Biblical Theology

Creation and New Creation: “. . . the time is coming and has now come”

For a printable file with the formatting and biblical languages copied correctly: Creation and New Creation . . the time is coming and has now come by S.Hague

Creation and New Creation: “. . . the time is coming and has now come”
(FTS chapel presentation by Stephen Hague)

  • We so often begin the gospel with God as judge – since we start with sin – yet the scripture begins the gospel with creation –

Gen 1:1- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth

  • The gospel is the good news that God the Creator is restoring his people and his creation through his Son, our Redeemer.
  • The good news is also that “the time is coming and has now come” — He is now making all things new . . .

Jn 4:23 . . . a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Jn 5:25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

Jn 16:32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

The new creation

The redemption of God’s people includes the restoration of the creation:

Isa 65:17 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

Isa 66:22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.

Ezek 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

Ezek 36:23-26 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. 24 “ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Psalm 104:30  When you send your Spirit, they are created,  and you renew the face of the earth.

Rom 8:19-21 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 thata the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Eph 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Eph 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Col 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Col 3:10  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

2 Cor 4:16  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2 Cor 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

2 Pet 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Rev 21:1 ¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

Mat 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The wondrous thing about the gospel is that WE are now a new creation:

  • As God’s new people: we are the first fruits of the new creation, his workmanship in Christ, who will dwell together in his renewed earth forever.
  • As a new creation in Christ we have now been given a new heart by Christ.
  • As a new creation in Christ , we are promised a new body. The resurrection of Christ is the objective assurance that our bodies will be resurrected incorruptible.
  • As a new creation in Christ, we now serve the renewed kingdom of God presently through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. He has accomplished Adam’s entire calling necessary to establish and extend God’s kingdom in the world.
  • As a new creation in Christ, we long and wait for the restoration of the creation in the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns
  • As a new creation in Christ, we presently enjoy renewed, restored relations (marriage, church, etc) that prefigure and prepare us for our eternally restored relations, since we are presently the new community of the people of God bearing witness to the world of the wonders of God in Christ. .
  • As a new creation in Christ, we are all one people of God, regenerated by the one Spirit of God, Jews and Gentiles equal in the faith and salvation: Gal 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.
  • As a new creation in Christ, we will see the new order and enjoy the renewal of all things when Christ returns:

 Mat 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

What Jesus has accomplished towards the new creation (adapted from G.Beal, The Temple)

  • Jesus is the end-time Adam, the True son of God .
  • Jesus passes all the tests and temptations of Adam/Israel.
  • Jesus defeats the Devil (analogously to Adam who failed to do so). Who resists all temptations, casts out Satan, as Adam should have done.
  • Jesus defeats the forces of unbelieving paganism of the Canaanites (whom Israel failed to defeat).
  • Luke identifies Jesus as the last Adam. (p. 172)
  • Jesus fulfills the promise of Israel’s restoration. Mtt 4:12-16
  • Jesus heals the spiritual and physical results of the curse, thus restoration of the creation begins. In the new temple, Jesus heals (also in the physical temple). Jesus is mocked about the temple (Mtt 27:40). The new temple replaces the old, fulfilling Zech 6:12-13)[1]
  • Jesus rises from the dead, new creation is assured.
  • Jesus begins the destruction of the earthly temple and creation of the new temple and the restoration of the Presence through atonement. Jesus’ death – temple is destroyed in part and the curtain is torn, and earthquake foreshadows complete destruction of the earthly temple.
  • Jesus’ procures forgiveness of sins at the new temple which is now localized in Jesus – the new temple of God’s Glorious Presence on earth.
  • Jesus provides the promised eschatological rest for God’s people (Mtt 11:28-30), for all who are weary and need rest.
  • Jesus is both Son of God (Israel) and Son on man (Adam) who accomplishes what Adam as son failed to accomplish, and what Israel as son failed to accomplish.
  • Jesus links heaven and earth: John 1:51

He then added, “I tell youb the truth, youc shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” and Gen 28:12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairwaya resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above itb stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you  will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

  • Jesus breathed into his disciples (echoes Gen 2:7), incorporating them into the new creation and new temple. They become the vehicle for life-giving forgiveness that comes only from Christ. John 20:22 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
  • Pentecost (may have been in the temple) fulfills Jesus’ prophecies of the new temple. The new temple is Jesus himself, the locus of forgiveness. Tongues of fire represent the theophany of the heavenly temple and they correspond to Babel (linking with Gen 10-11). The reversal of the judgment at Babel – “God causes representatives from the same scattered nations to unite in Jerusalem in order that they might receive the blessing of understanding different languages as if all these languages were one.”[2]  Pentecost signals the destruction of the old creation and the beginning of the new creation in Christ. Christ is the Cornerstone of the new creation!

Outline of new creation theology of Scripture
Creation-Covenant: kingship, priestly, and prophetic dominion

Creation-kingdom is established in the Garden of Eden

  • Access to the tree of life in the garden of God
  • Prohibition on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
  • Cycles of creation/rest established

Rebellion fall into alienation, disarray, anarchy, and spiritual battle

Redemption-Covenant initiated ~ new covenant

Kingdom promised & chosen:  The king prepares for the King of Kings

  • Human king              Law/Prophets/Wisdom
  • Progeny                     Land/nation
  • Presence                   Sanctuary

King of Kings, Priest of priests, Prophet of prophets is promised/awaited

  • Davidic kingdom ends in exile & temple destroyed
  • Return from exile
  • Reversal of the curse  expands

Redeemer-King of kings comes

  • Redemption accomplished
  • Evil one is vanquished
  • Church proclaims, & demonstrates, the gospel of redemption and the return of the King
  • Curse removed in Christ

Redemption complete

  • Redeemer-King of kings returns
  • new creation & tree of life

The covenant-sign of circumcision in the church has been continued by baptism as the sign of God’s covenant-promise to restore his people  through the Messianic line of the see of Adam and Eve.


“John is shown (and shows us in turn) that salvation is the restoration of God’s creation on a new earth. In this restored world, the redeemed of God will live in resurrected bodies within a renewed creation, from which sin and its effects have been expunged. This is the kingdom that Christ’s followers have already begun to foretaste.”  Bartholomew, The Drama, 211

“This restoration of the creation will be comprehensive: the whole of human life in the context of the whole creation will be restored.” Bartholomew, The Drama, p. 212

“This comprehensive scope of God’s redemptive work means, for example, that the nonhuman creation forming the context for human life will be restored to what God has intended for it all along.” Bartholomew, The Drama, p. 212

Continuity and discontinuity: in the new creation, there will be total transformation of the things we already know: the environment (ecology), human relations (social), the body (resurrection), aesthetics (beauty, order), philosophy (true knowledge of God and creation), work (pain-free vocation), love, worship, etc., etc….

Some object to these ideas with reference to 2 Peter 3:[3]

2 Pet 3:10 {GR} NIV 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

NASB10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

eu`reqh,setai verb indicative future passive 3rd person singular from eu`ri,skw

[GING] eu`ri,skw find, discover, come upon Mt 7:7f; Mk 14:55; Lk 6:7; 11:24; J 7:34, 36; Ac 13:6, 28; 27:6; Ro 7:21; 2 Cor 12:20; Rv 20:15. Find, obtain Lk 1:30; 2 Ti 1:18; Hb 4:16; 9:12. Pass. be found, find oneself, be Ac 8:40; Phil 3:9; 1 Pt 2:22; prove to be Ro 7:10; be judged 2 Pt 3:10. [eureka, Archimedes’ exclamation; heuristic] [pg 81]

Primarily because of more ancient text traditions that suggest eu`reqh,setai is more ancient, it is not universally agreed that the destruction of the earth is in view. Indeed, it the NIV is based on the more ancient text tradition of the word for “establish” or “find.” Metzger discusses the textual history below:  From B. Metzger, Textual Commentary, pp. 705-706.

3.10 eu`reqh,setai {D} At the close of ver. 10 the extant witnesses present a wide variety of readings, none of which seems to be original. The oldest reading, and the one which best explains the origin of the others that have been preserved, is eu`reqh,setai, which is attested by a B K P 424c 1175 1739txt 1852 syrph, hmg arm Origen. In view of the difficulty of extracting any acceptable sense from the passage, it is not strange that copyists and translators introduced a variety of modifications. Thus, several witnesses retain eu`reqh,setai but qualify it with other words: (a) the Sahidic version and one manuscript of the Harclean Syriac version insert the negative, and (b) the Bodmer Papyrus (î72) adds luo,mena (“the earth and the things in it will be found dissolved”) – an expedient, however, that overloads the context with three instances of the same verb. Other witnesses either (c) omit eu`reqh,setai and the accompanying clause (so Y vg Pelagius al), or substitute another verb that gives more or less good sense. Thus (d) C reads avfanisqh,sontai (“will disappear”), and (e) A 048 049 056 0142 33 614 Byz Lect syrh copbo eth al read katakah,setai (“will be burned up”). Because eu`reqh,setai, though the oldest of the extant readings, seems to be devoid of meaning in the context (even the expedient of punctuating as a question, “Will the earth and the things in it be found?” fails to commend itself), various conjectural emendations have been proposed: (a) after e;rga the word a;rga has fallen out (Bradshaw), “the earth and the things in it will be found useless”; (b) eu`reqh,setai is a scribal corruption of r`uh,setai or r`eu,setai (Hort),2 “the earth and the things in it will flow”; (c) surruh,setai (Naber), “… will flow together”; (d) evkpurwqh,setai (Olivier), “… will be burnt to ashes”; (e) avrqh,setai (J. B. Mayor), “… will be taken away”; (f) kriqh,setai (Eb. Nestle), “… will be judged”; (g) ivaqh,setai (or evxiaqh,setai) (Chase), “… will be healed (thoroughly)”; (h) purwqh,setai (Vansittart), “… will be burned.”

