The Goal of God (1)
by Charles H. Welch
A plan of action, presupposes a goal toward which everything contributes either by way of direct purpose, incidental assistance, or the overruling and directing of evil antagonism. That such a purpose is an integral part of the Scriptures is evident to all who have studied its teaching with any approach to understanding. To most of our readers, it is the goal of the ages, the purpose, which gives a life pulse to the most formal and ceremonial parts of Scripture, even as it crowns the most glorious of the triumphs of redeeming love. The goal of the ages is expressed in one statement made by the Apostle Paul: "That God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
If we turn our thought to the witness of the heavens and observe the silent obedience of sun, moon and star, or if we consider the testimony of the creation around us, and observe the unbroken obedience-that is ever and always going on in the world of chemistry or biology, we can say that here in this irrational unmoral creation, God is and always has been "All in all". Never in the experience of human observation has the sun refused to rise and set, never has the ocean grown weary of its tidal regularity, never has the power of gravitation, or the law of chemical combination been transgressed. This fact is fully recognized in the Scriptures.
If the words "every creature" are construed as inclusive of mankind, then the rest of the book of Revelation, with its revolt, blasphemy, wickedness and wrath is inexplicable, but if they refer to creation apart from men and angels, all is harmony.
The reader will call to mind many a passage where sun and star, or the humbler creatures of earth are revealed as entirely subservient to the Divine Will. God has always been "all in all" as Creator. Without this perfect alignment creation would vanish and the whole fabric turns to chaos. He upholds all things and by Him all things consist. That, therefore, cannot be a future goal which has always been in existence from the beginning. When we look again at 1Cor. 15:28, we find that it is in a context that speaks of rule, authority, power, enmity, resurrection, immortality, sin, law, death and victory. These terms do not belong to science, they are out of place when dealing with creation as such, they are entirely related to man, his nature, his fall, his redemption and his final oneness with God. The goal of the ages expressed in the words "That God may be all in all" therefore looks to the one great exception in the earth-to man, the moral, reasonable creature, who can and did, by the very fact that he was moral and not mechanical, come under the category of "ought" and in connection with whom even God uses the contingent "IF". God Who is already "all" in creation, will one day be "all" within the moral realm, but whereas in the realm of irresponsible creation "He spake, and it was done", the question never arose as to wether fire and hail, snow and vapours, or stormy wind, would or would not fulfill His Word the creation, constitution and the probation of the first man, a responsible creature, as recorded in Genesis 1-3 reveals an entirely different proposition. Here the Lord does not "speak" and find it done. In the material world, He had but to say "Light be", and "Light was", but in the moral and the spiritual world, no such instantaneous command or response was, or is, possible. In the very nature of the moral world, compulsory obedience, compelled love, coerced sanctity or commanded affection are impossible. Where probation has no place in the obedience of creation to the laws of its being, time and experience are essential factors in the work of grace in the moral sphere. It may have been necessary that the fitting of the earth for man should occupy six days, followed by one day's rest, in order that it foreshadow the course of the ages, but the reader of the Scripture is made abundantly alive to the fact, that God was under no more physical necessity to occupy six days in the work, than He Who fainteth not nor is weary was under any necessity to have the seventh day set apart for rest. With regard to man, and the purpose of his creation, time, probation, testing, experience, suffering, faith, hope, reward punishment, all have their place, and it is therefore of the very nature of the subject that it should involve patient waiting, great giving, unbounded love, and grace beyond dreams, before the "all" which characterized God's pre-eminence in nature should find its echo in the moral world.
(The article on this page was taken from Vol. 43 of the Berean Expositor. It is the first of a series of 13.)
The Goal of God (2)
We have seen that when the goal of the ages is expressed in the words "that God may be all in all", something essentially different from the blind unintelligent unconscious obedience of all creation is involved, for man is a rational being, he is a moral agent, he is actuated by desire, he is influenced by example, he can turn away from the truth, he can say "no" to his Maker. He can be rewarded for service or punished for iniquity, and if God is yet to be "All in all", with regard to man, then such a goal presupposes a working of laws, and movements of grace that are unknown to the present world of created things. In this article we devote ourselves to the examination of those passages, other than 1 Cor. 15:28, where the expression "all in all" is used.
While an exact verbal parallel with 1Cor. 15:28 does not exist, there are four other passages in which the variation is so slight that it would be sacrificing genuine illumination for mere pedantic scruples if we denied ourselves the benefit of their comparison. The passages are as follows: 1 Cor. 12:6; 1 Cor. 15:28; Eph. 1:23; Eph. 4:6; Col. 3:11.
Let us examine these passages. The first one has to do with "spiritual gifts" (1 Cor. 12:1). These spiritual gifts were very diverse in character. One believer had the spirit of wisdom, another the gift of healing, yet another the gift of prophecy, another the speaking in an unknown tongue; nevertheless, however diverse these gifts may have been "All these worketh that one and self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will" (1 Cor. 12:11). As an illustration of this "diversity in unity" the Apostle takes the human body, with its head, its hands, its feet, its organs of sight, of smell, of hearing, and even those members which have less honor, or are uncomely; and he declares, that "God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him" (1 Cor. 12:18).
Paul then reverts to the original theme, namely that of "spiritual gifts" saying "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28). Now all this is but an expansion of the statement of verse 6: "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God Which worketh all in all" (1 Cor. 12:6).
