The greatest commandment, to “love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”, is appended to the fundamental truth, “the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut 6:4-5). The fact that there is only one God meant that the Israelites’ focus and devotions could and should be upon Yahweh solely. is fundamental truth, the unity of God, is oft repeated in the Bible (Deut 4:35; Isa 42:8; 45:5, 14, 18, 21-22; 1 Cor 8:4-6; 1 Tim 2:5), as would be expected.

Historically, the concept of the Trinity, that there are three Gods in one, coequal and co-eternal, believed by Christianity at large, has been anathema to Jew and Muslim alike. And so far as we Christadelphians are concerned, our rejection of the Trinity has led to discrimination against us by many Christian sects and even the charge that we are not Christian.

In this editorial we shall consider how basic belief in “the only true God” is ( John 17:3) and how vast the ramifications of this truth are in the divine purpose. In a nutshell, when God’s purpose is consummated, only those who are in harmony with God will share immortality while everything that is discordant will pass into oblivion: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one” (Zech 14:9).

“In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”

Following the Flood there was corruption and apostasy from God’s way. Joshua, in his final words to Israel, made reference to their fathers: “Terah, the father of Abraham, the father of Nachor: and they served other gods” ( Josh 24:2, 14). Abraham and his descendants learned otherwise.

The first words spoken to Abram were, in effect, a long range prophecy: “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Implicit in these words is the unity of God, for they define the way in which blessings will be bestowed on men of all families and nations (Gal 3:8). Whilst the blessings (of justification and inheritance) would be inclusive, being offered to all nations, they would be confined to those “in” one, Abraham’s seed. But he had a number of sons, beside Isaac and Ishmael. Commenting on this the Apostle Paul says, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16). Special emphasis must be put on the pronoun “thy”: the particular one of Abraham’s seed would be the one who was faithful like him for he was the father of the faithful (v7). We are left in no doubt about the identity of the seed, for the apostle declares, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (v16).

So if men are going to partake of God’s blessings they have to be constituted “in” Abraham’s seed, Christ, and the mode of induction is baptism: “for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. ere is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (v26- 28). So this unity with the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, is independent of nationality, social status or gender. But how is this related to being “in God”? When addressing the essalonians, Paul says they were “in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1). Because our Lord, the Son of God was so completely identified with his Father, he could say, “I and my Father are one” ( John 10:30). Believers baptised into the name of Jesus Christ are, hence, one with God.

A problem for Gentiles at Ephesus

The ecclesia at Ephesus was made up of Jews and Gentiles. After preaching for three months in the synagogue, the Apostle Paul removed to the “school of one Tyrannus”. During the two years he was there, “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). This phrase is repeated in verse 17 and inevitably a problem was created. How could the Gentiles in the ecclesia at Ephesus, converted from paganism, consider themselves “one” with Jews, God’s chosen race, the recipients of Scripture and central to the purpose of God?

The Apostle Paul strove to answer this in the first three chapters in his Epistle to the Ephesians. He pointed out that their election by God was not random but part of His eternal purpose: “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated [previously marked out] us unto the adoption of children [sonship] by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:4-5). These glorious words radiate joy and solace for us also because of the assurance that we were known to God before creation, having part and lot in His eternal purpose.

So the Ephesians and all those “in Christ” have no need to feel that they are “second class citizens” in God’s purpose. Baptism into Christ not only justifies and washes away sins but unifies us with the multitudinous body of Christ which reaches right back to Eden. The crucial factor is Christ; he is the one in whom this unity, this oneness with God, is being accomplished: for “in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Eph 1:10). Thus the Gentile component at Ephesus was on the same footing as the Jewish believers: the “middle wall of partition” which formerly had separated Jews from Gentiles in Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem had been “broken down” by Christ: those who were once “afar off” were “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13-14; Isa 57:19).

Doctrinal implications of the unity of God

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul extrapolates the significance, lessons and doctrines that logically flow from the unity of the Godhead, that God is one: “I am the Lord, and there is none else” (Isa 45:5). Firstly he makes the point that brethren in Christ should walk worthy of their high calling and that that involves lowliness of mind, meekness, submission in love besides “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3). The fact that God is one calls for such attitudes and actions. But then he expands the concept, the consequences of this unity: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (v4-6).