Relevant words:

bWv (shûb) (re)turn, can be used to mean restore – this word is used many times in the OT in regards to the call from God to return to him: the call to repentance and restoration of relationship.

 avpokata,stasij avpokatasta,sewj, h` (avpokaqi,sthmi, which see), restoration: tw/n pa,ntwn, the restoration not only of the true theocracy but also of that more perfect state of (even physical) things which existed before the fall, Acts 3:21; cf. Meyer at the passage (Often in Polybius, Diodorus, Plutarch, others.)

 NIV Mtt 17:11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.

Louw and Nida: 3.65  avpokaqi,sthmi ; avpokata,stasij, ewj f ; evgei,rw: to change to a previous good state – ‘to restore, to cause again to be, restoration.’ avpokaqi,sthmi: evxe,teinen, kai. avpekatesta,qh h` cei.r auvtou/ ‘he stretched out his hand and it was restored’ or ‘… it was healed’ Mk 3.5. A rendering of avpokaqi,sthmi in Mk 3.5 as ‘was healed’ is justified on the basis that at a previous time the hand was crippled, but avpokaqi,sthmi in and of itself does not mean ‘to be healed.’ Note, however, a contrasting situation in iva,omai (13.66). avpokata,stasij: a;cri cro,nwn avpokatasta,sewj pa,ntwn w-n evla,lhsen o` qeo,j ’till the times of restoring all things of which God spoke’ or ‘until the time of making all things new of which God spoke’ Ac 3.21. evgei,rw: kai. evn trisi.n h`me,raij evgerw/ auvto,n ‘and in three days I will restore it’ (a reference to the Temple) Jn 2.19.

 See also 2 Peter 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness

Robertson writes, “The noun apokatastaseōs, which in Acts 3:21 refers to the restoration of all things as promised by the prophets, should be compared with the verb apokathistaneis in 1:6. Because of this connection between the two verses, the restoration of all things in 3:21 may be regarded as providing an explanation for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel in 1:6. The restoration of Israel in the prophets is equivalent in its new covenant context to the renewal of the whole earth, not merely the reestablishment of the state of Israel.” [4]

Paligensis

NAS Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

NIV Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

WHO Matthew 19:28 o` de. VIhsou/j ei=pen auvtoi/j VAmh.n le,gw u`mi/n o[ti u`mei/j oi` avkolouqh,sante,j moi evn th/| paliggenesi,a| o[tan kaqi,sh| o` ui`o.j tou/ avnqrw,pou evpi. qro,nou do,xhj auvtou/ kaqh,sesqe kai. u`mei/j evpi. dw,deka qro,nouj kri,nontej ta.j dw,deka fula.j tou/ VIsrah,l

NAS Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

NIV Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

WHO Titus 3:5 ouvk evx e;rgwn tw/n evn dikaiosu,nh| a] evpoih,samen h`mei/j avlla. kata. to. auvtou/ e;leoj e;swsen h`ma/j dia. loutrou/ paliggenesi,aj kai. avnakainw,sewj pneu,matoj a`gi,ou

 Restoration and Renewal:

13.67 ἀνακαινίζω; ἀνακαινόωb: to cause a change to a previous, preferable state—‘to renew, to restore, to bring back.’ἀνακαινίζω: ἀδύνατον … πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν ‘it is impossible … to bring them back to repent again’ He 6.4–6. ἀνακαινόωb: ἀλλ’ ὁ ἔσω ἡμῶν ἀνακαινοῦται ἡμέρᾳ καὶ ἡμέρᾳ ‘yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day’ 2 Cor 4.16.[5]

Acts 3:21-22 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

 13.66 ἰάομαιb: (a figurative extension of meaning of ἰάομαιa ‘to heal,’ 23.136) to cause something to change to an earlier, correct, or appropriate state—‘to renew, to heal.’ καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς ‘and they might turn to me, and I would renew them’ Mt 13.15.[6]

Job 14:14 If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewalf to come.
Job 33:25  then his flesh is renewed like a child’s;
it is restored as in the days of his youth.
Ps 51:10   Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Ps103:5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Ps 104:30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
Isa 40:31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isa 41:1 “Be silent before me, you islands!
Let the nations renew their strength!
Let them come forward and speak;
let us meet together at the place of judgment.
Isa 57:10 You were wearied by all your ways,
but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’
You found renewal of your strength,
and so you did not faint.
Isa 61:4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Lam 5:21 Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
Hab 3:2  Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
Matt 19:28  Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Rom 8  18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Cor 4:16  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Col 3:10  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

a  Or subjected it in hope. For

[1] 12 Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’

b The Greek is plural.

c The Greek is plural.

a Or ladder

b Or There beside him

[2] Beal, The Temple, p. 202.

[3] C.Wright says on this, “I prefer the textual reading that the earth ‘will be found’ to the emendation reflected in several English translations ‘will be burned up.’ I also find Bauckham’s interpretation of this convincing; namely, that the earth will be ‘found out’: i.e. be exposed and laid bare (cf. NIV) before God’s judgment so that the wicked and all their works will no longer be able to hide or find any protection (Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, pp. 316-322. The purpose of the conflagration described  in these verses is not the destruction of the cosmos per se, but rather its purging and new creation” (OT Ethics, p 141, f.n. 55).

[4] Robertson, Christ of the the Prophets, p. 64, fn. 19. See Robertson, Israel of God, pp. 141-42.

[5]Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible societies, 1996, c1989), 1:156.

[6]Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible societies, 1996, c1989), 1:156.

f  Or release

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Notes on the “Image of God” (Imago Dei) and the Attributes of God: “Let us make”

Notes on the Imago Dei and the Attributes of God: “Let us make”
[for complete version with Hebrew terms, see The Image of God and the Attributes of God]

Stephen T. Hague 

Table of Contents

I. Introduction and background 1

II. The three main views of the image 2

III.         The Creator/creature, Redeemer/redeemed distinctions  3

IV. The image of God in the Bible 4

V. The image of God in humans summarized 5

VI. Practical implications of the image of God 6

  1. Creativity 6
  2. Family and community (social) 6
  3. Prophetic and priestly roles 6
  4. Dominion/work/labor/leisure 7
  5. The glory of God is his image 7
  6. The apologetic value of a biblical theology of the image of God 7
  7. The impact of the fall on the image of God 7
  8. The need for redemption to realign and restore the image of God 8

VII.       Westminster Shorter Catechism and the image of God   9

VIII.      John Calvin’s comments on Jesus as the image of God:

IX. Some sources: 9

I. Introduction and background

In the beginning of the book of Genesis, Moses described the creation of humans in the “image and likeness of” God. Many attempts over the centuries have been made to understand what this means, and what bearing this might have on the rest of human life. The following are some notes to define and suggest some possible ways of expanding our understanding that collates various themes from the Old and New Testaments, and therefore these reflections are not based solely on Gen 1:26.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ Gen 1:26

Some call this phrase, “Let us make . . . ,” the “the plural of majesty” (see also Gen 1:26-28; 3:22-24; Isa 6:8). Though this is disputed, and others propose the following:

  • the angels present?
  • the Trinity?

[See The New international Dictionary of Theology (in full version), fnn. 1-2.]

II. The three main views of the image

The debate on definitions is whether/what the substantive, functional, or relational views express as intrinsic (ontological?) elements or as consequential aspects of being made in the image of God. Some argue that aspects of the relational and functional convey consequences of being made in the image of God, not the essence of the image of God itself as it is substantively constituted in humans. For the purposes of discussion, it may be helpful to distinguish consequent from intrinsic, but in reality these categories seem to overlap. Indeed, there are substantive, relational, and functional aspects of the image that interrelate and work to define image of God as it is expressed in human life. The word essence may be what clouds the debate, since to say something is strictly functional or essential, consequential or essential, or relational or substantive, may exclude other options. To state that the image of God is either essential or consequential, may exclude the possibility that being made in God’s image means we are substantively, functionally, and relationally that image. I suggest it is better to state that the image has aspects (attributes) of being relational and functional, that are substantive or intrinsic to the nature of being made in the image of God. For example, some argue a distinction between being made in the image of God and God’s command to have dominion. Nevertheless, could it not be argued that being made in the image of God may intrinsically mean having dominion (among other aspects)? To be made in God’s image is to be co-regent in royal dominion over creation. A tool made for a particular purpose may not be distinguished from its intrinsic nature as a tool: a hammer is made to hammer, that is what it is/does, though we may talk about a hammer’s diverse uses as a hammer, its “essential” nature is functional, relational, and substantive.

