GREAT MEN OF THE BIBLE: The Old Testament
Milton Cunningham had the uncanny ability to go right to the heart of a matter. Whether this gift resulted from personal deep insight on his part or just from years of experience, he had this gift. I remember to this day many of the pearls of wisdom he would throw out to me and the rest of the staff over 5 years ago.
One such pearl of wisdom was this: "Personality responds to personality." People don't simply want to respond to timeless truths. They want to respond to other people. Apparently God understood this because He decided the best course of action to reveal Himself to us was through a Person, through Himself. For most of us, it is the Person of Jesus; the fact that we know Himó-this is what draws us to Christianity; the person Jesus draws us to God.
In this study, we don't want to study just some timeless truths; we want to study those truths as fleshed out by some of the most influential and some of the most loved men in the entire Bible. (Now these 2 traits don't always necessarily go together. You can be influential and not loved, and vice versa. For example, although few people would deny that Barak Obama is influential, half of this country does not like him; the same held true with George Bush. In fact, the first person we will study is not much loved but he is definitely highly influential if the NT is true.) The hope is that by interacting with their lives, the following verse will come true: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17).
THE CREATION OF ADAM: God's Purpose for Mankind (Gen. 1:26-30
Before looking at the verses on Adam, we need to ask ourselves the questions: was Adam a real man or was he just a myth? Does it matter whether or not he was a real person? What are your responses to these questions?
|Gen. 1: 26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 29 Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.
Created in the Image of God (1:26, 27)
Too often, people wonder, "Who am I? What is my purpose in life?" Genesis actually addresses this very issue. According to Gen. 1:26, we are created in whose image?
One system of belief (pantheism: Hinduism) actually believes that people are divine. In fact, according to Hinduism, the way to salvation is realizing that you are divine. According to verses 1:26, 27, we are not divine, we are not God. How do these verses indicate that we are not divine? (The answer to that question is found in the word "image.")
When God created you and me, He designed us in such a way that when He looked at us, He would actually see His own moral and spiritual reflection.
Now there are some strange ideas floating around in these verses: "Then God said, "Let _____________ make man in _________ image, according to ___________ likeness; . . . 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; __________ and ___________ He created ____________."
The interesting part about these verses is that when you think you will read a singular noun, you get a plural noun. For example, there is only ONE God according to the Bible, and yet He uses the words "Our" to refer to Himself, and then He uses the 2 words male and female to refer to man. In fact, at the end of the verses, He calls man "them."
Does the plural word "Our" point to the Trinity, the One God who exists as 3 Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I don't know; however, whatever "Our" points to, it points to God as being a relational being. He is not alone. In fact, He loves relationships; therefore, if we are going to be like God, then we are going to be in relationship ("male and female created He them"). For this reason, men's groups (and women's groups) are very important. They help us grow in relationships, hopefully Christ-centered and Christ-based relationships: "Iron sharpens iron."
Finally, notice that God said that man is not "male." Rather, man is what?
A male is only half a person. The truth is that God wants us to be complete. Men who are married need to look not simply at the areas in which they and their wives are similar; they also need to look at the areas in which they are different. For example, some men are very detailed, while their wives are not. Some men are gregarious, while their wives are less out-going. Some women are better with finances than the men are. In fact, many times where one spouse is weak, the other spouse is strong. Unfortunately, whereas many times these differences create tension between a husband and a wife, these differences when honored and understood can actually strengthen the relationship between the husband and the wife. Adam and Eve, though different, were created to complement each other. For a moment, think about the differences between you and your wife. What are those differences and do you rejoice in these differences? Or are they a source of conflict for you and your wife?
This unity between the man and the woman supports the Christian claim that God, although 3 Persons, is nevertheless One. Just as the male and female can be one to make a whole person, so the 3 Persons of the Godhead are One to make the One God. The unity in the marriage relationship points to the unity in the Godhead. I actually use this illustration to help me explain the Oneness of God to Muslims. The illustration of the triune God being like an egg is ridiculous. The unity of the 3 persons in the Godhead is more like the unity between fathers and sons, and between husbands and wives. If there were 30 young men in the room and my son was one of them, I would naturally sense his presence. The same would hold true if I was in a room with 30 women and one of them would be my wife. I would sense her presence because we are one; her presence affect my behavior. The same kind of unity is operating in the Godhead.
