Tag Archives: eternal life

What is the Image of God?

Edited and Reposted

Before we can understand the truth of sin we must know what God originally intended for man. We cannot know how history would have been had Adam not fallen. No one knows and God is not telling. He does give a good description of Adam and Eve before sin corrupted their nature. We have a brief description of creation and a revealed description of God. God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, in His image.

God never gives theology in a clean, complete, systematic way. He does make absolute statements through His actions, His work and the words He uses from the mouth of His prophets, support for specific doctrines. Theology is the study of the person of God and His stamp of ownership on what He has created. I call the study of theology friendship with God, for it is the intimacy of friendship that drives the desires to know Him in more than a cursory, shallow way.

God reveals Himself and having created man in His image gave the tools needed for friendship and intimate relationship with Him. His image is not Him. Man is not God but like God in ways that allow for closeness and intimacy. We grow to know God as we grow to know ourselves. Not our corrupted selves but self as God originally intended and recreated and given the likeness of Christ for those who truly follow His Son.

What then is the image of God?

God is not a physical being. Therefore, His image is not a physical image. He is Spiritual and He created man a physical being with a spiritual nature. Like Adam our spiritual nature is the means through which we have a relationship with God, our Creator.  

God’s Spirit is indefinable and unexplainable, knowable only to Himself.  When God created Adam He took already existing matter, stuff He previously created and made a man. “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). 

“Breath” suggests either soul or spirit. After Jesus’ resurrection He gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples when He breathed on them. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). God breaths on someone and He gives them life. Not physical life but spiritual life guaranteeing existence for eternity. spirit

Before the fall God “walked” in the garden and spoke to man, which suggests Adam spoke with God in return. Each had an intimate and free relationship. We know this because God states Adam and Eve hid from Him when they heard Him walking in the garden. “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). This was not His first stroll in the garden. He creates for His enjoyment. So, the garden and all in it was created and enjoyed by Him.  This includes Adam and Eve. He enjoyed them and they enjoyed Him. Yet, when they rebelled against Him they ceased enjoying Him and became afraid and “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God.” 

They knew God. Why would they think they could hide themselves from Him? God walking with them, and their hiding from Him, is pertinent evidence for their intimacy with Him and the breaking of intimacy with Him because of their rebellion. Walking with God is having intimacy with Him.

God created man with the ability to think, feel and act. These are three more elements of the image of God. Since God created people perfect, whole and complete, He meant for everyone to think, feel and act as He thinks, feels and acts. However, even angels have a relationship with God and think, feel and act. Yet we are not told that angels were created in His image. So what is it about man that is unique, which sets man apart from angels? There is one characteristic man has, which God has shared with man, which angels do not seem to have.  

God gave man “dominion” which means to “rule” and “subjugate” or to “cause to dominate” as in, God giving man the rights of domination over physical creation, the Earth. Man controlled the planet. God created the planet and gave it into Man’s care. 

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26-28)

Dominion, while not lost, was corrupted. Instead of living in a garden, in peace and tranquility, caring for the world, man was shoved into a harsh, unforgiving, uncontrollable environment. Instead of man ruling over the beasts, the birds and the creatures of the deep, these became afraid of man and in some instances man became afraid of them. Work changed from a pleasurable activity to a curse, from easy and natural to hard and tedious. What man retained was the desire to control while losing all control.  Man continues to try to exercise dominion, control, over everything, including God.  

Man’s desire to control, also known as covetousness, is a characteristic of the essence of man’s rebellion (see Exod. 20:7; Mic. 2:2; Rom. 7:7; Jas. 4:2).

There is one more element of the image of God given people. It is a characteristic describing Christ’s deepest essence. Jesus is characterized as have the morphe of God and the morphe of a Servant yet being in the shape or physical appearance of a man. Adam was not created to rebel against God but to server Him by caring for and having dominion over the Garden of Eden and the Earth.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form (morphe) of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form (morphe) of a servant (doulos), being born in the likeness (homoioma) of men. And being found in human form (schema), he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:5-8)

Paul uses a word from Greek philosophy to describe who Jesus is in His deepest, unchangeable nature. Morphe or “form” means that which make something what it is. This may be hard to grasp but everything created by God has an essential characteristic that defines its nature. This characteristic may be indescribable but is nonetheless, true and real. In biology we could say the DNA we carry not only defines us as human but also makes us unique from every other human. Though Paul did not know about DNA he did understand each person is unique but still a person made in the image of God. Yet, Jesus was not created. He is the Creator. He has the “DNA” of God. He also has the “DNA” or “form” of a servant. Adam was given, not the “DNA” of God but the “DNA” of a servant as part of the image of God.

