Description / Transcription
Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song, the joy of my heart, and the boast of my tongue. Thy free grace alone from the first to the last hath won our affections and bound our souls fast. We pray that You would continue to pour out Your mercy now through the reading and the preaching of Your Holy Word. Give us just what we need to hear. We know we have experienced how often the Spirit preaches a better sermon than the one the preacher gives and how by Your Spirit You give us just the word of rebuke or encouragement that we need, so give us ears to hear, help us to be attentive, to understand, and we pray, Lord, that You would speak not just to our ears and our heads, but to our hearts and to our wills, and that we would listen and obey. In Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.
As we come to Genesis chapter 1 again, let me read to you two quotations. Here’s the first paragraph: For in your sight no man is free from sin, and not even a child who has lived only one day on earth. It can hardly be right for a child, even at that age, to cry for everything, including things which would harm him, to work himself into a tantrum against people older than himself and not required to obey him and to try his best to strike and hurt others who know better than he does.
There’s one paragraph describing even children at a day, or a week, as sinful, fallen.
Here’s another paragraph from a different book: What varieties has man found out in buildings, in attires, husbandry, navigation, sculpture, and painting. What millions of inventions has he in arms, engines, stratagems, and the like? What thousands of medicines for the health, of eloquent phrases to delight, of verses for pleasure, of musical inventions and instruments? How excellent are the inventions of geography, arithmetic, astrology, and the rest? How large is the capacity of man if we should dwell upon particulars?
So the first paragraph describes even a day-old child as throwing a tantrum in rebellion, and the second paragraph, from another book, describes man as a great inventor, as one who has such beauty and inventions and particular capacities. So are these two paragraphs at odds with one another? Would it surprise you to learn that the first paragraph comes from Augustin, and that the second paragraph comes from Augustin? The first from Augustin’s Confessions and the second from Augustin’s City of God, because both of those paragraphs are true. One speaks to man as fallen, which we will come to soon in Genesis 3; the other speaks to man created in the image of God. And even though on the other side of the fall that image has been marred, it has not been eradicated.
And so there is almost nothing too low or base you could say about fallen man. And yet there is almost nothing too grand or lofty you can say about man made in the image of God.
We see from the very first chapter in the Bible these two absolutely essential and simple truths about each one of us as human beings. One, we are not God. Two, unlike every other creature and created thing, we bear the image of God.
And if we could, it won’t solve all of our problems today, but if we could conduct ourselves and if the world writ large could understand those two things, every man, woman, and child, you are not a god, you do not have the right of ultimate self-determination for your life. You do not have the ability to create for yourself your own reality, the entire universe does not center around you and your fulfillment. You are not God.
And at the same time, unlike every other created thing, you are made in the image of God.
You know I mentioned a couple of weeks ago we were up on the pastors’ retreat and we had a beautiful place that someone had allowed us to use in the mountains near Boone and the back porch was looking, it was kind of misty the whole time, but Grandfather Mountain and almost all of you have been to the mountains, or to the Blue Ridge Parkway, absolutely stunning, beautiful, evidence of God’s creation, marvel at it. But did you know every one of you, you are more precious to God than that mountain? For you were created with an immortal soul. And you, unlike the most beautiful mountain, the most exquisite sunset, the most lavish beachside resort, you were created in God’s image.
Follow along as I read from Genesis chapter 1. Let’s look this morning. We worked through the whole chapter into chapter 2 last week. Let’s just focus on the creation of man in verse 26 through the end of chapter 1.
“Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
Clearly, the Bible presents Adam and Eve. Now here we just have male and female and we will get their names Adam and Eve in subsequent chapters, presents them as historical figures, the first people on the planet from whom all other peoples are descended. There is a seamless strand of history from Adam in Genesis 2 to Abraham in Genesis 12. So we cannot, as some people would suggest, set aside Genesis 1 through 11, that’s just pre-history, that’s not really historically accurate, the real history starts in chapter 12 with Abram. That won’t work because, among other reasons, we have a deliberate and explicit connection from the descendants from Adam through to Terah then to Abram.
So these chapters are no less historically true than the chapters that follow in 12 through the rest of the book. Moses deliberately connects Abram with all the history that comes before him, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden.
