Two Roots of the Covenant #37

    This is the THIRD part of Chapter 3: Many Splendored Thing.  Speaking here of the “Roots of the Covenant”, I am hoping readers will be developing an appreciation for the loving care that God exercised in drawing us into His Covenant.  It is remarkable beyond anyone’s ability to describe.  

My development of the first two chapters of Genesis is a bit unique here.  I have found it valuable to point out that there are two key truths presented in these two chapters.  These two truths are the ROOTS of the Covenant.  Seeing the way these two roots functioned both before and after the Fall is helpful to our understanding of the wonderful thing God was doing when he created man into Covenantal Relationship with Him.  Here is a preliminary glimpse of these two roots in outline form.       

(1) Mankind’s creation in the image of God, Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7,

(2) Mankind’s establishment in three Covenantal Relationships, Genesis 2.

  1. Covenantal Worship of God: 2:2-3
  2. Covenantal Dominion over Creation: 2:15-17, 19 -20
  3. Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman: 2:18 & 20b – 25

In the rest of this chapter I will describe the first root as given in Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:7.  In the final part of this chapter we will look at the second root described in Genesis 2. The evidence continues to grow that God’s love for us is amazing at every level of his relationship with us.

These two roots themselves are full of the splendor of God and the splendor of his love for us.  The second root branches out into 3 “sub-roots” as we might call them.  While studying these two roots we will discover the climactic pattern present in this Covenantal plan.  At first glance this may seem a bit complex, but it is really the wonderfully simple plan that God made for us.  It is full of His amazing love and anticipates even greater wonders as history moves to its grand conclusion.

 Root #1: The Splendor of Our Creation in the Image of God

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  Genesis 1:26

            This is a simple but magnificent statement. In this verse we are overhearing God planning to create man as a being like himself.  This was the grand climax of the whole process of Creation.  Every act of creation is filled with the glory of God, but his creation of man is at the very pinnacle of it all.   It is truly a surpassing wonder, opening our hearts in adoring worship as we begin to understand what God has done in the act of creating us.  That creation itself is an awesome act of love, covenantal love for mankind.

There can be some value in comparing God’s act of creating us to the physical wonders we are discovering today.  The Hubble telescope, for instance has helped us discover that there are at least 100 billion galaxies whirling around us with an average of 100 billion stars in each galaxy, billions of light years separating these galactic marvels.  The sheer magnitude of such vastness takes our breath away.  Just this last week in Missouri we were able to see a magnificent display of meteor showers filling the skies (August 2015).  We are reminded that this was just the tiniest part of God’s vast “wonder of the skies.”

Then, after looking through the Hubble telescope at the glories above us, we turn to look down into our computer enhanced microscopes to examine the incredible complexities of the human genome with its billions of miles of DNA; our minds reel in a vain effort to get some kind of a grasp of these infinitesimally small and intricately amazing realities.

BUT, after looking first through our telescopes and then into our computerized microscopes, we must insist that these incredible physical realities pale into insignificance before the wonder of God’s creating us in his image.  There are no words adequate to describe this miraculous act of God, this amazing display of His love for the creature He formed in His own image and likeness.

John Calvin states that in creating man “Our Lord wanted to create a Masterpiece”*9.  E. J. Young calls man the “crown” of creation*10, and R. Kent Hughes calls this event “the apex of the narrative.*11”.   That sense of climax is then heightened by the straightforward statement in verse 27 of the manner in which God carries out the proposal he made in verse 26:

“So God created man in his own image,

                 In the image of God he created him;

              Male and female he created them.”

Both men and women are created in the glorious image of God.  They share equally in the dignity and honor of that image.  The sheer grandeur of this wonder increases as we consider our next point.

Trinitarian Origins Debate

There is a question here, a debate among Godly scholars:  “Why did God use the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ in verse 26?  It was as if there were more than one person involved in His deliberation?”

You cannot believe the amount of scholarly debate that this question has caused.  I hesitate to take you into this kind of complexities when we are trying to concentrate simply on the SPLENDOR of the COVENANT, but I believe it is necessary here, and adds measurably to this very SPLENDOR which I am describing in God’s love, His covenantal love.

The debate has centered on whether the ‘us’ and the ‘our’ reflect the Trinity deliberating on this issue.  Are the three divine persons having a discussion among themselves or is there some other explanation for those plural pronouns?

On the negative side, Old Testament scholar Gordon J. Wenham insists that the Trinity is not reflected in this text. He contends, ‘it is now universally admitted that this is not what the plural [pronouns] meant*12.

Other scholars like Delitzsch and Waltke agree with Wenham*13.

But the tide may be turning against this negative opinion.

In his fine commentary on Genesis 1-4, Dr. C. John Collins gives a valuable exegetical study of relevant Biblical texts and studies of trustworthy scholars.  Then Collins concludes that “ the ‘us’ in Genesis 1:26 has God speaking to himself. I think we can go further and say that God is deliberating with himself; after all, we have already seen the Spirit of God in verse 2.” *14

In good scholarly form, Collins refuses to dogmatize, insisting only that the Genesis “narration allows it.” Collins is saying that the “narration” permits a Trinitarian interpretation but does not demand it.  At the same time, it seems to me that his commentary clearly favors the Trinitarian position.

In his book Last Things First, however, Old Testament scholar Dr. J.V. Fesko goes a short step beyond Collins, stating plainly, “Genesis 1:26 is a reference to the Trinity.  15*,” (emphasis mine) and alleging support for his opinion in a lengthy footnote. Fesko then quotes Dr. Anthony Hoekema as follows:

“Human beings reflect God, who exists not as a solitary being, but a being in fellowship – a fellowship that is described at a later stage of divine revelation as that between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 16*”

This is a truly amazing idea, based on the scholarly reasoning of a number of Godly thinkers.  Notice how the Psalmist David sums it up as he reflects on God’s creation in Psalm 8:3-5

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

            The moon and the stars which you have set in place

What is man that you are mindful of him

And the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

            And crowned him with glory and honor.”

We will have much more to say about these “image of God” features which God has built into mankind.  We will interact with humanistic and atheistic philosophers whose faulty reasoning leads them to deny that God had any part in man’s creation or his present life.  And then we will rejoice together in the strong evidence we find for God’s gracious work of creating us in his image.  Yes, we will rejoice especially in the love of God revealed in GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE.  That love rescued us after our Fall into sin. At this point we need to pause for what we might call a key theological note.

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