(I preached this sermon Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 at Christ Center Alliance Church (Chinese) in Miami Florida)
Sunday, April 16, 2017
(I preached this sermon Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 at Christ Center Alliance Church (Chinese) in Miami Florida)
Breakpoint Radio Co-host John Stonestreet wrote an article entitled, "Questioning Jesus' Existence." He writes, "When you're CNN, you publish annual articles suggesting Jesus never existed. It's what you do" He continues, "Every year around March and December, this and other news outlets exhume the long-dead thesis that the New Testament is based on a mythological figure, not a Man who really lived, died, and rose from the grave two thousand years ago."
He goes on to report that in March of this year CNN republished an article by John Blake entitled, "Decoding Jesus: Separating Man from Myth." Blake writes, "On Easter Sunday millions of Christians worldwide mark the resurrection of Jesus. Though Christians clash on many issues, almost all agree that he existed." He continues, "But there's another view of Jesus that's been emerging, one that strikes at the heart of the Easter story. A number of authors and scholars say Jesus never existed."
In December of 2014 The Washington Post published an article by Raphael Lataster entitled, "Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just does not add up" He concludes his article, writing, "In sum, there are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus' historical existence--if not think it outright improbable."
I could go on and on citing others who attack the credibility of the Biblical account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. And perhaps there is nothing that gains the attention of the skeptics more frequently than the New Testament claim that Jesus Christ died, was buried in a tomb and three days later rose from the dead.
The Apostle Paul faced a similar controversy. As we read in I Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church was compelled to address those who denied the resurrection of the dead and the implication of that denial with regard to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we look at this text this morning, note with me first of all, the evidence for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In verse one and two, Paul reminds the church in Corinth of the gospel he had previously preached to them. He writes, "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain."
He continues in verses 3 - 5 writing, "For I delivered to you as of first importance..." Did you get that? "...of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." (ESV)
Paul then continues to identify others, including himself, who had seen or encountered the risen and living Christ. Verses 6 - 9, "Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." (ESV)
Elsewhere other Biblical writers emphasized the authenticity of Jesus' resurrection. The physician Luke in Acts 1:3 says that Jesus, "...presented himself alive to them", that is the apostles, "...after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God." (ESV)
Dr. Clark Pinnock, one of my theology professors in seminary, commenting on this verse writes,
"The certainty of the apostles was founded on their experiences in the factual realm. To them Jesus showed himself alive by 'many infallible proofs' (Acts 1:3). The term Luke uses is tekmerion, which indicates a demonstrable proof.
The disciples came to their Easter faith through inescapable evidence available to us through their written testimony."
He continues, "It is important for us, in an age that calls for evidence to sustain the Christian claim, to answer the call with appropriate historical considerations. For the resurrection stands within the realm of historical factuality, and constitutes the excellent motivation for a person to trust Christ as Savior."
Despite the claims and protests of the skeptics, the Scriptures place an emphasis on the historicity of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this truth that we stand on when we proclaim the gospel to a world in need of a Savior!
Our faith is not based on fiction nor tradition. It is not based on theory, nor the conjecture, speculation, opinions or other notions conceived in the mind or heart of men. It is grounded in historical fact and authenticated by the testimony of eyewitnesses. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, lived on this earth, died for our sins, was buried in a tomb and rose from the dead three days later.
As Alexander MaClaren writes of this passage,
"Now the first thing that strikes me here is that, whatever else the system unfolded in the New Testament is, it is to begin with a simple record of historical fact." He continues, "It becomes a philosophy, it becomes a religious system; it is a revelation of God; it is an unveiling of man; it is a body of ethical precepts. It is morals and philosophy all in one; but it is first of all a story of something that took place in the world."
Jesus Christ was not the figment of someone's imagination. He was not the product of someone's dream world or ecstatic vision. He was God incarnate, who lived in our space and time dimension over two thousand years ago in the land of Palestine.
