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“In His Image and Likeness, Part 3” by Romans
Two weeks ago, I began a Series called, “In His Image and Likeness.” Tonight I will be going into Part 3 of that Series. Originally, I related how I had seen a video in which Evangelist Ravi Zacharias was on a College Tour fielding question from students. As a part of his answer to a question, he referred to the account of some of Jesus' detratcors asking Him in Mathew 22:17: “Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”
Virtually everyone who reads this account would say, “Okay. This cake is baked and frosted. Let's move on.” Not Ravi Zacharias. He suggested that there should have been a follow-up question: “And what belongs to God?” And he continued, “Jesus' response would have been: 'Whose image is on you?'” I have based this Series on Ravi's brilliant insight into this account. As we proceed, tonight, I want to focus on Jesus' words in John_9:5: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Albert Barnes writes of this: “As the sun is the natural light of the world, even while it sinks away to the west, so am I, although my days are drawing to a close, the light of the spiritual world. What a sublime description is this! Jesus occupied the same place, filled the same space, shed his beams as far, in the moral world, as the sun does on natural objects; and as all is dark when that sun sinks to the west, so when he withdraws from the souls of men all is midnight and gloom. When we look on the sun in the firmament or in the west, let us remember that such is the great Sun of Righteousness in regard to our souls; that his shining is as necessary, and his beams as mild and lovely on the soul, as is the shining of the natural sun to illumine the material creation.”
In His Sermon on the Mount, He tells us who will be the light of the world after He returned to Heaven. He said in Matthew 5:14: “Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.”
The Sermon Bible tells us, “Contemplate the Christian man as light in himself. Notice some of the instances in Scripture in which light is spoken of in reference to the people of God. (1) The Psalmist says, "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Here light is viewed as something distinct from the righteous, as something which he may possess and which he may enjoy, just as the husbandman enjoys the fruits of the earth of which he has cast in the seeds. (2) The Apostle, in addressing Christians, says, "Ye are the children of the light." Here we are conducted to a still higher view of the believer’s privileged condition and estate.
There is not only light sown for him that he may reap and enjoy, he is himself a child or son of light—a Hebraistic mode of strongly expressing the luminosity that completely suffuses, as it were, the Christian man. (3) But to a still higher reach we are conducted by the Apostle when he says to believers, "Ye are light in the Lord." Here they are identified with the light itself; and just as God is said to be a light, so are His people in their measure and in their degree said to be a light.
II. "Ye are the light of the world." Our Saviour seems to say to His people, "Not only have ye light for yourselves, not only has God in His grace given you light and made you to be light; but you are to be the light by which others are to be spiritually illuminated and guided for their souls’ salvation." We do not need to make efforts to make the light shine, it shines of its own accord. Christianity is essentially diffusive. Its light cannot be confined. Its law is the law of beneficence.
It has freely received, and it freely gives. The light with which the true Christian has to shine is (1) the light of Divine knowledge, (2) the light of moral purity. If Christian people would be true benefactors of the world, they must let their light shine, that men seeing their good works may glorify their Father who is in heaven.
L. Alexander, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 524
I. We read of a time when this earth, so full of fair shapes and wonderful provisions, was without form and void. The Lord that giveth life was pleased to summon out of this confusion the arrangements and the capacities of a world. But before all this His work one word was uttered—one element called into being—which was necessary for every function of created nature. God said, "Let there be light, and there was light;" and from that first day to this the natural light of this world has never failed. There must be light in nature, or the plant will dwindle, the animal will pine, the world will become joyless and waste; there must be light, too, in the world of spirits, or discord and confusion will reign where harmony and order ought to be. And man’s spirit had light, even the only light which can light it to its well-being—the light of the consciousness of God.
II. Let this conformity with God’s appointment be established in nature, and as long as nature lasts God will be glorified. But in the higher world of spirits there is another necessary condition which nature has not. Wherever there is spirit there must be responsibility, and there cannot be responsibility without free will. Nature, in her lower and more rigidly prescribed arrangements, cannot extinguish the light of her world; but man’s spirit may extinguish the light of his. And man’s spirit did extinguish that light, and the spiritual world became anarchy and confusion.
III. If nature decays, she possesses no power of self-renewal. Her extinct tribes she may not recall; her faded flowers she cannot recover. Not thus did God create His more wonderful spiritual world. That the spirit should, by His aid, struggle upwards through darkness into the recovery of light, was His own purpose respecting us. In God’s good time the Light which was to lighten every man came into the world. Now, the whole passage of man’s life, from the cradle to the grave, is full of light. According to our place in life, so God expects from us that we should shine out in the darkness of the world which yet knows not Him.