Later in the Bible there’s a genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1, there’s a genealogy in Luke 3. They treat Adam as historical. Clearly Paul believed in a historical Adam and he explains in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 the significance of sin in the first Adam and how Christ is a second Adam coming to obey where the first Adam was disobedient. So all peoples are descended from this one pair, Adam and Eve. And think about especially in these days of such racial tensions how important it is that we have a common descent from Adam and Even. Without a comment descent, we lose any firm basis for believing that all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, have the same nature, the same inherent dignity, the same image of God, the same sin problem, and that despite our divisions we are all part of the same family coming ultimately from the same parents.
If you want to say that, well, maybe there was Adam and Eve and they were the first Homo sapiens and there were some Neolithic sort of farmers somewhere who weren’t yet fully Homo sapiens and in other parts of the fertile crescent and other peoples came from them but Adam and Eve, Adam was the first human to be imbued with a living soul, and that way you think that you have descent from various peoples and that’s going to help you scientifically. Well, you can look at the latest scientific literature and it changes often and even more recently in the last few years there are many who are saying, no, actually the science does point to some common ancestry.
But if you want to make that case, think of the problems you have. Then you have some people are descended from Adam and some people are descended from some Neolithic, non-Homo sapien hominoids somewhere. Oh, that’s going to be really helpful as we try to find common worth, common dignity, that some people came from Adam and Eve and some people came through some lineage by hominoids.
No, clearly in the Bible we have a historical Adam. Paul’s doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together without it. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of the second Adam does not hold together. And without this historical Adam and Eve from whom all peoples have come, we do not have a firm ontological basis for saying wherever you come from, whatever your skin color, whatever your first language may be, we all have ultimately the same parents and are the same type of person. Human beings, made in God’s image.
The language of image and likeness occurs in three places in Genesis. So we just read it in verses 26, 27, and 28.
If you have your Bibles, open, turn over to chapter 5. Here’s the second time where it’s used. Verse 1: “This is the book of the generations of Adam when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them and He blessed them and named them Man when they were created.”
So there we have just the language of likeness, and then if you go a few more chapters, to chapter 9, after the flood, verse 6 and 7: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
So at these three turning points in the early chapters of Genesis, chapter 1 at creation, chapter 5 after sin has entered the world, and we’ve seen its devastating consequences with Cain and Abel, and then after the flood in chapter 9, at each of these three hinges in the book we have a reaffirmation of man created in the image and likeness of God.
And notice that subsequent to each of these demarcations, there is also some language about being blessed that they might multiply, they might be fruitful.
This language, image, is the Hebrew word tselem, likeness is the Hebrew word demut, and earlier in the interpretation of these verses, back to the church fathers, many of them held that image and likeness were two different things. The Reformers argued, and correctly so, I think, that they refer to the same thing.
Notice that verse 26 in chapter 1 does not say “in Our image and Our likeness” but rather after Our likeness, so likeness is simply an apposition, that is, another way of saying image. And the fact that we have likeness in chapter 5 and image in chapter 9 shows us that the words are being used interchangeably.
Notice, too, that the image is not eradicated fully by the fall. We know that because of what we just read in chapter 9, that after the flood God is still making commands and provisions based upon the image of God in us, so though we are like temples that have been polluted and defiled, we are nevertheless still made in the image of God.
We see this in the New Testament, James 3:9: “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”
Now, obviously, there’s a lot that we can say about the image of God and you could have, you know, weeks of theological lectures on the concept of the image of God. I want to spend most of our time looking exegetically at what’s in front of us in Genesis, but let me just make a couple of comments, one historically and then one theologically.
So historically, theologians have highlighted one or the other of two aspects of the image of God. In earlier generations, so this is really from the first Christians probably well through the Reformation into the 19th century, even the 20th century, theologians tended to emphasize the structural aspect of the image of God. That is, that the image of God says something about who we are. And so to be made in the image of God, theologians said, was to be marked with intelligence, or an appreciation for beauty, or rationality, or to be a moral being with a capacity for worship.
More recently, certainly in the last hundred years, there has been a shift away from a structural understanding of the image of God to a functional. So one that looks at the image of God as referring not so much to our sort of apparatus as human beings, but rather our roles and responsibilities.
Now I think we can go too far in completely leaving behind those structural elements, but I do think it is the case that you can make a better argument from the text of Genesis itself for these functional elements of the image of God. It’s true, the Bible doesn’t seem as interested in describing what the image of God is as much as it wants to describe how you ought to live by virtue of being in the image of God.
So theologians have moved away from locating the imago dei in your spirit or soul or some faculty of intellect or memory or language and they have come to see the image as suggesting relationship, responsibility, or some people call it covenant and commission. And I don’t think it has to be one or the other, but as you’ll see in a moment, I think you can make a better case for this functional aspect of the image of God.
