The Image of God in Humankind:some thoughts

The whole concept of the Divine Image in humankind is central to understanding who humankind is according to the Bible. In our days when humankind is reduced to just a collection of atoms in the thoughts of many in secular society, we need to grasp afresh what the Bible says about the dignity of humankind.  There are many aspects to this doctrine which cannot all be covered here but I want to highlight some important points which have a practical application to our daily lives.

Firstly we must notice that in Biblical teaching the image of God in humankind is not some abstract idea but rather a matter of relationship to God, one another and creation, I will explore these aspects in turn. Before that, however, it would be good to have the most important passage of Scripture on this topic in front of us.

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day
The New International Version. (2011). (Ge 1:27–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Humankind’s relationship to God: We are created to relate to God in a personal way, before the fall that fellowship of  God and humans was uncorrupted. Since the fall, all humans have a fallen nature and we can only know restoration to the full image of God through the gracious act of salvation in Christ. Even after salvation has been received that restoration is only partial until we see the Lord in glory. But that does not take away from the fact that the primary purpose of our creation is to worship God. Worshipping God is not confined to singing a few praise songs but rather is the attitude of heart towards God, this can be expressed in our work life, in the way we relate to others, it is a matter of putting God and his ways as our first priority. This means that we need to relate to God through seeking his will in all things. Prayer then becomes a very important part of our relationship with God, prayer expresses our dependence upon God because prayer is not just about asking God for things but rather seeking his will for our entire life. Another way we express our dependence upon God is by reading his word and submitting to its teaching, this is vital if we are to grow more in our likeness of God. The reason this is so is that it is grounded in the relationship of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, we are to reflect in some poor way the fellowship of the three persons of the Godhead.

Humankind’s relationship to each other. We are told that humankind bears the image as it is both male and female, at once we see that if the image is to be reflected in this way we see that relationship between humans is important. Of course, first of all, that relationship applies to marriage but it is far wider than marriage, in fact, it applies to all our relationships. This why all our relationships should be one of respect and love, fallenness brings about hatred and violence, our life in Christ should bring about a reversal of this if we are seeking to be a reflection of who God is our relationships will be transformed.

This means that the Christian must reject all individualistic philosophies because they do not and cannot do adequate justice to the fact that by creation we are called to be in a relationship with one another. Individualism always tends to self-interest rather than seeking the interest of others. so much of Western thinking is individualistic and permeates our society, it is our emphasis on our rights that sometimes illustrates this, we talk about our rights and forget our obligations to one another.

The Christian will also reject all collectivist philosophies, such as Marxism with its emphasis on society and absolute equality, this leads to the repression of all that is individual and truly creative, we have seen this wherever Marxism has been tried.

In opposition to both of the philosophies the Christian view sees that because Humankind is made in the image of God there is a need to honour both the social and individual aspects of humankind, therefore we need to need to have a philosophy which sees that humans are individual-communal creatures. with this perspective, we can look at many issues affecting our societies with fresh eyes. It is not the place here to spell out all the implications of this here but let me just say that it would create a society in which justice and mercy are honoured.

Humankind’s relationship to Creation:The command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it has widely been misunderstood, this in no way gives permission to plunder the planet but rather it must be seen in its context as a command given before the fall. The context makes all the difference because unfallen man would have understood this as a command to care for God’s good creation. This whole concept of what is known as the cultural mandate shows that we have a responsibility for planet earth under the Lordship of Christ. This is not just a broad ecological statement but applies to our small part that we can play in creation care. We are to care for and nurture creation so that it can develop in a way that glorifies God. Our call is always in accordance with the principles of the Kingdom of God. Whether our cultural task is directly nurturing plants or animals or whether our calling is mainly to serve other human beings we can do all to the glory of God. The cultural mandate extends to making things, composing music, being a teacher or whatever other calling you can think of. In other words the whole of life is placed under the Lordship of Christ.

