I Said, You Are Gods

Wow, here is one that will knock your socks off… What did Jesus mean in saying men were gods (John 10:34-36)?

What has been popularly termed the “little god controversy” originated with Word of Faith pastors and teachers.

  1. The basic idea behind the controversy is that humans are actually divine, created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27) not only in having a soul, having dominion over the earth, or living in relationship with others, but by being of the same “spiritual class” as God Himself.
  2. Evangelicals say this concept as misguided at best, or heretical and cultic at worst.

Take a look at this brief documentary style video on this “little gods” heresy. You’ll be surprised at who teaches this doctrine.

The main tenant of Word of Faith is that, when we ask something of God in faith, He is compelled to fill the request. As “little gods,” our words have much power. It is interesting that we put ourselves into the role of creator, speaking words and that destiny coming into existence. Joel Osteen promotes this concept of speaking your destiny into reality.

  1. This error is taught by some television evangelists, and its roots in Pentecostalism have made it more common in Charismatic churches.
  2. The Word of Faith movement has a number of popular monikers including “name-it-claim-it,” “prosperity theology” and “health and wealth gospel.”

The basis for the “little gods” claim is found in two Scripture passages. Psalm 82:6 reads, “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’” Jesus quotes this psalm in John 10:34, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I have said you are gods’?” However, both of these passages include explanations in the immediate context which clearly do not indicate human divinity.

  1. Psalm 82:6 is followed by a warning that “you will all die like mere men, you will fall like every other ruler” (Psalm 82:7).
  2. The reference is to mortal men who represent God’s authority in the world—kings, judges, and magistrates.

Psalm 82 is a warning to unjust leaders who consider themselves “gods” (Psalm 82:1) yet who “know nothing,” who “walk about in darkness” (Psalm 82:5).

  1. Jesus used this passage in response to those who accused Him of blasphemy.
  2. Essentially, Jesus asked why, when human rulers were called gods, “the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world” (John 10:36) was blaspheming by claiming to be God’s Son.

Claiming divinity for Christians is unsupportable, especially taking the rest of the Bible into account.

  1. God is God alone (Isaiah 37:16). We have never been God, we are not God now, and we never will be God.
  2. Jesus was fully God and fully man (a combination called the hypostatic union).
  3. If the “little gods” hypothesis is accepted, it imputes to Jesus a lesser divinity of some kind; He became a “little god” like us.
  4. John said that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), but this does not indicate “a lesser divinity.”
  5. Jesus took on human flesh and blood in order to die for our sins (Hebrews 2:14), yet He retained His full position in the Godhead. God created us with a spirit, but that spirit does not hold divine qualities.

Here is something from John MacArthur on the doctrine of Joel Osteen. It’s pretty eye-opening, but not surprising if you read anything Osteen writes.

Here is some teaching from Warren Wiersbe on Psalm 82:

The throne in heaven (Psalm 82:1–4). The Lord stands as Judge and indicts the human judges for their failure to defend the poor and needy and condemn the wicked. Their partiality made a farce out of the legal system God ordained for Israel (Leviticus 19:15; Proverbs 24:23–25). What does He think of our judicial system today?

The foundations on earth (Psalm 82:5). The foundations for peace and order in society are righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:14; 97:2). Whether in the home, church, or government, abandoning righteousness and justice makes the very foundations tremble (Psalm 11:3) and brings darkness where there should be light.

The graves under the earth (Psalm 82:6–8). The human judges are called “gods” because the Hebrew word elohim means “mighty ones.” (It is also one of the names for God.) Leadership is a serious thing, for leaders stand in the place of God and will one day answer to Him. The selfish judges may have their days of pleasure, but one day they will die, and then what? The judges will be judged righteously by the Judge of all the earth, and there will be no escape.

The Judge (Psalm 82:1)

  1. Since God is the Lawgiver, God is the Judge.
  2. He presides over the congregation of Israel and the judges of the nation.
  3. There is no seat, bench, or jury box, God needs no one to tell him the facts.
  4. He will execute judgment since he knows what is going on.
  5. The gods – (Psalm 82:1, 6) are not the false gods of the heathens, nor holy angels (for they cannot die).
  6. These gods are people who have been given the awesome responsibility of representing the Lord on the earth, interpreting and applying his law.
  7. Jesus’ quotes verse 6 (John 10:34-36) telling the religious leaders that he has the responsibility of representing the
  8. Lord on the earth and seek to execute justice by applying the law correctly.

