The Incarnation, part 4
Aug 15, 2019
Paul tells us in Romans 4:17 KJV,
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
The NASB reads, “and calls into being that which does not exist.” In other words, what does not exist comes into existence when God forms an image in His mind and then declares it with His word. In that word is life itself. His word, then, is the meaning of life and existence.
This is the law of imputation, illustrated by the story of Abraham, who was the father of many nations even before he had any sons at all. God, being the sovereign Creator of all things, has the right to speak anything into existence in accordance with His own will.
The Living Word
When God speaks, living things and living beings are created. We see this at every step in the original creation of the heavens and the earth. His word (Hebrew davar) is the logos of John’s gospel. John 1:3, 4 says,
3 All things came into being by [dia, “through”] Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him [autou, “it” or “Him,” referring to the “word”] was life…
The word contained life and brought life. Verse 4 uses a pronoun autou, which refers to the logos. In Greek, words have gender. Logos is a masculine word, so the pronoun autou would be understood as masculine in Greek. Many languages have assigned gender to their words, including Spanish. But since English makes almost no use of gender, the pronoun above was translated into English according to personal bias or understanding. The NASB (above) renders it “Him,” with a capital “H,” because the translators believed that it referred to Jesus Christ, when it could just as easily have been rendered “it,” meaning the word that God spoke.
We need not enter that debate at this point. What is important for us to see is that in the word (or the Word) was life. The point is that when God speaks, it is a living word, and when God speaks through a man in the image of God, he becomes the living word as well. We will have more to say about this later when we are able to expound on what it means to be in the image of God.
Different Levels of Life
When God spoke, creation came into existence alive, not dead. No secondary command was needed to bring life to that which was created by the living word. Obviously, there are different levels of life. Rocks do not enjoy the same level of life that trees have. Rocks are inanimate by men’s understanding of the meaning of life.
Trees are a higher on the created order than rocks, but trees do not enjoy the same level of life that animals have, and animals are not on the same level as man.
I have talked with some who have had spiritual experiences where they were transported to the heavens or to some other realm of the spirit. They report that the water, rocks, trees, animals, and even the colors are alive and in fellowship (communication). Is there any reason to believe that only God, angels, and sons of God may reside in a heavenly dimension? If not, heaven would need a woman to decorate it and make it beautiful and ideal?
The question is this: Do they exist in the spiritual realm? If so, what gives them existence (by God’s definition, of course)? Is it not the living word of God?
Man enjoyed the highest level of life when he was made in the image of God. As we will see later, the image of God is a key factor in determining the quality of life that one has. But that image was lost when Adam sinned, reducing his quality of life to a level lower than immortality.
In Matthew 9:18, we read of a man who came to Jesus and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus did raise her from the dead, and she lived. She was not made immortal, but she was given life on this lower level.
On another occasion, in Luke 10:25, a lawyer asked Jesus, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him what his understanding was of the law’s teaching. The lawyer responded with the two great commandments: to love God and your neighbor. Jesus then said in verse 28, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
This is the same type of life that Paul discussed in Romans 1:17 when he said, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” He was speaking about immortal life.
The type of life that Paul and the lawyer were seeking was different from the man who desired Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead. The lawyer wanted to know about immortality—and more specifically, about eonian life, or “life in The Age.” In other words, he wanted to know how to qualify for the First Resurrection, so that he would enjoy immortality during the great Sabbath Millennium when the Messiah reigns.
Another type of life is seen in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:32,
32 But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found.
This speaks of the dead in terms of being lost or separated from the father. Life, then, is regained by his return, repentance, and restoration to fellowship with his father.
Furthermore, there are both good and evil spirits, each alive on different levels, just as we see with good and evil men. Evil spirits are alive but do not enjoy the same quality of life as angels.
In the case of people in general, why would they not exist as soon as God imagined them, predestinated them, and when He foreknew them at the beginning of this creation project? I do not think that they existed in the same form as when they were born physically on earth, but existence does not depend upon fleshly form.
The Jewish view in ancient times limited pre-existence to an impersonal predestination, wherein God only had an idea that would result in existence at a later time. Perhaps this was rooted in their view of a majestic God who was a bit too separate from His creation. The concept of predestination can be quite sterile and cold when not viewed in the context of God’s character of love, His need to express it, and His desire for fellowship with loved ones. But with a proper view of God as our loving Father, as Jesus Himself presented to us in His teachings, predestination takes on life, personality and even person-hood.
The Law of Imputation
We return now to the law of imputation, where, by His word, God calls things into existence (or “into being”) before they are manifested in the world. It is a peculiar characteristic of the Hebrew language and thought process in Scripture that God speaks of future things in the past tense. The reason is because when a timeless God predestines something by His own will, it is done, at least by His own standards and definitions.
Whether or not it has manifested on the earth, whether or not we see it with our eyes, whether or not we recognize its existence, it is a reality from God’s perspective. His viewpoint, in the end, is all that really matters, for we yet see through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). Again, “We know in part, and we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). When we look at things through God’s eyes, we do not engage in wishful or positive thinking. We see things as they really are.
The law of imputation gives us the right to see things from God’s perspective. Those who have faith that God is able to fulfill that which He has promised (and predestined) are the righteous ones. God, in turn, declares them to be righteous in His eyes, even though from the earthly standpoint, they are still growing and learning righteousness. It is not that they are presently righteous, but that God declares the end from the beginning. He sees us not as we are now but as what we are becoming—a finished product, fully in the image of Christ, perfected and glorified.
This law of imputation is the basis for a proper understanding of pre-existence that goes beyond the Jewish view, even as it modifies and corrects the carnal Greek view.
Imputation brings things into existence.
Reality and Illusion
There are many who teach that the earthly realm of matter is a mere illusion and that only spiritual existence is reality. This view is based on the underlying Greek premise that makes spirit good and matter evil. Such views do not honor or glorify the Creator, for it shows how little they value that which our Good God has labored to produce.
If this were the case, would not Genesis 1:1 read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the illusion of the earth”? We ought to be more appreciative and thankful for the earth and the fullness thereof.
Some—especially in Eastern religions—also claim that sin itself is an illusion or does not exist. Sin is ignorance, they say. But the Bible says it is an "offense” (Romans 5:14). Ignorance is remedied in a classroom; an offense is judged in a court room.
To any victim of crime, sin is no illusion. Neither is the solution to ignore it and hope it goes away. The law makes sin real, and the cross confirms it, for Christ did not die merely to teach us a principle that would dispel our illusions.
The Jewish view of pre-existence as defined in terms of predestination and foreknowledge implies that reality comes only when something appears in an earthly or fleshly existence. They would not go so far as to say that predestination is an illusion, for that is an eastern viewpoint. To them, predestination is the voice of prophecy, and reality is its fulfillment.
I understand that view and can appreciate it from the human perspective. However, one might also make the argument that the word of God creates existence, life, and reality and that the fulfillment of prophecy is its double witness establishing and proving that reality.
The idea of illusion is usually applied (mistakenly) to that which is evil and temporary. But an illusion is a false understanding of reality, whether that reality is good or evil. It is the opposite of the knowledge of God. The New Covenant guarantees that all mankind will ultimately have the knowledge of God (Hebrews 8:11), and then all illusions will end.
We come now to the heart of the matter—the image of God.
This is part 4 of a series titled "The Incarnation" To view all parts, click the link below.