Image is Everything
November 5, 2022 | Brian Bill
A man once said, “I set my alarm to tell me when to get up, but some days I need something to tell me why I should get up.”
In his new book, “Truth Changes Everything,” Jeff Meyers, president of Summit Ministries, where many of our students and young adults have received apologetics training, and where Nick Frey has served the last two summers, writes: “America has passed a tipping point…a majority now say that truth is up to the individual and that ultimate truth cannot be known. Learning to ‘speak our own truths’ was supposed to lead to dignity and harmony. Instead, our society struggles with unprecedented levels of social conflict, purposelessness, and loss of identity.”
He shares some alarming stats:
- 75% of young adults say they are unsure of their purpose in life.
- 50% believe there is no absolute value associated with human life.
John Stonestreet offers this commentary, “Our real cultural crisis is a catastrophic, culture-wide loss of meaning…now we are living with the existential results of a culture untethered from God, and therefore untethered from any fixed reference point for truth, morality, identity, and meaning.”
An example of this happened in our community Monday night when a 13-year-old boy allegedly held a woman at gunpoint in Davenport, struck her in the head with the gun, and stole her car before getting in a chase with police and crashing the vehicle in Rock Island. Props to the Davenport Police Department and the Rock Island Police Department for chasing the boy on foot and arresting him.
This makes me wonder how that woman felt and what would cause a young teenager to be so untethered from truth that he would have no regard for the value of human life. I also wonder about this boy’s parents and am more convinced of the need for us to live on mission by taking the gospel to people living without purpose.
In contrast to the despair found in the younger generation, I want to share this picture of our students praying on Wednesday night. After Pastor Chris spoke on prayer, they divided into groups and every five minutes they rotated through seven tables where they spent time praying for friends who aren’t saved yet, unreached people groups, political leaders, the sick and injured, spiritual leaders, their enemies, and for our world as a whole. Some students had never prayed for more than a few minutes at a time, so to spend a total of 35 minutes in prayer was something very new.
Tears were shed, and students hugged and encouraged each other. And several students asked when they could do it again. They finished the night with small group leaders praying over the students. Pastor Chris commented, “At one point I stood in the middle of the room and surrounding me I could hear this generation crying to God in prayer.”
It’s our turn to pray for our children, students, and young adults right now.
Last week we focused on what God created on days four, five, and the first part of day six, as we celebrated how God forms and fills His creation for His glory and our good. Next weekend, our topic will be “Gender Matters.” You might want to invite a friend or family member to join you. I also want to give parents a heads-up that the message will have a PG rating which some children may not be ready to hear, while those who are older should hear.
Our focus today is only on one verse, Genesis 1:26: “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.’” Our main idea is this: Because we are image-bearers of God, our purpose is to reflect, reveal, and represent Him.
We’ll begin with exposition and conclude with some implications which will help us remain tethered to the truth.
Notice how verse 26 begins: “Then God said…” It’s as if there’s a solemn pause after God formed and filled the earth in the previous verses. As He considered creating man and woman, anticipation builds as we get ready to hear what God is going to do next: “Let us make man…” The phrase “let us” is an emphatic imperative and could be translated as, “we will.” It’s like God is consulting within Himself before creating man. Up until this point, God’s speaking had been intentionally measured: “Let there be.” With the creation of man, it became more intimate and magnified.
The plural use of “us” is early evidence for the Trinity, as is the name Elohim, which is in the plural. The word “said” is singular, signifying there is plurality within oneness. One pastor captures it well: “God, who is one, communes with Himself – the Father to the Son, the Son to the Spirit, the Spirit to the Father – and in perfect agreement, Adam and Eve were created.”
To “make” means, “to accomplish or complete” and referred to an activity with a distinct purpose or goal in mind. The word for “man” is Adam, which was the generic term for mankind and was also the proper name Adam which refers to the first created male. Humans were the last of God’s created creatures and were the crowning achievement of creation. Animals were made according to their kinds, but humans are in a class way above all other creation. We are the crescendo of God’s creative genius. In addition, the creation of man and woman is narrated with greater detail in chapter two. No other part of creation is given this much attention.