Doesn't the Christian conception of God, though, seem more polytheistic than monotheistic? Think about the Greeks and the Romans and their polytheistic religions. Not only were there many gods--these gods were always at war with each other. For example, in The Illiad Athena, Hera, Poseidon, and Hermes support the Greeks against the Trojans who were supported by Aphrodite (Venus), Apollo, Artemis, and Leto. The hostility between the Trojans and the Greeks simply reflected the hostility between the gods. Now THAT is polytheism. Christianity claims that although God is three persons, there is complete unity and oneness in the Godhead.
Lords Over Creation (1:28-30)
28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and ________________ it; and ______________ over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 29 Then God said, "Behold, I _______________ ____________ __________ every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.
These are grand verses indeed, spoken to a mere mortal man. According to these verses, God has placed man over what?
The psalmist expresses this same idea in Psalm 8:4-9. According to verse 6, what has God placed beneath the feet of mankind?
How would these verses relate to a man going deer hunting, or to mankind eating meat in general?
How would these verses apply to the politically correct view regarding the environment?
Unfortunately, because of Adam's sin, man does not YET have dominion over nature as this passage would seem to indicate. When Adam sinned, he forfeited his rights over the earth and yielded them to Satan. For this reason, Satan could legitmately claim that he had the power to give Jesus all the kingdoms of this world if Jesus would bow down to him just once (Matt. 4:8-9).
CHRIST:The Second Adam
Christ as Son is the Image of God
According to 1 Cor. 15:45, what is another name or title that Paul gives to Jesus?
According to the NT, Christ now comes to fulfill the very purpose for which God created Adam, in fact, all mankind. When we attach ourselves to Christ, what Christ did now becomes real in our lives. In other words, because of our relationship with Christ, we will become everything God originally intended us to be.
According to Colossians 1:15, who is the image of God?
According to Rom. 8:29 for what purpose did God save us? "For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the _______________ of His ______________."
What is interesting is that in this verse Paul links together 2 ideas: the image of God and the sonship of Jesus. Because Jesus is the Son, He is the image of His Father. This idea is based upon the claim that true sons are like their fathers. Jesus went into great detail about this in John 8:39-44. Jesus claims that He is so much like His Father that for all practical purposes when you have seen Him, you have also His Father (John 14:9).
Therefore, because Jesus is not only a Son but THE perfect SON, He is the spitting image of His Father. When we are like Christ, we are going to be like His Father.
Sonship then is huge in this discussion. Whatever else is true about our relationship with God, at its very core lies the father-son relationship. However else we are to relate to God, we are to relate to Him as a son would relate to his father. This is not one of many ways we should relate to God, this is THE primary way we should relate to God.
About George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis wrote: "From his [MacDonald's] own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe" (Lewis' introduction to MacDonald's Phantastes). On the surface, this may seem tripe but upon deeper reflection I think that there is great profundity to what I am about to say. For just a moment think about what are the first words a baby will say: "Da da" or "Dad." Now we of course know the real reason the baby says "Dad" first and not "Mom": it is so much easier for a baby to pronounce a word beginning with "D" than a word beginning with the letter "M." (Again, the principle holds true here: we must kill first what we dissect.) Maybe there is nothing deep about "Dad" being the first word on the lips of babes...or maybe life (the babes in this instance) is giving us a much deeper insight into reality than what we realized before: "Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe," and if we are ever going to be rightly adjusted to reality, then we are going to need to understand our relationship with God as being that between a Father and His sons.
This insight is not only backed up but also grounded in the teachings of Jesus Himself. The primary way Jesus viewed His relationship with God was that of Father/Son. In fact, because of our relationship with Jesus and only because of our relationship with the Son, we enter into that Father/son relationship with God.
Two incidents in Jesus' life/teaching underscore this:
This is re-affirmed in the teachings of Paul:
Why would Paul use "Abba" and not just the Greek word "Pater" which translates the Hebrew word for "Father." Apparently, Jesus' use of "Abba" so impressed the early Christians that they retained it in their prayers. God would have been referred to as Father, but never as "Abba," such an intimate term because it was the first word the child would call his Father. Some today translate it as "Daddy." I don't know if that is the first word to come out of the mouths of babes; "Dad," though, I think is that first word and is probably the better translation for "Abba."
