Imago Dei

Imago Dei

Study Guide, March 13, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly disconnected from God. Many people are busy going here and there, but they don’t know where they are going, really. And more – they don’t know who they are. So many are like this poem about aimless wandering: “Wandering aimlessly through my mind, thoughts crowd in and out amid much faith and doubt. No settling anywhere – on anything – causes insecurity to wreak havoc in my daily life. Wanting to know the trueness – the sureness of everything around me, I end up with only uncertainty and the failure of doubt sitting heavily upon me. Finding no path straight enough to follow, my mind sits down and chooses not to bother anymore. Wandering aimlessly through my mind, continues the same forevermore.1

That kind of reminds us of the author of Ecclesiastes conclusion: Eccl 1:14-15- “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.” NASU Remember, God let Solomon be the ultimate example to the world to put to the ultimate test man’s idea of fulfillment. He tested the limits of power, pleasure, and possessions to see if any or all would bring ultimate fulfillment to man’s soul. But his conclusion was: ‘Vanity of vanities…striving after the wind…meaningless folly’. He found that nothing that is temporal can fill the need of the eternal soul. For the need of the soul is to be filled with that which is eternal…specifically filled with the One who is eternal – The Creator of the soul Himself, our Triune God. That’s why Augustine said: “Our souls are restless until they find their rest in God.”

But how strange and ironic that so many of this world are still testing out this failed test of Solomon’s, like somehow this time, somehow for them, it will be different. That is not only like that definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting different results – but it is also the very definition of ‘a fool’. Also, Jesus words were mean to settle any question about the limits of this temporal world: Matt 16:26- “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” NKJV And the answer is? None! Again, the temporal is not and was never meant to be a substitute for the eternal. And Solomon’s final conclusion was similar: Eccl 12:13-14 – “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” NASU

Mark it down: If a person’s life does not center around his or her eternal Creator, then it will be centered around temporal substitutes. But the results of that test have already been completed and documented: ‘Vanity of vanities…striving after the wind…meaningless folly.’ If a person’s life is not connected to his or her eternal Creator and Redeemer, then it will be like a boat untethered from the dock: it will drift aimlessly…it will be tossed here and there in aimless wandering throughout the remainder of their temporal life.

The Apostle Paul even warned followers of Christ about wandering from the truths of revelation: Eph 4:13-14 – “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming…” NASU

Next time you are at the Ocean and watching the wind and waves crashing back and forth, think about what Paul said is happening to people who are not grounded in the Lord and His Word: they are being tossed around by every wind of false teaching, false beliefs, and the deceitful ideas being planted in their minds by deceived people and even the Deceiver himself.

One of the greatest ironies about mankind is that not only do most people not know ‘who they really are’, but they also do not even know ‘what they are’! Remember when the Psalmist asked the question: “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?” Ps 8:4 NASU Now, David was also asking this in a humble sense of one who was in awe of God’s love and benevolent works with him and others. But in the most basic sense of the question, it asks about the most basic reality of life: “What is man?” Sometimes when people think about the most basic questions of life they think of ones like: Who am I? and What is my purpose? and what happens when I die? But actually, even before the question of ‘Who am I?’ comes the question of ‘What am I?’ And that is why the answer to that as revealed in Genesis is crucial for every person on earth to know. Let’s explore.

Gen 1:26-27- “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” NASU Do you think God was trying to make a point here? Within two verses God says three times that man was created ‘in the image of God’! Of course, the triune God does have a fondness for things that come in ‘trinities’.

Imago Dei, ‘the image of God’, is the very key to life on planet Earth. How so? The ‘image of God’ refers to the immaterial part of humanity. ‘Mentally’, humans were created with the powers of reason and rational thinking and with a conscience to guide their thinking. ‘Volitionally’, humans were created with a free will; the ability to make choices and take actions based upon these choices, as guided by their powers of reason and logic and rational thinking. ‘Emotionally’, humanity was created with feelings and abilities to experience joy and love and delight and so on. ‘Socially’, humanity was created for fellowship; first with their Creator and then with their fellow created humans, and then all of God’s created world. And then ‘Morally’, humanity was originally created in righteousness and holiness. Man’s divine moral nature, before the Fall, was united to God’s divine moral nature…united in holiness, or uniquely set apart for righteous fellowship with God.2

Man was a living soul, with mind, will, and emotions…and originally with a spirit union with the Divine nature of God Himself. However, we know what went wrong…with the possession of a ‘free will’ came the potential for bad fall…a fall into sin and a fall from unity with God’s spirit. So let’s think about that.

