THE WAY OF LIFE: A THEOLOGICAL LOOK AT RELATIONALLY IMAGING THE TRIUNE GOD
BRIEF STATEMENT AS WE BEGIN
As we begin to think about the Trinity and relating God to our lives, keep in mind the human family and its multiplying potential. Also, keep in mind the Great Commission (Matthew 28) which is the invitation into the Christian family… bringing people into fellowship with God through a love relationship with Jesus Christ making disciples. Christians commune in a family fellowship. The relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is shared with those of us who in believing participate.
1 John 1:1-3 (ESV) shares with us, “That which was from the beginning, 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, 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 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
What follows is a theological exploration of the relationship, if you will, of GOD Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In Him, we find a pattern for relationships for human beings to have with Him and with one another.
* The GOD of the Bible (YHWH) expresses Himself complete in Three Persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
* The Bible is the inerrant expressed Word of God and shares all about Himself perfectly as He inspired.
* Jesus Christ (also known as Jesus of Nazareth) is the Son of God and is God.
* A word often used to describe the Three Persons of God is ‘Trinity’ and describes One Eternal Being (YHWH)
GOD THE FATHER
GOD reveals Himself to us by way of Creation itself, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. In those ways, we begin to know the infinite God. In those ways, we find GOD reveals Himself in a relational order. The primary source is the Bible. The truths of the Bible are also reflected in the rest of Creation, and describe specifically the Persons Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches God is one in Nature and Three in relationship.
However, this is not a ranking order (1, 2, 3) or some kind of class system among the Person of the Godhead, but rather an interdependent relationship of mutual giving and receiving or maybe better put, perfect love. This is an absolute relationship. He is an absolute relationship. There is an order. This order is ‘The Way of Life.’
From the Father comes forth the Son.
Through the Son comes forth the Holy Spirit.
When we think about GOD, each Person is Eternal (not created) and thus called forth from Himself. He is self-existent which means He has relationship in Himself. By the Three, are we enabled to interact with and appreciate God. His pattern of relationship is the manner God allows us to have life in Him as we follow the giving and receiving pattern of love as depicted by God in Scripture.
Is this complicated? Yes. It is complicated because God is far above us in His unchanging essence, absolute nature, and divine character. We are simply not complete like Him. His nature is what makes Him so magnificent for He is life-giving. Each (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are the same in their Nature, but they relationally participate One with the Other in roles. This is revealed Biblically as interpreted in the Christian context that human beings might reflect in likeness back to God and into Creation. Full comprehension of God’s Nature seems beyond us, but we can apprehend some because we are created in God’s image.
God, it should be emphasized, is “Other” from all the rest of Creation (which He made). He is unique and beyond full comprehension. He is the Uncreated Cause and the Only Being Who is eternal. Only He is eternal. He alone is immortal. Psalm 104:1-2 (ESV) says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering Yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” Also, Isaiah 64:8 (ESV): “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The passages in the Bible that express this Truth about God are endless. Malachi 2:10 (ESV): “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?”
Note that the Old Testament (Genesis-Malachi) and the New Testament (Matthew-Revelation) reveal a Heavenly Father Who is a protector and giver (Psalm 68:5, Luke 11:13, Ephesians 1:17). It is also important to note, and we will see this in more depth below, that many of the Father’s gifts come from and through the Person of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) for example: “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from Whom are all things and for Whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things and through Whom we exist” (see also John 14:15-17, 26; Acts 2:33).
* GOD (as described in the Bible) is the Creator of all things and nothing has existed without His design.
* GOD created all human beings to be His imagers on the Earth.
* Sin is the rejection of God (YHWH) and His design in any capacity.
* All human beings have sinned.
* ‘The Law’ refers to Genesis-Deuteronomy in the Old Testament or can refer to the whole Old Testament.
THE FATHER GIVES
Father Gives Creation
Beginning in Genesis (1:1), God is shown as the Source of Life. He ‘created.’ Creation is the ultimate form of giving. He began all things. On Day 5 and 6, to the living creatures He gave His breath to animate them to life. This is significant giving because He breathed into them from His Own Self to multiply. The Imagers on Earth (human beings) were made last and reflect Him the most because God gave humans dominion over His Creation. The act of creation (which is God giving) is the most basic understanding we have of God the Father. His Creation ultimately rejected Him, but because of His life-giving nature, this did not change how He operates.
