Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Week in Review

Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams


In summary, God’s Son through his love enacted God’s mission. The love of God then equips the believer to receive the empowerment of love to carry out the mission. To do this, God presented diverse gifts to the church through the Holy Spirit. These gifts have specific purposes. The purposes are to mature the saints, equip them for service and to build the kingdom.

Gifts – Maturing the Saints

Isam E. Ballenger in his article, Ephesians 4:1-16 posits the church, which accepts the mission of God is to be one with God. The purpose is to bring the whole creation into harmony. The Holy Spirit enables this to happen, “whereby humankind may participate with God for the purpose of restoring unity.”[1] David A. Ackerman adds to the topic of maturity in his article, Fighting Fire with Fire: Community Formation in 1 Corinthians 12-14. He presents the mature Christian community is made up of individuals who are Christ-focused and Spirit-filled. He states Paul begins his discussion in the scripture focusing of the gifts in the context of Christology. The reason is Christ lies as the answer for both unity in the church and empowerment for service. “Without the cross, the gifts of the Spirit become rallying points for self-glorification. Without the Spirit, the power of the cross is not able to penetrate the inner person where transformation takes place.”[2]

Sydney H.T. Page adds additional information regarding maturity. In his article, Whose Ministry? – A Re-Appraisal of Ephesians 4:12 states the scripture affirms that Christ gave gifts to the church in order that through exercising of them the body might come to maturity. Bryant states the life in Jesus Christ brings renewal and transformation for both the individual as well as the community. When the believer is seeking to live for God, to follow his way, then the Holy Spirit reshapes the lives and relationships of the believer. Repentance and acceptance of God’s redeeming grace makes it possible for a new way of living and loving in community as the believer matures.

Gifts – Equipping the Saints

As the believer matures, they are better able to use their gifts for the equipping of one another. Page states Christ provided the church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do his work. Gilbert W. Stafford writer of the book Theology for Disciples posits that the wrong point to start when seeking to discover gifts is within ones self apart from the purpose of the church. The scriptural focus is to consider the needs of the church and how ones gifts would equip others within the body. He warns that charismata is never for individualistic pleasure but always for corporate edification.[3] He further states the gifts are evidence that God’s divine mission of edifying is taking place in the life of the church. He further intimates that part of Christian unity is the oneness of faith and order in the life, work, mission and witness of the body. As the people of God use the gifts they edify the body. The body then is able to grow as each invests in the whole.

Michael J. Anthony in his book, Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century presents input from an educational stand. He states the church is placed in service to work in a three-fold way. The focus upward is to God to glorify, worship, love and be in communion with God. The focus inward is to grow and nature itself in love and community and to care for the needs of the saints. The last is outward, which is to bring the good news to a world without God.[4] Anthony argues the spiritual formation of the body is more than a transfer of knowledge from a teacher to a learner. It requires a holistic growth and development within the body. The goal is maturity. Boa presents three overarching reasons for the Spirit gifts. First, knowing one’s spiritual gifts brings satisfaction and helps the believer to present their unique significance to the body. The second point he presents is that one’s gifts edify others. The primary purpose is ecclesiastical – build up and purify the church as the body and bride of Christ. The third reason is God will be glorified. Ultimately when one uses their gifts it brings glory to God.

Gifts – Building the Kingdom

Bertil Ekström writer of the article, The Kingdom of God and the Church Today, states it is important for individuals today to look at the church and how she fits into the whole issue of the kingdom of God. “I believe the church is God’s idea and creation. We have, of course, the Old Testament background where a nation was formed to be the channel for blessing for the whole mankind.”[5] So, today the body of Christ must make the kingdom visible, attractive and present in a fallen world. As the body works in unity of the Spirit the world is able to see the kingdom active and the kingdom is advanced making disciples for Christ. Knell states mission is entrusted to the church. The church was left here on earth for a reason. It was to be a witness for Christ.
Richard E. Waldrop, writer of the article, Pentecostal Perspectives on Holistic Church Mission Today contributes by stating all mission begins with emanates from the Triune God. He states God is a missionary God (for he first sent his son). Waldrop quotes Emil Brunner as saying “The Church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.”
[6] In regards to the different missionary ventures of the church, it is the Spirit that proceeds and inspires the mission. This reminds the believer it is the Triune God one follows and not one’s self or own abilities. The gifts of the Holy Spirit equip the believer to go into the world and make disciples (come back next week for the next installment).

