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Made in the Image of God (part 4 of 4)

Children of God

Our contemplation about what it means to be made in the image of God must take into consideration the aspect of being children of God. The Apostle John speaks to us as children of God (e.g., 1 John 3). Being an offspring of God certainly carries the connotation of being in the image of God. We recognize people as the offspring of their parents. Beyond the physical characteristics, we will see a mannerism or a habit which the parent exhibits.

The terminology of being children of God is significant. Offspring always have traits of the original. It is this aspect of similarity of traits that lead people to conclude whether species or persons are related or of the same family. Therefore, whenever Scripture tells us to live as children of God (as opposed to living in a manner which displays that we are the offspring of Satan), we need to pay attention. The Bible is telling us to bear the image of God.

When Scripture tells us to be children of God or to be like Christ, the theme of the passages is that we are to reflect His righteousness, God’s holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24 is a passage confirming this truth. I will include the passage in its entirety. I will include the passage in its entirety. Pay special attention to the last phrase.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

After Ephesians 4:24, the Apostle Paul then launches into the next thought (Ephesians 5:1) which begins with, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” He goes on to describe putting off the old self, the fallen man, and tells us how to live righteously as the children of God.

In the Jamieson-Faussett-Brown commentary on Genesis, we read, … in what did this image of God consist? Not in the erect form or features of man, not in his intellect, for the devil and his angels are, in this respect, far superior; not in his immortality, for he has not, like God, a past as well as a future eternity of being; but in the moral dispositions of his soul, commonly called original righteousness.

Charles Hodge, in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, writes, “This passage is of special doctrinal importance, as teaching us the true nature of the image of God in which man was originally created. That image did not consist merely in man’s rational nature, nor in his immortality, nor in his dominion, but specially in that righteousness and holiness, that rectitude in all his principles, and that susceptibility of devout affections which are inseparable from the possession of the truth, or true knowledge of God. This is the scriptural view of the original state of man, or of original righteousness, as opposed, on the one hand, to the Pelagian theory that man was created without moral character; and on the other, to the Romish doctrine, that original righteousness was a supernatural endowment not belonging to man’s nature.”[1]

Conclusion

We are not made as exact replicas of God, but we are made in His image. Mirrors help us to understand this concept. Just as looking into a mirror creates an image of the actual being, it is in no way the actual being. When creation looks at us, creation sees elements that are like God, that represent God, but creation knows it is not God. In a three-dimensional realm, it is easy to discern a mirror from the real thing even though the mirror carries a likeness. In a two-dimensional realm, such as on a movie or television, it is more difficult to discern the difference between looking at a mirror image or looking at the actual image.

We have a fuller understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God when we understand Christ as the perfect man, understand our being children of God, understand what it means to be Christ-like, and when we understand where the attributes of God and the attributes of man intersect.

If in our being Christ-like, Scripture tells us about relational aspects, than relationally we can be in the image of God. If Scripture tells us how to function as children of God, then we can be functionally in the image of God. When Scripture tells us to be substantively like Christ, having His mind, it is another area we need to consider as having been made in the image of God.

It is best to let Scripture speak and inform us about what it means to be made in the image of God. As they say, Scripture is the best commentary on Scripture. In seeking and discovering the truth of being made in the image of God, our pursuit needs to have a broad-brush approach. We may title our study, “Made in God’s Image.” And our study needs to include headings on the topic covering themes such as Children of God, Being Christ-like, and Non-God Like. In exploring these headings, we will find our conclusions will hit a target close to the Author’s (God’s) intended meaning when He says that we are made in God’s image.

We often hear people say, “I wonder what it is like to be in the Garden of Eden, in paradise.” When we read Scripture admonishing us to be like Christ, as new creatures, let us view the passages with the mindset that they are instruction for us to be in the Garden, walking (figuratively) with God, in the manner we are originally created, in His image.


[1] Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 2003, QuickVerse, a division of Findex.com, Inc.

About Allen Burns

Allen serves as an elder and is the Staff Pastor-Teacher at Christ Community Church