The Image of God

PHILOSOPHERS TELL US that man, as he exists today, is far more brilliant, far more advanced than he ever was before in history. Their claim is that evolution has brought us to this exalted point. This idea, naturally, makes us feel quite satisfied! The contention that each generation is much brighter than the preceding one, has been reached because these scientists have ascertained from their calculations that man has existed on earth for ‘millions of years’, improving with each generation. And with each generation having become more advanced, they conclude that man has now reached a very high level, indeed!

Is this philosophy correct?

How glad we are that the great Creator of the universe has provided us with a source of information from which we can discover what is truth and what is error! He has extended an invitation to us, saying, “Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1), and by entering his house of learning we will come to find God’s own testimony regarding man.

We learn from this source, the Bible, that man is “of the earth, earthy” (I Cor. 15:47), and that God formed him from the “dust of the ground.” (Gen. 2:7) By breathing, or infusing into him, the “breath of life, … man became a living soul.” In this succinct description of the creation of man, there is not even a slight suggestion of one form of life evolving from another, or of a less complex variety becoming a more complex being. God created each species as a separate and distinct variety of life, as we read in Chapter 1 of Genesis. After each step taken to prepare the earth to support life, and after each separate creation of plants, fish, birds, and earth creatures, God declared that “it was good.”—Gen. 1:10,21,25,31

In Genesis 1:26,27 we read that “God said, Let us make man in our image.” We notice in God’s statement that he suggested a plural thought: “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, … and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” From this declaration it is evident that when God created man in his own image, “male and female created he them,” he meant that both Adam and Eve would be quite similar to himself in various ways.

The word image, in the Hebrew language means ‘resemblance’. So man was made to resemble God. In the Greek language the word image means ‘likeness’, ‘copy’, ‘resemblance’, ‘vivid representation’. How was the perfect man, Adam, a copy of God? Surely not as far as his body was concerned. Our Creator is a far superior being—a spirit being—and man is only a fleshly creature, of the earth, earthy. However, our Creator did make man as a reflection of his image in some respects. In part, this reflection, or likeness, lay in man’s ability to reason, to remember, to perceive abstract as well as straightforward ideas, to make moral judgments, and to possess intellectual and aesthetic qualities.

The perfect man, Adam, was given a God-like quality of conscience which enabled him to distinguish between right and wrong. He was given a free will so that he possessed full exercise of his powers of choice. Were this not so man would be a mere machine; we would all be robots and our actions would be controlled by someone else. But this is not the case. If it were, there would be no exercising of abilities or talents, and no chance of developing individual characters. This freedom of choice, of course, can be good or bad, dependent upon how it is utilized.

Adam, that glorious, first-created human being, was endowed with every physical and mental blessing; and all of his surroundings had been prepared to maintain his well-being. The Creator very clearly forewarned Adam of the results of his choice, that if he would obey the righteous law of God he would live; and if he disobeyed God’s just command he would die. It was as simple as that. The entire responsibility of Adam’s worthiness to live forever in Paradise depended upon his own freedom of choice. But he was tempted to sin by the Adversary, which, sadly, led to his choosing sin through disobedience. And as a result of his fall from perfection the entire race that Adam and Eve brought forth were born under the pall of sin, and under the penalty of death through inheritance.

God’s provision for the salvation of man from his righteous sentence of oblivion was an act of free grace. There was no compulsion whatsoever on the part of God that man must be released from death. God was never obliged to do anything for man—and there is no Scriptural support for such a thought. In fact, the Creator had the authority and right to blot Adam and Eve out immediately, and forever. But this was not his loving plan.

And so the reign of sin and death has continued, and will continue, until God’s purpose for permitting it has been served, and the due time for it to come to an end arrives. In his love God did provide a redeemer, a ransomer, even his own beloved Son, despite the fact that mankind did not do anything to warrant these magnificent favors and blessings, and was not worthy of them.

Man is portrayed in the Bible as being in the image of God even here and now in his earthly tabernacle. In this dark night however, those qualities which from the beginning identified man as being in his Creator’s image have been found in only a small portion of the entire human family to any marked degree. Of all the billions of people who have existed since Adam’s day—perhaps fifty, or sixty billions till today—of all these people there is only a very, very minute portion who still retain some of this original ‘likeness’. Some noble beings have sought to cultivate such graces of his majestic character; while there are others who have merely put on a ‘veneer’ of grace. This veneer can result in a pleasant outward demeanor, but little of the genuine purity of character with which God created our first parents may be truly in their hearts.