God gives Creation… Genesis 1:1
God gives breath to living creatures… Genesis 1:30
God gives provision to the living… Genesis 1:29
We should also note (see below) that the Father creates and gives life through the Son. For example, Colossians 1:15-17 (ESV) shares: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
Father Gives the Law
In Exodus 24:12, God promises He will give the Law. God gives the Law in Exodus 34. God gives the Law and then He breathes into it. God gives Israel the Law (a means of provision for His people) in an established covenant relationship with Him. He gave boundaries to identify the kind of life He expects. He knew the Imagers would fail which leads to the giving of the Son.
Father Gives the Son
The purpose of giving the Law (John 1:18) was to be able to show grace through the Son. The Law establishes our needs as human beings. God in our need gives grace and gives the Son. The Son submits to what the Father gives. Everything He gives is through the Son. God gives the Son and gives the Spirit.
NOTE: There is a pattern of God not just giving, but breathing life into that which He creates. This happens because ultimately God is a life-giving spirit (see also Genesis 2:7; John 6:57;
: Romans 5:14; and 1 Corinthians 15:45).
ADAM: THE SON OF GOD
* The first two human beings were Adam and Eve.
* The Garden of Eden was a life-giving real place where God set Adam and Eve right after their creation.
* God created the angels in Heaven as part of His Heavenly family.
* Men and women are completely equal in God’s sight even though they at times have differing roles.
The Garden of Eden introduces us to Adam and Eve who are the first people created in the image of God. They were given the capacity as imagers to reflect GOD (the Trinity). They turned from the path of reflecting God (they sinned). Eve, was deceived, and Adam willfully followed after the deceit (1 Timothy 2:14-15). Adam is the son of God (Luke 3:38) that broke the covenant relationship with God and we find their fallen account in the first three chapters of Genesis. The son (Adam) is to reflect the Father (God), but he does not.
Adam is a direct creation of God and His Son. In that way, Adam is unique. Angels in the same way are called ‘sons of God’ as direct creations, but Adam is the son of God and holds headship on God’s Earth.
Women are called forth from man and are unique in their life-giving nature. Eve gives life and Eve is the helpmate. She is the helper. Such language is also specifically used of the Holy Spirit. In no way is Eve ‘less than’ Adam, but simply has a different order/role as an imager of God.
Ideally, Adam and Eve would have both/together reflected God. They were not only to reflect God in His character but also in both of their roles as images of God. Adam and Eve together reflect God Almighty in their mutual submission to one another and their production of life and have dominion over Creation.
They did not.
They fell in their very being… not just ‘made a mistake.’ Sin is a big deal. The imagers made soul-endangering forever decisions because of their rejection of God’s design. It was a forever decision also because of God’s nature. They were lost. The wages of sin was death (their days were numbered).
* Jesus the Christ was not an afterthought or ‘plan b,’ but rather the premeditated will of God to redeem humanity.
* Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical flesh-and-blood human being.
* Jesus is 100% God and 100% human being.
The arrival of Jesus Christ is the recapturing of human sonship at peace with Father God and imaging the Nature that was lost to Adam. He is the second Adam (Romans 5:14-15). He is the means of redemption (not just the washing away of sin). Moreover, Jesus is a life-giving Spirit, even as God the Father maintains His life-giving nature. God became flesh. Jesus fulfills all of God’s plan to give human beings access again to the Sonship that was lost with Adam (human) and Eve (life) (1 Corinthians 15:21-23). Jesus rose from the dead becoming a human life-giving Spirit.
The gift of God is Jesus Christ Who is life-giving.
Resurrected Jesus changes and secures our eternal life because He is the life-giving Spirit.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT EVE AND SOME THOUGHTS ON ORDER
* Sin creates inequality between men and women.
* Sin creates identity issues for human beings related to gender, sexuality, and a relationship with God.
* Men are imagers of God. Women are imagers of God.
* A human family consists of one male and one female married for a lifetime and in many cases also children.
GOD in Three Persons (YHWH) has established an order in humanity. Humans are created to reflect GOD. Because He is so complete and beyond us, God fashioned us body, mind, and spirit to reflect Him in the order He is and thereby we should live.