The image of God in humans is in substance, essence, and function related to the so-called communicable attributes of God: will, life, intelligence (rationality), knowledge, emotions, love, benevolence, compassion, power, morality, spirituality, personality, self-consciousness, self-transcendence (independence), self-determination, faithfulness, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, goodness, truth, justice, mercy. It is important to note that only God is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable” (Shorter Catechism) (in reference to all his attributes), and thus only God bears all of the attributes denoted as communicable/incommunicable in any absolute sense, and these all relate to his glory.[3]

God is not an abstraction, but his attributes are expressed in reality/history, and thus God is known through his expression of his attributes. Even though we may discuss in the abstract God’s attributes, we only can do so consistently by considering his expression of those attributes in generals and special revelation. Attributes unexpressed (functionally/relationally) are unknowable.

III.   The Creator/creature, Redeemer/redeemed distinctions

  • The fundamental differentiation of mankind from God, mankind from animals and nature enables believer to know who and what he is. The modern world (particularly materialistic science) cannot determine if man is animal, machine, angel, or devil. This is the root problem of most world religions and philosophies: failure to make the proper distinctions between God and creation. To lack an image of God theology is to lack a foundation to all theology and to life in this world as humans. “The fact that man is the image of God distinguishes him from the animal and from every other creature.”[4]
  • God’s nature: He exists, as one God, omnipotent creator, absolutely distinct from creation: personal/infinite, immanent/transcendent. Presence is absolute and immediate before the fall, absolute though mediate after. That is, God is immanent and transcendent.
  • Human nature: exists as created, one person, body and soul, image of God and sinful nature (complex nature).
    • Some scholars propose that there are bodily aspects to the image of God: classified as “theomorphism” (Von Rad). Van Leeuwen comments:

Early in the century, some scholars considered the image to refer to the human body as physically resembling God (cf. Isa 6:1, 5; Ezek 1:26; Dan 7:9-10), a form of “theomorphism” (von Rad, 145-46). Such a view is too simple. The image is properly understood as referring to the entire human, not a part or property. In recent research, Stendebach discerns two main lines of interpretation of the image. First, humankind is God’s representative upon earth, given the task of dominion over the nonhuman creation. The second model sees humankind as God’s counterpart (Gegenüber Gottes), so that a dialogical relation between God and humankind exists (Stendebach, 1051-52). Both models are valid, in that they express aspects of being “in the image of God.”[5]

    • Others, on the other hand, like J. Calvin understand the image of God as spiritual not physical: “the likeness of God extends to the whole excellence by which man’s nature towers over all the kinds of living creatures”;  right understanding, affections within bounds of reason, senses tempered by right order (Institutes, 1. 15. 3).
  • First Adam was the “crown of creation” in the image of God. The Last Adam is Jesus Christ who is The True Image (1 Cor 15:21-22).
  • Nature in humanity: each person is a unified body and soul, whereas God is one Triunity.
  • After the Fall of humanity, humans became “a glorious ruin” of divided body and soul, dividing God and humankind, etc.
  • Redemption: is the restoration of the damaged image to the perfect image of God in Christ.
  • Salvation is rooted in creation and always highlights the Creator/creation, Savior/redeemed distinctions.

IV. The image of God in the Bible

Gen 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Gen 9:6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

2 Cor 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν του θεου).

Col 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

1 Cor 11:7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

The True image is Christ Jesus:

  1. holiness
  2. righteousness
  3. knowledge (cognizant) (of God, etc. is proper.
  4. will/volition
  5. love and faithfulness

In Colossians, Paul presents a theological exposition of who Christ Jesus is:

  • The image[6]  of God, not made “in the image of God” (1:15a) (contra Gnostics) (cf. 3:10).[7]
  • The firstborn over all creation, begotten of God not created, as pre-eminent over all (3:15b).

The image of God applied to Christ means his consubstantiality with the Father, Christ’s equality, essence, and identity as the Son with the Father. The word “image” in our modern “image based” society tends to connote insubstantiality (copy/fake) in this English word. Note: the ancient church called all Christian pictorial representations icons.

Creation of humanity was the creation of humans in the image of God. Redemption is the restoration, the completion of the image of God in man through the one Man Jesus Christ. The goal of our redemption is to be conformed to the image of the Son. “Redemption is the re-creation of our humanity.”[8] See also Col 3:10.

Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

2 Cor 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

1 Jn 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

This promise in Romans 8 is intrinsic to the gospel of redemption and renewal of God’s image in us:

Rom 8:19-21 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

  • See NT: Rom 8:29 conformed to his likeness (image,  Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). Redemption is restoration to the image of God in Christ. See P. Hughes, The True Image, J. Calvin,

Reasoning backwards from Eph 4:21-24 and Col 3:10, the image of God restored is that of original true righteousness, holiness, and true knowledge of God. As Raymond notes, in discussing C.Hodge’s views, that the renewed image virtues “are not religio/ethical abstractions, but rather are indicative of right relationships with God and neighbor.”[9]

V. The image of God in humans summarized

  • The image of God is universally present in all humans at all times. It is the defining quality and nature of what it means to be human. To be human is to reflect the glory of God himself. The image of God is therefore the fundamental “contact point” between all people, since we exist as creatures and we can only know each other through the reality of being made in his image.
  • The image of God was not lost due to sin (not obliterated in the doctrine of “total depravity” which refers to moral status before God). Many begin all gospel presentations with the sinful nature of humans, so as to highlight the need for redemption. I propose this is a backwards approach, even if sometimes effective in making people sense their guilt before God. Rather, we should typically begin with creation (in God’s image) as the starting point, the place we begin to outline the history of redemption is where that story-line begins historically.
  • The image of God is not simply a relational quality between man and God (as in Barth/Brunner), but rather substantive of each person’s very nature as a human. Thus, it does not vary in degree from person to person. As noted above, the issue is whether the substantive, functional, or relational views express intrinsic (ontological) elements or convey consequential aspects.
  • However we resolve the relation between intrinsic and consequence (we might argue that the lines are not absolute), the image of God in humans enables them to have true knowledge of God, to show justice towards the neighbor, covenant-faithfulness, to be living beings in relationship (to God and to both animate and inanimate creation), to have real personality, will (choice, determination), communication (love, truth), emotion (affections of the heart), spirituality (worship of communion with God), rationality (logos, mind, knowledge, logic, hermeneutics), morality (conscience), creativity (aesthetics, work, beauty), dignity (personality), goodness (though and deed), value (intrinsic due to image of God), dominion (vice regents, ambassadors, representatives) and authority (derived). As we live for God through Jesus Christ, we come to experience the fullness of our humanity.
  • In contrast to other ANE understandings, the image of God in humans does not primarily convey attributes that stress being created in order to serve the gods, but rather as a dominion of royal co-regency with God over/in the created order. Some suggest this conveys aspects of representation/agency of God himself, in which humans must fulfill God’s purposes on the earth.
  • Importantly, humans can be dramatically distinguished from all other created material creatures, while also being clearly distinguished from the Creator. Considering all the qualities listed above, humans are not beasts, and thus contrary to the widespread assumptions of evolutionary theory, humans are not evolved from the order of beasts who do not bear the image of God.
  • Idols,[10] worshipping images of rocks and trees made in the image of man, become a travesty of cosmic magnitude, for such worship reduces humans to worshiping something even less than what they themselves possess, which is the very image of God itself.
    “To project God in man’s image is therefore a heinous form of idolatry confounding the Creator with the creaturely (Rom 1:23).”[11]
  • Understanding that all people bear God’s image (though they are lost in the darkness of sin and deception, bound to folly and destruction of all that is good), we are thus compelled to evangelize the entire human race. There are none outside the compassion of God for us to seek to reclaim with the gospel of restoration to God and the renewal of the image of God in them through becoming conformed to the true image of God in Christ.

VI.            Practical implications of the image of God

A. Creativity

The aesthetic of the creation-order is the result of the creation of humans in the image of God. The Edenic “cultural commission” was to creatively build God’s kingdom on earth. Mankind’s creative abilities and knowledge were to be applied to having dominion over the created world. In some sense humans are co-creators with God (not ex nihilo, but out of what is there in creation). The dignity of work is thus affirmed. Jesus fulfills the Edenic mandate of work and creativity (Jn 5:17).  Believing the colossal lies of Satan, Adam and Eve introduced destruction and decay, ugliness and grotesque perversions.

B.  Family and community (social)

We were made for HOME and community. Home is the place for sexuality, love, community, learning, and the foundation of the church and society. Fathering/mothering of children in the home reflects God’s creation of Adam and Eve. The home and the church community are the place for the relay of truth and the gospel through language communication and demonstration (see E. Schaeffer’s, What is a Family and other categories). Neighborly love in the home and community is to be the rule. Believing the colossal lies of Satan led to division, alienation, death, and murder.

C. Prophetic and priestly roles

At creation, sinless humankind bowed before and worshipped God. They guarded the sanctuary-garden of the Lord’s presence (see M. Kline, Kingdom Prologue, p 52-56). See Gen 2:15 – the imperative to WORK  (db() is joined with the imperative to GUARD, watch over, stand watch (rm$). The question is: what is man guarding against?  Satan?  Outside forces? To guide creation in God’s way by faithfully administering God’s imperatives?  In sum, to mediate God’s truth to God’s creation, properly interpreting and applying that truth to the created world. Believing the colossal lies of Satan, they failed in this role of conveying God’s truth. See also 1:28 – God’s imperatives to be fruitful, multiply, rule/govern. These were not options of “free”-will choice.

