March 29, 2015

What We Believe about Humanity

We believe that God made humanity in his image.

“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image….in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)  Genesis 1:27 affirms that humanity is both male and female, and that the fullness of the image of God is seen in male and female.

We believe that all people are created with equal value by God.

Galatians 3:26-29 (along with Genesis and much of Jesus’ ministry) makes it clear that in Jesus Christ ALL people are made equal in value, standing and personhood. God desires that all people have the opportunity to be in relationship with him (John 3:16). In both Old Testament and New – God can call anyone into service and ministry with him.  And his call is not limited by sex, race, nationality, social station, or economic standing (Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:10; 4:10-16).

We believe that being human is both physical and spiritual in nature.

Humanity is like the rest of creation, which is made of material “stuff” that has been animated[i] by the power and Spirit of God.  And like the rest of creation our physical bodies will wear out and we may die (Genesis 2:7).  Humanity is the only creature made in the image of God, endowed with characteristics of God, but we are not God, nor do we have the potential to be God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Psalm 8; Psalm 113:5; Job 40-42:6).

In order to have God’s characteristics we must also be spiritual beings. Humanity is often described as having heart, mind, body, spirit, and soul[ii] (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12-13). These physical and spiritual components are interwoven as a part of our unique design, and are expressed in our capacity for thought, will, and emotions.

The human soul is an eternal spiritual component (Matthew 10:28) of our nature that is designed for communion with God (Ezekiel 18:4).  Our soul is designed to love and long for God (Psalm 42:1), and is restored by God (Psalm 23:3).  Our soul can experience the brokenness of our existence and drift from our God-centered design (Psalm 42). Our soul can praise God (Psalm 103:1) and find fulfillment of longings (Psalm 37:4). Our souls find rest in living according to God’s purposes and plans (Matthew 11:25-30).

To be human is to be both physical and spiritual beings.  Our eternal experience with God, after life here, will also involve material and spiritual existence.  Our bodies will be made new when Christ returns to wrap up God’s plans for this world (Isaiah 26:19; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

We Believe humanity is a unique creation.

We believe that humankind is distinctly and uniquely made. Our design was in addition to and beyond what God did for the rest of creation.  Although there are similarities among living things and our DNA[iii] structures, there is a designed complexity to humanity that was not intended for the rest of created things (Genesis 1; Psalm 8).

We believe that humanity was made to display God’s character in life and work.

God intended humanity to be a reflection of him and for our work to resemble his work (Genesis 1:26).  Part of humanity’s reflection of God’s character is the ability to create and multiply.  We were given the ability to multiply physically and spiritually.  Procreation[iv] is one aspect of physical multiplication (Genesis 1:28).  Add to this the unique abilities to create music, art, feats of engineering, etc. and we see that every aspect of human life and design was meant to reflect the image of God through the things we do (Ephesians 2:10).   This responsibility to create physically comes through the authority God gave us to be stewards[v] of and workers in creation (Genesis 2:15). Men and women share in this responsibility individually and together (Genesis 2:21-23).

We see the spiritual responsibility to multiply in Jesus’ command to make disciples – “as we are going” into all the world (Matthew 28:19).  In every facet, moment, and season of life, multiplication is both an individual and a community responsibility as we reflect God’s creative nature.  This could be called our great co-mission with God, and is not possible apart from God.  Personal discipleship of others and the planting of new churches are two significant ways we see this being applied in the church.

God’s plan for those who follow Jesus is to conform them to the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).  Jesus’ sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension restores humanity to a right relationship with God (John 14:23-26; 16:15; 17:20-26). This relationship transforms/conforms every aspect of our life and work to be like Christ (Romans 8:28-30).  Humanity has a spiritual and physical connection with God since Jesus was resurrected and ascended to sit at the right hand of God with his physical body intact and renewed (John 20:24-30; Acts 1:9; Ephesians 2:6-7).  It means our spiritual and physical lives will be transformed in relationship with God.

Through active belief in and relationship with Christ, humanity has the presence of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and empowers us to carry out God’s purposes (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 12:7).

Through active faith relationship with Christ, humanity is intimately connected to God, and is empowered to live out the fullness of the image of God.  This is what it means to be God’s witnesses as the Church, literally his reflection and living representatives in and for the world and for the heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:10-12).

We believe that humanity is broken and separated from God by sin.[vi]

   Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree God had commanded them not to. They chose to know good and evil, and be like God. The opportunity to choose was an issue of relationship, the choice to take matters into their own hands was an act of self-will or disobedience to God’s will.  This selfish act by Adam and Eve brought a separation from the intimate relationship God had intended to have with them.  Since humanity was charged with ruling over creation, their separation from God led to the separation of all creation from God.  This is what we call “the Fall” (Genesis 3).

