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Bible verses about Image of God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:26

Moses writes that man is created in God's "image" and "likeness." Any reliable lexicon mentions that "image" and "likeness" reinforce each other in a manner common to Hebrew. It means we are like God in form and implies that, like Him, we have a spiritual capacity which animals do not have.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Genesis 1:26-27

Here in the Bible's first chapter, God states His goal: He is making man in His own image! By using both "image" and "likeness," God explained that He would create man to be just like Him! Man would not only look like God, but humanity would also have a spiritual ability to understand His nature and learn to conform to it. Through the experiences of life and the process of building godly character, humankind can put on the image of God and be resurrected into His Family (I Corinthians 15:49-53).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Master Plan


 

Genesis 1:26-27

When God molded Adam of the dust, He shaped him in the outward form of Himself; He gave this unique form to man alone. Besides this, God gave man dominion over his environment, and to do this job, He gave him abilities like His own. Man can think, reason, make decisions, and plan. He can originate and evaluate ideas and bring them to completion. He can communicate and express complex concepts that can be understood by other men. Mankind understands and marks the passage of time.

No animals have these abilities! But there is more: Man has a unique ability to imagine and desire life after death (Ecclesiastes 3:11)! Men want to live forever! The problem is that without the revelation of God, they have NO IDEA how to attain it!

William Gray
Taking It Through the Grave


 

Genesis 1:26-27

Notice the overall context of these verses. It is the very first chapter of the Bible, and God is laying the foundation for what will follow. If the foundation is not laid correctly, then the rest of the building is crooked. God is beginning to establish our vision of what His purpose is and where we are headed with our lives, and being what we are, we need to have some insight into what He is. So He tells us immediately that we are made in His image and His likeness.

He contrasts us with the animals. Each one of them reproduces after its kind. And when they reproduce, they look like their parents. They look like each other. God is clearly implying that He is reproducing Himself and that His purpose is that we will be exactly like Him when He is finished with us. Even now, in our physical forms, we are made in His image so that we will have the potential to be exactly like Him.

Virtually every explanation of these two verses begins with an assumption: that God did not really mean what He clearly states.

Verse 26 says the creation of man is about to occur. It is yet future. Verse 27 says that the creation is in the past tense. By the time the statement in verse 27 is done, man is already in His image. It is not future. It is past tense. It is not an image and likeness in progress as in the creation of a character image, but within the context, the image was already accomplished. A physical image and likeness of God has been made.

Who knows better? The God who authored the Book and the people He used to write these things down—or people who are looking at it centuries after the fact and have never seen God or heard His voice, people who are using a combination of Bible verses, metaphysics, philosophy, science, and assumption?

What is the assumption based on? It is usually on men's definition of the word "spirit." They combine that with John 4:24, which says that "God is Spirit." Adam Clarke provides a typical explanation: "Now as a divine being is infinite, he is neither limited by parts or definable by passions. Therefore he can have no corporeal image after which He made the body of man" (vol. 1, p. 38).

That is a direct contradiction based upon an assumption. It is based upon disbelief. Certainly, God does not have a material body, but that does not address the issue. The issue is whether He has a spiritual body, which served as a model for mankind, and whether He has a body that has parts.

This is important because men within the church of God are now telling members that God does not have form in mind at all in this verse, but only character image. This is important to us in understanding the nature of God and getting a correct perspective of the goal and purpose of life itself. They are associating Him with being not much more than the Catholic beatific vision or with man becoming part of a vague, immaterial blob without independence. This would effectively do away with the doctrine of being born again into a constructive and developing Family of creators.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26-27

The word "image" is translated from the Hebrew tselem, and it means "shape, resemblance, figure, shadow." There is nothing abstract in it. This same word is used in Genesis 5:3:

And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image [tselem], and named him Seth.

Adam lived 130 years and begot a son in his own likeness, after his shape, after his resemblance, after his figure, after his shadow. There is absolutely no argument from anyone anywhere about the meaning of "image" here. There is nothing abstract.

Even as the animals reproduced after their kind, so did Adam and Eve reproduce after their kind. What was reproduced was in the form and shape of Adam and Eve. It was in their image. It is only when we apply this to God that people begin to question. All go on the assumption that God really does not have any shape—it is only something that He uses when convenient. However, that is not what the Bible testifies.

If we want to be accurate with the scriptures, we must be consistent with the way these words are used in the Scripture. The same word is used of Adam and Eve as is used of God.

This word is also used in Exodus 20:4—right in the commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image [tselem]. . . ." This is the same word as Genesis 1:26. Does anybody contend that these images do not look like eagles, dragons, snakes, or men or women? No, the image, the idol, looks like something that is a resemblance, the shape, the form of what it is being copied from. This word can also be found in Leviticus 26:1; Psalm 106:19; and Isaiah 40:18-20; 44:9-17.

Seventeen times the word tselem appears in the Old Testament, and even the liberal Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, which goes to great lengths to avoid saying it, admits that concrete form and physical resemblance must be considered for Genesis 1:26-27: "Perhaps we may conclude that, while much of the thought that there is an external resemblance between God and man may be present, Ezekiel, who was a priest, has it" (vol. II, p. 684).

The Scripture cannot be broken; they do not contradict one another. They have to grudgingly admit that it is there in the Bible. Man looks like God. Continuing the quote: "However cautiously he states it, P [P stands for priestly, one of the four different groups of people who edited the Bible] seems to have reached a measure of abstraction."

They are very sneaky. Well, maybe there is a concrete resemblance, and we know that Ezekiel has it, yet the fellow who wrote Genesis 1, perhaps he reached a measure of abstraction. How hard it is to give up the assumption!

The same consistency is shown with the word "likeness." In the Hebrew it is demooth, which means, "model, shape, fasten, similitude, and bodily resemblance."

Notice Genesis 5:1, 3:

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness [demooth] of God. . . . And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness [demooth], after his image, and named him Seth.

If it is used for God in Genesis 1:26 (God's creation of man in His image), and then we see it here in Genesis 5:1, 3. Do we not have to apply the same discernment of what God intends? The word demooth also appears in Isaiah 40:18; Ezekiel 1:5, 10, 13, 16, 22, 26, 28; 10:1, 22.

When we begin to study the whole subject, we begin to understand why Interpreters had to say that Ezekiel showed man in physical resemblance to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26

At the very beginning of the life of men, God says something that implies a great deal more: that He would make man "in Our image." In a nutshell, this is God's purpose for mankind.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26

The actual creation of Adam and Eve and the placing of them in the Garden of Eden was not an end in itself but only a necessary step at the beginning of a process that continues right down to today.

God is creating a community.

From the very beginning, God implies the expansion of His own community. He says, "Let Us," indicating a community already exists. Man was made, physically, in God's image, and he begins with characteristics of shape and form in common with his Maker. The rest of the Bible fills in the details of how mankind is being brought from having not only form and shape in common with his Maker, but also character, so that he fits perfectly into the community that the Maker is expanding.

