Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Understand Your Fellow Man: The Imago Dei and worth of man

Biblical basis for the image of God

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, 
who have been made in the likeness of God.
James 3:9

Man was created to glorify God through obedience to Him.

This can be known, of course, by reading the first two chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-2). God created man out of the dust of the ground and breathed life into his being (2:7). Man was made in the image of the Godhead (1:26-27). He was able to hear from God (1:29-30, 2:16-17) and respond. The Imago Dei captures this concept. It is Latin for "image of God" and it means that all men have been made in the expressed image of their Creator.

So that's found in Genesis 1-2. Then there's that dreadful chapter three. 

Adam and Eve disobeyed the one command they had received from God. They ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Their eyes were opened, they covered themselves, and then they hid from God (3:7-8).

There are many things that could be said about this story, but there's only one teeny-tiny aspect to be focused on in this post. It's so small that most readers have just blown past it dozens of times. There is nothing special about it on the surface. It's just a minute detail.     

They heard the sound of the Lord God 
walking in the garden...
Genesis 3:8a

Do you understand the importance of that?

The Fall had just taken place. Man had disobeyed God and spiritual unity was broken. His default good standing with the Lord was reset to a bad standing. From that point on, every child born of woman was born under a curse (Psalm 51:5) and nothing would ever be the same. Mankind is spiritually separated from God.

But Adam and Eve still heard God in Genesis 3. And not only did they hear Him walking, they heard Him talking. In verse nine, God asks Adam, "Where are you?" and Adam responds to Him.


A hell-bound sinner heard God and responded?! Yep.

Not only did it happen way back then, but it also happened in Acts 10.

Cornelius, a Roman centurion who feared God, needed to hear about Jesus. He was living in the first century, before the gospel had been sent to the nations, and God decided that He was going to do a great thing in his life. God sent an angel to him. 
"Your prayers and alms have ascended 
as a memorial before God."
Acts 10:4b

The angel then goes on to tell him to call for Peter because there's a message he needs to hear. When Peter and this man finally meet, Peter explains the gospel to him. Cornelius and those around him believed and got baptized.

There are many important parts to that story, but perhaps the most astounding is that God remembered this man's prayers. He was a man that didn't have a relationship with Christ. He hadn't yet believed in the gospel. But God seemingly respected this man's effort to connect with Him. 

So what does that mean?

It doesn't mean that Adam, Cornelius, and every other person who is spiritually separated from God is in a good state. After all, Adam was cursed and given more commands after the Fall. Cornelius was given the gospel to believe in -- there's no way he could have stayed the way he was and lived with God forever. 

It means that those God has created to know Him and worship Him have the ability to hear, respond, and seek Him. Isaiah 55 actually calls for men to do that.
Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.

Isaiah 55:6

Paul, writing in Romans, says something similar.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, 
in your mouth and in your heart
—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,  
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, 
and believe in your heart that God 
raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:8-9

The words that can be uttered to express faith are near every individual on earth. Paul writes earlier in the same letter that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but all are also able to believe in God's message.

This is because all men have been made in the image of God.

A proper perspective

Spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, men need God. And it's no secret. The entire book of Ecclesiastes is an explanation of man's search for purpose outside of God. One of the most telling verses in that book states that God has set eternity in every man's heart (3:11). All men know that there is something more to life and they intrinsically long for their Creator.

However, Romans 1 tells us the natural response of man is to suppress God's truth and replace Him with idols. Verse 19 says that what is known about God is evident within men. God has made it evident to them. Further, His divine nature and eternality has been clearly revealed (v. 20). Mankind knows that God exists (v. 21), but His truth is replaced with a lie.

In fact, Romans 3:10-11, quoting from Psalm 14, states that "There is none who seeks God; All have turned aside." How does this jive with the Cornelius story? Or with the story of Rahab? Or the Ethiopian eunuch? I'm not sure quite yet.

The rest of the Romans goes on to explain how those men can be saved from the destruction they made for themselves. Jesus is able and willing to save those who come to Him in repentance.

So, thus far it has been seen in Scripture that man was created in God's image, man can hear from God, man can seek after God, God responds to those who seek Him, reconnecting with God is near every man, God has made Himself evident within every man, and God's divine nature has been clearly revealed to man.

This should dictate how we view other people. It means that every person has worth, every person has a conscience and is morally responsible, every person is redeemable. This is important.

In short, every person is a potential recipient of grace, thus we should respect their humanity

They are made in the image of God. They need love, grace, mercy, hope, purpose, and eternal life. They can understand the message of the gospel. Share it with them.

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