Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

What is the Image of God?

Edited and Reposted

Before we can understand the truth of sin we must know what God originally intended for man. We cannot know how history would have been had Adam not fallen. No one knows and God is not telling. He does give a good description of Adam and Eve before sin corrupted their nature. We have a brief description of creation and a revealed description of God. God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, in His image.

God never gives theology in a clean, complete, systematic way. He does make absolute statements through His actions, His work and the words He uses from the mouth of His prophets, support for specific doctrines. Theology is the study of the person of God and His stamp of ownership on what He has created. I call the study of theology friendship with God, for it is the intimacy of friendship that drives the desires to know Him in more than a cursory, shallow way.

God reveals Himself and having created man in His image gave the tools needed for friendship and intimate relationship with Him. His image is not Him. Man is not God but like God in ways that allow for closeness and intimacy. We grow to know God as we grow to know ourselves. Not our corrupted selves but self as God originally intended and recreated and given the likeness of Christ for those who truly follow His Son.

What then is the image of God?

God is not a physical being. Therefore, His image is not a physical image. He is Spiritual and He created man a physical being with a spiritual nature. Like Adam our spiritual nature is the means through which we have a relationship with God, our Creator.  

God’s Spirit is indefinable and unexplainable, knowable only to Himself.  When God created Adam He took already existing matter, stuff He previously created and made a man. “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” (Gen. 2:7). 

“Breath” suggests either soul or spirit. After Jesus’ resurrection He gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples when He breathed on them. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). God breaths on someone and He gives them life. Not physical life but spiritual life guaranteeing existence for eternity. spirit

Before the fall God “walked” in the garden and spoke to man, which suggests Adam spoke with God in return. Each had an intimate and free relationship. We know this because God states Adam and Eve hid from Him when they heard Him walking in the garden. “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). This was not His first stroll in the garden. He creates for His enjoyment. So, the garden and all in it was created and enjoyed by Him.  This includes Adam and Eve. He enjoyed them and they enjoyed Him. Yet, when they rebelled against Him they ceased enjoying Him and became afraid and “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God.” 

They knew God. Why would they think they could hide themselves from Him? God walking with them, and their hiding from Him, is pertinent evidence for their intimacy with Him and the breaking of intimacy with Him because of their rebellion. Walking with God is having intimacy with Him.

God created man with the ability to think, feel and act. These are three more elements of the image of God. Since God created people perfect, whole and complete, He meant for everyone to think, feel and act as He thinks, feels and acts. However, even angels have a relationship with God and think, feel and act. Yet we are not told that angels were created in His image. So what is it about man that is unique, which sets man apart from angels? There is one characteristic man has, which God has shared with man, which angels do not seem to have.  

God gave man “dominion” which means to “rule” and “subjugate” or to “cause to dominate” as in, God giving man the rights of domination over physical creation, the Earth. Man controlled the planet. God created the planet and gave it into Man’s care. 

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “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.” (Gen. 1:26-28)

Dominion, while not lost, was corrupted. Instead of living in a garden, in peace and tranquility, caring for the world, man was shoved into a harsh, unforgiving, uncontrollable environment. Instead of man ruling over the beasts, the birds and the creatures of the deep, these became afraid of man and in some instances man became afraid of them. Work changed from a pleasurable activity to a curse, from easy and natural to hard and tedious. What man retained was the desire to control while losing all control.  Man continues to try to exercise dominion, control, over everything, including God.  

Man’s desire to control, also known as covetousness, is a characteristic of the essence of man’s rebellion (see Exod. 20:7; Mic. 2:2; Rom. 7:7; Jas. 4:2).

There is one more element of the image of God given people. It is a characteristic describing Christ’s deepest essence. Jesus is characterized as have the morphe of God and the morphe of a Servant yet being in the shape or physical appearance of a man. Adam was not created to rebel against God but to server Him by caring for and having dominion over the Garden of Eden and the Earth.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form (morphe) of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form (morphe) of a servant (doulos), being born in the likeness (homoioma) of men. And being found in human form (schema), he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:5-8)

Paul uses a word from Greek philosophy to describe who Jesus is in His deepest, unchangeable nature. Morphe or “form” means that which make something what it is. This may be hard to grasp but everything created by God has an essential characteristic that defines its nature. This characteristic may be indescribable but is nonetheless, true and real. In biology we could say the DNA we carry not only defines us as human but also makes us unique from every other human. Though Paul did not know about DNA he did understand each person is unique but still a person made in the image of God. Yet, Jesus was not created. He is the Creator. He has the “DNA” of God. He also has the “DNA” or “form” of a servant. Adam was given, not the “DNA” of God but the “DNA” of a servant as part of the image of God.

