Entry Level Theological Truth [6]

‘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.’ Genesis 1:26

Being created in God’s image invests mankind with tremendous value. In the divine plan, human life is not to be easily discarded. The Creator puts great value on people, and expects humans to treat one another with the appropriate respect due to being fashioned in His likeness. Of course, contemporary society balks at this notion; life is cheap in the brave new world of technological advancement and humanistic hedonism. Fallen man runs this world upon self-centered – that is to say, man-centered – principles. Therefore, human beings are abused and destroyed contrary to the intention of their Maker.

Fashioned for Significance

The modern tendency to devalue human life stems from the philosophies of the past few centuries. Evolutionary theory inspires many of these worldviews which, although different in their exact details, share a belief that man is here by accident with no overarching purpose. Nihilism denies that there is any meaning or purpose to human life. Its more optimistic cousin, existentialism, declares that humans themselves determine what meaning or significance life has. Atheism and agnosticism have no room for a personal Creator and therefore see no problem with abortion (or in extreme cases, euthanasia.)

Contrary to these inventions of the human mind, Genesis declares that there is a personal Creator who designed and built human beings, investing them with value and significance by making them in His image and likeness. Though these aspects of man’s nature have been marred by the fall, God still sees the vestigial beauty of with which He originally invested man.

That humans have meaning and value is underscored by the fact that rather than consign them to eternal destruction, God delivered up His Son as a sacrifice to redeem them (Romans 8:32.) God the Son Himself became a man, thereby eternally associating Himself with mankind (Hebrews 2:10-18.) He did not leave His human body in a tomb indefinitely, but physically raised it to a new order of deathless life (Hebrews 7:16.) Forty days later He ascended to heaven, taking resurrected and glorified humanity into the presence of God the Father.

On Pentecost, in keeping with His own promise, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell regenerated human beings.* In this way He has given redeemed mankind even more dignity than they possessed in the world before the fall. They are now indwelt by God Himself through His Spirit and are destined to be conformed to the Son’s own image at the redemption of the body (see Romans 8.)

No Planned Obsolescence Here

Given the first creation which made man in God’s image and likeness, followed by the new creation which destines him to be conformed to the image of the risen Christ, man must value the lives of others as well as his own life. Children in the womb must be protected – especially since God interacted with numerous people during their gestation (e.g. Samson, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Paul.) The modern world devalues the elderly and disabled, but God would have us show them love and respect. Finally, it behooves individuals to not waste their lives as if they had no meaning or purpose. Rather, they must realize they are created to know and serve God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit. Anything less than conversion and service towards their Creator is a desecration of the significance and value of human life.

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*One is regenerated by receiving Christ as Lord and Savior through faith – see John 3 & Titus 3.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [5]

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.’ Genesis 1:26

God is neither distant from His creation (as in Deism), nor is He identical to it or co-extensive with it (as in Pantheism.) He is closely involved with the universe’s maintenance and destiny (Hebrews 1:3; 2 Peter 3:10-13.) What is more, God is most interested in relating to the capstone of His work: mankind. Humans, meanwhile, are prone to either overestimate or else underestimate themselves. Either they are the measure of all things or they are worthless collections of atoms randomly thrown together by chance, matter, and unthinking forces. The Almighty sanctions neither of these extremes; instead He recognizes mankind’s true position in the universe. Created in the Creator’s image, man is made to be His ruling representative on earth, and is below Him in might, glory, wisdom, and position.

Higher Beast Or Representative of God?

