The Image of God (Genesis 1:26)

On January 22, 1973, Walter Cronkite sat at his familiar desk at his usual time and said to the nation:

Good Evening.  In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court today legalized abortions.  The majority, in cases from Texas and Georgia, said that the decision to end a pregnancy in the first three months belongs to the woman and her doctor, not the government.  Thus the anti-abortion laws of 46 states were rendered unconstitutional.

40 years and almost 55 million abortions later, we gather here on this Lord’s Day to heed former President Ronald Reagan’s call to observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  Reagan, in this proclamation called us:

to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life, and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.

This Sunday is a call for all of us who are saddened by the deaths of the most innocent among us to answer Ronald Reagan’s call.  We reaffirm the dignity of not only the unborn, but the elderly, and any individuals that society has labeled as “undesirable” or “unwanted”.  We reaffirm our commitment to love and cherish God’s greatest creation, human beings; and refuse to place any other life above that of humans.  As a Christian church we affirm the Biblical truth that all people bear the image of God.  As Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”

Image of God

The “image of God” is not to be understood in a purely physical sense.  God does not look like us physically because Jesus says that “God is Spirit” (John 4:24).  Being created in the image of God refers to having a “likeness” of God that nothing else in all creation can claim to possess; humans are unique in that they can have a relationship with God in ways nothing else created can.

Being created in God’s image means that humans were intentionally designed to reflect and give witness to God.  Humanity was created to testify to the reality and goodness of God through our words and actions throughout all creation.

We are told in Genesis 1:28 that the first image bearers, Adam and Eve, were blessed by God and told: “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.”  God wanted His images to multiply and have dominion in all creation to proclaim “God is good!”

The Image Corrupted

So what happened?  How did we go from what was just described to the intentional and legal death of almost 55 million babies since 1973 through abortion?  Why are the image bearers projecting a false image? Or are they projecting a true image of a cruel God?

The Bible is not silent on this matter; in fact it is very clear.  The image bearers are projecting a erroneous image because of their rebellion.

Genesis 3, “The Fall”, is where it goes horribly wrong.  Genesis 3 is where Adam and Eve, the image bearers, rebel against their Creator.  God had warned that rebellion against Him would result in death (Gen 2:17), and when they rebelled they suffered spiritual death that brought with it physical death.  The physical death was to come later in life; but the spiritual death, the loss of fellowship with God, was immediate as God “drove out the man” (Gen 3:24).

Paul comments on this in Romans 5:12 by saying, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Sin entered the world to such an extent that even in Genesis 4 we read about anger, hatred, envy, murder, polygamy and by Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

The image has been corrupted.  The image bearers are no longer bearing the true image of God and are now “slaves to sin” (Rom 6:20) and “dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1).  The image profanes its source.  Humans use and abuse one another and place the importance of human worth in areas that it should not be such as beauty as opposed to godliness.  Human life created in the image of God is devalued.  We have corrupted the image.

The Image Restored

What is God’s answer?  God’s answer is to provide a new and better image.  God the Father sends His Son into the world to be “born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7), to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), and to testify to the reality and goodness of God as “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4) who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3).

A better and perfect image bearer “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  Jesus does what Adam did not do in keeping God’s commands.  Jesus does what we cannot do, which is to testify to the reality and goodness of God through our words and actions throughout all creation.  We testify to the world that money, power and beauty are more important than God; but Jesus testified that God is infinitely more valuable and precious than anything else.  Jesus restores the image.

In Conclusion

John Piper said about the call of being a faithful image bearer,

“The best way to show that God is infinitely valuable is to be supremely happy in Him.”

As image bearers, we will love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  We will, through our actions, demonstrate that we treasure all stages of life: unborn, newborn, child, adult, senior adult.  We will minister to mothers who are considering abortion; we will care for children who have been born.  We will be the Father and Mother of the orphans and we will care for the widows.  Let us magnify the One whose image we bear and help our fellow image bearers.