In order to perceive the strong emphasis that is in this verse on the idea of "inworking", let us give the verse a literal translation "diversities of energema (inworkings) but it is the same God which energeo (inworketh) ta panta en pasin the all things in all".
We defer 1 Cor. 15:28, until we can approach it armed with the knowledge gained from other sources. Our next passage therefore must be Eph. 1:23. Here we meet with a quotation from Psalms 8, which figures also in the context of 1Cor. 15:28, namely the expression "all things under His feet", but as this demands separate treatment, we concentrate for the time being on the actual passage which uses the expression "all in all". "And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth (ta panta en pasi) "all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23).
Just as in Col. 3:11 Christ and the church anticipates the goal of the ages, so Eph. 1:23 anticipates the goal as expressed in Eph. 3:19 "That ye may be filled with (or unto) all the fulness of God." Christ fills all things. He that descended to the lower parts of the earth, ascended also far above all heavens, with this object "That he might fill all things" (Eph. 4:10). Not only must He fill all things, we find in Colossians one an intermingling of creative power and supremacy and redemptive preeminence associated with the idea of fulness.
The next passage indicated is Eph. 4:6, where the emphasis is upon the unity of the Spirit, and the completely satisfying fulness of our God and Father.
"Who is over all, and through all, and in you all" (or as it may read "in all things to you') (Eph. 1:6) a passage that clearly anticipates the day when "God shall be all in all."
The last reference is Col. 3:11. Its context take us back to the original creation of man and the evident purpose there expressed (Col. 3:10), but this demands a study itself. Here, moreover, the new man is stressed, another anticipation of that day when He shall make "all things new". This aspect too we must consider separately. The immediate stresses the passing away of all those differences of race, creed and caste, of Greek and Jew, who in their new relationship find their wisdom and righteousness alone in Him (1 Cor. 1:30); of circumcision and uncircumcision who find their full acceptance in Him (Gal. 6: 15,16); of Scythian, bondman and free who alike find their complete emancipation in Him.
Nothing short of this spirit will fulfill "the End" (1 Cor. 15:24) towards which the purpose of the ages slowly but surely moves. This, and nothing short of this, will fulfill the words of 1 Cor. 15:28 "That God may be all in all."
The Goal of God (3)
We have already quoted Ephesians 1:22,23 but deferred the examination of the words "all things under His feet", so that they may be given separate consideration.
As is known, the words occur for the first time in Scripture in Psalm 8, and they are quoted not only in Eph. 1 but in Hebrews 2, as well as in 1 Cor. 15. Connected with this passage we must consider another phrase, namely, "Till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool", which occurs originally in Psalm 110 and is quoted in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts and Hebrews. If we attend to the way in which these two passages from the Psalms are originally employed, and then to the way in which the several writers of the New Testament have quoted them, we shall gain further illumination upon the goal of God as expressed in 1 Cor. 15:28.
First, let us consider Psalm 8 which contains the words "all things under His feet" (Psalm 8:6).
When we think of 1 Cor. 15:28 and Psalm 8 together, we discover that there is in both an enemy; that they both make pointed allusion to sun and star and speak of the glory that pertains to the earth and the glory that pertains to the heavens. Even the flesh of man, fish and birds are compared and contrasted. The frailty of man even at his creation is indicated by the contrast between Adam, the first man, who was made "a living soul", and Christ, the last Adam, the second Man, as a "life-giving Spirit". The further frailty of the sons of Adam is revealed in the references to the human body during this life and to the resurrection body of the life to come. "It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power."
We pass now to the reference to Psalm 8 in the epistle to the Hebrews "For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak" (Heb. 2:5).
Let us note well the Apostle's own explanatory clause "whereof we speak." Of what does he speak? (1) The world was to come. (2) The fact that this world to come has not been put in subjection to angels. The quotation from Psalm 8, the glance at Adam who could not and did not hold this high office, turns us to the man as seen in Jesus Christ, Who by virtue of His death and resurrection will take that great and glorious position. The words "we see not yet" cover the dispensational aspect of the doctrine. The rightful Ruler of that world to come did not ascend the throne at His first advent, but stooped to death, even the death of the cross. The purpose of this death is manifold, and every reference in the Scriptures opens up new avenues of thought and aspects of truth.
Confining ourselves for the moment to the actual implications of Heb. 2 we find that this death precedes the day of His glory.
Namely, rule in "The world to come whereof we speak."
This dominion is limited to the earth, and to the period which comes before the day of which John spoke when he said, "And there was no more sea", for fish of the sea are included in the imperfect foreshadowing under Adam. Hebrews 2 speaks of the earth, "the world to come."
"The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ" (Rev. 11:15). Psalm 8 however recognizes that the glory of the Lord is associated with "the heavens" as well as with the earth. The Psalmist does not people heaven with the redeemed; he sees no other occupants than the sun, the moon and the stars. Nevertheless, those who know the teaching of the New Testament know that there is a higher sphere, higher than all spheres of glory and blessing, now opened to faith by grace, and accordingly, it is fitting that this expression "all things under His feet" should be found once more in the epistle of the Mystery-Ephesians.