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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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What does it mean to be Pro-life?

Pneuma and Logos

To be pro-life is to value human life from conception to death and to safeguard that life from any potential attackers. Some times we have narrowed our definition so that it only deals with Abortion and Euthanasia but surely to be pro-life is much bigger than this, if we use this narrow definition we are likely to miss all the ways God intends us to be pro-life.

! We will fight for the preservation of life in the womb, we are not anti-abortionists although we oppose abortion. We see human life as God-given from the very beginning and we therefore want to nurture that life and seek to protect it from all who would want to kill it. We will seek to promote the health of the mother so that the life of the child is preserved and nourished in the womb.

2 When the child has been born we…

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Advent: A Time of Anticipation

It is very easy to think of Advent as a time when we have Advent calendars and light Advent candles these traditions are good in themselves if they help us to remember the true meaning of Advent but so often they are just empty traditions. If one turns to the readings set for Advent one can be a bit surprised because this is not what we expect because as well as salvation they talk about judgement, repentance, the second coming of Christ as well as the Saviour. The readings bring to the forefront themes that we would rather forget or at least play down. So let’s look at some of those passages briefly.

1st Sunday in Advent

ZECHARIAH 14:1-9 A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.
2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
6 On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique day—a day known only to the LORD—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.
8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

This passage reminds us that the Christian hope embrace’s not only the coming of the incarnate Son of God  as the messiah to earth  but the also the Second coming of the Messiah, the chosen one, uniquely anointed by God to accomplish his purposes. The end of this passage reminds us of that beautiful passage in Rev.22 where John is describing the New Jerusalem. But before all of that we are reminded that he is coming as the King who will bring god’s Holy judgement to earth.  The second coming of Christ is a day of rejoicing for the believer but a day of sadness and eternal ruin for the unbeliever. This emphasises the urgency of the mission of God’s Church.

2nd Sunday in Advent
Luke 3:1-3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The second passage introduces us to the ministry of John the baptist, John like Jesus when he preached the good news always  preached repentance, turning from sin to a life submitted to God. We simply need to say sorry to God for those things which we have done wrong. repentance seems to be toned down these days but we need to repent of our sins both at the beginning of our Christian lives and whenever we fall into sin. In these days where hyper-grace is stressed, we must combat that with the teaching of the scriptures which throughout call God’s people to repentance. Repentance is the pathway to cleansing, but we find that our forgiveness is always the free gift of God in his graciousness.

3rd Sunday in Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-20

14 Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
18 “I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals,
which is a burden and reproach for you.
19 At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
20 At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,”
says the LORD.

This passage shows the greatness of our salvation in song form, but it is packed fulled of God’s truth about the lavishness and the wonder of the salvation that we have received in Christ. This passage emphasises the fact that it is God that saves. He is the one who solves every problem and removes every obstacle to our salvation and our walk with God. He is the mighty warrior who cannot be defeated and thus we can be sure of our salvation.

Fourth Sunday in Advent
Micah 5:2-4 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.

Now we seem to be on more familiar territory here is a prophecy that our Lord Jesus would be born in Bethlehem but notice how he is described as ”  one whose origins are from of old from ancient times” the Israelites were not to expect someone from a normal background to be their Saviour. yet because he is the one whose origins are ancient, he will be able to shepherd his sheep he will do in the strength of the LORD and his people will be able to rest in security and the Lord’s greatness will reach the ends of the earth.

As we spend this time of Advent in anticipation of celebrating our Saviours birth, we also will be looking ahead to his second coming, how should this affect our lives?

Do we stress enough in our teaching and more importantly in our living the importance of repentance?

And can we because of God’s grace join Zephaniah in his song of praise to our great Saviour?

Lastly do we know and trust in the Saviour who came to Bethlehem so that he could be the good Shepherd?

A Prayer.