Paul uses two more words, “likeness” and “fashion,” to describe Jesus. “Likeness” means to resemble while “fashion” tells us the mode or circumstance of His life was exactly that of every other human. He was (and is) a man, having moved through all the physical stages required of people from conception and birth, through growth to death. He didn’t just look like a man. He was (and is) a man. However, Jesus did not carry, as part of His being, the sinful nature of corrupted man. He is fully God and fully a servant resembling a man with all of the physical characteristics that define a human from beginning to end. Jesus was and is human the way God originally intended for Adam and Eve and for all humanity.

Praise to the Most High God

I will give to the LORD 
the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD,
the Most High. (Psalm 7:17 ESV)

For the first time in the Psalms, beginning with Psalm 1, God is given thanks for whom He is, and is praised, honored and worshipped. Thanks means to laud and praise. David gives thanks to the LORD for His righteousnessPraise means to sing, make music. David sings devotions to the name, the reputation, of the LORD. Then he calls Him Most High, a name of God which means as high up in the ranks as any can attain. God is the only god and there is no other as high as He. He controls all created things, which is everything in the heavens and in eternity.

God’s name, the Most High, is first used in Genesis to describe the position held by Melchizedek, the king of Salem, before God. “He was priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18 ESV). David calls God Most High here and then again in Psalm 9:2. “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2 ESV). These two verses thank God and offer Him praise, honor and worship. In between Psalm 7:17 and 9:2 is Psalm 8, considered a Messianic Psalm, devoted to declaring the works and wonders of God and His favor toward Jesus Christ, His Son. This progression in the Psalms suggests the order in which they are delivered is vital to our understanding of who Jesus is, what He did and how He felt while living in a sinful world as a Man.

God alone can claim true righteousness. He alone can state those He has created are righteous. Those who intimately know Him understand that He is the source and foundation for their righteousness, even when they are surrounded and attacked by enemies who would harm them because of their relationship with God. “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” (Psalm 4:1 ESV). Jesus is both true God and true Man. As God He is the source of all righteousness. As a Man He recognized that in God alone would any person be declared righteous and be directed in the way of righteousness, as they live in the midst of those who are enemies of God. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). Those who follow Christ face the wrath of the world and the Deceiver. Following Christ brings God’s love and compassion. Christ gives His righteousness to those who are His, covering them so that God sees the righteousness of Christ and not the blackness of their sin. “The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me” (Psalm 7:8 ESV). His righteousness is given to those who are His and should bring shouts of thanksgiving and the joyful music. Those found in Christ, who take refuge in God, cannot be harmed by the Deceiver, those of the world and even their own sinful flesh. “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Psalm 5:11 ESV).

Who is the Most High? He is God and His Son is Jesus Christ. Gabriel came to Mary and told her God was blessing her and the world through her. She would give birth to the Son of God.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:31-35 ESV)

Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, is fully God and fully Man. Scripture is filled with the evidence of His divinity. The most substantial evidence is His miracles and especially His resurrection from death. There are spiritual beings, fallen angels, who are demons, who recognized Jesus as God. “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’” (Luke 8:28 ESV; see also Matthew 8:9; Mark 1:24-27; Mark 5:6-8; Luke 4:33-36; Acts 16:16-18).  These demons do not submit with joy and worship but cringe in fear and loathing. Those who belong to God worship God with joy and thanksgiving because of all He has done and is doing.

Refuge

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them,  that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:11 ESV)

When threatened people stand and fight, shake in fear, paralyzed and unable to move, or flee to a protected place. A refuge  is a trusted place where those who belong to God flee from danger, knowing His protection is guaranteed. However, God’s refuge is not a physical place. He does not take people out of the world when they are in danger. Those who are in Christ are hidden in His Son, filled with His Spirit, and guaranteed eternal life. God blesses those in Christ because He blesses Christ, the only One who lived a full life in the flesh and never sinned. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). Those in Christ are in God’s refuge. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him”  (Psalm 2:12 ESV).

