Image of God in Others
God created man in His image but after Cain killed his brother and sin was rampant mankind was commanded by God to see the same image in others including our enemies also.

Image of God in Others

God made man in His ‘image and likeness’ but the glory of this image was covered by the darkness of our sins. Lord Jesus as Son of God is in exact similarity with God the Father and His coming as man revealed the lost glory of mankind. The indwelling Holy Spirit was then sent by the Father to guide and help us in getting transformed into His image through the everyday process of repentance, forgiveness and understanding of His Word. But what is man’s original shape and form, both physically and spiritually, that is being changed?

        Meaning of ‘image and likeness of God’ – The word image is translated from the Hebrew word ‘tselem’ and the word likeness from another word ‘demuth’ (Genesis 1:26). But in Genesis 5:1 ‘demuth’ is translated as likeness. Hebrew word ‘tselem’ is used in Old Testament except the above two instances to refer to physical likeness of a person or a thing and almost always for something repulsive. King David cries out to God, ‘You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before You. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a tselem or shadow!( Psalm 39:5-6). Thus a shadow cannot be a physical thing and man does not reflect a physical image of God. Then Asaph writes about the rich heathen as, ‘Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when You rouse yourself, you despise them as ‘tselem’ or shadow’ (Psalm 73:20).

       The second word ‘demuth’ is translated as likeness or to resemble which could be in a physical form. But is there any serious distinction in these two words? The second word ‘demuth’ is omitted in Genesis 1:27, but the message is still clear. The two words are used to mean the same word (Genesis 5:1 & 9:6). In Hebrew pottery repetitions of words for emphasis, variety and rhythm are common as in Psalm 59:1-2. Thus image and likeness are meant to communicate the same message.

       Do the words ‘in our image, after our likeness’ mean that man is created not as ‘the image of God’ but only ‘in the image’ or as an image of the image of God? Does man thus correspond to the image of God and not to Him? ‘Adam begot a son in his own likeness, after his image and named him Seth’ (Genesis 5:3). It does not mean that there was an image of Adam in which Seth was made but that one person is like the other and man is at some level a copy of His Creator.

       From this it emerges that first, man is the final creation or the crown of creation; second, only man is stated as being in the image of God but it is not about a physical state but may be spiritual but no further information is provided; third, only man is given dominion over all the earth. This is the essence of the image which is then manifested in this exercise of dominion and lordship. Thus from the limited information in the text it emerges that the image is not about God’s nature but more about the task. Fourth, prior to the creation of man alone there was Divine counsel, ‘Let us make man’, but it may not be about the consultation process but about self deliberation for the Holy Trinity is One in every way. Fifth, only man is stated to be created as male and female but this bisexuality of man is in no way related to his being in God’s image and likeness.

       After the fall God did not affect any change in the original status of mankind in relation to God as expressed in Genesis 9:6. Thus even as a sinner, man retains his dominion rights to live and rule over the earth. What does it mean for us? We are given intellect, emotions and will by God by being made in His image. We make choices and decisions; we are sad, hurt, angry or joyful as God is described in the Bible and we are given our capacity to think and reason. Further,  we are not impersonal like its but I and you.

       As a result we display certain characteristics – first, aesthetic sense – we like and need beautiful things and our stories have heroes, villains and drama. We love good music and natural beauty around us because we see the hand of the the Creator of beauty in all creation. God declared beauty in all creation and all was very good. Second, we are moral, ‘Be holy for I am holy’ and being moral is the essential ingredient of all communication from God (1 Peter 1:16). Third, we are relational, God’s statement ‘Let Us make’ defines us that we like company and relationships with others. We make friends for ‘God said, it is not good for man to be alone’. God is love and it is not about His having or giving love but love is God’s essence displayed in all of creation and again manifested in His Son (John 3:16). We seek and develop relationships of love and moral values with others. Our being in God’s image is about who we are and not what we are.

       Difference between Adam’s and Noah’s generation – Noah’s flood was a result of another evaluation of the earthly residents conduct and it was found that the ‘wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (Genesis 6:5). Noah’s flood brought the earth back to its state of the beginning of creation process when ‘the earth was waste and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’ (Genesis 1:1-2). After this destruction, God then decided ‘in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth’ (Genesis 8:21). But in this God did not promise that mankind would not destroy everything on its own.

         God then decided to start again with the story of creation where Genesis 9 is parallel to Genesis 1 with two major differences. In both cases there is a keyword repeated seven times – in the first case it is ‘tov’ or good but later it is ‘brit/berith’ or covenant. The second is about man being made in God’s image and likeness though a bit differently. In the first instance it is ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness… So God created man in His image. In the image of God He created him, Male and Female He created them’ (Genesis 1:26-27). This same statement is repeated in the genealogy of Adam ‘When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and Female He created them, and He blessed them and named them man when they were created’ (Genesis 5:1-3). However, this was stated differently about man after the flood in the form of a command, ‘whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God, He made man’ (Genesis 9:6). In these two statements the difference is fundamental since in the first case I am in the image of God while in the second the other person is in the image of God. Secondly, Genesis 1 is about domination of mankind over the rest of creation while later is about sanctity of life and the prohibition of killing someone. Thirdly, the change is from the potential power and authority of human beings to moral limits of that power for the vested power must not be used to deprive another person of his life.  