Heavenly Father we come before you acknowledging that you  are the Holy one who is   the judge of the whole earth. We thank you that as repentant sinners we have received your gracious gift of salvation in Jesus. We thank you that we can rejoice in your salvation. We thank you that we can live in the security of knowing that Jesus the good shepherd is watching over us and guiding us. Amen

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The Weapons of our Warfare

Source: The Weapons of our Warfare

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The Weapons of our Warfare

When the subject of spiritual warfare is mentioned we often find two extremes, some see demons under every bed and others play down the notion of spiritual warfare. We have seen both extremes in our day in the pentecostal/charismatic movement we have had our fair share of extreme views.  In some other evangelical circles where Christianity always has to be nice and we are assured of constant blessing the nature of spiritual warfare is ignored or at least played down. The apostle Paul however never went to either extremes but he recognised the reality of the battle and in his teaching he maintained a sane and realistic approach to the subject, we need to recapture this approach in our own day because we are involved in spiritual warfare whether we like it or not. Paul’s approach does not give us any techniques or formulas but he gives us something far better and that is he emphasises that we can fight the war because we are in a relationship with the living God. Paul says this in his second letter to the Corinthian Church,

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.(2Corinthians Chapter 10:3-5)

Paul here is confident that he has the weapons that God has provided and it is interesting that when we find Paul speaking here and elsewhere  it is obvious that he sees two important factors for spiritual warfare and they are Spirit led praying and Spirit-empowered use of the word of God. He draws on both Old Testament teaching but he also must have known about the way Jesus engaged in spiritual warfare.

Prayer must be seen as an interactive relationship with our loving heavenly Father who is the holy and almighty God, although our relationship is intimate we must always remember that he is the sovereign Lord. Thus when we pray we are seeking his will and purpose not primarily trying to get our own way. We will never get anywhere in spiritual warfare unless we realise that we are in submission to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is only as we seek first the kingdom of God that we can make progress in the spiritual battle. We must realise that in submitting to God we are submitting to the one who loves with an everlasting love and cares deeply for us, it is true therefore to say that as we submit to God we will be blessed. As we submit to god and read his word we will realise that God has not promised to give us an easy life but he has promised to make us like Jesus, I want to be more and more like Jesus, do you? If your answer is yes then it is inevitable that you will be involved in a spiritual battle. We have within us many things that are broken and twisted that resist the Lordship of Christ and this needs to change. To say in prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is heaven” is an acknowledgement that God’s ways are best. Sometimes that acknowledgement will mean that we wrestle with a problem over time in prayer at other times the Holy spirit will speak to us and empower us to fight the good fight of faith. But it is easy to ask how do I know what God’s will is and that leads me directly to my second point and that is our use of the Word of God.

The Word of God is crucial for spiritual warfare especially when we are called to tear down strongholds in the mind that contain false teaching but the word of God is essential for our daily walk with God. If Jesus used the Word of god in spiritual warfare how much more do I need to use it? The word of God is the only infallible rule for faith and practice, therefore we need to know the word of God, as we read we must remember that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture indwells us and is able and willing to make the word alive to us and illuminate its meaning. It is good to study using tools but we must always remember that event the best theologians are fallible and we should test their words against the Word of God. In the UK in many nonconformist Churches their is a an open Bible facing the congregation at all times ( this is a practice that goes back to the time of the Reformation), this is a symbolic reminder that we must test all that is said from the pulpit by the word.  Jesus in his temptations defeated Satan by the word of God. We can also do the same thing as Jesus did, if like Jesus we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And let us remember that the whole of Scripture is the sword of the Spirit and the Lord can help us to use the word to defeat Satan both in our own lives and in the lives of others as we witness to the Saving Grace of god our Saviour. The word of God is always fresh, the Bible is the only book that I know of that contains new insights for me constantly, I have been reading the Bible every day since the Autumn of 1969 and yet I never find it boring. I know of no other book than the Bible that can speak with profound relevance and in a life-changing manner. We need to prayerfully read the word of God expecting the Holy Spirit to bring it alive. If we allow the word of God to dwell within us, then when we need it the Holy Spirit reminds us of what it says. As we read and meditate upon the word of God the Holy Spirit uses it to speak to us and to arm us for the spiritual battle that is uniquely ours. But He also uses that same word to bring freedom to those who are enslaved by Satan, this is why C H Spurgeon always had a team of people praying in a separate room in his church as he preached the word of God. We are not using the Bible like some magic charm rather we are using it to hear what the living God has to say to us. We therefore comeback to the fact that we have a dynamic relationship with God that enables us to go forward into the spiritual battle humbly but confidently knowing that as we rely upon God he will empower us.

