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Jesus Christ – The One Lord Revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures


The Father is the only true God in contrast to whom?

Sam Shamoun

A careful analysis of the passages which refer to the Father as the one or only true God shows that the NT writers didn’t intended to exclude either the Son or the Holy Spirit from also being God. The context of these statements shows that the Father isn’t the only true God to the exclusion of his Son or his eternal Spirit, but in contrast to the idols, or the false gods that are wrongly worshiped by the heathen.

Taken, for instance, John 17:3:

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

When we compare this to what the Evangelist writes elsewhere, it will become apparent that his point is not that the Father is the only true God in contrast to his uniquely divine Son, but in respect to the idols of the nations:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:20-21

This becomes more evident from the following texts:

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that ‘An idol is nothing at all in the world’ and that ‘There is no God but one.’ For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many ‘lords’), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-7

“Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.” Galatians 3:20

“However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” Galatians 4:8

“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Thus, the Father is the one or only true God in contrast to the false gods served by the Gentiles. He is not so to the exclusion of either the Son or the Spirit.

Besides, if one does insist that these texts do exclude the Son and the Spirit from being truly divine then one needs to be consistent and argue that they also exclude the Father from being the one Lord of all. After all, some of the verses which identify the Father as the one God also refer to the Son as the one Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; Ephesians 4:5-6). Hence, if the Father being referred to as the one God rules out the Son from being God then the Son being identified as the one Lord must also mean that the Father cannot be Lord either.

These arguments are not new since Christians have been raising them from the very beginning. One such Christian was Daniel Waterland, a 18th century Trinitarian who was forced to address the perversion of Scriptures by so-called Christian Unitarians who sought to disprove the Trinity and the eternal preexistence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is how Waterland responded to one opponent who tried to misuse John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6 to disprove the absolute Deity of the Son:

You next cite John xvii. 3, 1 Cor. viii. 6, Eph. iv. 6, to prove, that the Father is sometimes styled the only true God; which is all that they prove. But you have not shewn that he is so called in opposition to the Son, or exclusive of him. It may be meant in opposition to idols only, as all antiquity has thought; or it may signify that the Father is primarily, not exclusively, the only true God, as the first Person of the blessed Trinity, the Root and Fountain of the other two. You observe that “in these and many other places, the one God is the Person of the Father, in contradistinction to the Person of the Son.” It is very certain, that the Person of the Father is there distinguished from the Person of the Son; because they are distinctly named: and you may make what use you please of the observation against the Sabellians, who make but one Person of the two. But what other use you can be able to make of it, I see not; unless you can prove this negative proposition, that no sufficient reason can be assigned for styling the Father the only God, without supposing that the Son is excluded. Novatian’s remark upon one of your texts, John xvii. 3, (“Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,”) may deserve your notice. He applies the title of the only true God to both, since they are joined together in the same sentence, and eternal life is made to depend upon the knowing of one, as much as of the other. He did not see that peculiar force of the exclusive term (only) which you insist so much upon. He knew better; being well acquainted with the language and the doctrine of the Christian Church. His construction, to speak modestly, is at least as plausible as yours. If you can find no plainer or clearer texts against us, you will not be able to help your cause.

As to 1 Cor. viii. 6, all that can be reasonably gathered from it, is, that the Father is there emphatically styled one God; but without design to exclude the Son from being God also: as the Son is emphatically styled one Lord; but without design to exclude the Father from being Lord also. Reasons may be assigned for the emphasis in both cases; which are too obvious to need reciting. One thing you may please to observe; that the discourse there, v. 4, 5, is about idols, and nominal gods and lords, which have no claim or title to religious worship. These the Father and Son are both equally distinguished from: which may insinuate at least to us, that the texts of the Old or New Testament, declaring the unity and excluding others, do not exclude the Son, “by whom are all things:” so that here again you have unfortunately quoted a passage, which, instead of making for you, seems rather against you. 

