The image of God in man…means that God made human beings, both male and female, to be created and finite representations (images of God) of God’s own nature, that in relationship with Him and each other, they might be His representatives (imaging God) in carrying out the responsibilities He has given to them. In this sense, we are images of God in order to image God and His purposes in the ordering of our lives and carrying out of our God-given responsibilities.
Only as the Holy Spirit takes the place of the human father in Jesus’ conception can it be true that the one conceived is both fully God and fully man. Christ must be both God and man to atone for sin, but for this to occur, He must be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a human virgin. No one else in the history of the world is conceived by the Spirit and born of a virgin mother. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.
Consider the following ways in which Jesus alone qualifies as the exclusive Savior:
1. Christ alone was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-38).
2. Christ alone is God incarnate (Jn. 1:1-18; Heb. 1:1-3; 2:14-28; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Tim. 2:5-6).
3. Christ alone lived a sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:23-28; 9:13-14; 1 Pet. 2:21-24).
4. Christ alone died a penal substitutionary death (Isa. 53:4-6; Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:10-14).
5. Christ alone rose from the dead triumphant over sin (Ac. 2:22-24; Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3-8, 16-23).
To the inclusivist…although Jesus has accomplished the work necessary to bring us back to God, nonetheless, people can be saved by responding positively to God’s revelation in creation and perhaps in aspects of their own religions. So, even though Christ is the only Savior, people do not have to know about or believe in Christ to be saved.
Our Savior must be fully man in order to take the place of men and die in their stead, and He must be fully God in order for the value of His sacrificial payment to satisfy the demands of our infinitely holy God. Man He must be, but a mere man simply could not make this infinite payment for sin.
We live in a culture that despises authority at every level. Whether the authority of police, or of government, or of parents, or a husband’s authority in marriage, or pastoral authority in our churches – our culture has programmed us to despise authority. We find it hard to think positively about authority for one very simple reason: We are sinners who want to be in charge of our own lives. We want to be captains of our own destiny. We want to govern our own futures. And here, one of the lessons of the Trinity is that God loves what we despise; namely, God loves, exercises, and embraces rightful authority – submission relationships. God loves this authority-submission structure because God embodies this very structure in His Trinitarian relations of Persons.
As wonderful as the intermediate state is for believers – we are with the Lord – it still falls short of the fullness God has for us when we are given glorified bodies and restored fully into the image of the risen Christ to live with Him forever. So our real hope is the blessed coming of the Lord when the resurrection takes place. The intermediate state is simply a step in that direction, but not the fullness of what God has for us.
Justification is not mere forgiveness, though it involves this, yet it is also the positive crediting of righteousness.
The only hope there is of standing righteous and acceptable before God is by receiving by faith what another has done for you. All self-attainment, self-accomplishment, self-righteousness must be abandoned realizing the vanity and hopelessness of bringing to pass our own right standing before God. We must humble ourselves before a holy God, recognize our sin, acknowledge our complete inability to remove that sin. Then we must embrace what Christ has done for us, instead of us, paying the penalty of our sin in our place in order to bring to us, by faith, a credited righteousness by which God may rightly justify us as ungodly sinners. Look to Christ and Christ alone.
Works that are the outflowing of our salvation are never, then, the root or the basis of our right standing before God, but rather they are the fruit or the demonstration of our true salvation. They testify to the genuineness and reality that we are now His children, that His Spirit lives within, and that the faith that brought us justification continues as a living faith now to bring us ongoing sanctification.
What God has joined together – justification and sanctification – let no one separate.
The bondage that liberates is a bondage to righteousness, a bondage to the will and ways of God, a bondage that claims as its Master and Lord the One whose holy and merciful character is now reproduced in us and through us. Our freedom to be what we were created to be consists, then, in our bondage to God and in nothing else.