As the Apostle John testified, the Word "..became flesh and dwelt among us" John 1:14 And in his first letter, writing of Jesus Christ he said, (SLIDE) "... which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--the life was made manifest, [public] and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us--" 1 John 1:1-2 (ESV)
And the Apostle Paul goes out of his way to emphasize the authenticity of the historical facts that shape the gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And of course, this was consistent with Jesus' own words. On several occasions He spoke to His disciples of His impending death and resurrection. His death did not catch him by surprise. He knew His assignment from the beginning, telling his disciples on one occasion, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 (ESV)
And Luke records these words of Jesus, in his gospel, chapter 9, verse 22, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (ESV)
So first of all we have the historical evidence that Jesus Christ did live, die and was raised from the dead. Note secondly, the centrality of the resurrection to the gospel message.
Having made a compelling case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul continues by drawing very important deductions or inferences with regard to our faith. verses, 12-13,
"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised." (ESV)
He argues that if there is no resurrection, Christ could not have been raised from the dead. He then he draws this logical and faith shattering conclusion. Follow carefully the logic of his reasoning in verses 14 - 19,
"And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is vain." He continues verse 15,
"We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are nor raised."
Then he makes this deduction, verses 16 - 19, "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (ESV)
Friends, our faith as followers of Jesus Christ rests on the testimony of those who over two thousand years ago witnessed a Savior who lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death for our sin, and by the shedding of his blood on that cross of shame paid the penalty of our sin, broke the power of sin, and then conquered death when He was resurrected from the grave three days later. But all of that would have been to no avail, writes Paul, if there is no resurrection and if Jesus Christ had not been raised from the dead.
Back in April of 1990, the cover of the news magazine, U.S. News and World Report was entitled, "The Last Days of Jesus" In his concluding section on the resurrection of Jesus Christ Jeffrey Sheler wrote,
"It is Christianity's most irreducible tenet: On the third day, Jesus arose from the dead." He continues, "From the very beginning Christians have proclaimed the bodily resurrection as a validation of all that Jesus taught and all that they believe. It is the foundation upon which all else rests."
G. Campbell Morgan writes, "If Christ hath not been raised then the Cross of Calvary was nothing more than the tragic ending of a mistaken, if noble life. All the values of evangelical Christianity are dependent on interpretations of the person and mission of Jesus resulting from acceptation of the central fact of His resurrection."
Deny the cross and you have no Savior. Deny the resurrection and you have a dead man who claimed to be a savior.
We have noted the historicity of the resurrection and what follows logically, the centrality of the resurrection to the gospel message and our faith. Notice thirdly that the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the only hope of eternal life for those who believe. Verses 20 - 23 of our text. "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each to his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ." (ESV)
There are two relationships described here. One comes by physical birth; one comes by spiritual birth. All of us by human birth are related to Adam the first man. And by virtue of that relationship share in a common end, death, both physically and spiritually.
Adam was created a perfect human being. Morally, he was without sin. Physically he was without a flaw. Socially, once he awoke with Eve at his side, he was complete and content. In fact he had a perfect marriage.
Spiritually he walked in fellowship and harmony with God. He lived in a perfect environment, free of disease and conflict or evil of any kind. But he chose to step beyond the limits God had placed upon him. And his rebellion and disobedience brought spiritual and physical death to his experience. And to ours for we share in the result of his rebellion. Verses 21 and 22, "...by a man came death...""For as in Adam all die..." Our sinful nature is evidence of our relationship with Adam.
But Paul speaks of another relationship, again verse 22, "...in Christ shall all be made alive." We did not enter into our relationship with Adam by choice. We entered into it by virtue of our physical birth. But the relationship Paul speaks of,
whereby we enter into life, is established by faith in a risen Savior.
Remember Paul's words in verse 1 and 2, "...I would remind you... of the gospel I preached to you, which you received... and by which you are being saved..." Then in verse three he goes on to declare, "...that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day..."
