Sunday, June 6, 2010

In God’s Image

Unlike some theological ideas and concepts which are implied strongly in Scripture but not explicitly mentioned, like The Trinity, the theological answer to the question, "What is man," is indeed explicitly spelled out in Holy Scripture. In Genesis 1:26, God said, "…Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (NIV)

What it does not mean to be created in the image or likeness of God is that we, His creation, look like God. God does not have a material body. What is not in mind here when discussing man being created in the image of God is a "physical likeness." God does not have a fleshly body after which man was made. The Bible teaches that God is a spirit (John 4:24). What it does mean to be created in God's image is that man is the visible expression on Earth of God's invisible nature. Man is created in the likeness of God's mentality, morality, and sociability.


Man can make deductions and, from those deductions, make a decision. The ability to make a judgment from his intellect and then choose is a mirror image of God's mental processes of intelligence and volition. Each time a member of the human race creates a mechanism, writes a college term paper, exercises creativity artistically, balances his or her checkbook, he or she is exercising his or her Imago Dei.


Man received from his creator perfect righteousness (see Eph. 4:24) and, because of The Fall, is lost but restored in Christ in the New Creation. When a man or woman, whether in Christ or unredeemed, obeys a law, opposes evil, praises and practices good behavior, accepts the consequence for his or her bad behavior, he or she is showing a remnant of his creature-Creator relationship.


Another way in which mankind expresses his creature-Creator likeness is in wanting to have social associations with other humans. Man was made by God to have companionships, comradeships, and acquaintances with one another. Each time someone gets married, embraces someone, takes care of children, gathers with the Saints of God, that is an expression of his or her creature-Creator relationship.

God provided mankind, in the person of our first parents Adam and Eve, with a mind and the power of choice to be able to choose between good and evil. Mankind had the "light of reason" (John Calvin) as the means to make the choices to do what is right.

"Man in his first condition excelled in these pre-eminent endowments, so that his reason, understanding, prudence, and judgment not only sufficed for the direction of his earthly life, but by them men mounted up even to God and eternal bliss. Then was choice added, to direct the appetites and control all the organic motions, and thus make the will completely amenable to the guidance of the reason." (John Calvin, Institutes I. XV. 8)

Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden marred, tainted, and stained the Image in which they were made. This ruination of God's image has been passed on to all their subsequent offspring and is the source of our ruination today. We murder God's image bearers in our society and that is a reflection of what happened in the Garden when Adam chose to sin against God, our Creator. In fact, all one has to do is read history, even the history of the church, to see expressions of how marred the image of God is in mankind. And, though still bearing some remnant of God's image (James 3:9), we still curse our fellow image bearers.

The hope we have in the testimony of Holy Scripture is that in Christ, in His redemptive work, when man is brought to faith and repentance in Christ, God begins to make new that original image of God within us. In Christ, as new creations, we are commanded, "...and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph. 4:24 ESV).


Far too often Christians are left in the Theological Stratosphere to ponder the things of the Doctrinal Milky Way without anyone showing them practical applications to profound Theological Concepts found in Scripture. Our Imago Dei is one such profound theological concept with profound applications.

An immediate practical application of Imago Dei is the mandate not to murder or hate our fellow image bearers of the Divine. Nor should we ignore the morality in our relationship with our fellow image bearers. The goodness or badness of our relationships with our fellow image bearers is determined by the morality within those relationships.

Though I did not understand the profundity of Imago Dei when God brought me to faith and repentance in Christ, what I did understand is that as someone making a profession of faith in Christ, having been made alive together with Christ while dead in my trespasses and sins,

"And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it." Colossians 3:10 (Amplified Bible)

God had positionally made me alive together with Christ and had begun a process of making me in my condition, or walk, on Earth more conformed to that which I was in my heavenly position before God in Christ.

Even at the age of sixteen, an immediate change in me was that I hungered and thirsted after the things of God found in His Word. I was blessed beyond measure to have a Baptist pastor who met with me almost every Saturday afternoon to privately teach me how to study the Scriptures and to answer all my questions. This went on for three years until I went off to college.

Another vast difference in my life was the immediate desire to be like what I read in Scripture and not like that which I saw in the world. I was no longer comfortable "hanging out" with my teen peers and I sought out other believers. Our church had a "youth club building." An older high school student would pick me up on his motorcycle and we would use the building each Friday evening to pray for our Sunday schools fellows that they would come to faith in Christ.

Another almost inconceivable desire was to serve God full-time as a missionary. The thought never would have occurred to me before God drew me to Himself in repentance and faith. I maintained that desire until I was stricken with a neurological illness. However, I have managed, by God's Grace, to have a "ministry" online and in the Mexican church where we fellowship in Guanajuato, Mexico.

All of us are made, or created, in the Image or Likeness of God but cannot come into the realization of the full meaning of this apart from becoming New Creatures in Christ. We must come into a correct moral relationship with God, through His Son, in order to begin becoming conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 12:1,2). This is what I believe to be a true, renewed Imago Dei.