Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Images Of God

By Rich Wertz

What idea arises when we contemplate the phrase "images of God"?  Perhaps our first thought would be that “images of God” are idols.

Suppose, though, that we altered this question.  Suppose that - instead of asking “What is an image of God” - we asked "Who is an image of God?”  Hebrews 1:3 provides a good, scriptural answer. But many – on hearing such a question - would become confused.  Some might even be offended, as though the question implied some kind of blasphemy.

In addition to Christ Jesus being “the exact representation”of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3), there is a second scriptural answer.  You are an image of God.  You are created “in God’s image and likeness”.  As such, you ought to be reflecting God’s glory into the world around you.  If you are Christ-like, you will be doing that.

Created In God's Image

When God created man, He made man in His own image - Gen1:27.  Thousands of years later, when James penned his inspired exhortations to the early church, man was still in the likeness of God – James 3:9.  The fact that we are created in God’s image remains as true now as it was in the days of Adam or James.

Jesus was once asked, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar,or not?”  His response was given in two parts.  First, He asked whose likeness was on the coin.  When they responded that it was Caesar’s likeness, He told them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s - Matthew 22:17-22.

The Jews of Jesus’ day understood His answer well.  The coin these men produced - stamped with the image of Caesar - was Caesar’s rightful property.  In the same way, mankind - stamped with the image of God - is the rightful property of God.

Jesus was telling them, first of all, to pay the tax.  Earthly rulers are due their tribute and the image on the coin showed the nature of the tribute due Caesar.  But God also is worthy of His tribute.  God’s image is upon us.  We ourselves are therefore the tribute that is due God.

Tarnished Images

Examine a handful of coins from pocket or purse.  Are many in “mint” condition?  Are any of them “proof quality”?  How many of those coins have images that are deeply stuck?  Do you see any that are totally unmarred or untarnished?  What about badly marred or tarnished coins?

Once coins begin to circulate they become marred.  They quickly develop imperfections, yet continue to have value because of the image stamped upon them.

The same is true concerning the image of God that is stamped on each of us.  Once we were innocent - in mint condition, so to speak – but then we begin to “circulate”.  God’s image upon us became marred and tarnished through sin.  In some cases the image was horribly marred, in others, less so. Indeed, “all have sinned”.

“An adversary has done this”.  Satan despises all that is godly and anything that suggests God’s presence in this world. He has therefore introduced every kind sin, temptation and deception.  He has even introduced doctrines stating that man’s nature is one of total wickedness. The very idea that man is created in God’s image is all but lost.

The fact that Satan has authored all evil does not make us guiltless.  God’s image in us is marred and tarnished only because of our own choices. Satan may tempt us but we have cooperated with him.  In choosing sin, we have willingly joined him in his rebellion against God.

The Power of the Gospel

What is the power of the gospel?  The gospel is “the power of God for salvation”– Romans 1:16.  Those who accept Christ’s gospel are forgiven; a verdict of “not guilty” has been handed down.  But is forgiveness the gospel’s only power?

Searching the scriptures, we realize that the gospel not only brings forgiveness but freedom; freedom from the enslaving power of sin – Romans 6:6-7, 17-18.  The gospel’s power to forgive brings innocence (the “not guilty’ verdict).  Its power to set us free enables us to live in righteousness.  If we will accept this freedom, the image of God within us can shine brightly.

By His gospel God has granted us power to be transformed by the renewing of our minds– Romans 12:2.  The gospel’s power can transform us into the image of our Lord- 2Corinthians 3:18.  The gospel empowers us to become partakers of the divine nature – 2Pet 1:4.

All of this is a part of the “great salvation” that God offers us.  All was made available to us in exactly the same way that forgiveness was.  All of it was purchased for us in the same event and at the same cost.  While on the Cross Jesus became sin for us so that in Him we might become “the righteousness of God” – 2Corinthians5:21.  The “great salvation” God offers to us is to be received in its entirety. We dare not neglect “so great a salvation” - Hebrews 2:3

We have embraced a form of Godliness.  Shall we deny its Power?

There are some who possess a form of godliness while denying its power.  Paul condemns such persons in 2Timothy 3:5.

There are "forms" ofgodliness involved in becoming Christian. Having believed, we are to repent and be immersed into Christ – Gal 3:26-27. Having become Christian we are to be active in the Lord’s body - His church, for which He died – Ephesians 1:22-23; Acts 20:28.  We are to be faithful around His table, partaking the Loaf and Cup “in remembrance” – Lu 22:19.

These forms of godliness are basic and essential but the gospel comes also with power for changed lives. Christ has not given us a “forgiveness-only” gospel.  He has also provided us with an enabling power for changed lives – lives remade into “images of God”

I am, by God's Grace,
Rich In Christ

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Very interesting and timely. I think it is something that we tend to forget about. Especially when it is someone with whom we disagree or someone who has wronged us. I'm interested to hear you expand a little on the part "He [Satan] has even introduced a doctrine that man's nature is one of total wickedness." I guess that's because of my Calvinist roots.