Image is everything

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." - Genesis 1:26

For those who don't know, I teach a weekly Bible study at a (somewhat) local Veteran's Center as part of our church's ministries. We just finished up a study of the book of Malachi, and started in on an examination of what it means to be "made in God's image".

The Hebew word used for "image" in Genesis 1:26 is tselem (צלם) - meaning image or likeness. It's used in the OT to speak about representative images - idols of false gods, for example; or for statues or other items that are the representations of real things.

The Hebrew word used for "likeness" in the same passage is dĕmuwth (דמות) meaning... well, likeness. Another translation is "similitude", meaning a similarity or resemblance to something else. In engineering, a model is said to have similitude with what it's supposed to be modeling if it behaves the same way under stress. So a model bridge will ideally demonstrate similitude with a real bridge, in that when similar forces are placed on the model and the real bridge, they will react the same way.

These two ideas give us a good indication about what the Bible says about man being created "in God's image". We are like God, in some essential ways. We were meant to be a representation of God, and to react to things the way that God reacts to them.

We spent last week taking about what this doesn't mean. I don't think that "made in God's image" means that God has two arms, two legs, one head, eyes, ears, a nose, etc. Simply put, that's ridiculous. If God has a body, where was it before He created the universe? Yes, the Bible uses figurative language to describe God as if He had a physical body, but I think that's clearly metaphorical and poetic.

More to the point, God created man and woman in His image. Genesis 1:27 says that, "So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." I think it's pretty clear that mankind, represented by man and woman, are created in the image of God. Since there are some rather distinct physical differences between men and women (thankfully!), there must be some way other than the merely physical that we are created "in the image" of God.

Finally, in a related passage in the NT, we're told that the ultimate promise of God to every person who puts their faith in Jesus Christ is that they will be "conformed to the image of His son" (Romans 8:29). Since this promise applies to all believers, you either have to think that all Christian women are eventually going to end up as Jewish males, or maybe - just maybe - there's some other meaning of "image" here that we're supposed to understand.

So, what other ways are we "made in the image" of God? Well, we're rational, thinking beings. In Isaiah 1:18, the Bible says, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD..." God thinks, we think. We're not only capable of reason, but God has made us capable of understanding His reasoning. That's one way that we're made in His image.

We're also made in God's image emotionally. God loves us, and sent His son to redeem us. God gets angry at sin. God sorrows and grieves. So, there's another way we're made in His image - we feel the same emotions that God does (and more besides, unfortunately... pride, envy, covetousness).

Then there's individuality. As human beings, we all have a strong sense of self. We know who we are; we are aware of our own being. That may not seem to be very significant, but it's emphasized over and over again in the scriptures that we are, each one of us, individuals. God doesn't care about mankind as a whole, except in so far as he cares about each and every man, woman, and child as an individual. Every person is important to Him, and our individuality and sense of self is, I think, a reflection of the image of God.

Then there's relationally. God said, "Let us make man in our image..." back In The Beginning. There are lines of relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and lines of submission: the Son yields to the will of the Father, the Holy Spirit yields to the will of the Son. When God creates mankind, He creates man and woman, intending from the start that there be a relationship between them. As human beings, we establish relationships with God, with His creation, and with the other men and women in the world.

There's more, of course. Intellectually, emotionally, individually, relationally, though, we're made in the image of God. I expect we'll have some interesting times at the Bible study in the next few weeks as we continue to explore what the Bible says about how we're made in God's image, and how understanding that will affect our day to day lives.

No comments: