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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church
March 25, 2007
Man as a Reflection of God
What is man? That may seem like a simple question, but the answer to it will have a lot of ramifications including determining what value he may or may not have. Here are some examples.
If humans are simply animals that have evolved along with all other animals, then there is nothing to say that mankind is more important than any other life form apart from their ability to survive. There are many in our society that do believe exactly that with some seemingly valuing animal life more than human life. At the foundation of this argument is an evolutionary philosophy which does not give man any intrinsic value. If the evolutionary philosophy is strong, then any individual human has value only in terms of what they contribute to the survival and success of those who are closely genetically related. That is the foundation for racism and all the atrocities associated with it including the death camps of Nazi Germany.
If humans are just a higher form of animal and therefore valuable because they possess certain intellectual and physical abilities that other animals do not, then the value of any particular individuals life will be based on its relative quality compared to others. Those individuals that do not meet the quality of life standards set by whatever group is currently in power may lose the right to continue to live. Ultimately that was the basis for the Terri Schindler-Schiavo case in Florida. Her husband, Michael, did not think her quality of life to be high enough to justify the care being given to her. He demanded and finally succeeded in getting a judge to issue a ruling to withhold all treatment for her including food and water so that she would starve, dehydrate and die. Despite the efforts by her family to intervene and care for her, that is what happened. She was passively murdered because she did not meet a quality of life standard set by her husband and then affirmed by an errant court swayed by a changing societal standard instead of the rule of law. I should add that this was not even a so called “mercy killing” because Mrs Shaivo was not in pain and Mr. Schaivo, who was already shacked up with another woman, was concerned that the cost of Mrs Schiavo’s care was depleting her estate that he wanted for himself.
If humans are social communities in which individual value is determined by what they can contribute to society, then economics and any particular quality that culture values becomes a major factor in determining the worth of a particular individual. The rich and the societal elite would then have more value than the poor and average. Now the arguments will go back and forth whether society is better off with an increasing population to fuel its economic engine and expand its influence in the world or is it better to kill off its less productive members. In such a society abortion would be debated in terms of the lifetime contribution of a worker compared to the welfare costs in raising a child to adulthood. Many handicapped people would be at grave risk because their potential economic contribution to society would be less than the cost for medical care and rehabilitation. The old and sick would also be at grave risk because vast amounts of money could be saved in medical costs alone if active euthanasia was practiced. As harsh as these ideas sound to us, there are those in our society that actively advocate them.
What is man and what is his actual value? The answer is not found in man himself, but in the God who created him. Turn to Genesis 1:26.
The Creation of Man – Genesis 1
On the 6th day of creation God made each of the beasts of the earth and the creeping things after their own kind. He also made man, but we find man is made differently than the animals. In verse 26, 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.” 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We find additional detail concerning this in chapter 2:7 which says, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Later that day God took a rib from Adam and from it fashioned Eve.
Neither man or animals are the products of evolution, an idea that claims to be scientific but has much more in common with fairy tales. In a fairly tale a frog plus a princess plus a kiss equals a handsome prince. In evolution the formula is the same except the kiss is exchanged for time. God made man from the material of the earth (except for Eve who was made from Adam’s rib — she is refined dirt) and that is why man shares many common characteristics with animals in our physical body makeup. But even in physical makeup the human body has many differences from other animals. 1 Corinthians 15:39 states, “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one [flesh] of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.” Studies in biology bear out the truth of that statement. More importantly, unlike the animals, man had the breath of life breathed into him by God himself. Unlike the animals, man became a living soul. Unlike the animals, man was made in the image and likeness of God. Man has a living soul which means he has been given an eternal nature, and he is a reflection of God his Creator. These are the facts that separate man from the animals. These are the reasons that man is more valuable than animals or any other part of Creation. These are the reasons that man has an intrinsic value greater than just having life itself.
Man’s greater intrinsic value is brought out further in Genesis 9 when God institutes capital punishment for the murder of a man. When Noah comes out of the Ark, God includes in his diet not only the green plants but also animals (vs. 3) with the restriction that he may not eat its blood. In verse 5 God commands what is to happen to an animal or man that murders a man. “And surely I will require your life blood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”
The issue of capital punishment for those who murder is not about the value of the life itself that was taken, but that human life is created as a reflection of God. Murder is actually a rebellious act against God. The main reason for capital punishment is God’s holiness, not determent, retribution or human justice, even as important as those issues are. Some accuse those who advocate the right to life as being inconsistent on this point. They say that if a person truly valued human life they would be against capital punishment. However, the same reason that makes man’s life valuable and worth the efforts to seek to defend and preserve is the same reason that demands capital punishment for murder. Man is made in the image of God. The inconsistency is with so many of the abortion and euthanasia advocates who stand against capital punishment. They value the life of a criminal, but they do not value the life of an unborn baby or those whose quality of life is below their standard.
Man as a Reflection of God
Since Genesis tells us that man is made in the image of God, then man reflects certain characteristics that belong to God. The first and foremost characteristic is that of personhood and the three qualities that make that up. Man has an immaterial aspect that separates him from the mere material world. Let me explain those first, and then later I will explain what the Bible says about them.