In Ephesians 1:21-23 where the words occur, we read that Christ has been given to be Head over all things to the Church which is His Body, but not that the Church is under His feet. Principalities, powers, might and dominion are under His feet, and that position, Christ with all such powers beneath His feet is "HEAD OVER ALL THINGS to the church" for this church is potentially "seated together" in those high heavens where He now sits, henceforth expecting His foes to be made His footstool. This passage in Ephesians, quite apart from any problems raised, is most certainly the heavenly aspect of the Savior's dominion over "all things", and indicates "things in heaven and things on earth" are being prepared for the final application of redeeming and restoring grace.
Satan is to be bruised under the saints' feet shortly (Rom. 16:20). All enemies are put "under His feet" (1 Cor. 15:25), consequently, we must distinguish those who are made subject under Him (as he was - Luke 2:51; and will be-1 Cor. 15:28), from those who are "put under His feet" as all enemies must be, before the consummation is reached.
Before, therefore, the goal of the ages can be reached, there must and shall be: (1) The willing submission of all the redeemed. (2) The putting down of all authority and power. (3) The willing submission of the Son. (4) The delivering up of the Kingdom to the Father "That God may be all in all" (Taken from Vol 43 of The Berean Expositor)
The Goal of God (4)
The revelation of God's purpose opens with a "beginning" and in the New Testament reaches an "end". The end "is not yet" but sometimes, to perceive the end of a thing enables one to go back and understand a little better the beginning. If the "end" be the cessation of time, then the beginning will be the commencement of time, but to utter such a statement produces a feeling of frustration. What can be meant by a cessation of time? It may be perfectly true that our present mode of measuring time by the day, hour and minute, will cease; it may be perfectly true that the timepiece of our present system will become obsolete, but if life is to continue, if the redeemed of the Lord are not to cease to be, time, essential time, must abide, for unless we can use the words "now", "then" and "when", existence must cease.
It is a well known fact that the book of the Revelation is in structural correspondence with the book of Genesis, but while the book of Revelation is canonically the book of the end, one passage in the epistle to the Corinthians takes us much further. Let us give this passage the attention which the solemnity of the subject demands, and with the light we receive, we shall be better able to go back to "the beginning" of Genesis 1:1 with hope of a clearer understanding of its import. The fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians is devoted to the fact and the outcome of the resurrection. It is not our intention to attempt an exposition of 1 Cor. 15, but in order to perceive the place which the section in mind occupies, we present the following analysis. The chapter, as a whole is divided into three parts.
This brings us to 1 Cor. 15:24-28, the passage in point, and here we must call a halt, while we consider the terms used and their meaning and bearing upon both the goal of the ages and the opening words of Genesis.
"Then" refers to the preceding sentence "at His coming", and in the structure we have noted that verses 20-23 extend from Adam to the parousia that aspect of the Second Coming of Christ that pertains to all callings and spheres other than the hope of the dispensation of the Mystery.
Parousia. This word is derived from para "beside" and eimi "to be" and so "to be present" in opposition to apousia
"absence" (Phil. 2:12). Paul speaks of the coming of Christ in 1 Cor. 15:23, and the coming of Stephanas in 1 Cor. 16:17, in both cases using the word parousia. In 2Cor. 7:6,7 he uses the same word of the coming of Titus, and in 10:10 of his own bodily "presence". So in Phil. 1:26 and 2:12 he uses it of himself. The word is used altogether 24 times in the N. T., 6 occurrences speak of the presence of Stephanas, Titus or Paul, one passage speaks of the coming and personal presence of the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:9), one passage speaks of the coming of the day of God (2 Pet. 3:12), the remainder speak of the coming of Christ.
It will be seen that the parousia is used in the great prophecy of Matthew 24, and by Paul in his epistles written while the hope of Israel was still possible of realization and by Peter, James, and John, but that while he freely uses the word in the prison epistle to the Philippians, he never uses it of the coming of Christ as the hope of the church of the Mystery, another word epiphaneia taking its place.
When we read "Then cometh the end" we must remember as Weymouth notes in his margin "Later on. The 'then' of the A.V. is only a correct translation in the sense of 'next in order'. The Greek word denotes sequence not simultaneousness, as in Mark 4:28 "after that the full corn in the ear."
The END. Telos does not, as is commonly supposed, primarily denote the end, termination with reference to time, but THE GOAL REACHED, THE COMPLETION or CONCLUSION, at which anything arrives, with as ISSUE or ENDING. To illustrate or clarify this distinction:
(This article was taken from Vol. 44 of The Berean Expositor
The Goal of God (5)
The goal is nothing less than that God may be all in all.
We were warned that the words "Then cometh the end" meant sequence, "afterwards", not immediacy, and now we see that there are certain things that must be accomplished before the end is reached.
The reader will discover that there is a background of war in connection with every phrase of the kingdom in Scriptures. Passing a mass of detail concerning the kingdom of Israel, we find that "an enemy" is present in the record of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:25,39), the preaching of the kingdom of God was associated with authority over the power of the enemy (Luke 10:9,19), and the translation of the Church of the One Body from the authority of darkness "into the Kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13) shows that the Mystery itself is no exception to the rule. The reign of Christ must continue until "all enemies" are completely subdued, and when this is achieved, the purpose of His reign and of His kingdom is attained. To perpetuate that aspect of kingship would be undispensational in the first degree, for it is evident from the teaching of Scripture that just as neither Priesthood, Temple, Altar or Sacrifice would ever have been introduced had there been no sin, so Kingship, Crown, Throne and Scepter would have found no place in the present creation had there been no enemy in view. The kingdom that will be delivered up at the end of the ages, will be the Mediatorial kingdom of the great King-Priest after the order of Melchisedec, who, it should be noted, appears on the page of Scripture when Abraham was returning "from the slaughter of the kings" (Heb. 7:1), a comment that is as inspired as the rest of the epistle, and intentionally links this King-Priest with war. Such is one aspect of the goal of the ages, the bringing in of perfect peace, by the subjugation of every man, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).
