Image is a word associated with many things in our day. People maintain an image in front of others. An image is an idea or concept still being worked out. We work on our self-image. Perhaps the word is so far-reaching because we are a so visually stimulated.
Whenever people meet one or both of my sons, the issue of image normally surfaces because they look so much like me. (We are praying that they will grow out of it.) We’ve heard all sorts of comments such as:
“You boys look just like your father when he was your age.”
“You can’t deny those two.”
“They are you’re spitting image.” (Which, by the way, is a gross description.)
They take it all in stride. At this point in life, being like Dad is not too terrible. I pray that I can be the kind of man that they will always want to emulate. I want to have an image that is worth bearing in themselves.
In thinking about the relationship we enjoy with our Heavenly Father, the fact that we bear His image cannot be over-estimated. In the account of creation, we are told in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” The image of God burned into the being of man makes all of the difference for us.
Throughout the creation account of Genesis, God’s image is not placed in anything else. The universe is made but not granted God’s image. The Earth with all of its grandeur is spoken into existence but not having God’s image ingrained upon it. Animal and plant life come into being, but without God’s image upon it. Only when God creates people does He grace us with His image.
Saints and scholars of every generation have discussed the nature of God’s image in mankind. Is it the soul? Is it our ability to have a will? Do we act like God? Or did Adam and Eve actually bear some physical resemblance to God? It is a difficult question to answer.
I would offer that a role in bearing God’s image is that it acts as a bridge for us to relate to Him. God is personal; even in the since that He is eternal. He has revealed Himself to us in personal terms. In the Bible, God tells us that He is Father, High Priest, Comforter, Shepherd, and many other personal terms. He speaks to us, reveals His will, and acts as a friend.
God desires to know us and has therefore placed His image within us. We bear a resemblance to Him in that we are designed for relationships. The relationships that we enjoy with other human beings are part of the general blessing of being alive. We love and care for those in our circles of influence. In bearing God’s image, it is obvious then that God also wants us to relate to Him.
However, in Eden, the image of God in man was marred. Sin stands in opposition to people mirroring the character and nature of God. Where God wants the crown jewel of creation – humanity – to be a showpiece of His handiwork, sin obstructs that purpose. It obstructs us from knowing the very One who has placed a reflection of Himself in us.
It is a reminder for us that sin is not just a glitch in our moral character but an affront to the very nature of our creation. More importantly, it is an affront to our Creator. As the Lord seeks to draw us close, He then does all the work necessary to reestablish His image within us through the redemptive work of Christ.
His image is within us so that we might desire Him. The Bible states that He has placed eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We clearly see from the whole of redemptive history that God is seeking those who do not seek Him. God has a great desire to restore the marred image of Himself in us through a saving relationship with the Messiah He has sent for us.
For the World
Now, the work done by Christ is for you. But never forget that it is also for others. The restoration of God’s image in us is not only for the benefit of the individual but for all the world. The image of God in the people of God – both individually and collectively – is a sign and a witness to the world of the Lord’s great love for us.
In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul taught through many images who we are becoming in Christ. In 2 Cor 3:18, he wrote, “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” The concept of “glory” in the Bible requires a great deal of deep thought. But in this one verse, Paul lays out the concept that through the saving work of Christ, we are those who reflect the God’s glory. In this, we are showcases for who God is and how He loves.
The image of God cannot be trivialized. It is a mysterious gift in which God desires for redeemed men and women to show off His nature. As you search the Scriptures and draw close to Christ, keep in mind that He wants more than to make you an educated and morally upright person. God’s great desire is for you and I to bear His image as dearly loved children.
This blog post is based on a study from The Gospel Project for adults and students, focused on the doctrine of humanity, titled “Bearing God’s Image”.