When the Son of God came, He came with a message from His Father. Jesus gave as the title to the message that He brought, "the good news of the Kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14-15). This is the Boss Himself, and this is the title He Himself gave. It was the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Is there any doubt in our minds that God is forming a community? Is there any doubt that Jesus Christ will rule this community, first, and that afterward, He will turn everything over to the Father? (I Corinthians 15:28)? There is nothing ambiguous here. Is God forming a community?

The important thing for us is what ramifications the good news of the Kingdom of God has on the way we live our lives. In the course of the unfolding of Christ's ministry, and the apostles' afterward, we find some interesting things that have a direct impact on the way we live our lives.

First, Christ was the Son of God. Does not a son indicate a family relationship? “Son” is used in the Bible in at least two different ways. One means "a direct descendant of." The other is used in the sense of "characteristics of, but not necessarily direct descendant of." The Bible says plainly that Jesus was the Son of God, a direct relationship. Since He was of the same Family, there is a family relationship. He was not only a literal Son born of Mary of the Holy Spirit, but He also showed the characteristics of God. He was God.

Is Christ indicating a family relationship with us in Mark 3:34-35? We have already seen that the community that He is creating is a kingdom. This kingdom is also a Family. Everybody is related, all being sons of the Creator. Everybody has the same characteristics. Do not the descendants of parents look like their parents? Sure they do.

Everything fits together beautifully, and logically. God is reproducing Himself.

Consider Romans 8:14-15. Is that a family? Thus, if we have the Spirit of God, we are part of a family. We are Jesus' brothers. We are Jesus' sisters. We are Jesus' mothers (see Matthew 12:50). We have the same Father as He did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26

At the very beginning of the Book, God tells us what He is doing. His project, His work, began with the formation of man as a physical being in the bodily form of God, and it will not end until mankind is in the nature and character image of God.

To accomplish this, God gave men free moral agency to enable us to choose to follow His way and assist in the development of His image in us, since we cannot be in His image unless we voluntarily choose to do so. Then the character is truly ours, as well as being truly His, because it is inscribed in us as a result of what we have believed and experienced.

God is not merely eternal. He is supreme in every quality of goodness, and in Him absolutely no evil dwells. In the Bible, this goodness is called holiness, which is transcendent purity. It permeates every aspect, every attribute, of God-life. God's character is holy, and it flows out from Him in acts of love, making it impossible for Him to do anything evil. This is the state towards which He is drawing us.

Law must be seen in this context. If we tear law from the context of God's purpose, then we can come up with anything we want to say about law. We can say, "Oh, it is all done away," or "We do not need to do this." However, we cannot tear it away from the purpose of God, and there is a reason for this.

Does God abide by law? The creation screams at us that He does! Everything He creates operates by law, and it does so because it came from His wonderfully orderly and organized mind. It is a reflection of what His mind is like because this is the way He is. He is a law-abiding God.

However, we cannot see Him - not literally, with our eyes. It is here that faith enters the picture: We can see evidence of Him, and we can believe what He says. His law outlines the way that He lives. It is the way of this holy, law-abiding God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

Genesis 1:26-28

As God created, it is extremely significant that of all He created, only one creation is in His image, mankind. This is important to the purpose God is working out. Also, it is significant that of all the creatures God created, only mankind is given dominion over anything else, animate or inanimate.

Verses 26 and 28 show the first inkling of man's awesome potential. We are in God's likeness and His image, and have been given dominion in order to fulfill that potential.

If one looked up the word "image" in a Hebrew dictionary, it would not be very satisfying, being a typical textbook definition. It merely means "a shadowing forth, a phantom, a sketch, an outline." It gives the impression of a mere shape, a stickman. However, it has another, more interesting definition that means "whatever makes a man remarkable or procures respect."

The word "likeness" is commonly thought by linguists to mean nothing more than an intensification of the word "image." Even though it is a different word, its meaning is very similar. Putting those two words together, the Hebrew clearly shows that we are remarkable, especially in comparison to all other life. We are in the image of God.

Though we are remarkable, we are merely an outline, a mere copy or representation. We are illusory compared to God, because He is the reality.

The word “image” deserves further examination. The word "image" could evoke different mental images depending upon one's perspective. Over the past several decades in the United States, "image" has acquired a deceptive application that obscures its true meaning. This application skews one's understanding, interfering with the meaning God intends.

For example, today, a politician hires a publication firm to create an image for him that the people will find acceptable, and, thus, vote him into office. If someone is trying to find employment, they dress a certain way to project a particular image for employers to perceive. Corporations also try very hard to find the right image before the public.

To an American, an “image” has subtly come to mean "the illusion of what something is presented to be" rather than "the essence of what it really is."

In Hebrew, the word translated "image" is not "a deceptive illusion." Rather, image means "the likeness of one subject expressed in another." This difference is important. It means, "the likeness of one subject, God, expressed in the other, man." The verse indirectly says that man is very much like God.

The Hebrew meaning is frequently used in English in reference to family resemblance or characteristics. We say that a child is the spitting image of his father or his mother, possibly referring to physical or social traits.

The "image" is no illusion; it is the reality. It is the family trait. It is the essence of reality.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power


 

Genesis 2:7

From our childhood, we carry an image of God kneeling over the created but inert Adam. He is lifeless until God performs the first mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then Adam springs to life! His eyelids flutter, he takes a deep breath, and then he bends from his waist and sits up.

Nowhere does the Bible show God breathing life into any animal that He created. When He created them, they started breathing. Why should man be any different?

He is different because he is in the likeness of God. He did something to man that actually made man into the image of God. While he was lying there on the ground, he was still yet a creature. But when God knelt down and breathed into him, the infusion of the spirit in man occurred. That is what made man in the image of God! That is what gave man the power to have dominion. It gave man the intellect he needed to rule what God has created.

Man has creaturely life, but with the infusion of the spirit in man, he is more—a living being with intelligence. Man was given the power to govern his actions, not by instinct, but by memory, by conceptualization and thinking spatially. A man can appreciate beauty, communicate verbally, or write. A human being has feelings that are—in the expression of their subtly and power—far above an animal in terms of love or hate, and above all of the emotions that fall in between.

We can create and destroy. The power is in a man to do these things. The power is in the spirit when combined with the brain, but it has to be developed.

God shows very clearly that, as we are, we are nothing more than a pale representation of what we can be. Yet, we are endowed with powers that lift us so far above the animals on earth that we can have dominion over them.

Mankind is then commanded to fill the earth and subdue it. Subdue means "to tread upon," which implies "to bring into subjection." It does not mean "to destroy" or "to treat violently," but "to control and direct." In Genesis 1:26 and 28, God implies that He has conferred powers to mankind not given to animals.

It is also the first indication, when combined with Genesis 2:7 and 15, that when God confers a responsibility, He also confers the powers to carry out that responsibility.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power


 

Genesis 2:17

When we read in Genesis 2:17, do we not subconsciously read into it, "Yes, but He does not really mean that. He means we will eventually die"? We soften it, expecting that God will not carry through with what He literally says.

The Keil-Delitzsch Commentary says about this verse, "That in the day that you eat thereof you shall die." It means as soon as he ate, he would die. The Keil-Delitzsch is a very conservative commentary. The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, which is one of the most liberal commentaries, says, "Death would follow immediately!" From one of the most conservative commentaries, Keil-Delitzsch, to one of the most liberal, The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, they agree the verse says that when they touched that tree, thus showing the intent of their heart, they would die.

