Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #221 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading 1 Corinthians 8 today and our focus is on Is There Only One God? Does the Bible Teach That There are Many Gods? + The Dangers of Too Much Knowledge. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
As far as I can remember, 1 Corinthians 8 is the shortest chapter we’ve done a whole episode on. It is mainly focused on whether or not to eat food that has been first sacrificed to idols, which is no longer a very prevalent issue in most cultures around the world, but that doesn’t mean that our chapter today is irrelevant to Christian life in the 2020s. In fact, there are two really big issues raised here that are very important. One is theological: Is there only ONE God – or are there several Gods? The other issue is a spiritual issue with a lot of practical application. Can too much knowledge – even knowledge of the Bible – be a bad thing?
Let’s start with the second question first. Can knowledge of God’s Word be bad? The answer, is complicated. Consider what Paul says here:
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
This is interesting. Knowledge can have the ability to make one prideful and puffy. Consider the Pharisees and Sadducees – they were extremely knowledgeable of God’s Word and they taught it to others…and yet that knowledge availed them little – they were enemies of Jesus. Just today, I preached on the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. That parable was told by Jesus in response to a question asked by an “expert in the law.” In our day, we might think of an expert in the law as a lawyer, who understands complicated civic and criminal codes, but in Jesus’ day, this was a person with great knowledge of the Old Testament commands- a person with great knowledge about the things of God…and this knowledge was not at all beneficial for the expert in the law – he was puffed up. Does this mean that knowledge of God’s Word is dangerous – that we should not study to show ourselves approved? It does not. The warning is not so much in knowing God’s Word, but in trusting in our knowledge and being prideful in our knowledge, as the second verse of our chapter reveals:
2 If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it 1 Corinthians 8:2
Knowledge without humility will lead to pride, and pride always leads to a collapse, a downfall. Sometimes that downfall will be obvious and catastrophic, and sometimes it will be more subtle, as is the case with our expert in the law. Jesus – God in the flesh, was staring him in the face, and rather than throw everything down and follow Jesus – God Himself – the expert in the law instead tried to trap Jesus, foil Jesus, challenge Jesus and prove his superiority over Jesus.
Further, knowledge without love will lead to a similar or worse catastrophic outcome, as we will see in a few days in 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
There is nothing to be gained from a high level of knowledge that is not accompanied by love. A knowledgeable person who is not a loving person is a nothing, says Paul – such knowledge may impress humans, but to God it amounts to zero.
Our second topic is a theological one, and the answer seems quite obvious. Is there only ONE God? Well, the Bible seems to say that in various places, but in other places…we see passages like:
God stands in the divine assembly;
he pronounces judgment among the gods:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?Selah
3 Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
4 Rescue the poor and needy;
save them from the power of the wicked.”
5 They do not know or understand;
they wander in darkness.
All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods;
you are all sons of the Most High.
7 However, you will die like humans
and fall like any other ruler.”
For the Lord is great and is highly praised; he is feared above all gods.
Lord, who is like you among the gods?
Who is like you, glorious in holiness,
revered with praises, performing wonders?
Lord, there is no one like you among the gods, and there are no works like yours.
For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe.
For the Lord is great and highly praised; he is feared above all gods. 1 Chronicles 16:25
All who serve carved images, those who boast in worthless idols, will be put to shame. All the gods must worship him. Psalms 97:7
Lots of uses of the plural for ‘gods’ here – and the Hebrew word used is the word Elohim – which can be translated as god or God, but can also be used to refer to demons, angels, other heavenly beings, and is even once used of Samuel, raised from the dead by the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28. Does any of this mean that there is more than one God? Here’s what Paul says:
4 About eating food sacrificed to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6
It is almost as if Paul is being a little ambiguous here. Even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth…yet for us, there is one God. That sentence certainly seems to leave open quite a few possibilities that there are other heavenly beings that claim to be gods or are worshipped as gods. But the key part is vs 6 – THERE IS ONE GOD FOR US. And that is the overall teaching of the Bible – that there are many Heavenly beings – some are angels, some demons, some appear to be something akin to minor deities, or something along those lines, but there is, practically speaking, one God – one God of Gods, King of Kings, Lord of Lords – Yawheh, the God of the Bible. As noted Old Testament and Hebrew scholar Dr. Michael Heiser notes:
The biblical writers refer to a half-dozen different entities with the word elohim. By any religious accounting, the attributes of those entities are not equal….
The importance of this list can be summarized with one question: Would any Israelite, especially a biblical writer, really believe that the deceased human dead and demons are on the same level as Yahweh? No. The usage of the term elohim by biblical writers tells us very clearly that the term is not about a set of attributes. Even though when we see “G-o-d” we think of a unique set of attributes, when a biblical writer wrote elohim, he wasn’t thinking that way. If he were, he’d never have used the term elohim to describe anything but Yahweh.
Source: The Unseen Realm, Dr. Michael Heiser
My conclusion is this -when taking into account our modern vocabulary and the use of the word God – there is ONE God, and many heavenly beings – angels, demons, minor deities that do not rise to the level of what we think of when the word ‘God’ is used, and probably other heavenly beings that we are ignorant of. Lots of heavenly beings, but only ONE God, Yahweh, the Triune God of the Bible.
Bible Memory verses for the month of August: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
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