To sin is to “miss the mark.”  When we choose to go our own way apart from God we are sinning, missing God’s plans/design for us, and it will lead us to death and destruction instead of the life God intended (Proverbs 14:12, Ephesians 2:10, Romans 2:13).

Every human being was designed to be in relationship with God and to have his guidance. All human beings are accountable for their choices. Apart from God, humanity’s natural course is one of selfish desire and destruction (Romans 1:18-32). Unless we choose to let God intervene and lead our lives through Jesus Christ, we will continue to choose our own paths and be in sin and separation from God (Psalm 51:7-13; Romans 3:21-24; James 4:17).  This leads not only to destructive consequences in our lifetimes, but also to eternal separation from God – a second and eternal death (Revelation 21:8).

We believe humanity is given the freedom to choose.

Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden (Genesis 3).  The issue of choice is always one of relationship, it’s not that God was surprised by their choice, but rather the only way to have relationship was to have the choice not to have it. God indicates Adam and Eve could listen to the serpent[vii] over and against God (Genesis 3:17).

We are free to live and think and act according to our own wills (Joshua 24:15; John 1:12; John 6:67). We have freedom to accept or reject God, to obey or disobey.  However, God does set boundaries on human behavior. Freedom has always come in some framework of restrictions. One of those restrictions comes in the inability to nullify[viii] the consequence of our negative decisions. Another would be when our freedom of choice would nullify a sovereign choice of God. We are not free to be God (Genesis 3:1-6).  We are creature, not creator.

All persons experience inner tension between the desire to do right and the pressure to do wrong (Mark 10:17-22; Romans 14:12). We believe by God’s grace[ix] that people are free to choose to walk with Christ or not walk with Christ. Throughout their lifetimes, persons are free moral agents[x] with choice to walk or not walk with God by faith. What God does in regard to our salvation is God’s decision in regard to our hearts (I Samuel 16:7; Colossians 1:22-23; 2 Timothy 2:19).  Grace remains the active power in providing salvation for God’s people. Faith serves as the vehicle of delivery for that grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Believers are assured of their position with Christ.  Relationship with God is not broken every time the Christian fails (1 John 2:1).  Christians who confess their sin have the promise that God will forgive, restore, and cleanse them (1 John 1:9). God provides power for living a victorious life following Jesus. As Christians remain in Christ, he remains in them (Psalm 100:5; Matthew 28:20; John 15:4; Hebrews 13:5).  We may forsake God.  God will not forsake us.  God will provide a way for freedom from sin, and work in us to live according to his will (1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 2:13).  God’s people can approach life with a sense of victory.

Our choices of who/what to trust or have faith in will affect our eternal destiny (Habakkuk 2:4; Josh 22:15-20; Matt 5:17-21; John 3:16-18, John 15:5-6, Romans 3:21-24; Ephesians 2:8-10).  The issue of choice and relationship with Jesus does not limit God’s sovereignty and authority over creation, but speaks to his justice and his desire to love him freely – not by force.

We believe God’s plan for humanity includes healing for the whole person.

With the power that raised Jesus from the dead, God transforms us from within (Romans 8:11, 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  As we are conformed to the image of Christ, we discover more and more that in him is the only place we find peace (Ephesians 2:14).  He urges us to grow ever deeper in our trust and understanding of him, and in the living out of our faith (Ephesians 4:12-13).

   Jesus stated that his purpose was to come so that we “may have life and life to the full” (John 10:10).  From scripture we have pictures that show us that a “full” life is both celebration and mourning, laughter and tears (Ecclesiastes 3).  As Jesus works in us to heal, restore, and free us from our fallen and willful nature, he redeems every experience and puts them in the perspective of God’s grace (Romans 8). This healing work of Jesus in us, progresses until it is completed for all eternity. (Revelation 7:17; 21:4)


[i] Animated – given life; put into motion.

[ii] Soul – the spiritual nature (essence) of individual human life created by God.

[iii] DNA – basic material in human beings which contains the genetic code and transmits hereditary patterns.

[iv] Procreation – the production of offspring.

[v] Stewards – persons entrusted with managing resources for which they are accountable to God

[vi] Sin – the universal state of alienation from God which results in disobedience and wrongdoing.

[vii] Serpent – another term for Satan who appears in the Garden of Eden as a snake-like creature.

[viii] Nullify – to void or cancel out.

[ix] Grace – the undeserved and free favor of God toward humanity.

[x] Free moral agent – a person able to think and act according to one’s own will and free to choose between good and evil in relationship to God and others.

 

Last updated (July 2013)