The Biblical Story of Priestly Glory

priesthoodOn Monday, I made the case that we should understand the imago dei in priestly terms. To develop that idea a bit, let me show how the biblical story line can be understood through the lens of the priesthood, as well.


In creation Adam was made to be a royal priest. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Or it could be translated “to serve it and guard it.” In other words, the man in the Garden was more than a prehistoric gardener. He was a royal priest. And we know he was a priest because the language used in Genesis 2:15 is used repeatedly of priests in Numbers 3. Moses, the author of both books, is making the point that Adam was stationed in the Garden as a priest—to serve the Lord by cultivating the Garden (even expanding its borders) and to guard the Garden from unclean intruders (a key work of the priest and one he failed to do in Genesis 3). In short, redemptive history begins with a priest in the Garden, one whose righteous appearance and holy vocation was breathtaking, as Ezekiel 28:12–14 describes,

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub [A better translation is the NET: “I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub]; I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

Sadly, this glorious beginning did not last long. Continue reading

The Priestly Aspect of the Imago Dei

priestIn The Christian FaithMichael Horton suggests four aspects of the Imago Dei, what it means to be made in God’s image. He enumerates them as

  1. Sonship/Royal Dominion
  2. Representation
  3. Glory
  4. Prophetic Witness

For each there is solid biblical evidence. Genesis 1:26–31; Psalm 8; and Hebrews 2:5–9 all testify to humanity’s royal sonship. Likewise, the whole creation narrative (Genesis 1–2) invites us to see man and woman as God’s creatures representing him on the earth. First Corinthians 11:7 speaks of mankind as the “glory of God.” Horton rightly distinguishes, “The Son and the Spirit are the uncreated Glory of God . . . human beings are the created reflectors of divine majesty” (401). They are, in other words, God’s “created glory,” which in time will be inhabited by the “uncreated glory” of God in the person of Jesus Christ. And last, as creatures made by the Word of God, in covenant relation with him, every human is a prophetic witness. In the fall, this prophetic witness is distorted. Humans are now ensnared to an innumerable cadre of idols (see Rom 1:18–32), but the formal purpose remains—to be made in the image of God is to be a prophetic witness.

Horton’s articulation is compelling, biblical, and beautiful. But it seems, in my estimation, to stress royal and prophetic tasks without giving equal attention to the priestly nature of humanity. To be fair, Horton refers to humanity’s priestly vocation under the headings of “representation” and “glory.” But because these are supporting the vocational idea of representation and the abstract idea of glory, we miss a key idea—the imago dei is by definition a priestly office. Or better, the imago dei is a royal priest who bears witness to the God of creation. Let’s consider. Continue reading

Genesis 1:27: God’s View of Gender (Sermon Audio)

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
– Genesis 1:27 –

This axiom—that God made mankind as ‘male and female’ is a fundamental truth of the Christian worldview. However, it is not so plain to our Western culture. No longer is gender a biological given, reinforced by a Judeo-Christian ethic. Rather, according to most secular theorists, gender is a social construct, something that each individual discovers through a process of trial and error.

To engage our culture, we need to know what God’s word says about sexuality and gender.

In this week’s sermon, I explore what it means to be made in God’s image, as male and female. The sermon follows the outline of redemptive history—(1) God’s design for men and women in creation, (2) the effect of the Fall on gender, and (3) how redemption in Jesus Christ restores the created order. Let me know what you think.

Male and Female: God’s View of Gender (selected Scriptures from Genesis 1-3)

For the rest of the sermons in this series (‘God’s Design for Sexuality and Marriage’), go to Sermon Audio.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Image of God: A Covenantal Proposal

Yesterday, I cited Marc Cortez‘s survey of Genesis 1:26-28 and what the image of God means. In his book, Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed he lists structural, functional, relational, and multi-faceted as four ways that the imago Dei has been explained. Yet, he also exposes the fact that there are weaknesses in each position, and thus he contributes his own proposal which is a covenantal version of the multi-faceted view. Continue reading

The Imago Dei: Surveying the Options

This Sunday, I will preach on Genesis 1:26-28 and what it means to be made in God’s image.