Notice the last of these points about our heavenly Father. He is mentioned last, and all that has gone before can be traced to His unity, that He is the Father of us all and as His sons and daughters He is through and in us all, by the influence of His Word.

Other reflections

There are many allusions in Scripture to the unity of God and what that will ultimately lead to. In Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians about eating things offered in sacrifice to idols he makes the observation, “we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth … But to us there is but one God, the Father, of [Gk ek, out of ] whom are all things and we in [Gk eis] him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by [Gk dia, through] whom are all things, and we by him” (8:4-6).

Here the essential unity of the Father with the Son is seen; for from God the Father, all things have originated, including the Son, and it is by our baptism and unity with Christ that we enjoy the lofty status of being one with the Father, His sons and daughters. It was for this that our beloved Lord prayed in Gethsemane before his cruci xion: “Neither pray I for these alone [his disciples], but for them also which shall believe on me through their [the apostles’] word; at they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one 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, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one …” ( John 17:20- 23). ese are sublime words of the most wonder- ful prayer ever o ered and, as believers “through their word”, we are embraced in them. Here is the inspiration to grow into “the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).

Mediation

In his first epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul outlines the divine purpose, saying that God our Saviour “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus …” (1 Tim 2:4-5). God is here designated “our Saviour”; He wills the salvation of men and has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but more, the only way man can be saved is through the “knowledge of the truth”. “The truth”is confined to and bound up with the Father and the Son. It is not arbitrary or subjective; it is essentially what is revealed in the Word of God, of which Jesus Christ is centre stage and focus, as the next verse tells us. The unity of God demands unity of mediation, that is, by Jesus Christ. Paul shows that the Law of Moses was inferior to Christ’s words because of the way it was mediated: from God to angels, thence to Moses and men: so Moses is not the mediator of one, but God is one (Gal 3:19-20). Hebrews 1:1-3, that remarkable prologue to the epistle to the Hebrews, sets forth the role of the Son of God, in the divine purpose: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high …” (v3). The Father spoke directly to men through His Son (v2), but the Law was “spoken by angels” (2:2) to Moses.

In final words to his disciples, Jesus instructed them: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” ( John 14:6). These are absolute, unqualified statements in which our Lord explains the significance of his place in the world’s redemption. Access, “the way”, to the Father is by him alone; in him is “the truth”, for all else will prove false and he is “the life”: as he said, “I am the resurrection, and the life” ( John 11:25) and because he was dead and now lives forevermore, in his hands the Father has bestowed “the keys of hell [the grave] and of death” (Rev 1:18). Prayers and petitions asked in his name will be granted by the Father ( John 16:23-26).

The consummation

There are many passages in the Scriptures that portray “The Final Consolation” and they speak of the Father prevailing over evil. Well known are Habakkuk’s words: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). All human glory will be crushed and God alone shall be exalted in that day.

In words that are taken from Psalm 22:22, Jesus concludes his prayer in Gethsemane, “And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26). Here the divine unity of the Father, the Son and the saints is anticipated with unspeakable joy.

It will be the time when all curses shall be removed from the earth, when God will dwell with the redeemed: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3).

The Apostle Paul puts it succinctly: “And when all things shall be subdued unto him [the Son], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God might be all in all” (RSV everything to everyone, 1 Cor 15:28).

Conclusion

We have considered the significance of God being one. In these closing days of our probation we cannot do better than devote our lives to our Father, who is the only God, with our whole heart, soul and mind. By so doing we will be in harmony with the Son, who has been appointed the Judge of mankind.

Truly, “The LORD our God is one LORD” and not a trinity; and in the day that is about to dawn, He will be “king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one LORD, and his name one.

With the Psalmist might we say, “The glory of the Lord shall endure forever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works … I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord. Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul, Praise ye Yahweh.” (Psa 104:31, 33-35).