Are Christian Believers 'Gods'?








A new teaching has come from certain of the U.S. tele-evangelists. It has now even spread into Africa.



The teaching, rooted in New Age so-called "Christianity," (which is itself rooted in eastern mysticism), claims the right to call all Christian believers, or an especially favoured group of charismatic believers, 'gods' on the authority of Psalm 82:6. But does this Psalm grant the Christian believer any such right or authority? Would it even be appropriate for any Christian leader to adopt such a title or description of himself/herself? Or to encourage their followers to use the term of themselves?

We need to check out that verse, as well as John 10:34, in which Jesus refers to this very verse.

Okay, let us start with a look at Psalm 82, the psalm that Jesus quotes in John 10:34. The Hebrew word translated 'gods' in Psalm 82:6 is Elohim. It is a uni-plural word in that form, the singular being 'El.' It usually refers to the one true God, but it does have other uses, indeed it can even refer to false idols.

Paul and Barnabas were shocked at Lystra when many people wanted to worship them as gods.

Firstly, let us look at the entire Psalm:

1. God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the "gods":

2. "How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?

3. Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

4. Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

5. "The 'gods' know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about 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. But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.'"

8. Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance (Psalm 82, NIV).


The 'gods' of verse one refer, in this context, to leaders, magistrates, it refers to those who serve in positions of authority. Although Elohim mostly refers to 'God' in the Old Testament, it is an error to think that the word can have no other meaning.

In this scenario, magistrates and rulers derive their authority from God alone (whether or not they see it that way). God has allowed/sanctioned their authority at the present time; this does not mean that such individuals are more righteous or more godly, simply that God prefers order, discipline and government to unbridled anarchy. Nevertheless, this Psalm takes such human rulers/judges/magistrates to task for failing to properly uphold justice. This is the main point of this Psalm.

In verse one, the title 'gods' is used of these leaders/rulers. Immediately in verses 2-4 they are taken to task for not properly upholding justice in the land. In verse 5 it is suggested that they are as blind leaders. Verses 6-7 remind such people that they too are going to be judged, verse 6 reminds that they only occupy their positions under God's authority. Finally, in verse 8, Elohim is applied to God Himself Who will judge all things upon this earth.

This use of the word "gods" to refer to humans is rare, but it is found elsewhere in the Old Testament. For example, when God sent Moses to Pharaoh, He said, Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet." (Exodus 7:1). So this simply means that Moses, as the messenger of God, was speaking God's words and would therefore be God's representative to the Egyptian king. The Hebrew word Elohim is also translated "judges" in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8-9.

Psalm 82 states that earthly judges must act with impartiality and true justice, because even judges must stand someday before the Supreme Judge. Verses 6 and 7 warn human magistrates that they, too, must be judged: "I said, 'You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.' But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler." So this is clearly saying that God has appointed men to positions of authority in which they are considered almost as gods among the people. They are to remember that, even though they are representing God in this world, they are mortal and must eventually give an account to God for how they used that authority.

So why did Jesus quote this passage? Let us look:

But Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
"We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are 'gods"'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came - and Scripture cannot be set aside - what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? (John 10:32-36).

When the Jewish religionists accused Jesus of blasphemy, He quoted this very verse. This reminded the Jewish leaders that God may describe mere men as 'gods,' though normally men of authority and prestige, it is a lesser use of elohim. Though often rendered as 'God,' this word is not a truly divine title as YHWH is.

Jesus' point appears to be this: you charge me with blasphemy based on my use of the title 'Son of God'; yet your own Scriptures apply the same term to magistrates in general. If those who hold a divinely appointed office can be considered 'gods,' how much more can the One whom God has chosen and sent.

On Psalm 82:6, the Keil and Delitzsch commentary states this:

"...His wrath kindles, and He reminds the judges and rulers that it is His own free declaratory act which has clothed them with the god-like dignity which they bear. They are actually elohim, but not possessed of the right of self-government;..."

Clarke states this:

"Ye are gods - ... "like God." Ye are my representatives, and are clothed with my power and authority to dispense judgment and justice, therefore all of them are said to be children of the Most High...."

John Gill states this:

"Psa 82:6 I have said, ye are gods,.... In the law, Exodus 21:6, or they were so by his appointment and commission; he constituted them judges and magistrates, invested them with such an office, by which they came to have this title..."

A Helpful Example From Acts

In complete contrast to the idea that it is permissible for Christians to call themselves 'gods,' we should note the reaction of Paul and Barnabas when people wanted to worship them:

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: "Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:8-18).

Paul and Barnabas were appalled at the prospect of being considered 'gods,' but according to some modern-day evangelists, this would be perfectly fine. It is not fine, and it is not a road which we should go down.

An Objection To This View...

Some might say, 'But surely God will look upon His people as His spiritual sons and daughters in the future (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), also - even now - we are considered a spiritual temple. Furthermore: many believers believe that - within the Eternal State - we will be above the level of the angels; putting all of this together, won't be in God's very family as a sort of god-being?'

I have heard this point of view more than once and armstrongism, for example, 'majors' in this point of view. But it is to go too far. It is true that within the Kingdom, and within the Eternal State, saved believers will be as 'sons and daughters' of God Himself in a deeper, more personal way than we can be right now, we will also plainly have new, somewhat god-like bodies, and be above the level of the angels. That all seems scriptural, but we should not presumptuously claim too much. There are things here which are not yet entirely clear but, from where we currently stand, to claim that we either are already, or will be, god-beings is to go too far. It is to go beyond the revelation which is delivered to us.


Conclusion

When correctly understood, nothing in Psalm 82 gives authority for any Christian leader, however influential, the right to claim that he, or his followers, nor any group of believers, are now to be considered "Gods," or, 'god beings.' Even the magistrates, judges and rulers of society only serve for the present time with God's authority but will be judged like all men and women. Their 'elohim' status being temporarily granted by God Himself, only for a period of time and only for a God-appointed purpose.

For those called as Christians at the present time, humility, loyalty, service and preparedness to walk with Christ through the trials of this life are the important things; many such people will be saved but pride remains their greatest enemy. No such person has the right to describe themself as an 'Elohim being,' 'a god-being,' nor anything similar, certainly not on the basis of Psalm 82.

It would also be entirely inappropriate for a people, supposedly following in the footsteps of their humble Master Who even willingly laid down His life for them, to be behaving in a boastful, swaggering manner, including describing themselves as 'Gods.'

Robin A. Brace. July 27th, 2012.

UK APOLOGETICS