This is a rich concept and one that has gone through a number of phases. In the early church, theologians conceived of the imago Dei as an essential aspect of humanity. More recently, functional definitions of man’s dominion over the earth have been considered the norm for what makes men and women ‘image-bearers.’  Still, these are not the only views on the matter. Taking his cues from the male-female division in humanity, Karl Barth suggested a relational view of the imago Dei.

So which is it? Could it be all the above? Is there another option not yet mentioned?

Marc Cortez, professor of theology at Wheaton College, has helpfully surveyed the options in his book Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed  (see ch. 2, pp. 14-40). In what follows, I will outline his survey. Tomorrow I will consider his own covenantal proposal.  Continue reading

The Image of God (Genesis 1:26)

Genesis 1:26 

“The divine Son is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Man was created in a way that reflects the imaging relation among the persons of the Trinity. The redemption of man from the fall and sin includes re-creation (2 Cor. 5:17), his being “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,” in the image of Christ (Eph. 4:24).” (History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ” in ESV Study Bible’s,  p. 2635).

In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth, and on the earth he placed a man and a woman to reflect his glory and rule his creation (Gen 1:26-28). Genesis 1:26-27 recounts the words of the triune God, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

In his Theological Anthropology, Marc Cortez supplies a helpful survey of the ways Christians have understood the Imago Dei.  He summarizes the positions and asserts that some have argued that there is something material in man that makes him unique (i.e., his reason, mental capacity, etc.); others have suggested a functional view, that man made in God’s image is intended to rule over creation. This has strong exegetical support in Genesis 1:26-31 and Psalm 8. Still others make a case for a relational aspect of God’s image. Just as God exists as the three-in-one God, so mankind is male and female, and when man and woman unite in marriage, the two become one. The relationship is complementary, and in the mysterious union and diversity between the sexes is there a material glimpse of the one God who exists in three persons. Continue reading

Crossing the Creator-Creature Distinction

Whenever the line between Creator and creature is blurred, error and idolatry result. Harold Netland makes this reality plain in his book Encountering Religious Pluralism.  Consider his words,

Eve was tempted by the suggestion that she, a mere creature, could become like God (Gen 3:4-5).  The tendency to blur the distinction between God and humankind–either to bring God down to our level or to deify human beings–is a common feature of religion and can be found in the polytheistic religions of the ancient world as well as in many modern-day traditions (Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism336).

From the start, mankind was tempted to reduce the distance to the Creator. It is an utter impossibility, like squaring a circle or taking the weight of the infinite, invisible God. But yet, Adam and Eve tried to become like God, and the result was disastrous. Ethically (or better: covenantally), the problem was that they broke God’s law, but metaphysically, they failed to understand that God is sui generis (that is a fancy word meaning ‘one of a kind’). He is not by a matter of degrees; he is in a class by himself. In this way, Satan’s invitation to be like God was not even possible—in truth, they were already “like” God, as creatures made in his image. Continue reading

Image-Bearers Make Peace

Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9) 

The Bible says that those trusting in Jesus Christ are being conformed into his image on daily basis.  Consider:

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 (Rom 8:29)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor 3:18)

Seeing that you have 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 (Col 3:9-10)

Biblically speaking, Christians are those who have been born again (John 3:1-8) and are now being conformed, transformed, and renewed as image-bearers of our Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.  But make no mistake, this is not a passive work.  While God forms us, He simultaneously fills us with His Spirit, so that we might have power and desire to live as his children.

And one of the ways we do that is to be peace-makers (Matt 5:9).  In our marriages, schools, workplaces, friendships, and especially in the church, God’s children do not break peace, fake peace, or take peace.  They make peace!  This month, may we together ask God to fill us with us his Spirit so that we might be peace-makers. According to his Word, lets fight to make peace.  In so doing, we show ourselves to be the children of God, children who are day-by-day growing in Christ-likeness.

For His Renown, dss