29 Dec

The Image of God in Man: Do We Still Bear It?

So, God created us in His image, which points to how we are like God, but as the Bible makes clear, man sinned against God in the garden (Genesis 3).  The question that logically follows is:  how did the Fall affect the image of God?  As we begin to consider this question, three positions on this subject can be maintained—either the image was completely lost, the image was unaffected, or the image was thoroughly corrupted but not lost.

Some have taught that the image of God was completely lost.  Let us follow their teaching for a moment.  First, they begin with the presupposition that the only quality that Adam possessed which was in God’s image was the spirit of God.  Adam received this in Genesis 2:7 when God breathed into man’s nostrils and made him a living being.  They reason that this breathing was actually filling the man with God’s spirit, making him in the image of God.  However, some time thereafter man sinned, and they reason that God’s spirit (image) departed, leaving man no longer in the image of God but in the image of man.

The second position is that the fall had no affect whatsoever on the image of God.  I will not spend any time on this position because very few hold this position, primarily because Scripture is so overwhelmingly opposed to it.

The third position is that the image of God was thoroughly corrupted but not lost.  This position takes seriously the effects that sin had on humanity but also takes into account Scripture passages that explicitly teach that man was still in the image of God after the Fall.  The first verse is found in Genesis 9.  It is in this chapter that God institutes capital punishment as He gives instructions to Noah after the flood.  He says:

Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.  Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.

Keep in mind that this command is after the Fall in the garden, but God says that the reason a person should be put to death if they murder another human is because man bears the image of God.  Therefore, to attack another human is to attack God.  The second verse is James 3:9.  As James teaches on the tongue, he says, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.”  Although James is not directly addressing the image of God in man, he makes it clear that the tongue can be used to curse those who bear God’s image.  Therefore, the image of God has not been entirely lost.

We should have no problem excepting this mediating position when we accept the full teaching on what the image of God is—what we are, what we do, and how we relate.  Although sin has corrupted every aspect, we nevertheless still bear these shared traits with God.

However, God in His love and grace is not satisfied to leave us in that position.  He has been and is working out a plan to fully restore God’s image in man.  It’s helpful to look at God’s restoration of His image in man as four stages:

  1. Pre-Fall.  At this stage, man (only Adam and Eve at this point) perfectly bore the image of God yet they were able to die if they disobeyed God.  They were perfectly able to choose not to sin.
  2. Post-Fall.  At this stage, man (Adam, Eve, and all of humanity) bears a perverted image of God due to sin, and death ensues.  Those who are in the fallen state are slaves to sin, making them unable to not sin.
  3. Redemption.  At this stage, God—by grace through faith in Jesus Christ—breaks the power of sin over all of mankind who believe and begins restoring the image of God in them, but the image is still somewhat perverted due to the fact that we continue to sin.  At this stage, we also still die.  Nevertheless, man is restored back to the status that he enjoyed in the garden, and man is again perfectly able to choose not to sin.
  4. Glorification.  At this stage, God brings man to the culmination of his existence—to be perfectly conformed to the image of Christ.  When we reach this final stage of God’s redemptive plan, we will be made unable to sin and unable to die and will perfectly bear God’s image again.

So, do we still bear the image of God?  Absolutely!  Every man, woman, boy, and girl regardless of their faith in Christ bear the image of God.  Yes, it’s thoroughly corrupted, but every person still bears the image of God.  Furthermore, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the perfect image of God is being restored in all who will believe on Jesus.

In our next post, I address why the fact that all man bears the image of God matters.

28 Dec

The Songs of Christmas – Christ

seward_-_mary__baby_jesus1This week we conclude the season of Advent by focusing on Christ.  Our 2009 Advent theme has been “The Songs of Christmas,” and each week we’ve been looking at a song from the gospel of Luke surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Our final song this week comes from Luke 3:4-6.  Luke takes this prophetic psalm which was delivered originally through the prophet Isaiah and applies is to the life of John the Baptist.  This is John’s song:

4 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.

5 Every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low; the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth;

6 And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’

This week we reflect on Christ himself.  For thousands of years, man had been waiting for the Messiah, the Christ.  In fact, man had been waiting since the day Adam and all of humanity with him fell into sin.  It was on that day God gave the first glimmer of hope, the first gospel.  As God was cursing Satan who was in the form of a serpent, God said to him in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Now the time was at hand.  Jesus, the seed of Eve, was soon to crush Satan’s head!

