by George Sidney Hurd
Few believers have even begun to fathom the riches of our inheritance in Christ. We are complete in Him who is seated above all principality and power (Col 2:10). Even as He is the head, so we are His body in a real organic sense (Eph 5:30; Col 2:19). We have become one spirit with the Lord, and He is our very life (1Cor 6:17; Col 3:4). We are called to manifest His life in our mortal bodies, to be one with Him as He is one with the Father and exercise all His authority as joint heirs with Him (2Cor 4:10-11; Jn 17:21). We need divine revelation in order to comprehend the width and length and depth and height of His love, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:16-19). He is able and willing to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond what we are able to comprehend (Eph 3:20-21).
Some have gone a step further and affirm that we are not only born of God and therefore one with Him, being partakers of the divine nature, but that we ourselves are gods. Until recent years, the doctrine was almost unknown in Evangelical, Charismatic circles, being held primarily by the Gnostics, the New Age Movement and a few different sects such as the Mormons and Witness Lee’s “The Local Church”. Now there is a major shift taking place where many prominent evangelists, pastors and teachers are promoting the belief that we are gods. What arguments do they present?
Arguments of Those who affirm that we are Gods
Their first argument is that Jesus, when accused of blasphemy for saying that He was one with the Father, responded by citing Psalms 82 where men are called gods:
“Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, ‘You are gods’?” If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? (John 10:34-36)
Clearly, when Jesus cited this passage to silence his opponents and further said “the Scripture cannot be broken,” He establishes that certain individuals are indeed called gods by God Himself. However, while it is true that God designates certain individuals with God given authority as “gods” (more will be said about this later), nowhere in Scripture does it say that all God’s children are “gods”.
The second argument is based upon our having been created in His image and likeness:
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:26,27)
It is argued from this passage that we were created as gods - just like God. However, it is best to understand this to refer to our likeness to God in the sense of our creative intellect, our emotions and free will. Also, man was originally created predominately as spirit, enabling us to have communion with God who is Spirit. All of these qualities enabled us to exercise dominion over creation, reigning with Him in the sphere of authority which He delegated to us. Comparing our nature to the rest of creation, we can see that we are unique in this sense. Even in our fallen condition, no other creature is comparable to us in our emotional sensibilities and our creative capacity. No other creature has had dominion over the earth as man has. In spite of the fact that man in his fallen condition has used his power for selfish means and is in danger of destroying the earth’s delicate balance, no other creature is comparable to man in his ability to creatively control and manipulate his environment and make it subservient to him. No other creature is capable of making such a difference when motivated by love and compassion as man is. While no man seeks God in his fallen state, no other creature is inclined towards spiritual matters in the way man is.
However, it should be clear that man is not a sovereign with the prerogatives of Godhood. Our relationship to God by creation is designed to be a dependent one. From the very beginning God warned that death would be the result of acting independently in disobedience to Him. The lie of Satan was and still is, “you shall be as gods (or God)” if you act independently of your Creator. The very Psalm that Jesus quoted emphasizes the consequences of one who has been delegated authority as a “god,” disobeying Him. It reads: “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.’” (Ps 82:6-7) They had been called gods by God Himself. Nevertheless, God pronounces judgment upon them for their disobedience. Our relationship to God as the crowning jewel of His creation must be understood as a dependent one:
“for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)
In Isaiah 43:10 we can see clearly that, though we were created in God’s image and likeness, we were not created as “gods”:
“‘You are My witnesses,’ says the Lord, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.’” (Isa 43:10)
How are we to be His witnesses declaring that Jehovah is the only God while at the same time claiming that we were created as gods? Any explanation of the passages where God calls certain individuals gods must take into account the fact that God did not create us as gods.
The third argument presented is based upon our new birth into the family of God. We have been born of God and are called the children of God. Therefore, we are gods. To illustrate this, they say: “Horses give birth to horses; dogs give birth to dogs; cats give birth to cats. Therefore, God gives birth to gods.”
