The Image of God
June 07. 2020
Prayer for Illumination:
Lord God, you are the author of life and you have the words of life. Give us ears to hear your word. Send your Holy Spirit to enable our hearing and to apply the truth of your word to our lives. In Christ our Lord. Amen.
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
This is the Word of God for the people of God.
Since March, we have been studying Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. Paul wrote to them to address various issues affecting the church in Corinth and call them to maturity. This morning, we are going to hit pause on that study just for today. As a denomination, we have decided to take this Lord’s Day and address an issue affecting the church in America. We are addressing the issue of the image of God and how sin has affected our perception of that image.
The Doctrine of the Image of God
When God was creating all that is seen and unseen, he created man in his image. That should amaze us and cause us to praise God. Every other ancient religion taught that creation itself was a mistake and mankind was created in the wake of that mistake. The Babylonian creation myth states that creation only came about after a war between the various gods. One of the gods, Marduk, fought another god, Tiamant. Once Marduk defeated Tiamant, he used her corpse to make the heavens and the earth. Creation in Babylonian and other non-Christian religions wasn’t planned or organized; it was an accident. And after Marduk used Tiamant’s body to create the heavens and the earth, the gods complained that it was too much to care for creation. So Marduk used the blood of Tiamant to make mankind so that mankind would be their slaves. The other Ancient Eastern creation myths aren’t that different from the Babylonian creation myth.
Even today atheistic evolution says that creation was an accident. Many argue that creation is the result of atoms colliding at light speed some billion of trillion years ago. They continue arguing that mankind came about as a result of millions of years of evolution. Darwin and others after him have argued that all life evolved from a single cell organism to the multiple species we see today. According to this view, mankind as we know it is just the happenstance of random evolution. We are a happy accident.
Neither of those views have a particularly high view of mankind. In fact, both have a rather low view of mankind. In one view, we were made to be the slaves of the gods. In the other, we are an accident.
The biblical religion says something completely different. It says first that creation was planned and orderly. Secondly, it says that mankind is not the slave of God nor an accident. The biblical religion says that mankind is made in the image of God.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Does that not amaze you? Are you not in wonder of the fact that mankind bears the image of God?
This teaches us that male and female are equal image bearers and that the entirety of mankind bears the image of God. Mankind bears the image of God. The word “man” is the Hebrew word “ādām”. We often use it as a proper name. But in Hebrew it is the word for man in the generic sense. We could translate it as human. That means each and every ethnicity bears the image of God. White, black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American all bear the image of God.
The bible teaches that all of humanity – white, black, Asian, Native American, Hispanic and every other ethnicity – descended from the first man and the first woman. Acts 17:26 says “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth”. Every nation, tribe, and ethnicity has descended from the first created man and woman. Everyone who has lived or is living has as their ancestors Adam and Eve. Therefore, each and every ethnicity bears the image of God.
The generic use of “man” does not mean that God created man in his image but not woman. No. God created mankind in his image. That is why he goes on to say he created them male and female. The image of God is on mankind, male and female, and no other creatures.
Both male and female bear the image of God. No other religion teaches that. They often elevate one sex over the other as being more in line with the gods than the other sex. Most of the time that is man over woman but there are some that assert woman over man. But the biblical religion says that male and female equally bear the image of God.
There are distinct differences between male and female. Male and female are not interchangeable. You cannot swap out a male for a female or a female for a male. The idea that male and female are interchangeable is non-Christian. It is part of a pagan worldview that does not distinguish between creator and created. Male and female are distinct. But both male and female equally bear the image of God. God in his wisdom designed complementarity between the sexes and the differentiation. And God declared it very good that all of mankind was made in his image. He declared it very good that male and female was made in his image.
If we look ahead to the next chapter, we see the actual creation of man and woman. God formed the man out of the dust of the earth. Then he formed the woman out of the side of the man. Matthew Henry writes, “That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” In the close of Genesis 2, we see just that. The man and woman were naked and not ashamed. There was no domination. They didn’t seek to domineer the other. They lived in perfect harmony with one another. Their relationship was without blemish.