So that was some history. Now just a quick word theologically. There are a couple of important shifts in the way the image of God is talked about in the New Testament, which we don’t have time to get into, and you say, ha, but you are getting into them. But I’m doing it very briefly.
So one shift in the New Testament is that the focus with the image is now on Christ. Christ as the man who perfectly displays the image of God. Think of 2 Corinthians 3, 4, and 5, Colossians 1, Colossians 3, they all highlight now the language of image is that Christ is the image of the invisible God. That’s what it looks like.
The other shift in the New Testament, there’s less about the image of God as our creational possession, though there’s some of that, think of the passage from James I read, but there’s more about the image of God as our eschatological goal. Let me say that a different way. There’s less in the New Testament about the image of God as something that we possess and more about something that is our aim and our goal. Romans 8:29: For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
So likeness, image, is something that God is renewing in us, something that we’re moving toward as Christians.
1 Corinthians 15:49: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
So the image is being renewed in us that we might become, by degree after degree, more and more like Christ, who is the image of the invisible God.
So to paraphrase the title of a recent book on the image of God, the image of God speaks to both dignity and destiny. Our dignity as human beings, what we have, but also the New Testament then shifts our attention to our, our destiny as it were, where we’re going, what we’re becoming, what God is working in us to be renewed in this image.
Well, let’s turn our attention now more carefully to Genesis chapter 1. What does the image of God mean here in Genesis 1? Let me highlight three things.
First, we see that being made in the image of God means that man is a plurality. Man is a plurality. Look at verse 26. Notice whereas in the other creations elements God speaks indirectly, impersonally, “let there be light,” and there’s light, here He speaks personally and directly. Not “let there be” but “let Us make.”
So how should we understand the “us”? You have studied this in a Bible study before. You know that there are a lot of different theories. Where does this plural come from? Why does God say “let us”? I don’t think it’s a plural of majesty or a kind of royal we. You know, like when I say “my wife and I are going to have a baby” and she says, “we are, or am I really having, let’s just be honest about it.” So that royal we. There’s no attestation of this plural of majesty.
Others argue well, this “us” is the angelic counsel. That He’s speaking to the angels in counsel in heaven, and sometimes the Bible does speak of an angelic counsel, but it would seem strange to say “let us” meaning the angels when we are not made in the image of angels. And in Isaiah chapter 40 we have explicitly from God that He took counsel from no one: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand?”
That’s what Isaiah says. Speaking of God’s creative power, He did not consult anyone. He did not have to seek out the angels. So I think we ought to understand this “us” as referring to plurality in God.
This makes some people nervous. Say, well, are you saying that Moses is giving us a full-blown doctrine of the Trinity in Genesis chapter 1? Well, no, you don’t have to say that. But we should not assume that ancient people were too primitive to understand such a concept. Not trinitarian theology, we’re not saying that they were ready to articulate the Athanasian Creed, but it wasn’t beyond them or beyond Moses as the author to understand that in some mysterious way there is a plurality within this one God. I think we’re right to take this as a very big hint in the very first chapter of the Bible that this one God, who alone created the heavens and the earth, yet in some way yet to be fully revealed to us in chapter 1, is a plurality.
So “let us make man in our own image.” But the point is not about God, the point that I’m making here is about man. So what do I mean when I say man is a plurality?
Look at verse 27: So God created man, ha adam, Adam. The name “Adam” is the Hebrew word for man. In the image of God He created them male and female. Man is “adam,” male “zakar,” female “neqebah.” So there’s different words here.
He created man, is thinking of man in a generic sense, not a biological male. He’s using man as the totality for the human race. He created “adam” and in creating, there was a male “adam” and a female “adam.” In other words, in man there is a plurality, just as in God there is a plurality.
Now notice we have had no mention of sexual distinction in the animals but now when we come to the creation of man, think of all the things that God could have mentioned. He wants us to know that man is characterized by sexual differentiation. Now, Lord willing, we’ll come back to this in more detail in chapter 2 next week when we look at the two becoming one flesh and what it means for the relationships and male and female and in particular husband and wife, but here notice there are two distinct ways to be a human being: A male and a female. They are equally in the image of God.