It is common today for people to equate the value of humans and lower life forms. The needs of pets and endangered species are championed by celebrities and the news media, while millions of people starve to death per year in grim anonymity. It is true that as a created being, man possesses some commonality with the animal creation. Yet to think that humans are merely higher forms of primates – naked apes, so to speak – would fall short of reality. One commentator explains the connection between animals and mankind:

As the last and highest of the animate creatures, man is created. His creation is indeed thrown together with that of the land animals into one day, and in this way a certain connection between the two is acknowledged. But much more does the account aim at making prominent his dissimilarity and his high dignity, as contrasted with these and all other beings. This is indicated by the place assigned him at the end of the whole series, and it is expressly stated by the assertion of his divine likeness and rank as ruler.*

Another scholar adds: “…man is set apart by his office (1:26b, 28b; 2:19; cf. Psalm 8:4–8; James 3:7) and still more by his nature (2:20); but his crowning glory is his relation to God.”**

Image-Bearing And Its Benefits

In this likeness to our Maker, humans must use their intellect and creativity for God’s glory. Most importantly, they must come to know Him and interact with Him through their spirits (that aspect of human nature that is unique to mankind and not shared with other earthly creatures.) Of course, Genesis 3 tells the sad tale of how sin marred God’s image in humans and continues to alienate them from our Creator.

Nonetheless, in Christ believers regain the status that Adam lost (they have actually gained much more than Adam lost, but that is another blog post as they say.) Man’s spiritual deadness is reversed by the new birth through the Last Adam who is “a life giving Spirit” (John 3:3-21; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Corinthians 15:45.) They are destined to share in the administration of the future renewed planet earth under the perfect Man, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:14-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27.)

In light of the implications of mankind being God’s stewards on earth, Christians must lead the way in acting as those who are created to know, worship, and serve God. This will affect every aspect of their lives: their ethics, job performance, family life, work-ethic in school, choice of entertainment, selection of friends, and many more issues. Recognizing one’s image-bearing responsibility even has implications for our behavior on the web. The image one projects on social media sites, the way one uses e-mail, the amount of time one spends amusing oneself online must be evaluated in light of mankind’s creation in God’s image.

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*August Dillmann, Genesis Critically and Exegetically Expounded, Vol. 1. Translated by Wm. B. Stevenson. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1897, pp. 77f [Emphasis mine.]

**Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967, p. 55.

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God’s Good News: Lesson 7 Part 1

Read Romans 6:15-7:6 in your Bible

If we do not live under Law… should we sin then? (Romans 6:15-23)

We are not living under law? Do you mean I should just go out and sin? If I am not scared of getting in trouble because of breaking a rule, then I guess I should just commit sins! Right?

NO! Why would you want to serve sin? If you commit sins, you are letting sin rule you. If you choose to sin, you are choosing sin as a master. Why would you want to go back and make sin your master? When you came to Christ to be saved from your sins, you said that sin was a terrible master! You listened to what God said about sins, and agreed that sin is evil.

You should still think the same way about how terrible a master sin is! Now that you know God, you are ashamed of what you did when you served sin. And think of the wages that sin gives to its servants: death!

How much better to serve God! You can produce fruit that is good and right. What a great blessing to see holy things in our lives! How beautiful to have a live that shows love and clean words and kind actions in a holy way. That pleases God! And think of what a great Master God is – He has given you eternal life as a free gift! What a blessing to be able to serve Him! Surely you will want to yield the members of your body to God for Him to use!

Continued in Lesson 7 Part 2

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Jottings – Prayer, Praise, & Worship

Jottings

Broadly speaking, prayer is the occupation of the soul with its needs. Praise is the occupation of the soul with its blessings. Worship is the occupation of the soul with God Himself.

Alfred P. Gibbs, Worship The Christian’s Highest Occupation (Kansas City, Walterick Publishers) p.26.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [2]

The opening sentences of the Bible are laden with meaning concerning God’s identity (see the previous post.) The first three verses in particular bring out aspects of the divine being that later Scripture develops in greater detail. As Romans 1:20 puts it: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

The 24th Psalm further asserts His creatorial ownership of planet earth, saying: “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.” His omnipotence, omniscience, and spiritual nature are all revealed in Genesis’ first paragraph.

The Divine Power & Wisdom: From Microbes To Supernovae

“God created” – what profundities are contained in those two words! The complexity of both the macroscopic and microscopic worlds is contained within it. Whether one peers at cells and the subatomic realm or at the seemingly endless galaxies of magnificent celestial bodies, the power and wisdom of the Almighty are prominently displayed.

