Genesis 3:1-24 Part 2: An Anatomy of Temptation

On Monday we looked at the role isolation can play in our battles with sin. We also explored how God has provided Church as a means to counter this. In today’s post we’re going to consider the other elements at work in mankind’s battle with temptation.

Temptation is complicated, as is most human behaviour. There are often many factors at work, many reasons behind the things that we do. Motivations both good and ugly. Physiologists Freud and Jung would probably blame our parents, Sociologists would blame our communities, the Left blaming the Right and the Right blaming the Left. Adam blames Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and both of them blamed God.

So how does temptation work, how does it get us to a point where we willingly conspire against God, seeking to disobey His law, to hurting each other and ourselves? Genesis 3 has some answers:

(I understand this is a longer post than usual, hopefully the sub-headings will allow quick transit between ideas.)

Temptation Twists Truth

The first thing the snake asks is, ‘did God really say, “you must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ (V1). In fact, God had said they could eat from any tree, except one! Temptation twists truth. It adds from God’s words, takes from them and can even distort them. We see Satan follow this pattern when he attempts to trip Jesus in Matthew 4.

Since temptation twists truth, holding onto truth, knowing it and believing it is essential for the Christian. Perhaps this is why Jesus promises to his disciples, those who listen to his teaching, would know the truth and the truth would set them free (John 8:31-32)

Temptation Begins with Trivia

How can it be that so great a fall can begin with so small an incident: eating fruit? Surely the whole world will not fall apart for such a trivial thing? Yet, this is where the snake goes on… ‘surely, you will not certainly die’ (V4). We must surrender to God everything in our lives even the most seemingly trivial. One commentator put it like this:

Some habit, some possession, some secret sin, some bitter resentment – in the context of our whole life, it seems so small, and yet it is at that one point that our trust in God is tested. If we will not let God be God at this one small, trivial, yet so crucial a point then we really do not trust him where it matters at all.” – David Atkinson (The Message of Genesis 1-11).

Since temptation starts with trivia, it is so important that we ‘nip it in the bud’. Perhaps this is why the Lord’s Prayer includes ‘lead us not into temptation’. Let us not play with fire.

Temptation Drives a Wedge Between Faith and Reason

Temptation oozes into the crevices between faith and reason, it erodes their oneness. The snake attempts to cause Eve to doubt the goodness of God’s word. Where God had said ‘don’t eat’, the snake implies ‘why would God say that?’. And so Eve begins to doubt her reason for believing God’s words.

Reasoning faith acknowledges that in the space between heaven and earth, there are secret things which belong to the Lord. Reasoning faith causes gratitude, rather than doubt. Reasoning faith knows God by trusting Him, by experiencing His loving-faithfulness. Reasoning faith can say: ‘This is a trustworthy saying…if we are faithless, He remains faithful’ (2 Tim 2:11&13).

Temptation seeks to come between reason and faith.

Temptation Suggests Benefits to Us

Once the snake has disarmed/trivialised the cost of disobedience, (‘surely you won’t die’) he promises benefits. It is important to note that the Hebrew word for ‘die’ in verse 4 is ‘Muwth’ and according to one count it appears in the OT 835 times. ‘Surely you won’t die’, surely?

Obviously, we are tempted because we think we will gain through sin. In this passage the snake promises that they will be like God, their eyes will be opened, they will gain knowledge about good and evil (V5). After lying about the cost (‘surely you won’t die!’) the snake seeks to promise blessings for disobedience.

And is this not the case with our temptation and sin? We lie because we think it will be easier than telling the truth. We steal because we will get what we want without working for it. We lust and covet because we think we will be satisfied or empowered. We are tempted by the apparent gains we hope to make.

Temptation (seeks to) Insult God and Us

Perhaps most significant is that temptation attempts to insult, and offend! It seeks to reproach God’s goodness, by questioning whether a good God would really deny us eye-opening, knowledge-giving fruit. “Surely God cannot be good if He is denying you these things”.