You have another, which is Eph. iv. 6, “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” A famous passage, which has generally been understood by the ancients of the whole Trinity. Above all, as Father; through all, by the Word; and in all, the Holy Spirit. However that be, this is certain, that the Father may be reasonably called the one, or only God, without the least diminution of the Son’s real Divinity: a fuller account of which matter you may please to see in Dr. Fiddes’s “Body of Divinity,” vol. i. p. 383, &c. As to the remaining texts cited by you, some are meant of Christ as Man, or as Mediator: and those which certainly respect him in a higher capacity, may be accounted for on this principle, that we reserve, with the ancients, a priority of order to the Father, the first of the blessed Three.   (Daniel Waterland, A Vindication of Christ’s Divinity: Being A Defence of Some Queries, Relating to Dr. Clarke’s Scheme of the Holy Trinity [1719] in Van Mildert, ed. The Works of the Rev. Daniel Waterland, Volume 1, pp. 279-281; bold emphasis ours)

Here are just some of the early fathers and apologists that interpreted Ephesians 4:6 in the manner suggested by Waterland:


2. For the Father bears the creation and His own Word simultaneously, and the Word borne by the Father grants the Spirit to all as the Father wills. To some He gives after the manner of creation what is made; but to others [He gives] after the manner of adoption, that is, what is from God, namely generation. And thus one God the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ; but the Word is through all things, and is Himself the Head of the Church; while the Spirit is in us all, and He is the living water, which the Lord grants to those who rightly believe in Him, and love Him, and who know that there is one Father, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. And to these things does John also, the disciple of the Lord, bear witness, when he speaks thus in the Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made, etc. And then he said of the Word Himself: He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. To His own things He came, and His own people received Him not. However, as many as did receive Him, to these gave He power to become the sons of God, to those that believe in His name, etc. And again, showing the dispensation with regard to His human nature, John said: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And in continuation he says, And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten by the Father, full of grace and truth. He thus plainly points out to those willing to hear, that is, to those having ears, that there is one God, the Father over all, and one Word of God, who is through all, by whom all things have been made; and that this world belongs to Him, and was made by Him, according to the Father's will, and not by angels; nor by apostasy, defect, and ignorance; nor by any power of Prunicus, whom certain of them also call the Mother; nor by any other maker of the world ignorant of the Father.

3. For the Creator of the world is truly the Word of God: and this is our Lord, who in the last times was made man, existing in this world, and who in an invisible manner contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word of God governs and arranges all things; and therefore He came to His own in a visible manner, and was made flesh, and hung upon the tree, that He might sum up all things in Himself. And His own peculiar people did not receive Him, as Moses declared this very thing among the people: And your life shall be hanging before your eyes, and you will not believe your life. Those therefore who did not receive Him did not receive life. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. For it is He who has power from the Father over all things, since He is the Word of God, and very man, communicating with invisible beings after the manner of the intellect, and appointing a law observable to the outward senses, that all things should continue each in its own order; and He reigns manifestly over things visible and pertaining to men; and brings in just judgment and worthy upon all; as David also, clearly pointing to this, says, Our God shall openly come, and will not keep silence. Then he shows also the judgment which is brought in by Him, saying, A fire shall burn in His sight, and a strong tempest shall rage round about Him. He shall call upon the heaven from above, and the earth, to judge His people. (Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter 18)


14. These things then, brethren, are declared by the Scriptures. And the blessed John, in the testimony of his Gospel, gives us an account of this economy (disposition) and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is One. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all. And we cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit. For the Jews glorified (or gloried in) the Father, but gave Him not thanks, for they did not recognise the Son. The disciples recognised the Son, but not in the Holy Spirit; wherefore they also denied Him. The Father's Word, therefore, knowing the economy (disposition) and the will of the Father, to wit, that the Father seeks to be worshipped in none other way than this, gave this charge to the disciples after He rose from the dead: Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And by this He showed, that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth. (Against the Heresy of Noetus)


“If Christ was only man, wherefore did He lay down for us such a rule of believing as that in which He said, ‘And this is life eternal, that they should know You, the only and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent’? Had He not wished that He also should be understood to be God, why did He add, And Jesus Christ, whom You have sent, except because He wished to be received as God also? Because if He had not wished to be understood to be God, He would have added, And the man Jesus Christ, whom You have sent; but, in fact, He neither added this, nor did Christ deliver Himself to us as than only, but associated Himself with God, as He wished to be understood by this conjunction to be God also, as He is. We must therefore believe, according to the rule prescribed, on the Lord, the one true God, and consequently on Him whom He has sent, Jesus Christ, who by no means, as we have said, would have linked Himself to the Father had He not wished to be understood to be God also: for He would have separated Himself from Him had He not wished to be understood to be God. He would have placed Himself among men only, had He known Himself to be only man; nor would He have linked Himself with God had He not known Himself to be God also. But in this case He is silent about His being man, because no one doubts His being man, and with reason links Himself to God, that He might establish the formula of His divinity for those who should believe.

