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In God’s Image

By admin | December 20, 2011

In The Image of God

Perhaps the most magnificent of all the golden nuggets of Scripture is given to us in the crowning glory of His vast creation – the creation of man in “His own image” and “likeness.”

Upon the acceptance or rejection of this basic Biblical principle rests the future destiny of man. Not only our personal destiny, but also the destiny of our nation, and all mankind. Our entire system of values, accountabilities, and responsibilities are determined by how we view our relationship to God. The study of anthropology is strongly influenced by the assumptions that anthropologists make concerning the relationship of God and man.

In the first chapter of Genesis, verses 26 and 27, we read: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, 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’”.

First, we should consider the statement “Let Us make man.” Here the trinity of the Godhead is involved in our creation. We should note that God the Father plans, God the Son implements, and God the Holy Spirit teaches. It is the preincarnate Son of God, Jesus, who created us. ” All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).

We should also note that “man” is a generic term, including both male and female. Both man and woman were created in the “image of God.” They both possess equally all the attributes that have been imputed to us in our creation.

What does “in our image, after our likeness” mean? Perhaps we will never fully comprehend with our finite mind all that is implied. Scholars have debated the implications for centuries, and they are generally in agreement on two aspects. First, we were endowed with special features not shared by the animals; second, we were intended to share in the management of God’s creation.

Man was created with the ability to reason, to think abstractly, to create (change the form of what God had previously created), and to have fellowship with God. Man was also given an eternal soul, spirit, and a will. Animals were not given a will and the ability to reason, but were given instinct to direct their actions. We may think that our favorite pet is almost human, and possesses great intelligence (some animals certainly give every impression), but they are simply reacting in response to their innate nature. God placed basic rules in their genes to direct their lives. To some degree, we could say that they are responding to a pre-coded program. A study of animal instincts is very rewarding and fascinating, and will strengthen our understanding of the supremacy of God’s infinite knowledge and unlimited power.

Why does a salmon swim two thousand miles upstream against the mighty forces of rushing water to return to its place of birth so that it may give birth and then die? How does that salmon know the location? Why does a bird fly south as winter approaches? How does he know the way and how to return home? Why do bees and ants have such high social structure? How do each know their special assignments and rules? Who taught the beaver how to build dams? The answer to each of these questions is instinct. Each and every animal of a given species is pre-programmed to respond in a defined manner. Each and every animal of a given species will respond in virtually the same way because they each possess the same instructions – they are following the same program coded in their genes.

An animal will adapt to its environment but man will change his environment. The animal grows more fur when the weather turns cold but man will build a fire or plan ahead, and install a heating system for use year after year. This is one of the main features that separate animals and man. God gave man the ability to be creative – a reflection of the same attribute that God himself possesses. But there is a restriction; man is not God. Man has limited power, and can only change the form of what God has already created. Man has never had and will never have the ability to create matter out of nothing. God created matter and gave man authority to manipulate it and have dominion over it.

However, God retained absolute authority over His creation and that includes man.

We, unlike animals, are not pre-programmed to respond in a specifically defined manner. We are free to write our own programs and set our own courses. We are able to see things that are not seen except in our own minds, to believe (have faith) that these unseen things can and will come into being, and to set physical things in motion to accomplish what was previously only a mental image. Man has had visions of a tall building reaching into the sky, a long bridge supported by hanging cables, a horseless carriage, a machine that flies, and thousands of other previously unknown things. He communicated his abstract perceptions to his fellow men and, as a team, they brought those visions into physical form. Today we can all see the results of those visions, and we can all share in the many benefits they have brought into our lives.

This is a marvelous gift that each of us has received. You may not think you have creative abilities and you may not be able to design airplanes or other mighty things but you are creative. We all daydream and remember fantasies we had as children. The only difference is that some of us have suppressed our fantasies, and some of us have taken the opportunity to bring our fantasies to maturity. Our lives reflect this ability through the little things in our lives as well as the ingenious ones.

By applying order and organization to his creative skills, man has brought into being the complex, sophisticated materialistic world in which we now live. We witnessed a masterpiece exhibition of our combined talents when in July 1969; Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. His response: “A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.” In nine short years man brought into being the vision of our late president, John F. Kennedy.

We are also equipped with the ability and desire to have fellowship with God. The apostle Paul said that we are created with three parts – a body, a soul, and a spirit. “May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ” (I Thess. 5:23b).

