Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Elohim, God’s Plural Name (Genesis 1)

"Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26a).

One of the most controversial names given to God in Scripture is Elohim. This plural form of the Semitic word for God, el, has caused much discussion in the context of the monotheistic Jewish religion. During the 19th century, philosophers applied the concept of evolution to the emerging science of comparative religion. They believed that, like creation, religion moved from the simple to the complex. These philosophers developed a series of evolutionary stages of religion: animism (worship of natural things)—polytheism (worship of many gods)—henotheism (every nation had their own god whom they worshiped)—and lastly, monotheism (worship of one god). They believed Elohim was evidence of the polytheistic stage.

The use of this title for God has been explained as similar to a king’s use of “we,” as the imperial plural. However, this explanation has little evidence. Many evangelicals have believed that Elohim refers to the Triune God, as when God refers to Himself in the plural in Genesis 1:26. This title has also been explained as an abstract plural or a plural of intensity. In light of this interpretation, God is seen as a composite unity, totally holy, totally loving, etc. God has many attributes, but they are all perfectly unified. God is not just holy, His love is holy, His wrath is holy, etc. You cannot separate the various characteristics of God within Himself.

The church reflects this aspect of Elohim by being unified in faith and diversified in the specific outworkings of that faith. The church is made up of many parts, but it is one body with Christ as the head. This unity and diversity can cause many problems among sinful people as they try to exercise their skills and gifts within the body. Too often, we expect people to be like us. We do not accept them when they are not. To achieve unity, we must look to Christ and have our lives conform to His image, living in obedience and exercising our gifts in accordance with His revelation, not our agendas. Our lives are to conform to God’s standard in all things, but we are not all alike in our personalities or our gifts. This is the diversity, and we must be pure in our lives and look always to Christ, our Head, for the unity of the body.

How does diversity in the body relate to proper worship? See 1 Corinthians 12 to help answer the question. What gifts has God give you? Do you use them to edify the body? Do you encourage others to use their gifts? Why is it important for you to be involved in church given the context of this study?