The Task of Imaging God

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. – 2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV

As we have already seen, Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, came into this world bearing the image of God.

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:21 ESV

Their very existence reflected the glory of God. They were given capacities and responsibilities far beyond any other creature made by God. They were given reasoning skills, the ability to communicate verbally, and the capacity to love unconditionally. In so many ways they mirrored the character of their Creator, albeit in a shadow form. They were not as God, but as His creation, they shared His likeness. And one of the main attributes of their image-bearing nature was their sinlessness. Adam and Eve were created without sin. That is why, in the Genesis account of creation, it records that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV).

And it is essential that we understand this aspect of Adam’s pre-fall nature. He and his companion were sinless and enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God. All that they did brought glory to God because they were living in perfect obedience to His divine will.

God gave them a mandate, a clear job description outlining their responsibilities.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28 ESV

Their task was simple and was meant to be enjoyable, and they were more than adequately equipped to accomplish all that God had commanded them to do. At that point in their lives, everything they did was a form of image-bearing. Their every action, done in their sinless state, was a reflection of their Creator’s wisdom, power, and goodness. Everything they did brought Him glory. Until they sinned.

And at that point, everything changed. Moses records, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:7 ESV). They had disobeyed God and eaten from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, they knew what evil was, and they experienced the shame and guilt that came with it. Not only did they attempt to cover up their nakedness, but they also tried to hide from God. They inherently knew that they were no longer fit for God’s presence. And mankind has been hiding and running from God ever since.

But God sent another Adam, the second Adam, a man who also bore the image of His Creator. Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin and, therefore, free from the inherited sin of Adam. Like Adam, Jesus entered the world without sin. But unlike Adam, Jesus remained that way. He bore the image of His Father perfectly, never veering from the task appointed to Him. That is why, just hours before His trials began, Jesus was able to say to His Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4 ESV). His entire life had brought glory to God because He had never failed to bear the image of God. Even in the face of rejection, ridicule, temptation, and trials, Jesus had remained obedient. And as Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV).

In His high priestly prayer, Jesus went on to ask His Father to “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:17-19 ESV).

Three different times in this passage, the Greek word, hagiazō is used. Twice, Jesus asks the Father to sanctify His followers in the truth. And Jesus expresses His willingness to sanctify or consecrate Himself for the task at hand so that His followers might have the opportunity to be sanctified in the truth. Jesus’ willingness to complete the task given to Him by God, which included His sacrificial death on the cross, was an outward, visible expression of His bearing of His Father’s image.

Romans 5:8 tells us that “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” But had Jesus not been willing to do what God had sent Him to do: die for those who were enslaved to sin, then that love was never have been fulfilled. But we know that Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father. He did what He had been sent to do, and the apostle Paul uses Jesus’ display of image-bearing as an example for us.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Notice what Paul says. He challenged the believers in Ephesus to “imitate God,” but to do so by “following the example of Christ.” Jesus was the consummate image-bearer. He displayed the love of God for man by offering His life as a sacrifice for the sins of man. He put the invisible love of the unseen God on display. When He came to earth, He became God incarnate, God in the flesh. He put the invisible attributes of God in a form that man could not only see but experience. And that is what we are called to do.

And in the passage above, Peter tells us that we have been given everything we need to pull it off. We have been given new natures, provided for us by Christ’s loving sacrifice on the cross and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is why Paul so strongly challenges us to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians  4:24 ESV). He wrote a similar admonition to the believers in Colossae, telling them to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10 ESV).

Peter reminds us that God “has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). The main point of our salvation is not that we might one day escape the punishment of hell or enjoy the rich reward of eternal life in heaven, but that we might once again bear the image of our Creator. Man was created to bring glory to God, but sin made that impossible. Now, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, sinful men and women can now be restored, not in their relationship with God, but to His likeness. They can once again bear His image on earth, living in keeping with His holy and righteous commands. Because of Christ, we have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). We are free to bear the image of God; revealed to us in His Word, modeled by His Son, and made possible by the power of His indwelling Spirit. 

