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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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Is God a Male?

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by Chad Owen Brand


When Scripture speaks about God, it invariably uses masculine imagery. God is King, not Queen. God is Father, not Mother. When Scripture uses pronouns in reference to God, it always uses male pronouns--He, Him, His. God is never "she" or "it." Even though the NT term for the Spirit, pneuma, is a neuter noun, the writers of the NT always used masculine pronouns to refer to the Spirit. It is "the Spirit, He," not "it" (eg., Jn 15:26). In addition, the church is represented as the wife or bride of Christ, who is Husband (Eph 5:22-33). This is similar to OT imagery in which Israel was the wife of God (Hs 1-3;Ezk 16).


It is also important to recognize that this is not merely functional terminology. That is, it is not just language that is designed for us to use in our relationship to God, without reference to real conditions. God the Father actually is the Father of God the Son (Jn 17:1-5). Even in the internal relationships within God's being, the relationship between these two persons is that of a father to a son. Furthermore, we are not intended to use the human standard of a father or husband to interpret God's fatherliness or Christ's husband character, but rather we are to see God as the epitome of what those ought to be and then to measure our experience by the standard of the Father and Christ.


Is this patriarchal? Yes, it is. But as Christians, we are bound to take our theology from Scripture, not from the cultural standards around us. Most of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel had goddess figures, as did the Roman culture of the NT times. But the writers of Scripture always treated this as among the most heinous kinds of idolatry. If we are to be faithful to our Christian heritage, we must stick to Scripture.


Does this patriarchalism mean that the Bible hold women to be inferior? Not at all. Scripture often depicts God as treating His people in the way a caregiver would treat a child. Jesus said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem... How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" (Lk 13:34-35). Further, the Bible elevates women in ways contrary to the pagan cultures of the day. They are equal partners of the grace of God given in Christ (Gl 3:28).


But Scripture still speaks of God in a masculine manner. God is Father, and we ought to be eternally grateful for the fact that He is the ultimate model of what a father ought to be. Christ is Husband, and as such He reveals what a husband ought to do for his wife. Both women and men in our time ought to be grateful for the fact that God is the perfect example of what these roles entail. This enables both men and women to know the Father and Christ in ways that are life transforming.

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