For example, God created males and females to live together and to have dominion over the earth because in this way we practically reflect God’s love. He made us to be together His imager. We are to reflect Him in mutual submission to one another (by an interdependent counterbalancing love).
This interdependent counterbalancing love is equality in accordance with God’s inspired role for each gender as revealed in Scripture. We are to reflect Him in how we rule over His Creation in that love of which the Father, Son, and Spirit are manifest. This Biblically based equality is the inspiration for role reflecting as family and in community. Both men and women are (as God’s imagers) to reflect Him in the life-giving orderly roles by which God gives and maintains life.
Focusing only on self does not reflect the God of the Universe.
Selfishness or being unloving does not reflect the God of the Universe.
Mismanaging the Creation does not reflect the God of the Universe.
To this end, God did not leave Adam (a male) alone, but created for him a helper… Eve (a female). Eve is the helper. This is the Hebrew word ’ezer.’ This important word is used to describe woman in Genesis 2:18 and elsewhere in the Bible of God and or the Spirit of God. Note: ‘ezer’ refers to woman and God as the helper. This is a unique use of the word as someone who is needed for human life. The word ‘ezer’ is only used for woman and God. Psalm 146:5 is a good example of God (the LORD) being referred to as the helper.
Eve, then, is the glory of man in the same way that the Spirit of Christ is the Helper. The woman is the extension of what the man is doing in the same way the Holy Spirit is the extension of what God is doing. Eve is the extension of what Adam was to do. Both gender roles reflect the relational order of the Godhead. Man needs a helper.
God is One (complete in and of Himself). Therefore, in order to reflect God, human beings need to be unified (one) like God which happens when a man and a woman become a family. As we relate this to God and His nature and relationship, we see the close-knit nature of Christ and the Spirit shows that they Both bring life. The Father gives us life through Jesus by the power of the Spirit. The order/pattern is there. The fruit that is produced is life.
Eve reflects God most when she brings forth life (what only she can do) and in helping Adam (her ordered role). Because of Eve’s role, both Adam and Eve can participate with God in bringing forth life. Women must be recognized as indispensable in humanity reflecting the LORD.
THE PARALLEL OF WISDOM AND WOMEN
Proverbs 8:22-31 (ESV)
“The Lord possessed Me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26 before He had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27 When He established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when He made firm the skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep, 29 when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, 31 rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.”
Likewise, the New Testament proclaims of Jesus all things were created through and for Him. Colossians 1:16 (ESV): “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.” Hebrews 1:2 also says: “but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world” (ESV). When one links Hebrews 11:3 with John 1:1 we see the same message. The creative process comes through Christ. Jesus is wisdom.
God by calling forth wisdom as a helper created everything by speaking it into existence. We should note the relational pattern:
God calls forth a second that by the same authority…
… sends a third which brings about God’s Will.
God then, we can gather from both Old and New Testaments, called forth wisdom (Who is Christ by the Colossians passage), and so through His Word, and by His Spirit created all things in heaven and on earth. God is the Creator who calls forth. This is the pattern.
In a parallel pattern God brought forth woman from man (Genesis 2:21). Women fulfill the Second Person role to help bear life literally and qualitatively in representing God. So, through her is birthed new imagers… other human beings. She is given the unique role (Genesis 3:20) on earth that reflects the second person of the Godhead fulfilled by the power of the Spirit. We should note the pattern that God creates humans and then brings forth a second uniquely able to birth more imagers.
Human beings… the imagers… are to reflect God individually and as family/community. We reflect Him individually in character, but then communally like the Father, Son, and Spirit (which are all GOD). It is in parallel with this relationship that people create, maintain, and multiply life’s realities that parallel the LORD.
JESUS: THE SON OF MAN WHO DELIVERS
* ‘Son of Man’ is Jesus’ favorite Old Testament nickname/title for Himself.
* Sin is a big deal and has far-reaching physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational repercussions.
* Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.
* Hell is separation from God after death.
Jesus is established as the Son of Man Who can redeem human beings because He is life-giving. Sin (its spiritual impact) is no longer an issue for human beings because He defeated sin and death. Human beings must accept Jesus Christ to be a part of the order that He has set up. Human beings have a longing for more from existence. What is needed is God Himself. We strive after life in our flesh, but we cannot achieve what we are really after. What we are really after is life in God. What people are after is a breath of life… which only comes from God.