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Salvation,Power and Authority

In this post I want to look at the beginning of Luke 10, this passage raises some important issues for the Church today. I have heard people in the past using this passage especially Jesus words to the disciples about rejoicing that their names were written in heaven to downplay  the power of God. The argument goes that salvation is more important than power. Is this what Jesus is really saying? I don’t think so, I believe that Jesus is reminding the disciples that their power and authority are there because they are saved. Salvation is not just some intellectual acceptance of the gospel but putting our whole trust in the person of our Lord Jesus, in this sense salvation emphasises a living relationship. When we become power orientated we tend to lose sight of our relationship with Jesus. When Jesus is at the centre, we look to him for power and authority, Christian discipleship is one of utter dependence upon the Lord. Let us now look at Luke,

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two a others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 ‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 ‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

In this passage Jesus commission the seventy-two for mission, he makes it quite clear to them that they go in his power and authority, this is evidenced in the fact that they are told to say that the Kingdom of God has drawn near to all those they minister to. They go out depending upon god’s provision for them as they minister, they go out in poverty knowing that God will provide through those they are witnessing to, many modern missionaries have proved the same faithfulness of God as the disciples did long ago. They have received the authority to declare the good news which includes the fact that God heals today and that he delivers from the power of the evil one. Their message is one that bring wholeness and healing to the whole person, it is not just words but rather power-filled words which accomplish God’s mission. It is vital that we see that this as true today as it was for the disciples, many of us have seen God’s healing power in our own bodies and also experienced deep emotional healing as the Lord has set us free. My own testimony is on this site see It is vital therefore that we see the reality of God’s power in the lives of believers today. Robert Gundry in his commentary on Acts 10 says,

Luke refers to Jesus as “the Lord” to identify him as “the Lord of the harvest” in 10:2. The appointment of seventy-two in addition to the already chosen Twelve (6:12–16) points forward to a worldwide mission in the book of Acts. The Twelve have already gone on a mission (9:1–6). The mission of the seventy-two therefore marks an expansion. Jesus’ sending them “by twos” prefigures the pairing of his witnesses in Acts 3–4 (Peter and John), 13–14 (Paul and Barnabas), 15:40–18:22 (Paul and Silas [compare Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15 on the sufficiency of testimony by two or three witnesses]).

Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 273). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

These comment helpfully show that this is an illustration of what the outworking of the Great Commission would look like. Luke record this account not just because it is history but because it fits the structure of his theology of mission which he sets forth in Luke-Acts. The Western Church has tended to see the fulfillment of the great commission in terms of preaching and it will always include that but it also must include the powerful working of God the Holy Spirit as he glorifies Christ through word and deed.

Those who receive the good news are blessed indeed but those who reject it are in an awful position under the judgement of God, we tend to tone this down today but Jesus is quite clear that judgement will come upon all who reject the gospel. Listen to what Jesus has to say,

13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

We must note the seriousness of these warnings that Jesus strongly but lovingly gives. Jesus has ministered to these areas showing the love and compassion of God but in many cases he finds unbelief. The Lord takes this very seriously and so should we. Note that he does not just denounce but first he shows the love and graciousness of God to them and it is only after this is rejected that he denounces them. Some people start with denouncing the sinner before showing God’s grace, attempting to frighten people into the kingdom but Jesus denounces after the good news has has been rejected.  Jesus tells the disciples that whoever rejects them also is rejecting him, this is because the disciples mission is the mission of Jesus. We need to realise that as we fulfill the great commission in words and deeds we are participating in the mission of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, we also have the promise that Jesus will be with us to the end of the age. This story is not just one that applies to the times of Jesus but one that applies to today, realising this we need to look at how Jesus dealt with the results of that mission.