       That is why the change in the two keywords since calling something good is about its own essence but a covenant is about relationships and a moral bond between two or more beings. This change is due to the change in human condition from their nature to do good to ‘every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood’ (Genesis 8:21). This is despite our being created in God’s image which was covered but not removed. King David acknowledges this state of mankind ‘I was brought forth in inequity, and in sin my mother conceived me’ (Psalm 51:5). In this changed state God no longer expects people to do good. God decided ‘it is not good for man to be alone’ and also to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ thus developing communities of people. In this anyone feeling he being in God’s image and only he has godlike powers then becomes dangerous for others resulting in violence.

       Thus God changed the equation in the second part of creation and Noah was taught to think of all humanity by thinking not of self but the other in the image of God to save mankind from violence and self destruction. The change is for me to see God’s image in others who are not like me in color, class, culture or belief. Generally people fear others who are not like them, the stranger, the foreigner; the outsider is almost always seen as a threat. But in the changed equation, what if we see others as enlarging and not endangering our world. God allowed deficiencies in us to make us dependant on others for otherwise we will never need anyone else to bond with them. Our deficiencies and differences bring us together for mutual good and it is the beauty of difference for all are created in God’s image and likeness yet different. Adam knew he was in the image and likeness of God  but Noah and his descendants were commanded to remember that the other person is in the image of God and this is the basic change in creation in the Garden and recreation outside the Garden.  

        After committing the sin of disobedience did Adam and Eve lose the image and likeness of God? –  Apostle Paul declared that ‘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, just as by the Spirit of the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). In the New Testament Messiah is the image of God, ‘He (Lord Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation’ (Colossians 1:15).– ‘In Him was life and the life was the light of men’ and ‘That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world’ (John 1:4 & 9). Thus man received light from Lord Jesus the True Light and came into being but after sin the image in us was covered and Lord Jesus’ coming is the unveiling of that Divine image, to reveal to us what we were and are now supposed to be. Again he says, ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ and ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4 & 6). Men in their present state are not fully in God’s image but are in the process of being transformed into His image through the power of the Holy Spirit.

     The process of renewal is continuous and the command is ‘do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator’ (Colossians 3:9-10). The image is linked to moral abomination, it is not the old nature nut the new that is being renewed. It is renewed in knowledge while wisdom and knowledge are gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8).  The Savior revealed that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything and will remind us of Lord Jesus’ commands (John 14:26). Scripture means therefore that we are not fully in God’s image at present but are being changed gradually.

       Revealing God’s role in this Apostle Paul states, ‘For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (In terms of John 1:12 all believers are given the right to be God’s children). And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified (through forgiveness of sins), and those whom He justified He also glorified’ (Romans 8:29-30). It is about being confirmed to Lord Jesus’ image and that is the final destination for us to be partakers of His glory. Lord Jesus’ prayer to the Father, ‘the glory that You gave Me I have given to them’ meaning the believers (John 17:22). Manifestation of that glory is through being confirmed to Lord Jesus’ image and this is the refining and polishing work of the Holy Spirit in us through His teaching and reminding us of God’s Word. Thus the rusted and the dead inner self in each believer is renewed and the Holy Spirit continues to transform us into Lord Jesus’ image.

       Therefore in the New Testament teaching, first, that all men retain the image of God given in creation, though it is obscured and hidden in the darkness of sin; two, in regeneration men receive the image of God; three, Lord Jesus is the image and fullness of God and men receive the image of God by sharing in what Lord Jesus is; four, the image of God which the believers receive is only partially possessed in this life; five, to receive the image of God in the Lord is to begin to share in His glory, knowledge, righteousness and holiness by becoming like Him; six, a believer’s life is a continuous process of attaining these virtues and seventh, the image of God in its present form and future fullness is a gift of God worked in each one of us through the light of the Gospel of Christ.

        Moses wanted to see God’s glory but was denied that (Exodus 33:20) but later God fulfilled that request in 3 during the transfiguration of His Son (Matthew 17:3). Finally in the new Jerusalem God the Father and the Son will dwell with men and we shall see them face to face (Revelation 21:21). Till then we are to seek His face in His Word and be transformed into His image on a daily basis. This transformation process is another symbol of our being empowered to ‘overcome’ the powers of darkness in this world. Lord Jesus’ command to ‘love your enemies also’ will only get fulfilled when we see His image and likeness in others, even our enemies. 

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