For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)
This is such an age of conformity, unanimity, and ecumenical oneness that we can hardly speak of God except in all-inclusive terms. If one were to express that he believes his God to be the only real or true God, and every other god to be false, he would be branded as narrow and hateful. To a lesser degree, one can hardly say that his country is better than another or that his form of government is superior to another. Surely we cannot say that our values (much less our moral standards) are better than someone else’s. Of course, this is also why we are not allowed to criticize anyone for their actions. We might actually be positing that there is an absolute truth to which all other notions are subordinate! But we get to this eclectic, ecumenical quagmire by first eliminating God Himself. If there is no God, the First Cause of everything, the One who has revealed Himself in truth and equity, then there is no final appeal to which we can judge or compare all else.
Christians in twenty-first century America are observing a unique time of change and redefinition by an atheistic, polytheistic, multi-cultural, and perverse generation. In this time we see Christianity under attack from almost all cultural voices, while other religions enjoy unprecedented amnesty from criticism or scrutiny. Christianity, which teaches that the wheat and tares of belief and unbelief must grow together in this age and cannot be forcibly rooted out of society by church or government, receives the hubris and persecution by that same society. Yet, Islam, which teaches that the tares of unbelief in their doctrine must be rooted out and even physically destroyed and at best kept as second-rate citizens, is given fawning protection and religious liberty that no other religion enjoys, even in this country of religious freedom. Could it be that this is due to the simple threat of physical reprisal if society does not acquiesce? No doubt. Christianity will only preach to you of truth and peace. Islam will attack you on the street and attempt to dismember you. So to which will this culture bow? It is all too obvious. This began with my baby-boomer generation in the 60s when we threatened to burn buildings and destroy campuses if we did not get our way. It worked. And now that same compliant society is faced with even bigger and more savage threats. If we didn’t have the stomach for it then, we surely don’t now.
My objective, however, is not political but theological. Was the apostle Paul correct in saying that there is only one God? Our world today is insisting that Allah is the same as Jehovah, the Mormon God is the same as the Jewish God, the Watchtower God is the same as the Catholic God. Our problem is that we have to figure out the approach that is right for us. Some Christian apologists would even argue that all religions worship the same God but most do not know enough about Him to obtain salvation, and the Christian mission is to fill in the gaps and bring their religion up to speed. Of course, there have always been those universalists who believe God loves all people to the extent that no one will be lost forever but that all will eventually find their way to heaven and the God they have always believed in.
The God of the Old Testament as well as the New has called all other worship of a deity idolatry. The God of the Bible claims to be the only God. The Bible clearly teaches that no one can come to the true God except through Jesus Christ, Who also claimed unequivocally to be God in the flesh. The bottom line seems to be that either the universalist view is correct or the Christian view is correct, but not both. The Christian God cannot also be the non-Christian’s God.
Paul’s Direct Statement
Why is Paul correct when he says that the God whom he is preaching is the only God? Precisely because he also says, “and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). Only the Christian God is able to become a Mediator between Himself and sinful humanity. Other Gods not only do not have this capability, they thrust upon mankind the false notion that salvation is up to them, not to God.
First, we should remember that the true God has revealed Himself solely in the Christian Scriptures, the Bible. I understand that we will need to continually reaffirm our belief in the revelation and inspiration of Scripture, and that other religions can also claim that their holy books are really the true Word of God. But Bibliology is not my task here either. The textual criticism of two thousand (plus) years continues to affirm the reliability and uniqueness of the Christian Scriptures. Second, Paul says that not only is there only one God, but there is also only one Mediator Who can sufficiently stand between a holy God and sinful humanity and bring both of them together. This Mediator is both God and man, the “God our Savior” from verse three, as well as “the man Christ Jesus” of our text. What Paul is saying is that only a God Who can be both is the true God. That is, only the triune God of the Christian Scripture is the true God. There must be God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit to be the true God. This Mediator is “Christ Jesus” the God-man. Only a Being Who is divine could be sinless Himself and qualify as our sinless Substitute. And only someone Who is also fully human could take the sinner’s place and die for our sins and not for His own.
Job, in his agony over his sinful condition, cried out to a holy God, “For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:32-33). The old word “daysman” is usually noted as “umpire” or a person that is on equal footing in behalf of both sides. Paul’s word for mediator is mesites, a middle person, a go-between. This is the same word that the Jewish translators of the Old Testament used in their (LXX) Greek translation of Job 9:33.
Third, this one God Whom Paul extols, could give Himself a “ransom” for all. Christ Jesus was a ransom, an antilutron, or “payment in the place of,” a Substitute for all sinful humanity. Peter wrote, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Only God is “just” and only a divine Substitute could pay the price for our sins. Only the triune God of the Christian Scriptures is such a God.
One thing is true about the multi-cultural non-Christian gods; they are all alike in their ineptness to redeem sinful humanity. But that is why they are all alike in their imagined reality. They are all a figment of the sinner’s imagination because such a god does not really exist, as Paul said to the Corinthians, “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor. 8:5-6). Paul did not see the pagan gods as uneducated forms of the true God, but as they truly are—no gods at all.
There are some good examples today of false gods.
The Muslim Allah. Islam teaches that God is not a father and does not have a son. To them, the trinity is pure polytheism. They admire Jesus as they admire Mohammad, and even admit his virgin birth. They deny He really died on the cross, and of course deny any atonement or resurrection. I have read the Koran, and I was left asking the question, “where is the salvation?” There is no Savior, no atonement for sin, no Substitute in my place. One is left to himself to try to gain Allah’s favor by his own goodness. No wonder such a religion cannot evangelize the world with a message of love and forgiveness, but rather must seek to conquer the world by human force.