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’
18 He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
22 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’
23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’

The disciples come back rejoicing in the fact that the spirits submit to them in Jesus name and we can understand this but Jesus wants them to rejoice in the great facts of their salvation. their names being written in heaven should give them great security because Satan has no access to heaven, they are protected by the power of God.

It is important to notice that when Jesus rejoices in what has happened to and through the disciples it is because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus shows us what it means to be a Spirit-filled man. Sometimes people think that being Spirit- filled will make them weird that is not true, being Spirit-filled will make us more like Jesus. The mission of God can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit as he imparts to us the authority and power of the risen Christ. This passage shows to us what can be accomplished by ordinary people when they take the commission of Jesus seriously, may we be such people.

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where does true wisdom come from?

Paul when he writes to the Church at Colossae is concerned to show the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, the Colossians were tempted to follow some very clever sounding teachers who would lead them away from Christ. The temptation is to see heavenly intermediaries between God and man and these can be accessed if you have true knowledge which is obtained through initiation into the mysteries. Paul sees all this as a distraction from the true fullness of Christ and he wants the Church at Colossae to be healthy and vibrant in their mature walk with the Lord. We confront the same problem today when spiritual techniques are used which take away from the centrality of Christ. Our culture is an entertainment culture which wants instant gratification and sadly these attitudes soon come into the church. One hears of techniques by which one can get rich and live a long life full of blessing and free from sickness. Many believers are finding that the promises that were made to them at conferences are hollow. But we must make sure that we do not as a result turn our faith into something that is just intellectual, we run scared of any experience because some have exploited us. Paul sees the nature of faith to be Christ-centered and therefore he emphasises the relationship we have with the living God. Paul wants believers to grow in understanding so that they mature in their faith and their relationship with God and one another is deepened.

Paul had this to say to the Church at Colossae

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

(The New International Version. (2011). (Col 2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

Paul wants believers to be encouraged in heart and united in love and he realises that this is the path to spiritual growth and understanding, He wants them to have knowledge, he wants them to realise the greatness of their salvation and the amazing riches of that salvation but that can only be achieved by fellowship in the Church and a united seeking of Christ together. Christ is at the centre of the Christian life and he should be at the centre of the Church. If we want to know more of the reality of our Christian faith we need to be united in love and encouraged in heart

Paul goes on to show the  true knowledge of God and spiritual reality are to be found in Christ alone, it is in him that we find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Notice that although Paul speaks out against false teaching, he is very much in favour of Christ-centered teaching but notice this that Paul never divorces our knowledge from our relationship with Christ. Too many people have got taken up with trying to work out theological problems without a humble dependence upon the Lord.

Paul warns the Colossians about false teachers and teaching in this letter many times and he does so very clearly in this next section,