We must remember the fact that when the kingdom is delivered up, it is delivered up by the SON to the FATHER, but the goal is not that the FATHER may be all in all, but that GOD may be all in all.
We joyfully acknowledge that which Israel in their blindness failed to see, that the Messiah Who came from themselves so far as the flesh was concerned, and Who, according to the Spirit, was declared to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:3,4), was at the same time. "Over all, God blessed forever." To this the Apostle adds his solemn "Amen". May all who read and believe, echo that "Amen" and rejoice to know that one day Israel shall look on Him Whom they pierced, the One, Who, even in the days of Isaiah, was named "The mighty God," and shall at last say of Him: "Lo this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us" (Isa. 25:9). When the Son is made subject to the Father, the end is reached for which He, Who originally existed in the form of God, emptied Himself (Phil. 2:6,7). He emptied Himself of His glory by becoming man. He further humbled Himself by taking the form of a servant and stooped to the death of the cross. Because of this He has been exalted, and given the name which is above every name, and the goal of 1 Cor. 15:28, as well as the goal of Phil. 2:11, is that the supreme exaltation of the Son should be to the glory of God the Father. When this is achieved, the Son who is both Creator and Redeemer ascends the throne of Deity, He reassumes the glory that was His before the world began, and once more, as it was in the beginning, one God occupies the throne of the universe, all His Mediatorial titles Elohim, Jehovah, El Shaddai, Father, Son, Spirit, Comforter, being completely realized and fulfilled that God, such a God, the God of Creation, Providence, Purpose, Redemption, the God against Whom Satan dared to raise his hand, at last will be all in all. A great disservice has been rendered to the cause of truth by the quasi-philosophical employment of the word "persons" when speaking of the Godhead. This word "person" is the translation of the Greek work hypostasis, a word used three times in the epistle to the Hebrews. In chp. 11 no one could possibly translate the opening verse "Now faith is the person of things hoped for", the word substance being derived from the Latin meaning "to stand under" precisely as does the Greek hypostasis. Our acquaintance with the material world is mainly that of appearance; we do not get down to the underlying substance itself. So, in Heb. 1:3, we should read that Christ is "the Express Image of His substance," that is, He was "God manifest."
If we would but keep in mind the idea of someone acting the part of some particular character and speaking the words of the part "through a mask" we should have the scriptural symbol, as far as it can be revealed, of the One Invisible God, assuming at one time the office of the Creator, at another, that of Redeemer and Comforter, without befogging the mind and virtually believing either in three Gods, or denying the Trinity of the Scriptures. In the "person" of the Son, the humble God had played the part of Mediator, and when the glorious work of Mediator is accomplished, the "person" i.e. the mask, will be laid aside. At the consummation "The Son" will not be all in all, "The Father" will not be all in all, but GOD will be all in all.
The Goal of God (6)
"All in all." What is the extent of this second word "all"? Is it the entire universe both of men, angel and spirit? Is it all men without exception? Is it all men without distinction? How can we discover the meaning of such a word? We know that it has one exception "It is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him," so that we can safely say that the word "all" is never used in its widest and fullest sense, but that where we have the entire universe in view, there is nevertheless an exception to be made. This is important, for if "all" in such a context does not and cannot be used in its full universal sense, that may be true in other passages where the circumference is smaller. The word "all" is universal, but the word cannot be used alone, the context supplying the things that are comprehended within its embrace. The idea of the word "all" can be likened to a circle, but the size of the circle will vary according to the things spoken of; but however large or small the number of things there may be, the shape of the circle never changes; all, means universality, but a universality of specified things. It is therefore of the utmost importance that "the things" should be correctly stated, otherwise wild, fanatical and evil doctrine will arise.
One circle can enclose another, the "all" of redemption, being much larger in scope than the "all" of the membership of the church of the Mystery. One circle may intersect another, because the things spoken of may be considered from more than one point of view. Let us now consider the usage of the word "all" in 1Cor. 15:24-28), "All rule and all authority and power" are to be put down (1Cor. 15:24), but it is manifest that the rule, authority and power of God Himself is not in view, else it would defeat the very object of this subjugation. If we read on to verse 25, we shall come to the inspired comment "For"; this is a logical connective, and is prefaced to what follows and links it with what has already been said, "For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet." The rule, authority and power therefore of verse 24 are not universal, they refer to enemies, and when thus limited, the "all" again assumes it universality, not some enemies, but all enemies are comprehended in this subjection. As a further explanation, the nature of these enemies is revealed by the statement "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." The enmity envisaged is spiritual, even as the rule, authority and power. Moreover, where verses 24, 25 use the words "put down" or "put under His feet", verse 26 says plainly "destroyed", even as the corresponding passage in verse 54 declares that death shall be swallowed up in victory at the resurrection.