As sinners, we all must pay the penalty for our sin. "In Adam all die..." But Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin on the cross of Calvary and was raised from the dead.
Before Christopher Columbus ventured west and discovered the new world, Spanish coins had the stamped outline of the Strait of Gibraltar imprinted on them. Under that imprint were the words, "No more beyond." The Strait of Gibraltar lies at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea, the western end of the known world at that time. After his return and the discovery of the new world to the west, the wording was changed to read "More beyond."
Jesus Christ went through the narrow gate of death on our behalf. Many thought he would never return. But He did. He paid the penalty for our sin. He broke the power of sin. He triumphed over death in His resurrection from the grave.
Therefore He can guarantee the same for those who put their trust in Him. There is life beyond the grave!
Verses 24-27a "Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God put all things in subjection under his feet."
And later in this chapter, Paul writes these words of triumph, verses 54b-57, "'Death is swallowed up in victory.' O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (ESV)
Remember verse 23, "Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ."? The question I ask this morning is, 'Do you belong to Christ?" If you know Jesus Christ this morning, take comfort in these words. But, if you are here this morning, and have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, I urge you to respond to the evidence you have heard this morning from the Word of God. The evidence points to but one conclusion: Jesus Christ is alive! And if He is alive, it would be foolish to ignore His claim on your life.
We are told that the upper peninsula of Michigan used to be an almost unbroken wilderness. Back then two men set out on foot to go to a new mining camp. After traveling quite a distance a snowstorm obliterated their path. A little later they were surprised to notice they were not alone. They saw the footprints of at least two other men. This reassured them that they were on the right path and they hurried on. Suddenly, an Indian appeared, pointed to the tracks in the snow, and in broken English said, "White man lost --go round and round." You see, the two men had been treading on what is called "the death track" walking round and round and round in a life threatening blizzard, but going nowhere.
Are you on the death track this morning? Or is your ultimate victory over death secure in Christ in whom you have placed your trust for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life. His resurrection from the grave is the only thing that guarantees that hope. He alone can offer you resurrection life.
© James P McGarvey, All Rights Reserved
Thursday, February 2, 2017
(I gave this message on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at Pines Baptist Church in Pembroke Pines, January 22, 2017. You can listen to this message online HERE under the title "The Value of Life" and view the PowerPoint slides Here.)
Let me say at the outset of this message that I am aware that in any audience I speak to, there will be those whose lives have been touched by abortion in some way. Therefore I know that dealing with this subject could be difficult, even painful for some here this morning.
However, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to address this subject from the authority of Scripture. But, we do so in the context of two very important Biblical truths. Perhaps you remember this illustration I shared with you four years ago. There are two things a train must have to safely reach its destination. Two tracks, two tracks running parallel to each other all the way to its destination. A train will go nowhere without riding on both tracks, at the same time, all the way to the end of the rail line. In the same way, we must communicate what God says about abortion in the context of God's grace and God's truth.
You see, theologically grace and truth always go together. In fact, they are theologically inseparable. They are like the two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other.
And here's why this is important. As I've shared with you before, Pastor Randy Alcorn has written, "Grace without truth deceives people. Truth without grace, crushes people." You see, we will never understand God's grace apart from God's truth. But God's truth will always lead us to God's grace.
So as we begin this morning let me impress this upon you. If your life has been touched by an abortion, while you cannot escape the truth about abortion nor some of its consequences, please know that there is forgiveness, there is healing and restoration in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a way to resolve the guilt, shame and hurt that abortion will bring to the human experience. And I want you to know that you are in the right place to hear that Good News. If your life has been touched by abortion in any way, you are in a safe place in this church.