We see that the snake drops the intimate name of ‘LORD God’ (aka: Jehovah) and Eve follows suits, referring to God as ‘God’. But notice how many times, after this conversation, that Genesis 3 refers to the ‘LORD God’ – over and over again! It becomes so obvious that the tempter is seeking to insult God’s relational-goodness.

But it’s not just God who is insulted by temptation, it is also us! You see when God first made human beings, He made them in His image and likeness (1:26,27). When the snake tempts Eve and promises that by eating the fruit she will become like God, he is saying “look, you’re not like God enough, you are not significant enough etc”.

Perhaps this is one reason why we sin, because we want to fight back against this insult. We want to prove we are strong, powerful, able to make ourselves god-like and hence we rebel against God. Perhaps we need to turn to the promises and truth that God offers about our value and importance. That we are made in His image, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that He has got good plans for us, that we are His workmanship created in Christ for good works. That He does already take great delight in us. That we are His beloved Children. That He died for us, because He loved us. That we are new creations, kings, priests and prophets of a Kingdom about to come!

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 1: An Anatomy of Temptation – Isolation

A couple of years ago, I watched this dystopian film with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson – I would highly recommend it. Very thought provoking. Without giving any spoilers away, this film is based on the idea that ‘human beings behave better when they are being observed’.

And whilst this isn’t exactly the message of Genesis 3, it is related. What we learn about temptation in this chapter of Genesis, and what is later reinforced throughout scripture, is that temptation often occurs in the midst of isolation. When we are alone.

There was a little disagreement in the commentaries about whether Adam was there & present in the moment Eve was talking to the snake (see v6) or if he was at a distance hence the dialogue between two not three. Either way, it is clear the enemy is talking his lies to Eve alone. It is a 2 “person” conversation.

A common theme of temptation is isolation.

Perhaps this is why: Cain, Moses, Saul, David and Peter all experienced significant moral failures when they were on their own! Even Jesus was tempted severely when He was in the wilderness (Matthew 4).

We’ve all been there, it is easier to sin when no one is watching. And it is easier to opt for righteousness when others are around. (Maybe Tom Hanks had a point?!)

So, what is the solution?

Is the solution, then, to always be around people?! Or as Emma Watson decides, to have 24/7 surveillance present in our lives? Do we need 100% accountability with everyone we meet? No. Obviously not.

Whilst isolation is often the battle ground for temptation, it is also the crucible in which God develops and grows us. It is the place that He meets us. This is why Jesus withdrew to quiet places, this is why Joshua would stay behind in the tent of meeting when Moses had finished with God, and this is where David learned to trust God’s hand to deliver him as a youth. In the secret, hidden, quiet and lonely places. The Psalmist encourages us to ‘be still and know’ that He is God.

So, what is the solution?

Introducing: the Church. The body of Christ. Regularly meeting, to consider ways in which spur one another on to love and good deeds. To encourage one another, support one another, comforting, rejoicing and mourning with one another. To model a pursuit after God’s heart, declaring to each other ‘follow me as I follow Christ’.

Over and over again the New Testament invites us to live out our faith in the context of community. To fight our temptations together and to strive to obey God’s commands together.

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with Psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” – Ephesians 5:18-20.

If we want to see significant breakthrough in our addictions, ongoing battles with private sin, let us disarm the enemy early and bring others alongside us.

Do not let the enemy isolate you further with lies that you are alone. See how 1 John 1:7 connects walking in the light, fellowship with other Christians and being purified from all sin.

Caveat: Church Community does not make you immune to Sin

It is obvious from history, that just because we are in a collective does not make us immune to sin. The letters to the Churches, in Revelation, remind us of this. Sometimes we can be collectively “lukewarm”. Oftentimes, it is because everyone else is sinning, that we feel justified. “It’s okay, everyone else does it”, is not a good enough excuse to disobey God.

Finally, on Discipleship

The Greek nerds among us, will know that when Jesus delivers the Great Commission in Matthew 28 He is speaking to a group of disciples. When He promises that ‘I will be with you’ , He is using ‘you’ in a plural form.

