bits from bob....

Made In His Image

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

These are the words of the chorus of a contemporary Christian song, a truth concerning all who are Christians, a truth concerning every human being. The opening chapter of the Old Testament affirms that God made the human creation in his image and likeness. Have we understood the far-reaching consequences of this affirmation?

1. Image Received, Gen. 1
"Let us make man in our image, in our God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." The word translated "image" in Gen. 1:26-27 (tselem) is used sixteen times in the OT, five times to refer to man created as a representation or likeness of God. Most uses refer to idols. Every occurrence refers to an image representing deity. As image, mankind is declared to be God's representation. Man is also declared to be likeness (demut). None can view God, so the human desire to encounter God is always with the likeness of God or the likeness of the entourage that surrounds God (cf. Esp. Ezek. 1,10).
That humans are God's image or likeness is explained in Genesis by our role as vice-regent over all creation (also Ps. 8:5-8). Whatever image means, it obviously does not consist in our physical bodies formed from earthy matter. Most likely the reference is to our spiritual, intellectual, moral likeness which identifies us with God from whom we received a gentle, animating breath.
In the Decalogue, God uses synonyms to forbid "graven images" and "likenesses." God forbids the very thing he has done! Image worship not only denigrates God, it denigrates human beings who are the ultimate image and likeness of God! Nowhere else in the OT do these concepts appear in parallel or connection. God gave to his human creation glory, honor and rule (Ps. 8). Yet in some sense, this spiritual aspect of mankind has been torqued by our exclusion from Eden and our subjection to frustration, and is tarnished by personal sin.

2. Image Restored, Rom. 8:29
Eikon is the NT Greek word for the OT Hebrew tselem. If in the OT, human creation is in God's image now marred, Christ is in the NT the very image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). He is the visible representation of the invisible God. In Jesus Christ, divine image is visible and restoration is offered to humanity. We who seek Christ are being transformed into the same glorious image Jesus bears (2 Cor. 3:18). Although only Jesus is described as the express image or character of God (Heb. 1:3), we are being formed using as a model the likeness of the one who created us, Jesus Christ himself (Col. 3:10). This formation will be perfectly reflected in the resurrection image (1 Cor. 15:49) when we exchange the earthy image we have borne during our Adamic sojourn of separation and distance for an eternal celestial image like him.
We can be like him. We are called to be like him! Regardless of sin and transgression, regardless of marred and broken and smeared lives, God energizes a foreknowledge and predestination that conforms his people to the image of Jesus Christ, his Son (Rom. 8:29). What was lost in Eden is restored in Christ!

3. Image Remaining, 1 John 3:3
Here the word is not image (eikon) but likeness (homoios). In this world we struggle, but at his appearing we shall not only see him as he is, we shall be like him--forever. The image and likeness will one day be permanent. The enduring celestial image will remain on those God has chosen and empowered eternally.
Be not overwhelmed by present tragedy and struggles with sin. Do not lose heart. What God intended for his human creation is restored in Christ Jesus. Spread the good news of "image" far and wide. Restoration is possible in Jesus. One day the struggle will cease, and the transformation will be complete. We shall remain with him, and he with us. Encourage one another with these words!

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Last updated January 8, 2002.