Finding refuge in God through Christ brings eternal joy, even when surrounded by temporal chaos. They not only rejoice, which is to make glad, but they ever sing for joyEver  means from ancient times into eternity, indefinite and unending. To sing for joy means to give a ringing cry out of perpetual gladness. Those who face the wrath of the world because of their relationship with God in Christ will endure persecution for righteousness’ sake. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

Living in the world and facing persecution does not feel like having God’s protection. Trust, which is part of the description of a refuge, is an emotional response to the sure promises of God and integral to a healthy, whole faith. He has promised those who are His eternity with Him, where there is no sin. “Evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 ESV). In the refuge of His eternal presence is His protection, a hedge or fence, woven together, strong beyond comprehension. Nothing that is not of God gets through this barrier. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory”  (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

God protects those who love Him. We often do not see His protection. When He allows us, those who are His, to feel the brunt of persecution for righteousness’ sake, it may seem He has withdrawn His refuge and abandoned us to the world. Yet, being in Christ means that what happens to Christ happens to us, and what happens to us happens to Christ. Jesus endured the cross for our sake and bids us take up our cross, which is, in reality, His cross, and follow Him. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Our identity with Christ is complete. Our obedience to God is a natural result of our being in Christ. He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise us and bring us into eternity with Him. Nothing this world can do will separate us from Him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?   (Romans 9:31-35 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to cleansing the Temple, a crowd of people filled with children sang out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV). Some Pharisees standing there told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and stop them from singing out to Him. “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:40 ESV). After driving out the people desecrating His Father’s House, the children continued to sing “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15 ESV), causing the indignation of the chief priests. Those who love God cannot help but sing out in joy. They exult in Him, which is to give glory, rejoice, act triumphantly, and take the greatest pride. He is everything. 

God’s Election of the Saints

To those who are elect exiles (alien immigrants) of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

People will infuse current meanings into translated words from an an ancient or historical text. A word translated from an ancient language into a modern English equivalent may not carry its true meaning to the readers. The word electis such a word.

Peter uses elect, one of the most misunderstood words in the New Testament, to describe the position of the Christian before God. In modern usage, elect means to select someone for a public office through the process of voting, choosing from multiple candidates. None of the New Testament writers who use the word suggest God has a multiple choice, selecting one over another based upon the individual’s qualifications or popularity. If God’s choice is dependent upon anything done by the person, then none would be chosen. Election is not a political word. The placement of the word is important in the understanding of what it means. In the ESV, the translators have placed the word electjust before the word exiles (alien-immigrant). Other translations have the word elect before the phrase “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Peter is describing the position of those chosen by God.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1Pe 1:1-2 ESV)

Elect means to be picked out or chosen according to God’s eternal criteria, through Jesus Christ. When used about Jesus, it means Messiah, as appointed by God to the highest possible office or position in eternity and over the physical universe. “‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:6-7 ESV). In the same way, those who are chosen are preeminent among all because of their position in Christ, not because of who they are or what they might have done.

Jesus calls those who are His, the elect. They have a special place before God and are protected from the eternal consequences of sin by Him. God cuts short the trauma of the end times because of those He has chosen for Himself. “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22 ESV; see Mark 13:20). They are the ones who, when confronted by the beguilement of the world, are not led astray. “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24 ESV; see Mark 13:22). Those who are in the world, who stand firm for God and are not led astray, are gathered together by God when He determines His creation is to come to an end. “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31 ESV, see Mark 13:27). God hears and responds to the righteous prayers of the elect. “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?”(Luke 18:7 ESV).

In the English translations of the Greek, the word elect is also the word chosen. One of the best-known sayings of Jesus is “for many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14 ESV; see also Matthew 20:16). The word chosen is the word elect. Jesus speaks about those who have been summoned by God. Those who refuse to obey the summons are cast away from Him, while those who responsibly and obediently act upon the summons, are chosen by Him. Though the sinful person is required to obey God, the actions of the sinful person in no way carry merit. People were created for relationship with God. Obedience to His commands is a natural action of their being.

Paul often uses the term electreferring to Christians. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33 ESV). Those who are elect are those chosen people who have obeyed the summons of God and not continued in their rebellion against Him. Being chosen is being given those characteristics that God deems valuable in both the temporary world and in eternity. Being chosen is emulating the character and personality of Jesus Christ.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

“They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”(Rev 17:14 ESV

Peter, Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ  (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

John 21:18-22

Three times Peter denied Christ before those who murdered Him. Three times Jesus commissioned Peter to care for His Church. Peter received his marching orders, given a specific directive and mandate to teach and care for those who follow Jesus.