If we want to be able to resist temptation it helps to be part of community. Likewise, if we want to obey Jesus’ commands, (specifically, to make disciples of all nations) we should likewise go as a Church together.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 5 A Vision for Marriage and Friendship

In this chapter we see human relationships as God originally intended. We will explore 4 dynamics of this vision, and consider an application for each.

1) Equality

When God made woman, He used a rib, taken from man’s side. If you read the footnotes in your NIV you’ll see that the word ‘rib’ was taken from ‘part of the man’s side’. Why is this significant? Because it denotes equality between man and woman, not sameness, but equality.

But is this a modern reading, have I only come to this conclusion because I’m a 21st century reader in the western world?! No, see Matthew Henry’s Commentary (written in 1708) written over 300 years ago:

“That woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, or out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him” (pg. 8)

This was God’s original intention for relationships between man and woman. Equality, protection and love. How far we have come from this! How far we have rejected God’s plan and decided our way was best. How wrong we were!

In terms of an application, as people of a New Covenant, who live for the Kingdom of God, let us pursue equality.

2) A Song of Appreciation

We see some of God’s creative qualities arise in man, at the sight of his new companion! Man composes the first ever song, and it wasn’t a “worship” song! It was a song of appreciation towards his wife!

Too often we take relationships for granted, either that or we idolise them. Here Adam models for us a healthy middle option, appreciation and thanksgiving. May we do the same!

3) Leaving Parents, Cleaving to Wife

A challenge all couples are faced with, abandoning the old and enjoying the new. Marriage does not work if we carry our parents into it. Boundaries are required.

Jay Stringer uses the dichotomy of simultaneous “honour” and “honesty” when we think about our parents. We are to honour them, even as married people, but we must also be honest about how they have impacted us (for good or for ill). Part of this honest assessment is choosing to abandon that which was wrong, hurtful and damaging.

We all carry childhood baggage, either intentionally and explicitly handed to us, or subconsciously and unwittingly received. May we choose to leave this behind. At the same time let us seek to honour, and thank God for good parents who loved us and attempted to pattern for us God’s parental love.

4) Naked and Unashamed

This was God’s intention. And we see that it is one of the very first things to be destroyed by sin. Shame creeps in, people want to hide themselves, and forgo intimacy. We may hide physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively, verbally, or even behind various personalities. We dare not let people in.

And we have very good reason not to, have you see the damage and harm “letting people in” can do? We have all been betrayed, and hurt by those closest to us.

In marriage, may we lead by example in vulnerability. In our friendships may we match

One of my favourite definitions of intimacy, is a cheesy word-play: “in-to-me-see”. Within intimacy, we allow others to see into us, for who we truly are, and we are allowed to see into them.

I am stirred by the concept and power of vulnerability. So here is one final thought: We are most tempted to cover-up and feel shame over our weaknesses. We hide them, whatever they are. But in marriage God invites us to be truly vulnerable, to share our weaknesses. The Bible says that God’s power is, in fact, made perfect and complete in our weaknesses. Chose to reveal yourself in marriage today, not hide.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 4 The Gift of Work

My work from home set-up

The theme of Work is closely linked and intertwined in my Personal life purpose. (So please excuse me if I get carried away!) To be a man after God’s own heart, then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same. I desperately, wholeheartedly, and unashamedly want to labour for others to know my God.

Paul, the apostle, puts it in language that my heart thrums to hear: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me’ (Colossians 1:29)

I know that salvation isn’t a work I can muster for others, or even myself, nevertheless it is a work God has invited me to co-labour with Him in (see Matthew 28:20). This is why I seek to ‘work out my salvation with fear and trembling’ – souls are at stake!

Anyway, I digress! We’re looking at Genesis 2:4-25, not my life purpose or even the various quotes from the New Testament. In this story God is seen giving man work to do (working the ground and naming the animals – manual labour and mental labour). From this passage we can see the beautiful intention for work, before it is corrupted by sin in Chapter 3!