Having taken us so far, the Apostle returns to the subject, and this time makes a quotation from Psalm 8, "For He hath put all things under His feet." The placing of an enemy under the feet is an Old Testament figure of conquest, and never means deliverance, liberation or blessing. Throughout 1 Cor. 15:24-27, and in every passage where Psalm 8:6 is quoted the redeemed are excepted. The first occurrence of this figure is in Joshua 10. The kings of the Amorites and others, banded themselves together against Gibeon, and upon the triumphant expedition of Joshua against them, these kings hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah. They were brought out from their hiding place, and Joshua called to the captains of the men of war "Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings ... and afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees" (Joshua 10:22-27). Makkedah was treated as was Jericho (10:28), and it is utterly impossible to read into Joshua 10, the remotest hint that these enemies had the slightest hope of deliverance. This is the figure employed in 1 Cor. 15:24-28 when all enemies are put under the feet of Christ, the true Joshua.
When Paul assured the Roman believers that "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly", they knew that the age-long enmity between the two seeds was at length to terminate in the utter defeat of Satan, and the complete victory of the Redeemer and His people. When the eighth Psalm is quoted in Eph. 1, the all things that are under His feet, are principality and power, might and dominion, but not the church. Here, once again, we could echo 1 Cor. 15 and say "It is manifest that one company is excepted, namely the Church which is His Body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." One of the services rendered by Colossians, an epistle which goes over much the same ground as that of Ephesians, is that it presents a truth stated in Ephesians from another angle.
This is presenting the truth of Eph. 1:22,23 from another viewpoint. It will be seen moreover, that Col. 3:11 teaches that the church of the Mystery foreshadows and anticipates the day when God shall be all in all, Christ occupying that position here and now, even as the final subjugation of all rule, authority and power is anticipated in Eph. 1:21-23. When that great day comes, we read that, when all things are subdued unto Him, then shall the Son Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, and this calls for careful consideration, lest by hasty conclusions and inconsiderate speech we dishonor the Lord.
(Taken from The Berean Expositor-Vol. 44)
The Goal of God (7)
We have considered very briefly "the end", the goal of the ages, the consummation of redemption, the day when God shall be all in all. An "end" presupposes a "beginning", and moreover, if we rightly apprehend what is aimed at in the "end", we shall better appreciate what is implied by "the beginning". Let us therefore turn back to the opening sentence of the Bible and reconsider what is intended by the revelation that "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen.1:1). "Beginning" is the Hebrew reshith derived from rosh "head", which is the translation of this word in 249 occurrences.
In Leviticus to Deuteronomy we have the word translated "firstfruits" (Lev. 2:12; 23:10; Num. 18:12; Deut. 18:4; 26:10). Altogether the term "firstfruits" is stated in 11 passages, and implied in at least 7 others. Several passages bring the two words "beginning" and "end" together (Num. 24:20; Deut. 11:12; Job 8:7; 42:12; Ecc. 7:8; Isa. 46:10).
Common usage inclines the mind to think of time, when the phrase "in the beginning" is read, but if we press the point and ask "in the beginning of what?" how can we expect an answer? If God necessarily existed before the first act of creation, time cannot strictly be said to begin at all. When we consult a dictionary we find that the time element is of the first prominence. The English word is ultimately derived from the Greek ginomai and geno to become, to be brought forth.
When the sacred volume opens, the words "in the beginning" are left unexplained, but when it closes, we discover that they imply not only a time, a commencement, but a Person, a Firstfruits and a Pledge, indeed the Alpha and the Omega, the Yea and the Amen (2 Cor. 1:20). There is no article "the" in the Hebrew phrase "In the beginning", the word being bereshith "In the beginning" or "to begin with" or "as a commencement" implying a goal that was in mind, a firstfruits, something future which was pledged in the opening act. Three great passages in the N.T. ascribe creation to the Saviour, namely chapters one of John, Hebrews, and Colossians, but as these passages are of fundamental importance we will reserve their study for a future article.
If there is one fundamental truth which underlies all other revelations concerning the Godhead, it is that GOD is the Creator, and consequently when we read John 1, we gather that, before the first act of creation was undertaken by the Almighty, a movement took place which is beyond our ability to describe or understand, but which can be spoken of as a descent of the unconditioned and absolute God, "Who is "invisible", into the realm of the conditioned and manifest. Hence, in the N.T. where creation is ascribed to Christ, He bears the titles "The Word", "The Image", and "The express Image of His Person". Essentially "God is spirit" (John 4:24) and God is "one" (Deut. 6:4).
It will be observed that in John's Gospel the word "create" is not used, but the word ginomai "to become". This seems to have been chosen to emphasize two great facts:
This is the first great comparison. The second is found in John 8:58 and the recurring claims introduced by the words "I am". "Before Abraham came into being (ginomai), I AM". "I AM the bread of life...the light of the world...the good Shepherd...the resurrection and the life.." The word "create" is not used in Hebrews 1. There we read "And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands" (Heb. 1:10), and the strange fact is that, even though the earth and the heavens were thus brought into being, "They shall perish...and wax old as doth a garment." This is revealed in order that the Hebrews should be prepared to find some things which had been given as foundations, were now to be "left" (Heb. 6:1); that like the present heavens, the old covenant "waxeth old (and) is ready to vanish away" (Heb. 8:13) in favor of the New Covenant, and that, just as the work of His "fingers" so the Tabernacle "made with hands" (Heb. (9:11,24) was also to be done away. The word "create" is used in Col. 1:16 and 3:10 of both the old and the new creations, and this relationship is further enforced by the repetition of the title "The Firstborn" in Col. 1:15 in connection with the primeval creation, and in Col. 1:18 of the church of the Mystery.
