Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Doctrines of The Christian Faith 7: Day of Reflection: The Nature of the Image of God

Today is the seventh post of the Christian Doctrines series, and that means it is time to conclude our series by looking at what we have accomplished and rest, just as the Lord did after his 6 days of creation. Although these works can never even be a fourth as good as that which the Lord created, the model will continually be echoed throughout these series for as long as I write them.

So what have we accomplished in this series? Honestly, not as much as I wanted. A lot of the posts were either too simple or made too many points to be coherent. I even left out a few points because I discovered as I wrote the sixth post, I had left too much for it. As such, next week, an "Addendum" will be posted that will detail these few points in detail.

Nevertheless, I was still able to express the most important event in all of history bit-by-bit throughout this series - the story of man's sinfulness, God's holiness and mercy, and the sacrificial atonement for our sins. Today, I will tell this story once more, in a different way than I originally shared it. Today, we discuss the nature of the image of God.

Man Created In God's Image

In Genesis 1:26-27, we learn, 
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

Here we see the first time man is mentioned in the Bible. The Lord says that we should make man in our image. (Remember that the Lord is three persons in the outer "crust," but one all the same.) But what exactly is the "Image of God?"

In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines the image of God as,
"The nature of man such that he is like God and represents God."

Although Grudem correctly identifies that the image of God transcends beyond any one attribute, I would like to highlight in this post the specific part of the image of God that refers to moral purity. Thus, throughout the rest of this post, I will be using the image of God synonymously with perfection or holiness.

Sin had to "enter into the world" through Adam because when Adam was first created he was as God, without sin.

Let us remember that God is so holy he cannot fellowship with those unholy. A substitutionary sacrifice was needed to allow sinful Israelites to commune with the Father. (I say to you today, one is still needed, but I am getting ahead of myself.) As Habakkuk 1:13 states,
"Thou are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." 

This makes man's fall from the image of God all the more troublesome as it also means falling from God's presence.

Man's Fall from God's Image

Prior to the fall, when man was still fully in the image of God, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, where God walked with them. Here, the Lord talked with Adam and Eve and told them they may eat of every tree of the field, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

We all know what happens next. The Serpent comes, and Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit. With sin now in man's nature, he has distorted the initial image of God. He no longer can claim perfection. In fact, no man would ever be able to again. Romans 5:12 explains, 
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"

We are now all corrupt vessels. We now all, as Romans 3:23 proclaims, "Fall short of the glory of God."

But the impact as mentioned above is greater than that. Eating of the fruit makes them unholy, and God's holiness prevents him from fellowshipping with anything unholy. This sin could forever separate Adam from God's presence. But the Lord is merciful. He provided a way for Adam and his descendants to atone for their sin by continually sacrificing perfect lambs without blemish.

The atonement was always temporary though until a different Lamb took the substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Jesus' Gift Allows Restoration of the Image

The image of God in shambles! But have no fear, the Lord will establish a permanent way of restoring fellowship with his creation. 

It all happened when the Lord supernaturally was born on this earth to a virgin. There was nothing special about this girl, except that which was in her was of the Holy Ghost. A man, who was "Tempted like as we are, yet without sin." This man was Jesus Christ. 

Jesus was God, and thus had the entire image of God. He was without blemish and was prepared to be the perfect sacrifice for the world. And he did sacrifice; He died on the cross and took away the sins of the world. As I Peter 2:24 tells us, 
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."

This action is enough to restore the image of God to man, but it doesn't just go to everyone. The lambs of the Old Testament had to be brought in by the person who wished to atone for his sin. It couldn't atone for his neighbour's sin, or his family's sin, but for his alone.

While Jesus' death is sufficient to take away all the sin of the world, one must accept it as payment. One must ask for this sacrifice be applied to their sin and for them to be forgiven. Then the image of God is restored, and we can fellowship with God eternally. As Romans 8:29 states,
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." 

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