Firstly, this passage calls us to check our attitude towards work.

Do we idolise it? Do we sacrifice everything else to our work, our time, money, relationships, energy, our praise and worship? Does it define us? Do we give our work authority to value us, determine our worth, to rule over us?

Or do we avoid it? Do we seek to shrug off our duty, hand it over to someone else, negate our responsibilities?

God has given work to us, as a gift, something to thank Him for, something to appreciate His creation with, to bring form to the formless. It is a gift to be stewarded wisely and faithfully. Elsewhere the Bible writers remind us ‘to remember God who has given you the ability to make wealth’ (Deut 8:18). Surely our work is a gift and our attitude & response to it should be such!

Secondly, this passage defines what work and creativity are intended to be.

There was quite a bit that came up regarding the Protestant work ethic, and the western world’s unhealthy obsession with work. In my own reading I’ve encountered several voices that talk about the dangers of overworking, and seeing work as a means to power, prestige, possessions, wealth, freedom, happiness or life.

So how does this passage define work and creativity? Interestingly, our work and creativity is to be modelled on the work and creativity of God. This means that creativity is less about “innovation”, self-expression or making economic value (although these are good things). It is not about tirelessly, endlessly, striving in a chaotic, grab-as-much-as-you-can manner. No, the creativity of God is about:

  • Bringing form to the formless, order to the chaos
  • Transforming and making new
  • Defining, naming and creating boundaries
  • Filling and enabling to flourish
  • Blessing
  • Sharing and appreciating

This is the defined work and creativity we are called to.

Thirdly, this passage allows us to see work as an invitation for us to come alongside God!

We see that nothing had grown because 1) God had not sent rain and 2) no one had worked the ground. Both God and man are to work the garden, it is a joint assignment. We may be tempted to think our work is all our responsibility and worry and fret whenever something goes wrong or is difficult. On the other hand we may be tempted to think that work is all God’s responsibility and we can take a back seat and put our feet up. Neither view is correct. Work is a joint project. Embrace it.

Invite God to help you, ask God how you can help Him. (Not because God needs our help, but because He delights to work alongside us!)

After studying this passage I invited God to help me work, both in my full time job at Cancer Research, and in the other ‘work’ God has given me. The work of discipleship, marriage, friendship, family, church, using my gifts….even my blog. God please help me, give me wisdom!

This is why Paul writes: that he strenuously contends with all the energy that Christ works in Him (Col 1:29). He declares that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because it is the Lord who works in you! (Phil 2:12-13). This is why Paul says that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to do good works prepared by Him in advance. (Eph 2:10)

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 3 How do you know that?

This passage in Genesis also speaks into our acquisition of knowledge. Throughout Scripture God pleads with humanity to gain knowledge, insight and wisdom. The apostle Peter even urges believers to ‘add to their faith…knowledge’. God wants us to study His word, to discover truth, to walk the right path. Moreover, God praises the humble and those who are teachable.

God means for us to adopt the posture of a life-long learner.

And yet, in this passage God plants a tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and He commands mankind to not eat from it! What is that about?

You see, it is important to God how we come to know things. (The sub-category attitude to learning – if you will.) He does not want us to idolize knowledge (Jeremiah 9:23). Nor does He want us attain knowledge without love (1 Corinthians 8). In fact knowledge is supposed to build up and edify the Church (1 Corinthians 12). It is important how we acquire knowledge, and for what motive.

In this passage, God presents Adam with an option, to acquire knowledge instantaneously, through disobedience to God’s word, to His commands. To acquire knowledge via worship of the intellect rather than worship of God (- for we cannot serve two masters)!

What is the alternative, how else will Adam discover the knowledge of good and evil? It is intended that Adam discover what is good, by obeying the good command of God, by experiencing the “goodness” of creation as declared repeatedly throughout Genesis 1. To see evil, as disobedience to God’s will, by experientially ignoring/subduing the snake – (or by speaking God’s truth in place of the snake’s lies – just as Jesus did in Matthew 4).