This is quite revolutionary for the ancient world. Equally in the image of God. Not the female as derivatively, or in a lesser sense, but He created adam and there is a male and there’s a female, equally in the image of God. But distinct. Two distinct ways of being human beings. A male is first of all the sort of human being with the sexual organs to sire a child and become a father, and a female is first of all the sort of human being with the sexual organs to provide a womb for a child and become a mother.
Now, of course on the other side of the fall, this design is sometimes affected. It’s not always realized. But we see very importantly that from the beginning just as God “let us” is a plurality, so He makes man as a plurality. Male and female.
Second. And we’ll tie this together at the end with some thoughts on what this means for us. But second then, we are divine representatives. We are divine representatives.
Now in order to make this, this argument stick even more, let’s step back a little bit and draw out what a number of biblical theologians have seen, this isn’t unique to me, but notice that the cosmos is a kind of divine temple, and the tabernacle and the temple later to be created are a kind of cosmos.
What do I mean? Psalm 78:69: He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that He established forever.
That’s just one Psalm. There’s others like it. He built the sanctuary, he is speaking of the temple or the tabernacle, like the heights, like the earth. So there’s an explicit verse that God created the sanctuary like He created the earth.
Think about the fashioning of the tabernacle, some of you may have been here when we went through that on Sunday evening, from Exodus. Exodus makes a deliberate point to say that the fashioning of the tabernacle happened as Bezalel and Oholiab were empowered and filled by the Holy Spirit. So the creation of the tabernacle was, was shaped and fashioned with the, the brooding over it of the Holy Spirit, just as in chapter 1 verse 2 we have the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. That’s striking because in the Pentateuch we don’t often have the language in referred to the Holy Spirit.
We also have, with the tabernacle, Moses inspects the work and states several times the work is completed and upon the completion of the tabernacle he blesses it and he consecrates it and he sets it apart as holy, just as God will inspect His work of the cosmos, it is finished, it is completed, He blesses it and He consecrates the seventh day as holy.
You could even make the case that the elements in the tabernacle are to harken back to the creation itself, that in the outer court you have two items, an altar and a basin, perhaps representative of land, the altar, and sea, the water in the basin. Inside, if you remember what the inside of the tabernacle looked like, and there was hanging and there were shades of blue and there were stars, it was meant to look like a canopy as if you were surrounded by the heavens. The same word used for the menorah or for the lights in the tabernacle is the same word used let there be light here, illuminated.
Man created in the image of God, the tabernacle created in the heavenly pattern. We see this made even more explicit in Hebrews, that Moses shaped and fashioned according to the pattern that he received on the mountain. So think of it, both man and the tabernacle are earthly replicas modeled on a heavenly reality. The cosmos is a grand temple, and the temple, or the tabernacle, was created as a kind of mini cosmos.
Now there’s much more I could do to make that case for you, but it’s definitely there.
So if creation is a kind of grand temple, what do you do? What do gods do with temples?
Well, you put your image, your likeness, in the temple.
Now, of course, in the tabernacle and in the physical temple later to be created, God cannot be shaped and fashioned by human hands and so you simply have the ark of the covenant, which is symbolic representation of where God will dwell with His people. There is no statue, there is no icon, because God is invisible.
But here, here is the way in which God will make Himself visible. He’s created this cosmic temple, and into the temple, just as any god would do in the ancient Near East, but this is the true God, He places an icon, an image. People. Those words “tselem,” image, and “demut,” likeness, are used in the ancient world. Elsewhere it’s referred to a god’s statue.
Tselem in particular, it’s instructive to see how it’s used in the Old Testament, five times it’s used in Genesis, two times it’s used to refer to man’s existence as an image or a shadow, but then there are 10 times where “tselem,” image, refers to a physical image of some kind, like pictures or idols that others would use. So this is the language. A tselem is what a god would put to say “this is mine, this is my temple, I dwell in it, I inhabit it.”
So we are made in the image of God. God cannot be seen, but we can be seen, and He puts us, and here at first He puts a man and a woman to say, “You want a statue of Me? You want an icon of Me? You want an image of Me? Here it is, human beings. They represent me in this cosmic temple which I have created.”
So man is a plurality, we are divine representatives, and then third follows on the heels of that, we are royal rulers, or vice regents. Royal rulers.
Notice there are two fundamental exhortations for man made in the image of God. Remember I said that Genesis does, it doesn’t dwell really on the structural, it doesn’t say, well, you’re made in the image of God and you have rationality or capacity for beauty, it focuses on as image bearers what we ought to do and there are chiefly two things mentioned.