D. Dominion/work/labor/leisure

All creation is under Adam. The heaven’s are the Lord’s, the earth is the dominion of human hands. Work before the fall was intensive and extensive: they were keepers of the Garden. Freedom factor: before fall, after fall (Rom 8:21). Man was free within certain bounds;  outside those boundaries he was forbidden to go. What we usually call the exercise of mankind’s “free will” was really the exercise of mankind’s rebellious will in bondage to sin. The act of rebellion (eating of the tree) followed the volition of rebellion. Free and enabled to work (db() guard (rm$) the garden (2:15) involved being fruitful (three verbs involved: hrp, hbr, )lm [1:28]). This involved having dominion by ruling and governing in the garden over all creation (hdr[1:28]) (see dominion, p. 441). No indolence. Royal connotations?  Ruler of the earth under God. As the Lord tends to his creation his co-regents were to do likewise. “Fathering” and nurturing the creation. The imitation of God: love God and hate the evil one. Glorify God and enjoy him forever.. Thus they were to glorify God in all they did. Believing the colossal lies of Satan, joyous work became toil and sorrow.

E. The glory of God is his image

R.C. Newman correlates the image of God with the glory of God, and the glory of God with the moral excellence of God. As a person’s reputation is found in their image, their image is represented in whoever reflects their image. In this case, God’s image is his glory and is reflected in his creation morally.[12]

Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

2 Cor 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Jn 17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.

1 Cor 6:20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Jn 21:19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

F. The apologetic value of a biblical theology of the image of God

We have deep and true compassion for the lost and appreciation for their creativity (among other things), being made in God’s image. Man, alongside general revelation in creation, is the greatest proof and proclamation of God’s existence and nature (Ps 19; Rom 1). Every person we meet we already know to an incredible degree, since we know how they are constituted. The one primary thing that is new to us in meeting someone, and that encompasses their whole self, is their unique personhood (personality) as made in God’s image.

In terms of the image of God in those being sanctified, the fruit of the Spirit is goodness, virtue, and character, NOT “Worm Theology.” Rom 15:14, “I know that there is much good in you (full of goodness[NIV]), complete in knowledge, and competent to instruct one another.”

G.              The impact of the fall on the image of God

“Before the Fall, we saw ourselves as under God, bearing God’s image and deriving a sense of identity and coherence from God. But now we identify ourselves with creation instead of our Creator. Our whole orientation is downward toward what is less than ourselves, rather than upward toward what is greater. This change of orientation has many psychological results.” D.Keyes, Beyond Identity, p. 61.

Since the Fall, our integration point has been misdirected, misaligned, for it now is not in God himself but in idols, ourselves, and other such futile points of reference. In God, we have an infinite and personal reference point for our own identity and souls, but without a proper relationship to him, we have none that is sufficient for anything. All of the characteristics listed above to define/describe the image of God could be listed here with the deleterious impact of the fall upon them, not obliteration of them but distortion and perversion.

H. The need for redemption to realign and restore the image of God

In God, as those who are redeemed, we have an infinite and personal reference point for our own identity and souls. But, without a proper relationship to him, we have no point of reference that is sufficient for anything. All of the characteristics listed above to define/describe the image of God could be listed here with the deleterious impact of the fall upon them, not obliteration of them but distortion and perversion. This has practical significance in giving significance to all of life; it also gives us a point of reference for every concern of our lives in this world. We do have in Christ an infinite reference point to final integration for our whole being, our whole world, our whole future, our whole eternity. The word integration (often used in Mathematics) is an inadequate attempt in human language to convey the antonym of disintegration (or alienation from self, body, society). For humans, that which makes us whole, complete, full, unified in mind, heart, and character, can only come from the One who made us complete in Eden. The restoration of redemption is to wholeness and shalom, since it is a restoration to the proper relationship to God himself. Yet, how do finite creatures relate to an infinite God? Only through the Incarnate Son. Holiness and wholeness: the telos of God’s purposes. To be holy is to be WHOLE, complete, perfect, unblemished, unmarred. We will be made whole in God’s holy presence. Jesus’ healings of the un-whole and unholy pre-shadowed this new creation reality: the blind see and the lame walk!

VII. Westminster Shorter Catechism and the image of God

Q10: How did God create man?

A10: God created man male and female, after his own image,[1] in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness,[2] with dominion over the creatures.[3]

Q35:  What is sanctification?

A35:  Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,[1] whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,[2] and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.[3]

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter IV: Of Creation

  1. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female,[4] with reasonable and immortal souls,[5] endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image;[6] having the law of God written in their hearts,[7] and power to fulfill it:[8] and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.[9] Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God,[10] and had dominion over the creatures.[11]

VIII. John Calvin’s comments on Jesus as the image of God:

  1. Who is the image of the invisible God. He mounts up higher in discoursing as to the glory of Christ. He calls him the image of the invisible God, meaning by this, that it is in him alone that God, who is otherwise invisible, is manifested to us, in accordance with what is said in John 1:18,

— No man hath ever seen God: the only begotten Son, who is in

the bosom of the Father, hath himself manifested him to us.

I am well aware in what manner the ancients were accustomed to explain this; for having a contest to maintain with Arians, they insist upon the equality of the Son with the Father, and his ( ) identity of essence, F42 while in the mean time they make no mention of what is the chief point — in what manner the Father makes himself known to us in Christ. As to Chrysostom’s laying the whole stress of his defense on the term image, by contending that the creature cannot be said to be the image of the Creator, it is excessively weak; nay more, it is set aside by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:7, whose words are — The man is the IMAGE and glory of God. That, therefore, we may not receive anything but what is solid, let us take notice, that the term image is not made use of in reference to essence, but has a reference to us; for Christ is called the image of God on this ground — that he makes God in a manner visible to us. At the same time, we gather also from this his ( ) identity of essence, for Christ would not truly represent God, if he were not the essential Word of God, inasmuch as the question here is not as to those things which by communication are suitable also to creatures, but the question is as to the perfect wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and power of God, for the representing of which no creature were competent. We shall have, therefore, in this term, a powerful weapon in opposition to the Arians, but, notwithstanding, we must begin with that reference that I have mentioned; we must not insist upon the essence alone. The sum is this — that God in himself, that is, in his naked majesty, is invisible, and that not to the eyes of the body merely, but also to the understandings of men, and that he is revealed to us in Christ alone, that we may behold him as in a mirror. For in Christ he shews us his righteousness, goodness, wisdom, power, in short, his entire self. We must, therefore, beware of seeking him elsewhere, for everything that would set itself off as a representation of God, apart from Christ, will be an idol.[13]

 IX. Some sources

  • H.Baker, In The Image of God.
  • Athanasius, On the Incarnation, pp. 22-23. Christ is the True Image (same as P. Hughes in The True Image).
  • Erickson, Christian Theology, pp. 498-517.
  • Keyes, Beyond Identity, “Identity Lost,” pp, 32-40.
  • Raymond, A New Systematic Theology, pp. 425-429.
  • E. Hughes, The True Image (passim).
  • Newman, “Some Perspectives on the Image of God in Man from Biblical Theology.”
  • Sherlock, The Doctrine of Humanity, pp. 29-48, 49-91.
  • Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 202-210.
  • Middlemann, Proexistence.
  • Keyes’ lectures on work
  • Marshall, Heaven is not My Home.
  • Macaulay and J. Barrs, Being Human.
  • A.Schaeffer, Art and the Bible.

[1] The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis.

[2] Van Leeuwen¸ “Form, Image,” NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 643-648.

[3] Note: there has been much debate about the usefulness of the categories incommunicable/communicable/ (or absolute/relative, transcendent/immanent, negative/positive, moral/natural, immanent (intransitive)/emanent(transitive), because they are only absolute when in reference to God and apply only analogously to humans: “no attribute of God is completely communicable, and there is no attribute of God that completely incommunicable” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 156).

[4] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 206.

[5] Van Leeuwen¸ “Form, Image,” NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 643-648.

[6] ei)kw/n  eikwn€ei)/kw,  e)/oika I. a likeness, image, portrait, Hdt., Aesch. 2. an image in a mirror, Eur., Plat. II. a semblance, phantom, Eur., Plat., etc. an image in the mind, id=Plat. III. a similitude, simile, Ar., Plat. (Liddell and Scot Lerxicon).

[7] See Hughes, The True Image, pp. 3-65. See also Erickson’s critique of Barth’s and Brunner’s existential interpretation of the image of God (Christian Theology, pp. 495-517); Berkouwer, Studies in Dogmatics: Man the Image of God; Newman, Robert C. “Some Perspectives on the Image of God in Man From Biblical Theology,” Research Report # 21, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, Hatfield, PA, 1984.

[8] Hughes, The True Image, p. 27.

[9] Raymond, Systematic Theology, p. 428.

