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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

02 April 2008

I Am Not Making this Up

Questions about God and Man

Since I must work ahead, last week’s Concordian newspaper went without this column because of a combination of factors. These included preparing a Thanksgiving Day service, a funeral, a regular Sunday service, and my contributions to the Holy Cross newsletter. We also took a “vacationette” to visit our St. Louis family. Topping it all off, as I worked on various bulletins and articles, my computer kept restarting itself. So not only did I not have time or computer to write for the paper, when the repair people fixed me up, an avalanche of email poured into my home. Amongst all the spam and the legitimate messages, I found the following questions.

Some people can’t resist sweet snacks. Others stumble over salty foods. One of my extreme addictions is to out of the ordinary, off the beaten path items, situations, or people. I cannot judge the sincerity of the author and don’t know if these questions were written to seek edification or just to challenge Christianity but I can’t not reply. While I often clean up spelling, grammar, and the like, I’ll leave these as I first found them but will use [brackets] to note any corrections or comments.

1. What does GOD Look like?

He looks however He pleases. He can take any form He chooses and can conceal Himself completely or cloak His presence in various physical objects, as He did with the burning bush (see Exodus 3). Daniel and Revelation contain the most complete descriptions of His form. However, He doesn’t tell us if this is his ordinary appearance or if it was provided in order to allow sinful humans to look on Him and live.

2. Where does GOD live?

While we speak of God in heaven, we have no real concept of what heaven is like, let alone what composes its essence. Perhaps the best we can do is to say, “Heaven is everything immediately surrounding the presence of God.” He is also omnipresent, saying, “‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24)” Yet He also locates Himself specifically in certain spaces and times. Among the Israelites, He chose tabernacle (Exodus) and temple (1 Chronicles) as His established dwelling places, although He never ceased filling “heaven and earth.” In these structures, He specifically reserved the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:33-34; 1 Kings 8:4-7) for Himself, claiming the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 37:1-9) as His earthly throne, normally allowing entry only to the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

3. In whose Image were we created?

The Scriptures specifically tell us, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)” Let me hasten to add, however, that the Bible doesn’t demand that we think of this “image” as an exact physical reproduction. If that were the case, then Adam and Eve would have been completely indistinguishable, since “in his own image” God created “male and female.” Nor did man reflect God according to many of His attributes. For example, Adam could not be present everywhere at once and couldn’t bring new things into being with a word. Instead, God made our first parents like Himself in perfect holiness.

This image was distorted beyond recognition when Adam sinned. Since that time, mankind inherits only a twisted fragment of the Lord’s true image. God chose to address this horrible, damnable condition by restoring His image among us in the person of His Son, which leads us to your next question.

4. Did Jesus Come in GOD[’]S image or ours?

Throughout eternity, God’s “only Son” (John 3:16) is, was, and will be completely “God over all. (Romans 9:5)” By His miraculous conception, He became and remains “the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Saint Paul plainly spoke of “Christ, who is the image of God. (2  Corinthians 4:4)” In part, this was an image like that of Adam and Eve before the Fall. However, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9)” and His image includes “all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:19)” While He can restore earthly life (e.g., John 11:1-44), He more importantly gives “eternal life to all whom [the Father has] given him. (John 17:2)”

According to His humanity, Jesus’ image changed as He grew and developed physically and intellectually. Closing the infancy narrative, Luke noted that “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (2:40)” After recording Jesus’ visit to the temple when He was twelve, Luke then wrote, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (2:52)” His image also changed because of external forces. Fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Jesus’ torture and crucifixion gave Him an appearance “marred, beyond human semblance” and a “form beyond that of the children of mankind. (52:14)”

5. If the intellectual beings on this planet which is as we know it are us known as humans, if we looked like squirrels standing six feet tall and walking on two hind legs and spoke a language just as we do now in what image were we created?

In that of God, for again, it’s not the physical appearance that defines God’s image.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

To Ask the Pastor, send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Newspaper column #530


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