In the beginning, at creation, all sin is deemed as worthy of death. Every sin is a capital offense. In creation, God was not obligated in any way to give life to you or me. Life is a gift that puts us under obligation, and that obligation is stated, or at least implied very strongly, right when man is being created. God gave life to man and put him under the obligation of being the image-bearer of God (Genesis 1:26). That is why we were created.

In chapter 2, we are further obligated by God's command to take of the Tree of Life, and not the other tree. The implication there is that only God knows how we are to live in order to fill our obligation to be the image-bearer of God. We have to learn that the root of sin lies in the desire of men to live their lives in self-centered independence from God. This is what keeps us from being the image-bearers of God that He intended us to be. If we deviate from this, have we not broken our obligation to God? If we deviate from this—if we go from the path, if we miss the mark—we have sinned. We have broken our obligation to mirror and reflect the holiness of God.

Implied by the name “Tree of Life,” God is telling us that we do not intrinsically possess the kind of life that God has, and that if we want that kind of life, it must be added. It is added through what the Tree of Life symbolized. What if we do not meet our obligations? We forfeit the gift of life when we sin.

Is God unfair if something is so clearly stated? Do we see why He commands us to choose life? He sets before us two different ways. He commands us to go in a certain direction, because if we go in the other direction we have broken our obligation to be image-bearers, and then He is not obligated any longer after that to continue our lives. He is under no obligation to continue the life that He gave to us as a gift. God is not acting unfairly nor with injustice, for the commands are very clear.

When the penalty was stated to Adam and Eve, did God say, "If you sin, some day you will die"? No. The penalty is clearly stated to be instant death, just as suddenly as it fell on Nadab and Abihu, and on Ananias and Sapphira, and Uzza.

Let us look at this realistically and let us not try to soften what God very clearly and literally says. He meant the death penalty in the fullest sense of the word. The only reason they lived was because it was right at that point that God extended grace. God was no longer obligated to continue their life.

They had broken His Word, deviated from the path, and the just thing for God to have done would have been to kill them just as He did Uzza. That is not what He did though. Instead, He gave them mercy, and He gave them grace. There is a saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied," but not always so. In this case with Adam and Eve, the full measure of justice was delayed for grace to have time to work.

We need to be thinking of this in relation to ourselves, because He is establishing a pattern. Justice was delayed so grace would have time to work. In this case, the delay of justice was not the denial of justice, but the establishing of mercy and grace. So right at the very beginning of the Book, in its third chapter, grace is introduced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Genesis 2:24

In Genesis 2:24, when the marriage covenant is ordained, man and woman are designated as "one flesh"—one unit. God is indeed creating a Family modeled after His own characteristics, but not all Godlike characteristics are found in one sex or gender, any more than they are found in one race. It bears repeating that God did not create a superior and inferior sex, any more than He created a superior and inferior race.

God has characteristics (revealed throughout Scripture) that are considered to be masculine and feminine. Our own bodies mirror this. Human reproductive glands, for example, manufacture both male and female hormones. Women's ovaries produce small, but significant amounts of androgen (a male hormone). Likewise, men's testicular canals produce not only testosterone, but also a small but significant amount of estrogen (female hormones). God has also designed the human anatomy so that both sexes have vestigial equipment of the opposite sex. No one is 100% male or 100% female—not even the most muscular man or the curviest woman can claim this distinction.

Together, men and women make up a composite image of the living God. Individually, we are incomplete, partial, and lacking something in our personality. One of the reasons God gave us marriage state (a God-plane relationship) is to learn how the other half of the God-image behaves. We learn from our mate's traits and characteristics of the opposite sex in order to become complete God-beings. The Bruce Willis/Russell Crowe macho-warriors and the Nicole Kidman/Meg Ryan goddess stereotypes are insufficient models for a God-being. God the Father is not in the process of making macho-warriors or goddesses, but balanced members of His Family.

Part of this process—incredible as it sounds—involves the male incorporating Godlike feminine (not effeminate) characteristics such as tenderness, mercy, and patience. Similarly, the female needs to learn or adopt masculine (not tomboy or butch) characteristics such as strength, assertiveness, and decisiveness. If we make a thorough search of the Scripture, we would find the masculine and feminine traits of God equally distributed. Ironically, if gender-neutral advocates had their way, these delightful differences would be blotted out.

Space permits elaboration on only a few from each list. We see ample and abundant masculine traits in the Bible: strength, power, decisiveness, aggressiveness, provider, ruler, and leader. Feminine traits are also abundant: beauty, grace, mercy, tenderness, caring, and affectionate. In order to qualify as members of God's Family, both men and women need to incorporate all these characteristics into their personalities.

Men often have a hard time being as loving and affectionate as their wives are. Little boys know that Mommies make the best pillows, and Daddies make the best armrests. If some of the women in the congregation would enlist the aid of the men in the congregation to hold their babies, the men might break out in a cold sweat. Nevertheless, motherly feelings and instincts come from God. It did not bother Jesus Christ to express a motherly instinct: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . ! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. . . !" (Matthew 23:37).

David F. Maas
Is God a Male Chauvinist?


 

Genesis 18:1-9

The Lord appeared, and Abraham saw Him coming. What did He look like? He looked like a man. But it was the Lord because Abraham bowed down and worshipped Him, and the Lord did not reject his worship.

In verse 4, Abraham says, "Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet." God has feet. Then he says in verse 5, "And I will bring a morsel of bread." We find that God took the bread and the meat, and the three of them ate. He spoke, so He had a voice, and He conversed with Abraham and Sarah.

God shows other qualities here that are interesting to think about. How long did it take Abraham to run, order a calf killed, have someone slaughter it, bleed it, skin it, butcher it, roast the meat, and then serve it to Him? It must have taken a few hours at least. In the meantime, God is sitting under a tree, and He is at the same time running the whole universe. He must have been handling all of the other things that go on in the universe from that chair or pillow He was sitting on.

Do we ever feel rushed because we have too many things to do? Yet, here is the busiest Being in all of creation, and He had enough time to sit down, wash His feet, and wait patiently while they made Him a meal. Do we ever become impatient? In this example, we see patience exemplified.

So, we see God exhibits qualities other than form and shape, even though they may not be mentioned directly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

Psalm 139:13-14

This is a somewhat elementary, perhaps even a crude, illustration that clearly pictures why the relationship with God is absolutely necessary. It begins by admitting that we neither created ourselves nor gave ourselves life. David admits someone else made him; he did not arise to life fully formed out of nothing. Like him, we did not determine that we would physically be in God's image. The Creator made that determination. Can we mentally picture God kneeling down in the dirt, placing Adam's every part where He wanted it and determining how every part would function with every other system in his body? Even everyday realities such as these need a functioning Creator to bring them to pass.

The need for a relationship with our Creator is beginning to emerge. II Corinthians 5:17 carries the need of the creative relationship a major step further: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” We are now a new creation, a spiritual creation. A process begun in Eden continues.

