Saturday, August 31, 2013

Imago Dei

The “image” of God in mankind is God's spiritual imprint. It is the spiritual quality that man shares with God.1 Man is distinct from the rest of creation in that he possesses a physical and a spiritual nature. When God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule,”2 God established man as the dominant being and the central focus of His creation. Genesis addressed the material aspect of man when it said, “the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”3 The image of God, however, is not the physical. God does not manifest Himself as corporeal being. The image of God, therefore, is restricted to the immaterial nature of man.4

Genesis implies that along with God's image comes an element of sonship.5 Later, when Adam fathered Seth, Scripture says that Adam “had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.”6 To be made in God's image means to be a son of God. God loved mankind enough to endow His very image in him. This communal relationship with God was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden when Adam rebelled, but the image was retained. Adam's sin has been passed on to his posterity, and all mankind stands under the judgment of God. God did not, however, abandon his image bearers. He sent “His own Son in the form of sinful man to be a sin offering.”7 Because of grace extended through faith in the sacrificial work of God's Messiah, men can experience renewed relationship with the living God. Now, believers in Jesus Christ “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”8

The fact that every man, woman, and child in all of creation is crafted into the image of God has huge implications on the life of a believer. People have intrinsic value because of the imago Dei. This erases all propensity to discriminate because of physical differences or limitations. Adherents to Scripture treat all people with equity no matter what their racial, social, political, or physical status. It would be disingenuous for a Christian to degrade or think less of a person whom he truly believes is his or her spiritual equal. The value of a man is not in things gained or lost in this world, it is in the likeness of God.

1Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. 1975. pg. 81
2Genesis 1:26 NIV
3Genesis 2:7 NIV
4Towns, Elmer. Theology for Today. 2002. pg. 571
5Matthews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary. 1996 pg. 170
6Genesis 5:3 NIV
7Romans 8:3 NIV
8Colossians 3:10

Davis, John J. 1975. Paradise to Prison. Salem, Wisconsin: Sheffield Publishing Company.

Towns, Elmer. 2002. Theology for Today. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.

Matthews, Kenneth A. 1996. The New American Commentary. Broadman and Holman Publishers.

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