Since God cannot work with those lacking in the true graces, he has diligently sought out those of the human family who have shown the qualities of mercy and love from the very core of their beings. These he has favored throughout the ages, to accomplish the outworking of his plan. Let us consider one of these favored ones, who during a major portion of his life did display some of these finer qualifies. This was David’s son, Solomon.

Solomon’s freedom of choice in later years led him to fall victim to the demands of his heathen wives, and as a result he displeased God very much. Yet in his youth he was highly favored of God. Solomon seemed to inherit from his father the qualities of thoughtfulness, the ability to rule, appreciation for the goodness of the Lord which David had earlier learned at the feet of Nathan, that holy prophet.

When David became aged and too feeble to rule, Solomon, at the youthful age of twenty, took the heavy responsibility of ruling Israel. We can well appreciate the prayer David uttered on behalf of his dear son, Solomon. Those who are fathers with sons can readily appreciate David’s concern for Solomon. We share this same feeling toward our sons, that they might find grace in the sight of God, that they might walk with him uprightly.

In I Chronicles 28:9, the prayer of David is recorded: “Thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. If thou seek him he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever. Take heed now; for the Lord hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it.”

The Lord had chosen Solomon for the building of a sanctuary—David’s life-long dream! Helped and advised by God’s faithful prophet, Nathan, and with the favor of God, Solomon entered quickly into the spirit of his father’s plan for building the Temple. He knew that the welfare of Israel rested in their adherence to the Law of God, and their worship of Jehovah.

In Solomon’s great love for God he offered a thousand burnt offerings at Gibeon! He wanted so much to please God that he prepared this great offering to his Creator. While he was at Gibeon the new young king had a dream in which the Lord appeared to him. (I Kings 3:5) God said unto Solomon, “Ask what I shall give thee,” and Solomon’s answer was a beautiful one—one which could only come from a loving heart. Solomon said, “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”—vss. 7-9

God appreciated the genuine expression of Solomon’s heart. He answered his request in a wonderful way. None with an ability to judge so wisely as Solomon was ever found again among imperfect men. No record has been made of any, before or since, who have had as understanding a heart as Solomon possessed. Because of his unselfish request, God also promised, “I will give thee a long life, and riches, and honor and no king ever again on earth, in all thy days, will have such riches. Obey and walk in my ways and I will prolong thy life.” These words are a beautiful picture of the church class—those men and women whom God is drawing out from among mankind now, because he finds in them a heart attitude he can use. Ah yes!

As Solomon awoke from his dream, he enjoyed the realization that he had been pleasing to God in his request. He went ahead with his plan for offering the peace offerings and burnt offerings before the Ark of the Covenant. (I Kings 3:14,15) And he undertook the great task of building the Temple!

We recall how all the stones and the timbers were prepared, shaped, and marked for their particular places in the Temple, and only when ready brought to the site. Every part fitted perfectly, and each came together with the next without the sound of a hammer, without the sound of an ax, or a tool of iron of any kind. Although each section of this great Temple had been prepared in different parts of the country, when they were brought to the place destined for its erection nothing at all had to be changed!

What a lesson this is for the Christian! We must not think for a moment that we can bide our time carelessly, and that when we come to the end of our lives, all of a sudden, miraculously, we will be fit for our place in the royal temple! This is the time of preparation. We have got to be shaped and chiseled, polished, and numbered now for the special place the Lord has in mind for us in his spiritual temple later.

We realize that Solomon’s Temple pictured a greater temple, the “temple of the living God.” (II Cor. 6:16) The time for shaping, the time for laboring in the preparation of that church is now. When each piece has been made ready on this side of the veil—prepared in the midst of this crooked and perverse world—each member of that living temple of God will be fitted into its proper place in the heavenly realm.

The Lord may allow some of the pieces—the stones or the timbers or the vessels—to remain here for a while after they have been completely prepared for his use. Sometimes we might wonder why particular ones, perhaps elderly and worn, are permitted to endure difficult experiences; what we fail to realize is that they have already been shaped, they have already been fitted, and the Lord is just waiting to place them in position. He will do it in his own good time, of which he is entirely aware, although we may not be.

There was much joyous celebration connected with the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. And there will be great joy in heaven and in earth when the Christ, the living temple, is complete, assembled, and when God’s glory enters in. Yes, all the earth will benefit from the completion of that temple and will be blessed even as natural Israel reached the zenith of its prosperity under Solomon’s reign.