The Marring of the Image of God
While God made mankind in his image, his image was marred. When our first parents ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, sin entered the world and marred everything. That includes us as God’s image bearers. Sin has affected all aspects of our being. It has affected our minds, our wills, and our bodies. We call this the Fall.
One of the effects of the Fall is that the relationship within mankind has fallen apart. We see this in chapters 3 and 4 of Genesis. The first thing that the man and woman did after eating the fruit is to hide from one another. They sowed fig leaves and made loincloths. They were no longer naked and not ashamed. It is the first indication that something is wrong in their relationship. They no longer felt as though they could be completely open with one another.
It wasn’t just that they felt as though they couldn’t be completely open with one another anymore. Their relationship was damaged to the point where their desires were at odds with one another. God said to the woman, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b). The once perfect and beautiful relationship where they were side-by-side and not ruling over one another is now one where the two are trying to dominate and to domineer each other. The relationship was marred.
In chapter 4, we see the first murder. Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Both went to worship God. Cain brought to God some of the fruit of the land. Abel brought forth the firstborn of his flock and fat portions. Cain brought to God his works while Abel brought to God a substitutionary sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Cain, in a fit of rage, murdered his brother in the field. Sin has affected how we view others. Cain did not see Abel as an image bearer of God. He saw Abel as an object in his way. So he murdered him.
In the space of two chapters, we see how sin has marred the image of God. First the relationship between husband and wife has been damaged. Second, we often fail to see the image of God in other people.
We still live in that reality. Husbands and wives still try to dominate and domineer the other. We see it all the time in TV shows and movies. We know it from firsthand experience. We want to lord over our spouse our power and our authority.
We still fail to see the image of God in other people. We see people as objects for our use and pleasure. That is really what is behind lust. In lust we just want to use that person for our own pleasure and gratification. We see people as objects in our way to our happiness. That is why we sabotage and backstab others. We fail to see people as image bearers when we call others animals like rats and cockroaches because they have a different ethnicity and culture.
That is the history of the world. That is what happened in the Armenian Genocide in the 1910s into the 1920s. That is what happened in the 1930s and the 1940s in Nazi Germany. That is what happened in the 1990s in Rwanda and the Balkans. It is what has happened here in America with slavery and Jim Crow. It is what has happened in the unjust killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. All of those situations have shown that we fail to see the image of God in others.
While it is certainly true that those outside the Church fail to see the image of God in others, it is also true that the Church has often failed to see the image of God in others. Here in this country during the Civil War, many in the Church failed to see the image of God in African Americans. We considered Blacks racially inferior. Female slaves were often the object of sexual assault of their owners. Slaves could be beaten and killed at whim. And some in the church approved of these actions. We failed to see the image of God in others by condoning slavery and Jim Crow.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the German Church accepted and promoted Nazi belief that Jews, Blacks, and Gypsies were less than human. They were regularly called rats and cockroaches. The church officially approved of these actions. We failed to see the image of God in others in Nazi Germany.
We live in a world where the image of God is marred. We try to dominate and domineer one another in marriage and we often fail to see the image of God in others. We demean and devalue others by viewing them as less than human. Is there any hope for us?
The Restoration of the Image
The good news is that even though we have marred the image of God, God is restoring that image through the person and work of Christ Jesus. Jesus is the image of the invisible God and he took on human form for our sake. John in the prologue to his gospel says that the invisible God became visible by taking on human form and dwelling among us.
He took on human form to restore the marred image. It is through him that believers are being restored to the image of God. In Romans 8:29, the Apostle Paul writes, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”. The Holy Spirit is working in our lives to conform us to the image of Christ. He is the one who awakens us to our sin and rebellion and applies the work of Christ to our hearts and causes us to think and act like Christ. He causes us to see the image of God in others.