[10] See words related to idols and other forms of “representation” (from NIDOTTE): µl,x&, (statue, model, image, H7512);  ha,r“m’ ( mar’eh), appearance (H5260); tynIb]T’ ( tabnît), model or design for something built (H9322); hn:WmT] ( temûnâ), form (H9454)  and ls,P&,, hn:WmT], lm,s&, [H6166], tynIb]T’; lylia‘ (Nothing, H496); µyliWLGI (images, idols, H1658);  hr:vea} (wooden cult-object, pole, goddess, H895); lm,s&, (image, H6166); bx;[; (god-image, H6773); ls,P&, (cultic image, statue of a god, H7181; lysiP;, cultic image, statue of a god, H7178; ls’P;, carve, hew out of stone, dress, H7180);  µl,x&, (statue, model, image, H7512);  rm,T&o (scarecrow, H9473);  µypir:T] (figurines, mask, H9572).

[11] C.F.H. Henry, “Image of God,” The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 546.

[12] Newman, “Some Perspectives,” pp. 15-17.

[13] Calvin, Ephesians, The Ages Digital Library, Books for the Ages, Ages Software, Albany, OR.

Blinded by reality or to reality?

  • blinded by lightIt is quite a marvel that those who reject the gospel of Christ Jesus on the grounds of justice, seem to have missed one of its central tenets and hopes: the eventual destruction of all evil, on the grounds that God is perfectly just and will “balance the books” in every regard in the end. It also means that God’s people will, in the meantime, work and fight for justice and righteousness in every sphere of human life, anticipating that the labors of such love will produce undying fruit.
  • Also, quite remarkably many atheists are motivated zealously and passionately by the most wonderful principles of justice, righteousness, integrity, love, compassion, mercy, sympathy, and a desire to see freedom and deliverance for those in bondage to evils and horrors. Yet, they have rejected God who is the source of all love, mercy, compassion, and integrity, and who promises real deliverance from evils and oppression. In trying to understand this, it has been my impression that many such people do not actually wrestle so much with the question of the “existence” of God, but rather they have never been able to see the absolute goodness of God. Since they so often perceive even their own limited virtues as somehow superior to God’s, or any supposed “god’s”, and they have seen so much evil, they are blinded to the possibility of any perfect good coming from God.
  • Blinded by one reality, we so easily become blinded to another reality.
  • I suppose that faith is the only way to open one’s blinded eyes to see the reality of God’s goodness and unsurpassed beauty. And with eyes opened wide by faith, we begin to see that evil is truly not the end of the story.

Solus Christus – Through Christ Alone

Faith Theological Seminary Christ & Culture Seminary, 2016
in preparation for the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017

Session 4 – Solus Christus – Through Christ Alone by Stephen Hague

(for pdf file, click here solus-christus-by-stephen-hague)

Contents

  1. Ancient heresies are mostly Christological 2
  2. Prior to, and the catalyst for, the Protestant Reformation we find in Roman Catholicism views that diminished Christ: consider his centrality and sufficiency. 3
  3. Modern heresies are also mostly Christological 4
  4. The diverse Jesuses of our times. 4
  5. Modern views that do the same: see Ligonier survey “Our favorite heresies”. 5
  6. The Biblical Theology of Christ Alone in Scripture. 7
  7. Biblical Texts on Christ. 10
  8. Historic Confessions of Faith. 12

Introduction

The historical problem of religious faith has always been the question, “Will you serve and worship the Baals or will your serve, love, and worship YHWH?” The problem Israel faced in the land of the promise was perpetually that of not just worshipping and trusting in the Canaanitish idols, but so often presuming to add them onto the worship of YHWH, the true and living God. It was a kind of Yahwism plus, or YHWH plus Baal (as trivializing as “Coke plus”). The belief that they could have it both ways reduced the Almighty Lord of all creation to the lowly place of one of the many hundreds of ANE deities. Israel’s consistent failure to accept the all-sufficiency of the one and only true God as their Lord was their well-chronicled, disastrous down-fall and what led to eventual exile from the land, and the loss of the Temple and the Ark of the covenant.

  • This syncretism of faith and works, God plus the Baals, God and other false theological systems has been at the heart of the spiritual battle in all the ages. In the human condition of rebels, all people are prone to reject the purity of biblical faith that trusts in the all-sufficiency of God the Creator-Redeemer, as we see in each of the issues related to the Solas of the Reformation. Is this any less so with regard to Christ in the NT church age?
  • If Christ is our promised salvation, our only righteousness, our only Savior, our only Deliver-Redeemer (Isa 59:20, 21; 27:9; Jer 31:33, 34; Rom 11:26), our friend, our brother, our only true King of all Kings (2 Sam 7:14; 1 Tim 6:15), the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 1:8), the firstborn over all creation (Col 1:15) the Firstborn from the dead (Rev 1:5; Col 1:18), our only true High Priest (Heb 8), our only perfect mediator and reconciler (Heb 9:24-28; Col 1:22), Lamb of God (Jn 1:29; Rev 15:3; 22:3), the true prophet (Mt 10:41), the truly wise man (Mtt 5-7; Rom 16:27), the true Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the divine warrior who conquers death and Satan, the promised branch (Isa 4:2; 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12), the shoot (Is 11:1; 53:2), the Son of David (2 Sam 7), the Son of Man (Daniel 7, 70x in the Synoptics), the Son of God, the Word of God, the Last Adam,  the Suffering Servant (Mk 8:31; Mt 16:21-22; Lu 23:40-43; 24:13-21), and the Anointed One (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25; Acts 4:26). If Christ is our only mediator between God and humankind, why then do we so frequently seek to add something to him and his works? The big question we need to be clear about is, why only Christ, why is he alone all-sufficient?
  • We have heard from the Reformers how vital it is that we retain Scripture alone as our only rule of faith and practice, from which we plainly learn that grace and faith alone are at the core of the biblical gospel. We understand that we must never add to this: for our authorial revelation from God there is no scripture plus tradition, there is no grace and faith plus works in God’s economy of redemption. Most assuredly, there is no option for Christ plus someone or something else. Especially since the Scripture shows us Christ as the center of all, the all-sufficient Mediator for those redeemed by grace through faith alone (Rom 5:2; Eph 2:8).
  • Why is it then that most all the major heresies ancient and modern (both in the church and beyond) so often are Christological, distorting the Christ of the Bible? Indeed, there have been countless (and blasphemous) efforts to syncretize Christ with many idols of the nations

A.                 Ancient heresies are mostly Christological

  • Christ plus Allah, or Buddah, or Confucious, or Christ plus the Dali Lama, or Christ plus Mary, the Mother of God, the “Mediatrix of all graces” between God and humanity (as in the Roman Catholic theology that the Reformers rejected).
  • An example of syncretism between African animistic religion and Christianity is found in Haitian Voodoo. There are the extreme movements like the Raelian Movement, that believe that members of the Elohim civilization sent different prophets, including Moses, Jesus, Buddha and many others whose role was to guide humanity and to prepare humans for the future, all of whom were created as a result of a sexual union between a human woman and one of the Elohim. To Raëlians, this was possible because the Elohim had advanced DNA synthesis and genetic engineering. Some 100,000 people believe this nonsense. Other syncretisms include movements like Bahai’i that believes through a series of divine messengers, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, and Buddha religion was created to meet the needs of the time. We have also witnessed the revival of many ancient neopagan religions that draw from Judeo-Christian belief and syncretize it into various pagan belief systems, and this is particularly prevalent in the so-called alternative health movement and its many occultic beliefs and therapies often mixed up with Christian claims.
  • Each of these examples is quite obviously not Biblical Christianity, yet, consider the many aberrations in the history of the Christian church (that are still with us today) that we call Christian heresies, and particularly those concerning Christ Jesus:
  1. Docetists who believe that Jesus was divine, only appearing human
  2. Modalists who reject an orthodox understanding of the Trinity
  3. Arians and Ebionites who believe that Jesus was human but not divine
  4. Gnostics who believe that Jesus becomes a spiritual person, not physical
  5. Nestorians who deny that Jesus is both God and Man in a theanthropic union in his incarnation
  6. Socinians who believe that Jesus was only a man until his exaltation at his ascensionAll of these Christological errors had, of course, serious soteriological consequences (that we cannot explore here), but logically result from wrong premises about the very nature and character of God in Christ.

1.                  Prior to, and the catalyst for, the Protestant Reformation we find in Roman Catholicism views that diminished Christ: consider his centrality and sufficiency

  • There are numerous examples in RC theology that convey a mistaken view of Jesus and his works. Even though Christ is exalted to the highest place in the scheme of God’s purposes, we find a long-standing example of Christ plus something . . . That is, it is not enough to exalt the supremacy of Christ yet not his exclusivity and all-sufficiency.
  • Relics and indulgences
  • Mass
  • Christ + works (grace + works) + veneration of saints and icons, seemingly endless prayers on rosaries to Mary, and the salvific addition of suffering now and in Purgatory
    Christ + Mary: Mariolatry — The church plays a mediatorial role as does Mary through the sacraments in which baptism removes original sin, penance deals with sins after baptism.
  • Jesus plus in RC theology: as my Dictionary of Catholic Theology sates it,

“Our Lord is the one adequate Mediator and Redeemer, but He graciously allows others, and Mary in a special and unique way, to have a subordinate share in union with Him, in the work of redemption” (p. 550).