When Paul wrote about a “new” creation, he had his choice of two Greek words. One expresses newness in the sense of “renovation.” However, Paul used the second term, which suggests new in the sense of “brand new.” He indicates, then, a person as a new individual with a new family, a new set of values, new motivations, and new possessions. Nothing new in this sense creates itself. Even a new baby in a womb does not make itself. The baby has absolutely no idea what it is in process of becoming.

Are we making ourselves spiritually? As a new creation in Christ Jesus, we are no more making ourselves spiritually than we did physically. However, this creation is far more difficult and important because it requires our mindful and willing cooperation with our Creator.

How clearly and precisely do we foresee where our spiritual Creator is headed? To say it bluntly, without God's calling, which creates the relationship with Him, there is no possibility whatever of knowing anything meaningful about what God is in the process of creating, and therefore no eternal, spiritual salvation would exist. Do we know how to give ourselves everlasting life? Do we know where we will fit into the Creator's finished plan?

Therefore, it is our responsibility always to do whatever is necessary to seek Him and glorify Him, helping to keep the relationship going and knowledge increasing. Without the relationship that He invited us into, there is no possibility of ever accomplishing the end that He is heading toward and yielding to what He desires. It is as though He has opened the gate to allow us back into the Garden of Eden, right into the very source of every good and perfect gift that will enable us to glorify Him by fulfilling our responsibilities to Him. It is as if He says, as He opens the gate, “Now there, let's begin the next step in My overall purpose!”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Seven): Contentment


 

Isaiah 57:15

He put this in His Word to impress us and thus encourage us with the greatness of His power, wisdom, and humility. If we are so impressed and encouraged, we respond by honoring Him through our humble obedience, thus glorifying Him and enabling Him to form us into His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

Daniel 7:13-14

The Ancient of Days, the One who became known as the Father, is seated on a throne. He wears clothing and has shining white hair. Yet, the "One like the Son of Man" is also a divine Being. So, we see two God Beings in the same place and at the same time, and it is designated that the second is the One who will bear rule in the kingdoms of men.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

Matthew 5:9

Jesus says that peacemakers "shall be called sons of God." Once we understand the Bible's usage of the words "sons" and "children," we can easily see that this beatitude does not apply to worldly people. Both "sons" and "children" not only describe those who are literal descendents, but also those who show the characteristics of a predecessor who is not necessarily a biological ancestor. For instance, in John 8:38, 41, 44, Jesus tells the Jews that Satan is their father. Their attitudes and conduct revealed who their true spiritual father was; they were in Satan's image. Those who fit the Matthew 5:9 description of godly peacemakers reveal that they are in the image and likeness of God!

As Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, God is called the God of peace (Hebrews 13:20). When we add the thought of Hebrews 2:11, interesting ramifications concerning us surface: "For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren." If indeed we are His children and therefore united in the spiritual body of Christ, we will show the same peaceable disposition of the One who is the Head. Thus He has no shame in calling us brethren. Through us, His characteristics are being manifested to the church and to the world.

Peacemaking is more complex and involved than it first appears because it entails the way we live all of life. This produces peace both passively and actively: passively, because we are not a cause of disruption, and actively, because we create peace by drawing others to emulate our example and by them seeking for the tranquillity and pleasure we have as a result. Though a Christian has little or no control over others in mediating peace between disputing parties, this should not deter him from living the peacemaking way. It is the way a person lives that will prepare him to be a much more active and authoritative peacemaker in the World Tomorrow when Christ returns. Peacemaking is indeed a high standard and a worthy vocation, yielding a wonderful reward that is worth bending our every effort to submit to God and seek His glorification.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

Matthew 11:25-27

Moses asked to see the visible glory of God, and He proclaimed His name verbally. Jesus is saying, "If you want to see the mind and nature of God, if you want to see His attitudes, look at Me." God reveals Himself and declares His glory to us through the life, works, and words of Jesus of Nazareth as He opens our minds by His Holy Spirit.

Jesus is "the way" because of all mankind, only He, unmarred by sin, has intimate knowledge of God. Knowing God depends on our knowledge of the truth about Jesus. He shows the way we must walk, the direction and manner of living and relating to others. This is precisely the knowledge Jesus gives. Many times when we ask directions in a strange city, the response confuses us because we are unfamiliar with the town. But when we ask directions of Jesus, He says, "Come, follow Me, and I will take you there."

Some people may teach truth, but He embodies truth; He is "the truth." A man may teach geometry, and his character may not affect his teaching. But if one teaches moral truth, character is paramount. Keeping the third commandment properly revolves around knowing the truth about God and His way.

Colossians 1:15; 2:9 are among the strongest statements in the Bible about the divine nature of Jesus: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . . For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He not only is equal to and reflects God, but He also reveals God to us because He is God. He is completely holy and has authority to judge the world.

We can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ. He is the full revelation of God to man. He is the complete expression of God in a human body. He is unique: God became a man, imposing upon Himself the same time-space limitations as other men.

He had every opportunity to waste time, get sick, eat gluttonously and become overweight, drink and experience a hangover, "fly off the handle" in anger, or attack others when someone pricked His vanity. He could have become bitter from rejection or depressed when things did not go His way. He could have worked or played with intense competitiveness to "win at all costs." He had to face death, His own as well as of loved ones. He could have felt "the deck was stacked" against Him.

The gospels show God coping with life on the same terms as men. Now we can really see what kind of character God possesses. Jesus' life gives us firsthand knowledge of what the true way of life is, allowing us to cooperate with Him in His purpose. Among many other things, we see God teaching, healing, sacrificing His life, correcting in love, guarding His flock, and patiently counseling.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Matthew 17:1-5

When Peter recollected in II Peter 1:16, he was recalling the event in Matthew 17. When Jesus was transfigured, glorified before them, He did not take on a different shape and form than He had before. He still had a recognizable face. He still had clothing on, but everything became shining and bright. Undoubtedly, this was done to impress on the minds of these three men that this Jesus was God in the flesh.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

Luke 9:29

The word "appearance" is eidos, "that which can be seen with the eye."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Luke 24:36-40

Consider the context and the time. He is resurrected, composed of Spirit. He is God. Does He indicate at all that being in the body is only a part-time experience for God? No, instead He teaches them that a spirit being's body is not vaporous like a ghost and that it is not composed of earthly flesh and bone.

The implications are important in relation to other parts of the Bible. In this case, what He does not say is important because He wants them to answer in their own minds just the opposite of what they originally thought, "This is a ghost. It has no form or shape."

Yes, He did have form and shape, and it was solid to the touch. They felt Him, and their hands did not pass through Him. He is saying that He has flesh and bones, but they are not physical. They are spirit flesh and bones.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Luke 24:36-39

This passage makes it very plain that God in composition is spirit, that He does have form, that He is solid, and He has skin and bones. The description even includes scars in His hands and feet!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

John 3:5-8

Ruach is translated as "wind" in the Old Testament. Here, the Greek word is pneuma, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew ruach meaning "an invisible force or power." The illustration refers to wind. A person cannot see air, but it is real, is it not? Its molecules can be packed so solidly, so close together, that they will lift a huge airplane right off the ground. One cannot see the molecules, the atoms, the electrons, or protons, but they are there. We deal with other invisible forces or powers, like electricity and light, on a daily basis, and they certainly exist.