Paul uses two more words, “likeness” and “fashion,” to describe Jesus. “Likeness” means to resemble while “fashion” tells us the mode or circumstance of His life was exactly that of every other human. He was (and is) a man, having moved through all the physical stages required of people from conception and birth, through growth to death. He didn’t just look like a man. He was (and is) a man. However, Jesus did not carry, as part of His being, the sinful nature of corrupted man. He is fully God and fully a servant resembling a man with all of the physical characteristics that define a human from beginning to end. Jesus was and is human the way God originally intended for Adam and Eve and for all humanity.


But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them,  that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:11 ESV)

When threatened people stand and fight, shake in fear, paralyzed and unable to move, or flee to a protected place. A refuge  is a trusted place where those who belong to God flee from danger, knowing His protection is guaranteed. However, God’s refuge is not a physical place. He does not take people out of the world when they are in danger. Those who are in Christ are hidden in His Son, filled with His Spirit, and guaranteed eternal life. God blesses those in Christ because He blesses Christ, the only One who lived a full life in the flesh and never sinned. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). Those in Christ are in God’s refuge. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him”  (Psalm 2:12 ESV).

Finding refuge in God through Christ brings eternal joy, even when surrounded by temporal chaos. They not only rejoice, which is to make glad, but they ever sing for joyEver  means from ancient times into eternity, indefinite and unending. To sing for joy means to give a ringing cry out of perpetual gladness. Those who face the wrath of the world because of their relationship with God in Christ will endure persecution for righteousness’ sake. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

Living in the world and facing persecution does not feel like having God’s protection. Trust, which is part of the description of a refuge, is an emotional response to the sure promises of God and integral to a healthy, whole faith. He has promised those who are His eternity with Him, where there is no sin. “Evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 ESV). In the refuge of His eternal presence is His protection, a hedge or fence, woven together, strong beyond comprehension. Nothing that is not of God gets through this barrier. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory”  (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

God protects those who love Him. We often do not see His protection. When He allows us, those who are His, to feel the brunt of persecution for righteousness’ sake, it may seem He has withdrawn His refuge and abandoned us to the world. Yet, being in Christ means that what happens to Christ happens to us, and what happens to us happens to Christ. Jesus endured the cross for our sake and bids us take up our cross, which is, in reality, His cross, and follow Him. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Our identity with Christ is complete. Our obedience to God is a natural result of our being in Christ. He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise us and bring us into eternity with Him. Nothing this world can do will separate us from Him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?   (Romans 9:31-35 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to cleansing the Temple, a crowd of people filled with children sang out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV). Some Pharisees standing there told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and stop them from singing out to Him. “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:40 ESV). After driving out the people desecrating His Father’s House, the children continued to sing “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15 ESV), causing the indignation of the chief priests. Those who love God cannot help but sing out in joy. They exult in Him, which is to give glory, rejoice, act triumphantly, and take the greatest pride. He is everything. 

Before He Created Me

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

When was the last time you considered the price of your redemption from sin?

Jesus, God in the flesh,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Philippians 2:6-8 ESV]

He decided to do this before He created the universe, before He combined dust particles to make Earth, before He separated the waters and set the lights in the heavens. Before He molded and made the plants and animals of Earth. Before He created man in His image and set him in a garden to rule over the Earth and subdue it. Before He commanded man to marry and have children and fill the earth with those who bore His image. He decided to create man, with whom He wanted an intimate relationship, knowing man would sin and rebel, corrupting everything he touched, rejecting God and be separated from Him. He decided from before creation to take upon Himself the sentence and penalty for the sins of all.

Yet, not all are redeemed. It only takes one sin to separate the one God loves from God’s love. Adam’s sin, inherited as the sin for all people, was the one sin of disobedience. Now, having taken upon Himself the sin of all and making Himself a sacrifice, after paying the redemption price for all, it still takes only one sin to separate a person from God.

God commands each person come to Him, accept the gift on the altar, the gift of grace, and have an intimate relationship with the One who created them in His image, redeemed them from sin, and recreated them in the likeness of His Son. It still takes only one act of rebellion, one sin, to separate a person from God. That act of rebellion is to disobey the command to come to Him. Obedience carries no merit but brings life and peace with God. Disobedience carries the dire, justified consequences of eternal death, which is separation from Him who gives life.

One sin, Adam’s, brought death to all. One sacrifice, an act of obedient devotion by Christ, brings life to all. One sin, committed by all who flout Christ’s sacrifice, brings death to those who disobey.

Before the creation of anything, Christ loved me.  Knowing about my rebellion and all of my sin before I was, He decided, because of His love, to take upon Himself my sin. This decision brought upon Him indescribable suffering and anguish and cost Him His physical life. Wanting to have an intimate relationship with me, the one He loves, He was willing to take upon Himself, not just my sin, but the truth I would continue to rebel and disobey, reject and ignore Him whom I was created to love. God knew that to love me is to allow me to continue to hurt Him. Yet, still He loves me.

