These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
The image of God is most perfectly expressed in the one particular individual, Jesus Christ. Indeed, we have been seeing that God could/should be revealed through any individual that he has made.
However, God is normally best expressed in the combination of male and female. God is neither male nor female, for he is spirit. However, within the Godhead reside what we would call male and female attributes. This disparate nature is best revealed on earth in the combination of men and women. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (v.27). Although the man Jesus fully exemplified God his Father, the image is normally best expressed through the human race, male and female, rather than through an individual.
And the highest image of God is found in the union of men and women. This takes place in communities, in churches, in business, but most particularly in marriage. The love between husband and wife reveals that love that God has for his people. Also, the respective strengths of male and female demonstrate the leadership, submission, tenderness, toughness, vision, prudence, etc, etc, of almighty God.
Neither male nor female are superior to the other. They may have different roles, but in the eyes of God they are of equal value. Of course this does not mean they are interchangeable. Each should be allowed to develop their gifts for the glory of God (not just for their own fulfilment). We will not be an image of God if we push forward our own will and our own self-fulfilment. Whether man or woman, our pleasure is to please our Lord; that will lead us to fulfilment. We will become what we were intended to be.
Thank you Lord that whether I am a man or a woman, whether married or not, I can be part of showing the world something of your nature. Amen.
1 What does Paul say about the equal value of all people?
“God breathed … and he became a living being” (v.7) RSV
Last week we concluded with the statement that man is a living soul. It is therefore true that he does not have a soul. This may seem somewhat odd. It is however mainly a matter of terminology. In the Creation story “God breathed into his (Adam’s) nostrils the breath of life; and he became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7). The word “being” in Hebrew is nephesh, which means ‘soul’.
If we were in danger at sea we would send out a mayday message, S.O.S. This message means ‘Save Our Souls’. We would not be requesting a trip to Heaven, but a trip back to terra firma! In other words, ‘soul’ means body, mind and spirit: the whole person.
Yes, as the image of God, each one of us has been made in a Trinitarian mould. Our minds represent the Father, our bodies represent the Son, and our spirits represent the Holy Spirit. Yet each of us is only one person: a soul.
Now we know that our three aspects are often at war with one another. Sometimes our body won’t do what our mind requires, or vice versa. And sadly, our spiritual aspect is sorely neglected. St Paul put it well when he wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).
Our trouble is that through our rebellion against God we tend to be led by our bodies (desires, passion and need for self-survival), and after the body comes our mind with which we try to overrule our wayward body, and our spirit lags behind, neglected and weakened; whereas we were designed to be ruled by our spirit, which would inform and transform our mind, which would in turn rule our body. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but now fearfully marred and out of control. The spiritual needs to come first. God can change this!
Oh Lord, thank you that I can be restored into your Trinitarian image. Restore me by your grace. Amen.
“… what is man that thou are mindful of him …” (v.4) RSV
“What is man?” is a question put to God in the face of our great insignificance. When the Psalmist looked around him at all that God has created, such vastness, such magnificence and beauty, he is amazed that God has time for little, muddling and sinful people.
Yet, he is reminded that despite human physical weakness and spiritual weakness, man is nevertheless the peak of creation. The two differing stories of creation put man first as the peak of creation (Genesis 1:26-31), and secondly as the purpose of creation (Genesis 2:7-17).
Over this week we shall learn more about our species, but today we need to get it firmly fixed in our minds that we are the high point of God’s activity on earth. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm. 139:14). Whilst on earth we are ”little less than God” (v.5)! We have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Now if we are tempted to despise ourselves or others, we need to remind ourselves that in God’s sight we are precious.
Indeed, God thought us so precious that even “while we were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our value is not found in our intricate physiology, astounding though that is, nor is it found in our great intellect for we all know very little and as Paul says, “see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Our value is that God has made us, made us in his own image, and he loves us. He loves us as individuals and he loves us as a community.
We are not just of the earth, earthy. We are not just an evolved animal. We are that, but we are also inspired by God. We are a living soul. God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7).
Thank you Lord for the great mystery that makes me/us great in your eyes. May I love myself as you love me. Amen.
Thomas was a doubter, but so are all of us. We all have many questions that lie unanswered. But faith does not depend on answered questions. It depends on sufficient evidence together with the internal verification of the Spirit. It is the word of God combined with the internal witness of the Spirit that gives assurance. Because of that we can live quite happily with doubts.
Thomas’ problem was that he allowed his doubts and his scepticism to dominate his faith. He could not and would not believe until his questions were answered. Well, God in his mercy acceded to his request. Living proof stood before Thomas in the person of the risen Christ. He was even invited to touch and see. Did Jesus then tell him to stop doubting? No. He told him not to be faithless. Faith is an act of obedience. There is no evidence that Thomas actually needed to touch Jesus’ body. It seems that the challenge to believe was sufficient.
The response of Thomas was perhaps more than that of any of the other disciples. He said, “My Lord and my God!” (v.28). Let this be our response too. The resurrection proves the uniqueness of Jesus. Surely God had been in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and now has risen fully vindicated and victorious. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
But Thomas had failed to believe based on the witness of others. He had to see for himself. Jesus firmly said that that should not be necessary. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (v.29). Let our belief be based upon the witness of the Apostles in scripture.
Thank you Lord for the lessons I can learn from Thomas. Keep me from presumptuous and arrogant unbelief. Grant me a humble and teachable spirit that will shout: “My Lord and my God!” Amen.
What does Peter say about not seeing, and yet believing?
“… did not our hearts burn within us …” (v.32) RSV
Last week we saw how the Breaking of Bread opened the eyes of the two whom Jesus had met on the Road to Emmaus. Now we see the other great impact that Jesus had upon their lives. As he had walked with them “… beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (v.27). Some of us find many things in what we commonly call the Old Testament hard to understand or even objectionable. But the rule for Christians is that Christ can be found in “all the scriptures” (v.27).
In those sacred scriptures we can read of prophets, kings, priests, sacrifices, laws, obedience and acts of faith. All these things find their fulfilment in Jesus. He embodied all truth. So if the Old Testament is truth, then we will find it fulfilled in Jesus. What a bible study it must have been for those privileged two! No wonder they later explained, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he … opened to us the scriptures?” (v.32).
This is what God’s preachers and teachers should be aiming to do; to open the scriptures so that Jesus is seen. I remember a pulpit in a church that had a plaque on it for the preacher to read before he started; it read: “Sir. We would see Jesus.” Such Christ centred sermons will by the Holy Spirit quicken the Spirit within us, and make our hearts burn. We will be hungry for such teaching and instruction. “Lord, to whom else can we go?” said Peter, “You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).
Let us pray for preachers and teachers. And let us take up our bible and read with renewed enthusiasm the sacred word that leads us through to the Living Word, even Jesus Christ himself.
Thank you Lord for the words that you have spoken to me from time to time. May I love your word and read with expectation, knowing that you will guide me into all truth. Amen.
1. What does Paul say a preacher or teacher should do?