Thursday, April 21, 2016

What Does the Image of God Mean?

Since childhood I have been told that I was made in the image of God and I accepted it as a fact and I've even taught this to others.  But in what ways are we like God and how has the fall of man affected the image of God in us?  How has the image of God been marred?  Will we ever have that original image back?

First, I think it is important to define the image of God.  Because man bears the image of God it means that man is like God and represents Him.  We are not told of any other creature that God created that bears His image--only mankind.  When God says, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26), the Hebrew word refers to something that is similar but not identical.  It can also mean something that represents something else. 

Because we currently bear the image of God, we are creatures who can make moral choices and we will be held morally accountable to God for our actions.  It means that we have a spiritual life that allows us to relate to God and we will live forever.  It means that we have the ability to reason, think, and create.  It means we have a vast degree of emotions that allow us to relate to God, others, and the world around us.  It means that we were created to relate to others and to God's creation. 

However, since man has sinned, he is no longer as fully like God as he was before sin.  Man's moral purity has been lost and his current sinful character certainly does not reflect the holiness of God.  Even though sin has come upon man, we are still in God's image--we are still like God and we still reflect the image of God.  We be restored to the full measure of excellence in our humanity but not until Christ returns, then we will obtain all of the benefits of our salvation that Christ earned for us (1 John 3:2). 

Because of sin, we do not love the way that God intended us to love.  We are prone to fulfill the evil desires of our flesh.  Our selfish pride gets in the way of God's work.  Our sinfulness makes us dull towards the things of God.  We do not naturally thirst or hunger after the things of God.  However, the work of  Christ has changed how man now relates to God.  Because of the redemption found only in Christ we can (in this life) progressively grow into more and more likeness to God.  Paul says that as Christians we have a new nature that is "being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Col. 3:10).  Paul also says that we "are being changed into his likeness (literally, 'image') from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18).  At Christ's return we will finally experience the full measure of the image of God that He originally intended for us (1 John 3:2).

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