IMAGE – WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

We live in a world where “Image is everything.” This slogan apparently was used for the first time in the 1990’s when Andrew Agassi was featured in Kodak commercials using this phrase. Businessmen are advised that if they want to succeed in whatever field of commerce they are in that “Image is everything.” They are advised that the company logo must give a good impression to prospective customers and must therefore be professionally developed instead of having one’s sophomore nephew create one with MS Word on his home computer. Retailers hire expensive consultants to show them how to set up a store and train clerks to make the best impression on the customer so as to encourage him to buy more. Indeed, in business, image is everything.

But God thought of the concept of image long before Kodak and Andrew Agassi used it. And maybe we should give the subject more thought than we do.

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
.” (Genesis 1:26-27).

Bible scholars have attempted for centuries to explain what it means that man was created in the image of God. I don’t pretend to have a definitive answer. After all, who can comprehend the incomprehensible? Who can completely understand God?

There are some things uniquely characteristic of human beings that animals do not possess. Things like intellect, language, creativity, love, holiness and freedom. But these things are also characteristics of God.

Intellect is a term used in studies of the human mind, and refers to the ability of the mind to come to correct conclusions about what is true or real, and about how to solve problems (Wikipedia). Of course God is the supreme intellect. In Him resides all the wisdom and knowledge in the universe. Man, in the process of maturing and through education is able to sharpen his intellect to be a useful tool in solving problems he encounters in life.

God is a communicator. He has revealed Himself by means of speech – words – to people in the past. He has also revealed Himself by means of the written word. The Bible is known as the word of God because of often repeated statements like “God said,” or “the word of the Lord came…” He has directed His communication to man who can understand what God is saying to him and respond to that communication through obedience.

Obviously, God is the creator. He designed all things in the universe and the universe itself. He formed it by His creative power. He made man with the ability to join Him in creative work by procreation – to advance creation further by reproduction – the bringing of new life also in the image of God into the world. Man obviously is also creative in that he has an incessant urge to build, to decorate, to enhance and preserve what has been built. There is also the appreciation of beauty that gives rise to the arts – which when done from the most creative motivation are attempts by man to capture something of the wonder of creation in order to tell and show God’s glory.

Love is another quality that had to have come from God. We are told in the Bible that “God is love.” The kind of love that comes from God is not found in the natural world – a love that sacrifices itself for the well-being of others. What God did in Jesus – offering Himself as a sacrifice for mankind who didn’t deserve it is something that animals do not and cannot do. Man is capable of that kind of love. There are people who do it all the time, freely and gladly.

Of all creation, man alone has the ability to choose between right and wrong. And man has been given the freedom to make his own choices in this area. We say man is a free moral agent. We have been given God’s mind – His thoughts – as to the wisdom of choosing the good over the bad or evil, but He does not coerce man into making the right choices. To to that would be to deny and deprive man of his right to choice. As an incentive to make the right choices, He does tell us the consequences of making the wrong choices, but leaves us the freedom to decide for ourselves. He is pleased – and glorified – when we make the right choices. When we make choices for goodness and refrain from evil, we are said to be holy like God is holy. Only man of all creation conceives of holiness.

At the time of his creation, Adam more perfectly exhibited the image of God than any other human being has since – except Jesus. Adam was pure and innocent. He began his existence fulfilling God’s mission for him in the world. How long that was we do not know, but we do know that at the beginning when God looked at this last and crowning work of creativity He said, “It is very good.”

We can understand that “image” is very important to God. When it is said that He created man in His “own image,” I believe we can agree that God paid man a high honor above anything else He created. Everything He created reflects something of the glory of God – His wisdom and power in its design and function. But man alone was created in the image of God. We were created to be God’s special representatives in creation. When a man fulfills God’s expectation for him, those who look at him will be able to say, “So that is what God is like!”

But who among us does that? At best, we are broken reflectors or smoky, smudged mirrors. Our own impression of God has been so marred by sin that we do not understand what we are to be and how we are to act in order to be to the world the image of God. Of course there are some who do it better than others, but still at best we are imperfect in our attempts at being in God’s image.

Does God still have this as His purpose for man? If so, how are we to ever realize this in our lives? How can we, as marred as we are by sin, ever overcome the difficulties in understanding, much less in achievement of this highest of all goals God has set before us?

Join us tomorrow as we continue to explore this idea of being made in the image of God.

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