Jesus as “a god” alongside God


Galatians 4:8 and the Trinity 

Coming to the conclusion of our series, we address the objection of Arian apologist Greg Stafford who takes issue with Evangelicals using Galatians 4:8 to deny the existence of angelic gods:

Galatians 4:8 is often misused to prove that there are no gods other than Jehovah. After rightly referring to Isa 45:21-22 as a challenge to idol gods, James White (The Forgotten Trinity, 37-38) refers to Ga 4:8 as evidence that Paul refers to idols as “those that ‘by nature are no gods.’” But he then concludes, “A god other than Yahweh is,by nature, a ‘no god.’” Unless White is going to argue that Galatians slaved for the angels who served God ‘when they did not know God,’ his general conclusion does not follow from Paul’s specific statement in Ga 4:8. Bowman’s handling for this text (Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, 53-54) and 1Co 10:20 is also rather interesting. Paul refers to the idols in 1Co 10:19 as “nothing”; they are not the demons who use them in verse 20. Bowman simply assumes that in Ga 4:8 Paul is speaking about the demons, and not the idols. Since this cannot be proven, then for him to use it as proof against facts that are clearly articulated elsewhere regarding the angels as “gods” is most unfortunate. (Ibid., p. 99. 90n)

Before addressing Stafford’s claim, it needs to be mentioned that Paul wrote Galatians to combat the false teachings of the Judaizers. There were some Jews who were trying to persuade the Galatians to follow a false Gospel which taught the necessity of faith in Christ and observance of the Mosaic Law for salvation. Little is said about idols. In light of this Paul writes:

“Likewise we also, when we were babes, continued enslaved by the elementary things belonging to the world (ta stoicheia tou kosmou emetha dedoulomenoi). But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman, and who came to be under the law, that he might release by purchase those under the law, that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons. Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’ So then, you are no longer a slave (doulus) but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God. Nevertheless, when YOU did not know God, then it was that YOU slaved for those who by nature are not gods (edouleusate tois pusei me ousi theois). But now that you have come to know God, or rather now that YOU have come to be known by God, how is it that YOU are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again (ta esthene kai ptocha stoicheia ois palin anothen douleusai thelete)? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years.” Galatians 4:3-10

The context shows that being enslaved to these so-called gods meant being enslaved to false religious teachings which do not originate from God. Paul reiterates this point elsewhere:

“Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry YOU off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world (kata ta stoicheia tou kosmou) and not according to Christ… Therefore, let no man judge YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or an observance of the new moon or of a Sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ. Let no man deceive YOU of the prize who takes delight in a [mock] humility and a form of worship of the angels, ‘taking his stand on’ THE THINGS HE HAS SEEN, puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind, whereas he is not holding fast to the head, to the one from whom all the body, being supplied and harmoniously joined together by means of its joints and ligaments, goes on growing with the growth that God gives. If YOU died together with Christ toward the elementary things of the world (ton stoicheion tou kosmou), why do YOU, as if living in the world, further subject yourselves to decrees: ‘Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch,’ respecting things that are all destined to destruction by being used up, in accordance and teachings of men? Those very things are, indeedpossessed of an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and [mock] humility, a sever treatment of the body; but they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.” Colossians 2:8, 16-23

Furthermore, the Holy Bible states that this corrupt and evil world is under Satan’s control:

“So he brought him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time; and the Devil said to him: ‘I will give you all this authority and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me and to whomever I wish I give it. You, therefore, if you do an act of worship, it will all be yours.’” Luke 4:5-7

Note that Satan here requests worship, providing indirect evidence that the gods whom Paul said that the Gentiles served were Satan and his demons.

“Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world (ho archon tou kosmou toutou) will be cast.”  John 12:31

“I shall not speak much with YOU anymore, for the ruler of this world (ho tou kosmou archon) is coming. And he has no hold on me.” John 14:30 cf. 16:11

“He gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the present wicked system (ek tou aionos tou enestotos ponerou) according to the will of our God and Father.” Galatians 1:4

“in which YOU at one time walked according to the system of things of this world (ton aiona tou kosmou toutou), according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:2

“We know we originate from God but the whole world (ho kosmos holos) is lying in the [power of the] wicked one.” 1 John 5:19

Third, the scriptures teach that all false human wisdom and traditions are inspired by Satan and his angels, with the purpose of preventing men from embracing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, YOUR minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ. For, as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or YOU receive a spirit other than what YOU received, or good news other than what YOU accepted, YOU easily put up  [with him].” 2 Corinthians 11:3-4

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And now wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their woks.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

“Let no one seduce YOU in any manner, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction. He is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god… But the lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 9-12

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:1-5

“Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son. Everyone that denies the Son does not have the Father. He that confesses the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:22-23

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world (autoi ek tou kosmou eisin) and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood ” 1 John 4:1-6 NIV

We see here that an antichrist is one who belongs to and speaks from the world.

“And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven… Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” Revelation 13:2-6, 11-15 NIV

“Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.” Revelation 16:13-14 NIV

The preceding citations help clarify Paul’s meaning in Galatians 4. Both this fallen world and its religious traditions and wisdom are under the control of Satan. This provides evidence that Paul’s reference to the so-called gods is not a reference to idols as such, but to the evil, wicked spirits that enslave man through their false teachings. In other words, Paul is claiming that Satan and his demons, being the source of all false religious knowledge and wisdom, are false gods; spiritual beings that are not gods in nature.

Furthermore, even if Paul did have idols in mind this still wouldn’t help Stafford’s case in the least. The pagans who worshipped idols weren’t that naive.  They understood that the piece of wood or stone was not the god itself, but an earthly representation of a divine being.  It was the divine being behind the idol that they worshipped.  Paul himself says as much when he states that the heathen made images of the creature and worshiped them instead of worshiping the Creator:

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen” Romans 1:22-25 RSV

Thus, when Paul says, “we know that an idol is nothing in this world,” he is presupposing that his audience would heartily agree – and not simply because as Christians they had come to some sort of new understanding.  Rather, they knew the idol was nothing and could not help them, but now – as Christians – they acknowledge the one, true God (in distinction from the “gods many” whom the pagans knew stood behind their idols) – the only God who is “God by nature.”

If these ‘gods’ were not ‘gods by nature,’ Paul implies that there is at least one who is God by nature – and this itself refutes the JW argument that Scripture does not speak of God’s nature. De 32:17 says the same thing – the demons (not idols!) were “not God.”

Finally, as we have already shown, even without Galatians 4:8 there is still plenty of evidence proving that demons, and therefore angels, are not gods. Here are a couple of more citations:

“No; but I say that the things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God (ou theo); and I do not want YOU to become sharers with the demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:20

A JW may claim that singular theos here shows that Paul is not denying that demons are essentially gods, but that the sacrifices of Gentiles are not offered to the one eternal God. The problem with this assertion is that it neglects to take Paul’s statement in light of its OT background which, as we have seen, emphatically teaches that there is only one God in essence and nature:

“And he proceeded to put in office for himself priests for the high places and for the goat-shaped DEMONS and for the calves that he had made.” 2 Chronicles 11:15

“And now YOU men are thinking of holding YOUR own against the kingdom of Jehovah in the hand of the sons of David, when YOU are a large crowd and there are with YOU the golden calves that Jero-bo’am made for YOU as gods (lelohim). Have you not driven out Jehovah’s priests, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and do YOU not keep making priests for yourselves like the peoples of the lands? As for anyone that came and filled his hand with power by means of a young bull and seven rams, he became a priest of what are NO gods (lelo elohim).” 2 Chronicles 13:8-9

The demons that Jeroboam and others sacrificed to are specifically said to be no gods at all, reinforcing our claim that the Holy Bible denies that angels are gods in nature. Hence, Paul’s use of singular theos may simply be his way of highlighting the consistent OT teaching that there is only one God. Every other so-called deity is a non-deity.

2 thoughts on “Jesus as “a god” alongside God

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