IN GOD’S IMAGE.
And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.. And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
—Gen. 1: 26,27.
What a stupendous fact! Man created in the image of God! How few seem to grasp its significance! What light it throws on the great problems of human life! What a wide chasm it makes between man and all lower orders of created being! Here is a base fact without which there can be no true theology or anthropology. Surely here is sacred ground. Let us remove the sandals from our feet while we meditate reverently on the meaning of this marvelous truth. With bowed heads let us invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit while we seek to understand the lesson contained in these wonderful words.
“Let us make man in our image, after Our likeness.” This is the divine counsel and purpose which lies back of the great mystery of human life and. all its pages of tragic history. It is a purpose formed deliberately and in full view of all its mighty consequences—sin, suffering, sorrow, conflict, death, the incarnation, Gethsemane, Calvary, the open Sepulcher, redemption! “God is love.” Out of all this struggle, discord and misery, then, there are to flow results which will more than vindicate the wisdom and goodness of God. Let this sweet reflection comfort our hearts until life’s conflicts shall issue in eternal peace.
“And God created man in His own image.” Is it possible for the human mind to reach the pinnacle of thought which these words suggest? Not now; but let us pause reverently before them and seek a nearer approach to their full meaning. It cannot be that in His bodily or fleshly nature man is created in God’s image, for God is spirit. The human body is not man, nor any essential part of man. The man exists when His body returns to dust whence it came. It is the condition of man’s earthly existence. It is the house of clay in which the real man dwells for the time. “What, then, is the real man which no mortal eye has ever seen? Is it not the conscious, intelligent ego, that which thinks, chooses, apprehends moral motives, discerns between right and wrong and determines what motives shall influence its action? If so, then man is created in God’s image, (1) intellectually, (2) morally, (3) volitionally. The proof of this is supplied in every man’s own consciousness, in connection with God’s written revelation of His will and character.
That man is created in God’s image in His mental constitution is evidenced by the fact that He can “think God’s thoughts after Him,” as Kepler has so finely said. God’s thoughts are manifest in all the arrangements of the material universe. Everywhere there is plan, method, adaptation, design—the manifestations of the divine mind. Man can see, appreciate and make practical use of these thoughts of God. If His mind were not in the image of God, this would not be possible. God reasons with men and communicates His will to them on the basis of this likeness. Of what use could the ten commandments be to a tribe of chattering apes, or a village of prairie dogs? God can not convey such truths to these lower orders of creation, because there is nothing in their nature to apprehend such thoughts. A man can convey thoughts to the mind of His prattling child that can by no means be conveyed to the most sagacious of beasts, because the child is in His own mental image and the beast is not. There are, of course, thoughts which we cannot communicate to the undeveloped, mind of our children, just as there are truths which God cannot reveal to the greatest intellects on earth, because they are not yet able to receive them. Likeness does not imply equality, but it does open up possibilities of limitless progress.
The proof that man’s moral nature is after the pattern of God’s, may be found in the fact that man approves the moral law of God., however much He may violate it. Nor does He wait until some future judgment for an accuser. His own conscience—God’s vice regent in the human breast, as someone has called it— the reflection of God’s moral nature within man—is His accuser. With the majesty and authority of a supreme judge, it passes sentence on us when we violate that law and approves us when we yield obedience to it. When God says, “ You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” 44 You shall not murder,” etc., man’s moral nature approves these expressions of the eternal law of right. If man’s moral nature were unlike that of God, this would not be the case. In that event a man might violate the moral law of God while acting in perfect harmony with the moral law of His own nature. This would destroy all idea of personal accountability, and render a judgment day impossible. The basis of man’s accountability to God is the likeness of His moral nature to that of God. But if man be created in the moral image of God, marred though that image be by sin, what glorious possibilities of righteousness and holiness are open before Him, and what fearful responsibility rests on Him who debauches that nature!