Let’s drop down one verse to Genesis 1:27, which is our preaching text for next week: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.” Three times we’re told God created man and the fact we are made in His image is emphasized twice. There is no room for harmonizing the Genesis account with an evolutionary origin of man.
You are not the result of some coincidental cosmic accident, nor have you somehow evolved from a single-celled organism over the space of a million years. You are more than just matter, and you matter greatly to the Almighty. You are more than an animal and you are not a “fursona” or a “furry.” Since you are the product of divine design, you have been created with dignity, value, worth, and purpose.
Genesis helps us answer these questions…
- Where did I come from? This is the question of origins.
- Why am I here? This is the question of purpose.
- Where am I going? This is the question of destiny.
You can’t answer the last two until you settle the first one. When we compromise what the Bible says about creation, we invariably end up confused about our origins, our purpose in life, and our destiny in death.
This passage gives us three purposes.
Our first purpose comes from the phrase, “Let us make man in our image.” The word “in” can be translated, “in essence as.” The word “image” in Hebrew refers to a statue or model meant to show an image of somebody. An illustration would be the Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The craftsmanship is so good it makes you think Abe is actually sitting there, even though it’s just a statue, or image.
This doctrine is often referred to as the Imago Dei, which is a Latin phrase meaning, “the image of God.” What does it mean to be made in God’s image? Since God is spirit, this likely refers to human life as a reflection of God’s nature. A post from Ligonier Ministries captures it like this: “We are like God in ways that nothing else in creation is like God, although we are not so like Him that there is no distinction between Creator and creature.”
Let’s consider what it means to be created in God’s image.
- We exhibit some of God’s characteristics. As theologians say, we share in some of God’s “communicable” attributes, though in a very limited way. This includes truth, love, kindness, goodness, compassion, wisdom, holiness, and justice.
- We’re able to worship. Ecclesiastes 7:21 says we’ve been created to be worshippers and have spiritual fellowship with God: “He has put eternity into man’s heart…”
- We’ve been given dignity. Psalm 8:5 says we’ve been crowned with “glory and honor.”
- Each person has a personality. Every person has a unique personality (some more than others).
- We’re able to be aware. We have the ability to be self-conscious.
- We can talk. We’ve been given the ability to communicate with words, expressions, and even through sign language.
- Our minds can reason. We can think logically and use reason.
- We have a conscience. We can know what is right and wrong. Romans 2:15: “…their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”
- We have a soul, a spirit, and a will.
Because we are image-bearers of God, our purpose is to reflect, reveal, and represent Him.
Our second purpose is drawn from the phrase, “after our likeness.” This idea is repeated in Genesis 5:1: “When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.” The word “likeness” is almost, but not quite synonymous, with “image” and serves to intensify it as an emphatic superlative. One commentator suggests we could read it this way: “In the likeness of our image.”
While “image” and “likeness” are closely related, there are some differences. The word “likeness” was often used as a simile to compare two unlike things as in Ezekiel 1:10: “Like a man.”
At the risk of oversimplifying, we are like a mirror which reveals God. When people look at us, they should learn some of what God is like and when we look at others, we must remember they reflect and reveal who God is, though in a very limited, and deeply flawed way. Psalm 19:1 tells us the heavens declare the glory of God and Genesis 1:26 reminds us we have been uniquely created to reflect and reveal who God is since we have been made in His image and likeness.
As humans, our worth and value is intrinsic because we have been created in the image and likeness of God to display His character. We don’t have to work to establish our worth; we are already worthy because of who made us. To fully know who we are, we must first know whose we are. According to Isaiah 43:7, the main reason we’ve been created is to show forth God’s glory: “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Because we are image-bearers of God, our purpose is to reflect, reveal, and represent Him.
He is the sovereign; we are simply stewards with responsibility for the care of His creation
Our third purpose is found in the last half of verse 26: “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.” The word “dominion” means, “to exercise domain, to rule, and to subjugate.” Part of our purpose as image-bearers is to lovingly rule over God’s created order as His earthly vice-regents. God has given us delegated authority. He is the sovereign; we are simply stewards with responsibility for the care of His creation. In a similar way, we’re responsible to manage the resources He entrusts to us for His glory and purposes.
