Are We “Little Gods”? – LIVE Q&A on June 13, 2024

Are We “Little Gods”?

This week’s lead question comes from Ashley H:

Could you please explain John 10:34, Jesus quoting Psalms 82, saying “you are gods”? I hear the “little god” theory quoted from here, and the context seems misplaced.

In the context of John 10, Jesus was clearly declaring His deity to the religious leaders, and the religious leaders strongly objected (John 10:30-33), as one might expect.

John 10:34-36: Jesus reasons with the religious leaders from Psalm 82.

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’?

  1. [34] Jesus answered them: The religious leaders surrounded Jesus (John 10:24) and now held rocks to stone Him to death (John 10:31). Jesus didn’t panic and didn’t run; He stopped them with the power of His word. He answered them as an educated rabbi would speak to other educated rabbis.
  2. “Jesus rebuts their charge of blasphemy by means of an argument from scripture, of a kind with which they themselves were quite familiar…His question would have made an interesting issue for a rabbinical debate.” (Bruce)
  3. [34] Is it not written in your law, “I said, ‘You are gods’”: The judges of Psalm 82 were called “gods” because in their office they determined the fate of other men. In a real sense, life or death is in the hand of a judge, who holds “god-like” power.
  4. Also, in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8-9, God called earthly judges “gods” (Elohim).
  • Exodus 21:6: His master shall bring him to the judges (elohim)
  • Exodus 22:8: The master of the house shall be brought to the judges (elohim)
  • Exodus 22:9: The cause of both parties shall come before the judges (elohim)
  1. [35] If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came: Jesus reasoned, “If God gave these unjust judges the title ‘gods’ because of their office, why do you consider it blasphemy that I call Myself the ‘Son of God’ in light of the testimony of Me and My works?”

That’s plain, straightforward: “If the Lord calls human judges ‘gods,’ even with all their failures and corruptions, then why do you think it is strange that I call Myself “God,” considering all the testimony there is to My deity, especially in the works that I do?”

Two wrong understandings have come out of this.

Wrong Understanding 1: Jesus said we can all be “little gods.”

Jesus did not take the statement “you are gods” in Psalm 82 and apply it to all humanity or to all believers. The use of gods in Psalm 82 was a metaphor. Jesus spoke of that metaphor to expose both the ignorance and inconsistency of His accusers.

Believers, the people of God, are given so much in Jesus Christ, that it is staggering to take in. We are:

  • Born again, transformed, given new life.
  • Set free from bondage to the powers of darkness.
  • Elected, chosen by God.
  • Filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • Forgiven all our sin, truly cleansed.
  • Adopted into the family of God.
  • Seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
  • Given every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.
  • Promised resurrection and glorification.
  • Made kings and priests unto God.

Yet with all that, we are never made gods.

  • There are human beings.
  • There are angelic beings.
  • There is Divine being.

God never stops being God, angels never stop being angels, and humans never stop being humans. We don’t become gods or evolve into gods. To say that we do is even a dangerous restating of the first lie: in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God (Genesis 3:5).

The closest any passage of Scripture comes to saying we will become gods is found in 2 Peter 1:4:

…by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

This is a remarkable statement – in some way, through the work of God’s word, believers become partakers of the divine nature. God’s people don’t become divine, but they share (partake) of His nature in an amazing way. This is no doubt tied to the promises of our adoption in Christ in Galatians 4:5-7.

Believers, the people of God, have a glorious status in Christ Jesus – but they are not, and will not ever become gods, even “little gods.”

Wrong Understanding 2: The “gods” of John 10:34 and Psalm 82 are a “divine council” or “divine assembly” that Yahweh presides over.

Psalm 82:1-2: God questions the unjust judges.

God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked?

  1. [1] God stands in the congregation of the mighty: Asaph gives us the picture of God amid the mighty, standing in authority.
  2. [1] He judges among the gods: God’s standing amid these mighty ones is to bring judgment among them. The word godshere is Elohim, the plural for the generic word for god in Hebrew. The idea of God judging gods has led to several suggestions regarding the identity of these elohim, these gods.
  • Elohim is often used to describe the true God, Yahweh. It is in the plural to describe both the majesty of His person, and to be a hint of the triune nature of God, being One God in Three Persons.
  • Elohim is sometimes used as the plural of pagan deities, the false gods of the nations.
  • Elohim is sometimes used in reference to angelic beings.
  • Elohim is here in Psalm 82:1 best taken as a reference to human judges, who stand in the place of God in their ability to determine the fate of others.
  1. [2] How long will you judge unjustly? As God calls together this assembly of judges, He did not do it to compliment them or pay them honor. He did it to confront them for judging unjustly and for showing partiality to the wicked. This confrontation shows that God Himself is the Judge at the ultimate Supreme Court.