That is the gist of the meaning of spirit. No one would argue that air, of which wind is constituted, is not real, and though it is invisible, it is made up of particles too small for the unaided eye to see. The Bible provides ample evidence to prove that God and angels are not universal nothingness floating around in nowhere. God is not universal mind, conscience, or goodness. He is not an abstract power filling the whole of space. Except for the vast differences in power and potential, the only difference between humans and God is that mankind is earthly flesh and bone whose life is in the blood, while God's body is also flesh and bone but composed of Spirit and immortal.

This has practical ramifications that must be explored because it means that God cannot be omnipresent in the body. The Bible's consistent description of God shows Him at one place at one time, and He is generally seen managing or participating in His creation. We see Him sitting, standing, walking, talking, eating, drinking, commanding, etc., in specific locations. Nowhere is there any mention of God's size, and therefore the conclusion must be that He is of ordinary, human size, and when He became a man, the Scripture says, there was nothing notable about Him except His character and His powerful teaching.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 3)


 

John 4:24

The King James has wrongly translated this verse from the Greek. It really says "God is spirit," not "a" spirit - there is no indefinite article in the Greek. Basically, Jesus is saying that God is invisible and immaterial.

This scripture directly refers to the Father. "Spirit" is used in the sense of composition. However, just because the Father and the Son are spirit does not mean they have no form. If they had no form, how could the Bible honestly say that humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? They do have form. Physically, we are in Their image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

John 5:16-17

"Hitherto" (King James version) is not a word that we are familiar with. It means, "to here," so in this context it implies "to this very day." Jesus is saying, "My Father is working right up to this point of time, and I am too." God is an active Creator. He did not create everything physical, and then just sit back, cross His legs, and twiddle His thumbs. He is an active Creator.

God created this universe to carry out the next step in His purpose, which is His ongoing work. He is creating a Family of beings just like Himself. He is reproducing Himself by creating us in His image. "Conversion" is the word that describes this process of transformation—"from glory to glory"—from the glory of man to the glory of God. We are being brought into the image of God.

This image is not in the way that we look, but in certain knowledge and attitudes that we believe, accept, submit to in thought and in conduct. It is accomplished by putting the mind of God in us. This regeneration begins a growth process. In our case, it is the growth of God's mind in ours.

God's mind, just like ours, is more than words. It is also attitudes, feelings, moods, passions, inclinations, and perspectives. These things can be described by words, but they are not words. They develop through the combination of knowledge and experience, most frequently within relationships. We really cannot relate to a machine, but we can relate to other beings—we can have relationships with God and men—fellowships, social intercourse, work, play, and interaction. From these experiences, these mental, emotional, and attitudinal aspects of the mind, beyond mere words, create and develop.

As it happens, nothing actually is produced that has form, weight, or can be measured. Rather it is knowledge gleaned from experience, and it is accompanied by God personally and actively working and creating to enable us to accomplish our part in carrying out His will. Remember, Paul said, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)


 

John 5:37

Jesus gives no indication that the Father has no form. He is saying here that He does indeed have a form. He teaches that He has a voice and shape.

The word "form" here is from the Greek eidos, which means, "form, shape, appearance, fashion." It is used in a context indicating what can be seen with the eye. That is what Jesus says, "You have not seen His form"—that is, with the eyes. He does not mean something visualized in the mind.

Luke 3:22 says, "And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form." Those who were there saw it with their eyes, and it had shape to it. Likewise, the Father has shape that is visible to the eyes and a voice that is audible to the ears.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

John 14:10-11

The word in could prove to be quite a puzzle because, if we understood it as "inside" rather than "in union with," we would have God and Christ crawling inside and out of each other. It would create a farcical, "Where is He now? The Son is in the Father. No, the Father is in the Son." Or, because Christians are included in verse 20, it would be, "No, He's in me." "No, He's in you." Or, "No, I'm in Him." We could get all confused. But God is logical.

Here, the sense is definitely "in union with." The Father and Son are two separate Beings who sit side by side in carrying out the responsibilities of providing for and maintaining the operation of His creation both physically and spiritually. When the Son was on earth, He was in union with the Father, and the Father was in union with Him.

It is almost as if they were—well, humanly, we would say "one flesh." When a man and a woman marry, are they two different beings? Yes, they are. Are they commanded by God to marry for the purpose of becoming one, in union with each other? Yes (Genesis 2:24).

Do they crawl in and out of each other? No, of course not. Nevertheless, a blending takes place: a blending of mind and personality. And what eventually happens? It is something that begins even before the two become married. No matter where one of them goes, because of their experiences together, he or she carries the presence of the other with him or her, and they can call up those memories in the blink of an eye. Is that not simple?

The same principle is involved in the union of the Father and the Son—and the union of God and the Christian.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)


 

John 15:5

He speaks directly to us, stating a principle we must learn to live with. The power to do spiritual works, to overcome, to produce the fruit of God's Spirit, to be used by God in any righteous manner comes from above. Israel's journey through the wilderness illustrates this. Every step of the way was physically empowered by the manna and water God provided.

Understanding God's hand in our preparation for the Kingdom of God is also advanced by remembering that we are the clay sculpture our Creator is molding and shaping (Isaiah 64:8). Does any work of art—any painting, carving, drawing, tapestry, work of literature, or fine meal for that matter—have inherent power to shape itself?

The natural man, even apart from God's purpose, is a magnificent work of art. David writes in Psalm 139:14, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Yet, when we have put on incorruption and immortality, and have inherited the Kingdom of God, we will be the most magnificent masterpieces there are, far superior to what we are now. To mold and shape us into God's image requires love, wisdom, and multiple other powers far beyond anything any person—even Jesus as a human being—has.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Romans 5:6-10

Sanctification and justification are not the same. They are, however, different processes within the same purpose, and they are definitely related issues. They both begin at the same time: when we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Justification has to do with aligning us with the standard of God's law that in turn permits us into God's presence. We will never be any more justified than we are at that moment; justification does not increase as we move through our Christian lives.

Some believe that Jesus Christ lived and died only to provide justification and forgiveness of our sins. However, those who believe this are selling His awesome work short. As wonderful as His work is in providing us with justification, His labors in behalf of our salvation do not end there. Notice that verse 10 says we are "saved by His life." Jesus rose from the dead to continue our salvation as our High Priest. God's work of spiritual creation does not end with justification, for at that point we are far from complete. We are completed and saved because of Christ's labor as our Mediator and High Priest only because He is alive.

Sanctification unto holiness continues the process. Hebrews 2:11 states that Jesus is "He who sanctifies," and those of us who have come under His blood are called "those who are sanctified." Note these verses carefully:

» John 17:19: And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

» Ephesians 5:25-26: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.

» Colossians 1:21-22: And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. . . .