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

The New International Version. (2011). (Col 2:8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Paul here is attacking false ways of thinking which depend on human tradition and the forces of evil, he certainly is not opposed to a philosophy that is based on the word of God. Down the centuries the Church has been well served by many who have exposed false philosophy and replaced it with solid biblical teaching, for example Irenaeus, Augustine, Calvin,Kuyper, Dooyeweerd and Schaeffer. Once more Paul is telling us to base all of our thinking on the revelation of God in Christ. This will mean that like Jesus we will honour the word of God in Scripture, we need to be people of the book because here we hear the voice of God speaking to us. he goes on to spell out the importance of a Christ-centered faith in the following verses.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The New International Version. (2011). (Col 2:9–15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Notice that it is in Christ all the fulness of the Deity dwells, here is a profound truth which is also a great mystery here we see the risen Christ and indeed the incarnate Christ as one who is truly God and truly man. And it is in Christ alone that we find fulness, notice that Paul emphasise the power and authority of Christ. Paul emphasises these things so that we might realise how great our salvation is.  Faith in Christ brings about newness of life in the believer, we are raised from spiritual death by the same power that raised Christ from the dead. Once again we are reminded of the centrality of the cross because it is here that we find forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus has disarmed those powers that are against us and he has done so through the triumph of the cross.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
The New International Version. (2011). (Col 2:16–23). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Paul then warns against falling into legalistic practices and teachings, we are not bound by man-made traditions but rather we find all we need in God’s revelation to us in Christ Jesus and through him in the Holy Scriptures. Having been raised in a legalistic tradition I know what a hindrance man-made laws can be and how hard it can be to rid ourselves of them. It is therefore good to reject legalism before it enslaves us and takes our eyes from looking to Christ.

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The Trinitarian Theology of Stanley J Grenz by Jason S Sexton: A short boook review

This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the theological writings of Stanley Grenz, here we find a clear scholarly analysis of Grenz theological position. I hope particularly that those who have been critical of Grenz will read this book because it demonstrates convincingly that Grenz stood in the Great Tradition as far as the doctrine of Trinity is concerned. It must be emphasised that this work does not answer all the questions some will have in regards to the theology of Stanley Grenz, I am sure that some will say that post-foundationalism should have been treated in greater depth but that is to miss the point of the book.

Chapter 1 leads us into the theological program and methodology pursued by Grenz and deals with some of the criticisms levelled against him. For me the most interesting part of this chapter was the section dealing with Grenz’s methodology, the section on the sources of theology is particularly illuminating and demonstrates to my mind that Grenz was using a genuinely evangelical methodology whilst addressing contemporary issues.

Chapters 2 and 3 are an enlightening examination of the influence of Pannenberg on Grenz, here we see that Grenz was not a slavish follower of Pannenberg but rather he  critically adapted Pannenberg’s insights into his own theological thought. He was particularly influenced by Pannenberg’s emphasis on the Trinity.

Chapter 4 shows the development of Grenz’s thought in developing his doctrine of the trinity, here we find an examination of the development of his thinking from the time he was taught by Lewis and Demarest until the time he published “Theology for the Community of God” here we see that Grenz has embraced the idea of the social trinity. Personally I have always been fascinated by Grenz’s emphasis on community both as regards the trinity and in regards to the Imago Dei, this is because in 1976 I had developed a view of the image of God in man in which I described man as an individual-communal creature, this concept I had used to critique both Marxism and Liberation Theology.  I had purchased Theology for the Community of God soon after it was published in the UK because of this interest in the concept of community.

Chapter 5 helpfully guides us through the developing thought of Stanley Grenz regarding the doctrine of the trinity, this chapter takes us in depth through the various stages of Grenz’s trinitarian doctrine, although this chapter is not an easy read it is worth the effort because one begins to understand the issue Grenz dealt with until his untimely death in 2005. Here we see that Grenz was steeped in not only modern theological reflection but was also aware of patristic writing both of the east and the west. It is interesting to see that Augustine was an influence upon his thinking. This chapter will challenge the reader to be more careful in their critique of Grenz but it is also an example to us of good theological research (both by Grenz and Sexton). We need to see that Sexton has shown clearly in this chapter that Grenz was a trinitarian theologian who realised that the Triune God could not be easily classified and because of this was willing to develop his thinking in his response to theological challenges and primarily to his growing understanding of divine revelation.