The Judges (Psalm 82:2-7)

  1. These judges did not live out Micah 6:8.
    1. Did not act justly (Psalm 82:2)
    2. Did not love mercy (Psalm 82:3-4)
    3. They walked in defiance of God’s will (Psalm 82:5)
  2. YOU in Psalm 82:2 is plural, indicating the guilty judges: taking bribes, failing to care for orphans and widows.
    1. They are to uphold the law
    2. They are not to show partiality.

The Judgment (Psalm 82:6-8)

  1. These people were in high offices and were considered gods. Gods were the judges who acted on God’s behalf.
  2. Moses would be as a god (Exodus 7:1) I will make you as God to Pharaoh.
  3. Jesus quotes this verse…
    1. To defend his claim to be the Son of God.
    2. That he was set apart by the Father and sent to earth.
    3. In spite of titles and offices, all these gods (judges) would die off, like any other human and pay the price for their sins.
    4. When God comes to judge the earth, no one will escape and his sentence will be just.

So, does the Bible ever claim divinity for Christians? (1 John 3:2, 1 John 4:1, Romans 6:5, 2 Timothy 4:3, Isaiah 37:16, 2 Peter 2:1)

The Godless without Faith

Chapter two of Second Peter brings the whole topic of false teachers. Ever since the time of Christ there have been those who twist the teachings of Jesus and the doctrines of the church. At times these differences have brought about greater understanding and clarity involving theology, like during the Reformation. Other times brought about significant deviation from the truth, which have been called heresies.

  1. Why do people follow false teachers?
  2. What are some false teachers they have been aware of in the last few years.
  3. What motivates false teachers to work their way into churches? (Several of Paul’s letters are written to refute false teaching and false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:3–15, Galatians 2:1–5; 1 Timothy 6:3–5).
  4. What kind of tactics do false teachers use to gain followers?
  5. Why will there be certain punishment for those who turn others away from God?

Jesus was warning the people of His day to be on the lookout for gifted leaders who would take advantage of them and lead them astray. They would be men who looked good on the outside but were corrupt on the inside. They would perform well. To put it bluntly, great preachers are not necessarily great Christians.The people can be fooled and led astray.

The best picture of what a Spirit-filled man looks like is Christ. His life was characterized by the Fruit of the Spirit in the midst of a world characterized by just the opposite of those characteristics.

  1. Jesus stood up to His opponents when it was appropriate, but He also knew when to be silent.
  2. He had the courage and wit to take on the intellectuals of His day on their turf according to their terms.
  3. He spoke with authority.
  4. People, especially children, were attracted to Him. Even sinners loved to be with Him.
  5. He was a very secure man. There was nothing pretentious or intimidating about Him.
  6. He didn’t need those props.
  7. At the end of His life He tackled the toughest account of all—death. And He won!

Questions to Consider:

  1. What makes false teachers popular today?
  2. How can we recognize false teaching?
  3. There are times when we need to confront and expose sin in the life of other believers. What are some guidelines for deciding when that is appropriate?


Peter warned his readers of the false teachers who presented a message contradictory to that of the apostles. He wrote of the characteristics of false teachers, the consequences of their teaching, their conduct, and their condemnation.

The Characteristics of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:1–3)
False prophets in Old Testament times sought to lead God’s people away from the revelations of the true prophets, and false teachers in Peter’s time tried to lead God’s people away from the teaching of the apostles. The heretics added some of their own false teaching to the orthodox faith, thereby denying the One they professed to submit to as Christians. Their judgment would be sudden. Reckless and hardened immorality would accompany their doctrinal error. False teachers typically desire to satisfy themselves rather than God, which leads them to take advantage of their audiences. God is never late or asleep in executing justice, though He is patient (see 2 Peter 3:9).

The Consequences of False Teaching (2 Peter 2:4–10a)
Peter next described the consequences that follow false teaching to help his readers see the importance of avoiding it. He gave three examples of apostates in the past.

  1. His first example is the angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4), an example of how the devil works.
  2. His second example is the unbelievers of Noah’s day (2 Peter 2:5), an example of the world.
  3. The third example (2:6) is the turning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, an example of the flesh.

All three examples show that God will not only punish the wicked, but will also rescue the righteous from the judgment He will send on the ungodly who surround them.