Man is Rational. This means that man has a mind and can think. Rocks, plants, water and fire cannot think. Animals have minds and can think in a limited sense according to their instincts. Many animals can be trained to do many wonderful things, but they are incapable of man’s ability to think in the abstract. Man can contemplate not only such concepts as beauty and logic, but he can also contemplate that which does not manifest itself in the material world and even imagine things that cannot exist except in his mind.
Man is Emotional. This means man can experience feelings caused by the thoughts of his mind. Things such as love, hate, compassion, anger, peace, anxiety, joy, depression, etc.
Man is Volitional. This means man can make choices based on his ability to think and experience emotion. Animals make choices based on instinct, but man can make choices based on abstract thought.
These three abilities give us what is commonly referred to as personhood, and that is a reflection of God. There are, however, certain other attributes that belong to God that man does not share such as omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, eternal existence (past as well as future) and sovereignty. These attributes separate God from man so that man is only made in the image of God and is not a replication of God, despite the claim that many men have made over human history that they were a god.
But man, being made in the image of God, does mean that man was created to share with God certain other characteristics which theologians refer to as His communicable or moral attributes. These include such characteristics as holiness, righteousness, love, goodness, kindness, justice, mercy, longsuffering, graciousness, etc.
When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden they possessed these attributes in perfection and their rational, emotional, and volitional abilities were experienced in their fullness. But the fall of Adam and Eve into sin affected all these things. Though made in the image of God, that image was now tarnished. His shared attributes with God were corrupted as were his abilities to think, feel and choose.
Man’s Fall, A Tarnished Image
It is easily observed and understood that all the moral or communicable attributes where corrupted when man fell into sin. Man is no longer perfect in holiness, righteousness, love, goodness, kindness, justice, mercy, longsuffering, graciousness, etc. His sin has caused him to do acts of evil, selfishness, greed, deceit, mischief, injustice, slander, hate, malice, cruelty, etc. But in addition to these, the qualities that give him personhood have also been affected.
Man is rational, but sin has darkened his reason. In Ephesians 4:17,18 Paul calls on the believers to no longer act as the unregenerate who walk “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” Paul then goes on to list some of their specific sins. The point here is simply that the mind of the unbeliever does not work properly. He thinks he is completely capable of reasoning things out, but the truth is that he cannot. As Proverbs 16:25 puts it, “There is a way [which seems] right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”
Yet, at the same time, there is still enough ability there that God holds man responsible for being able to reason through what God has done for him. Throughout Acts we find Paul presents the gospel to the unbelieving Jews and the heathen. Acts 17:2-3 describes his practice saying, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and [saying,] “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” In similar way, in the Old Testament we find God speaking through the prophets and calling the unsaved to “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Man’s ability to reason is tarnished and darkened, but not completely removed. However, the person who thinks they can reason things through without God’s revelation and guidance is a blind fool on the path to death just as Proverbs 16:25 warns.
Man’s emotional makeup is also affected in a similar manner. Emotions are a God given ability to feel arising from what we perceive and think. Our emotions are key clues to what we are actually thinking. When thinking is perfect, then the emotions that follow them will also be perfect. When thinking is corrupted by sin, then the emotions that follow will also be corrupted for they will be based on wrong perceptions, things that are not true or even the approval of sin. You may feel happy when you should feel sad or grieved when you should feel joyous. Compassion and pity can be replaced with hatred and vengeance.
That is the reason that various scriptures warn about emotions and make corrections to them. For example, there are many warnings about the emotion of anger and especially of those controlled by that emotion. Proverbs 19:19 “[A man of] great anger shall bear the penalty, For if you rescue [him,] you will only have to do it again.” Proverbs 22:24 “Do not associate with a man [given] to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, 25 Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself.” Even though the emotion of anger is not in itself sinful, we are admonished in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, and [yet] do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Fear is an emotion that can be very good and helpful when it is fear of something that should be feared such as God. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” But fear of the wrong thing leads to failure and unrighteousness as Proverbs 29:25 warns, “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” The fear of man is what caused both Abraham and Isaac to lie about their wives (Genesis 20:11; 26:7). Fear of man lead to King Saul’s great sin that cost him his kingdom (1 Samuel 15:24f). Fear of man has caused many people to deny Christ even while He was walking on this earth (John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42,43) and it still does in our own time. Jesus put fear in its proper perspective in Luke 12:4 saying, “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” The only one to fear is God.
We could go on about the corruption of our other emotions as well and how that results in sin, but I think you get the point from these two examples. Because man’s perceptions and thinking are wrong so are his emotions and his proper use of them.
Man is also volitional. Man has the ability to make choices, but the corruption of sin results in making the wrongs choices. Understand clearly that God still calls on sinful man to make choices between right and wrong, good and evil and will hold man responsible for those choices. In Deuteronomy 30:19 Moses called on the generation that was about to enter Canaan to make a choice. He had given them both the warnings and promises of God in the previous chapters and then said in this verse, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. “
After that generation conquered Canaan Joshua also called them to make a choice in Joshua 24:15 “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” They had to choose whether they would serve the Lord or the false gods.