We have been given the task of bearing God’s image. But we have not been left to pull it off in our own strength. No, Peter would have us remember that “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). But now, with that power residing within us, with God’s Word guiding us, and the example of Christ before us, let us bring glory to God by bearing the image of God to the world created by God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

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Adam 2.0

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. – 1 Corinthians 15:44-49 ESV

Adam, whose name in Hebrew means “man,” was the first of his kind. The book of Genesis tells us exactly how God made the first human being: “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). Adam was created by God, not on a whim or in some kind of prideful display of His power. Adam, like the rest of creation, was intended to bring God glory. But unlike the rest of the creative order, Adam was made in the image of God.

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

There has been much debate over the centuries as to the exact meaning of that phrase. Theologians and scholars have wrestled with the significance of what it means to be made in the image of God. Some have argued that Adam’ creation in God’s likeness meant that he was given immortality, a will, and the capacity to love. He was also provided with the responsibility to care for the rest of creation, having been commanded by God to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). No other living creature was given this mandate. But one other aspect of the image of God breathed into Adam by God was his endowment with righteousness or, to put it another way, holiness. Adam had been created without sin. And when God had completed His creative process, He pronounced His satisfaction with all that He had made.

God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31 ESV

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word used to describe God’s satisfaction is towb and it can refer to beauty, but also to moral perfection. In fact, in the very next chapter of Genesis, the word is used again to describe the one tree and its fruit that had been deemed off-limits by God.

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. – Genesis 2:9 ESV

In this passage, the words “good” and “evil” are set in direct contrast from one another. They are intended to represent polar opposites. Three verses later, the same Hebrew word is used to describe the gold found in the garden of Eden. It was towb or good, because it was without blemish or free from impurities. That is the essence of Adam’s post-creation nature. He was made pure and holy by God. He was free from any kind of flaw. He was a sinless reflection of God’s glory and given the responsibility to care for the pristine and defect-free creation God had made.

But Adam and Eve sinned. They listened to the lies of the enemy and chose to satisfy their own natural appetites rather than obey the will of God. They used the intellect and the free will with which they had been endowed by God to choose evil rather than good. And, in doing so, they permanently marred the divine image given to them by God. Their intellect was darkened. Their formerly free wills were now enslaved to sin. They were no longer free to choose righteousness. In fact, the Scriptures make it painfully clear that righteousness was no longer an option for them or for their descendants.

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” – Romans 3:10 NLT

But as 1 Corinthians 15 reminds us, God was not about to let the sin of Adam be the final act in His plan for the world. While the creation He had deemed good was now permanently damaged by Adam’s sin, God had a plan of redemption already in place, and it involved a second Adam.

In his first letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul addresses the role of Jesus as the second Adam or to put it in more modern terms: Adam 2.0. While Adam was born a living being, having been created by God, Jesus was born a life-giving spirit. While Adam brought death to mankind, Jesus came to bring life. But it’s important to note that the first Adam had been given the very breath of God.

…the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. – Genesis 2:7 ESV

Adam had been given life by God, but rather than glorify God with that life, he chose to disobey and dishonor God through his actions. And the result was the entrance into the world of both physical and spiritual death. The creation itself became infected by the sin of Adam and Eve, and everyone of their descendants would inherit their propensity to sin. They would become slaves to sin.

But the second Adam came to change all that. Jesus became a man, just like the first Adam, but He lived in complete obedience to His Father’s will. As Paul writes in Philippians, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). And it was His willingness to become the unblemished sacrifice for the sins of mankind that made restoration to a right relationship with God possible.

And one of the most important aspects of Paul’s words, found in 1 Corinthians, is his hopeful reminder, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49 ESV). Yes, we were born into sin, having inherited the sin nature of Adam. And we have inherited the same flawed, sin-prone body of flesh that will one day face not only physical death, but the even more heinous reality of spiritual death – eternal separation from God.