Today, January 22, 2017 should be a day of national mourning, for it is the 44th anniversary of two landmark decisions of the United States Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. These two rulings of the court legalized the deliberate, premeditated killing of unborn children at anytime during all nine months of pregnancy right up to the moment of natural child birth for virtually any reason. In other words, the Supreme Court gave women the right to "choose" whether to keep or kill their unborn child. Therefore a "women's right to choose" or "reproductive rights" have become the code words used by the proponents of abortion to frame the debate, while those who deny the validity of the Court's decision and advocate for the life of the unborn, are referred to as "prolife."
Is God pro-life? That is the question that should concern those on either side of the abortion debate. The answer to that question depends on who you ask.
On the website "EvilBible.com" which describes itself as, "Fighting Immorality In Religion" you will find an article entitled "God is not Pro-Life" subtitled, "The Biblical God is NOT pro-life, he advocates child murder, infanticide, child abuse and abortion." That conclusion, I might add, comes from very questionable hermeneutics and interpretation of Scripture, leading to an entirely false characterization of the God revealed in the Bible.
Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider, taking the lives of 915 children every day, over 300,000 per year. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington and the Religious Coalition For Reproductive Choice, sponsored an event to "bless" Planned Parenthood's newest clinic in Washington D.C. The event was organized by a husband-wife pastoral team from a local Baptist church.
It is reported that before the opening ceremony the religious leaders met in a prayer circle, and were called upon by one of the leaders to "make it [the clinic] whole and holy." Pastor Stephen Broden reports, that these religious leaders of several different faiths "...blessed Planned Parenthood and called it a 'sacred work.'" (Black Community News, 01-19-17)
About ten years ago, Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President of the Episcopal Divinity School in New England, in a sermon given in Birmingham Alabama said, “When a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight – only blessing.”
You see, there are professing Christians who justify a mother's right to abort her child. Abortion is now legal because the Supreme Court has ruled that a preborn baby is not a person, and therefore lies outside of the protection of the U. S. Constitution. The Court was willing to set aside the opinion of our Founding fathers who wrote in the Declaration of Independence "...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
The authors of the Declaration evidently looked to the Scriptures in determining the value of human life. And so must we, acknowledging both the Biblical creation account of man, and in particular the declaration that man was created in the image of God. It is the failure to acknowledge this truth that has allowed the government and our courts to sanctioned the killing of 60 million unborn children since 1973 and perhaps has even contributed to the church remaining largely silent and ambivalent to the plight of the most innocent and defenseless among us, our unborn children.
What value does God place on human life? To answer that question, we must first answer another question. "Who is man?" So today we focus on Biblical truth that man was created in the Image of God.
The Christian response to abortion depends on knowing who man is. If we fail to understand this we will never be able to determine what value to place upon the life of the unborn. Understanding that man was created in the image and likeness of God is at the very core of why we hold to the sanctity of human life in or out of the womb.
The very fist incident of "shedding innocent blood", which is the most accurate Biblical terminology for abortion, took place very early in human history, when Eve's firstborn son, Cain, took the life of his own brother Abel. The first human being ever born on earth murdered the first sibling ever born on earth, his younger brother!
When God confronted Cain, He asked, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground." (Genesis 4:10 ESV) You see, the shed blood of Abel had a voice, the Scriptures says that cried out to God. What is the significance of innocent blood crying out to God?
As I shared with you two years ago, it is God's way of expressing both his displeasure with the shedding of innocent blood and implies that He is bound to respond to the taking of innocent human life in a manner consistent with the value He has placed upon human life having created man in His image and likeness.
This is stated just a few chapters later. In the opening verses of Genesis chapter nine, we have God giving Noah instructions as civilization makes a new beginning after the flood. Notice verses five and six, "And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of a man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:5-6 ESV)
Notice that God formally announces His demand for an accounting for the shedding of innocent blood. If a man takes another man's life, God said, "I will require a reckoning." In other words, God saw the need to restrain evil behavior therefore he makes provision for the protector of human life through capital punishment.
Notice the reason God demands justice for the shedding of innocent blood. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." Back to Genesis one. The protection of innocent human life all stems from the fact, that human life bears the image of its Creator, and when we unjustly extinguish that life, it constitutes a personal affront to a Holy and Righteous God.