The Mormon Adam-god. Mormon theology is as confused as Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon. God was actually conceived as Adam who eventually became the god of this earth only, from a sexual union between Elohim and one of his many wives. The trinity to Mormonism is tri-theistic and polytheistic. Yet Mormonism itself is “henotheistic” i.e. one principle god among many who rule in other worlds. Jesus was the first-begotten son of a physical union of Elohim and Mary, who then also became a god. There is no redemption in Mormonism either. It is a system of works both for the life here and for those who have died already. I toured a new Mormon temple before it was dedicated and observed the three floors of progressive good works leading to the top celestial room, or the greatest glory. There is no Mediator for the Mormon, only the hope of becoming a god himself and begetting many spirit children like God had done.
The Witnesses Jehovah. To Jehovah’s Witnesses all other beliefs are part of pagan “Christendom” or “religionists.” Though they say they believe the Bible, they alone have the right to interpret it and only then from their biased translation. They insist on only one person, not three. Jesus was created by God (thus and only God’s “Son”) and has existed in three forms. First He was Michael the archangel, then became Christ at His birth, and lastly became the new Michael recreated by resurrection in a perfect manner. In addition, there is no personal Holy Spirit, but only a “force” of God. If you are faithful enough to be in the 144,000 at resurrection, you could become a perfect spirit as Jesus became at His resurrection. Though a JW will always talk of faith in Christ, his faith must be coupled with faithfulness, and that faith is not in the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
The Catholic Mary-god. The Catholic church is actually closer to Christian theology than what is normally called a cult. They do profess the triune God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But though their theology proper is correct, their bibliology and soteriology precludes having only one Mediator between God and man, for rather than having “the man Christ Jesus” alone, they insist on having Mary, the mother of God and intercessor for the believer. At the Council of Ephesus (431) Mary was declared to be the Mother of God (Theotokos) as well as the Mother of Christ (Christotokos). In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of her immaculate conception, that Mary was free of original sin at her own conception. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the doctrine of bodily assumption of Mary, that she could not see corruption in death but was resurrected bodily upon her death and ascended bodily into heaven.
But beyond all of that, it was Bernard of Clairvaux (10th Cent) who declared that Mary was the Mediator between Christ and men, since Christ is also a Judge and men need help to be able to approach Him. Though we may not disagree with Rome’s doctrine of the trinity, how can we believe in the one true God and His own mediation for us, and at the same time believe that there is another mediator between the man Christ Jesus and sinful men? These contrary beliefs have come to Rome because of its belief that Tradition is equal to the Christian Scripture. In that view, the Christian God must be defined by both sources of revelation.
All religions have their own hypocrites. It would not be fair to judge any religion by those who do not follow its doctrines. Biblical Christianity as seen in the Christian Scriptures has had as many hypocrites and heretics as any other religion. But that is why we stress Sola Scriptura, or the Scriptures alone for our belief. When the world judges Christianity, though this hardly ever happens, we would wish that they would judge it by what the Bible says, not always by how people try to live it.
What many people call Christian growth is really only normal human growth. After all, as any human being grows older, he/she becomes smarter, more experienced, more friendly, more helpful to others. When this happens around the church we may mistakenly call it Christian growth. It may actually be a hypocritical faith, a person only growing older, not growing in Christian graces. At some point we will act surprised when he/she is at a total loss to express any Christian fruit, showing only the wisdom of the world rather than true Christian spirituality.
If we could observe at least one true follower of each of the world’s religions, we may not be able to distinguish a major difference at first glance. The Bible promises, however, that over time the believer in the true God, through the only Mediator, Jesus Christ, will show old things passing away and all things becoming new. Yet, still the real difference between that true believer and the world’s religionists, is faith in God as the Bible describes Him through the Mediator as the Bible describes Him. Any other faith is a faith in a false god. It is a faith in a god that does not exist. It will always produce a religion of human works rather than redemption through the grace of God.
And So . . . .
I should end this article the way Paul ended his statement to Timothy, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1 Tim. 2:7). Paul was insistent that this Christian message of the one true God and Mediator be proclaimed to all men. Of the three descriptions of Paul, one is unique to him and a few other men of the first century, that is that he was an apostle. This gift from Christ was given to those men specially selected by Christ to be witnesses of His resurrection. They were men who also wrote the Christian Scriptures under inspiration and established our foundation for the church (Eph. 2:20).
Paul was also a preacher and a teacher, two words used to describe the ongoing offices of church leadership. It is essential that the Christian faith be preached around the world until Jesus comes. A preacher is a heralder (kerux) of the truth. He does this by preaching (keruss?) and the message (kerugma) that he preaches is that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes unto the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The Word of God is the seed he sows and the field in which he sows is the world (Matthew 13:3-23). Only some of the seed will fall into good ground. Most of it will be unproductive. The preacher cannot be discouraged because the world refuses the good seed of the gospel. It is his job to sow it.
Paul also was a teacher in faith and verity (aletheia-truth!). This faith of ours must be taught to saints and sinners alike. Sometimes it takes a long process for the truth to sink into a sinner’s heart. We also know it takes a life-time of study for the believer to mature in Christ. With the Word of God, and the faithful preaching of its doctrines, and the constant teaching of its truths, we can be partners with God, Christ, the apostles, and the great saints, in proclaiming the one true God.
Jesus Thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in Thy great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which at the mercy seat of God,
Forever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e’en for my soul, was shed.