The establishment of this world and the Garden of Eden followed logical steps emphasizing equal but specific points.
Religions arise when specific points of culture are emphasized unequally and one point is deemed important above others.
This is what happened when the original culture of the world and its inhabitants was violated. After sin entered, but before Christ came as the second Adam, the main emphasis was on sacrifice. And rightly so. A death and the shedding of blood of one of God’s created creatures showed what must happen to provide covering for violating the culture of the Kingdom of God.
God’s continued companionship was built into worship around the belief that sin would be placed upon a sacrifice provided by God and it demonstrated that God’s love has no boundaries.
Sacrifice was integral to the prayers, the hopes and the peace of those who believed, and the Lord made it formally central when He established the Kingdom of Israel. It was enshrined in worship and in seeking forgiveness for sin.
After Christ came, knowing that He was the sacrifice to cover mankind’s sin and that symbolic sacrifice would then cease, He centered religion on the bread and the wine to demonstrate faith in His sacrifice; and on baptism to demonstrate faith that our sinfulness will be entirely washed away so that we may enter the presence of God the Father.
Religions centering on these practices is not an altered culture. They are enshrined in religion to enable our original culture to be restored. When the true sacrifice came and Christ was slain, mankind could see how he could be restored to the image of God as he was at the beginning.
The huge steps in these beliefs and in getting the news out to all people of the earth led to various aspects being emphasized as multitudes grew in their understanding. Where Christianity is the culture of the nation, religion is not static.
It must be a continual growing for us to understand more of what it means. Until the washing away of sin is completed in reality, we remain forgiven sinful beings seeking to be more like God.
As we grow, we begin to see, for instance, the link between God’s saying “Let there be light,” in the first verses of Genesis until it comes alive when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12). We also look with more understanding of the One who spoke to Moses at the burning bush and when Moses asked His name, the Lord replied “I AM THAT I AM.” (Exodus 3:14), giving His name as “I AM.”
Again Jesus harmonizes Scripture and refers to himself as “I am” when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He is the light of our world, He is God and He is the way for us to come back to our beginning. Jesus is the I AM of the Old Testament and of the New Testament.
The more one understands the links in Scripture, the greater one’s appreciation for our incredible God and the more one longs to be restored to the likeness of Him.
However, and it must be emphasized, it must never mean that everybody has to fully understand everything to have salvation. Jesus showed quite clearly that the simple faith of a child is sufficient and a child is a follower of its teacher. All the knowledge and all the academic understanding in the world never eclipses the simplicity of believing good teachings.
Our greatest joy is in contemplating of God’s presence with us in the Garden of Eden as it was in the beginning. And we will forever give thanks that His love has no boundaries.
Our Creator’s love for us has no boundaries and it challenges us to examine our love for Him. Please pray for the peace He longs to re-instate.
(To access the entire “Culture Close Up” mini-series, please click here.)