Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Image-Bearer

The Origin of Man
One of the most controversial questions confronting modern man concerns the origin of the human species. Genetic studies claim that primates diverged from other mammals about 85 million years ago. But according to Scripture, God directly created man in His own image and likeness from the very dust of the ground without any intermediaries.  Genesis 1:26 records the event of the origin of man like this: Then 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." It is clear from this verse that this was a conversation within the Triune God. Man is not created in the image of angels or any other beings. Genesis 2:7 provides a little more detail: "Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Notice there is nothing about man evolving from apes over the course of some 85 million years. According to the divine revelation of God Himself, God created man directly by a supernatural act from the dust of the ground and then he breathed the breath of life into this man and the man because a living soul. Man is the direct product of the divine action of God. As the product of God, man has no rights apart from God. God has complete right to do with man whatsoever He wishes. Man owes all to God. He is obligated to God in every way God has determined.
I should also point out that Jesus believed that God created man exactly as Genesis 1-2 describe. Jesus referred to this very passage in Matt. 19:4 when He said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female." This is an unambiguous reference to Genesis 1-2 and the account human creation as described in Scripture. What do we know about human origins? We know that God created man, male and female, in His image and likeness from the dust of the earth and breathed into them the breath of life. That is what we know about human origins.

Man as Image Bearer
Man was made in God’s image (elem) and likeness (dĕmût) which is then explained as his having dominion over God’s creation as vice-regent. Ps 8:5–8 [H 6–9] is similar citing man’s God-given glory, honor and rule. God’s image obviously does not consist in man’s body which was formed from earthly matter, but in his spiritual, intellectual, moral likeness to God from whom his animating breath came.[1] That man is made in God's likeness is repeated in Genesis 5:1. This is again repeated in Genesis 9:6 at the prohibition of murder with the reason given that man is created in the image of God. Paul reinforces this basic Christian teaching in 1 Cor. 11:7 when he says that man is the image and the glory of God. Finally, James also mentions this fact at 3:9 when he says men have been made in the image of God.
You see man was created to reflect the image of God to all creation and also to reflect that image back to God. The purpose of dignity of man is found in the fact that man is designed to be an accurate, albeit incomplete, reflection of the God who made him. This is the entire project of man's existence.
We see this in Christ's act to redeem humanity from the curse of his fallen condition. Man has been restored to life once again, brought back into fellowship with his heavenly Father. And as such, every Christian's single purpose in life is to once against become that image of God he was originally designed to be from the beginning. When I talk about Scripture, I oftentimes will contend that the purpose of Scripture is sanctification. What I mean by that specifically is that Scripture's purpose is to restore the image of God in man. Scripture changes us; it transforms us; our entire being; intellect, will, and emotion. The purpose of Scripture is to transform us into the image of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Hence, Scripture brings that image of God back into reality.
1 Thess. 4:3
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification." The will of God is that every believer is not only holy, but engages in holy conduct and avoids those behaviors that are not true reflections of the image of God. We live in an age when external routines and rituals are mistaken to indicate true religion. Anyone professing to be a Christian must surely be given the benefit of the doubt. How dare we actually call someone's faith into question because of what they do or what they believe. Today, anyone can live anyway they please and believe anything they please and still reserve the right to numbered among the Christian community. This is a fool's game and the Church must come to her senses and put an end to this treachery. We have no authority to call holy what God has already called vile. The Church operates with the authority of heaven only when she expresses heaven's decrees.

Reciprocity & Rejection by Man
Man was created to reflect the image of God to all creation and back to God. But Satan, in the form of the serpent convinced man that he did not have to play such a fiddle. Rather than merely being the image of God, man could be his own person, reflecting his own self to the world. He could have his own agenda for how he would live in the world. Why settle for being God's image-bearer when you can set your own agenda, be your own person, and know things on your own steam apart from God? The rest is history. Man bought into Satan's philosophy and fell headlong into sin and came under the curse of God.
As a result of this tragedy, man has turned the tables on God, so to speak. Paul says, "and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." Note that man exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man. Man has exchanged the truth of God for a lie. Man spends his time worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. No longer is man interested in reflecting the image of God back to Him or to His creation. Instead, man has perverted and corrupted the God of Scripture and turned that image into one that he finds acceptable. This is the universal behavior of every unregenerate man. All unbelievers engage in this corruption of the divine image to one degree or another. They invent a god, and call him Allah. They invent a god that is nothing but love. They invent a god who is tolerant and accepting of every lifestyle imaginable, except the ones they find offensive themselves. Their god did not create the world through his divine power. He created by evolutionary processes. This god inspired only parts of the bible. Other parts are the products of flawed men. Which ones you ask? Whichever ones they find contrary to their supposedly scientific views and their informed and enlightened senses.
Christian theism is a religion that embraces the God revealed in Scripture. This God inspired an inerrant and completely reliable and trustworthy revelation known as Holy Scripture. It is the image of this God that man is to reflect in his daily life to the world and back to his heavenly Father.
Christian apologists would do well to understand that it is this God that we are called to preach, teach, and defend. It is not some god in general or theism in general. Theism in general is idolatry. Nothing short of the God of Scripture will meet the standard that Christians are called to teach and defend. Anything less than defending this sort of Christian theism is a tragic compromise that brings with it devastating consequences.
Christian theism believes that the supernatural, direct, creative activity of God is responsible for the existence of humanity. Christian theism teaches that man was created perfect. Christian theism teaches that man sinned and as a result death was unleashed on the earth as a consequence of the sin of man and that death is an expression of the wrath of God. Christian theism affirms that God sent Jesus Christ, God of very God, to this earth to die for our sin, to bear His divine wrath, and to redeem humanity from the curse and from death. Christ died, was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. This is the true gospel of Christ and refusal to acknowledge it's historicity and theological significance can only result in certain judgment. The redemption of Christ is aimed at once again restoring the image of God in man so that we reflect that image of God to His creation and back to Him as we glorify Him in all that we are.

[1] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 768.

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