The Image of God in Man By David Cody Cook Introduction Many theologians have pointed out that the

image of God that humans bear may be a reflection of God’s spirituality, rationality, morality and creativity. While this seems to be a reasonable deduction, all of these elements of the image of God can only be reflected in us insofar as we have a connection—a relationship— with Him. When we remove God from our moral life, our moral compass becomes dim. When we remove God from our spiritual life, we worship created things rather than the Creator. When we remove God from our intellectual life, we find that our ideas of truth and goodness become corrupted. When we remove God from our creative life, we create implements for wickedness-- bombs, pornography, and literature that perverts the image of God in mankind. Why is a relationship with God so important in sustaining His image? Because relationship is one of the keys to our very personhood. Dennis Kinlaw, in his book Let’s Start with Jesus, writes, “a person finds completeness only in being related to others in trusting love.” As evidence, Kinlaw looks into the very being of God. The Scriptures tells us that God is love, which is not to say that he is LOVING, as if it’s something He occasionally does, but that He in His essence IS love— which is to say that God is self-giving communion. Kinlaw reminds us that, “God is the original of all things, a communion of three distinct persons whose existence consists in the giving and receiving of themselves to and from each other. Self-giving constitutes their being.” If God’s personhood is communion, or relationship, and we are in His image, we are also relational. If we complete each other as human beings because of this image in us, how much more will the image of God in us become corrupt when we are not in relationship with God—the source of this image? There are four ways that God sustains His image in humanity, and they are all acts of revelation wherein we are not the iniators. God first sustained His image with Adam and Eve by walking with them in the Garden, secondly He sustains His image in all sinners by showing Himself to them, thirdly He sustains His image in those who are saved by entering into communion with them, and finally He will glorify us when He come again and fully restore the image we have corrupted. 1. God Revealed Himself in Eden In the Garden, the image of God in humanity was sustained by God fellowshipping with Adam and Eve. Genesis teaches us that Adam and Eve walked with God and ate from the Tree of Life which God gave them. This sustained their life and their reflection of God’s image. When they sinned against God, He took away access to Himself as well as the Tree, telling them that as a consequence of sinning against Him He would remove life from them. Mankind’s disobedience and sin has snowballed since that moment, as we remove ourselves further and further from communion with God, and His image continues to dim in us as we move toward corruption. This is an act on our part against relationship and communion with God in favor of a selfish inward-turning, that results in the perversion of God’s image and

when man is separated from God. Jesus says. Paul tells us that in Jesus. but they continue to turn away from Him. Because God works His way into the consciences of those who are against Him. they should. the consequences of humans turning away from relationship with Him and inward into themselves would be the same: “Man was not created immortal. many of us continue in rebellion against God despite this revelation. but an empty shell that can only be filled by being in a right relationship with God. they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (NASB). for the unsaved this is a one-way relationship—God reaches out to them. Sadly. Zizioulas points out that even if God weren’t judging humanity in giving them over to their sin.eventually our complete undoing. and remain incorrupt. . but by having his personhood he was made capable of communion with the immortal God. In other words. Finally.” Zizioulas then explains that by man’s personhood. he is referring to the image of God. in other words. [our first ancestors] were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word. 2. In John 12:32. further sullying His image in us. He reveals Himself in a way that enables them to turn to Him.” Eastern Orthodox writer J. [I] will draw all men to Myself” (NASB). for God made it evident to them” (NASB). For man is by nature mortal. The fourth century theologian Athanasius. Paul tells us in Romans 1:21-24. inasmuch as he is made out of what is not.D. out of a former normal state of non-existence. since they derive their being from God who IS. But God in His love and mercy continues to reach out to us by revealing Himself in relationship. it came at the moment that man became introverted. Because we are separated from God. that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption. While this type of revelation of God can often bring sinners to Him. “the grace of God has appeared. we have no goodness in us that makes us want to seek God. but they became futile in their speculations. man is not a full person. and thus God’s image is dimmed in him. many do no respond. and limited the ekstatic movement of his personhood to the created world. Unfortunately. be everlastingly bereft even of being. Not only does He reveal Himself to them. wrote: “For if. Professing to be wise. Death came to him not as a punishment in a juridical sense but as an existential consequence of the break of this communion. God sustains His image by revealing Himself in prevenient common grace. “when I am lifted up from the earth. but by reason of his likeness to Him that is (and if he still preserved this likeness by keeping Him in his knowledge) he would stay his natural corruption. God Reveals Himself to the Unsaved To the unsaved. in his work On the Incarnation. they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. God continues to reveal Himself to sinners who have no desire for Him. “For even though they knew God. and their foolish heart was darkened. Romans 1:19 tells us that sinners are all without excuse because “that which is known about God is evident within them. But this doesn’t mean that the image of God has completely died in them. it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were [turned]. bringing salvation to all men” (NASB).