But Jesus came to change all that. And He makes it possible for sinful men and women to have the image of God, lost as a result of the fall, permanently restored. And while Paul speaks of us as one day bearing the image of the man of heaven, the second Adam, we have the joy of experiencing that restored image even now. That is the joy of sanctification. God has made it possible for those who were at one time dead in their trespasses and sins to be restored to their original state of righteousness. And the author of Hebrews reminds us of this wonderful reality.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:14 ESV

Those who are in Christ have been perfected, but are also being perfected. We have been deemed righteous by God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the second Adam. But we are being transformed, day after day, into His likeness.

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. – 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

The second Adam has given fallen mankind a second chance to image God in this world.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Caro l Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The Free Gift.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. ­– Romans 5:15-17 ESV

Adam’s sin brought death into the world. And his sin, and that of Eve, was the result of disbelief. They doubted God’s word. When the serpent spoke to Eve in the garden, he got her to question the veracity of God’s word. He planted seeds of doubt in her mind and it led to disobedience. Doubt resulted in disobedience. Disobedience resulted in death – for all. But Paul delivers the great news regarding the good news of Jesus Christ: “The free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.” Adam’s sin brought death. God’s free gift brought righteousness. Adam’s sin brought condemnation. God’s free gift brought justification. And the free gift that Paul is talking about is the grace of God made possible by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. He speaks of this same amazing gift of God’s grace in his letter to the Ephesian church. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ ­– by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV).

Adam’s doubt in God brought disbelief in God, and that disbelief led to disobedience and death. But the faithfulness of Christ to the will of His Father resulted in a life of obedience, even to the point of death. Paul describes it well in his letter to the Philippian church. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). Jesus’ obedience to the Father resulted in justification for all men, not just Himself. His death paid the penalty for the sins of all men, for all time. Adam’s sin brought the reign of death to mankind. Christ’s sacrifice ended the reign of sin. John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Jesus Himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV). The free gift that Paul speaks of is free, but it must be accepted. It requires belief in the message of God’s grace as offered through the death of His Son. Any hope we have for being seen as righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes is found only in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Adam’s sin brought death and condemnation to all mankind, but Jesus brings the offer of eternal life and no condemnation to any and all who will place their faith in Him as their sin substitute and Savior. In chapter eight of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV).

Many struggle with the idea of imputed sin. They find it unfair that one man’s sin could have infected and impacted and entire race of people. That we would be held responsible for a sin committed by one man all those years ago seems to make God out to be a tyrant. But it is not as if we stand guiltless and innocent before God. The sin of Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world, and it didn’t take long for it to take root. Adam’s own sons inherited his sin nature. Cain murdered Abel out of a heart of jealousy and anger. And Paul reminds us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). It is not like we are standing before God with our hands clean and our hearts free from sin and rebellion against Him. Adam’s sin brought God’s condemnation against sin into the world. Death became the penalty for man’s disbelief and disobedience. But God brought the cure for man’s inescapable and inevitable death sentence. He sent His Son as the payment for the sins of all men. He satisfied His own wrath against sin with the life of His own Son.

The first Adam could not remain faithful to God. He doubted God. He disobeyed God. But Jesus Christ, the last Adam, lived a life of obedience and faithfulness to God, fully meeting His righteous requirements and fulfilling His law. Which is why Paul writes, “‘The first Adam became a living being’; the last Adam a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV). All Adam could pass on to us was his human nature and, along with it, his sin nature. Paul continues, “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47-48 ESV). With our belief in God’s gracious and merciful gift of His Son, we become new creations. We receive new natures. We become children of God, no longer enemies, alienated and under His wrath. We find ourselves standing in His presence covered in the righteousness of Christ and freed from the condemnation of sin and death. Not based on anything we have done to earn it, but solely on the free gift of grace made possible through Jesus Christ.

Death Reigned.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. – Romans 5:12-14 ESV

As he continues to defend the doctrine of justification by faith, Paul uses an interesting comparison, contrasting the sin of Adam and the sacrificial death of Jesus. It was through Adam’s one act of unrighteousness that sin came into the world. While Eve was the first one to give in to the temptation of Satan and take the forbidden fruit, Adam was standing by her side and fully complicit and compliant. As the God-ordained head of his household, he was responsible to keep God’s commands and protect his family. It was to Adam that God had given the command regarding the tree. Eve had not yet been created. The book of Genesis records, “And the Lord commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). In the very next verse God decides to make woman. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18 ESV). So Adam was responsible for communication God’s command to Eve and ensuring that she adhered to it. But he failed. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her” (Genesis 3:6 ESV).