[1] Isam E. Ballenger, “Ephesians 4:1-16.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible & Theology 51, no. 3:292. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 23, 2009).

[2] David A. Ackerman, “Fighting Fire with Fire: Community Formation in 1 Corinthians 12-14.” Evangelical Review of Theology 29, no. 4: 347-362. Academic Search Complete, ESBCOhost (accessed January 23, 2009)

[3] Gilbert W. Stafford, Theology for Disciples, (Anderson: Warner Press, 1996), 191.

[4] Michael J. Anthony, Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 40.

[5] Bertil Ekstrom. 2003. "The Kingdom of God and the Church Today." Evangelical Review of Theology 27, no. 4: 292-305. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 23, 2009).

[6] Richard E. Waldrop. 2007. "PENTECOSTAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLISTIC CHURCH MISSION TODAY." Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 10, no. 2: 178-191. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 23, 2009).

The Week in Review

The Image of God: Why Did God Create Me?
Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams
December 11, 2008



A great deal of attention has been given to the meaning of man being made in the image of God by the scholarly world resulting in many perspectives. However, to be made in the image of God fundamentally means one is created to be a child of God. The fall, sins effect on the image, if any, and the plan of salvation through Jesus all point to the image being man’s ability to have a relationship with God. This topic is one that is vital in understanding the truth of the human identity and gaining understanding into why God created man.


A vast amount of attention has been directed at answering the question “what does it mean to be made in the image of God?” Writers R.J. Berry and Malcolm Jeeves in their article, The Nature of Human Nature confirm this quest for meaning when they state, “Unsurprisingly, scholars down the ages have wrestled to define the characteristics of humanness, ranging from Confucius in the fifth century BC, to Richard Dawkins in the twentieth century AD.”[1] W. Sibley Towner, in his writing titled, Clones of God, pose the question of who has the image when he writes, “Can it be that all of us alike – the saints, the sinners, the able, the differently abled, Christians, jihadists, atheists – are in some limited way ‘clones of God,’ who, to those who have eyes to see, display God’s likeness?”[2] Towner further clarifies when he states, “‘Clone’ is incorrect. But ‘image’ is exactly the startling theomorphic and indubitably powerful claim of the Bible.”[3] Towner’s position is that the Bible emphasizes human beings are distinct from their Creator, yet something inside is an “icon of God”.

The question, what is the image of God and what does it means to have it, is one that has been answered in many different ways. As the scholarly world presents the vast understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God, one important feature stands apart. To be made in the image of God fundamentally means one is created to be a child of God. The fall of Adam and Eve, sins effect on the image, if any and the plan of salvation through Jesus all point to this crucial position of the image of God in man is man’s ability to have a relationship with God. This study is one that will help the individual understand the truth of the human identity and gain understanding into why God created man.

Man: In The Image of God

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ 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)

Alister E. McGrath in the book, Christian Theology: An Introduction, examines the place of humanity within creation. “A text of central importance to a Christian understanding of human nature is Genesis 1:27, which speaks of humanity being made in God’s image and likeness – an idea which is often expressed with reference to the Latin phrase imago Dei.”[4] McGrath presents one approach regarding what it means to be made in the image of God in terms of human reason. “The ‘image of God’ is understood to be the human rational faculty, which here mirrors the wisdom of God.”[5] McGrath presents Augustine argument that it is this faculty that distinguishes humanity from the animal kingdom.

Gordon H. Clark in his article, The Image of God in Man, states his concurrence that the image of God is related to mans ability to reason. “The image must be reason because God is truth, and fellowship with him – a most important purpose in creation – requires thinking and understanding.”[6] Clark poses without the ability to reason there can be no morality or righteousness because these two require thought. Animals lack these and are neither righteous nor sinful.[7]

Thomas N. Finger writer of Christian Theology Vol. 2/: An Eschatological Approach, pose theologians cite Genesis 1 and 2 regarding the image in humanity as the biblical basis for quite divergent anthropologies. Finger states, “For Thomas Aquinas, the imago dei referred ‘soley to the mind.’ For Calvin and Charles Hodges the will was also included. Hodge however also mentioned humanity’s rule over the lower creation (Gen 2:15, 20a; 9:1-3)”[8] Finger also mentions later Calvinism “cultural mandate” through which humanity subdued nature and developed civilization. This emphasis is on humanity’s ability to shape itself and the world in partnership with God.[9]

