Saturday, September 27, 2014

The resurrecting glory of God

Note this fascinating line from Paul's discussion of baptism in his letter to the Romans:

. . . Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father . . . (Rom 6.4)

Perhaps "glory of the Father" or "glory of God" by Paul is a special term referring to God's activated power to resurrect, reconstitute, restore what has been destroyed and killed. If that is the case, then consider how we might understand earlier statements in the letter:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God (5.1-2).

Paul here may consequently be understood as affirming that our hope is in being resurrected and restored and reconstituted to man's intended state by God, thanks to the justification which we have by faith. (I think here that 'faith' refers to Christ's faithfulness.)

On the other hand, consider how Paul describes sinners:

. . . since all have sinned and lack the glory of God (3.23).

In this case, the reference may be that humanity lacks the resurrection from the dead. On the other hand, I think a more plausible line of interpretation would understand "the glory of God" as the image and likeness of God, an image and likeness which man lost because of sin but which Christ has (Col 1.15). As Athanasius appreciated, Christ is the one who reconstitutes the image and likeness of God in humanity in his own person, and he does this for others as well. Human beings as sinful lack this image and likeness.

Paul later says that the creation awaits the time when it will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (8.21). Thus the whole world is awaiting the time when the image and likeness of God will be remade in man, and man will begin to have dominion over the world as God intended from the beginning (Gen 1.28).

Thinking about it now, I think a better translation of "the glory of God" is God's life-giving character. It is because of God's life-giving character that Christ was raised from the dead. The sinfulness of human beings, which is characterized by violence and destruction by the verses cited by Paul (3.12-17), falls short and lacks this life-giving character. But humanity will be restored to this image and life-giving character by Christ, and then the creation will flourish and receive life from humanity.

It is God's character to give life, and to bring other beings to flourishing and prosperity. When humanity is remade in God's image, it takes this character upon itself. This character is what motivated Christ to give himself for the life of all (1 Cor 15.22-8; 2 Cor 5.14-5). When we become Christians, we take on this character and give life to those around us. This is God's glory and nothing else -- to give life and to save.