At this point it is well to remember as I shared with you three years ago, there are ultimately only two prevailing world views from which we determine what value we place on human life. The Biblical worldview is rooted in the creation account,
"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 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."
Genesis 1:26-27 (ESV) "...then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2.7 (ESV)
Fast forward to the apostle Paul who makes creation foundational to a Biblical worldview. In Romans chapter one, he describes the process whereby man has suppressed the truth that God graciously reveals to him through his conscience the created world. Verse eighteen,
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth."
What truth does man suppress? "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)
God has revealed Himself to man through his creation, natural revelation. As Griffith Thomas has written, "There is thus no valid reason for ignorance of God, for that which is a matter of knowledge concerning God has been manifested in them by conscience and through nature." (St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, pg. 68) Paul continues,
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…" (Romans 1:21-24 ESV)
Then Paul identifies the source of the two competing worldviews, in verse twenty-five, "...they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Romans 1:25 ESV)
Having suppressed the truth about God revealed to them in their conscience and in God's creation, man turns to idolatry, and inevitably the worship of self. There are ultimately only two worldviews. One denies there is a Creator and worships the creation. The other acknowledges the Creator and worships the Creator.
You see, modern evolutionary theory, that governs the thinking of 21st century America, denies the existence of the Creator and therefore postulates that man was the product of a meaningless, random evolutionary process over billions of years, the result of a cosmic accident. And this is the inevitable result. Man is seen as just another animal who has risen to the top of the evolutionary chain having succeeded in the survival of the fittest. Having denied the existence of his Creator man is therefore believed to be the product of mere chance, time and matter with no inherent intrinsic value by virtue of his origin.
He is therefore accountable to no one but himself. In essence, the result is the self-deification of man. Having denied the existence of God, man becomes his own god and answers to no one but himself. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, defined this worldview over thirty years ago in his book, A Christian Manifesto writing,
"The term humanism...means Man beginning from himself, with no knowledge except what he himself can discover and no standard outside of himself. In this view Man is the measure of all things, as the Enlightenment expressed it." (page 24)
And this worldview, rooted in secular humanism and moral relativism, brings a devastating consequence with regard to the value it places on human life in or out of the womb, at the beginning of life or at the end. Dr. Schaeffer explains,
"Those who hold the material-energy, chance concept of reality...not only do not know the truth of the final reality, God, they do not know who Man is...They have reduced Man to even less than his natural finiteness by seeing him only as a complex arrangement of molecules, made complex by blind chance. Instead of seeing him as something great who is significant even in his sinning, they see Man in his essence only as an intrinsically competitive animal, that has no other basic operating principle than natural selection brought about by the strongest, the fittest, ending on top. And they see Man as acting in this way both individually and collectively as society." (Christian Manifesto, pages 25-26)
This worldview explains how seven men on the Supreme Court could deny the intrinsic value of preborn human life for political or other self-serving reasons disregarding the transcendent truth acknowledged by the Founding Fathers when they declared, that every person has an unalienable right to life given to them not by the Supreme Court, not by Congress, not the Federal government, not the State of Florida, but by their Creator! This worldview has had enormous impact on our culture and society with regard to abortion.
Pastor John Ensor in his book Innocent Blood writes,
"The times and the context determine what must be emphasized in the gospel. Our times are marked by the blood guilt of abortion. It is the hallmark of our relativism and subjectivism. We define our own truth. We define our own morality. We define our own sexuality. We re-define personhood, marriage and God himself in order to make things match up to our personal liking. Abortion is central to this worldview. It is the practical glue that holds it together. You cannot 'have sex' like you 'have a hamburger' without some means of washing away the immediate consequences. Self-centered men especially covet legal abortion. Self-centered women see it as the very touchstone of their freedom and dignity. We even redefine the truth about abortion itself when the stark reality is that it is child-killing. It is child-sacrifice--we kill one thing in order to get or keep something we want more. By sticking exclusively to the medical term 'abortion' we sanitize these uncooperative facts to meet our needs and to keep guilt at bay."