But Jesus was to have forerunner.  Someone to proclaim that the Messiah—the Christ—was at hand.  That person was John the Baptist.  He was the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, begging all man to repent of their sin and turn to God.  He was preparing the way for Jesus.  You see, it was customary for an ancient near eastern king to send a herald before him in a journey to clear away obstacles, make causeways over valleys, and level hills.  Spiritually, that’s what John was doing.  His duty was to bring back the people to obedience to the law and to remove all self-confidence, pride in national privileges, hypocrisy, and irreligion, so that they should be ready for King Jesus’ coming.

The purpose was so that “all flesh will see the salvation of God.”  And John did just that!  He pointed us brilliantly to Jesus the Messiah Christ.  Friends, God has revealed in Jesus to all mankind that there is hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with God.  Jesus is our salvation.  But He’s not only our salvation.  He’s the only savior of the entire world.  If anybody is to be forgiven of their sin and saved, it will be by grace through faith in Jesus.

God has wonderfully shown us the hope of salvation in Jesus.  Now may we experience the gift of salvation in Jesus.  Joy to the world, the Lord has come; let earth receive her King!

24 Dec

The Songs of Christmas – Love

simeon_and_jesusThis week we continue the season of Advent by focusing on love.  Our 2009 Advent theme is “The Songs of Christmas,” and each week we’ll be looking at a song from the gospel of Luke surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Our song this week comes from Luke 2:29-32.  This is Simeon’s song, which he sang the day he held baby Jesus in his arms in the temple:

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

This week we focus on the love of Christ.  Simeon was most likely elderly.  He had served the Lord well over the years.  In fact, the Bible calls him righteous and devout.  He seems to have been a simple man, and in his later years, he had single-mindedness that drove him on.  You see, the Holy Spirit was heavy upon him and had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  You can bet that with each passing day, Simeon grew more and more excited because he knew that his own life was getting shorter.  Therefore, the sight of the Messiah had to be right around the corner.

As was the custom, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple eight days after he was born to be circumcised and named.  That same day, Simeon came into the temple in the Spirit of the Lord, and behold, there indeed was the Messiah.  Who knows what Simeon had expected to see?  Was he surprised when he saw that the Messiah was only a baby at this point?  Maybe, but he didn’t pass up the opportunity to take Jesus into his arms—holding him, hugging him, and continuously giving thanks to God.

In his arms was the manifest love of God.  We know from John 3:16 that God displays His love to the world by giving it His only-begotten Son Jesus.  Simeon was holding God’s love!  In Jesus is salvation for the Jew and the Gentile alike, for all who will believe on Him.  It’s not a love that’s here today and gone tomorrow.  For all who will believe on Jesus, it is a love that began before creation, climaxes at the cross, and stretches forever into the future.

As we behold Jesus, may we with Simeon say, “My eyes have seen Your salvation,” and then embrace Jesus.

14 Dec

The Songs of Christmas – Joy

shepherds_and_angelsThis week we continue the season of Advent by focusing on joy.  Our 2009 Advent theme is “The Songs of Christmas,” and each week we’ll be looking at a song from the gospel of Luke surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Our song this week comes from Luke 2:13-14.  This is the song the angels sang when they told the shepherds of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah Christ:

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

This week we focus the joy of Christ.  This song the angels sang came on the heels of our Lord Jesus being born in a lowly stable.  Not too many hours before that evening, Mary—the mother of Jesus—and her fiancé Joseph had arrived in the city of Bethlehem.  They were worn out from their travel from the city of Nazareth, but they could not find a proper place to lie down and rest.  The local inn had no vacancy, so they offered the best they had—a stable.  It wasn’t the Hilton, but it would have to do because soon thereafter, Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus.  I’m sure the lackluster surroundings faded away in the flood of Mary’s joy over her new baby who would also be her Savior.

But Mary and Joseph’s joy was not enough because the birth of Jesus was good news for the entire world.  Therefore, God sent an Angel of the Lord to share the good news with some local shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks that night.  The angel told the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).  And then it happened.  The single angel gave way to multitude of angels (who knows how many angels!), and they began to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”  Oh, what a time for rejoicing!

Friend, the thought of the birth of Christ should still cause us to rejoice.  It’s through Jesus that we gain the joy of forgiveness of sin.  It’s through Jesus that we acquire the joy of new life here on this earth.  It’s through Jesus that we secure the joy of eternity with God the Father in the age to come.  It’s through Jesus that our joy is made complete.  May Jesus Christ be the focus and well-spring of our joy this season and every season!

