Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Preserved for God's pleasure

If you read my previous post, you might mistakenly come to think that God cherishes and preserves us because of something inherently worthwhile within us. Perhaps you might think, “God longs for me so much; he needs me to be happy and whole.” There is a degree of truth to that. But the Bible will not allow us to think that salvation has to do with God’s delight in man. Rather, all of redemption happens because of God’s delight in himself. All of history unfolds from God and for God. His people were created, are being redeemed, and will be glorified for the sake of his own delight—just as others will be passed over and left in just judgment and perdition for the same reasons (though we cannot probe too deeply into such mysteries or wag a finger at God in blame).

The first description of mankind, indeed, the goal and purpose for his being, is to be the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). The human race was created for the purpose of reflecting God back to himself, like a mirror. The image is not God himself; but in the image God sees himself. [1] Sadly, that image was marred and corrupted by Adam’s willing fall into sin.

We later learn of the true Man, the perfectly obedient human who shines with beauty everywhere that fallen Adam is dull: Jesus the Son. He is spoken of as the consummate image of God in all his glory.

The God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor. 4:4)

He is the image of the invisible God. (Col. 1:15)

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Heb. 1:3)

How is it that Jesus bears his Father’s own image? It is because in Jesus, as the image (Greek eikon), God himself dwells and is manifested. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ]” (Col. 1:19 NIV). God sees his own reflection and nature stamped on his Son and rejoices—for there is no one more glorious or beautiful or admirable than God himself. Therefore, God cannot fail to take great pleasure in his beloved, image-bearing Son.

But the good news is that this image doesn’t dwell in some esoteric, disembodied, Gnostic Christ; it dwells in the Word made flesh. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). And in our union with Christ, we as humans are also definitively found in this bodily Eikon. “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him” (vv. 9-10). [2]

The great news of our sanctification and recreation is that in Christ, we come to see and know God truly. Thus we are transformed into his image from one degree of glory to another. “You . . . have put on the new self [literally “new man,” that is, Jesus], which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10; cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:24). God has reclaimed us for himself so that we will reflect his glory back to him (Rom. 8:29). And that we shall do (1 John 3:2)!

Because we’re saved to bear God’s image, our progress in holiness in time, as well as our final sinless glorification in eternity, are absolutely assured. As God’s delight is, above all things, in himself, he cannot but find the consummate of all joys in his own image and nature. The letter to the Ephesians tells that we are blessed in Christ “according to the good pleasure of his [God’s] will” (1:5, 9) and that all might result in “the praise of his glory.” The chief aim in all God’s saving works is his own pleasure and joy—and there can be none greater than pleasure in himself. Because our glorification involves our complete re-imaging of God, it is as certain as God’s gladness in his own image. We have a sure hope! “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which as a great reward” (Heb. 10:35).


[1] For a concise but helpful explanation of this, check out chapter 7 of John Frame’s introduction to systematic theology, Salvation Belongs to the Lord (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2006).

[2] In case you needed another reason to defend the true deity and true humanity of Jesus, here surely is one.

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

I enjoyed reading this, Andrew.

Yes, God delights in himself, and he also delights in all the works of his hands, both through creation and the new creation in Christ.

It is amazing that we humans are by faith in Jesus taken up into the eternal communion and even union (gospel of John) of the Triune God, while we ever remain humans.

Also I think you'd agree that all of God's acts of wrath, judgment, etc., come not only from his holiness, but also his love. God being love, all that God does is done in love, though a terrible love manifested against those who violate his good will. A love that burns in more ways than one.

Words, I feel are just pointers to the reality that is too big for any of them.