H. Alford, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 406.
Matthew 5:14: There is little difficulty in fixing the dominant idea contained in the metaphor. The city upon a hill is the landmark for all the country round. It is at once the crown of the district and the central point round which the life of the neighbourhood turns. It is visible afar off; it overtops the lower country, so that the people cannot, if they wish, shut their eyes and refuse to see it. The one idea is that of publicity. What does this teach us as to the Church of Christ? There are two sides of religion—neither in the least degree opposed to the other, though entirely distinct.
In one point of view it is a secret principle, working noiselessly in the soul of a man, subduing gradually his evil propensities, weakening and destroying his corrupt appetites. There is another side of the Christian religion—namely, that of witnessing for God in the midst of perverse generations. This is the way in which it fulfils the language of the text. This witness is maintained in two ways: (1) by creeds; (2) by the maintenance of forms of outward worship.
II. From what has been said we may enter into the full meaning of that article in the Creed, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church." In what sense is the Church a proper object of belief or faith? Belief has nothing to do with that which is obvious to sight. We do not believe in that which we see. Do you ask what I mean by the words "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church"? The answer is, "I believe that Jesus Christ founded, eighteen centuries ago, a Christian kingdom—a city, a community, having certain fixed laws of order and rules of living, a principle of continuity by a ministerial succession—for the purpose of maintaining certain truths and dispensing certain heavenly gifts.
That Christ pledged to it His own perpetual presence and superintending providence." This, you perceive at once, is a thing to be received by faith. Get rid of the Divine origin of the Church, make it the creation of. man’s policy, or the outgrowth of circumstances, and the mention of it has no business in the Creed. I must refer its beginning to a power not of this earth before it can present itself as an object of my faith.”
As we proceed, I want to first acknowledge the source of the basic outline of the Scriptures I will use tonight. It is from a book called the World's Bible Handbook, a incredible study tool that I cannot begin to imagine how much time and effort went into its writing, and all by a single author: Robert Boyd.
Let's notice a Verse that also tells us, from God's perspective, what we are: 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”
Albert Barnes writes, “But ye are a chosen generation - In contradistinction from those who, by their disobedience, had rejected the Saviour as the foundation of hope. The people of God are often represented as his chosen or elected people.
A royal priesthood - The meaning of this is, probably, that they “at once bore the dignity of kings, and the sanctity of priests” - Compare Rev_1:6; “And hath made us kings and priests unto God.” See also Isa_61:6; “But ye shall be named priests of the Lord; men shall call ye ministers of our God.” It may be, however, that the word royal is used only to denote the dignity of the priestly office which they sustained, or that they constituted, as it were, an entire nation or kingdom of priests. They were a kingdom over which he presided, and they were all priests; so that it might be said they were a kingdom of priests - a kingdom in which all the subjects were engaged in offering sacrifice to God. The expression appears to be taken from Exodus_19:6 - “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests” - and is such language as one who had been educated as a Jew would be likely to employ to set forth the dignity of those whom he regarded as the people of God.
An holy nation - This is also taken from Exodus 19:6. The Hebrews were regarded as a nation consecrated to God; and now that they were cast off or rejected for their disobedience, the same language was properly applied to the people whom God had chosen in their place - the Christian church.
A peculiar people - The word “peculiar,” in its common acceptation now, would mean that they were distinguished from others, or were singular. The reading in the margin would mean that they had been bought or redeemed. Both these things are so, but neither of them expresses the exact sense of the original. The Greek means, “a people for a possession;” that is, as pertaining to God. They are a people which he has secured as a possession, or as his own; a people, therefore, which belong to him, and to no other. In this sense they are special as being His; and, being such, it may be inferred that they should be special in the sense of being unlike others (unique) in their manner of life. But that idea is not necessarily in the text. There seems to be here also an allusion to Exodus_19:5; “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure with me above all people.”
That ye should show forth the praises of him - Margin, “virtues.” The Greek word means properly “good quality, excellence” of any kind. It means here the excellences of God - His goodness, His wondrous deeds, or those things which make it proper to praise Him. This shows one great object for which they were redeemed. It was that they might proclaim the glory of God, and keep up the remembrance of His wondrous deeds in the earth. This is to be done:
(a) By proper ascriptions of praise to him in public, family, and social worship;
(b) By being always the avowed friends of God, ready ever to vindicate His government and ways;
(c) By endeavoring to make known His excellences to all those who are ignorant of Him; and,
(d) By such a life as shall constantly proclaim His praise - as the sun, the moon, the stars, the hills, the streams, the flowers do, showing what God does. The consistent life of a devoted Christian is a constant setting forth of the praise of God, showing to all that the God who has made him such is worthy to be loved.
Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light -. Darkness is the emblem of ignorance, sin, and misery, and refers here to their condition before their conversion; light is the emblem of the opposite, and is a beautiful representation of the state of those who are brought to the knowledge of the gospel. The word marvelous means wonderful; and the idea is, that the light of the gospel was such as was unusual, or not to be found elsewhere, as that excites wonder or surprise which we are not accustomed to see. The primary reference here is, undoubtedly, to those who had been pagans, and to the great change which had been produced by their having been brought to the knowledge of the truth as revealed in the gospel; and, in regard to this, no one can doubt that the one state deserved to be characterized as darkness, and the other as light.
The contrast was as great as that between midnight and noonday. But what is here said is substantially correct of all who are converted, and is often as strikingly true of those who have been brought up in Christian lands, as of those who have lived among the pagans. The change in conversion is often so great and so rapid, the views and feelings are so different before and after conversion, that it seems like a sudden transition from midnight to noon. In all cases, also, of true conversion, though the change may not be so striking, or apparently so sudden, there is a change of which this may be regarded as substantially an accurate description. In many cases the convert can adopt this language in all its fulness, as descriptive of his own conversion; in all cases of genuine conversion it is true that each one can say that he has been called from a state in which his mind was dark to one in which it is comparatively clear.”
After telling us that Christians are chosen, royal, holy and peculiar: He says that we are to shew forth the praises of God. How do we shew forth the praises of God? Let's return to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in which He identified His followers... us... as the Light of the World. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus also had some things to say about the contrast between Light and darkness, and what that contrast means in regard to how we live our lives as Christians:
We read in John 3:19: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
Matthew Henry writes regarding Jesus' Words to Nicodemus regarding the contrast between Light and darkness: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them.
There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome.
A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions.”
That was Matthew Henry. Did he not perfectly sum up and answer what I just asked regarding how do we shew forth the praises of God in his comments on this Verse? I find his insights as being among the most inspiring and edifying of any Bible Commentator I have ever read: He is thoroughly familiar with Scripture, demonstrated by his seemingly effortless cross-referencing, but, far and above familiarity, he is also genuinely in awe of the Word of God. But... as amazing as his insights are, the timelessness of what he wrote is equally amazing to me: In spite of the fact that his published Commentary is 407 years old, it is no less powerful and every bit as fresh and relevant to our Christian lives as this morning's news!
Just as an aside.... when these words were originally written, those who wanted to leave Europe and travel to the New World in search of religious freedom, boarded ships and sailed for three months on an open ocean so that they might be able to follow God according to the dictates of their conscience and understanding, and without fear of persecution. And it is that very same Bible that leads us today. But look at how the technology has advanced. I don't have to sail for months in order to lead a Discussion, as I have in years past, with believers in Canada or New Zealand or Afghanistan.
I am here, sitting in my own house, at my own kitchen table, and speaking in a conversational tone, and people in all of those places I named, heard these very same words of Truth instantly. But let's go back farther than 400 years: Matthew Henry comments on writings that are thousands of years old. But... in spite of the technology that we take so for granted, man has not changed:. his rebellious nature, his failings, his sin and his need for a Savior has not changed!
And that is why all of these writings, the words that God inspired, and the comments that are inspiring are timeless. Because our Creator has reached down into our realm of existence to call us out of the darkness that we are born into, and into His Marvelous Light.
There is spiritual application to the Genesis account of Creation when we read in Genesis 1:4: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” We are also to separate ourselves from the works of darkness.
We read in Colossians 1:12: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:”
It sometimes happens, however, when we turn from the past lives that we lived in darkness, that those who were in the dark with us will often react badly to our withdrawal from their circles.
We read in 1 Peter chapter 4, and beginning in Verse 1: “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:”
But evil speaking or no, withdrawal from our past lives, with a renewed mind is exactly what the Christian is supposed to do: It will not be a immediate separation, but it will be a separation if we are walking true to our calling. The new Christian and his old circle of friends will begin to appreciate each other's likes and priorities and taste in morals and entertainment and jokes less and less.
Peter refers to it in 2 Peter 2:20 as having escaped “the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And it is an escape. We were being held prisoner. But what did say part of his Mission on earth was? It was “to preach deliverance to the captives.” Let's read the entire text of what He said He was anointed to do... In His first public sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth He announced in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised...”
We were among those captives to whom Jesus preached deliverance. We've been delivered, and in so doing we have escaped the pollutions of the world. We have new lives in Christ to live, and as such, we cannot go on living the way we were before, walking down the wide path that leads to destruction. That is behind us now... we have been set free. We have been forgiven.