The rest of the Bible supports this, approach to acquiring knowledge. We are told to acquire knowledge through:

  • Obedience to His commands
  • Careful study, meditation and response to God’s words (Psalm 1, Matthew 7:24)
  • Through love and relationship with God and mankind
  • Through stillness, rest and sitting at Jesus’ feet (Psalm 46:10, Luke 10:38-42)

He does not want us to take shortcuts to knowledge, that bypass experiential knowledge. One commentator that I read, notes that the rise of “enlightenment” taught that we can learn through detachment and isolation. God’s word, on the contrary, teaches that we learn through involvement, relationship and experience. Through obedience and engagement with God’s word.

God wants us to learn. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To be set free by His truth. To be still and know that He is God.

When we are tempted to reach out and grasp at knowledge to satiate our pride, to garner power for ourselves, to elevate ourselves above others. Let us remember Christ, who did not: “consider equality with God [something to be grasped at] to be used for his own advantage. Rather He made Himself nothing taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death even death on a cross (Philippians 2)!

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 2 Welcome to the Temple of Eden

Now I have read the Bible through more times than I can count. I have read the first three chapters in Genesis probably double that amount. And I have NEVER noticed this before!

God plants a garden in Eden (v8), but did you know that the Garden wasn’t actually Eden. It was the garden of Eden! Let me show you, verse 10 reads: ‘A river watering the garden flowed from Eden’! So Eden is this place, and from it flows a river which waters the Garden of Eden!

My goodness, when I first noticed this, I was so excited! Why? What difference does it make, whether the Garden of Eden was Eden or part of Eden?!

Several reasons. Firstly, it parallels the vision of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 47. Which talks about the temple and how a river flowed out from a temple and wherever the ‘river flows everything will live’ (Ez 47:1 & 9). If Eden is a temple, then we know that God must have been present! Secondly, it explains why God is walking around the garden and visiting it. He dwells in Eden, in the “temple” and goes wandering around in the garden to spend time with Adam and Eve.

Other clues that suggest Eden is a “temple” with a “garden” are the facts that the adjoining rivers lead to lands with gold, onyx and aromatic resin (all materials relating to the temple). We also read that God tells Adam to ‘work’ and ‘keep’ the garden, in Hebrew, these words are Abad and Shamar. Words used to describe duties of priests in the Temple.

So why am I getting all excited about this? Aside from the fact that I’ve learnt something new, and now my picture of Eden is very different! What actual difference does it make to my faith?

1) I am reminded that we have a hands on God. We know this from the way in which He creates mankind, with His hands, breathing breath into our nostrils. His hands touching Adam’s body removing a rib and creating Eve. Moving us into the garden, preparing a pleasant place for us. God wants to draw us close to Him. This is significant when you consider the multitude of other religions popular at the time, who believed in distant gods that didn’t want to “get their hands dirty”. Our God delights to dwell in us, to tabernacle with us, to be the ‘Immanuel’ – God with us.

See Jesus walking our streets, talking our languages, touching the sick, holding His disciples.

2) We have a God who delights to be Present.

3) We have a God who reveals Himself to us. This chapter of Genesis see’s the introduction of God’s name: The LORD God. Before we’d only encountered God – Elohim, now we meet God as He reveals Himself to us. Imagine the alternative, God could have easily created us and moved on to another universe/project leaving us behind!

4) The fact that Christians are called a Kingdom of Priests, really does mean that what Jesus has done, has reversed the affects of Sin. We are restored to our full-humanity, under ‘Second Adam’.

5) Finally, and most importantly, we have a choice. In the moments of temptation, we can run to Paradise, run into the river and experience fullness of life. Or we can plough on into regret, sin, shame and defeat. The good news that God’s presence is near, means that we don’t have to choose sin, we can simply swim in the river of life. The river that flows from His temple, from His presence and experience life!

