argues that God is at the peak of a mountain, and while there are many paths that can be taken, in the end we all end up in the same place. So, it doesn’t matter which god you worship or believe in, so long as you believe in some sort of deity. But what if there is only one God? Does it then matter what one believes? The most central claim to a Judeo-Christian worldview is that there is only one God and this claim should produce more fear, satisfaction, and purpose in the heart of a believer than anything else.
There are many “gods” or “idols.” However, these are not living and they are not true. They are dead. They are false. They have no power. They have no life. They cannot satisfy. They cannot save.
You should treat a living and true God vs. a dead and false god in the same way you would treat a living and true tiger vs. a dead or fake tiger. Living tigers are to be feared. Living tigers are to be marveled. Living tigers are enjoyable to see. However, dead or fake tigers should not be feared. They should not be marveled. And while toys are fun and enjoyable for a while, they eventually become boring. A living tiger is never boring.
The same is true for the one true God. There is only one, which means he is in charge; he is in control. He is the ultimate source of all things. “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). In the words of John Piper, “He is what he is and he is not something else.” Or in the words of God himself, “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14). He is living, which means he is to be feared because he is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power, holiness, and glory. He is true, which means he is to be trusted and worshiped. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). False gods and idols are not to be feared. They are not to be worshiped. They are not to be trusted. There is no hope in a false god or idol, because they are not living; they are not true.
If Israel’s God were dead or false, there would be no reason for her enemies to fear. However, not fearing a living and true God is foolish! In Scripture, when God’s people or God himself is opposed, rejected, or challenged, there is a pertinent reminder of the kind of God being dealt with.
“For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived?” (Deut. 5:26)
“And David said to the men who stood by him, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” (1 Sam. 17:26)
“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” (Jer. 10:10).
A living God is to be feared. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God” (Heb. 10:31). Oh, the joy of the gospel—that Jesus fell into the hands of a living God for sinners. A living God is also to be desired. Note the pslamists’ hunger for a living God:
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:2)
“My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (Ps. 84:2)
A dead and false God has no power. An idol is not to be feared and not to be desired. There is no satisfaction in a god who is dead, false, or manufactured. Only a God who exists independently of his creation, who possesses infinite power and holiness is to be feared and desired. In the presence of a living God is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). And there is only one God like this. He is the God of the Bible. He is the God who created heaven and earth. He is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. He is the God who rescued his people through Moses from Egypt. He is the God who preserved his people from all their enemies. He is the God who sent his Son to atone for sin. He is the God who built his church on the foundation of Jesus. He is the God who reigns today, in this very moment, over you and me. There are no other gods besides him (Isa. 45:5-6)!
What does this mean for us? This means that all of our worship and devotion is due the only God. This means when we disobey him, we are not rebelling against a toy tiger. We are rolling our eyes and turning our backs on a raging and real tiger (or lion, to give the biblical imagery). To blissfully disobey God is foolish because he is living and true. Our evangelism should also greatly be impacted by this truth. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6a). If there is only one living and true God, then all who do not submit to him are guilty and condemned. We must take the gospel of Christ to all, knowing that only faith in the Son of the one true and living God will result in eternal salvation and satisfaction. There is only one living and true God. What a dreadful truth for all his enemies. What a delightful reality for all his people.
Because there is only one living and true God:
Approach him with proper fear and reverence.
Pursue him with burning desire for ultimate satisfaction.
Go everywhere with the gospel, faithfully proclaiming that the only God who lives is the only hope for salvation.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.