This also suggests facing down opposition in anticipation of spiritual encounters with evil. One hint of the coming conflict is found in Genesis 4:7: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Just as kings in ancient times would often set up statues of themselves in remote areas to show their sovereign domain, so God established His representatives on earth. I like how one commentator puts it: “We are not to make images of God because He has already done so! We are His images; we are in His likeness. Therefore, He values us very highly! We are made to resemble and reflect His majesty as His ruling representatives.
Because we are image-bearers of God, our purpose is to reflect, reveal, and represent Him.
Implications of Image Bearing
C.S. Lewis once wrote: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…it is immortals whom you joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.” There is dignity in every single human being. I like this phrase one pastor popularized, “You have never looked in the eyes of someone who does not matter to God.”
That is why the Declaration of Independence contains these weighty words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Self-evident truths are those that are so obvious that they need no explaining. Unalienable rights are rights that cannot be taken away because they belong to us by virtue of being a member of the human race. These rights don’t come from Congress or the Supreme Court but from the Creator of the universe as stated in Genesis 1:26.
Because everyone you meet is an image bearer of God, it’s important for us to treat every individual with dignity, respect, and kindness. Just as we gave an action step last week to say, “God made that” when looking at different aspects of creation, I want to suggest an action step when looking at someone God created: “He (or she) is an image bearer of God.” You can say it to yourself, or you may need to say it out loud, so it sinks in. Let’s look at some practical ways to live this out.
- Don’t curse someone or gossip about them. We tend to categorize, criticize, and cancel people but we must remember there is only one category – every individual reflects and represents God’s image. James 3:8-9: “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Prisoners are made in the image of God. Sometimes we look down on those who are incarcerated, forgetting what Jesus said in Matthew 25:39-40: “‘And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” As a way to minister to prisoners, our Awana and Edgekids ministry colored over 50 placemats for prisoners at Western Illinois Correctional Center. Three guys from Edgewood are serving with a ministry called Kairos and will be delivering them this week, along with dozens of cookies, which were made by an Edgewood member. Prisoners are image bearers of God.
- The preborn matter. In the midst of all the vitriolic verbiage going on in our country right now, the primary question related to abortion is this: Are the preborn people who are made in the image of God? Here’s the truth. Abortion dehumanizes and destroys a human life.
This week, NPR aired a disturbing audio of a woman getting an abortion at a Michigan abortion clinic. I was mortified when I heard about it and wasn’t sure I wanted to listen to it, but I decided to do so, in honor of the young image bearer who was murdered. I could hear a loud vacuum sound, some crying, and then a staff person’s voice saying, “Within a couple minutes it will be over.” And then, “You did it. You did great.” It was horrifying and nauseating.
Since Psalm 139:13 tells us life begins at conception, the preborn are distinct, living, and whole members of the human species, regardless of their size or location, and therefore must be protected. If you’ve had an abortion, or encouraged someone to have one, you also matter to God because you are made in His image. He longs to bring you hope and healing through the freedom and forgiveness that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Avoid all ageism. Don’t look down on someone older or younger because everyone you meet is an image bearer of God. 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth.” Leviticus 19:32: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Reject all racism and antisemitism. Everyone matters because everyone is made in the image of God. James 2:1: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- People you disagree with politically matter to God. So many candidates are assassinating the character of those they are running against, forgetting their opponent is an image bearer of God. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” I have often wondered what would happen if a candidate would make a kind commercial with this voiceover, “My opponent seems like an involved parent who is striving to live out what is important to him (or her). She (or he) seems to be an upright citizen. However, I believe my policies are better and therefore I ask you to vote for me.” Remember, it’s possible to disagree agreeably. He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Demonstrate your dominion by voting. As I see it, voting is part of our representing and ruling purpose from Genesis 1:26. The Apostle Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship in Acts 25:10-11, and we have the privilege as Americans to vote our values. I like what Samuel Adams said in this regard: “Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”
- Pray for persecuted believers. There are image-bearing Christ-followers living for Christ in very hard places. Hebrews 13:3 calls us to pray and to care for them as if we are in prison with them.
