Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
I confess that this month’s article by Dr. Ernest L. Martin, “The Bodily Composition of God” was a hard teaching for me to accept at first. 1 I suppose it was because of my Lutheran Missouri Synod religious upbringing that informed me that God did not have a body. The Lutheran Catechism taught that God was a trinity and the Holy “Ghost” (the third “person,” or “manifestation,” or whatever) of that so-called trinity was non-corporeal. However, I knew as a young person that a “ghost” did not have substance. After all, a multifaceted being like a trinity could not have one single body, although the 2nd “person,” Jesus, obviously had a body after His resurrection.
Furthermore, for a god-Thing to have a personality without a body was also ridiculous. I was thinking imaginary (and non-biblical) things about God to justify my preconceived beliefs that ignored obvious and plain Scriptures. I created a monstrous image of who and what God was. I created God in my own mind, of what I “thought” He should be like. I did not use God’s revelation of Himself to inform me. I was confused. What is more interesting (to me at least), I continued to think in an uninformed manner about God years after I understood that the idea of a fantastic and unexplainable “trinity” was not in the Bible.
Until the idea was challenged I thought little about God having a body. That was for theologians to consider and argue about. I was confused and did not know it! I had not accepted or understood the simple statements from the earliest parts of the Bible: man was created in God’s image and likeness. When I questioned and challenged my beliefs, I noticed that I had not thought through, or proven what I had always assumed. 2 I realized that I thought God was some sort of formless mass or blob of intelligent energy. I questioned my original idea that God was an incorporeal “Thing” that, although He certainly had personality (He communicated through intermediaries), He certainly did not have a body! That was preposterous!
When I tried to reconcile my confused thoughts on the subject of God’s bodily composition with the biblical evidence Dr. Martin puts forth in this month’s article, I found it difficult to accept at first. After studying that evidence I agreed with the Bible and Dr. Martin’s presentation of that evidence.
The nature of God is basic to our thinking about the world, about life. If you think that God is an alien blob of loving energy, then your thinking about Him will be warped. On the other hand, if you think that we are made like God is, because God Himself wants us to be like He and Christ are, then we can relate to that. You are familiar with that. You can understand such a God, even though His ways pass all understanding:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says YHWH. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Think back on your own life and study. It is strange how truth continues to surprise us. Yet truth is usually contained in the simplest and most obvious of Scriptures, once understood properly and accepted. Our carnal mind, as the apostle Paul noted, tends toward death and is enmity toward God (Romans 8:6–7). Enmity means a deep-seated hatred. We hate God, and we do not even realize it. Our first reaction is to refuse the truth. God has hard-wired our minds that way. We cannot accept even the simplest things about God unless He opens our mind to accept what His Word plainly says. God is not an amorphous, shapeless blob of pulsating energy as put forth by theologians. We were created to look like Him, as He is, to be in His image and in His likeness. The bottom-line question is this: What is meant by God’s “image”? This can be answered simply by noting what God did immediately after His pronouncement that He would create man “in His image”:
“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Notice that both male and female are “in His image.” The basic form and structure of human beings is like the basic form and structure of God. This is precisely what Jesus said to His apostle Philip:
“Jesus said unto him, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?”
Jesus as a man looked like the Father. Now note what Daniel saw in vision (Daniel 7:1–2, 7) discussing the Ancient of Days who was the Most High (meaning YHWH, Daniel 7:22):
“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his [its] wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books [scrolls] were opened. …
… behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away...”
Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14
This vision communicates to Daniel’s audience that the person Daniel calls the “Ancient of Days” is described in terms that the audience can easily understand. They relate to the description of the Ancient of Days having a garment, hair, and sitting on a throne (with wheels!), subjects before Him, opening scrolls. These are sights and actions that Daniel’s audience would be familiar with in everyday life. This vision describes a reality. God is not made like unto a man, rather the opposite is true. Man is created in the image and likeness of God, therefore the similarity of God and man in descriptions of them should not be surprising, and should be expected. Note this phrase: “one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.” The “Son of Man,” a title for Christ in the New Testament, is distinguished from the Ancient of Days. The Son of Man is a man.
We are grateful that God has put it into your hearts and minds to help and support ASK in so many ways. Several of you are faithful to continue your support even when at times when your lives are upset and difficult. We pray that God will honor such sacrifices, that He may recognize your gifts here and now, although none of us should ever give with an expectation of reward. God gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to the righteous (Proverbs 2:6–7). We pray that is what ASK provides to you for your prayers, encouragement, and financial help. May God bless you richly for your love to us.
David W. Sielaff
1 This month’s article was transcribed from a 1996 audiotape. DWS
2 This came by asking myself, “Why do I believe this? Can I prove the new information being put forward?” I now try to do this regularly: “Why do I believe this?” DWS
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