Adam and Eve forgot that God’s “temple” was adjacent to their garden. They forgot His presence was there, they forgot the life He offered, the freedom they knew, the goodness of it all. And they exchanged it all for sin. Did they forget, or did they choose to ignore? Either way, we don’t have to make the same fatal mistake.

Just as with Adam and Eve, if we have accepted Jesus, the Bible says His presence dwells in us! He ‘tabernacles’ in US! Such good news. Let us choose His presence, in the face of temptation. It is only “round the corner”.

Choose life.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 1 Given Responsibility

When I was growing up, me and my brother had a game which was to invent words to describe situations, feelings, circumstances that didn’t have a name. For example we had a word for that feeling you sometimes get late in the evening and you are thinking really clearly about all your priorities and life style. Coming up with names is fun and creative, it causes you to think outside the box.

In this passage, Adam is invited to name all the animals. God brings them to him and his job is to name them. What an honour, a privilege and a task. In this post I want to explore some of the implications of this process.

1) Adam is invited to work alongside God. We also see this at the beginning of the chapter where it talks about both man’s work and God’s watering being required in order for things to grow. It seems the God of Genesis 2, is not so much interested in accomplishing things, as He is co-working with man. This is why man names the creatures, but it is God who brings them to him in the first place. Co-working with God. We’ll explore this more in another post on work. But for now, let us be encouraged that God wants to work with us to accomplish His goals.

2) Adam can step into some of his God-like Capacity. In the last chapter of Genesis, God decides to make man in His image and likeness – thereby giving him God given capacities. It seems that one of the God-like capacities is naming things. In Genesis 1, God is seen naming things, naming light and calling it day, naming darkness and calling it night. He looks at the water and calls it sea, and dry ground and calls in land. In this chapter God is saying to Adam, “now it’s your turn” name these animals.

3) Adam is tapping into the authority God has given him. We explored in another post that God provides authority and it is our job to steward it. Here that authority is put into action. In this culture, to name something is to declare a sense of authority over it. In fact, one commentary said that in ancient Near Eastern culture to name something was to engage in “destiny decreeing”! To name something, is to know it.

This is pertinent for us as Christians, we should be careful about the words we use. There is power in words. May we speak faith, declare truth and use our words towards purposes of freedom, encouragement and life.

4) God has named Mankind, and He will name us again. In the very last book of the Bible, Jesus promises that to those who overcome He will give ‘a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it’ (Rev 2:17)

We are highly esteemed by God, He values our efforts, opinions and work. He listens to what we call animals and goes along with it. He wants to work with us. God trusts us and wants to work with us.

Genesis 1:1-2:3 Part 4 An Ongoing Call to Worship

Truly, the Bible is the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve done about 8-9 passes on these few verses and I keep getting to hear God’s voice! It’s just as well I’m not a time limit to finish this. I have a feeling a study like this is going to take a while.

It’s probably worth noting that I think going through the Bible at a fast pace is still important. Not only does it make it easier to appreciate each story in context, it also enables to see the Big Picture of God’s plan. That is why I’m still continuing my Bible Read Through approach with a friend. Saying all that, I can’t tell you how good it feels to soak this much in Scripture. It feels like a bath.

In this post I want to explore the Ongoing Call to Worship found in Genesis chapter 1-2:3. Because I’m a sermon writer, I can’t help myself, and have divided the post into three…

1) Creation still hums and buzzes with God’s word all these years later. It is amazing enough that when God spoke things happened, He said “let there be light” and there was! Boom! Cause for worship. But did you know that creation is still obeying His voice today – I know it’s obvious. But look at all the calls to reproduction we see in this passage. The plants are commanded to bring forth seed, fruit and more plants. The animals, fish and birds also. Whenever we see creatures, moving, living, growing, we have an opportunity to see the reverberation of God’s voice still at work today!

This means that when we go outside, listen to the birds singing, see the plants in all their vibrant beauty, right there, we can see God’s voice still working. Boom! Let us worship a God who’s voice echos these thousands, if not millions, of years later.