Leaving the wise King Solomon at this point in his life, we will return to a consideration of our day. We find that the Heavenly Father’s invitation is still going forth to those in whom he finds a measure of man’s original likeness to himself. Those that possess the original quality of love and obedience to God, respond to an even greater invitation and service than that of Solomon, or any other noble characters of past ages. The very fact that we still see some dedicating their lives to God in consecration to him, to follow in the footsteps of the Master, is evidence to us that this polishing, this chiseling, this calling-out work, is still going on. We realize that this is indeed the method for working out the plan of salvation proposed long ago by the Heavenly Father. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that he called according to his purpose, “for whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”—Rom. 8:29

This scripture informs us that a predetermined class—the church—must be copies, Images, of God’s Son. No one can become perfect as Jesus was, try as hard and long as he may. Nor can any take this honor upon themselves by their own choice. If you were invited to become a footstep follower of Jesus, this honor was extended to you by God.

Ah, this throws light upon the matter for when we look at our fellow Christians, realizing they received the same invitation which we received, we will treasure their fellowship correspondingly. We have accepted the Father’s invitation—his gracious provision of Jesus’ sacrifice making it possible for us to accept—with thankful hearts. By so doing, by putting on the robe of Christ’s righteousness to cover our imperfections, making us acceptable to God, we gladly consecrate our all to begin to do those things which are pleasing to our Heavenly Father, even at great cost to ourselves.

Before we take this important step, we must have counted the cost of what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus—to become a copy of him. One’s affections must be set on things above; the new will, the new mind, must develop the fruits of the Spirit. To become a copy of Jesus one must strive at all times to develop and to exhibit the graces from within. All sentiments that are pleasing to God and in harmony with the Spirit of the Lord must be striven after, although this will take a lifetime of development under the shaping influences of the Heavenly Father.

Not only must love for the Lord, and the truth, and the brethren be demonstrated, but there must also be a loving, sympathetic concern for the world. To be in the likeness of the Lord Jesus, we must have a deep regard for the groaning creation—even for our enemies, those who would despitefully use us.

The wise man said in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” In the case of the church class, our right to future life will be determined upon how we develop our hearts now. We have this treasure in an earthen vessel, and the burdens of the world—our work, our weaknesses of the flesh—will attempt to draw us away from our goal. But as with father Adam, or King Solomon, or even our Lord Jesus, we also have free choice in the matter of deciding to whom we shall render our heart obedience. We have not been coerced into serving the Lord or the truth, or serving the brethren—it is our free choice. But, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can become like him. Our desire to walk the way Jesus walked, is a lofty one. Our goal is to fill the place in the Temple for which the Father has so graciously invited us, and it can only be reached by becoming conformed to the image of his dear Son.

Have you ever wondered what you will look like when you are resurrected as a spiritual being, when you are blessed with the marvelous privilege of hearing his words, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Come up higher”? Let us see if the Scriptures give any information on this subject!

The Apostle Paul tells us, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Rom. 6:5) What is our Lord’s ‘likeness’ since his resurrection? Hebrews 1:3 tells us what we are going to look like in the heavenly realm! Jesus is the express image of God! There will be 144,000 (plus one—the Lord Jesus, our Head) with God, who will look like him—all members of the divine family!

This is a further thought with regard to the expression: ‘express image’. It is true that our Lord had been in the likeness of the Father in his pre-human condition as the Logos. Even when he came to earth as a human being he was in the likeness of God, because his character was always in complete harmony with God. But the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” having been obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, and because of this, God highly exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name. Jesus is now, even more completely, in the image of the invisible God, sharing the divine nature.—Phil. 2:8,9; Col. 1:15

Again we read, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he [it] shall appear [Strong’s Concordance, ‘become apparent’] we shall be like him [God]; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”—I John 3:1-3

And so we see that Paul and John agree; our Lord Jesus now looks like God. Jesus has been given this reward because of his faithful service. He never wavered in his submission to do God’s will, despite the cost. God has highly exalted him, and he is pleased to do the same for the members of the church, Jesus’ bride, Jesus’ body, the 144,000. These will be in the likeness of the Lord Jesus! This is a magnificent promise which we can, and will, inherit, if we are obedient even unto death! (Rev. 2:10) Paul stated it this way, “Ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” (Col. 3:9,10) Again he said, “As we have borne the image of the earthly [after the likeness of God], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly [after the likeness of God]”!—I Cor. 15:49


If I in thy likeness, O Lord, may awake
     And shine a pure image of thee,
Then I shall be satisfied when I can break
     The fetters of flesh and be free.
                      —Hymns of Dawn, #105

Dawn Bible Students Association
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