The result of Adam’s actions was death. Not immediate physical death, but spiritual death – separation from God. They became alienated and separated from God. They immediately experienced shame, attempting to cover their nakedness with leaves. They hid from God. And then they came under the punishment of God, as He brought on them curses related to their disobedience. God curse for Adam involved a life of labor accompanied by futility, ending in death. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 ESV). Rather than enjoying the fruit of the trees provided by God in the garden, they were cast from the garden and left to provide for themselves through hard work and effort. And their lives would end in death. Which is why Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12 ESV). It was Adam’s sin (original sin) that brought death into the world. Paul is comparing the one act of Adam and its result with the one act of Jesus and its subsequent outcome. He contrasts Adam’s disobedience with Jesus’ obedience. The first brought death. The second brought life. Adam’s action brought separation from God. Jesus’ action brought reconciliation.

But Paul’s main point in these verses is that men had been dying (suffering the penalty for their sins) long before the law had been given to Moses – “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law” (Romans 5:13 ESV). Mankind not only inherited death as a result of Adam’s disobedience, they inherited his sin nature. But their death was due to Adam’s sin, not their own. From God’s perspective, they sinned “in” Adam. The penalty for his sin was passed down to his descendants. So Paul states, “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam” (Romans 5:14 ESV). Long before the law was given, men were sinning. They may not have sinned in the same way that Adam had, but they still faced the same penalty: death. They still experienced spiritual separation from God. Why? Because Adam “was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14 ESV).

Long before God gave the law to Moses, men died. All men knew death was inevitable. They just didn’t know why they had to die. They were unclear as to what death was and what purpose it existed. It was to be feared. It was to be avoided at all costs. But when God gave the law, it revealed the righteousness that God demanded of mankind. It provided a non-negotiable list of God’s requirements for what was necessary to escape the penalty of death. Man’s sin nature made it impossible for him to keep God’s law. So before the law was given, man sinned, in ignorance. After the law, man sinned, knowing, like Adam, exactly what God had commanded, but disobeying it anyway. But Paul will continue to built on this comparison, illustrating that God provided a way out. “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins” (Romans 8:3 NLT). That is the gospel of God that Paul has been talking about. Adam’s disobedience brought death. Jesus’ obedience brought life. Death reigned, but God declared an end to sin’s control over us. Martin Luther summarizes Paul’s contrast quite succinctly.

Christ has become a Dispenser of righteousness to those who are of Him, though they have not earned any righteousness; for through the Cross He has secured (righteousness) for all men. The figure of Adam’s transgression is in us, for we die just as through we had sinned as he did. The figure of Christ is in us, for we live just as though we had fulfilled all righteousness as He did. – Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans

Genesis 7-8, Matthew 4

Sin and Salvation.

Genesis 7-8, Matthew 4

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. – Matthew 4:11 NLT

Sin had become so rampant in the world and the wickedness of man, so prevalent, that God had to take drastic measures and destroy the world He had created. We read in chapter six of Genesis: “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6 NLT). The single sin of Adam and Eve had ushered in a flood wave of sinful behavior that had escalated to such an extent that God was forced to act justly and righteously, wiping out those whom He had made in His own image.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But God showed favor. He offered an invitation to Noah and his family to enter into the ark. There they would find safety, provision and protection from judgment. We must be careful that we do not misinterpret this passage and assume that Noah was saved by God because of his righteousness. The invitation God offers to Noah would seem to indicate that he somehow deserved to be saved. “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation” (Genesis 7:1 ESV). But this is a statement based on comparison. Noah’s righteousness was not meritorious. In other words, his actions were not the cause of his salvation by God. It was just that Noah, when compared to those among whom he lived, was a relatively righteous individual. “It is not that Noah’s works of righteousness gains him salvation, for none is cited. Rather, his upright character is noted to condemn his generation, which merits death” (Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis).