A question: Man was created in the image of God. (That’s not the question…here’s the question) So after the Fall of man, because of the sin of rebellion in choosing against God, as in ‘Lord, not Thy will be done, but my will be done’, what then was lost? Or, what of that ‘image of God’ was lost? Think about it: Even after the Fall of mankind in sin every human still has the faculty of the mind…reason and logic and rational thinking. Every human still has volition…the powers of the will in making choices and determining actions and such. Every human still has emotions, the ability to experience joy and love and such. Every human still has needs and desires for fellowship, or least the sense of that need. And, actually, every human still has a moral conscience, that faculty of the mind that tells us to do right and not wrong. Of course, the conscience tells us to do right and not wrong, but it cannot define what IS right and what IS wrong…No, that is defined by the revelation of our Creator for us in His owner’s manual for life, the Bible.

That’s why you should not follow your conscience…you should listen to your conscience, but you should follow the Word of God. Be very clear about that! Plus, we know that the conscience can become seared or calloused and hardened by self-will and sin, but still, how amazing that even in the unconverted, the conscience is still active because of this great reality: Rom 2:14-15- “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them…” NASU

The moral law of God is written or imprinted on every human heart. It convicts them of right and wrong and their need for a right relationship with their Creator. Whether they respond to that which is written in their hearts will determine their eternal destiny. But even in the Fall their moral conscience was not lost. So again, in the Fall of humanity in sin, what of the image of God was lost? Or, as God warned…Gen 2:17 – “…for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” NASU When our first parents sinned that day what died? Their physical bodies did not immediately die. They would, in time, since their immortal bodies became mortal bodies. Also, their mind, will, and emotions did not die. So what died?

That question is answered throughout the Bible, but we see it clearly in Eph 2:1- “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins and the things you did against God.” ERV With their sin came the death of their spirit, or their separation from the Spirit of God. They still had their soul, or their mind, will, and emotions, but what they lost was their spiritual DNA. And what is that? Well, in the human body the DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. This material is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA that is unique to him or her, yet they also share a portion of it with their family. So every human naturally has physical DNA. What they do not have, because their sin has separated them from God’s Spirit, is that they do not have spiritual DNA, or Divine Nature Attachment, meaning; their spirit is not attached to the Spirit of God, or is not united to the nature of God. They have a human nature, but they do not share in the Divine nature of God. And that is why Jesus said that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must be ‘born again’. He said: John 3:6-7 – “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.” NLT And that is why having a relationship with God is not based upon religious behavior, but it is based upon spiritual birth…the rebirth of a person’s spirit into union with God’s Spirit. And of course, that is Jesus’ free gift to all who turn to Him to follow Him and receive Him into their life as their Lord and Savior. Behavior follows Birth, spiritual birth.

So again, what was lost in the Fall of mankind into sin was their attachment to the Divine nature of God and the holy moral character of God. So now notice how this works out in the life of a Born again follower of Christ. When a person turns from sin and self and trusts in Jesus Christ to save them from their penalty of sin and to follow Him as their God, the Holy Spirit brings their once dead spirit back to life again. They become born again in their spirit and are thus, united to the eternal life of God, or become attached to the Divine nature of God. Look at how the Apostle Peter reveals this: 2 Peter 1:4- “And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” NLT

So, because of our spiritual rebirth into union with God we now share in His divine nature. We have God’s DNA in our spirit, attached to our spirit. We have the Divine Nature Attachment in our spirit and soul. However, remember the other part that was lost in the Fall was God’s holy character. So at our salvation, we are united to God’s holy nature, and yet, God’s holy character must be developed throughout our sanctification. In other words, when someone becomes a born again Christian, their spirit is reborn, but their character is not yet formed…or transformed. Just because someone becomes a Christian doesn’t mean that they automatically now think and act like a Christian. That is why Peter went on to instruct us to now focus on this: 2 Peter 1:5-11- “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” NLT

And we did an extensive study on this passage awhile back, but what we are to clearly understand is that while God’s holy moral nature is His gift to us at our salvation, His holy moral character is something that we need to develop in our thinking and in our conduct the rest of our lives. And it’s this holy moral character that then makes us useful to God in using us to carry out the works He prepared for us to do in serving Him and blessing others. And, of course, this will also then determine our destiny or our inheritance privileges in the coming Kingdom of God.

But what we need to see here is that every person you see, everyone around you, every human that has ever lived still bears part of the image of God. That is what gives them divine value, and human sanctity, and individual worth and such. And, again, what gives them their eternal need is their separation from God’s Spirit and His eternal life because all have sinned and are awaiting their sentencing. But when they do turn to God in repentance and receive Jesus in faith as their Savior they are then forgiven of their sin and given a share in or are reunited to God’s own divine nature, His eternal life. The divine nature of the Imago Dei is returned to them. But note carefully – God’s call for His reborn children is to then go on to the fullness of His image by being transformed in their character. God calls His spiritually reborn children to become transformed and conformed more and more into the image of Christ. God’s divine nature is His gift to us…our transformation into God’s character is our gift to Him…certainly by His grace, but through our obedient devotion to Christ as our Lord and Savior.

We’ll continue to explore this next time…

  1. Aimless Wandering Poem, by RoseAnn V. Shawiak
  1. What does it mean that humanity is made in the Image of God? Got