There is a “New Creation” teaching that is gaining popularity in mainstream Christianity in Africa today which claims that we are “Gods” (yes, capital G). Among many claims to this absurd assertion, there are two that seem to me to stand out as the root.
First, the belief that God is Spirit, and therefore His children (those born again) must be spirits, as He is. On this, Pastor Chris, one of the high priests of this teaching, is on record as saying, “God gives birth to gods!”. The analogy is then given thus: “dog begets dog, bird begets bird, therefore God must beget Gods”. The second hinges on a misunderstanding of the biblical doctrine of adoption. By which they would have us believe that when one is adopted into God’s family, he is somehow entirely transformed into a new species altogether, and ceases to be human. It is the purpose of this article to begin to interrogate the first of the two claims. In subsequent articles, we shall examine the second claim in more detail.
So, to the first question. Are you a spirit, and not a human?
Proponents of the “we are Gods” theology will start their argument from Genesis, the book of beginnings. They assert and claim that 1) God created us after His likeness and in His image, therefore we are of the same “essence” as God (or in the “God class”); 2) when God created man, he was essentially spirit, which was given a container, namely the body, to dwell in. Thus, they insist that the “real you” is a spirit, and the connection between an immaterial spirit and a physical body is the soul. Let us turn to the Scriptures and examine that passage for ourselves.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27)
then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
(Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7).
I believe that those who base on this passage to teach that we are necessarily spirit; the flesh and body being mere appendages, so to speak, prove too much. A close look at the passage will reveal that right from the beginning, the emphasis has been on a unified view of man. Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. No mention is made here of a spirit nor of any divisions to man for that matter.
Grudem points out from Genesis 1:26-27 the fact that,
Both the Hebrew word for “image” (tselem) and that for “likeness” (demūt) refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents or is an “image” of. The word image can also be used of something that represents something else.
The fact that man was created in the image of God, therefore, means that man was God’s representetative but not necessarily God. The orthodox view of Genesis 1:26 has always been that man is simply God’s image-bearer. As God’s representatives on earth, we were created to reflect His glory. To point to Him. To reflect His nature. When we manifest God’s communicable attributes, e.g. love, intelligence, relationship, the moral aspects of our being etc., we show what it means to be in His image and likeness. It is difficult to imagine that the original recipients of Genesis would have taken this verse to say that being created in God’s image makes us gods.
To use an analogy, the moon shines at night because its surface reflects light that is coming from the sun. Surprisingly, at its brightness, the moon reflects only a maximum of 12 per cent of the sun’s rays. Reflecting the sun doesn’t make the moon equal to the sun in constitution and nature.
Image-bearers at Creation and at Regeneration
I believe that further support for the preceding can be found in the fact that when we are born again, God purposes to conform us to the image of His Son. Paul says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29).
In other words, God’s cardinal goal for the redemption of sinners is to make them Christ-like; to look like Jesus, The Son. When we show the fruit of redemption, i.e. acting like Jesus and doing the good works which God (re)created us to in Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), we show conformity to His image. And this process of conforming to His image, the Bible says, will continue till Christ comes again when we shall be like Him, when we see Him face to face (1John3:2).
Strikingly, we see this unified view of man emphasised throughout the New Testament. In 1Corinthians 15:51-54, Paul alludes to the fact that when Christ returns, our bodies shall be redeemed so that both body and soul shall be with the Lord for eternity. If the “real us” were the spirit as is claimed by proponents of the “we are gods” theology, then there would have been no need for God to raise the body up again in the last day to unite with our spirits or souls.
When it comes to sanctification, Paul admonishes that we cleanse both body and spirit, so that holiness might be complete in us (2Corinthians 7:1).
Speaking on the subject of remaining devoted to the Lord, whether as married or unmarried, Paul further had this to say: “And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. (1Corithians 7:34).
It is evident from the above data that Scripture enjoins holiness in the whole man.
Error always begets error.
In typical fashion, those who hold that the spirit is all that matter, go on to assert that the spirit is sinless. Consequently, some have, because of this false assertion, insisted that believers no longer need to confess their sins, as the “real us” attains sinless perfection when we become born again. Clearly, Scripture disagrees with such an assertion. Otherwise, there would be no need for the call to pursue holiness in both body and spirit.
The question that begs to answer is, why do the prophets of the “we are gods” theology insist that we are spirits? To me, the answer lies in the fact that they need you to believe that you are a spirit, not a human because then it will be easy to believe the other lies that go hand-in-hand with this teaching. Namely, that you cannot be sick (they will tell you spirits don’t get sick); you cannot be poor (they will tell you your “spirit man” is never poor, even if physically you are broke. Therefore still insist that you are rich regardless of your account balance). Some are so bold as yet to say you cannot die (because spirits don’t die). To believe this teaching is, simply, to embrace a lie.
In this first part of this article series, we have shown from the Scriptural data that the claim that being created in the image of God makes us gods is false. Further, we have no support from the creation account nor the New Testament that the “real us” as created by God is a spirit or that man is essentially a spirit, the body being a subservient constituent of the human nature.
To be continued…