Tag Archives: Volition


Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “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.” (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

God gave Man dominion. No other creature has dominion. Only God has absolute dominion because He is the Creator.

Man is a replica of God, created in His image, embedded with specific characteristics and qualities inherently God’s. Every person born has these characteristics. God’s image is not an exact duplication of His characteristics but working facsimiles, limited but true.

Man is created in physical space and time and is given a spiritual nature so that, once the physical ceases to exist, the spiritual will continue to live. God is spiritual and uncreated, living fully in eternity, able to enter His creation but unconstrained by anything created.

Some of the characteristics of God given Man include intelligence, the ability to be consciously aware and rationally understand the truth of creation. Yet, Man’s understanding does not come all at once but grows gradually in knowledge as each person examines and studies both God and nature.

People have a moral compass or standard, which includes intimately and emotionally knowing what is good, righteous and just. Conversely, people are able to differentiate that which is not good, righteous and just. God’s moral standard is interpreted for Man through the emotions. Morality and emotions are implied through God’s declaration of “good” when He finished creating a specific thing. What He creates is not only excellent but pleases Him.

People are also given a will to act upon that which they think and know is morally good. Man, like God, works and builds and makes and is pleased with what is accomplished.

God embeds another defining characteristic of Himself in Man which, to this point in creation, only He owns. He gives Man “dominion” which means to tread down or subjugate, prevail against, reign or rule over. Man is given ownership and responsibility over the Earth and everything on and in it. God has absolute control and ownership. He delegates to Man the power and authority over this piece of creation, not over all creation. There is no other created thing or being we know of from Scripture given dominion.


Volition, or, Our Will

Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

Man is conscious and rational, intellectually aware and able to understand truth. Man has a moral compass, knowing the difference between right and wrong. Combining these pieces of the image of God given with the will gives Man the ability to act in a manner consistent with his function and purpose. Just as God acted upon His determined will so Man is able to put his creative abilities into action and do that which he determines. This is another part of the image of God given Man.

God creates everything with a designed purpose and intellectually precise function. God’s works all have moral excellence and goodness. God acts according to His eternal being which includes perfect intelligence guided by justified and righteous morality.

Through each of the six days of creation, God worked, building a universe specifically designed to show His greatness to Man. We can know only what God has told us about the universe and Man’s place in creation. But, that He created the universe and built the environment of the Earth to sustain and encourage life to prosper, shows willful intent.

God made light. On the Earth, He separated the elements making an environment. He made water, rain, oceans, lakes and rivers. He made vegetation, grasses, trees and plants which needs light and water and an environment to grow. He made the Sun and Moon and determined the days and nights and seasons, showing the progression of time. He made sea creatures and the birds of the air. He made animals. Finally, he made Man.

Man is not an accident of nature.

Giving people a will means they have freedom to act according to the determination of their intelligence and guidance of their moral compass. With the image of God comes the freedom to exercise that image according to the purpose and function of the Great Designer.

Many great people have made deliberate statements about freedom, from Augustine to Peter Marshall. They all talk about doing what is right, not deciding to do that which is wrong. Freedom is not the ability to choose between what is right and what is wrong. Freedom is the predisposition to always choose what is right. We are free to fulfill the purpose and function for which we are designed. Divorcing our wills from our created purpose and function will never give more freedom. For those created by God there is no such thing as more freedom. Our actions are determined by what we think and our understanding of morality.

The Moral-Emotional Self

We need to do a quick review of what the image of God is in Man. God’s image is not physical but spiritual. However, His image contains all of the qualities and characteristics which are God’s which allow Man, all people, to relate intimately with their Creator. This does not mean those created in His image are the same as God in all ways. No one is equal to God because He has no equal. It does mean there are certain characteristics humans have which no other created being, including animals, has. We have a soul which carries the essence of life, the desires and passions, responsibilities and knowledge of self. We are also intellectual, emotional and willful. Unlike the angels, God also gave Man dominion over a part of His creation. Man is unique in all creation. God created us for relationship with Him. This point cannot be emphasized too often.

Those who are poor in spirit use their intellect to admit the reality of sin. They see truly the evidence of the certainty of God and their rebellion against Him. Knowing the moral law of God they admit they have violated that law. Those who mourn recognize the consequences of sin they have accepted as true. This means using the moral emotional part of the image of God given to admit separation from Him in death.

God tells us, in several places, we are to love Him with our whole being. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV] In Luke, Jesus is questioned by a lawyer about which is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” [Luke 10:27 ESV]

In Deuteronomy 6:5 the word “heart” means the center of the person, or the inner person, the conscience and moral being, the inclinations and understanding. “Heart” is the center of all the appetites of man. These appetites are that which drives and controls the man. In Luke the word literally means “heart.” It is the organ which circulates the blood which is the life of the man. But it is not simply the center of the physical person. It is also the center of the spiritual being. It includes all of the meanings of the word in the OT and adds to it “life.” This life is the center of the emotional self.

Moses uses a word for “soul” which defines the person as unique in both the physical and spiritual worlds. This is the part of a person which does not cease to exist even when the physical dies and the spiritual is cast away from the source of life, who is God, and dies for eternity. Yet, the soul of the one redeemed and connected to the source of life, both physical and spiritual, lives and grows in life for eternity. Where the life of the creature is in the blood, the life of the spiritual being is in the soul. It is the soul which connects the physical person with the spiritual, the temporary with the eternal.