But Forgiveness is not a blank check for us to continue in sin, or as we read in Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Well, the answer is that we can't. We have to come out of and separate ourselves from the ways and standards of the world.
The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:13: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
I'd like to focus in on Verse 13 of 2 Corinthians 6 in specific regard to our being a Light in the world.
Paul wrote that Christians should not be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” The primary thrust of that verse is in regard to marriage. There are, however, times when in a marriage where the man and the woman are both unsaved, and then one of them comes to Christ.
This was the case, with Lee Strobel, who is another of my favorite authors. He and his wife were atheists, and his wife came to Christ. What happened in that marriage was exactly what the Apostle Peter said should have happened.
We read in New American Standard translation of 1 Peter 3:1: “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.”
It was not Lee Strobel's wife's preaching or coaxing to come to Church with her that won him over. He was, as Peter put it, “won without a word” by her behavior. Lee Strobel writes about his own conversion in the introduction of his book “The Case for A Creator: “... my wife announced that she had decided to become a follower of Jesus... I simply couldn't comprehend how such a rational person could buy into an irrational concoction of wishful thinking, make-believe, mythology and legend...
In the ensuing months, however, as Leslie's character began to change, as her values underwent a transformation, as she became a more loving and caring and authentic person, I began asking ... 'What's gotten in to you?' Something, or, as she would claim, 'Someone' was undeniably changing her for the better. Clearly, I needed to investigate what was going on...”
And now he, too, is a Christian, and has gone on to becoming the prolific author of a series of books defending and strengthening the faith that he once arrogantly dismissed and wrote off as so much mythology. Leslie Strobel's Light was shining for her husband and others, as our Lights should also be shining for all of those who encounter us. We are, after all, the only Bible that some people will ever “read”!
In the context of providing letters of approval for Paul, we read in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” Paul said that the members of the Corinthian Church manifested themselves as the “epistle of Christ... written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”
Adam Clarke writes, “Manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ - Ye are in our hearts, and Christ has written you there; but yourselves are the epistle of Christ; the change produced in your hearts and lives, and the salvation which you have received, are as truly the work of Christ as a letter dictated and written by a man in his work.
Ministered by us - Ye are the writing, but Christ used me as the pen; Christ dictated, and I wrote; and the Divine characters are not made with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God; for the gifts and graces that constitute the mind that was in Christ are produced in you by the Holy Ghost.
Not in tables of stone - Where men engrave contracts, or record events; but in fleshly tables of the heart - the work of salvation taking place in all your affections, appetites, and desires; working that change within that is so signally manifested without.
See the parts of this figurative speech: 1. Jesus Christ dictates. 2. The apostle writes. 3. The hearts of the Corinthians are the substance on which the writing is made. And, 4. The Holy Spirit produces that influence by which the traces are made, and the mark becomes evident.
Here is not only an allusion to making inscriptions on stones, where one dictates the matter, and another cuts the letters; (and probably there were certain cases where some colouring matter was used to make the inscription the more legible; and when the stone was engraved, it was set up in some public place, as monuments, inscriptions, and contracts were, that they might be seen, known, and read of all men); but the apostle may here refer to the ten commandments, written by the finger of God upon two tables of stone; which writing was an evidence of the Divine mission of Moses, as the conversion of the Corinthians was an evidence of the mission of
St. Paul. But it may be as well to take the words in a general sense, as the expression is not unfrequent either in the Old Testament, or in the rabbinical writers. See Schoettgen.”
Our lives, our choices, our priorities, our willingness to serve and to forgive, our honesty, our not listening to or repeating the juicy gossip that comes our way, our turning the other cheek in the face of opposition or ridicule for the sake of Christ do not go unnoticed by the unsaved. Do you think for a minute that the unsaved don't notice the difference between worldly behavior when they come into contact with genuine, Spirit-filled Christian behavior? Think again. It has all the obvious effect of being in a windowless, pitch black room during a power failure, and someone walks in with a flashlight or a lit candle. It is noticed. And that is part of our calling. To be that light in the darkness.
As Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 5:14: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” In the beginning, in preparation for the Creation of Adam, God said, Let there be light. And there was light. In Luke 2:32, when Jesus, the Second Adam came, Simeon was in the Temple when Jesus parents brought the Christ child there to be presented according to the custom of the Law, and he thanked God because he had seen “thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”
And just as God approved of the Light in Genesis, saying that it was good, the Father was pleased with His Son, Whom He sent to be the Light of the world. We read in Mark 1:11: “And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus was that “great light” spoken of in Matthew 4:16, where it is written: “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”
Speaking of Himself, Jesus said in John 8:12: “... I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
We can read this as a Promise to us from Jesus. Those who follow Him shall not walk in darkness.