It is evident that these 3 books, John, Hebrews, and Colossians, use their terms with precision, and the fact that inspiration has so pointed the way, makes it an established fact and no longer a pleasant theory that "In the beginning" really does mean in Gen. 1:1 that the primeval creation was a kind of "firstfruits", pledging the attainment of the goal of the ages.
(From The Berean Expositor - Vol. 44)
The Goal of God (8)
When we speak of the "Person" in the Godhead, we employ a term that really means that the Invisible, Unconditional, Absolute has "spoken through" the person of "Father" or "Son" or "Holy Ghost" in the N.T., even as He spoke through the titles Elohim, Jehovah, and El Shaddai in the O.T. No one name, nor all the names of God employed together, can encompass and fully present God Himself. Even the employment of the masculine pronoun "He", "Him" is a concession to our limitations, for God Who is Spirit, Invisible, having neither bodily parts, form or parts cannot be properly conceived of as male or female. At every turn human limitation is met by Divine condescension, and nowhere is this more evident and more necessary than in the revelation of His unspeakable nature to man. In philosophy or logic a name is "a word taken at pleasure to serve for a mark, which may raise in our mind a thought like to some thought we had before," but like words, names are often mistaken for things to our undoing. God is Elohim, but He is infinitely more. God is Jehovah, God is Father, God is Son, God is Holy Ghost, but God is, in Himself--what? That is a question never raised and never answered in the Scriptures. For us, at least, until in the glory we shall be in a position to know even as we are known, we exultantly behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and if we ask ourselves, as we should, "What is God like?" the answer is that Christ is "the character" (the express Image) of His invisible, unknowable substance or reality (hupostasis Heb. 1:3).
Now all this mighty movement, Creation, Purpose, Manifestation, Self-limitation must, if God be wise, holy and just, have an equally wonderful goal. That goal is indicated in 1 Cor. 15 as we have earlier suggested: "That God may be all in all."
That is "the end", and creation, overthrow, Adam, redemption, resurrection, eternal life and ultimate glory, are all the blessed means adopted to ensure at last this most wonderful end is attained. We must contemplate this unfolding therefore with bowed heart and reverent thought, for the unveiling of this purpose will ultimately unveil the heart of the living God.
Let us now return to the opening theme of our study and endeavor with the light we have now received to take another step forward. We have already observed that in the world of Nature God is, and always has been, "All in all", and it is toward this same glorious and acknowledged supremacy and fulness in the world of moral agents that the purpose of the ages moves. Where, however, in the world of physics, God could say "Let there be light" and there was light, where in that realm "He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast, in this highest world of morals, it takes the slow unfolding centuries, the bitter lesson of the ages, in other words it takes "the perfecting through suffering" before the God of creation can be the confessed and acknowledged "All in all" in the hearts and consciences of men.
Two passages in Hebrews 2 which have not yet been considered must now be given attention, for they contain within them the solution of one of the great problems of the ages, namely, in what way will God be so "all in all" that the relationship shall carry within itself its own guarantee of permanence and its assurance of richest intimacy. The passages are: "Perfect through sufferings" and "all of one."
This oneness is to be effected between two parties separated by a gulf that at first seems impassable: The INFINITE God, Who is Spirit, and FINITE man who is flesh. The gulf is spanned by the provision of the Mediator, Job's "daysman", the One Who could lay His hands upon both God and man, in short, He Who was "God manifest in the flesh." Here, in Him, God and man can meet. We are already taught that God is "like Christ", so that if redeemed man can become "like Christ" also, oneness is assured and forever established by the possession of this common likeness. This truth we now seek to establish by an examination of the Scriptural employment of the word "Image".
First we must consider those passages which teach that "God is Christ-like", in which God comes down and finds a meeting place with man, in the person of His Son, the One Mediator. Then we must consider the passages where man (1) by creation, and (2) by redemption is said to be either created in the likeness of God, or predestinated to be conformed to the Image of His Son, or is yet to have a body like unto His body of glory; and having discovered in this body like unto His body of glory; and having discovered in the blessed Person, the Son of God, the Divine meeting place of God and man, we shall have discovered the way, and the only way indicated in the Scriptures, for God to become All in all to His people. That will be when He Who is the Word, the Form, the Image, the Character of God, and they, for whom this same glorious One became flesh and was made like unto His brethren, shall have become one in the same sense indicated in John 17:21-23: "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us...I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may have been perfected into one" or shall be "all of one" as indicated in Hebrews 2:11.