Jesus also hints to Peter what will happen in his future. While Jesus gives general predictions about what some Christians may suffer because of their relationship with Him, Peter receives a strong, pointed indication of how he will die. He feared standing before the authorities, who accused Jesus of blasphemy, desiring to kill Him. Peter ran when confronted by a mob and lied when confronted by a servant girl. Jesus taught His disciples that they would stand before authorities and to not worry about what they would say.

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:17-20 ESV)

Jesus indicated that Peter would die in the same way Jesus had died, by crucifixion. But, Jesus was standing before Peter, resurrected from death, telling him these things. Peter would stand before the authorities and speak to them about his relationship with Christ. He would not deny Christ or lie about that relationship. And he will suffer the same death His Master suffered.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18 ESV). Peter would suffer for righteousness’ sake.

John wrote his gospel after Peter’s death. His next statement is parenthetical. “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God)” (John 21:19 ESV). John lived a long life of witness and persecution, finally being exiled toward the end of the century, to the island of Patmos where he died. His brother, James, was the first martyr of the disciples, murdered by Herod, who also imprisoned Peter. “He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2-3 ESV). Peter was miraculously delivered from prison by angels (Acts 12:6-11). It was not time for him to die. All people will die only when God determines their lives in the world are completed.

Jesus gave Peter the same command here that He had given when He called the disciples. “And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:19 ESV). Jesus expects absolute obedience to His commands from the person called. We are not afforded the luxury of comparing ourselves with others. Nor does Jesus command groups to follow Him. His summons is for the individual. We are called to stand alone before the authorities and give our witness of Jesus. When Peter turned and asked about another disciple, Jesus once again rebuked him. He did not want to go alone but, in the end, was willing. Death is an individual thing. Though large groups die together each dies separately. “When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21 ESV).

There were two parts to Jesus’ answer. First was the will of God. That God has a purpose for each person becomes evident in this statement. That His purpose for one may affect others and does not preclude the demand all obey. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV). Jesus has told His disciples they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38 ESV; see Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23-24, Luke 14:27).

Secondly, Jesus reiterates the command for Peter to follow Him. “You follow me!” (John 21:22). It does not matter what others do or believe. It does not matter what happens to others. They are responsible to God. Each is responsible for their actions, motivations, thoughts and words. If they follow Jesus, good. If they do not follow Jesus, you must. Our following Jesus is not dictated by the circumstances we encounter in the world but by His call and our obedience.

Relief and Grace

Meditations on the Psalms

You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

Those feeling distress look for relief. We do not know the circumstances which inspired the writing of this Psalm. Some suggest David wrote Psalm Four on the tail end of Psalm Three, as he was fleeing his son, Absalom. That the Psalmist is in distress is stated in this opening prayer to God, the only One who offers gracious relief.

Given me reliefmeans to grow large, enlarge or widened, as when the heart is filled with good things. Distress has the opposite allusion, meaning tonarrow, tighten, to find one self in a narrow, indefensible strait or place, by an adversary, foe, enemy or oppressor, whose attack is hard as flint. Gracious means to show favor or pity. Both David and Jesus, as with many Christians throughout history, found themselves in places where they were attacked on every side, hemmed in at a place which is indefensible, by an enemy whose intent and tack are meant to utterly destroy. Who is the enemy? They are the Deceiver, death, the wicked, rebellious nations lead by kings and rulers, those who surround the godly with the evil goals of usurping God.

Many of David’s writings are prophecies of Jesus Christ’s life. The thinking of the heart of this Psalm shows the thinking of the heart of Christ while living as a man among the people of Israel. Any number of Jesus’ situations and experiences are described here. One specific episode comes to mind.

Psalm Four describes many of the occurrences in the story of the death and resuscitation of Lazarus of Bethany, whose sisters were Mary and Martha. Jesus loved this family. He was raised from death but then died again and has been resurrected to eternal life. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5 ESV). When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick He stayed where He was, several days journey away from Bethany. Knowing what was to happen, Jesus directed the attention of His disciples toward God, not toward the illness of the one He loved. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 ESV).

Finally, after two days, Jesus decided to return to Bethany. This frightened the disciples, who knew many people there wanted to murder Him. Jesus then declared Lazarus had died, using the metaphor of falling asleep. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Not understanding Jesus’ words, the disciples question Him about returning for a man who is simply asleep. Jesus revealed why He waited. “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14-15 ESV).

