Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Image of God

For the first part of 2014, our study here will focus on biblical principles found in the Reformation Study Bible. The Reformation Study Bible has been recognized as one of the best biblical resources available today. The General Editor is Dr. R. C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries.

Dr. Sproul states in the Introduction of the Reformation Study Bible the following: The Reformed accept the Christian faith as expressed in the ecumenical creeds and believed by Christians everywhere. The distinctive ideas of the Reformed are the result of accepting the Bible as the supreme authority for faith and practice. The words of the Bible are true and its message is powerful. It conveys the infallible promise of God, its Author, that it will not return to him empty, but will certainly accomplish His intended purpose.

The first principle is the Image of God:

Scripture teaches (Gen. 1:26, 27, echoed in 5:1; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9) that God made man and woman in His own image, so that human beings are like God as no other earthly creatures are. The special dignity of being human is that as men and women we may reflect and reproduce at our creaturely level the holy ways of God. Human beings were made for this purpose, and in one sense we are truly human to the extant that we fulfill it.

The scope of God's image is not specified in Gen. 1:26, 27, but the context of the passage helps to define it. Genesis 1:1-25 sets forth God as personal, rational (having intelligence and will), creative, ruling over the world He has made, and morally admirable (in that all He creates is good). Plainly, God's image will reflect these qualities. Verses 28-30 show God blessing the newly created humans and setting them to rule creation as His representatives and deputies. The human capacity for communication and relationship with both God and other humans appears as a further facet of the image.

God's image in humanity at creation, then, consisted in: (a) existence as a "soul" or "spirit" (Gen. 2:7), that is, as personal and self-conscious, with a God-like capacity for knowledge, thought, and action; (b) being morally upright, a quality lost at the Fall but now being progressively restored in Christ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10); (c) dominion over the environment; (d) the human body as the means through which we experience reality, express ourselves, and exercise dominion; and (e) the God-given capacity for eternal life.

The Fall diminished God's image, not only in Adam and Eve, but in all their descendants, the whole human race. We retain the image structurally, in the sense that we remain human beings, but not functionally, for we are now slaves to sin, unable to use our powers to mirror God's holiness. Regeneration begins the process of restoring God's moral image in our lives. but not until we are fully sanctified and glorified shall we reflect God perfectly in thought and action as we were made to do and as the incarnate Son of God in His humanity actually did (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:29, 46).

Happy 2014 - may we all reflect more and more the image of God!

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