One, we are to have dominion. Subdue. Rule. Surely this is the marvelous mystery that the psalmist has in mind in Psalm 8: What is man that you are mindful of him, you made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, the angels. You crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands. You have put all things under his feet, beasts and birds and fish, that man is given dominion. So that God has entrusted to man to be the overseer of His earthly kingdom.
This is why it’s, it’s problematic when some strains of modern thought think of man on the earth only as a polluter. Of course, if this is God’s creation that He has given to us, we want to maximize beauty and we want to rule and subdue it in a way that honors God, that doesn’t despoil the house, all of that is true. And yet sometimes in environmentalism it’s as if man is a contagion on the planet. And the planet is pristine and man is here and all he can do is spoil it or pollute it. When that is an unbiblical way to look at man’s role. We are given as sub-creators.
Yes, man may spill millions of gallons of oil and take years and years to clean up, but man in the image of God also has turned silicon, sand, and makes microchips out of it, and stores data, and does amazing things. Man is not just someone on the planet who may ruin things, but someone on the planet who creates things, who produces things, who is given dominion, subdue, rule, exercise stewardship over this creation.
And then the other object, dominion, and then multiplication, be fruitful, increase. Several times it’s mentioned, not just here, but when the image language is repeated in Genesis. These are expressed as commands, but they’re first of all considered blessings.
Now certainly this was a necessary work at the beginning of the world, but it’s still a necessary work. Demographers no longer fear a population boom but rather, if you read any of the relevant literature, they fear a coming population bust, that the population of the earth will likely, with current trends, crest in the next 20 or 30 years and then decrease, and already in parts of the world, Japan, Russia, Italy, many parts in western Europe, the fertility rate is plummeting so quickly that countries are fearing what to do, how will they sustain their social services network for older populations when they no longer have younger populations.
I forget some, I won’t, I’ll get it wrong, I want to say Georgia, not, the country, not the state, but the Eastern Orthodox bishop in one of these, these countries was so eager to see people have more children he promised himself to personally baptize all of the children that were born. Sort of, I’m not ready to make that promise, but we’ll try to get those here in the congregation.
So there still is a need. And even if, you know, the demographics said one thing or another thing, it’s still the case that it takes 2.1 as a fertility rate to replace yourself. And there’s a very recent book, there’s actually several that have come out, one that’s on fertility rates around the world that Philip Jenkins wrote, another one that’s about Christian marriage around the world, and both of these are making similar points, that in the not-too-distant future, you are likely to see that the people who are reproducing themselves are going to by and large be religious persons.
Now I know it can be a painful topic because many of you say “I wish I could have” and “we got married late” or “things didn’t work out,” so it’s not shaming, it’s not making some exact formula, but it is to lean into what Genesis tells us, that as God, right, God is the Creator, made in His image, means that as He rules, were sub-rulers under Him. As God is a Creator to create and to make, so we made in His image are made to reproduce and to create.
So one commentator sums it up like this. There is a divine plan, “let Us make man,” a divine pattern, “after Our image,” and then a divine purpose, “let them be fruitful and multiply and have dominion.” As image-bearers we are entrusted as rulers and stewards of God’s creation.
Think of it, if you were a steward of a house, someone says this is my house but I want you, I’m going to be gone for five years and I want you to be the ruler and the steward of my house that I made and it belongs to me but I want you to rule and steward in it. Now you would, you would want to maintain that house, you would not want to destroy the house, you have to live in it, you would not want to spoil the house, but you would also use it and you would fill it and maybe you would multiply in it. You would work to keep it up, to value it.
And in the same way as we are rulers and stewards of the creation that God has made, so we want to exercise proper authority and dominion and creativity. This is what is sometimes called the creation mandate, and we’ll see in chapter 2 as man is given the work to cultivate in the garden.
Now interestingly, and more than interestingly, it’s noteworthy that you notice of all the things that man was given dominion over, it’s mentioned several times he’s given dominion over plants and animals and created things, he is never given dominion over other men. He is never given dominion over others. Because those are fellow image-bearers. It is because man is in this unique position as the crown of creation that he alone can exercise dominion as God’s sub-ruler, sub-creator on the earth.
But there is never an allowance that man might exercise dominion over another man, as you find so often in the history of the world, military conquest, enslavement. No, that dominion was not given to man, to rule in tyrannical ways over fellow image-bearers.
So what are the implications of being made in the image of God? Let me just list these for you as we finish.
