Saturday, January 1, 2011

Adam, Son of God

The third role alluded to in the title Son of God is that of Adam himself, the original and prototypical human. The direct identification of Adam as God's son is most explicitly pointed out in Luke's genealogy of Jesus, who is ". . . the son of Adam, [who is] the son of God" (Luke 3:37). How is Adam the son of God? And what does it mean for Jesus, the Son with a capital "s"?

The very first words about Adam (and Eve, in fact)--that is, Man--give us the answer. "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule . . . .' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:26, 27). This is repeated nearly verbatim in Genesis 5:1-2: "When God created man [Hebrew adam], he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them 'man' [adam]." But then listen to what immediately follows concerning their son Seth: "When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth" (v. 3).

Being one's son therefore means bearing the image or likeness of the father. This is not in a mere genetic or phenotypic sense. In Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible, the "image" is what embodies or reflects the personal-spiritual-relational attributes of the father, ruler, or god.* Like God, man was created as vice-regent or steward of the cosmos, who would exercise just and righteous dominion over all things and so live under God's blessing and pass it along to all things (Gen. 1:26-28; 5:2; 9:1-7; cf. Abraham in 12:2-3). In Adam's life and actions--and through all his offspring--all the world would see God in his beauty and worth. We humans were meant to be God-bearers to one another.** But in Adam's transgression we all fell from this glorious role. Adam failed to pass on the wholeness of God's image to his son, but rather diluted it with his own (5:3). And through him, as both the father of mankind as well as our representative head before God, we all inherited his corrupted nature, and the image of God in us is now twisted and dimmed (Rom 5:15-21; 1 Cor. 15:49; Eph. 2:3). "All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).

But when Jesus the Son of God steps on the scene, all of that is reversed! The New Adam is here, God's true Son (1 Cor. 15:45)! Paul says that "Christ . . . is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4) and that "the Son he [God] loves . . . is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Col. 1:13, 15). Note the very Adamic--that is, human--description of Jesus. He is God's image, revealing God to the world. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb. 1:3). Where fellowship with God and knowledge of him were lost, Jesus has come to restore our sight (2 Cor. 3:12 - 4:6). But the good news doesn't stop there. It also means that all who trust and follow Jesus are being remade in God's image as well. "You have taken off your old self . . . and have put on the new self, which is being recreated in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Col. 3:10). When through the Son we see both our true Father and Example, we too grow to take on his likeness ourselves (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:7-12; 1 John 3:2). The curse is being overturned.

But this is not all the Son of God does as the true Adam. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Col. 1:15). Jesus is the firstborn, the beginning of a new family of mankind, as Adam once was (see Heb. 2:10-18). And he is over all creation, exercising kingly and priestly dominion as Adam was ordained to do (Heb. 2:5-9). As God's Son, Jesus is the ruling and representative head of God's new creation (Eph. 1:10, 21-22). Where Adam sinned and brought the curse of death and exile from God's presence to all humans, even to the whole created order, Jesus brings justification, bodily resurrection, and eternal life and intimacy with God in Paradise, where all who are in Christ by faith will enjoy God forever (Rom. 5:15-21; 1 Cor. 15:20-28, 44-49). He exercises the dominion Adam was meant to have, restoring peace to the world. Satan has not triumphed over God and his creation; Jesus the Son--and his saints who belong to him--have crushed his head (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20; Col. 2:14-15)!

"He comes to make his blessings flow / Far as the curse is found" is more than a line from a quaint Christmas carol about a babe in a manger. It is the gospel of God's Son Jesus, God's grace and glory dwelling among us again.


*Dennis Johnson, following Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10, describes the image of God in man as "characterized by right knowing (truth), right ruling (righteous and loving exercise of authority), and right relationship (holiness in God's presence)" (Him We Proclaim, pp. 246 f.).

**I think in many ways we also do not directly reflect God, as if we embodied all his attributes. God is everlasting, unchanging, all-knowing, all-present, and all-powerful in ways we cannot be. In our limited and finite power and wisdom in this life, perhaps we show off God's majesty precisely by what we are not and what we cannot do or know. Even now when we point sinners to God's grace and the Savior's cross, we are images pointing the way to God, showing off who he is.

1 comment:

Robert Hagedorn said...

Do a search: The First Scandal Adam and Eve.