Growing up, your family probably had house rules. Perhaps there was a rule about what time you needed to be home or certain chores you were required to do. You knew your parents had expectations about keeping these rules. If you ignored them, there would be consequences. Like all good parents, God our father has created house rules instructing his people on how to relate to him and to others. These house rules are called the ten commandments. The first commandment clearly tells us to keep our relationship with God a priority and to avoid other gods. So, who is God in contrast to other gods?
What is the difference between God and gods?
Throughout human history, people have worshiped different gods and goddesses. In ancient Babylon, Egypt, Rome, and Athens, people looked to their gods for help to fight enemies or to provide wealth.
But, Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Issac, called his people to a different standard. Even though they lived among polytheists, God called his followers to monotheism, the worship of one God. At Sinai, God gave Moses the ten commandments, rules for how his followers should relate to him and to others.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Exodus 20:3-7 ESV)
God expected total devotion. He wanted his people to be single-hearted. He was their creator. He could provide everything they needed.
How is the Christian God different from other gods?
Christianity is more unique than other gods or religions. It teaches that the God of the Old Testament is one God, but he has three members: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is called the Triune God. This concept of a triune God is seen throughout the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
- Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. (Genesis 1:26 ESV)
- The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV)
Jesus as God’s Son
Jesus, being God’s Son, is unique to Christianity. Scripture tells us that he was born with human flesh and lived his life on earth and that he was fully God and fully man.
- And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
The Holy Spirit, as the third person of the Trinity
- But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 ESV)
- Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ( Romans 8:26 ESV)
The Bible teaches us that God is holy. In order to have a relationship with him, we must be perfect. That means we’ve never lied, never stolen, or never been angry. Of course, if we’re honest, we know we’re guilty of these things and more. God in his mercy, provided a way for us to draw near to him without fear of punishment. He sent his Son Jesus to earth to pay the debt we owed for our imperfections or sin. His death on the cross paid for the debt of our sins, all wrongdoing against God. Scripture tells us he willingly gave up his life for us.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Christianity is different because it doesn’t require doing good works to be accepted by God, but simply by putting your faith in what Jesus did on the cross, you can have a relationship with God. God doesn’t see our sins when he looks at us. Instead, he sees Jesus’s perfection. So, we can live a life free from fear or guilt. We don’t need to try to be accepted by God.
There’s a great old hymn that succinctly explains the great exchange we experience when we put our trust in Jesus’s work on the cross.
I had a debt I could not pay,
He paid the debt He did not owe,
I needed someone,
To wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song,
“Amazing grace” all day long,
Christ Jesus paid the debt,
That I could never pay.
The gods of this world will always fail us
It wasn’t easy for early Christians to avoid the gods of their culture. Today, we have the same struggle. Of course, we don’t have wooden gods erected in our homes or on our street corners, but cultural gods still exist. These are gods we look to be happy or make our life meaningful. Here are a few cultural gods we might look to.
Money or material things
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24 ESV)
Our lives in the west are consumed with what we need. We’re tempted to want a bigger house, a new car or trendier clothes. We put our hopes in money and material things to make us happy. Sadly, all the money in the world can’t give eternal life or freedom from the punishment of sin. Only God can offer us these things when we trust him with our lives and keep our hearts devoted to him.
It’s easy to find our identity in things other than God. Even good things like family or a job can become a god if they’re more important than God. When your identity is in something other than God, you are constantly trying to measure up. Having our identity in God allows us the freedom to be ourselves. We know that God accepts us as we are, he’s our Father in heaven.
Our physical appearance
This is a strong cultural god we worship. Take a look at Instagram or TikTok, and you’ll see ads for creams, lotions, exercises, and supplements to look more physically appealing. Youth is worshiped for its attractiveness. Wrinkles, spots, and other imperfections are seen as a failure and not physically attractive. Perfect is the standard created by a small elite group of individuals. In the west, we worship perfect form, strong hair, beautiful smooth skin, and thin, muscular bodies. It’s tempting to want to be physically beautiful. Our desire to look a certain way can replace our devotion to God. We can accept how God made us and take good care of our bodies without allowing it to turn into an obsession.
Examples of God in the Bible
God clearly describes who he is throughout the Bible. He says he is
- Abounding in steadfast love
- Slow to anger
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)
God also says he is our
- Creator of heaven and earth
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb:“I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, (Isaiah 44:24 ESV)
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV)
Examples of gods in the Bible
There were many gods in the Old and New Testaments. Some of them include
Some of these pagan gods were offered human sacrifices, such as baby burning or the burning of young virgins. The Greek and Roman culture affected the New Testament believers. Paul writes about Greek gods statues he observes in the cities where he’s ministry.
And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas, they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. (Acts 14:11-12 ESV)
Paul answers them by saying, Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. (Acts 14:15 ESV)
In Acts 19 we also hear about a goddess called Artemis. She was the Greek goddess of hunting and the moon. The Romans called the goddess of hunting and the moon, Diana.
Why should I choose the Christian God?
Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me Isaiah 46:9
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. ( 1 John 5:20 ESV)
There are many gods calling out to us today. Whether it’s money, identity, or physical appearance, none of these gods of the world can give you real help in life. Like all false gods, they will make promises they can’t keep. No amount of money gives you peace. Having a great job is wonderful until you’re replaced by someone else. Your physical appearance will change over the years, and even if you work hard to stay healthy, no one escapes old age or death. The reality is that only the one true God offers immortality. Believing in him gives you eternal life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 ESV)
God offers us things in this life that other gods can never promise. Believing in the God of the Bible means you can have a relationship with him, and you have peace in this life even when you face difficulties is different than other religions because it’s not what you do, but what Jesus did in offering himself, taking the punishment we deserve on the cross. His death provides us with the hope of eternal life.