Number one. We see the uniqueness of the human person in God’s creation. This is very subtle but this is very important, because the way that many people want to talk about the earth is profoundly geocentric. That is, the story of the earth is about the earth and humans happen to be some creatures on the earth, but the story is about the earth. Or bio-centric, bios meaning life, so that the story is the earth and all the life and, you know, there’s whales and there’s penguins and there’s a yellow-bellied sapsuckers and there’s Perry the platypus and there’s all sorts of animals, and, you know, there’s humans and we’re another kind of animal.
But Genesis has a profoundly anthropocentric view of the earth and its inhabitants. And you could actually see it’s theo-centric because it’s God’s relationship to man, but the point is the story is told not just as an earth and nature and man is a part of it, but fundamentally as man as the crown of God’s creation, as a steward on the earth, a profoundly anthropocentric story that is being told.
Second. We see the worth and dignity of all people. Isn’t this what we need with so many of our most contentious ethical issues? Life begins at conception. Science tells us that life begins at conception and that new life is a person, and a person, Dr. Seuss said, a person’s a person no matter how small. A person made in the image of God with inherent worth and dignity, whose life ought to be protected.
Or you think about suicide, or assisted suicide. We’re not talking about the foregoing of extraordinary measures. There’s a difference between ending extraordinary measures for life and ending life itself. There are pressures on families, pressure sometimes in not so subtle ways that say, well, not all life is really equally valuable. Healthy life, young life, is valuable. No, all human life made in the image of God.
And certainly when it comes to racial tensions. Just look around this room. Look around this room, look around your living room. It doesn’t matter how much education this person has in this room. It doesn’t matter where they come from, it doesn’t matter what language they speak, it doesn’t matter what they look like, if they look just like you or different. It doesn’t matter if they vote differently than you. Every person in this room has the same inherent worth and dignity as you do. They are made in the image of God.
And it might be perhaps, it’s not so much even race or color, we hear much about that. It might be subtle ways in our hearts, class or education or age, and we think well, I don’t know if that’s a really quite as valuable a person.
It is the Genesis understanding of the image of God that is the proper foundation for human rights and value. It’s the starting place for a right understanding of our identity. We’re so eager to divide into all of these sub-identities and we forget we share the same fundamental identity, children of Adam and Eve, common parents, born into the world with the same nature, and if Christians joined to the same Lord.
So we see worth and dignity.
Third, we see that we belong to God. It’s interesting that the serpent will tell Adam and Eve that if they eat from the fruit, the day they eat of it they will be like God. You see, they had forgotten they were already were like God. And the serpent continues to lie to us. If you just do whatever you want, if you just express yourself, if you just find your own fulfillment, you’ll be like God, and you’ve forgotten you already are like God, made in His image, His statues, His flags to wave in this country, this, this earth, this planet that belongs to Him.
When Jesus says render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and He says whose image is on it. Well, Caesar, so you give it to Caesar. But the larger point that Jesus is making, well, then whose image is on you? God’s image. So give Caesar his coins, give to God your whole life. I am not my own but belong body and soul to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
And then finally being made in the image of God means we worship the image par excellence that is Christ. He is the object of our worship. He is the goal of our common humanity.
I said just a moment ago look around the room and honestly, not many of you did, but metaphorically you were, you just you can’t see who people are with the masks on anyways.
Well, sometime when you get home, you know, look in the mirror. Or you got a phone, you can see yourself there. Do you understand who you are? Do you understand what you were made to be?
Now perhaps you need those questions as a sort of pick-me-up because you’ve forgotten who you are and you’ve believed all sorts of lies about yourself and what you’re not worth and what you’re not, and you need to know “I am in the image of God, I don’t need a pep talk that tells me I’m good enough and smart enough and gosh darn it, people like me.” You’re God’s icon in the world.
But maybe you need to ask that question because you’re not living as if you’re representing God in the world, and you’ve thought that this body He’s given you is for you to do what you want with. Or maybe you’re wrestling that God made you male and female, a divinely designed binary. Or your sense of gender and identity is meant by God’s design to correspond to your sexually given differentiated identity. God did not make an accident in making you a man or making you a woman.
So look at yourself. Do you understand who you are? Do you understand what you were made to be? Do you understand that you were made for God? To worship Him, to know Him, to be like Him.
Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, there is so much here to think upon. We pray that You would teach us, You would help us, that You would renew us more and more, as Your stewards, as rulers on the earth, to reflect Your image. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.