So what does it mean for God to be our Father? The good way in which you view your sons and daughters is the same way--but to a much greater degree--is the way God views us who are His sons and daughters. It is true that we blow it at times; however, at times we also get it right. Well, think on those times we get it right and magnify it a million-fold and you probably will get a little taste of what it means for God to be our Father.
Again, the relational aspect of the person is brought out in the fact that Jesus commands us to call God "OUR Father." He is not just MY Father; He is the Father of ALL Christians, thereby making us ALL brothers and sisters, that is, He is making us all into one FAMILY, group of relationships if ever there was one. Relationship is pivotal not only in the lives of all people; it is especially pivotal in the lives of all Christians. A solitary Christian is a contradiction in terms. (Paul's concept of the church as being the body of Christ reinforces the relational aspect of life.
Notice one particular aspect of what it means to be God's son: obedience.
When God created mankind, He had a prototype or a model He based mankind on, His Son Jesus. We were originally created to be like Christ; Adam was originally created in Christ's image. Salvation has as its primary purpose to transform us so that we are like Christ, sons of God. And what was the key ingredient in Christ's sonship? Obedience (John 5:19 ff.), especially obedience even during times of suffering. According to Heb. 5:8 what did Jesus learn through His sufferings?
The truth is that we can all be good, obedient sons if God commands us to do what we want to do. What value is that kind of obedience. True obedience occurs whenever He commands us to do something we don't want to do. It is then and only then that we truly are being morphed into sons and daughters of God.
What is it that we seek from God whenever we obey Him? Any good son seeks from a good father his approval. Too often today dads don't give their approval and sons don't seek it. "I've got to find my own way" or "I appreciate my parents' values, but I have to determine what is true on my own and for myself." Whereas there is some validity to these statements, we need to bear in mind the fifth command: "Honor your father and mother."
We ALL need approval. We just need to determine whose approval we are going to seek: the approval of man (even if that man is just myself) or from God? We will seek approval; it's just a matter of determining who our Approver will be. The choice can have great or tragic consequences. Many religious leaders rejected Jesus: "for they loved the approval of man rather than the approval of God" (John 12:46).
Most of us have had at least one or two times in which we felt the approval of our dads and those times were very special to us. My dad attended one of the award ceremonies at the school I was attending in London; I so sensed his pride and approval when I reaped several awards. I tried to attend as many of Nathan's and Molly's sporting events as much as possible and be their biggest cheerleader because I knew how special approval from my dad to me was. Well, as good as that approval felt, it is nothing compared to the approval I will feel if I live my life seeking God's approval foremost and primary in my life. This can be possible for everyone one Judgment Day: "Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:23). This is what made Jesus the perfect Son: He sought only His Father's approval.
Christ as The Man is Lord over Creation
According to Phil. 2:9-11 because Jesus humbled Himself to the nth degree, what has God done for Him?
Earlier we saw in Ps. 8, that God has placed all things beneath the feet of mankind, that is, God has given mankind dominion over creation. According to Heb. 2:8, has everything been put beneath the feet of mankind yet?
Yet all creation has been put beneath the feet of one man. Who is that man (Heb. 2:9)?
In the story of the Fall, we will see that although Adam had all things placed beneath his feet, although God had given him dominion over all creation, because of his sin, he forfeited that privilege. It will take a Man, a perfect Man to be sure, but nevertheless a man to regain that privilege. Since we are sinful men, we cannot regain it. But THE Man, Jesus, regained it. When we attach ourselves to Jesus, we actually regain the privileges which God originally designed for us. According to Revelation, what shall we do with Christ (Rev. 22:5)?
C.S. Lewis is NOT joking when he has the 4 children crowned in Narnia at the end of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. He is basing that scene upon the claim that we are truly royal sons of God.
It is not happening yet to the degree that God wants it to. It's just a matter of time though. It will happen when Christ returns. At the present time tt is our responsibility to live like it, to live like royal sons and daughters of God.