No, it was God’s grace that saved Noah. It was God who came up with the idea for the ark. It was God who gathered the animals together in pairs. It was God who gave Noah and his family the skills to take on a construction project of this magnitude. And it was God who closed up the door of the ark once they were all inside. The story of the flood is not simply a story of God’s wrath and judgment against mankind. It is a glimpse into God’s unfailing grace, mercy, love and faithfulness. I personally believe that Noah was saved because it would be through his descendants that the Messiah would come. Luke’s gospel account gives us the genealogy of Jesus and includes Shem, one of the sons of Noah, in the list. The salvation provided by the ark would preserve mankind in order that the true Savior of the world might be born. In a way, Noah’s righteousness, like yours and mine, was based on his association with Jesus. His salvation was due to Jesus, not himself. His righteousness was imputed, not earned.

Chapter eight starts out with the words, “But God remembered Noah…’ What a wonderful statement of the mercy of God. He never forgot about Noah and his family. The ark wasn’t intended to be permanent, but was simply a temporary respite from judgment. God had a more permanent plan for Noah and his family. He would preserve them from destruction, then place them back on the earth, promising to never use a flood to destroy mankind again. “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things” (Genesis 8:21 NLT). Nothing had really changed. Mankind was still evil, even though, at this point, it was just Noah and his family. The ark had preserved mankind, but there had been no transformation. Sin was still a problem. They would still need a Savior. And generations later, He would appear on the scene, preaching, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17 NLT). This descendant of Adam and Noah would come to bring true salvation from sin and deliverance from the curse of death. He would provide not only forgiveness from sin, but freedom as well. Jesus is the ultimate “ark” provided by God so that we might be saved from the destruction to come. All those who place their faith in Him will be saved. God will deliver them from death and provide them with eternal life. In the story of the ark, we have a glimpse into the redemptive heart of God. He longs to preserve and protect. He desires to restore and redeem. Through the ark, He did for Noah what Noah could not have done for himself. And through Christ, He has done for you and me what we could never have accomplished on our own.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man is deserving of punishment and death. The verdict is clear: Man has a serious sin problem and God must deal with it. As God, He cannot simply overlook our sins and act as if they never happened. We are in open rebellion against God, and our very existence brings dishonor to His name as God. As His creation, made in His image, we are an affront to His character. So God, being righteous, holy and just, must deal with our rebellion justly, or He would case to be God. And there is nothing we can do to remedy the problem. No amount of good works or attempts at changed behavior will ever change our condition or soften our condemnation. If we are to be saved, it will have to be done by God. If we can’t satisfy His just demands, then He will have to somehow satisfy Himself. And that is what He did by sending His Son to earth as a man, a descendant of Adam. Jesus would live on this earth as a sinless human being, accomplishing what no other man had ever been able to do. He would live in perfect obedience to God – with no sins or sin nature to separate Him from God. And it was His sinless life that would make Him the perfect sacrifice, giving His life on the cross as payment for the sins of mankind. He would pay the penalty for our sin in order to satisfy the justice of God. And His death would provide deliverance from coming destruction. In Noah’s day, man was in need of saving. God had to destroy them because of their sin. And God would have to save them if anyone was going to survive the flood that was coming. The same is true today. Man is in need of saving, and if anyone is going to escape the destruction to come, it will be up to God. He alone can provide salvation, and He has done so through His Son, Jesus Christ.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I have been saved so that I might live a life that is holy and set apart to God. I belong to Him now. But I have to constantly remember that my righteousness is not of my own making. I did not deserve to be saved. I was a sinner just as much as the next guy, but God, in His mercy and grace, showed me favor. He offered me an invitation to step into the safety of His ark, Jesus Christ, and find protection from the flood to come. I am covered by His righteousness, not mine. I am preserved because of His holiness, not my own. And now I am called to live as one who has been saved by God. My response to His grace and mercy should take the form of willful obedience out of gratitude for all that He has done for me. I am to live like one who has been given a new lease on life.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ButGod, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10 NLT).

