What makes our Christian God different from other gods?
Sometimes a question does not really need an answer. Sometimes a question is actually making a statement and nothing more needs to be said. A psalmist named Ethan the Ezrahite asked such a question and made a statement in the one hymn of his that survives: “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?” (Psalm 89:8). Ethan never answers the question; he doesn’t have to. Instead he spends 50-some verses describing who the Lord God is and what he did, does, and will do. It’s a list like none other. But then Ethan’s God—our God—is like none other.
Some wonder how we dare to make such a claim. What about all those sincere people who believe that their god is the one above all others? To such people—loved by the true God though they don’t know it—we can reply with respect, remembering that we’ll never argue someone into faith in the true God. All we can do—and it is a great thing—is set forth who the true God is and what he has done for us and for all humanity.
Other gods are similar
But first let’s try to see things through unbelievers’ eyes. How do the deeds and creeds of their god(s) compare to Ethan’s Lord God Almighty? Creation? Not unique, they say, to the Christians’ God. Stories—sometimes, recognizably, the garbled transmission of the truth that Genesis records—abound in false religions. Morality? Every culture owns some sense of God and his law and has a code of right and wrong, however imperfect, that it lives by. Unbelievers understand reward and punishment. The Bible is not the only place one reads of heaven and hell. And what about the Bible? Don’t others count their religious texts—the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, Hinduism’s Vedas (books of knowledge), Gautama Buddha’s Sutras—as sacred too?
We can grasp their point without taking it. They’re answering Ethan’s question with a quick equivalence: The true God is just one among many gods. All gods are pretty much the same. Maybe they even all point to one strong, moral, profound, supernatural being that we ought to listen to and obey. Unbelievers peer at the true God through the lens of their man-made god. So, it’s not surprising that they see only those features that human reason can perceive—power and justice—and that they misunderstand those things too. They can’t see what sets Ethan’s Lord God Almighty apart. In other words, unbelievers don’t see Jesus.
Even when they have Jesus in view, they still don’t see the difference. Many other religions acknowledge Jesus as someone important. The Qur’an depicts him as a human prophet of special distinction, as shown by the miracles embedded across his life’s story. Early Jewish perspectives counted Jesus as a rogue rabbi, but over the years his image has swung to the positive, that of an excellent Jewish teacher who was a good influence in his time and on succeeding history. Faiths as old as Hinduism and Buddhism and as young as Baha’i and Scientology claim Jesus in their traditions as a person significant in their quest for truth. And, of course, many people who hold other beliefs or who even claim no belief in God at all tally Jesus among the great moral examples of all time, probably the best advocate for good behavior there ever has been, one who truly walked his talk. But unbelievers’ vision is partial and blurry. They perceive Jesus only dimly, and in real spiritual terms unbelievers are blind.
Our God is different
Here’s what they’re missing: Jesus is God, God’s Son, and is with the Father and Holy Spirit one of the three persons of the one true God. As the apostle John wrote in his gospel, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (1:18). John was there when Jesus told his disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9). To know Jesus is to know the true God.
Jesus clearly revealed God by fulfilling in every detail what God had promised to the newly fallen human race as Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. What God there vowed, and what prophets then echoed for centuries, was that a descendant of Eve—the Messiah, the Christ—would remove the curse of sin that Adam and Eve had inflicted upon themselves and their children. Sin had left us helpless, dead, with no strength to serve God and live in his favor. But God promised a rescue.
So God’s Son became a human being in a virgin’s womb. From his earthly life’s first spark to his cruel death’s last gasp, Jesus carried out what was planned. Truly a man, Jesus lived sinlessly under the law, not as the ultimate role model which we could mimic as our way into heaven, but as our substitute, actively doing what we could never do. Then he willingly died for us, tortured to death on a cross, paying a price only he could pay for every soul. He rose again from his grave to declare it all true. As John wrote, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9,10). Jesus reveals fully and clearly who God is: holy and just, serious about his law; loving and merciful, serious to save. Jesus represents, reflects, and reveals who the true God is, what he wants for all, and what he promised and did to save us.
“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?” No one. Absolutely no one! All the other so-called gods are as small as the minds who created them. All those gods can offer is a to-do list to complete in order to earn a god’s affection. Behind whatever facade of fancy ritual or noble effort their followers construct, there always lurks their god’s nagging question, “Have you done enough for me?”
The true God wants only that you have what Jesus has done for you. Jesus lived, died, and rose to rescue us. God’s Son, our Brother, fulfilled the promise his Father made not long after time began. God’s Spirit uses that record of promise made and promise kept to create faith in Jesus. On those facts we rest our faith. In those facts we find peace of mind and peace with God. From those facts we draw comfort and strength for life’s journey. Because of those facts we will stand in heaven before the God who saved us and say with King David, “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you” (2 Samuel 7:22).
Jesus represents, reflects, and reveals who the true God is, what he wants for all, and what he promised and did to save us.
Author: Daniel Balge
Volume 107, Number 01
Issue: January 2020