One has only to look at their own body to consider the imaginative artistry and engineering brilliance of the divine mind. The interdependent respiratory, circulatory, neurological, digestive, endocrine and other systems, not to mention miles of nerves, arteries, veins, and various types of tissue, all point to a vastly clever designer.

As “the Prince of Expositors” Alexander MacLaren once expressed it: “Every man carries in his own body reasons enough for reverent gratitude.”

The diversity of topography, abundance of animal and plant life in different ecosystems, the ubiquitous beauty that abounds from tiny flowers to august mountains, from barrenly beauteous deserts to frigidly gorgeous glaciers all testify to the existence of a God who values loveliness and artisanship.

All of these wonders came at His verbal command. He spoke, and so He created.

Deus Superius Machina

This all-knowing and all-powerful Creator is spiritual, rather than material (Genesis 1:2; cf. John 4:24.) He is not a created being, nor is He an outgrowth of His world. He is not co-extensive with the universe but exceeds it as being entirely other – He is truly unique, or holy, as the Scriptures so often say (Isaiah 43:3.) Here we have the embryonic roots of the doctrine of the trinity; later revelation in the Bible reveals with greater clarity God’s triune being (e.g. Psalm 110:1; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 14:16.) Yet, as seen in verse 2, this immaterial Lord is intimately involved in the creation, maintenance, and destiny of His world.

Earth’s present form is a pale reflection of the pristine, unfallen glory of Genesis 1; nonetheless, the vestiges of that “very good” creation are still evident everywhere in the universe (Genesis 1:31.) As a classic hymn says: “Thy Almighty power and wisdom all creation’s works proclaim, Heaven and earth alike confess Thee, As the ever great I AM.” Thankfully, one day the Lord will supersede this creation with new heavens and a new earth, which will be liberated from the tyranny and debilitating effects of sin (Romans 8:18-30.)

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Entry Level Theological Truth

The fact that the opening verse of the Bible reveals a great deal about God is often obscured by the contentious debates over competing cosmologies. Of course the controversy over the world’s creation is vitally important, but let us momentarily put it aside in order to consider what this cogent section of Scripture shows about the Almighty.

At least three of His key attributes are manifested in Genesis 1:1:

  1. His Eternality
  2. His Transcendence
  3. His Immanence

Beginning Before The Beginning

The Bible famously begins “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1.) There is no attempt to prove God’s existence; there is merely a description of His activity in creation. One learns that “in the beginning” He already was; this affirms His eternality.

He was never created – nor did He ever begin to be. In His eternal existence, He was obviously self-existent and self-sufficient. He existed before everything, and needed nothing to live or be everything that He is.

Later Scriptures reveal His independence from material sustenance; as He says in Psalm 50:9-13: “I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats?”

The Immensity Of The Creator

What is more, the Creator is distinct from His creation. Pantheism and Panentheism are both refuted by the first verse of Scripture. God is not identical to His creation, nor is He within each creature or created thing. He is distinct and transcendent. Scripture depicts the Lord sitting over the earth, sovereignly overseeing its affairs (Isaiah 40:22.) Contrary to Carl Sagan’s famous opinion that “the Cosmos is all there is, was, or will be,” the Lord is also bigger than the stars (Psalm 8:3.) Since He is greater than His universe, the Bible repeatedly rejects the veneration of created beings or things as idolatry (e.g Deuteronomy 4:19; Romans 1:20-23.)

The Lord’s tremendous power is awesomely displayed in one phrase: “God created.” Without any taxing effort He fashioned the universe out of nothing. This awesome display of energy notwithstanding, He is interested in the minutest detail of His creation. The Creator of the galaxies is the same God who entered His world millennia later to redeem mankind. He is not the remote and distant deity of deistic speculations; nor is He the crass super-tyrant of Greco-Roman mythology. Instead, He is the omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient Maker who diligently cares for mankind’s well-being.

He created planet earth to be uniquely habitable for humans. Because of Man’s fall it no longer demonstrates the pristine glory of its newness, and has become the scene of countless stories of death and woe. Nevertheless, one day the Lord who designed and built the first creation will marvelously transform it into “new heavens and a new earth. And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17.)

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