09 Dec

The Image of God in Man: What Is It?

Do you think much about the fact that every human being is made in the image of God?  Today begins a series on the image of God in mankind.

The Bible is clear that this truth is so:

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31).

We, as humans, are the only creature that God made in such a way.  While dogs, trees, rocks, frogs, and the rest of creation bear the marks of their Creator, they were not made in the image of God.  We humans are certainly a special creation according to Scripture.

But what does it mean to be made “in the image of God”?

We see in this passage that the image of God simply means that humans were created like God and to represent God.  To come up with a list of all the ways that man is like God would fill a book itself.  Although He is other than us with certain characteristics unique only to Himself, God has shared many of His attributes with us.  The Bible seems to reveal three ways in which we have been made in the image of God.  The image of God in us is seen in:

  1. what we are
  2. what we do
  3. how we relate

The first aspect of the image of God in us is in what we are.  It is all the attributes that make us human—in essence, body and soul/spirit.  So, yes, part of the image of God in us is that we have an immaterial soul/spirit, but this is not the only way in which we are like God.  The image of God in us is so much greater.  We are also like God in that we have a body.  Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that God has a body because the Scripture is clear that He does not.  John 4:24 makes it clear that God is spirit.  Nevertheless, our body is used to do things that God does without a body.  For instance, God sees but does not have eyes.  God hears but does not have ears.  God touches but does not have hands.  God speaks but does not have a mouth.  Do see where I am going with this?  Our body itself is made in the image of God in that it is useful for us to do the things that God does.  Therefore, the image of God is in what we are.

Second, the image of God is in what we do.  As we see in the second part of verse 26, the image of God entails that we have been given the capacity to rule over God’s creation.  We are to be representatives of God on earth.  In order to do this, He has endowed us with a multitude of characteristics including reason, wisdom, love, knowledge, and many others.  So, as we go about overseeing the creation, we are manifesting the image of God.

Finally, the image of God is in how we relate.  Notice in verse 27 that the Bible says that God made man as male and female in His own image.  Isn’t that interesting?  What does maleness and femaleness have to do with God’s image?  I believe that it points to the fact that God is relational.  We notice here that God says let Us make man in Our own image.  “Us” and “Our” are plural pronouns pointing to the plurality in the Godhead.  As we see from later Scripture, God eternally exists as three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with each person being fully God, yet there is one God.  That, of course, is the doctrine of the Trinity.  Therefore, God is in His very essence a relational being as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist together.  For this reason, God created man with plurality—male and female.  He has created us to be relational creatures, even giving us complimentary bodies that must come together to procreate.  What’s more, we are inherently relational beings.  We desire relationships with other living creatures.  All of this points to the image of God in us.  Therefore, when we interact with others, we are manifesting the image of God.

For me, this truth leads me to amazement and thankfulness.  As for amazement, I’m blown away by the fact that the Almighty, Holy God of the universe made me like Him and as a representative of Him.  As for thankfulness, I fully realize that He didn’t have to create me the way He did, yet He chose to for the purpose of His glory.  All of this amazement and thankfulness leads to me to rejoice with the psalmist, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14).

May you rejoice as well!

07 Dec

The Songs of Christmas – Peace

tissot-the-vision-of-zacharias-413x737x72This week we continue the season of Advent by focusing on peace.  Our 2009 Advent theme is “The Songs of Christmas,” and each week we’ll be looking at a song from the gospel of Luke surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Our song this week comes from Luke 1:67-79.  This is Zacharias’song, the father of John the Baptist:

67 And John the Baptist’s father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,

69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant—

70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—

71 Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us;

72 To show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant,

73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,

74 To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,

75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;

77 To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins,

78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,

79 To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This week we focus on the peace of Christ.  This song that Zacharias sang came eight days after his son John was born, the day of John’s circumcision and official naming.  Even more, this song was the first words Zacharias had spoken in over nine months because Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, had stricken him mute due to his unbelief when Gabriel told him of John’s birth.  But now Zacharias was certainly a believer.  The long-awaited time was finally at hand.  The Messiah was soon to arrive and with Him would be salvation and mercy and rescue, and John would be the forerunner of the blessed Messiah.  John would point us to Jesus who shines light into darkness and brings everlasting peace.  Zacharias certainly had reason to sing.  May we enjoy and long for the peace in Jesus Christ!