» Titus 2:14: . . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Sanctification has a definite purpose that is different from justification. In one respect, justification—as important as it is—only gets the salvation process started. Sanctification takes a person much farther along the road toward completion. It occurs within the experiences of life generally over the many years of one's relationship with the Father and Son. How long did God work with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and the apostles to prepare them for His Kingdom? By comparison, will our perfection be achieved in just a moment?

Sanctification is the inward spiritual work that Jesus Christ works in us. Notice His promise, made on the eve of His crucifixion, in John 14:18: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Moments later, when asked by Judas, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" (verse 22), Jesus replies, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (verse 23). These clear statements show that Jesus would continue His work with them following His resurrection.

As our High Priest, He continues that work in us after our justification. He not only washes us of our sins by means of His blood, but He also labors to separate us from our natural love of sin and the world. He works to instill in us a new principle of life, making us holy in our actions and reactions within the experiences of life. This makes possible a godly witness before men, and at the same time, prepares us for living in the Kingdom of God.

If God's only purpose was to save us, He could end the salvation process with our justification. Certainly, His purpose is to save us, but His goal is to save us with character that is the image of His own.

Notice Hebrews 6:1: "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." This verse and those immediately following confirm that, at the time of justification, we are not perfect or complete. Justification is an important beginning, but God intends to complete the process of spiritual maturation that He began with our calling. When sanctification begins, our Christian walk truly begins in earnest.

Sanctification, then, is the outcome of God's calling, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, justification, and our becoming regenerated by God through receiving His Spirit. This combination begins life in the Spirit, as Paul explains in Romans 8:9: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."

At this point in Christian life, the principles of Christianity must be practically applied to everyday life. At this juncture, it might help to recall what righteousness is. Psalm 119:172 defines it succinctly: "My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness." The apostle John adds to our understanding in I John 3:4: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Both rectitude and love concisely characterize the same standards, the Ten Commandments, and we are required to labor to perform both.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

1 Corinthians 2:10-11

There is a human spirit in which all of mankind shares. It is what, more than any other component of what we are, that enables us to be in God's image, and yet each person is a different personality. We are distinct from each other so that each person's spirit is also distinct. It is his own. Your spirit is yours, and my spirit is mine.

My spirit projects John Ritenbaugh. It projects my personality, my mind, my attitudes, my knowledge, my understanding, my wisdom, and my discernment - things that have come to me as a result of my experiences. Yours is exactly the same way.

What spirit goes back to God when we die? Is the spirit that goes back to God after your death different from the one that goes back to God from me when I die? Of course it is. Mine is mine, and yours is yours. In reference to God, His Spirit is Holy Spirit, but it is uniquely His. Are not He and the Son distinct from one another? They are.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 11:7

The word "image" is the Greek icon. Anybody who has a computer running Windows knows what an icon is. In Greek icon means "a likeness," "a resemblance," or "a representation or image," and it is often used in the sense of the image of a man—something made of wood, gold, silver, or other material. Man is in the image of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 15:35

Do things ever change, or do the same questions keep coming around all the time? This sounds as modern as last year—God has no body. So people in the first century were questioning what kinds of body the sons of God will have in the resurrection. Why were they questioning that? Because there were undoubtedly people, most likely of the Gnostic persuasion, who were saying that God does not have a body. And, they argued, since we are to be made in the image of God, we will not have a body either.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 15:42-49

The image Paul speaks of is not merely that we will be composed of spirit even as Christ is, but that our very nature and character be like His. If God desired that we merely be spirit, He could have made us like angels. Angels, however, are not God; they are angels. God is doing a work in us through which we will become like Him, not like angels.

His purpose requires that we cooperate. Though our part is very small by comparison to what He is doing, it is nonetheless vital. Notice how Paul draws this beautiful section of I Corinthians to a conclusion by drawing our attention to what it will take on our part to make God's purpose work: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:57-58).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

1 Corinthians 15:49

Are we sons of Adam? Why do we have this image? Why are we like him? Because we are his offspring! We have been born into this earth, the offspring of Adam, as Acts 17 clearly proves. When we are resurrected we will bear the image of our Father. We will be just like Him (I John 3:2), even as we are now just like Adam was. We will be God!

Incidentally, the word image means "that which corresponds to and reproduces the original." No image—whether it is a reproduction in a flat mirror, a three-dimensional hologram, or a living child of a parent—is an exact replica or image, because each person has his own peculiarities. That is so evident and logical that everybody should be able to understand that nobody can be God exactly as God is God, because each person is an individual personality. We will be a reproduction of Him, but we will be unique—because we are who we are, and He is who He is. He has His life and His history, and we have ours. However, we will still be God. We will be just as much "God" as a baby in the human family is a "human" like its parents.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 15:49

The "heavenly Man" is Jesus Christ. We will be transformed to be like His glorious body. If we are to have a body, which will be like His, then He must also have a body now. When God restored Him to His former glory (Jesus' prayer in John 17:3-5 requests He be restored to the glory He had with the Father before the world was), He then returned to the kind of body He had before when He was the model for Adam.

Do we understand what this means? When He was resurrected, He was restored to what He was before when He was the model for mankind. As the model for Adam, He was like He was when He was resurrected. He was God. The composition was spirit, not flesh, but His body had shape and solidity (remember that He was touched in His resurrection appearances).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

1 Corinthians 15:49

I Corinthians 15:49 shows the end of the process, which it encompasses in just a brief phrase, "we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." We were born into the human family, and we have borne the image of that family, an image that all of mankind has in common. All of us have the human spirit. We may be different ethnically. We may look different from the person sitting next to us, but now in Christ Jesus He is building a commonality, one God intends us to use to increase our fellowship with Him, as well as increase and deepen the respect and fellowship that we have for each other until we come to bear the image of the heavenly. Then, of course, the fellowship will be in totality. That is where Christians are headed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

2 Corinthians 3:17

In this verse, which refers directly to Jesus Christ, "spirit" is used in the sense of composition. But just because the Father and the Son are composed of spirit does not mean they have no form. If they had no form, how could the Bible honestly say that humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? They do have form. Physically, we are in Their image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

2 Corinthians 4:7

The treasure is knowledge of the true image of God. Consider this in light of Moses and his experience. When he went out on his own power, it did not produce anything right, but when he went out from the Lord, it produced the Exodus. The fruit was right because now Moses had the right image of God in his mind, and he conformed to it. God's will was Moses' will. No wonder he was faithful!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us


 

Galatians 4:5

It is an obscene fallacy to consider that mankind needs to be "redeemed" from God's law. The law does not keep one in bondage—sin does. The law just points out why that man is in bondage. As the notes at Galatians 4:3 show, God's intent and desire is to free us from the bondage of sin, just as He redeemed the Israelites from Egypt. Right before God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, in a preamble of sorts, He stated very clearly, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). God's law points out to people why they are reaping the negative consequences of the choices they make—why they are in bondage to sin and condemned to pay the physical and spiritual price.

Jesus Christ was supernaturally conceived ("made of a woman") and took on the consequence of all of our sins ("made under law"), so He could redeem—pay the price for—everyone who was also under the condemnation of the law. We are redeemed from the bondage of sin and its consequences, not from the perfect law of God! It should be noted that He did this for all men, not just for the Jews. Hence, the "redemption" could not be referring to redemption from the moral instructions of what is right and wrong, simply because the Gentile Galatians were not familiar with God's law before He called them.

