“The glory of God is man fully alive.”
The first chapter of Genesis provides a wonderful picture of God’s good creation and then proceeds to grant us a humbling task. We are to be image-bearers of the King. We are made in God’s image and then asked to steward his creation and participate in his ongoing work. From the beginning, we are called to be in relationship with God. As the story continues, the various nuances of this role as image-bearers is borne out through the story of Israel, a story that includes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then, at the day of Pentecost, the sails of the Church are made full by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit. The disciples proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and the revolution that began the day Christ died is now in full swing. Indeed, this is a story worth telling.
Every time I reflect on this story, I am struck by the concept of our role as image-bearers who steward God’s creation and participate in his mission of reconciliation. I believe Irenaeus perhaps said it best when he wrote, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” If one spends time reading what we have of his writings, it becomes quite clear that Irenaeus is not speaking of an individualistic spirituality wherein God’s purpose all along was to make humans fully alive; as if God’s glory is dependent upon anything. Rather, I believe Irenaeus is simply echoing themes we read in passages like 1 Peter 4:10 and Colossians 3:17. This comes as no surprise. As a person who knew and conversed with Polycarp and eventually filled his seat as a bishop, Irenaeus was not very far removed from the firsthand experiences of the disciples. Polycarp was a “hearer” of John the apostle; which means not only did Irenaeus read Scripture, but he also conversed with someone who had personal interaction with one of Jesus’ disciples!
So what themes is he echoing? 1 Peter 4:10 reads, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Colossians 3:17 reads, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Put simply, each of us has received a gift from God and are called to be faithful stewards of that gift. In addition, while stewarding our gifts, we are to reflect back to God all glory and gratitude. In essence, our role as image-bearers who steward God’s creation and participate in his mission is put into practice when we utilize the gifts we have been given to bring glory to God.
Being “fully alive” is embracing our role in God’s mission because doing so will bring glory to God. It is important to remember that God’s mission is one of redemption and holistic reconciliation. Each of us, whether we are doctors, lawyers, pastors, janitors, teachers, entrepreneurs, bankers, city officials, or anything else, has an important and unique role to play in this mission. The Great Commission requires more than small groups at a church, worship on Sunday, or Bible studies. It requires us to submit each aspect of our lives to the lordship of Christ and, through authentic relationships, invite others to do the same.
Over the next several months, we are going to take a deeper look at what it means to be “fully alive” and how Sioux Falls Seminary is developing people for participation in this kingdom mission. We believe the mission of God requires service to others in the name of Christ and prayerful stewardship of God’s resources. In doing so, we bring glory to God.