The Conduct of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:10b–19)
Peter emphasized the conduct of false teachers in order to motivate his readers to turn away from them. Rather than behaving as good angels do, the false teachers acted like animals. Peter believed the false teachers therefore deserved treatment similar to that of animals. God will give them punishment in keeping with their crimes. Their practices were similar to stains on the clean fabric of the church, blemishes on its countenance, since the practitioners claimed to be Christians. The false teachers sinned without restraint and lured people not firmly committed to Jesus Christ to join them. They were also trying to get the Christians to participate in idolatry and immoral practices. Like the springs and mists Peter described (2 Peter 2:17), the false teachers failed to deliver what they promised and so were hypocrites. They appealed to their audiences with boastful words, promising more than they could deliver. They appealed to people who were only just escaping from those who live in error, probably new Christians and/or older carnal ones who were still in the process of making a final break with their pagan practices.

The Condemnation of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:20–22)
Peter focused in these verses on the false teachers’ final doom to warn his readers of the serious results of following their instruction. The false teachers in view had evidently heard the gospel preached and fully understood the apostles’ teaching that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior but had rejected it. They only escaped the defilements of the world in the sense that they had understood the gospel, which liberates sinners. But they had thrown away their key to deliverance and had thereby become entangled and overcome again by the defilements of the world. Their first state was also eternal damnation without having heard the gospel, but their final state was eternal damnation for having rejected the gospel.

It would have been better for the false teachers never to have gained full knowledge of God’s commandment regarding holy behavior than having gained it to reject it. Dogs return to corruption that comes from within themselves, and pigs return to filth they find outside themselves. False teachers do both things.

Early Christian Heresies

My Bible study group on Sundays has been going through Second Peter for the past several weeks. In chapter two we get a pretty good description of the false teachers that crept into the church (2 Peter 2:1). I believe that people are easily led astray by persuasive arguments when they fail to develop a first hand faith (Colossians 2:4, 5, Acts 18:4, 19:8, 26:28, 28:24, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, Galatians 5:7-9). Faith that is built upon convictions will not be moved, whereas a second hand faith can be tossed around by the waves (James 1:6).

Second hand faith looks like this: I believe that Jesus is the Savior because my preacher says so. My parents taught me that the Bible is the Word of God. My Sunday School teacher told me to stay away from this sin or that belief.

First hand faith develops a conviction that will not be persuaded when we get a knock on the door and are told that there is another testament of Jesus Christ in North America. First hand faith will not fall when someone reads books from authors like Richard Dawkins, who teach that God is only a delusion.

So, let’s take a look at some of the heresies that threatened the early church:

Most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry had died by the time John composed this letter. Some of the second- or third-generation Christians began to have doubts about what they had been taught about Jesus. Some Christians with a Greek background had a hard time believing that Jesus was human as well as divine, because in Platonic thought the spirit was all-important. The body was only a prison from which one desired to escape. Heresies developed from a uniting of this kind of Platonic thought and Christianity.

A particularly widespread false teaching, later called Docetism (from a Greek work meaning “to seem”) held that Jesus was actually a spirit who only appeared to have a body. In reality he cast no shadow and left no footprints; he was God, but not man.

Another heretical teaching, related to Gnosticism (from a Greek word meaning “knowledge”) held that all physical matter was evil, the spirit was good, and only the intellectually enlightened could enjoy the benefits of religion. Both groups found it hard to believe in a Savior who was fully human.

John answers these false teachers as an eyewitness to Jesus’ life on earth. He saw Jesus, talked with him, touched him, he knew that Jesus was more than a mere spirit (1 John 1:1, 2, 3). In the very first sentence of his gospel, John establishes that Jesus had been alive before the world began (John 1:1) and also that he lived as a man among men and women (John 1:14). In other words, he was both divine and human. That’s the incarnation; that’s what Christmas is all about.

Through the centuries, many heretics have denied that Jesus was both God and man. In John’s day people had trouble believing he was human; today more people have problems seeing him as God. But Jesus’ divine-human nature is the pivotal issue of Christianity; 100 percent God, 100 percent man, not half and half. Before you accept what religious teachers say about any topic listen carefully to what they believe about Jesus. To deny either his divinity or his humanity is to consider him less than Christ, the Savior (1 John 4:2, 2 John 1:7).

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