Prior to God's call from this satanic system, we were Satan's children. We bore his image, and resembled him in word, deed, and attitude (Ephesians 2:1-3; John 8:38-44). When God calls us into a relationship with Him, He justifies us—brings us into alignment with His perfect law—and gives us a measure of His Spirit so we may begin to understand His ways. To those that He chooses and who properly respond, He gives the authority to become His sons (John 1:12). This sonship is by adoption, because our first father was Satan the Devil!

Genesis 1:26 shows that God's intent is to recreate Himself and to have a Family of spirit beings. Because He loves us, He gives us the opportunity to be called the "sons of God," which alienates us from the world because the world still bears the image of Satan (I John 3:1). Through the sanctification process we are changed, and become more and more in His likeness, and upon our resurrection we will be raised with incorruptible spirit bodies, fully part of the Kingdom—the Family—of God.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:7

Paul here gives a conclusion to verses 1-6. Before God's calling, we were servants—slaves—to sin and Satan (Romans 3:9; 5:12; 6:1-23; Ephesians 2:1-3). This present system of things, under Satan, was our "tutor" and "governor," not for instruction or safe-keeping but for keeping us controlled and limited. When we were spiritually immature—"children"— we were in bondage to the foundational principles and elements of this world.

At the time when God chooses, He calls us out from this cosmos, this world apart from Him. This is possible because Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice bridges the gap, caused by sin, between God and the man that He chooses and causes to approach Him (Psalm 65:4). Christ became the "curse of the law," the penalty of death, for us and redeemed us from Satan and from sin's grasp so that we could begin to have a relationship with our Creator. Through the legal action of justification, God brings us into alignment with His holy law and takes away our sins and the eternal consequence of them—but He does not take away the law anymore than a civil governor does away with the law against murder when he gives a last-minute reprieve to a murderer.

To those individuals who hear and properly respond to God's summons, He gives the opportunity— the right!— to become His sons: "But as many as received Him, to them gave he power [authority] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). This is symbolized by adoption, because Paul is emphasizing that prior to this time, we had another father—a supernatural being whose image we bore, whose deeds we followed, and whose words we spoke. It was this father that enslaved us, and it was his system that we all willingly participated in before God's intervention.

It was this system that the Galatians were returning to and which Paul was speaking against (Galatians 4:3, 8-11). Because of the price that Christ paid, God purchased those individuals that He has a plan for, and thus they became His "adopted" sons and heirs—but not yet inheritors—to the promises made to Abraham and to the Kingdom.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 1:3-4

"For I am the LORD. I do not change" (Malachi 3:6). He has never deviated from His purpose from the foundation of the world. Once He had planned what He would do, He set out on to fulfill His purpose, and He has never strayed from it. Genesis 1:26 suggests this strongly: "Let Us make man in Our image." What is He doing? He is reproducing Himself. If He is creating man "in His image," then He is reproducing Himself!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Ephesians 2:15

God creates the "new man." Paul makes this clear when he tells us that God "create[d] in Himself one new man from the two" (Ephesians 2:15). Writing about reconciliation, he defines these two men in verse 11: physical Israelites (the "Circumcision") and Gentiles (the "Uncircumcision"). Just two chapters later, he reiterates that God created the new man; he commands Christians to "put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). Finally, this time in his letter to the Colossian and Laodicean Christians, Paul makes the same point; he tells us to "put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of [God] who created him" (Colossians 3:10).

Clearly, God creates the new man in His own image. This is an important starting-point in understanding what Paul means by the term new man for two reasons:

It strongly argues against the false doctrine that Christians are "born again" when they "accept" Christ. While various denominations hold somewhat different beliefs, a common thread is that the new man, as well as the inward (II Corinthians 4:16) and inner men (Ephesians 3:16), are metaphoric designations for the same thing, a spiritual entity which resides within Christians. This entity, they submit, is an invisible, ethereal, eternal being that is the product of the spiritual birth Christ mentions in John 3:3-8. In short, Protestants believe that the new man is born within Christians at the time they are "born again."

A twig this is not! It is a misunderstanding of a major truth in God's Word. It leads those who subscribe to it into one error after another. Notice how Protestant theologians use this misunderstanding to support another lie—that heaven is the reward of the saved. They interpret Christ's statement to Nicodemus that "[N]o man has ascended to heaven" (John 3:13) to mean that no natural man (I Corinthians 2:14) or old man (Romans 6:6) has done so. While they correctly understand these two men to represent the unconverted person, they incorrectly believe Christ was not speaking of the new man. They believe that the new man, whom they confidently proclaim resides within them as a separate spiritual entity, ascends to heaven when they die, there "to be with the Lord." In other words, they understand Christ's words in John 3:13 to refer to the "old man" only.

This simply does not square with Paul's teaching. He sees the new man as created, not born. In fact, not even once does he refer to the new man as born—much less "born again"! The Greek verb translated "create" or "created" in Ephesians 2:15; 4:24; and Colossians 3:10 is ktizo, not gennao. Ktizo can mean "to create" (or as a noun, "creator"), "to form," "to make," "to found," or "to fabricate." New Testament writers use ktizo only fourteen times, and never does it refer to or even imply birth or conception. The idea that the new man is born is not consonant with the Scriptures as a whole.

However, God's use of ktizo tells us something vital about the new man. The most specific sense of this Greek verb is "to found originally." Ktizo, whose stated or understood subject in Scripture is always God, refers to "the founding of a place, a city or colony" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

Consider this nuance of meaning as it relates to the new man. A newly founded city or colony is almost always small. If it matures, it will be through the continued efforts of its founder and its rank-and-file citizens over many years. The imagery is important: The new man, when first established in us by God, is immature and inexperienced. As we will see later, we have a responsibility to cooperate with God, the new man's founder, to ensure that he grows and matures.

The fact that God creates the new man is important for a second reason: It argues that the term new man is synonymous with new creation (KJV, "new creature"). Paul uses this term in Galatians 6:15 and II Corinthians 5:17.

Once created in us by God, how does the new man mature and grow? Remember, Paul refers to the new man in Colossians 3:10 as a man "renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him." "Renewed," translated here in the passive voice, comes from the Greek verb anakainoo. It means "to make new" in the sense of "to make different." The new man is different from the old one in that he bears the image of God!

Paul uses a similar verb in Ephesians 4:22-23, where he asks that "you . . . be renewed in the spirit of your mind." That Greek verb, ananeoo, again translated in the passive voice, means "to renew" or "to renovate." Through years of living Satan's way of life before conversion, our mind grows corrupt; even the best parts of it become "like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

The apostle provides more details about this renewal process in Romans 12:1-2. Here, he uses the same phraseology—the renewal of a person's mind—in a context that makes his meaning crystal clear: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

The noun "renewing" (anakainosis) is related to the verb anakainoo. Like anakainoo, it carries the sense of renovation to a different, rather than a younger, state. This attests again that the new man is different from the old.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part One)


 

Philippians 3:21

There is nothing ambiguous, cloudy, or vague about this. Our bodies will be conformed to be like His. It does not say they will be conformed to be like an angel's. It does not say they will be conformed to be like a better human being. They are going to be conformed to be like His body. Paul is referring to the Lord, who is God! Our bodies will be like God's body.