(From The Berean Expositor, Vol. 44)
The Goal of God (9)
There appears to be several ways of attempting to answer the question "What is God like?" There is the approach by metaphysics, but this avenue is one that ends in "nothing", God being No-thing (see philosophy of Hegel) or in a series of negative abstraction like "Infinite", that is to say "not finite". This approach is of no use to a seeking sinner or to the Bible student. The Being and Nature of God can be approached along the line of His relation to created things, so that we can understand that the invisible things of Him are clearly seen by the evidence of His handiwork. This, however, fails to teach us what God is like, for "that which may be known of God" by this means is exceedingly limited. We may deduce by logic a Being of Almighty Power, but we could never discover by this means "The God of all grace", for the necessary promises are not discernible in nature. Atonement, Redemption, and Salvation lie outside the scope of creation's witness. We leave the work of His hands therefore, and come to the Word which He has inspired, and that Word focuses our attention upon One, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the fullest manifestation of what God is like that has been or can be given. This manifestation is twofold. First, before creative times, Christ was "The Word" (John 1:1); "The Form" (Phil. 2:6); "The Image" (Col. 1:15); "The Character of His substance" (Heb. 1:3); "The Brightness of His glory" (Heb. 1:3). Then, "The Word became flesh", and as a result, God Who is invisible, Whom no man hath seen at any time was "declared" (John 1:14,18). He Who in days past had spoken unto the fathers by the prophets, spoke at last "In Son". This strange expression is a Hebraism, as for example where in Ex. 6:3 of The A.V. we read: "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty" the Hebrew reads B'El Shaddai literally "in God Almighty." Just as to the Patriarchs, God had appeared to them "in God Almighty," so to their descendants the same God appeared "in Son."
In Isaiah 45:18-23 we read: "God Himself...none else...no God else beside Me...I have sworn by Myself...that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear."
This the Apostle Paul, by race and upbringing a rigid upholder of the fact that there is "One God," refers to the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:10,11).
The same prophet Isaiah saw the Seraphim and heard their cry "Holy, Holy, Holy, is Jehovah of Hosts" (Isa. 6:3), and John declares that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ, and spoke of Him (John 12:41).
Yet again, Isaiah says: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isa. 40:3). The Gospels reveal that this was fulfilled by John the Baptist the Forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Israel tempted the Lord, Ps. 78:56 declares "They tempted and provoked the Most High God." yet 1 Cor. 10:9 says they tempted Christ! The epistle to Titus declares that our hope is directly associated with the glorious appearing of "our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2:13).
Here in the Scriptures cited we find such titles as "God Himself; Jehovah of Hosts; The God; The Lord...Our God; The Most High God; The great God," each and every one finding their full expression in one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is, as 1 Tim. 3:16 declares, "God manifest in the flesh." These Scriptures are a sufficient justification for seeking further evidence of what God is like in the Person of Christ. Here are a few that doubtless come to the mind of every reader. "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
We shall see later that there is a transfiguring power in the "face" (2 Cor. 3:18) but this we must leave for the moment.
If I desire to understand the righteousness of God, the love of God, the peace of God, the forgiveness of God, or any other of His glorious attributes or gifts, I can see them as I shall never see them otherwise, in the life, person, walk and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here, therefore, is the Godward side of the great movement. God stoops down and reveals Himself in the Person of His Son. The manward side also will be found to be completely covered by the same term "likeness" and this we must approach from more than one point of view, first as to man at his creation, secondly in his redemption and thirdly in the Person of Christ as the One Mediator, "The Man Christ Jesus."
(From The Bearean Expositor, Vol. 44)
The Goal of God (10)
We have seen that in the mystery of godliness, "God was manifest in the flesh" and that in the person of Christ, the invisible God, condescended to the limitations of His creatures, and that Christ is the necessary Mediator by reason of the gulf that exists between Creator and all creatures, just as surely as He must be the Mediator because of the moral gulf that exists between sinful man and a righteous God. Instead, however, of commencing with the teaching of Scripture, that Christ was made in the likeness of man, we must start with the creation of man, to see how emphatic the Scriptures are that in the beginning, man was made in the likeness of God.
Tselem "image". This Hebrew word occurs 17 times in the O.T. and is translated "image" every time, except in Psalm 39:6. This word tselem is allied with tsel "a shadow". It is used not only in a literal sense, as "a shadow from the heat", "the shadow of a cloud" (Isa. 25:4,5). But in various figurative ways, as for example in Job 17:7; 8:9 -
Let us now turn our attention to the word translated "likeness", the Hebrew word demuth. This word comes from damah "to be like". "Man is like to vanity" (Ps. 144:4). "I have compared thee, of my love" (Song of Sol. 1:9). "I have...used similitudes by the ministry of the pro- phets" (Ho.12:10).
The Lord Jesus Christ is "the Likeness" after Whom Adam was created. While it has always been a difficulty to interpret the image and likeness of Gen. 1:26 on the physical plane, because God is spirit, the difficulty ceased when we realize that the "image" is "the shadowing forth" for which honor Adam was created, and the "likeness" according to which he was created, was the likeness of Him Who had form and shape before His incarnation, and was destined in the fullness of time to be made flesh, to be found in fashion as a man, to be made even in the "likeness" of sinful flesh.
Man's hope in the Lord is not exclusively upon the plane of spirit. In the resurrection the exchange of the earthly image for the heavenly image is defined as the exchange of corruption for incorruption, of mortality for immortal- ity, and even through the resurrection body of some will be a heavenly and a spiritual body, they will be bodies nevertheless, and not spirits.
There can be no doubt that Seth, the son of Adam, not only resembled Adam his father in mind and spirit, but in body also. In Phil. 3 we have the pledge concerning the body, while in Col. 3 we have the insistence upon the mind, neither the one or the other being a contradiction, but rather a presentation of complete truth.