A sacrifice of love, the only true gift worth giving, means suffering and anguish for both the One who loves and the one being loved.

What does God ask in return? Nothing.

God never asks. He commands obedience, a demonstration of love. “If you love me you will keep my commands” [John 14:15 ESV]. This demonstration of love brings incomprehensible suffering, anguish and mourning to those who bring themselves as a gift to God’s altar. He knew my redemption would bring a suffering which would strike at the core of myself, destroy the sinful foundation upon which my life was previously built, empty and crumble my heart of its worldly passions and desires and bring a defeat, a helplessness and hopelessness to my existence. Here is what happens when I see exactly what sin is, what it has done and the consequences of its presence in my life. What is left for me to offer? There is nothing I have, nothing I can give, nothing I can do.

He set aside everything and gave His life. I have nothing to give, only the dry dust of what is left of myself, easily blown away by the casual breath of God. He does not blow away but blows upon and those dry bones come together again, flesh and blood are recreated and life, true life, eternal life is breathed into the nostrils of one recently dead. (See Ezekiel 37.)

After His suffering, a suffering demanded by love known through eternity, is the gift from Him of eternal joy for Him. He created all for an intimate and eternal relationship with Him. He does this by using suffering to make those who are His whole and then completes them with Himself.

He promises eternity free from sin and suffering for those with Him.

Spiritual Nourishment

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Matthew 5:6 ESV]

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” [John 6:53-58 ESV]

To hunger and thirst suggests a basic need is missing to the point of endangering life. God fixed the universe with certain physical laws which cannot be violated. There may be a force applied to those laws to overcome them but the laws themselves cannot be changed or negated. One of these laws states life is sustained by taking in specific nourishment designed to maintain life.

In the physical world people need food, water and air to continue living. Take away one of these elements for a period of time and the person dies. Once dead the person cannot be brought back to life. These physical laws of the universe are brutal and unforgiving. How long can a person live without food? Over a month, generally, dependent upon how much food stores they carry in their bodies. How long can a person life without water? Generally, four to seven days, again, dependent upon how much water stores they have in their bodies. At about day three or four the person’s brain is so deprived of water they go insane. How long can a person live without air? Again, it depends upon the circumstance. Generally, four minutes is the maximum. Submerged in frigid water, the body begins to shut down and go into a type of hibernation the person will continue to live and may be resuscitated after an hour or so.

How long can a person live without God?

They cannot.

Part of the image of God in man is spiritual. People are spiritual and physical beings. Just as God fixed the world to sustain physical life in specific way so He also set the spiritual realm to operated within a set of specific laws. This means at physical death people continue to exist spiritually. God created man to have a relationship with Him. Breaking that relationship does not mean people, when they die in this physical universe or world, cease to exist if they are not connected to Him. God created people to exist for eternity. Either they exist within His life sustaining presence or they exist outside of His life sustaining presence. Either way, people continue to exist after physical death.

Separation from that which sustains physical life concludes in physical death. Separation from that which sustains spiritual life concludes in spiritual death. Just as dying of thirst or hunger or lack of air causes physical agony so dying from a lack of spiritual nourishment causes spiritual agony. Can you imagine existing for eternity separated from any source of nourishment? This is called hell, spiritual separation from God, the absolute source of spiritual life.

Since man is a spiritual  as well as physical being he needs both spiritual and physical nourishment. Yet, sin has separated man from God, the Creator and Sustainer of life. God continues to provide for man’s physical needs through common grace. Thus, man lives taking in only physical nourishment, never spiritual. Many have recognized this and begun seeking spiritual nourishment from sources other than God. They receive the equivalent of empty calories, stuff that fills but does not nourish. Filling oneself up on such empty spiritual calories may give a feeling of fullness and a level of satisfaction but leaves the person even hungrier, more desperate for that feeling of fullness. There is no benefit. In fact, doing this is detrimental and harmful. The spiritual person starves, becoming accustomed and desensitized to the need for spiritual nourishment. This may actually be beneficial for those destined for hell. If they do not realize the lack of spiritual nourishment now, they may not later.

God’s call includes the awakening of the spiritual desire for spiritual nourishment which is had only in God. Our relationship with Him is determined by Him, not by ourselves. The clay does not say to the potter, why did you make me such?

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? [Isaiah 29:16 ESV]

Does not the One who created all have absolute rights over what is created? Does not the Creator determine how the creation will work and exist? For any to say, I do not need God condemns that person to existence away from God.

I have heard a sermon where the point was made that no one in hell will want to be in heaven and no one in heaven will want to be in hell. We are not sent anywhere against our will. Ultimately, rebellion against God has absolute consequences. Obedience to God must be just as absolute. There is no merit in obedience. Obedience is expected.