That man is endowed with will, and has the power of choosing, is at once His crown of glory and His chief danger. God wills and it is done. His will is the law of the universe. When He made man in His own image, He clothed Him with the sublime and fearful prerogative of determining His own destiny—of choosing between motives. Confused with the subtle discussions of the schoolmen about “free will and necessity,” we turn to our own consciousness as a witness, and it testifies that every day and every hour, of our conscious existence, we are choosing between motives and deciding between this and that course of action. And when under the blinding influence of passion, appetite or ambition, we yield to the lower instead of the higher motive, no plausible fallacy about the necessity that controlled our action suffices to protect us against the accusations of our conscience. We feel and recognize our guilt. We had the power to choose otherwise and we know it, else there would be no consciousness of guilt. All this is assumed, too, in the provisions which God has made for man’s salvation. As sin is a matter of choice, so is salvation. God saves no man against His will. “ Choose ye this day whom ye will serve,” is His command in all times and to all peoples. Christ does not cross the threshold of man’s volition uninvited. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to Him, and will sup with Him and He with me.” Rev. 3:21
Here, then, is the solution of the dark problem of the origin of sin, so far as it is given us to know it. It is the abuse of freedom —of the power of choice. Here, too, is the great underlying reason of the incarnation and of the cross. The world must have a more perfect representation of God than the sinning race exhibited. Christ came as “the effulgence of His glory and the very image of His substance.” Heb 1:3 Man, a moral being, and a free, self-determining agent, must be won to God by moral motives. The stubborn will must be conquered by supreme love. Hence Gethsemane and Calvary. Why did God not save man by His naked omnipotence, without the awful tragedy of the cross? Because God created man in His own image, and such a being must be wooed and won by love, not driven by force.
In the light of these truths I can answer the question asked by David, who, on surveying the magnitude of the material universe, was led to inquire,
“ What is man that You are mindful of Him, And the Son of man that You visit Him?” Ps 8:4
What is He? He is God’s child—in His own image. That is why He is mindful of Him, and why He has visited Him in the person of Jesus Christ. My own parental heart teaches me why God would spare no effort to save His lost and erring children. O how this magnifies the cross and honors man!
O my soul, consider well Your high origin, the image which You wear, and weigh the responsibilities which come with such high endowments! Here, in the hush of this solemn stillness, alone with God, let me hear Your loving voice, dear Savior, and open the door of my heart and let You in, that I may sup with You and You with me!
Book: Alone with God
Author: Br. James H. Garrison
Publisher: St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company 1891
Almighty God, our most gracious heavenly Father, when I consider with what powers and capacities You endowed Your creature, man, and for what high and holy service You have qualified Him, I am filled with shame and confusion at the remembrance of all my sins and short-comings. I confess before You, my transgressions, and all my faults and frailties, and beseech You, in the name of Your well- beloved Son, to grant me Your pardoning mercy and sustaining grace. I thank You for all my bodily and mental faculties, and especially for that moral nature which most allies me to You, and which I have so much abused. I bless Your holy name that You pity us, in our fallen condition, and send us Your only begotten Son, full of grace and truth, through whom we regain fellowship with You. Lord have our sinful nature renewed, and enter into Your most blessed service. O God, be pleased to so quicken me by Your Spirit, and uphold me, by Your right hand, that I may fill the purpose for which You have created me. Help me to use diligently all the means of grace which You have provided, and so grow continually both in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Enable me to see the folly and the emptiness of all earthly allurements which would draw me away from You. Help me to understand more fully that, created as I am in Your image, You alone can satisfy the needs of my soul. May this thought of the dignity and worth of a human soul not only lead me to more earnest efforts for my own salvation, but may it give me far greater concern for the salvation of others. O You blessed Savior, who stooped from heaven to earth, and drank the bitter cup of death, for sinful and lost humanity, infuse me with more of Your spirit, that I may be willing to enter into the fellowship of Your sufferings and do all in my power for the salvation of my fellow-men! And finally, O Father, when we have finished the work You have given us to do, and it seems good to You to call us home, give us, we beseech You, an abundant entrance into Your everlasting kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Book: Alone with God
Author: Br. James H. Garrison
Publisher: St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company 1891