That is the pledge regarding the renewal of the "image" and "likeness" so far as the body is concerned.
It will be remembered that in explan- ation as it were of the intention of the Creator, the words "let them have domin- ion" immediately follow the words "in our image, after our likeness." This domin- ion first exercised over fish, fowl and beast, is to extend until some at least of Adam's sons, shall reign with Christ in that supernal glory "far above all". It will be remembered that the cherubim are described as having four faces, that of a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle. Adam, who had lost the dominion entrusted to him would see in the symbolic cherubim at the gate of Paradise, God's pledge that this dominion should be restored.
We have covered a deal of ground in our endeavor to attain to some Scriptural understanding of the meaning and intention of the words of Gen 1:26, and we earnestly commend every reader not only to re-read the evidence submitted, but to supplement it by a personal examination of all the occurrences of the key words, so that the matter may be given the fullest examination. Adam was a "shadow" only, just like the typical sacrifices. A "shadow of good things to come" indeed, but "not the very image" (Heb 10:1), and just as Christ sets aside the "shadows" of the sacrificial law, by coming in the flesh, and offering Himself, so as "the second Man" and "the last Adam" he sets aside the frail type, and is revealed as THE IMAGE of the invisible God, in Whose likeness it is the Divine will that everyone of the redeemed shall one day be fashioned.
The wonder will grow as we allow the truth to enter, and the glory of the goal of the ages, focused as it is in the idea of one day being conformed to the image and likeness of the Son of God, will enable us to appreciate perhaps as never before, what lies behind and what leads up to the words "That God may be all and in all." (From Berean Expositor, Vol. 44)
The Goal of God (11)
The Teaching of the New Testament regarding the "Image".
There are many references to "image" and "likeness" in the Old Testament that await examination, but some of them will come under the head of practical application of the truth involved, and therefore we pass from the Old Testament usage to that of the New Testament, where we shall find the interpretation and fulfillment of what is intended by the Lord in these two significant words. The words employed by the Septuagint Version for "image" and "likeness" are eikon and homoiosis. Eikon is derived from an almost obsolete root eiko "to be like" which occurs in James 1:6 and 23:
Homoiosis is derived from homoioo "to be, or to make like. This word occurs in James 3:9 where we read: "Men, which are made after the similitude of God."
We have already suggested, that, just as Adam was only a "shadow" of the intended image, so all the sacrifices like typical law were "shadows" and not the "very image". Both Adam and the types find their realization in Christ.
"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man", (Gen. 2:23). In the creative purpose, Adam and a l l his posterity, whether male or female were given dominion over the works of God's hands. All were blessed, and all received the command to be fruitful and multiply. Does 1 Cor. 11:3 ignore this patent fact? No, it looks at the matter from another angle. It grants all that may be said as to the oneness of the race in Adam, irrespective of age and sex, and does not question the full application of Gen. 1:26,27 or Gen. 5:2 to woman equally with man.
But the home or the Church is a unit, and in both there must be some sort of order and rule. Now, says Paul, it is evident that, while both Adam and Eve were linked together in the purpose of creation as expressed in Gen. 1, it is equally true that "Adam was first formed, then Eve" (1Tim. 2:13), and this fact is made the basis of the Apostle's argument in 1 Cor. 11:8,9, to show that within the human circle, whether in the home (Eph. 5:23), or in the Church viewed as an assembled company on earth (1 Cor. 11), the "image" of God as expressed in headship is vested in the man, and that, just as the Head of Christ is God, and the head of man is Christ, so the head of the woman, within this circle of humanity, is man.
"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man", (1 Cor. 11:7). It may appear at first that this passage need not have been included in the references, seeing that we are concerned with the goal of the ages, and the ultimate realization of the Divine image in man, but no examination of Gen. 1:26,27 would be complete with the light received from 1 Cor. 11 - one feature emerges which is important, namely, the fact that the Divine Image, finds one of its express- ions in headship. Now all rule, authority and power are to be subjected beneath the feet of the Lord in that day, and that leads us to see at least two things:
A great deal of heartburning on the part of Christian women, and a great deal of foolish self-assertion on the part of Christian men, would never have been had BOTH men and women realized that they were but playing an appointed part. Neither men nor women in themselves are either superior or inferior to one another, and before Paul enjoins the wife to be "subject" or to "submit" to her own husband he exhorts BOTH to "submit" or be "subject" to one another. It is just as foolish for a man to assume that he is intrinsically superior to a woman because he has been cast for the role of "head", or for a woman to think that she has been degraded because she has been cast for a lower part, as it would be for an actor to assume royal airs and insignia simply because for a brief hour he played the part of a king in a Shakespearean tragedy. Neither the man nor the woman are anything else in the matter than "shadows" and it would not do any harm to us all, sometimes to remind our- selves of the fact. The "submission" en- joined in this relationship is but an anticipation of the greater "submission" of 1 Cor. 15:27,28; for the same word hupotasso is used by Paul in each epistle.
The remaining references to the "image" that we have listed must now be considered. Meanwhile, let us gladly yet humbly accept the role that Divine wisdom has appointed, remembering that it is an unspeakable honor to have ANY part in the outworking or the foreshadowing of our heavenly Father.
(Taken from The Berean Expositor - Vol. 44