So God’s graces come via Christ through Mary to us, and so with such reasoning, there must be a corresponding new doctrine of her perpetual virginity and sinlessness (her “immaculate conception”). In any heresy, even though the supremacy of Christ may be extolled, his exclusivity is not, departing from the biblical portrayal of Christ and his gospel. As Stephen Charnock states:

Inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being of a God is contrary to common reason.[1]
He that denies any essential attribute may be said to deny the being of God.[2]

  • Some of these RC ideas continue today among the billion RC’s in the world, but there is also a bewildering variety of different Jesus’ believed in today that go way beyond the Christ of the Bible. As in ancient times, modern heresies and misrepresentations of God and Christ are also mostly Christological.

B.                  Modern heresies are also mostly Christological

1.                  The diverse Jesuses of our times

These various versions of Jesus all include a divergent addition that seriously departs from the Scriptural presentation of Jesus in the NT:

  • The unknowable, Totally Other God in Jesus (of Karl Barth’s Neo-orthodoxy, the most influential in the twentieth century)
  • Jesus of the Kerygma (of whatever is preached “word” and existential encounter)
  • Jesus the Liberal (of the new religion of Liberal Historical-Critical reconstructions)
  • The dialectical Jesus (of the Process theologians)
  • Jesus the political revolutionary or social revolutionary (of Marxism and Communism)
  • Jesus the hippie and homosexual (of the 1960’s sexual-political revolution)
  • Jesus my buddy and fellow traveler and psychotherapist (of our self-esteemed, psychologized generation)
  • Jesus the hypothesis (of the critical scholars)
  • Jesus the schemer who faked his death (of the book the Passover Plot)
  • Jesus the liberal Jew (of the secular Jews)
  • Jesus the Process theologian (of the Process Theologians)
  • Jesus the contemplative mystic (of the monks and ascetics)
  • Jesus the ethicist (of the moralizers)
  • Jesus, the Christ of Faith (of the History of Religionists)
  • Jesus of “History” (“historical Jesus” of the historical revisionists)
  • Jesus the existentialist (of Bultmann’s existential encounter)
  • Jesus the failed eschatologist blunderer (death was failure)
  • Jesus the Apocalyptist (of the doomsayers and dooms-dayers)
  • Jesus the secular humanist (the exemplar of right living)
  • Jesus of the mystery cults and religions (of the Gnostics)
  • Jesus of the Gnostic myths (as in the DaVinci Code)
  • Jesus of “myth” (the mythological Jesus)
  • The demythologized Jesus (of the History of Religionists)
  • Jesus the peasant and vegetarian-proletariat (of the Vegans)
  • Jesus the nice (effeminate) middle-class teacher of brotherly love and humanitarian ethics, who wandered about in clean white robes spreading good cheer (of the liberal middle-class Protestants)
  • Jesus of the “upper story” (the leap of faith in Jesus, a Nonrational and contentless encounter with Jesus which is a non-propositional, experience Jesus in your heart of many Evangelicals). As I heard recently, that a well-known pastor is teaching that we do not need the Bible, we just need a relationship with Jesus!

These alternative Jesuses all raise the same question we began with: will you serve God or the Baals? They all assume that the Jesus of the NT is inadequate or insufficient.

2.                  Modern views that do the same: see Ligonier survey “Our favorite heresies”

  • There is quit a controversy, even among Evangelicals, that denies the necessity of a substitutionary atonement. We hear that a mainline denomination has removed the lines we just sang from the hymn, “In Christ Alone”: “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied”).
  • But the question is, can God simply forgive sin without any atonement for sin? If we trace out the entire story-line biblically, it becomes clear that the human condition of total moral depravity (guilt in Adam) and God’s holy and glorious character require of necessity a Savior who is uniquely qualified to bear God’s wrath out of his loving mercy. According to the recent Lifeway and Ligonier survey (“Heresies We Love,” CT, Oct, 2016), 48% of Evangelicals do not believe that all sin deserves God’s punishment, yet this heresy flies-in-the-face of the entire testimony of the story-line of Scripture. Even though 74% of Evangelicals also believe that individuals must contribute to their own salvation, this contradicts the entire story-line of Scripture, wherein we read in “Rom 3:10-11 (NASB95) as it is written,

“There is none righteous, not even one;

There is no one who understands; no one who seeks God.

  • Since no guilty person can declare themselves righteous, nor make themselves righteous (indeed a serious logical contradiction), only one who is entirely innocent of all guilt is able to provide a satisfactory solution. This is why the only solution is in God Himself, and this is why there can be no other Savior, but One who alone is righteous, who is a human descendent of Eve to whom the promise was given; that Someone in their line of progeny would come and crush the serpent’s head and would reverse the curse of death and bring them to life again.
  • Once again, this is why we must correctly identify the Promised One when he comes, and not misrepresent who he is once he does. The history of the world revolves around this anticipation and supreme question, the question that the Old and New Testaments answer: “Who is this man?” . . . “What kind of man is this? . . . that even the winds and the waves, the devils, and the dead obey his voice! (Mtt 8:27).
  • For the many (majority today) who follow a merely human Jesus [as noted in the many Jesuses I listed], and oftentimes weak and sinful Jesuses (they are all ones made in our image), and for the 71% of Evangelicals who apparently believe that Jesus was the first being created by God, we propose that it would be impossible for the Savior of humankind and creation to be a mere created mortal! Indeed, one who is created could never bring redemption to the creation, since its Redeemer must be able to sovereignly reign over creation and have the omnipotent power to reverse his own curse and supernaturally restore every atom to his glorious and holy purposes; only one who is eternal and sovereign and without sin altogether is able and sufficient in himself alone to provide the solution in his most holy and glorious person. This is expressed in Col 2:

Colossians 2:9–10 (NASB95) For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,         10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Colossians 1:13–29 (NASB95) 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15   He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16   For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17   He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18   He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19   For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

C.                  The Biblical Theology of Christ Alone in Scripture

  • If the central theme of Scripture is redemption, then the central Person of Scripture is Christ Jesus who is The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of creation, who sustains it now and redeems it. He is the hermeneutical key to all of Scripture and reality; there can be none other, since he is the True Prophet/Priest/King/Wise man and fulfills all the promises and typologies in the OT as the Last Adam who completes both the Creation-covenant and Redemption-covenant as our Mediator.
  • In order to get the bird’s eye view of Jesus in the scope of biblical revelation, and to further answer the question of “Why only Christ? Or, “why Christ alone is the only way”? Why do we believe that Christ alone is all-sufficient for salvation and to fulfill God’s purposes?
  • To address this, we must consider the whole narrative of the story-line of the Bible’s Theology (Biblical Theology). This story begins and ends in the Paradise of God’s glorious and holy presence. This presence is in the fullest sense a covenantal relationship between God and his creation. In Eden, that relationship was a creational one within the moral context of God’s glorious perfections; it involved many wondrous qualities, tasks, and conditions. The conditions were in part probationary – a testing – of sorts, in which our fist parents failed miserably. The consequences of that failure were necessary, since all creation and creational activity were within the context of God’s holiness, glory, and love.
  • It is important to define these vitally important characteristics of God (since they are often collapsed into one another):

holiness: the [holy-separate]sinless perfections (purity) of the attributes of God’s glory (his essential being). This is about WHAT he is like.

glory: the [holy-separate]sinless perfections (magnificence) of God’s essential being. This is about  WHO HE IS.

love: God is love, characterizing all of his perfect motives and the perfect expression and application of his holiness and glory in all circumstances for all people (in judgment and mercy).

  • Tracing the following story, we find a story-line of redemption through the entire Old and New Testaments, and we understand the BT of covenant-realities in which God of necessity must hold his creation accountable for all immoral, unholy choices, SINCE HE IS HOLY. And, since God requires covenant-obedience from humanity as the only proper way to live in relationship to his glory (in his glorious presence), then a human must ultimately satisfy this demand, since it stems directly from God’s identity and the identity of humans created in his moral image. It also quickly becomes plain by logical necessity that only God could provide the remedy for this fall from compliance to God’s holy law and glorious presence: that is, a holy and sufficient reversal through redemption, purchasing back those cast into bondage. As Stephen Wellum states it:

o   “Ultimately, the only hope for Adam’s helpless race is found in another Adam, the last Adam, who unlike the first Adam and the entire human race, obeys, and who accomplishes in his life, death, and resurrection our redemption and justification.”[3]