“If Christ was only man, how does He say, ‘And now glorify me with the glory which I had with You before the world was?’ If, before the world was, He had glory with God, and maintained His glory with the Father, He existed before the world, for He would not have had the glory unless He Himself had existed before, so as to be able to keep the glory. For no one could possess anything, unless he himself should first be in existence to keep anything. But now Christ has the glory before the foundation of the world; therefore He Himself was before the foundation of the world. For unless He were before the foundation of the world, He could not have glory before the foundation of the world, since He Himself was not in existence. But indeed man could not have glory before the foundation of the world, seeing that he was after the world; but Christ had— therefore He was before the world. Therefore He was not man only, seeing that He was before the world. He is therefore God, because He was before the world, and held His glory before the world.

“Neither let this be explained by predestination, since this is not so expressed, or let them add this who think so, but woe is denounced to them who add to, even as to those who take away from, that which is written. Therefore that may not be said, which may not be added. And thus, predestination being set aside, seeing it is not so laid down, Christ was in substance before the foundation of the world. For He is the Word by which all things were made, and without which nothing was made. Because even if He is said to be glorious in predestination, and that this predestination was before the foundation of the world, let order be maintained, and before Him a considerable number of men was destined to glory. For in respect of that destination, Christ will be perceived to be less than others if He is designated subsequent to them. For if this glory was in predestination, Christ received that predestination to glory last of all; for prior to Him Adam will be seen to have been predestinated, and Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and many others. For since with God the order of all, both persons and things, is arranged, many will be said to have been predestinated before this predestination of Christ to glory. And on these terms Christ is discovered to be inferior to other men, although He is really found to be better and greater, and more ancient than the angels themselves. Either, then, let all these things be set on one side, that Christ's divinity may be destroyed; or if these things cannot be set aside, let His proper divinity be attributed to Christ by the heretics.” (On The Trinity, Chapter 16. Again from the Gospel He Proves Christ to Be God)


15. For divine Scripture wishing us thus to understand the matter, has given such illustrations, as we have said above, from which we are able both to press the traitorous Jews, and to refute the allegation of Gentiles who maintain and think, on account of the Trinity, that we profess many gods. For, as the illustration shows, we do not introduce three Origins or three Fathers, as the followers of Marcion and Manichæus; since we have not suggested the image of three suns, but sun and radiance. And one is the light from the sun in the radiance; and so we know of but one origin; and the All-framing Word we profess to have no other manner of godhead, than that of the Only God, because He is born from Him. Rather then will the Ario-maniacs with reason incur the charge of polytheism or else of atheism, because they idly talk of the Son as external and a creature, and again the Spirit as from nothing. For either they will say that the Word is not God; or saying that He is God , because it is so written, but not proper to the Father's Essence, they will introduce many because of their difference of kind (unless forsooth they shall dare to say that by participation only, He, as all things else, is called God; though, if this be their sentiment, their irreligion is the same, since they consider the Word as one among all things). But let this never even come into our mind. For there is but one form of Godhead, which is also in the Word; and one God, the Father, existing by Himself according as He is above all, and appearing in the Son according as He pervades all things, and in the Spirit according as in Him He acts in all things through the Word. For thus we confess God to be one through the Triad, and we say that it is much more religious than the godhead of the heretics with its many kinds, and many parts, to entertain a belief of the One Godhead in a Triad. (Discourses 3 Against the Arians)


St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal. And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever. (A Declaration of Faith)

That the fathers explanation of Ephesians 4:6 is consistent with the inspired Scriptures can be easily proven by considering the following facts. According to the Holy Bible, the Son himself is above all, and in all, and through all:

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being… He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” John 1:3, 10

“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:20 – cf. 15:4-5

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me… and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:23, 26

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10

“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” Romans 10:9-13

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5

“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head OVER ALL THINGS to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:19-23

“For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together… to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:16-17, 27

a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” Titus 3:5-6

The same scriptures also testify that the Holy Spirit is in all and fills all:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Romans 8:9

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19

“for through Him [Christ] we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." Ephesians 2:17-22

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18

“Guard, THROUGH the Holy Spirit who dwells IN us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” 2 Timothy 1:14

It is therefore clear that when the inspired NT writers speak of the Father as the one God, or the only true God, they didn’t intend to exclude either the Son or the Spirit from being truly God as well. They clearly meant that the Father is the one or only true God, not to the exclusion of his beloved Son and glorious Spirit, but rather in contrast to all the other so-called gods that are wrongly worshiped by the heathen.