Father, thank You for providing salvation for me. I am so grateful that You placed me in Christ so that I might enjoy protection from the wrath that I deserved. I did nothing deserving of Your grace, mercy and love, and yet You saved me. I have no reason to boast or brag. But I have every reason to rejoice, because I once was as good as dead because of my sins, but You have made me alive in Christ. Amen.

Ken Miller Grow Pastor
& Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 5:12-21

Law Versus Grace.

Romans 5:12-21

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. – Romans 5:20 NLT

Over and over again in his letter, Paul has made it painfully clear that the Law of Moses can’t save anybody. “So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law” (Romans 3:28 NLT). But that fact does not diminish the importance of the law or in any way provide us with an excuse to ignore it. “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:31 NLT). But all of this raises the question, “What is the purpose of the law?” It makes us reconsider God’s reasoning for giving the law in the first place. After all, if God knew that man could never live up to the standards of the law, why did He give it to us in the first place? Paul answers this important question in verse 20: “God’s law was given to that all people could see how sinful they were.”

Michael Horton, in his book, The Law & The Gospel, puts it this way: “The Law leads us to Christ in the Gospel by condemning us and causing us to despair of our own ‘righteousness.'” The law can’t save us, it can only convict us. The law gives us the requirements, but without any assistance to meet them. The law gives us the expectations of God, but without any ability to fulfill them. But that was never its purpose. “The law comes, not to reform the sinner nor to show him or her the “narrow way” to life, but to crush the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through personal effort or even cooperation. All of our righteousness must come from someone else – someone who has fulfilled the law’s demands. Only after we have been stripped of our ‘filthy rags’ of righteousness (Isa. 64:6) – our fig leaves through which we try in vain to hide our guilt and shame – can we be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. First comes the law to proclaim judgment and death, then the gospel to proclaim justification and life. (Modern Reformation, Good News: The Gospel for Christians, May/June 2003).

When Adam (and Eve) sinned, sin entered the world. It took up residence in the lives of Adam and Eve’s descendants, resulting in generations of men and women who inherited not only their propensity for sin, but the guilt and condemnation that accompanies it. The law was given to reveal just how sinful we really are. Later on in this letter, Paul gives a personal testimony regarding the law and its role in his own life: “…it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet” (Romans 7:7 NLT). Like a speed limit sign on the side of the road, the law simply revealed man’s transgression of God’s righteous standard. Paul goes on to say, “But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died.” (Romans 7:8-10 NLT). The law simply shows us our sin. It reveals to us our unrighteousness. It is God’s holy standard made clear – in black and white. No excuses allowed. I love the way Martin Luther said it. “The Law is a mirror to show a person what he is like, a sinner who is guilty of death, and worthy of everlasting punishment. What is this bruising and beating by the hand of the Law to accomplish? This, that we may find the way to grace. The Law is an usher to lead the way to grace.…The fatuous idea that a person can be holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners. God must therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists and smash the beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and self-help. When the conscience has been thoroughly frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace with its message of a Savior….” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians).

Rather than living under the exacting standards and condemnation of the law, we live within the wonderful grace of God. We have received the righteousness of Christ and the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That does not mean the law has become null and void though. Jesus did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. And Paul gives us ample exhortations that we are to live lives that are in keeping with God’s standard of righteousness. “And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward to the hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed(Titus 2:11-13 NLT). “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time – to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.(2 Timothy 1:9 NLT). Those who walk in the Spirit don’t break the law, but fulfill it. They have a power and capacity to do what they could never have done before. We can live holy lives, not out of our own self-effort, but according to the power of the Spirit who lives within us. Paul paints the vivid difference between trying to live according to the law in the flesh, and fulfilling the law in the power of the Spirit. “But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:18-23).

Father, I am so grateful that I do not have to keep the law to maintain a right standing with You. But I am also grateful that Your law is a constant reminder of just how holy You are and just how unholy I can be without You. May Your divine, holy, righteous law constantly remind me of my need for Christ. May it make me ever more dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s power and not my own. Thank You for providing me with the righteousness of Christ and the life-transforming power of the Spirit in my life. I have the capacity to live a life worthy of the Gospel and as a citizen of heaven. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org