  • Thus, the consequences of the Edenic failure was both wrath and mercy; God demonstrated both his perfect holiness and glory, as well as his perfect compassion, by immediately bringing a judgment curse on them and the earth, while simultaneously promising mercy in redemption (the “first gospel” Proto Euangelion of Gen 3:15). This promise of death and life is the hermeneutical key to all of following revelation in Scripture. This is the Messianic key to everything, as expounded from this point in the story-line unto the end of the age as described in John’s Revelation.
  • The response of God to Adam and Eve is both a promise of judgment and a new covenant of redemption. God’s glorious and holy character necessitates judgment on rebellion, and yet his holy love is free to show mercy. This is the origin of the only two “races” on earth: those who are under the curse “in Adam” and those who are under grace in “the promised seed.”
  • This also explains why it must be a human to satisfy God’s covenant requirements, since he originally created that context for joyful human obedience and love before the Fall. Only a divine person, a holy and perfect human person can fulfil the holy requirements of God for obedience to his covenant of life. That is why only Christ is all-sufficient to reverse the curse of death, since as divine (God incarnate) he represents humanity as a human person who is God in all of his holiness/glory and divinity. His character and his work he shares with no-one. This is why there can be NO Christ plus something else; not even his wonderful mother can have as the Catholic Dictionary stated, “a subordinate share in union with Him, in the work of redemption.”
  • This is the context for the line-promise of a new humanity of those who will be in grace and experience the mercy of God. This line of the promise would necessarily be a human, a man, a seed in the line of Eve who will be bruised, yet would be a victor over the deceiving Serpent, reversing the curse on the creation and their bodies, securing redemption for both the earth and the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. This profound beauty of love from God for his own is the gospel thread we find in every book of the Bible (Rom 5.14 — 12

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”)

  • This line-promise can only be realized by One Person who is wholly perfect and sinless. By necessity his works must be holy and perfect to be sufficient to fulfill the original Adamic role of complete compliance to God’s holy and glorious character in the original Covenant of Creation. This logical necessity for a representative, One who is without blemish, is inescapable, since no imperfect, unholy, sinful substitute to stand in the place of sinners could ever satisfy God’s holy requirements. To be perfectly just, God must only allow the One who is without sin to pay the penalty for sin, in order to reverse the curse. That is, there can be no final balancing of the moral books in God’s universe unless One who is not under God’s wrath bears the full weight of that wrath in the place of those who cannot do so themselves. This is the marvel of the love of God demonstrated in Christ incarnate, fully human and divine, and what unites the entire story-line of Scripture.
  • The simple hermeneutical key to all of redemption history is the immediate context of every text, in which everything points both back to the past new-covenant-promise of redemption (Gen 3:5) and forward to its future fulfillment. Every biblical text has its context in this story-line of the redemption-promises of God, as well as the necessary eventuality of judgment.
  • From creation to new creation, God has a purpose and a plan for all creation, and his own way to complete his task. As Creator, he alone can be the Redeemer. This is the context of Jesus coming – as God incarnate, to assume in himself the full weight of his own glory, the penalty for guilt. The logic is irrepressible that God alone is sufficient for this task of redemption, and once Scripture establishes that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah promised to Adam and Eve, we know that there can be no other.
  • If that be the case, then here can be no Christ plus something . . . There can be no grace plus works (or penance, or baptism, or Masses, or indulgences, or relics, or anything) for those he vicariously assumes of their guilt and God’s wrath. Shedd writes, “God is the offended party, and he is the one who reconciles the offended party.”[4] There can be no forgiveness or remission of any penalty without proper propitiation (of the wrath of his holiness). There is no remission or release from penalty without full payment of the penalty. That is, there is no arbitrary remission of the penalty in God’s universe, in Scripture or in life. God would not be just, nor would a human judge be just, if crimes were simply pardoned without reason and just cause!
  • In the death of Christ, holiness and love are equally meted out, when “righteousness and peace, justice and mercy kiss each other” (Ps 85:10). No other humans, no saints, not Mary, no priests, nor sinners can fulfill this vicarious, propitiatory atonement which is efficacious and substitutionary, appeasing God’s wrath through penal, forensic purchase and ransom (or expiation for redemption), making restitution that sufficiently satisfies God’s holy standards and glory. This is why and how only Christ’s perfect righteousness is then imputed to the unrighteous by grace through faith and they are pardoned.
  • Lastly, this is why the atonement is of no value without faith; in itself it has no intrinsic power to save, and also why can be no other person involved in the dispensing of the grace of God in turning away his wrath and freeing us from guilt and the power of sin.
  • In conclusion, justice is necessary because of God’s glory, while mercy is God’s free gift of adoption into his covenant of redemption which flows out of his exceedingly great hesed love. That is why the answer to all our questions is SOLUS CHRISTUS! And, it is why we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and the Gentiles foolishness” ( 1 Cor 1:23). “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’” (Acts 17:3).

D.                 Biblical Texts on Christ

Acts 4:12 (NASB95)  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 20:28  “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

1 Jn 2:2 (NASB95) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1 Jn 4:10 (NASB95) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 Cor 6:20 (NASB95) For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Gal 3:13 (NASB95) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

Eph 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Heb 1:1–3 (NASB95) God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,2  in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Heb 9:12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Col 1:16–17 (NASB95)  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Col 1:16–17 (NASB95) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made youd alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.e

Eph 1:9–10 (NASB95) He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him

Eph 5:2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Rom 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

1 Jn 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world

1 Jn 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 Pet 1:2  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Pet 1:18-19 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

Rom 8:1–4 (NASB95) Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.3  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Rom 8:28–39 (NASB95) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35       Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Pet 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

1 Thess 5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

Heb 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Heb 10:12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,

Heb 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Defining the terms of redemption is essential to Biblical and Systematic Theology:

  • Propitiation
  • Vicarious at atonement
  • Efficacious
  • Ransom (Mtt 20:28)
  • Substitutionary
  • Penal
  • Reconciliation
  • Purchase
  • Redeem
  • Restitution
  • Satisfaction

If time allowed, we should consider also the many confessions of faith over the centuries of the church that beautifully summarize these concerns regarding the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ.

E.                  Historic Confessions of Faith

Westminster Confession of Faith:

Larger Catechism

  1. 9. How many persons are there in the Godhead? A. There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;n and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.o
  2. 11. How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father? A. The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names,s attributes,t works,u and worship,w as are proper to God only.
  3. 36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace? A. The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ,x who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father,y in the fullness of time became man,z and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct nature, and one person, forever.a.
  4. 1 Tim. 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. John 14:6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  Acts 4:12. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Christ alone is Mediator

Westminster Confession of Faith (A.D. 1647),

WCF ch 21.2 Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone;1 not to angels, saints, or any other creature:2 and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.3

1Mt 4:10; Jn 5:23; 2 Cor 13:14; 2Col 2:18; Rev 19:10; Rom 1:25; 3Jn 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Eph 2:18; Col 3:17.

WCF Ch 8I

  1. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.  Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.

Belgic Confession of Faith:

We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God— eternally begotten, not made or created,for then he would be a creature.He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the “reflection of God’s glory,”13 being like the Father in all things. Jesus Christ is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together. Moses says that God created the world;14 and John says that all things were created through the Word,15 which he calls God. The apostle says that God created the world through the Son.16 He also says that God created all things through Jesus Christ.17 And so it must follow that the one who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ already existed before creating all things. Therefore the prophet Micah says that Christ’s origin is “from ancient days.”18 And the apostle says that the Son has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”19 So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.

13 Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 14 Gen. 1:1 15 John 1:3 16 Heb. 1:2 17 Col. 1:16 18 Mic. 5:2 19 Heb. 7:3

London Baptist Confession:

“Christ, and Christ alone, is fitted to be mediator between God and man. He is the prophet, priest and king of the church of God” (8.9). .

[1] Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, two volumes in one, vol. 1, p. 90.

[2] Charnock, Existence, p. 89.

[3] Stephen Wellum, “Solus Christus: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters,” SBJT 19.4 (2015): 98.

[4] Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol 1, p. 399

paradigms and poems for pilgrims

“Without memory we don’t know who we are or where home is or what home looks like.” (Steven Bouma-Prediger & Brian Walsh in Beyond Homelessness, p. 297-298)

Paradigms for Pilgrims[1]:

  1. The Plowman-farmer is a deeply rooted and settled dweller who clings to his place as  eternal home.
  2. The Pilgrim-dweller is a wayfaring dweller who dreams always of a homeland, yet while dwelling in a place they are not yet home.
  3. The Passing (wayfaring) stranger is a traveler who is an eternal nomad never at home and seeks no place as home, since indifferent to all places.
  4. The Sojourner is a provisional dweller whose home is incomplete, though rooted in a place, a home that is loved, it is not final since sojourning is toward a final eternal homecoming.

To build a home as a sojourner, there must be memory, community, and love. As Christian sojourners, “we are not immigrants or refugees, exiles or migrants, tourists or postmodern nomads. If we understand ourselves properly, then in contrast to all of them we are, in a real sense, at home. But this being at home is a posture, a way of being in the world. It is a journeying homemaking characterized by all the things revealed by that phenomenology: permanence, dwelling, memory, rest, hospitality, inhabitation, orientation, and belonging.”[2]

Poem for sojourners and exiles

Home is permanence,
dwelling, memory, homemaking, boundaries,
rest, habitation, orientation, hospitable,
belonging, a space, sojourn, community,
homecoming, a place of return, an axis,
homeland.

Homeless is deprivation,
alienation, estrangement, transience, borderless,
displacement, uprooted wandering, unknown, dislocation,
nomadic migrancy, disorientation, restless,
inhospitable, vagabond mobility, no place,
exile and impermanence.

[1] Based on Steven Bouma-Prediger & Brian Walsh in Beyond Homelessness, p. 294-297.

[2] Bouma-Prediger & Brian Walsh, Beyond Homelessness, p. 297.