Chapter 6 is a very interesting introduction to Genz’s concept of the Imago Dei, Grenz rightly grappled with the issue of the implications of the doctrine of the trinity in its relationship to biblical anthropology. What is helpful here is that Grenz moves beyond the rationalistic views of the Imago Dei to a more relational concept. Sexton shows how this functions in several aspects of theological thinking including ecclesiology, I was hoping that there would be some discussion of the social implications of this doctrine but here I believe that Sexton is just demonstrating the flow of Grenz’s thought. I have in the past tried to find references to the social implications of this in Grenz’s writing and I wonder if he realised what a powerful tool he has given us to critique both Marxism and Capitalism. I have commented above about my own development of the concept of the Imago Dei and I will not repeat that here.

Chapter 7 is a very interesting discussion of Grenz’s trinitarian ethics, here we see Grenz the theologian grappling with theological and ethical issues that have pastoral implications. Sexton demonstrates that whilst Grenz deals with the modern world in all its complexity he does so with a pastoral heart that desires to be faithful to divine revelation. This chapter helps us to see how Grenz was God-centered in  his ethic and how this impacts his thinking.

Chapter 8, brings the book to a close with a look at how Grenz has been received and Sexton demonstrates that Grenz theology was “A comprehensive conservative evangelical project” I know some will disagree with this evaluation but to do so is to ignore the clear argument of this book. I fear that some have labeled Grenz as being post-conservative or even post-modernist and are not really open to the excellent research that that this book contains.

I recommend this book to all who want to understand the theology of Stanley Grenz, it is also an example of good theological research which will stimulate us in our task to be better thinkers and theologians.

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The Greatness, Humility And Glory of God Our Saviour

Too often when we isolate one aspect of who God is we  miss the riches of his self-revelation, I realise that in this post I will do this because when one considers the greatness of God that is inevitable. The way the Triune God of grace works cannot be confined to a few words in a blog post but I will attempt to bring together some aspects of who God is that we normally forget. The title of this article gives a hint of the direction in which I am moving.

The Greatness of God, when we think of this term we normally think of the exalted nature of God who as the creator God is sovereign overall, the sustainer of creation, this God is also the one who is Holy and therefore we like Isaiah will realise our sinfulness before this awesome God( see Isaiah 6). Yet it is at this very point we see another aspect of his greatness the wonder of his grace, Isaiah is not consumed by his meeting with this Holy God but cleansed and transformed. We will not want to diminish the greatness of God in anyway but rather glory in it.

The Humility of God, God has humbled himself in many ways starting with the revelation of his grace in the Garden of Eden, every act of revelation is the act of God stooping to our level so that we might come to know him. We see this supremely in the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, he humbled himself to take on true humanity setting aside the glory of heaven so that he might become our Saviour. He was born in humble circumstances and lived among the poor and needy of this world, the creator of this world tasted true poverty. Yet we see the climax of his humility in his willingness to di upon the cross for the sake of our sins. There is no more humiliating way to die than crucifixion and yet he willingly went to the cross. It is on the cross that he gained his greatest victory, his victory cry was “itis finished” he knew that he had accomplished what he had set out to do. The resurrection is the vindication of all that Jesus achieved in his earthly ministry. But it does not stop there he intercedes for his people in heaven, he still cares for us.

In this talk of the humility of god is it just Jesus that humbles himself, the Biblical narrative tells a different story. The Father has been communicating his love to the world since time began and that very act of revelation is an act of humility. We can also see this in the way he sustains and guide his Son while he is on earth.

The Holy spirit humbles himself by indwelling believers and testifying to the truth of the gospel. We worship a God who is not far off but rather is present with us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Glory of God, God is glorified through the salvation of sinners and when we look at the book of Revelation and see the exalted Lord Jesus, we are drawn to one who cares for his people and sends His Spirit to speak to them of his love, grace and his authority as Lord of all. TheGod who could have justly condemned us for our sin is the one who by extending his grace to us gets all the glory. Yes he is high and lifted up , the Almighty but as such he is the god of grace who humbles himself to redeem his fallen creation.

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