Most of us have little trouble understanding our body because it is so visible and demanding. However, we do have trouble understanding the meaning of soul and spirit and many times they appear to be interchangeable in Scripture. The soul appears to be that immaterial part of man embodying the sensibilities, emotions, affection, desires, will, etc. – it is the conscious eternal part of our being (see Ps. 42:1-6).

The spirit is the part of man that is able to contemplate and communicate with God, the part that knows and is capable of distinguishing. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Cor. 2:11a). The spirit is also eternal.

In the second chapter of Genesis, we are given the details of God’s creation of man. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). God formed the material part of our being (body) out of the dust of the earth. It is interesting that God limited his power of the creation of the body of man to the extent of the power that He would pass on to man himself. We were formed from only about fifteen or so chemical elements that God had previously created – man will be given the ability to use these same elements in his creations. At this point there is no life, the same state to which the body will return when the soul and spirit are removed in death. It may be possible that someday man will be able to form a human body (or parts), but he will not be able to give it life – only God can do that. And God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.”

The soul and spirit are the immaterial part of our being that was transmitted from God himself. It is life itself and was not created but was transmitted. Without the soul, the body is dead. The animals also have a soul because they have life, but they don’t have a spirit, and their soul may or may not be eternal.

Perhaps the most misunderstood part of us is the spirit – that part of our being which is the channel of communication between God and our soul. In Romans the eighth chapter we read, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Rom. 8:16, KJV). Job said “all the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils” (Job 27:3, KJV). Some scholars would tell me that defining the spirit as a channel of communication is an understatement and oversimplification and they would be right. But it is through this divine communication link with God that we are able to enjoy His fellowship and guidance.

Man was also created with a desire to have fellowship with God and when that relationship is broken, man is frustrated and confused. There is an intense thirst and search for something that is missing. Nothing seems to bring complete happiness and fulfillment – the missing element is our fellowship with the One who made us. This relationship is broken when man turns to God’s own creation for worship rather than to God. When this happens, man creates his own gods from the things that God has created.

Man was also created with the desire to have a life companion and partner. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him’ ” (Gen 2:18-20, NASB 1995). It is clear to see that man’s companion was not to be found among the animals. Man needed a helper as his counterpart or another half to complete him.

Marriage

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man “ (Gen. 2:21-22). Now the Bible doesn’t say so, but there is no doubt that God took the woman whom he had made, and breathed into her nostrils the breath of life so that woman also became a living soul. “And Adam said: ‘this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Gen 2:23-25). Please note that Adam did not name his new wife immediately; we will see that he named her much later.

We have before us the first wedding. Here God has joined together male and female and they become “one flesh.” Man is incomplete without woman and woman is incomplete without man, but they complete and complement each other when joined together. Man has a rugged and strong body and a mind capable of clear, firm and profound thinking, but he lacks some of the finer grains of character that women possess. Therefore, marriage is according to divine institution, that holy estate in which one man and one woman become united with one another unto one flesh. Marriage was ordained for two reasons: First, there was to be the ideal companionship and love of husband and wife for each other. Second, marriage was given as a means by which man would be propagated.

The companionship and love of husband and wife must be complete on three levels: union on the spiritual level, union on the intellectual level, and union on a physical level. Man and woman must be one in a spiritual sense. There is no doubt that this first man and woman were one in the spirit. They were in complete fellowship with God, and were under his divine control. We can get some understanding of what they jointly possessed when we read Galatians chapter five. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23a). How can there be lack of harmony between a man and his wife when they each reflect the fruit of the spirit. There can be no conflict if God is their source.

A husband and wife must also be one on the intellectual level. A spouse cannot be the needed and desired companion without a sharing of some common interests. A large part of the partner’s emotional support comes from a deep understanding of and a commitment to a common purpose. Unless, we are united in interest and purpose we cannot be completely united spiritually.

Last, but not least, is the union on the physical level. The intimate physical relationship between husband and wife is not something to be ashamed of. It is God given. God ordained this relationship and it must remain in God’s control. The physical relationship of husband and wife is a beautiful experience, and is the highest expression of love, joy, and fulfillment between two human beings. It is the deepest expression of human love as each partner completely surrenders body, soul, and spirit to the other. The highest fulfillment is when husband and wife are completely “one in the flesh” spiritually, intellectually, and physically. The experience is incomplete outside of marriage, and God has warned us against perverting it. The strength of the sex drive is second only to the drive for survival, and to remove it from God’s control leads to disastrous circumstances.

In a beautiful and fulfilling way, God chose the physical union of male and female as a means of reproducing themselves. We pass on to our offspring a part of our living self that is continually passed on from one generation to the next. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…” (Gen. 1:27-28a).

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