The idea that Psalm 82 (and the reference of Jesus to in John 10) refers to a “divine counsel” or a “divine assembly” or a “counsel of the gods” or anything like that is unnecessary and speculative.

How can someone heal from church hurt and begin to trust other Christians within the church again?

Every person who has been involved in church life, and especially in church leadership, has experienced some measure of hurt and pain from the church. Now, I’m not inferring that your hurt is insignificant since everybody has experienced it. No, no. This is an important topic which every believer has to deal with. Therefore, it is very important how we as believers respond to these very painful experiences in church. If you give yourself to a church, especially if you are more than a casual, semi-committed believer, you will find that other believers are going to let you down, and sometimes they’ll stab you in the back.

So, how do you overcome it? Well, it may take time. Be absolutely zealous in your personal pursuit of the Lord. Even though life together with God’s people in a congregational setting is very important for the Christian life, it doesn’t take away from the personal relationship that we have with God in Jesus Christ. Keep doing the normal things that a believer would do as a disciple of Jesus, such as reading the Bible, prayer, personal worship, personal devotion unto the Lord, fasting as a demonstration of following God, and dedication unto Him. All these things, collectively, should be part of the practice of a believer in Jesus.

Beyond that, ask God to help you to deal with others as you would want to be dealt with. Let the Golden Rule really reign in this situation. Honestly, most of us in church life have given offense to other people at one point or another. We have hurt other people. Maybe we were trying to, or maybe we weren’t. It’s quite possible that you have never hurt someone else the way that you have been hurt. Maybe it’s all out of proportion. But in the way you would want somebody to treat you among God’s people, have that attitude in how you treat others.

My heart goes out to believers who aren’t really connected to a group of Christians or a church. Maybe for some of these people, there is not a healthy church family in their area. Maybe they’re sick and infirmed and can’t be present at church gatherings. Maybe they’ve been burned by the church. People can be disconnected from church for many different reasons, but it’s never ideal. Ideally, every believer is connected to a congregation, even as messy as that can be.

I believe of the immutability of God (Malachi 3:6). How do we reconcile verses where God seems to change His mind (Genesis 6:6, Exodus 32:14, Hezekiah, Jonah)?

Malachi 3:6 – For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Genesis 6:6 – And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

Exodus 32:14 – So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

This is the best way in which I can explain it. In passages that talk about the Lord changing His mind, or the Lord being sorry for what He had done, God is speaking there in anthropomorphisms. An anthropomorphism is an explanation made in human terms, even though the being you’re explaining is not human. For example, when we attribute emotions to our pets, we don’t exactly know what they’re feeling at that moment, but we can make a pretty good human analogy. If we see a dog wagging its tail, we say the dog is happy. Is it exactly like human happiness? Well, it’s probably close. It doesn’t have to be exact. When you explain something that’s not human by using human terms and pictures and analogies, that’s using anthropomorphism. We use anthropomorphisms when we talk about God by explaining God in human terminology.

Considering a little higher in the theology of it, did God actually change His mind? No, we would expect not. But is that the best way to explain it and perceive it from a human standpoint? Yes, that’s a good way to explain it and perceive it. We’re talking about the difference between the divine and the human. You know, an ant can’t really have much explanation for what human beings do. I would argue that the distance between the human and the divine might be even greater than the distance between the ant and the human being.

So, what do we do? Well, we don’t give up trying to understand or describe God. We just recognize that we are describing Him in imperfect terms, and we do the best we can with it. God is immutable. He’s never changing. He has an eternal plan that shall not change. But the Bible explains things in human terminology because that’s the only kind of terminology we know how to use.

What is the sin of gluttony and how do we keep away from it?

Gluttony of food seems to me prevalent among many believers I know, yet very seldom talked about or condemned. What really is the sin of gluttony and how do we keep from it?

I think that gluttony is a sin widely practiced today. If I were to define gluttony, I would say that it’s taking an excessive and even idolatrous interest in food and drink. With our foodie culture, gluttony is probably practiced more than ever before. Look, it’s not a sin to eat or even to enjoy food. But we all know that there’s a line between enjoying something and finding ultimate or idolatrous meaning in it. There’s a line somewhere that can be crossed, when you begin to find your life’s meaning in what you eat and drink. That’s gluttony.