God is self-sufficient and has no need of anything. He is the source of all breath. He is the source of life. Sin broke off humans’ access to life in God. The relationship with Him is broken because of sin. Sin has been dealt with and Jesus condemned it on the cross. A person does not go to Hell because of sin, but one goes to Hell because Jesus is not accepted. The flesh is condemned. What Adam and Eve did has been paid for through the blood of Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, brought the innate life of God and connected it with human beings. Jesus brought the Divine Relationship of the Three Persons in contact with human beings because of His nature. Humans can now participate in the life that God offers. Jesus takes Adam’s place as He is the Promised One Who will deliver His son (humanity) back to Him. We must receive Jesus Christ and the life that He offers to be a part of the order God has set up.
Life is only found in that order.
Life is innate in God.
Life is given to those who have a relationship with Him.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
* ‘The Kingdom of God’ is a multi-use term based on context that can mean Heaven, the Church, or the way of life Jesus taught.
* Baptism is immersion into water whereby a human soul receives forgiveness in Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
* Baptism of the water and the Spirit is to be ‘born again.’
* The ‘Kingdom of Darkness’ is everything that opposes God.
GOD is the light revealed in the spectrum of all Creation. God The Father Speaks forth (Jesus) and speaks forth multiplication (the Spirit). Their relationship is the foundational pattern of life itself. Thus, following that source from man comes forth woman who together bring forth multiplication (other humans). Therefore, we see that the relational pattern of the Godhead is the pattern for human life, and the basis for continuance (eternal life)
In the Bible, the Kingdom of God in Heaven, is presented as what is to be mirrored on Earth. The Kingdom of God is a marriage of the spirit realm and the material realm… as one… the garden paradise. The goal of God is to be all-in-all. All life reflects the Persons of God, yet in human beings, we see that they bear His image and thereby reveal His glory.
In God’s redemptive order, [the arrow with the water drops in the above picture] baptism is important. Baptism is where one transfers from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light. It is in baptism that the presence of the Holy Spirit marks believers as His (John 3:5, Acts 2:38). There is a multiplication of God of disciples by way of the Holy Spirit in being born again. A person cannot be part of the Kingdom of God or fully reflect God without being born again through baptism in the Holy Spirit. Disciples are multiplied by the Spirit.
Through baptism, human beings accept God and become part of His family and become God’s children. His children are multiplied and illuminated by His Spirit. Believers become part of the Body of Christ/the Church. The Church is the place where the Children of God gather to live forever as family.
Multiplication is the way of life by way of the Holy Spirit. When people reflect God, we multiply in our dominion (disciples making disciples) and rule His Creation. God is the absolute example. Human beings follow in reflecting Him. God Biblically has roles in and of Himself which reveals to human beings how to exercise dominion on Earth. It is by the way of the Spirit and thereby the relational nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that this reality takes place in the Kingdom of GOD.
By way of explanation, in Acts 1-2, Jesus Christ tells the disciples that they will be His witnesses in the world for the Kingdom of the Father, but must wait until the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon them. The multiplication of believers comes by way of the Holy Spirit.
The pattern to be followed then is… the Father speaking forth the Son (the Word) and the Son multiplying by way of the Spirit. This practically happens when the Church (from Christ’s Body) goes forth from the Son of God making disciples and multiplying the Kingdom of Heaven.
BOUNDARIES, ROLES, AND CONFORMING
Life brings with it boundaries in all relationships. Individually, we can knowingly (or unknowingly) be destructive to the order God has established in relationships. We break and or at the least disrupt our fellowship with GOD. In a family or a community, the Word (Jesus) comes forth from God (Father) and then the Spirit comes forth through the Word to bring about the Father’s Will.
Likewise, man was created, and God took woman out of man and through women all humans are born. God has created the best way to reflect His likeness… through gender order. Gender provides us the boundaries to rule on earth like God in heaven (see Genesis 2:24).
Note, the above expresses the biblical intent. It is understood that in the fallen state of humankind people have struggles personal in orienting in various degrees to that intent.