But, the Scriptures not only identify God as the creator of humanity but insist man is created in God's image and likeness. That cannot be said about anything else He created! That in itself sets mankind apart from the rest of the created world. As Mike Leake as written,
"...the triune God created man in His image, and after His likeness. We are the only part of creation that has His stamp on us. Animals, birds, livestock and all the creatures that crawl upon the ground are not made in His image. No trees, mountains, stars, or oceans are made after His likeness. In a world without sin humanity accurately reflected the beauty of God." (Sermon: Created in God's Image - Genesis- Colossians)
And after creating Adam and Eve, in his image and likeness God then gave them dominion over the rest of creation,
"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 1:27-28 ESV)
Theologian Louis Berkhof, man "...is distinguished from all other creatures and stands supreme as the head and crown of the entire creation." (Systematic Theology - L Berkhof, III. Man as the Image of God" page 205)
Adam and Eve were to act as God's vice-regents over the created world because they were made in the image of the God who created that world. T. Desmond Alexander writes,
"Traditionally the image has been seen as the capacities that set man apart from the other animals--ways in which humans resemble God, such as in the characteristics of reason, morality, language, a capacity for relationships governed by love and commitment, and creativity in all forms of art. All these insights can be put together by observing that the resemblances (man is like God in a series of ways) allow mankind to represent God in ruling, and to establish worthy relationships with God, with one another, and with the rest of the creation." (ESV Study Bible - Genesis, page 51 - T. Desmond Alexander)
As we explore more closely what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God, it is helpful to note as Berkhof points out, the words "image" and "likeness" are used synonymously. In other words, they're interchangeable. (Systematic Theology - L Berkhof III. Man as the Image of God" page 203)
Gordon Clark points out that while the image consists of things like rationality and righteousness, knowledge or holiness, he cautions us against dividing the single or "unitary image" as he calls it, into parts, pointing out that "the image is man." (Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics, pg. 312 "Image of God" - Gordon H. Clark)
That being said, it is helpful to identify more closely some of the various capacities or characteristics or resemblances that are included when we refer to concept of man in the image of God. Along that line, pediatrician, Dr. John Rendle-Short, M.D. in his book, Man: The Image of God refers to some of the attributes that God shares with man. Intelligence or rationality. Man can think. He can reason. He can understand. Not only is he a rational being, he can think in the abstract. For example, he can compute complex mathematical, chemical and engineering formulas.
You realize that man could not know God if he lacked the capacity to think and reason and understand and process truth and knowledge. Paul wrote,
"...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justifies, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." (Romans 10:9-10 ESV)
Griffith Thomas explains, "The term 'heart' in Scripture always means the centre of the moral being, and invariably includes the three elements of intellect, feeling, and will. We never find in the Bible that contrast between 'head' and 'heart,' between 'intellect' and 'emotion' ...Trust always includes the intellect and the confidence of the heart. Saving faith dominates the entire being, mind, feelings, and will, and as a consequence, this faith will express itself in confession." (St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, page 278)
It's for a good reason that Ravi Zacharias who is both a Christian apologist and evangelist, has a radio broadcast called "Let My People Think." The truth of the Gospel is processed through the mind. It is through the mind and intellect of man that a person can respond to the claims of the gospel, understanding that his sin separates him from a Holy God. And as the Holy Spirit draws him to Himself and opens his eyes to acknowledge that Jesus Christ, God's Son died a substitutionary death on the cross, paying the penalty for his sin, he then can call upon the Lord in repentance and faith and believe unto salvation.