2) Every day the sun rises, every night the moon shines, we are given a rhythm to worship. Not only is the call to worship present in the ongoing obedience of creation to God’s ordinances. But we as human beings are given daily and weekly rhythms by which to worship. Every day the sun governs the light, every night the moon and stars rule the darkness, we can respond and worship in sync with that which is obediently, steadfastly proclaiming God’s power. Yes, His mercies are new every morning, praise Him, yes the sun rises every day, praise Him. Praise Him in the morning, and the evening.

3) We have been invited to enjoy His creation, especially on the Sabbath! The fact that God finishes what He starts, and rests, and enjoys His creation. Is a model for us, that we should do the same. May it be part of our weekly schedule, routine and rhythm, to pause on the Sabbath and appreciate all the work that God has done.

Creation calls us to worship it’s Creator. Look and see, hear and listen. It echos God’s power!

Genesis 1:1-2:3 Part 3 The Divine Image

Another thing that I wanted to share from my study of this chapter, is the emphasis on the creation of mankind. It says God created man(kind) in His image and in the image and likeness of God He created them. I think overall the passage mentions that we were made in God’s image three times! As Mike Pilavachi would say, if God says something three times, it’s generally “good-theology” to pay attention.

So it is not surprise then that the commentators did pay a lot of attention to this. I wanted to include a list of thoughts towards what it means to be made in the ‘Divine Image’ here:

1. Humans are given Various (God-like) Capacities. Wayne Grudem, I understand, calls these “communicable attributes of God” – the attributes of God that we share/shadow in. For example we can reason, we can create, we can talk and listen. Obviously not to the infinite extent God-can, but like Him nonetheless. There are “incommunicable attributes” as well such as omnipotence, omnipresence etc. But clearly part of what it means to be made in God’s image is that we can function a little like God. See my previous post on Genesis to see how God has provided mankind with authority.

2. Humans are made Relational beings. Just like the Trinitarian God, who has been subtlety introduced throughout this passage (His Spirit over the water, “let us make mankind” and that He made us in His image: male and female), human beings are made relational. In fact we will later notice that the one thing “not good” in all of creation is that it was not good for man to be alone.

The commentators highlighted that we are not just relational in terms of our capacity to relate to each other, but also in our capacity to relate to God.

3. Human beings are made Human Becomings. Since humans are relational, and relationships happen over time part of what it means to be a human is to be someone who is moving into closer relationship with God. To be someone who is growing into their identity. That’s why Ephesians 4:13 hints at when it says: “until we all reach unity…and knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

It was picked up by the commentators in the next chapter: man is offered two paths to knowledge. 1) Experientially, through obedience to God and participation with His plan. 2) Sinfully, through detachment and “enlightenment” via the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”. The commentator emphasises that true knowledge is always found via knowing and obeying God. This is how we become more human. I am fascinated with this concept!

4. Human beings are made to Represent God to creation. Just as an ancient king might set up statues in distant lands to represent himself to the population, so too our God sets us up to represent Him to creation. However because of sin we are limited and marred in all our attempts to do this. However, Jesus who never sinned, is called the ultimate image of God, in fact His exact representation! (Col 1:15)

Finally, let us not forget Colossians 1:15: “THE SON IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD THE FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION.’’ Where Adam and Eve failed to live up to the opportunity God gave them, Christ succeeds. May we seek to look upon Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12), may we contemplate His glory and in so doing be transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3). For we know that it when He appears, when we see Him, that we will be like Him (1 John 3:2).

Oh, may our gaze ever be towards Christ, the true divine image of God!

There was a quote which I really liked. To be made in the Divine image is both “a task and a gift, it is a history and a status”. Yes it is inherent in our nature to be made in God’s image, but it is also a responsibility, an invitation and something which we can grow into. May we seek to obey God, steward His gifts, represent Him, carry out our God-like capacities, and in so doing come to know Him more through experiential obedience!