While it is true that we have now been made partakers of the divine nature and possessors of eternal life, we do not possess this life independently. “Christ is our life.” (Col 3:4) “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1John 5:11,12) To be a partaker of the divine nature means that we have received God’s nature; it does not constitute us gods but rather recipients of His nature. As members of the body of Christ, we are collectively called ho Christos “the Christ” (1Cor 12:12). But separate from Him who is the head we are nothing. We can do all things through Him who strengthens us, but Jesus clearly said, “Without me you can do nothing” (Php 4:13; Jn 15:5).
Another argument that is presented to demonstrate that we are gods is to quote orthodox theologians of past centuries. Irenaeus (130 to 202 A.D.) said that God had “become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” Athanasius (293 to 373 A.D.), wrote concerning the Incarnation of Christ that He “was made a human being, that we might be deified (theopoiēthōmen).” Martin Luther wrote: “For the Word becomes flesh precisely so that the flesh may become Word. In other words: God becomes man so that man may become God.”
These references to the theosis or the divinization of man will be examined later in their contexts. However, for the moment I would just like to emphasize that they were referring to an impartation of the divine nature in union with God, and not that we ourselves are gods as is often claimed today. Whether or not certain theologians taught or teach that we are gods, however, is not determinative in itself. We must draw our conclusions solely from the Scriptures.
In conclusion, we have seen that some have argued that we are gods based on the fact that we were created in the image and likeness of God. Others say that we are gods based upon the new birth, while others affirm our divinity is based upon both creation and the new birth. However, looking at Scriptures, there is only one who can rightfully lay claim to be God.
There is Only One God who is Worthy of Adoration
Although there is record of many gods being worshiped in the Bible, only one is worthy of being worshipped. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he offered Him all the kingdoms of this world if He would bow down and worship him. Jesus responded: "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Matt 4:10) In like manner, Peter, instead of accepting worship as a god, rebuked Cornelius:
“As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I myself am also a man.’” (Acts 10:25-26)
It is worthy of note that he neither accepted worship as a man, nor as a “little ‘g’ god.” Neither is there any indication that other apostles considered themselves to be gods. Paul said:
“Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (1Cor 8:4-6)
On one occasion, Paul and Barnabas were taken to be gods by the inhabitants of Lystra when Paul healed a man who had been crippled from birth. The multitudes were about to worship them as gods and make sacrifices in honor of them. Paul and Barnabas’ reaction, makes it clear beyond any doubt that they did not consider themselves to be gods:
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.’” (Acts 14:14-15)
It is very apparent that Paul and Barnabas, even though they were born-again believers, did not consider themselves to be divine. Is it possible that they simply had not as yet received this revelation as to who they really were? Just a short time prior to the incident in Lystra, God revealed what he thought of a man accepting the glory as if he were a god:
“So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:21-23)
Could God, who struck a man dead for not correcting the people when they called him a god, approve of those who say that they are gods today? Even angels who are called gods (elohim) in Psalm 8:5, did not permit man to address them as being more than servants of God. John, overwhelmed by the glory of God which was upon the angel, fell down to worship him and the angel replied:
“See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” (Rev 22:9,10)
If neither the disciples nor the angels accepted worship; if Herod was struck dead for not giving God the glory when the people called him a god; if Paul says that for us there is only one God, then how can we be justified in declaring ourselves to be gods? Having said that, let us now turn our attention to the passages where God Himself calls certain individuals gods.
God Calls Certain Men Gods
While it is clear that men are not to call themselves gods or receive adoration as gods, some men are actually called gods by God Himself. At first glance, it seems to be a contradiction, and has resulted in some opting for one extreme or the other without attempting to harmonize these apparently conflicting statements of Scripture.
Nowhere do we find in the Bible that we are called gods for having been created in His image and likeness. Nor are we called gods by virtue of the new birth although we do at that time become partakers of the divine nature. Jesus Himself, in quoting Psalm 82 showed that the title was restricted to certain individuals:
“Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, You are gods’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken)...” (John 10:34-35)
First, we can see that they are not intrinsically gods, but were called or anointed as gods at a certain point in time, referred to as “when the word of the Lord came” to them. In other words, they were not created gods nor born gods. They were designated as gods by God at a certain point in their adult life when the Spirit of God came upon them. This is well illustrated in the life of Moses. When he was eighty years old, the word of the Lord came to him: “So the Lord said to Moses: ‘See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet.’” (Ex 7:1) “So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.” (Ex 4:16) In Exodus 7:1 it literally states, “I have made you a god to Pharaoh.”