Nevertheless, when we live lifestyles that do not adhere to God’s ideal relational order (in terms of gender and relationships) things get twisted, go bad, and His love does not shine in the world. Hence, the biblical instruction to not bear God’s name in vain, commit adultery, or practice same-sex activity and/or any sexual immorality (see Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, Revelation 21:8). We are tested by such behaviors. We must flee from such sin. The message from the Word Himself (Jesus), in Matthew 16:24-26, is to deny ourselves pick up our cross and follow Him. The lasting way of life is found in believing-obedience to Father God, provided by Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is a hard way forward in our present dying body of sin, but GOD is faithful.
So, our faith must be placed in and remain in His faithfulness. Otherwise, we will not abide in His boundaries.
God has both masculine and feminine characteristics (Psalm 103:13; Proverbs 3:11-12; Isaiah 9:6; Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 66:13; Hosea 11:3-4, 13:8). We see this in the Bible and in families if we can receive it. There are roles revealed in GOD. Scripture speaks about family and gender role language on purpose!
This language is strongly emphasized in the whole of Scripture because GOD is three in one… a family… a community being. He alone is that way. This is true even though God is not male or female. The gender decision is provided by God’s creative hand to reveal to us experientially His nature. His nature is relationally ‘three’ for us which means ‘family.’
Since we cannot fully know Him as individuals being in a family and in our roles is how we best mature to reflect God both individually and in relationships. For GOD is complete and equal in essence both individually and in relationship (self-existent) or as the Scripture states, God is One.
Unlike the Father the Son, and the Holy Spirit (GOD) humans are not self-existent, but humans have been created in God’s image. We can be in relationships that express an orderly counterbalance of love. Individually we must give priority to living with moral character keeping with biblical instruction. In relationships, we must also have a servant attitude whether initiating the pattern of love or taking the second person helper role. Love has an orderly nature. Since this is the way God brings forth life and then shares His love, we are to reflect this as we are family like God.
We are to give and preserve life like God created us in His image to do (See Genesis 1:26).
We are to meet needs (like Jesus) when people are neglected (see Matthew 25:45).
We are to multiply those that know Him as Savior like the Spirit (See Matthew 28).
In families and in faith communities, we should reflect the relational order of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the relational pattern of the Being we call GOD. This is for us personally in our families, but also extends out into the whole of the Christ-community. We know humanity walks short of God’s glory, but the goal is to reflect GOD together as a human family.
Conforming (to the image of GOD)
In conforming to the image of God, we do this individually by believing in God the Father. Let me emphasize here I think we best carry out our individuality by recognizing God the Father as our source. Since He is the first individual. God the Father then is the foundation to individually. A good scripture example is Matt. 6:9,” Our Father in heaven hollowed be your name”. All follows from and or after Him. But the only access to the Father
Therefore, in conforming to the image of God is carried out best in families birthing communities that abide in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Empowered by the Holy Spirit to have a relationship with God the Father. Relationships that reveal how much He loves us all.
As we summarize everything we have been speaking to, we keep to the multiplying Great Commission (Matthew 28) in mind until God brings our fellowship together as one. The Great Commission is the invitation into what Christians are to be about… bringing people into fellowship with God by making disciples. Disciples make disciples as we participate in the fellowship of God. Christians commune in the fellowship relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In addition, 1 John 1:1-3 (ESV) shares with us, “That which was from the beginning, 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, 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 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
This relationship one to another will be a success and even in the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:43) the relationship is rewarded with fruit and everyone who comes to faith is accepted. Those that follow Christ are those new servants both as the fruit and in bearing fruit. The Apostle Paul also says as much in Ephesians 4 which includes both Jews and Gentiles in his words about God’s people. A ‘man’ (corporately speaking) will be a people mature in reflecting the LORD individually and collectively. The aim of fellowship with God and fellowship with one another is mature humanity.
This maturity in fellowship falls in line with the prayer of Christ Jesus in John 17. In John 17, as Jesus prays to God: “that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us” (verse 21). The way Jesus speaks is all about the maturing fellowship of believers based on God’s own fellowship in Himself. Jesus then goes to be crucified so that such beings can have fellowship with God.
Being ‘one’ (as Jesus prays), is about giving and receiving through interdependence that starts with God. God’s Word (the Son) is the authority that humanity is to live by and to which we submit regardless of our role. We then find equality in the counter-balancing love that reflects the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’s relational pattern.