- Give dignity to those with special disabilities or genetic disorders. Luke 14:13-14: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed…” I saw an example of this when I went to the bank this week when a teller took the time to help someone with special needs who was struggling to understand. She spent at least 15 minutes with him and showed no signs of irritation or impatience with him. He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Don’t ignore the marginalized. Proverbs 22:2: “The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all.” Don’t walk by people and treat them as invisible, even here at church. He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Give respect to refugees and immigrants. Leviticus 19:34: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Love your enemies. We don’t have an escape clause just because we don’t care for someone or because we consider them to be an enemy. Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Practice purity. As image-bearers of God, remember to treat other image-bearers with purity and respect. 1 Timothy 5:2 says men are to treat “women as sisters, in all purity.” He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Avoid hatred in your heart. 1 John 3:15 equates hatred as murder and the murder of a fellow image-bearer has severe consequences. He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Honor orphans and widows. James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” He (or she) is an image bearer of God.
- Be sensitive to the deaf and hard of hearing.
- Be sensitive to those who are blind and those struggling with their eyesight.
- Care for those who struggle with mental health issues, depression, and suicidal tendencies.
- Be careful about judging those who sin differently than you do.
- You matter to God. Some of you don’t believe you matter to God because of what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you. Let me illustrate with this $20 bill. This is worth $20 even if I crumple it up, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it. The next time you look in the mirror, no matter how marred you might feel, say, “I matter because I’m an image-bearer of God.” You were made for Him, not for yourself. Because you are an image bearer of God, your purpose is to reflect, reveal, and represent Him.
You don’t have to perform or do penance in order to find your purpose.
You don’t have to perform or do penance in order to find your purpose. God has made a way for you to have your sins forgiven and to have the image of God restored in your life. Jesus died in your place, paying the price for all your sins, and then rose again on the third day. Repent and receive Him now.
When I was on the elevator at the hospital this week, I complemented a nurse for all she does to help people. This made her smile and as the doors opened, she turned back and said, “Well, if I can help at least one person a day, I’ll make it to heaven.” Realizing I only had seconds to respond, I said, “Actually, the only way to get to heaven is by trusting in the work Jesus has done when He paid the price for all our sins.” She walked away but I pray she will trust in the good work of Jesus and not in her own good works, before it’s too late.
Speaking of being too late, I’ve been pumped about trying the new Curderburger at Culver’s because it comes with a big cheese curd patty. I even promoted it on Facebook and personally encouraged others to get one. I knew it was a limited time offer but I thought I had plenty of time to get one. With great expectation we pulled up in the drive through line on Sunday after church and I eagerly placed my order. The chirpy voice came back, “We’re all sold out of those. It was just a limited promotion.” My response was subdued and mature as I shouted, “What? It’s too late? No!” I pouted and ended up getting a “Kids’ Scoopie Meal.” Later, Beth told me my response was over the top and I probably frightened the worker (I forgot she was an image bearer).
Jesus offers you salvation from your sins, but it’s a limited time offer. You must act before it’s too late. Repent and receive Him as your Lord and Savior right now.
Until you are in a right relationship with your Creator and Redeemer, your life will have no meaning and purpose. Once you receive Christ, you’ll not only be able to get up in the morning, but you’ll also know why you’re getting up.
Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature.” Jesus perfectly reflects, reveals, and represents the image of God so image-bearing followers of Christ can be transformed. Listen to 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
1 Corinthians 11:28 says we’re to not take communion flippantly: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” As we prepare to celebrate communion and remember His work of redemption, let’s spend some time in confession as we ask Him to transform us into His image from one degree of glory to another.
As our redeemer, Jesus has purchased us for His possession, and He restores us for His purposes. Because we are image-bearers of God, our purpose is to reflect, reveal, and represent Him.
- Let’s focus on what Christ has done for us.
- Let’s remember the family of God right here and around the globe, especially those who are persecuted.
- Let’s lock into the future return of Jesus Christ.