“Might” in Deuteronomy is the word “strength” used in Luke. It is a combination of the “heart” and the “soul” which gives the person strength of character, or a lack which shows a weakness of character. This might and strength is great and abundant and propels the person through life with vigor and determination.

Jesus adds a concept in Luke not found in Deuteronomy. He adds we are to love God with our entire “mind.” We are to think about, study and understand, grow in wisdom and knowledge in our determination to intimately know and love God.

Love becomes an activity of the whole and complete person. It is an activity of the moral-emotional self, coupled with the mind, propelled forward by strength of character fed by the very life of God. We think of love as only an emotion. Love is an emotion but much more. It is a determination of the mind activated by the will of the person. Love is a reflection of the physically and spiritually natural adherence to the moral law of God known intimately by the soul of the person.

But how is the moral law of God known, or interpreted, by those created in the Image of God? It is Man’s emotions which interpret the innate moral laws of God. When the law is violated people feel the emotion of fear or anger. When the law is upheld people feel the emotion of peace and joy. However, because of the corruption of sin the emotions cease interpreting the moral law of God and begin focusing on the expectations and laws of self. When my expectations are not met I am angry or hateful or fearful. When my expectations are met I am happy and content.

Only those who have been changed, redeemed, re-created, born-again, who have the Spirit as a guarantee of eternal life, will have the tools needed to begin interpreting God’s moral law correctly through their emotions. Using those tools takes a lifetime of discipline. It takes submission to the training of the Spirit to learn to know God’s moral law truly.

We are emotional creatures, made so by God. Since we are created in His image, then God also is emotional and is the pattern for perfect emotions. If we are to love God with our complete being, and cannot because of the separation caused by sin, then our lack of love does not reflect poorly upon Him but shows the evidence of our total depravity, our complete inability to do anything because of sin to please God.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [Romans 7:13-20 ESV]

Jesus tells us plainly the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). He also tells us over and over the ten commandments cannot be ignored. In Matthew 5:21 to 48 He says “You have heard it said … but I tell you” five times, implying throughout the ten commandments are hard and fast, integral to the moral code which is the radiance of God.

How many people do you know who can articulate the moral code? Can you state in words all can understand the moral laws which govern your life and motivate your actions? If you cannot, do you want to put in words the foundational principles which allow you to relate to those around you and to God? 

Don’t jump ahead of the question. This questions difficulty comes in the common understanding which defines the term “moral code” or “morality.” Even for those able to condense their thoughts into reliable, understandable terms the evidence of their lives will challenge their declarations. Most people will say they know the difference between right and wrong then give an answer which shows they do not know the difference, contradicting their words with their lifestyle. They will declare with absolute authority something which is a violation of the known will of God is not part of the moral law and therefore has no consequences to themselves or anyone else. Even Christians will do this.

A moral code is not a personal value. What you value relates to your personal moral code and certainly provides the evidence needed to evaluate that code, but it is not the moral code of God. As I grow up I am exposed to a variety of experiences which shape my personality. If I live in a place of extreme poverty or extreme affluence I will not recognize either the poverty or affluence until I am old enough to see the difference. Yet, there will be certain things I enjoy which make me emotionally happy, and others which I will hate and emotionally despise. I will run toward that which makes me happy and flee from that which I despise. As I grow older I will seek out that which gives me comfort and security and pleasure. If I am able, I will work my life in such a way to lessen the effects of that which I despise and increase that which I enjoy.

You will see and meet people who seem to enjoy what you despise. My tendency is to hold these people up to my personal standard and judge them according to what I think is worthwhile. Here you need brutal honesty not with others but with yourself. Do you judge others according to your personal values?  I am not asking how you treat them.  I am asking what you think of them. What is, or was, your attitude toward them? I am not asking what you think of them now. I want you to honestly remember and examine yourself and what you have ever thought of them. Have you ever been angry with someone because they did not value what you value? My own thoughts and memories condemn me outright.

I am not asking you to judge yourself or to beat yourself up. That is not the intent. I simply want you to be honest. Have you ever? If your answer is “no” stop reading. Go do something else. If you answered “yes” then hold that thought and remember it.

A moral code is not a societal norm. Again, the norm, or those behaviors reflected and known by the individuals of the society, provide the evidence of a common understanding of a moral code. A moral code is not a worldview. A worldview may be articulated in conjunction with a moral code and influence greatly how one perceives the world and how one would like the world, nations and societies, and individuals to operate. But, a worldview is not a moral code. 

A code is a standard, a ruler used to measure whether a person is living, thinking, acting, expecting, proscribing and demanding, very specific attitudes and actions. It is the measure used to judge the evidence of whether the individuals life, both outwardly and inwardly, meets that which is demanded. A code must always be established by one other than the individual or the society or nation. No one can determine their own moral code with any reasonable expectation of it remaining stable.

Morality is the distinction between right and wrong. We do not determine the difference between right and wrong. Yet, there is something in each of us which knows the difference. There is also something within each of us which will subdue and change our understanding, flipping right to wrong, and wrong to right. Thus, a moral code is the standard used to measure the individual’s actions and attitudes in order to determine the righteousness of the individual. Is God’s moral code doable for us? If not, what did it cost Him to make it doable for us? 

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. [Romans 7:21-25 ESV]

No one may have an intimate relationship with God without adhering to His moral code. His moral code is absolute with no wiggle room for compromise. As fallen people whose nature is bent away from God it is impossible for us, in our own power and by our own design, to live according to the moral standards of God. We have to be like Him to do this. We were created like Him but are corrupted by sin. He must do something to change us.

He has.