One reason why gluttony isn’t spoken against is the line between appropriately enjoying food and an idolatrous finding of life’s meaning in food. That line can be very difficult to define. The line certainly exists; there’s no doubt about that. And there are some people who will go to hell because they’ve made an idol out of what they eat and drink. As Paul writes in one of his letters, these are people who live for their belly. It doesn’t matter if their belly is big or small, because the sin of gluttony isn’t necessarily connected to a person’s weight or their body mass index. It certainly could be, but not necessarily. It’s difficult to talk about sins where we honestly don’t have a firm marking line. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak about them more than we do, but I sympathize being a pastor and a preacher. I sympathize with our inability to define this sin very strictly. Other sins are easier to talk about because they’re more definable. The line that is crossed into those sins is more easily seen. The line that’s crossed into the sin of gluttony is difficult to see, but it’s real, so I think it’s something that people should talk about. Pastors should talk about it more. Dear friend, enjoy the food God gives you, but don’t make an idol out of it. Don’t find the meaning of your life in such things. That would be God’s encouragement to us.

What would you say to Christians who claim the Rapture is not present (or is very misunderstood) in Scripture?

Matt Chandler posted a video refuting the rapture, saying “it is not in Revelation,” and that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:52 have been taken out of context. What would you say to Christians who claim the Rapture is not present (or is very misunderstood) in Scripture?

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 – Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

I’m not going to comment so much on what Matt Chandler says. If I decide to comment on what somebody else says, I want to research what they said very carefully. Instead of doing that, let me just say that people who claim the Rapture isn’t in the Bible are either being dishonest or extremely imprecise in their speech. Usually what they mean is the classical dispensational understanding of the catching away of the Church – which is understood and accepted in among many evangelicals today –isn’t in the Bible. There is absolutely no doubt that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 describes a catching away of God’s people (Greek: harpazo), snatching them away from the Earth. That’s exactly what it says is going to happen, period. Chrisians differ on the timing of when this happens amid world circumstances, but the fact that it happens is really not to be questioned.

I have heard Christians claim that the Rapture is not in the Bible. I disagree; it is there. I believe that there will be a catching away of God’s people, and I have a particular understanding for myself as to when it will happen in God’s unfolding plan of the ages. But I think it is absolutely crystal clear that there will be a catching away of God’s people relevant to the resurrection, as an aspect of God’s unfolding plan of the ages. It is what the Scriptures say.

I shake my head a little bit as to why people act like these things aren’t in the Bible, when in fact, they clearly are. What they’re really reacting against is the dominant view among American Evangelical Christianity, which believes in the dispensational understanding of the Rapture of the church, especially the pre-Tribulation Rapture. People can argue all day long concerning a post-Millennial standpoint or Amillennial standpoint, but we would have to buy their premise. We would have to agree with their understanding of the Kingdom of God and how that’s all going to unfold. I simply don’t agree with their view. I believe that the Rapture of the Church will happen. But nobody should be setting dates for exactly when it happens in God’s unfolding plan, because no man knows the day or the hour. We should be faithful wherever God has placed us and live with the anticipation of the soon return of Jesus Christ. That’s how I see it.

What does it mean for Jesus to be the “Word of God”?

Psalm 138:2c – You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

God closely identifies Himself with His word. We have an amazing self-revelation of God in His word. Beware of people who want to make a significant division between God and His word. We understand that they’re not the same thing. The word of God is not the same as God Himself, but they are so closely intertwined that one of the great titles for Jesus, the Messiah, is the Word of God.

John 1:1-2 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

In John 1:1, “Word” is translated from the ancient Greek word logos. And the logos was something that had a place in both Greek thinking and philosophy, just as the Word of God had a place in Hebrew thinking and philosophy. When John uses this terminology in John 1, he’s not only declaring the close association between God Himself and His word, but he’s also indicating that Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Messiah, is the fulfillment and culmination of all God’s revelation. Jesus is what the Greeks anticipated as the logos, and what the Jewish people anticipated as the word of God. All of that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

What is the meaning of abundant life and eternal life?

These two terms are not exactly the same. Abundant life is life that’s filled with life. You know what it’s like for somebody to feel like they have life, but they have no life. They’re sad, they’re depressed. Jesus came to give us abundant life, living life, life filled with life. That’s abundant life, life upon life. All these things are ways to describe the abundant life that Jesus gives us.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The phrase eternal life is a little bit different because that Greek word that’s translated eternal or everlasting life. In John 3:16, everlasting life can be understood in one of two ways. First, it could be life that never ends, eternal life. But it’s not just that, because you could say that every human being is eternal. Every human being has everlasting life in some sense. What every human being does not have is life upon life, blessed life, life with God, life from above, Heaven’s kind of life in their life.

It’s a quality of life that we don’t have to wait for until we die. We can enjoy abundant life in Jesus Christ now. Not every moment of every day is filled with happiness or a feeling that everything is great. No, no. We each have our share of trials, difficulties, and tribulations. There are afflictions to which we are appointed as believers. But there’s a lot of joy in the Lord, even in the most difficult circumstances; that’s abundant life. Then there is also everlasting life, eternal life, that’s life that comes to us now and lasts into the age to come.