Paul reminds us of our past life that we have been called out of in Ephesians 5:8: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” Let me read that again because the meaning is too easy to miss. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”
Alexander MacClaren writes, “GOD'S IMITATORS: The Revised Version gives a more literal and more energetic rendering of this verse by reading, ‘Be ye, therefore, imitators of God, as beloved children.’ It is the only place in the Bible where that bold word ‘imitate’ is applied to the Christian relation to God. But, though the expression is unique, the idea underlies the whole teaching of the New Testament on the subject of Christian character and conduct. To be like God, and to set ourselves to resemble Him, is the sum of all duty; and in the measure in which we approximate thereto, we come to perfection. So, then, there are here just two points that I would briefly touch upon now-the one is the sublime precept of the text, and the other the all-sufficient motive enforcing it. ‘Be ye imitators of God as’-because you are, and know yourselves to be-’beloved children,’ and it therefore behoves you to be like your Father.
Now notice that, broad as this precept is, and all-inclusive of every kind of excellence and duty as it may be, the Apostle has a very definite and specific meaning in it. There is one feature, and only one, in which, accurately speaking, a man may be like God. Our limited knowledge can never be like the ungrowing perfect wisdom of God. Our holiness cannot be like His, for there are many points in our nature and character which have no relation or correspondence to anything in the divine nature. But what is left? Love is left. Our other graces are not like the God to whom they cleave. My faith is not like His faithfulness. My obedience is not like His authority. My submission is not like His autocratic power. My emptiness is not like His fulness. My aspirations are not like His gratifying of them.
They correspond to God, but correspondence is not similarity; rather it presupposes unlikeness. Just as a concavity will fit into a convexity, for the very reason that it is concave and not convex, so the human unlikenesses, which are correspondent to God, are the characteristics by which it becomes possible that we should cleave to Him and inhere in Him. But whilst there is much in which He stands alone and incomparable, and whilst we have all to say, ‘Who is like unto Thee, O Lord?’ or what likeness shall we compare unto Him?
We yet can obey in reference to one thing,-and to one thing only, as it seems to me-the commandment of my text, ‘Be ye imitators of God.’ We can be like Him in nothing else, but our love not only corresponds to His, but is of the same quality and nature as His, howsoever different it may be in sweep and in fervour and in degree.
The tiniest drop that hangs upon the tip of a thorn will be as perfect a sphere as the sun, and it will have its little rainbow on its round, with all the prismatic colours, the same in tint and order and loveliness, as when the bow spans the heavens. The dew-drop may imitate the sun, and we are to be imitators of God; knit to Him by the one thing in us which is kindred to Him in the deepest sense-the love that is the life of God and the perfecting of man.
Well, then, notice how the Apostle in the context fastens upon a certain characteristic of that divine love which we are to imitate in our lives; and thereby makes the precept a very practical and a very difficult one. Godlike love will be love that gives as liberally as His does. What is the very essence of all love? Longing to be like. And the purest and deepest love is love which desires to impart itself, and that is God’s love. The Bible seems to teach us that in a very mysterious sense, about which the less we say the less likely we are to err, there is a quality of giving up, as well as of giving, in God’s love; for we read of the Father that ‘spared not His Son,’ by which is meant, not that He did not shrink from inflicting something upon the Son, but that He did not grudgingly keep that Son for Himself. ‘He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up to the death for us all.’ And if we can say but little about that surrender on the part of the infinite Fountain of all love, we can say that Jesus Christ, who is the activity of the Father’s love, spared not Himself, but, as the context puts it, ‘gave Himself up for us.’
And that is the pattern for us. That thought is not a subject to be decorated with tawdry finery of eloquence, or to be dealt with as if it were a sentimental prettiness very fit to be spoken of, but impossible to be practised. It is the duty of every Christian man and woman, and they have not done their duty unless they have learned that the bond which unites them to men is, in its nature, the very same as the bond which unites men to God; and that they will not have lived righteously unless they learn to be ‘imitators of God,’ in the surrender of themselves for their brother’s good.”
Finally, notice once again how Paul phrased this: not that we formerly walked in darkness, but that we “were sometimes darkness...” We were darkness. “But,” he says, we are not now merely walking in the Light, he says “now are ye light in the Lord.”
I will close with Paul's summary words, “Walk as children of light.”
This concludes this Evening's Discussion, “In the Image and Likeness of God, Part 3.”
This Discussion was originally presented “live” on March 14th, 2018
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