We see that the Apostles were restored in Christ and how that changed them. All of the Apostles were Jews. Peter was a Jew. James was a Jew. Paul was a Jew. There was serious racial tension between Jews and Gentiles. At this time it was common for the Pharisees to praise God for not being a woman or a Gentile.
And yet in Acts 10 and 11, Peter shares the gospel with Cornelius, a Roman centurion. When he arrives at Cornelius’ home, he says, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). The Holy Spirit was conforming Peter to the image of Christ and showing him that all people – even Gentiles – bear the image of God.
We see that in how the church in Antioch broke down racial barriers. They were being conformed to the image of Christ and were seeing people as he saw; image bearers of the triune God. We see that in how Paul’s writings. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. He saw all people as image bearers of God.
What does all of this mean for us? Theologian Anthony Hoekema writes:
The renewal of the image means … that man is now enabled to be properly directed toward the neighbors as ourselves. It includes a readiness to forgive others when they sin against us. It includes praying for the neighbor, and being deeply concerned for his or her welfare. It means being concerned for social justice, for human rights, and for meeting the needs of the poor and destitute. It even includes loving our enemies, since, as Jesus said, this is an activity in which we are uniquely imaging God (Matt. 5:44-45). It implies loving the neighbor not because we find him so loveable, but because God loved him first.
Do you see? As those who are being conformed to the image of Christ, we are changed and think and act like he does. That includes how we interact in with the opposite sex and how we view people from different ethnicities.
As Christians, we know that both male and female bear the image of God. Man is not more like God than woman. Woman is not more like God than man. Both male and female are made in the image of God. That means we are to not demean the other sex. We are not to put the other sex down and imply they are less than the other. We are to not lust after people. When we lust after someone, we view that person as an object and not an image bearer. Do not lust. View the other sex as made in the image of God.
As Christians, we know that all people – regardless of nationality and ethnicity – bear the image of God. That means we are to not use racial slurs or derogatory language. When we use racial slurs, we say that ethnicity and that particular person does not bear the image of God. If you use them, stop. Repent of your sin. When you find yourself using a racial slur repent. Confess your sin to God. Confess that you have demeaned and devalued someone made in the image of God. Remind yourself of the grace of the gospel. And ask God to enable you to see all people as made in the image of God and to not demean and devalue fellow image bearers.
As Christians, we know that all people – regardless of physical or mental ability – bear the image of God. That means we should not use derogatory language putting down someone with a physical or mental handicap. If you use language putting down someone with a handicap of some kind, repent. Confess you sin. Remind yourself that in Christ all sins are forgiven. Pray that the Holy Spirit will conform you to the image of God and that you will recognize others as made in the image of God.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Is that really necessary? They’re just words. It’s just what people say. My parents said it. My coworkers say it. My neighbors say it. They don’t mean anything by it”. They actually do mean something by it. Very subtly they mean that person is of less value than they are. They are subtly saying, “God, I don’t think that person bears your image”. That is sin. To call what God has declared good bad is sin. So they are not just words. Repent. Know that all people, all ethnicities bear the image of God.
When we see videos like the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery we should weep. Or when we see videos like the one of George Floyd being killed, we should weep. We should lament that fellow image bearers have been unjustly killed. We should desire justice for them not because of some sort of political correctness. We should desire justice for them because fellow image bearers were unjustly killed. We should weep that abortion is prevalent and that people often take the life of unborn female babies or those with Autism or Down’s Syndrome. We should weep and want justice for them.
In a few moments, we will come to the Lord’s Table. The table is for all of those who recognize they are sinners in need of saving and trust in Christ Jesus for that salvation. It doesn’t matter if your sin is lust or racism or idolatry. The Table is for those who are repentant of their sin and look to Christ as their atoning sacrifice. It is the place where the adopted children of God from all nations gather together for a family meal. It doesn’t matter if you are White or Black or Brown or Asian. In Christ we are all one. We are one body; one family.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 10). Peabody: Hendrickson.
 Anthony Hoekema, Created in God’s Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 87.