When did the word of the Lord come to Moses? As a child? At forty years of age when he felt ready? No. The word of the Lord came to him only after forty years of preparation in the wilderness had done its work and converted him into the meekest man in all the earth. If the Lord had anointed him as a god to Pharaoh when Moses felt he was ready at forty years of age when he killed the slave master, it no doubt would have been his downfall. It wasn’t until Moses no longer felt worthy that God determined that he was ready. It was only then that the word of the Lord came to him at the burning bush and God placed His power and authority upon him, designating him a god or a representative of God to Pharaoh.
It is important to note that Moses never referred to himself as a god or accepted glory for himself. Even when his face shone with the glory of God, he put a veil over his face to cover it. When it was God’s timing for him to be anointed with power and authority to save His chosen people, Moses had become so meek and humble that his only desire was to do the will of God and glorify Him.
The only other mention of men as gods are the judges that God vested with authority and power in order to govern His people (Ex 21:6; 22:8,9). The word here translated “judges” is the Hebrew word elohim meaning “mighty ones.” Their only power and authority was delegated to them by God in order to govern His people.
Another example of a man of God who remained in the wilderness until the word of God came to him, is John the Baptist. It says of him: “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” (Luke 1:80) In the solitude of the desert, John grew strong in spirit in preparation for the day of his manifestation. Many now who have been growing strong in spirit in the desert are about to enter into the day of their manifestation to all of creation. Those who have submitted themselves under the mighty hand of God will be exalted in due season. Those who wait upon Him in the desert will not be put to shame. When the day of John’s manifestation came - the time appointed by the Father, the word of the Lord came to him:
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Luke 3:1-3)
John had a mighty calling upon his life from his mother’s womb, but in order for that calling to be fulfilled, he had to await the Father’s timing in the desert. Those who have a high calling on their lives must also be prepared in the desert until they are strong enough in spirit – sufficiently mature to be able to carry the anointing God has for them without being lifted up with pride. God gave them a promise, a vision for what He was going to do through them, and then led them into the desert to prepare them until a precise point in time, known only to the Father. The desert may seem unending, but as we wait upon the Lord and learn of Him there, in His perfect timing He will bring us into our inheritance. Though the desert must have seemed unending to John, we can see that the timing of his manifestation was very precise and specific: “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests…”
The honor of being called by Him “a god,” or a representative of Him to the nations, walking in His power and authority, is reserved for those who like Moses have learned meekness – those who have matured in the desert so as to be able to walk in that level of anointing which God delegates only to the mature sons of God. Only those who have learned of Him and grown downward in meekness and humility of spirit will be able to walk in that level of anointing without taking glory to themselves. We must purpose in our hearts to remain in the desert until the word of the Lord comes to us. When His kairos time comes for us, may He find us there, patiently awaiting His perfect timing, no matter how long He seems to delay His coming.
Partakers of the Divine Nature
Participation in the divine nature is primarily what the Church Fathers were referring to when they spoke of God becoming man in the incarnation in order that man may become God. While I feel that it was an unfortunate way of expressing it since it is foreign to the language of Scripture and gives place to erroneous conclusions, what they seemed to be referring to was that we become one spirit with the Lord in the new birth and thus become partakers of the divine nature (1Cor 6:17; 2Peter 1:4). In this sense we undergo a theosis, becoming one with divinity as partakers of His nature when we are regenerated in our spirit and Christ becomes our life (Col 3:4; Gal 2:20). As regenerated sons of God, His divine seed remains in us as John says: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (1John 3:9)
Contrary to common Christian theories of origin, God did not create us ex nihilo “out of nothing,” but rather ex Deo “out of God.” As Paul says:
“Now all things are of God (ek theos), who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2Cor 5:18) [i]
Creation is much more personal than God simply making us out of thin air. All creation is ex Deo (ek theos) out of God as to source rather than out of nothing. Additionally, in a literal reading of Colossians 1:16 we see that we were not only created out of God, but we were originally created in Christ:
“because in (en) him were the all things created, those in the heavens, and those upon the earth, those visible, and those invisible, whether thrones, whether lordships, whether principalities, whether authorities; all things through (dia) him, and for (eis) him, have been created.” (Col 1:16 Young’s Literal Translation)
I cover this with more detail in my book: “The Triumph of Mercy (The Reconciliation of All through Jesus Christ).” Here I would just like to emphasize that we had our beginning in Christ and came out of God as to source, rather than out of nothing. In the final restoration of all, in the Dispensation of the Fullness of the Times, absolutely all will be reunited in Christ, whether in heaven or on earth as Paul says:
“having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together (anakephalaiomai) in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him.” (Eph 1:9-10)
The phrase: “gather together in one” is a composite word made up of ana which normally means “again” and kephalaioo, which means “to head up or sum up,” and is best translated as “to reunite or unite again under one head,” since only this rendering retains the meaning of the prefix ana. [ii] In the coming ages, in the Dispensation of the Fullness of the Times, all will have been reunited in Christ in whom and out of whom they were originally created.