God Reveals Himself When He Comes Again What we await is for the image of God in us to be fully restored. and forgiving each other. even to those who believe in His name. which is the perfect bond of unity” (NASB). and the image of God in them becomes much brighter because they know Him. God Reveals Himself in Salvation Some do turn to God because of this revelation of Himself. Beyond all these things put on love. bearing with one another. 3. But we know that when Christ appears. circumcised and uncircumcised. we are complete persons in communion with God and with other believers. sin and death will be destroyed. the man-made distinctions that we create don’t matter. John 1:11-12 tells us that. and the children of God will be revealed as the holy bride of Christ. put on a heart of compassion. 4. slave and freeman.they still reflect His goodness and His image. The relationship that you or I have with God is one we all share. as the image of God becomes brighter and brighter in us. “[Jesus] came to His own. whoever has a complaint against anyone. and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew.” One of the most important things for Christians to remember is that we are saved because God revealed Himself to us. But as many as received Him. gentleness and patience. This also comes by God revealing Himself to us in relationship. and what we will be has not yet been made known. Because we are now part of God’s family. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:9-13. and to forgive each other as God forgave us. but our relationships with each other ought to reflect the image of God more fully as well. barbarian. but God’s. It is not our goodness that saves us. “now we are children of God. holy and beloved. Conclusion . but Christ is all. So. Because God is complete in the communion of the Trinity. and in all. Scythian. and those who were His own did not receive Him. kindness. humility. “you laid aside the old self with its evil practices. We are in communion with one another because we’re in communion with God. just as the Lord forgave you. to them He gave the right to become children of God. When Christ comes back. we shall be like him. as we reflect Him in communion. for we shall see him as he is” (NIV). Paul tells us in Romans 8:9 that. “the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (NIV). as those who have been chosen of God. In Christ. we ought to be reflecting His image beautifully. but even more clearly than He has in saving us. We live every day to love God and love one another. 1 John 3:2 tells us that. and we’ll know God face to face. Not only is the image of God being renewed in how we relate to God. so also should you. and sought to bring us into relationship with Him. The image of God will be fully restored in us.

We may have created a chasm between God and us. and death had the mastery over them as king. If God would not reveal Himself to us once we had fallen out of relationship with Him and into self. this all goes back to grace.The image of God in us is based on being in relationship with God. so also.” If anyone is hiding from God now. God seeks a relationship with us. as might be expected. but were being corrupted according to their devices. they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. received the condemnation of death with which they had been threatened. but men. God gives us grace—His unmerited favor — by revealing Himself to us. I hope that you will seek Him now. and willed that he should abide in incorruption. . But His love is so phenomenal that He took the penalty of our sin upon Himself to bring us back to Him. The question is. And this is based on God’s revealing Himself to us. in order to bring you back to Him. For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state. so that just as they have had their being out of nothing. and from thenceforth no longer remained as they were made. and that you will be blessed by a saving relationship with the God who is love. As Athanasius says: “God has made man. As the Christian band Half-Handed Cloud sang. will we turn to Him in love and worship? Will we respond to His call and be received into a loving relationship with the Triune God who is love? We have been rightfully ejected from relationship with God and deserve the destruction that results from turning against Him and corrupting His image in us. we would be lost and His image in us would become corrupt and eventually destroyed. and devised and contrived evil for themselves. God must bring us back into relationship with Him.” If the image of God in us is to be preserved. but God has made a bridge—the cross of Jesus Christ which has taken our sins away—so that we can know and enjoy God again in communion with Him. and has done everything needed to bridge the gap between us and Him. In other words. having despised and rejected the contemplation of God. desiring that we would turn to Him. we didn’t have to hide anymore. know that He’s seeking you. “when we found out that you’re seeking.

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