The word conform or, as it is in the King James, fashioned means "to make similar to or identical with." Will our bodies be "similar to" or "identical with" God's? Which one does Paul intend us to understand? John writes in I John 3:1-3:

Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God. Therefore the world does not knows us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now are we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that, when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

When he says, "it has not yet been revealed what we shall be," he means that we do not know some of the specifics about what our nature will be like, but we do know what it will be in a generality: "We shall be like Him."

What other creature that God has created has been given the Spirit of God and is being conformed to His image? Angels? Hebrews 1 says that the angels of heaven worship Jesus Christ. He is greater than angels, and we are going to be conformed to Him! We are not going to be conformed to angels. The conforming is to be to God.

Another thing that John adds here is that this hope—to be conformed to the image of God in Jesus Christ—is what motivates a person to purify himself. It is the engine that drives a person along the Way, because he knows where he is headed. He is not going to be someone slightly above angels but someone like the Son of God, one who is worshipped and is worthy of the worship of angels. This doctrine is not ambiguous in any way. We are going to be like Him, and He is worthy of worship.

Does it not say in Revelation 3:9 that people will worship the saints? Do people worship angels? No, the angels tell them, "Get off your knees, because I am a servant as you are" (see Revelation 19:10). God says we will be worthy of worship as part of the God Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Philippians 3:21

When Jesus was resurrected, He took pains to make it clear to His disciples that He was not a ghost, not merely an essence. He had flesh and bone. He was plainly saying that there was substance to what He was then—and thus to what He is today.

To put it bluntly, He was saying that He was corporeal. Corporeal from Webster's means "having tangible qualities of a body such as shape, size, and resistance to force." If a person leans against the wall, it resists him. Why? Because it is solid, tangible. If Jesus was not solid, whenever His disciples stretched their hands out to Him or perhaps ran their fingers against the palm of His hand where the nail marks were, they would have felt nothing, yet there was substance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

Colossians 3:10-15

When Paul speaks of putting on the new man here, he gives us several attitudes we need to emulate as followers of Christ. Most of them involve the way we deal with each other because a major part of what God is teaching us has to do with building and solidifying our relationships. As we see in the next few verses, he comments specifically on the husband-wife, parent-child and employer-employee relationships.

Why? Largely, our judgment by our Savior hangs on the quality of our relationships. We should never forget the principle found in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats: "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:40, 45).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Road Less Traveled


 

1 Peter 1:2-5

We have been summoned to a great cause. The summons is personal and specific. It presents us the challenge of choosing to live a life worthy of the awesome vocation to which God has summoned us. Our calling has become our life's work. God has summoned us to yield to His creative efforts of reproducing Himself, just as II Corinthians 3:18 instructs us: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

1 John 4:7-12

If we are going to be like Him, these verses are important to us because they tell us much about Him and our responsibilities. First, love is of God—He is its Source. This love the apostles write about comes from God and is not normally a part of man's nature. It is agape love. Human love apart from God is at its best a mere pale and vague reflection of what God is eternally.

Next, John says "God is love." Sublime as this is, some have misunderstood it because it can be misleading. God is not just an abstraction like love. He is a living, dynamic, and powerful Being whose personality has multiple facets. He cannot be boxed, wrapped, and presented as merely being one attribute.

John's statement literally reads, "The God is love." The Greeks used an emphatic form of writing, and here the emphasis is on the word "God." The syntax means the two words "God" and "love" are not interchangeable. "Love" describes God's nature. A good paraphrase would read, "God, as to His nature, is love." God is a loving God!

This does not mean that loving is one of God's activities, but that every activity of God is loving. If He creates, He creates in love. If He rules, He rules in love. If He judges, He judges in love. Everything He does expresses His nature. God and His nature are manifested by what He does. By love God is revealed and known.

The very existence of life in others besides Himself is an act of love. His love is revealed in His providence and care of His creation. Since we are not robots, free-moral agency is an act of His love. God, by a deliberate act of self-limitation, endowed us to respond with mind and emotion. We are not animals. God's love is the explanation for redemption and our hope of eternal life. Out of love, God has given us something to live for. Life is not just a matter of going through the paces. We do not live our lives in vain.

God made humanity in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). But the Bible says, "God is Spirit," and "God is love." Man, though, is flesh, and the Bible describes us as carnal, self-centered, and deceitful. In practical fact, this means that man cannot be what he is meant to be until he loves as God loves. Only then will he truly be in the image of God because he will have the same nature as God. So, to achieve his potential, a person must love, but he must love with the love of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

Revelation 7:9-12

The Bible tells us that all the redeemed will see God's face. Here is a picture of the redeemed, projected forward to the time when they are in the Kingdom of God before His throne. What are they looking at? The Bible says they will see His face.

God has a face, prosopon, which literally means "toward." It also means "the eye" or "the face." When used in reference to a person, it means "the part toward, at, or around the eye," "the face," or "the countenance."

Why would John use this word? When one person is talking with another, they are looking at each other, beholding what is toward each one, and the focus of their attention is on the other's face, that is, the eyes and what is around them. Hence, this word is almost variably translated face, countenance, presence, or person in the New Testament, depending on how expansive the context is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

Revelation 20:12-13

Since all are to be judged according to their works, what if one claiming to be Christian has no works to show when God clearly expects them? James 2:19-20 clinches the argument: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"

This entire issue is actually quite simple. No amount of works can justify us before God. Justification by faith in Christ's atoning blood makes one legally free to access God and to begin a relationship with Him. However, from that point on, works are absolutely required for sanctification unto holiness - to the extent that, not only is one's reward contingent upon them, but also salvation itself. Will God reward one who can show no works at all, or provide salvation to one whose faith is so weak it produces bad works? Such a person would be totally out of place, unfit for living eternally in the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 makes this reality even stronger. Even though we are saved by grace through faith, the very reason we are created is for good works that God Himself prepared beforehand for us to walk in. The gospel of the Kingdom of God provides the reasons for which works are required - the major one being to prepare us for living in God's Kingdom.

God intended Israel's forty-year journey through the wilderness to prepare them for living in the Promised Land. However, even though Israel had the gospel preached to them and had godly leadership provided by the likes of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, in their stiff-necked unbelief they refused to submit in obedience to God's commands. They thus failed to receive the necessary preparation for using the Promised Land rightly, becoming an eternal example of why works of preparation are needed (Hebrews 4:1-2).

Can we learn a lesson from their examples? When God brings us out of spiritual Egypt, He is not done with us yet. In fact, a great deal of spiritual creating within us remains to be accomplished before we will be fit to live and occupy a working position in God's Kingdom. We are being created in Christ Jesus, created in His image. Can we honestly say we are already in His image when we are merely legally cleared of sin? Absolutely not! As great as this is, it is not the end of God's creative process. God is not merely "saving" us. His purpose is far greater than that.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

 




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