Christ’s prayer in the upper room at the Last Supper will finally have been fully realized. His prayer was that not only His disciples, but all would be reunited in Him just as He Himself is one with the Father:
“that they all may be one (hen), as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one (hen) in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one (hen) just as We are one (hen): 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one (hen).” (John 17:21-23)
It is worth noting that the word hen, or “one” which is repeatedly used here means “one” in the numeric sense rather than simply meaning “united.” It is the same word Jesus used earlier to refer to Himself and the Father as being one (Jn 10:30). When all have been reunited in Christ, all who came out of God as to source – ex Deo or ek theos, which includes absolutely all, will be in God (eis theos), as Paul says:
“For of (ek, “out of as to source”) Him and through (dia) Him and to (eis, “in,” “into”) Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:36)
While a distinction is maintained in Scripture between us as God’s creation and God Himself, we as believers are already joined to Christ, having become one spirit with Him, and ultimately all will have become one with God in a manner presently incomprehensible to us. When the last knee has bowed in subjection to Christ, then Christ Himself will subject Himself to the Father, at which time God will be all in all as Paul says:
“Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:28)
The reality that all will be “reunited in Christ” resulting in God being “all in all” is what the Early Church Fathers were referring to when they spoke of the theosis or the divinization of all. [iii] It is not a New Age pantheism, nor is it saying that we are all gods, but rather that we have been reconciled unto God, becoming partakers of His divine nature as His sons, being one spirit with Him (Col 1:16,20; 2Pet 1:4; 1Cor 6:17). It means that we have the mind of Christ, and if we walk in union with Him, being spiritual rather than carnal, we can know and discern all things because of the anointing (chrisma) which is in us (1Cor 2:15-16;1Jn 2:27).
[i] Our English word “things” does not have an equivalent in Greek. Neither does the neuter form in Greek always indicate objects as in English. When the translators insert “things” in contexts that are evidently referring primarily to persons and not inanimate objects I take the liberty to cross it out in order to keep the focus where it belongs.
[ii] Other examples of composite words with ana prefixed where ana clearly means “again or re…” are as follows: anagennao, “to be born again”; anaginosko, lit. “to know again,” or “to read”; anagnosis, “(the act of) reading”; anazao, “to live again”; anazopureo, to re-enkindle; anathallo, “to revive”; anakainoo, “to renew”; anamnesis, “to remember”; ananeoo, “to reform”; anastauroo, to recrucify, crucify again”; anapsuxis, “a recovery of breath, (figuratively) revival” anapsucho, “to relieve.”
[iii] A few more examples of Church Fathers who spoke of the theosis are: Origin, based upon 1 John 3:2 “We shall be like God, and see God as God is.” Gregory of Nyssa: “The human being surpasses its nature by becoming, from mortal, immortal, from corruptible, incorruptible, from ephemeral, absolutely eternal [aïdios]; in a word, from human being becoming God. For one who has received the honor of becoming Son of God will surely possess the dignity of the Father and inherits all the goods of the Father.” Thomas Aquinas, emphasizing that divinity is imparted purely by grace says: “Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle.”