This does not sound like Jesus felt either destress or fear to journey to a place where His enemies would attack Him. Jesus was not afraid to walk into circumstances where His life was threatened, knowing no one could harm Him until God’s purpose and plan were ready for fulfillment. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He did experience distress over death. In the eyes of the witnesses, Jesus, a man larger than life, was enlarged even more by His public actions and public prayer.

It is the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35 ESV). Why did Jesus weep when He stood in front of the tomb of His friend Lazarus? Mary and Martha and others were weeping at the tomb because they would never see their brother and friend again. Jesus wept because of death, knowing the eternal consequences of dying. Jesus sobbed, bursting into tears, because He understood more than anyone what death means and why death happens. He will soon face His own death and feel such stress His sweat will drop like blood. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Jesus felt deeply the effects of sin without sinning.

Jesus prayed. He knew what He would do days before. He knew what was happening and would happen from eternity. Lazarus was dead, but death means nothing to God, who cannot die. God controls death, having made it a natural part of the process of creation. Lazarus died, but there is nothing which can stop God from giving him back life.

Jesus commanded the people to open the tomb. Then He prayed. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42 ESV). He commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb and out he walked. He who had died several days before emerged from the grave, fully alive. Only God can raise the dead. This is God’s grace on full display.

Jesus confronted the enemy, death, an enemy no one but God can conquer. Soon He would confront death again, with His own life, and conquer forever an enemy who claims all, claiming all for Himself. God has answered Jesus’ prayer. God has relieved His distress.

Be Holy

Meditations on the Psalms

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

Jesus prays, speaking intimately with His Father. Jesus is fully human and without sin. God is His measure and standard of righteousness. As the Son of God, Jesus kept all of the laws of God completely, without fault, because He was our sacrifice. He took upon Himself our sin so He might cover us with His righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). When Jesus prays, He knows God will answer.

While Jesus taught in the temple during the Feast of Booths, the Jewish leaders declared Him a menace and threat. They sent officers to arrest Him because they thought He was deceiving the people. Jesus challenged those who accused Him of sin to tell Him the evidence. “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?”(John 8:46 ESV). They had no evidence. He healed a man on the Sabbath, which the Jewish leaders considered breaking the Sabbath law (see John 5). He declared He descended from heaven and was the One who gives life. “So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’” (John 6:41 ESV).Many asserted His sayings difficult and no longer followed Him (see John 6:60-66). But no one presented evidence He that sinned.

God does present the evidence that all people sin and rebel against Him. In the Hebrew Scripture and the Epistles of the New Testament, God commands us to be holy because He is holy. Jesus also declare we are to be perfect because God is perfect.

“For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 ESV).

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV).

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV).

There are none, other than Jesus, who can declare themselves either holy or righteous before God. Holiness in an attribute of God, an eternal, essential characteristic, just as are righteousness and justice. Holiness means set apart for a specific use and function. When God created Man in His image, all people were set apart, or separated from, the rest of creation, to serve God in the tangible way of taking care of the Earth under His authority. Man was given dominion over the Earth.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “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 1:26-28 ESV)

Because of sin, holiness, like righteousness, must be given and placed over us, because there are none who are either righteous or holy and all are facing God’s just wrath. God tells us throughout Scripture the people He created in His image are set apart for Him, for service and intimate relationship with Him. That none want or have an intimate relationship with Him is ample evidence for sin.

A war rages within each person. On one side is the image of God, the natural inclination to know God intimately and to do that for which they are created. Fighting against God, and the image of God within each person, is sin. Each person has, because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve, a sin nature which wars against the image of God. Though the vessel, the body and soul are corrupted by sin, the image of God is not and cannot be corrupted. People are torn apart by sin, which drives them away from God, while conscious of the tug and pull of the image of God driving them toward Him. People are aware of God until they drive out that awareness from their consciousness, refusing to acknowledge the guilt over sin brought on by the image of God in them. No one has the strength or disposition to fight this war. All cave to the sin nature and run away from God, while He constantly and methodically urges them to turn from sin and run toward Him.

He is the God of our righteousness when we abandon ourselves to Him and allow ourselves to be covered with the blood of His Son. Because Jesus is righteous we are declared righteous. We do nothing. He does everything.