Berry and Jeeves argue a key feature of conventional Christian understanding of humanness has been a divine image enshrined within a human frame.
[10] They state the debate about human nature have tended to have two focuses: our origins and antiquity on one side, and our intrinsic make-up on the other hand. Berry and Jeeves pose the traditional way of defining humanity is to seek particular criteria that show the uniqueness of the human condition. They propose five ways which James Barr identifies the image of God, the imago Dei. 1) Rationality as argued by Augustine and Aquinas and accepted by Luther and many of the Reformers, 2) the possession of a soul, 3) physical distinctiveness, 4) functionality – dominion over the world and 5) the capacity for relationship – with God and with other creatures.[11]

The imago Dei becomes not just the ability for relationship, but the relationship itself. The ability to have a relationship with God and with each other clearly is exemplified in Jesus who alone is fully the image of God. Berry and Jeeves submit one should not think of the image of God as something one possesses.

William M. Greathouse and H. Ray Dunning in their book, An Introduction to Wesleyan Theology, present their finding on what it means to be created in the image of God. “Man stands in a unique relationship to his Creator. He may obey God and enjoy holy communion with his Heavenly Father, or he may disobey and discover the judgment and wrath of God.”[12] Greathouse and Dunning quote John Wesley’s phrase, “capable of God.”[13] This capacity for God distinguishes man from all other creation. The Creator is personal and he created man to resemble him in this way. Nothing man can do will ever change that.

Norman C. Kraus in his writing, God Our Savior: Theology in a Christological Mode, argues this important point, “We achieve our authentic potential for human selfhood in a covenant relationship with God the ultimate person, when we live in mutual interdependence and personal respect for others under that covenant.”[14] This means humans have the ability for a relationship which demands an ultimate commitment. “In Biblical terminology the unique potential of the human animal and the human species for a free, self-conscious, and responsible relationship to God is referred to as being ‘made in God’s image.’”[15]

Kenneth E. Jones in his book, Theology of Holiness and Love, presents additional thinking regarding the image of God. “It is clear that human beings are not physically like God, as God has no physical appearance to be imitated.”[16] Jones poses in some Mormon writings God is said to have a physical body, however the Bible does not support this belief. Jones quotes from John 4:24 where God is a spirit and he seeks those to worship him in spirit and in truth. Jones also presents John Wesley’s three aspects on the image of God. These three aspects are natural, political and moral.[17] What Wesley meant by the natural image was the human power of understanding, the will and freedom to exercise the will by choosing. By the political aspect, he meant the ability and responsibility of exercising some protective control over God’s creation. Finally, the moral aspect of the image of God manifests itself in “righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24).[18] Jones states the most important thing that can be said about the image of God is that a human is capable of knowing and loving God so as to live for his glory.

This writing cannot cover all the different views regarding the image of God. However in the views examined, there is an overarching reference to God’s image being mans ability to be in relationship with God. This leads one to the next question in the discovery of the image of God in man, does sin shatter this image or does the image remain in man yet somehow changed? This leads to the next topic of sin and its effect on man’s image.

[1] R.J. Berry and Malcolm Jeeves, “The Nature of Human Nature.” Science & Christian Belief 20, no. 1: 3-47. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed December 3, 2008), 3.
[2] W. Sibley Towner, “Clones of God.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible & Theology 59, no. 4: 341-356. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed December 3, 2008), 341.
[3] Ibid, 342.
[4] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction. (Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2001), 440.
[5] Ibid, 441.
[6] Gordon Haddon Clark, “The Image of God in Man.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 12, no. 4: 215-222. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 26, 2008), 218.
[7] Clark, “The Image of God in Man”, 218.
[8] Thomas N. Finger, “Christian Theology Vol. 2: An Eschatological Approach.” Scottdale: Herald Press, (1989). NetLibrary Online Reader, eBook: 9780585246802, 102.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Berry and Jeeves, The Nature of Human Nature, 4.
[11] Berry and Jeeves, The Nature of Human Nature, 25.
[12] Williams M. Greathouse and H. Ray Dunning, An Introduction to Wesleyan Theology. (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1989), 53.
[13] Ibid.
[14] C. Norman Kraus, “God Our Savior: Theology in A Christological Mode” Scottdale: Herald Press, (1991). NetLibrary Online Reader, eBook: 9780585233765, 106.
[15] Kraus, “God Our Savior: Theology in A Christological Mode”, 114.
[16] Kenneth E. Jones, Theology of Holiness and Love. (Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 1995), 106.
[17] Ibid, 107.
[18] Ibid.