Gordon Clark, "Reason makes possible both sin and fellowship with God. Sin has caused a malfunctioning of man's mind, but redemption will renew men in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, so that in heaven we shall no longer make mistakes even in arithmetic." (Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics, page 313 "Image of God" - Gordon H. Clark)
You cannot live the Christian life without rational thought and reason. Paul admonishes us to "...be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God what is good acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:3 ESV)
Closely related to man's intelligence is his capacity for language. Humans can communicate because they are rational beings. My dog Maggie can bark, whine, and growl, but I have yet to hear her utter a single word, no less a complete sentence. We communicate with each other and have been created with the ability to communicate with God.
Consider the world God has created. We marvel at the complexity of the human body. We cannot comprehend the vast universe God set in motion at creation and continues to sustain moment by moment, day after day, year after year. The sun rises in the morning and sets at dusk with exact precision. The sun gives life and the rains sustain our crops. In a similar way, man resembles God in his creativity. Man's intelligence allows him to create sophisticated products, sending a man to the moon and back, and speak instantly around the world on a cell phone or the internet. The marvels of modern medicine...I could go on and on. Man possesses creative abilities because he is created in God's image and likeness.
When I lived in Japan as a boy, I had a dog named Frisky. He was an outdoor dog as were all dogs in Japan. I did not wake up one morning and find that Frisky had built himself a dog house! No, I built the dog house!
Man shares God's capacity to love. Imperfect as man is, he is a social creature living in relationships. He can live in fellowship and community with others. He has the ability to love and be loved; to care and nurture his young; to live in committed life long relationships not only with a spouse but with His Creator through faith in Jesus Christ. This is because He is created in the image of his God!
Man shares a moral likeness to God. He has a moral conscience, the ability to tell right from wrong. A H. Strong writes, " Since holiness is the fundamental attribute of God, this must of necessity be the chief attribute of his image in the moral beings who he creates." (Systematic Theology, Augustus H. Strong, pages 516-517 I Essentials of Man's Original State.)
This holiness allowed Adam and Eve lived in perfect fellowship with God before the Fall and though marred by sin after the Fall has remained a part of the image of God in man. Again Dr. Berkhof, "...man has a rational and moral nature, which he did not lose by sin and which he could not lose without ceasing to be man. This part of the image of God has indeed been vitiated [spoiled] by sin, but still remains in man even after his fall into sin." (Systematic Theology page 204)
Man created in the image of God has freedom, freedom to make choices. As Gordon Clark points out, though sin has caused the image to "malfunction" it has not eradicated it so it can be restored. And the Good news is that the Gospel provides a remedy for the image marred by sin. To the Romans Paul writes, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:29 ESV)
Paul reminds the believer that he has, "...put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (Colossians 3:10 ESV) And since man is an eternal being unlike the rest of the animal world, he will live forever. Those who believe in Christ will one day live in perfect fellowship with God for eternity. While those who choose to reject Christ and go their own way an eternity separated from God.
"What value does God place on human life?" was the question we began with. Against the backdrop of what we have seen this morning perhaps, one the Bible's most quoted verses helps to answer that question. "For God so loved the world" (human beings created in his image) "that he gave his only Son," (to die a substitutionary death on the cross) "that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:16 ESV)
A few chapters later Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 ESV) The death of Jesus Christ is the solution to the sin of abortion. And the love Christ demonstrated by his atoning death on the cross to save us from our sin is the love we are to demonstrate in rescuing the unborn sentenced to death. Abortion ends the life of an unborn human being made in the image and likeness of God.
12,095 unborn children lost their lives to abortion in Broward County in 2016. Again Pastor John Ensor, "The day we stop nurturing respect for human life is the day we begin diminishing the value of human life. The day we stop reminding ourselves of the preeminent value of human life is the day we begin submitting to the priorities of this sinful world. Where we are not fighting for life, we are making peace with death. Where we are not pained by the death of the innocent, we are growing hard-hearted to the holy will of God. Feel the pain and prepare for the fight." (Innocent Blood, page 53)
May God help us.
© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved