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By Rev. Olen Evans, First Baptist Church, Brownstown
Written throughout the Old Testament is the common expression, “that they (or you) may know that I am the LORD.” LORD, in all capital letters, translates the personal name of God (Yahweh/Jehovah).
The name “God” serves as a title, and basically means “might” or “power.” It is used of pagan deities as well as Israel’s God. Therefore, God can say, “the LORD thy God is one LORD,” and “I am the LORD your God.”
Yahweh is distinct among all gods, in that the gods cannot compare to him. Though Elohim is the Hebrew plural translated God, he is clearly one Lord. Possibly, the plural designated with a singular meaning is meant to leave open the possibility of the trinity (three persons in one essence). Certainly, this is an incomparable revelation of God’s nature, along with his other attributes – both moral (love, mercy, etc.) and incommunicable (all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present, immutable, etc.).
Pagan deities were usually gods of a specific locality (Assyria, Philistra, Babylon, etc.). Yahweh is more than a god of the sun, moon, fertility, war, storm or sea. He is the creator of all these things. The LORD alone is God. He is ruler of the universe, savior of the world and judge of all things. Unfortunately, Israel often confused the gods with God. The New Testament church has the same problem.
It has become common to hear someone say, “It doesn’t matter which god you worship, we all worship the same God. Whether we call him God, Allah (Islam) or the great spirit (Native Americans). They are all the same person, just called by different names."
Probably those who say such things spend little time worshipping any of them. Certainly, they do little spiritual service, as each god has different requirements. Just as the attributes of the gods differ, they also teach different doctrines.
One must wonder if this type of tolerance for all beliefs is not really masking an intolerance of God and his sovereignty in totality. Surely, you cannot love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and also accept every belief that confronts the world.
1. Yahweh is distinct from all gods of the world. Any serious worshipper of any of the world’s religions would agree. For instance, Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Allah, according to Islam, is the God of Abraham and Ishmael. Jacob (Israel) is hated and rejected by Allah. The Messiah is, to them, not a descendant of Israel or David. Ishmael's descendants always worshipped pagan deities and their idols. The Judeo-Christian God says, “There is no god beside me.” He commands, “Thou shalt have no other gods beside me.” He is warning against pagan idolatry.
2. The Bible identifies God as one, and says Yahweh is his name. The Koran says there is one God, and says Allah is his name.
3. The Christian God is distinct in that he is triune (three persons in one essence; a trinity). His full name is given in the baptismal formula as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Notice the three distinct persons signified by “the” preceding each name. Plurality is specified, as is distinction of each person, but the name is singular – designating unity of the three as one complete name for God.
The Trinity, which is essential to the Christian faith, is recognized by all Orthodox churches. Each person of the Trinity has his own distinct personality. No other religion in the world knows a triune god.
Since Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, he is the only savior and should be worshipped as divine. He cannot be worshipped by anyone who does not accept his substitutionary death on the cross.
The Christian God is not just another name for a higher power. God has revealed himself as unique. He is not discovered or concocted by man’s imagination. A god without Jesus to redeem and a Holy Spirit to indwell is no savior at all, and no contender for our worship.
Knowing God is the heart of all knowledge. Tolerance of another person’s religion does not require acceptance of all of that religion’s beliefs. Attempts to find words which accommodate our differences are futile efforts in semantics.
Let us state precisely what we believe so we may clearly evaluate our differences and intelligently subscribe to the theology we believe to be true.