Jesus weeps over and then returns to Jerusalem

Jesus’ triumphal entry: JERUSALEM, Sunday, Mt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-44; Jn 12:12-19 (OT prophecy: Isa 62:11; Zech 9:9)

(left) Albrecht Durer, Christ returns to Jerusalem

Mt 21:1–11 (NASB95) When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5  “Say to the daughter of Zion,
      ‘Behold your King is coming to you,
       Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
       Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”

10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew quotes from this significantly Messianic OT passage:

Zech 9:9-11 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth

Luke adds that Jesus “wept over” Jerusalem on account of its coming destruction and desolation he prophesied (Luke 19:41-45), and which occurred in A.D. 70 by the Romans (cf. 2 Sam 15:30 – when David went up to Jerusalem, weeping on his way). The King of kings does not come to conquer and celebrate his victory in reclaiming his city, rather he weeps at its coming destruction!

Lk 19:41-44 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Also see Lk 13:34-35 (Mtt 23:37-38) — “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! 35 “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”[1]

This theme of judgment and desolation of Jerusalem is a frequent one in the OT, especially in the pre-exilic period, but also some prophets point towards a future post-exilic desolation (Jer 12:7), though sometimes it may be figurative of the judgment on those who reject the Messiah. In this case, when many (the Zealots and other worldly-minded) were anticipating Jesus re-claiming the kingdom from the Romans at this time by force, Jesus instead prophetically describes the terrible destruction of the city coming from the Romans (A.D. 70).

Comments:  Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem is the long anticipated arrival of the Messiah into his holy city, as very specific prophecies are here depicted as fulfilled. The term “triumphal” is peculiar when considered from a human perspective, since it would seem quite contrary to a triumph when he comes in apparent weakness and will be killed in the process. Nevertheless, considering the various details of the Gospel testimonies (which each supply unique details), it is a marvel to see Christ’s full control of all that leads up to the Passover of his death.  Nothing is able to pre-empt his plan to reveal to the world God’s purposes and plan, that the coming of salvation and the kingdom of God would be according to God’s way and not mankind’s.  When Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on a colt he was obviously not coming as the typical ancient king or military conqueror in a gold chariot seeking destruction of enemies, but rather he was coming to procure and offer salvation to those who were his enemies. Jesus’ true glory is most evident here in his humble submission to the will of God to achieve real victory. That is, he will crush the Evil one, and bring a reversal of the curse, not through a powerful military action, nor even by supernatural conquest with angelic hosts, but through fulfilling the law of God and paying the ransom required by God’s character to bring redemption. Zechariah’s prophecy indicated that the Messiah would be gentle and humble and would bring salvation. He would eventually even remove the war machinery through his actions, precisely because he would bring true peace (shalom) not through military conquest but through spiritual conquest. Despite Jesus’ radical departure from the ways of the ancient kings and their kingdoms, his actions still declared him to be the true King of Israel and the world, yet a king of an entirely different order than what had preceded in all of human history. His kingdom will be an eternal one, fulfilling the ancient promises of a human Deliverer from the line of Adam and Eve and Abraham who would sit on the throne of David forever. The gospel narrator is therefore especially concerned to address the question the Gospels seek to answer: “Who is this man?” He is affirmed/proved in the narrative to be:

  • The Lord (worthy of praise, “hosanna!,” “from the lips of infants you have ordained praise,” Mtt 21:126; Ps 8:2)
  • The King (fulfills the Gen 3:15 promise of a human Victor over the enemy and the curse)
  • Gentle (riding on a donkey colt, Zech 9:9, and Zechariah also stresses that this King would bring salvation as well as peace[shalom])
  • The Son of David (the covenant promise of an eternal King)
  • The Prophet (predicts the future and also interprets and applies the Scripture rightly)
  • The “blessed” one who comes in the name of the Lord (the One who represents the Lord YHWH bears his Name, and thus his glory). Luke 19:38 adds, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And also at the rebuke of the Pharisees, who did not approve of the crowds singing praise to Jesus, he said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk 19:40; cf. Hab 2:11). The creation must praise the One who created it.
  • The One who saves (“hosanna!,” also see Zech 9:9 above).

Notes:

  • Mt 21:4 – “spoken through the prophet” about riding on a donkey – Is 62:11; Zech 9:9-11.
  • Mt 21:5 – “King” of peace and shalom – he comes to his city and people, but not in victor attire and regalia on a war-horse. See David and donkey in 2 Sam 16:1-12.
  • Mt 21:10 – “the prophet” – Deut 18:18.
  • Mt 21:9 – “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” – Ps 118:36.
  • Lk 19:41 – “he wept” – ἔκλαυσεν (κλαίω; κλαυθμός, οῦ m; κραυγήb, ῆς f: to weep or wail, with emphasis upon the noise accompanying the weeping—‘to weep, to wail, to lament, weeping, crying.’[2]). Recall “Jesus wept” (shortest verse in NT) at the tomb of Lazarus (a different GR word: dakru/w, ἐδάκρυσεν) in Jn 11:35. Some have noted that the kind of grief Jesus feels here is an angry one at death itself, his primary enemy and objective: he must die to overcome death forever. Jesus also seems to have grieved to the point of weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane right before his death (Mt 26:36-46; Lk 22:4-46).
  • Lk 13:35 – “You will not see me again until . . .”— see  Isa 45:23; 22:5; Zech 12:10; Rom 14:11; Php 2:10-11; Rev 1:7.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Lk 13:34–35). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 303). New York: United Bible Societies.

Jesus’ Temptation and the Old Testament

Setting: the DESERT OF JUDEA, autumn, A.D. 27 (Mt 4:1-11; Mk l:12-13: Lk 4:1-13)

(below) The Temptation of Christ (Bartsch 41, New Hollstein 41, National Gallery Lucas van Leyden 67, Lavalleye 107).
LvL_Temptation_of_Christ2Mt 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’  a5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ”‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ b ”  7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ d11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


Satan’s three-fold temptation of Jesus (to turn stones to bread, to throw himself off the temple, to worship Satan) to disobey God’s commands, twisting scripture, misquoting Ps 91:11, 12, was to deceive/trick/tempt Jesus into failing his mission (to suffer, die, and be raised). Yet as Jesus quotes scripture back to him, he successfully resisted all three temptations.

The tempter begins with a question, “If you are the Son of God.” Ironically,  that is the question all of the Gospels seek to answer (“Who is this man?”), yet it immediately follows here Jesus’ baptism when the Father clearly proclaimed “This is my Son . . .” It is also paralleled at Jesus’ crucifixion when he was taunted and mocked by those who said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mtt 27:40).  In each case, these temptations are a tempting/testing of God incarnate, as Jesus notes in v. 7 (see Deut 6:16), but they increase in severity of evil with the final offer of the world’s kingdoms if Jesus would just bow to him in worship. On both accounts, this would have been impossible, since the kingdoms of the world already belonged to Jesus (since he made them; see Mt 9:35-11:1), and they would all probably have ceased to exist if Jesus, the holy incarnate and good Creator, the King of all kings, had bowed and worshiped the Evil One.

It is noteworthy that Satan’s temptation to pre-empt Jesus’ mission (to suffer death) absolutely contradicted the mission of Jesus to suffer in God’s ordained way, and to be raised up in God’s ordained way. Substitutes and short-cuts to redeem the world would end in resolute failure. This is the “testing” (הסנ) of God (prohibited in Deut 6:16; Ex 17:7) that is meant here, alluding to the Mosaic context where Israel was warned to remember to keep God’s commands, take possession of the land, and to worship God alone (not idols as at Massah).

Other OT motifs include the correlation of Adam, the son of God with Christ the only begotten Son of God; the seed promise to Adam and Eve of a Victor over the serpent Satan, as the suffering Servant-Son, he fulfills this covenant promise of redemption. Mosaic typology includes the forty days and forty nights (Moses on Mount Sinai and forty years of wilderness wanderings), stones into bread (miraculous provision of manna), and striking of stone (water). As the Bread of Life, Jesus represents the spiritual significance of the bread of manna in the wilderness, the only bread of salvation that will save the world, and yet he is tempted to make bread out of stones to feed himself. The OT temple imagery is also profoundly significant here, since the highest point of the temple represents the entire history of the redemption theme of the restored Presence of God, the sanctuary sacrifices, and all that the temple represented, which would have been lost if Jesus had tested God by leaping from its highest point (see Heb 2:17-18). The True High Priest would have totally profaned his task and failed to complete his mission to enter the Most Holy Place in God’s appointed way, through the Cross. Jesus is the OT Lamb that would be led to the slaughter at his first coming, and only at his second at the end of the age would he come in full glorious splendor. The temptations also highlight the OT motif of the truly wise man, able to discern truth from lies, as the Logos of the universe, the most intelligent human to have ever lived, he vanquishes the Evil one through successfully fulfilling Adam’s prophetic, priestly, and kingly roles perfectly. In each temptation, Jesus responds to the lying Tempter by quoting appropriate Scriptures. He then had authority to cast away Satan, and fulfills the promise to Adam and Eve that their descendant would crush the Serpent’s head, even though his heal would be struck (Gen 3:15).

 a Deut. 8:3
 b Psalm 91:11,12. Satan omits the phrase “in all thy ways.”
 d Deut. 6:13