We close the week with a very important question we never want to assume or ignore. It comes to us from a new podcast listener named Kayla. “Pastor John, is God the same god in all religions, but in different forms? I’ve heard this said, but what does the Bible say?”
Let me make sure that I understand the question. I take Kayla to be asking, “If we sincerely worship the god of any religion, are we worshiping the one true God?” Or we could ask it like this: “Does the Bible teach that the gods of other religions besides Christianity are real supernatural beings, distinct from and in opposition to, the one true God and Father of our Lord Jesus?” Those are the two ways I would rephrase the question.
The answer to the second question is yes. The Bible teaches that the gods of other religions are not mere names. They’re not mere myths but are, in fact, supernatural beings who love to be worshiped and want to deceive the world and receive a claim and take the place of the true God. The answer to the first question is, therefore, no. If you sincerely worship the gods of other religions, you’re not worshiping the one, true God revealed in Jesus Christ. That’s my answer.
“Other gods are competitors. They are enemies. They are demonic. They are not the true God.”
Now, here’s some Bible verses to show you where I get that answer. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:19–20, “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” The question he was dealing with was food offered to idols in another religion and whether Christians should participate.
His explanation was that these sacrifices in the other religions, in the first century, were not sacrifices to the true God as though behind their religion was the same God. They were sacrifices to supernatural beings — he calls them demons — who were in opposition to God. That’s what a demon is. What Paul is claiming is simply a continuation of what God had already revealed in the Old Testament. There is one true God in Israel, Yahweh, who revealed himself by his word to Moses and the prophets.
There are other gods of the nations, real supernatural beings that his people were not to worship. For example, Deuteronomy 29:18 states, “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations.” Or Joshua 23:7–8: “You may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.”
God made it clear numerous times in the Old Testament that there were other gods. There were other religions, and his people were not to assume that these gods are simply manifestations of his own true being — as if the same god were behind every religion. They were different. They were competitors. They were enemies. They were demonic. They are not God. They are contenders for deity. They are real, supernatural, demonic realities.
Whom Will You Serve?
The great issue of life is, Will you serve the one true God, or will you serve other gods? Elijah on Mount Carmel put it like this in the great contest between Yahweh on the one side and Baal the god on the other side. He says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
You can’t say all those sincere Baal worshipers are worshiping the true God. The Bible makes zero sense if that’s the case. These gods are great enemies, so the first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Here’s the most crucial issue in our day, ever since Jesus came into the world as the final, decisive revelation of the true God: he himself, as he revealed himself in history, is the test of whether any claim to be worshiping the true God is a real claim.
For example, 1 John 4:1 states, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit” — If a spirit says, “This is the true religion, or this is the true God over here,” don’t believe them — “But test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” How are we going to do that? John continues, “for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2).
True Litmus Test
In other words, the real Jesus of history revealed in Scripture is the litmus test of every claim to supernatural reality. Any religion that does not embrace and worship and obey Jesus for who he is — revealed in the Bible — is a false religion. It is not the true God incognito. Jesus put it like this in John 5:23: “Whoever does not honor the Son” — Jesus — “does not honor the Father who sent him.”
“Any religion that does not embrace, worship, and obey Jesus as he is revealed in the Bible is a false religion.”
No matter what they — he’s talking to Pharisees who really said they trusted and believed in the God of the Old Testament — said about God, he responded, “No, you don’t because you don’t accept me.” Jesus is the litmus test for all religions, including Judaism. Again, John 8:42 says, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.” In 1 John 2:23, John says, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”
My conclusion from the Bible is that there are real supernatural beings behind other religions, but they are not the true God. They are contenders against God. They are demons and deceivers and the way to test all claims to truth in religion is Jesus Christ. He is the final and decisive revelation of the one true God.