Introductory Note:

In The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable, Chris Hall shepherds us into devotion by inviting us to consider the “wonder at work” in God’s redemptive plan. We humans are bearers of God’s image, “cracked and distorted though the image may be.” In just a few paragraphs, Chris gives a sweeping view of human history that helps us glimpse God’s faithful presence with humanity and beautiful design for restoring us as his children and image-bearers. As an Advent meditation, this piece invites us to marvel at the gift of the Incarnation—God becoming flesh— to redeem us to a God-loving, God-bearing life.

Grace Pouch
Content Manager

Ah, if only the God who desires to be known and the creature made for just such knowledge were the whole story! Unfortunately, they are not. As everyone knows, the story of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 moves quickly forward to a scene not so picturesque and tranquil. Genesis 3 tells of an enemy in God’s good world, and of a temptation, and of a horrible and self-chosen fall” into disobedience. Thus sin enters into the world, and nothing is left untouched.

Christians understand the details of Genesis 3 in many different ways, but the devastating results of humanity’s defection from obedience to God are plain for all to see. While we humans still bear the divine image after the fall (Gen. 9:6), we presently do so in a tarnished, defaced, crippled manner. We have gone bad, like rotted wood; we are corrupt, twisted, splintered. The corruption manifests itself in a thousand ways; physically, as from the moment of our birth, we begin to die; intellectually, for we think and reason, but our thoughts are often dark, hurtful, confused, and self-serving; relationally, for we love, but we anxiously demand to be loved in return, and we often love what we should hate and hate what we should love; volitionally, for we can still discern right from wrong, yet our moral awareness is hazy and unreliable, and our will is vitiated. In biblical terms, we suppress the knowledge God graciously gives us (Rom. 1:18 – 21), so that outrageous behaviors ensue; we hate the light and love the darkness instead (John 3:19 – 21), and the world is filled with the havoc that results. 

This is a dreadful situation, not least because, while all of our knowing and loving and willing is affected by sin, our knowledge of and love for and obedience to God himself is affected most directly. Though created to know God, we find ourselves now alienated from him, as the corrosiveness of sin turns even our ordinary finitude into an intolerable burden. 

Yet there is still a wonder at work, for the tragedy of Genesis 3 leads to the glories of the rest of the biblical story. Despite the corruptive bacterium now infecting us, we remain God’s personal image-bearers (cracked and distorted though the image may be), and so God has not left us to ourselves, slowly and inevitably rotting away. Instead, he has acted – and has acted repeatedly – in order to undo the effects of sin, in order to mold us back into what we were created to be. 

The Old Testament is filled with this news. God has given the law to his people, that they may learn to live and to love in a way that reflects his own holiness. He has inspired wisdom, both in Israel and beyond, that all people may catch glimpses of a reasoned, practical truth that leads to life rather than death. He has sent prophets to provide concrete guidance in constructing a society rooted in justice and obedience. In all of this, God has marvelously revealed himself, drawing us back into relationship with him. He invites sinners to give up boasting of their wisdom or strength or riches, and instead to boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (Jer. 9:24).

Then in the New Testament, something even greater takes place. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Heb. 1:1 – 2). In the fullness of time, God sent his own Son, the wonder of wonders, the culmination of his redemptive presence and activity in the world. This had been the plan all along. Even as far back as Genesis 3, God had offered prophetic hints that evil, sin, and death would not speak the last word to the human race. Eventually someone would come to crush Satan’s head completely and irrevocably, though in the crushing he himself would also be wounded (Gen. 3:15). Through this wounding, the eternal Word speaks the final, lasting, triumphant, redemptive word. That story that has gone wrong in every human life is now made right as God the Son becomes the incarnate image of God, entering our world as one of us to rescue, redeem, and re-create his corrupted image-bearers.

This series has been adapted from Steven D. Boyer and Chris Hall’s The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable. Hungry for more? Please visit Baker Academic for more information.

PC: Copyright: Iurii Asotov /123RF Stock Photo