Man can make choices, but because sin has darkened his mind, which in turn has affected his emotions, his ability to choose is also affected. In fact, it is affected so much that man apart from God’s intervention will not choose to follow God. Romans 3:10-12 quoting from Psalm 14:1-3 & Psalm 53:1-3 states, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 adds, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
It is because of the corruption of sin affecting man’s reason, emotion and volition that we say that man is totally depraved. That does not mean man is as evil as he possibly could be, but rather that apart from God’s gracious intervention man is incapable of understanding the things of the Lord and choose to follow Him. Man has been so affected by the depravity brought about by sin that left on his own he absolutely will not choose to follow God. Moses understood that because God revealed to him in Deuteronomy 31:14-22 that Israel would not follow God which was why he was to write the song that is recorded in Deuteronomy 32 as a witness against them. Man has not changed since then. Yet, even though man’s ability to think, feel and choose are so corrupted there is hope because God does intervene. That is the message of the gospel.
Man’s Redemption, An Image Being Reconstructed
Salvation in Jesus Christ is much more than an exchange of beliefs from sin and self to the Savior by which we received justification from our sin and its penalty through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is also a radical change in the very nature of the person. As Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if any man is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” What was dead in trespasses and sin has been, by God’s grace, regenerated – made alive – together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1,5). As Paul explains in Romans 6, the person who is redeemed by Jesus is no longer a slave of sin but has righteousness as a new master. This radical change in the Christian also affects his rational, emotional and volitional abilities. The believer in Christ can now do what he could not do before and that is begin to think, feel and choose according to the righteousness of God. This is all in the process of becoming conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28) which will include an increasing reflection of all God’s moral attributes as well.
The believer’s rational ability is changed because he can now discern spiritual truths for true Christians are given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). The believer’s life is transformed as his mind is being renewed through the power of the Holy Spirit and the washing of it that comes through the word of God (Romans 12:2; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26). The Holy Spirit teaches us spiritual truth and leads us into righteousness (1 John 2:27). God’s revelation of Himself and His will in the Scriptures enables us to increase in both our understanding of Him and how He wants us to live. Non-Christians can read the Bible, but it remains confusing and without proper application for them. The Christian gains a discernment of its meaning and application that was previously impossible. The Christian’s rational ability is being renewed to be able to think again according to God’s design.
The disciple of Jesus Christ also has a change in their emotional makeup. While emotions can still be very strong in the believer and the temptation for many is to still yield to them, there is now a basis for bringing them back into their proper place in subjection to the truth. Christians still get angry, but they can deal with it properly so that unrighteous anger is properly corrected and righteous anger is properly directed. The Christian can love and forgive and leave vengeance in the hands of God (Matthew 5:43-45; 18:35f; Romans 12:19-21). The Christian will still experience fear, but that fear diminishes and subsides as they learn to fear the right things and walk with God knowing that His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). The same is true with all other emotions. Godly love replaces hatred (Matthew 5:43-45). Passion is directed by holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:4). Anxiety is cast on the Lord and we can be filled with peace (Philippians 4:16). Depression is exchanged for joy in the Lord as we learn to trust Him (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:4).
The true Christian’s volitional ability is also regenerated. That doesn’t mean that there is not a struggle in this area. Even the apostle Paul struggled in this and described it in Romans 7:14-25. Though his flesh was still bent toward sin his mind had changed and desired to fulfill God’s will as defined by God instead of the religious system that he previously followed and which gave excuse for his sin.
As pointed out earlier, the choices given by God to unregenerate man are real, but they are so against a man’s sinful nature that he will not choose God and righteousness. A regenerated man is also given many choices by God, but the redeemed spirit within him now can choose God and the pursuit of righteousness. That is why God’s commands in the New Testament to believers are directed at the Christian’s will. He commands us to cease sinful behavior and practice righteousness and has legitimate expectation that we should do so. As Galatians 5:16f puts it, in choosing to walk by the Spirit you cannot carry out the deeds of the flesh. In Colossians Paul says we are to consider our earthly bodies dead and lay aside the practices of our old self and instead “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:5-10). Romans 6 tells us that we have a choice to either yield ourselves to sin or to righteousness, but you are a slave to the one you obey. If you are a Christian you are called to stop obeying sin and start obeying God. The apostle John tells us that the choices that characterize us in this is the evidence of whether we are born of God or not – “the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil . . . “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:7,8,10). What do your choices reveal about you?
God has redeemed the Christian from sin that he should live blameless and holy before Him (Ephesians 1:4). When the true Christian sins he will have the sorrow of repentance and choose to confess according to 1 John 1:9. He then becomes more conformed to the image of Christ and a better reflection of being made in God’s image. When the non-Christian or false Christian sins there will only be the sorrow of the world at most (2 Corinthians 7:10) and they will choose to excuse the sin or deal with it in some way contrary to God’s commands. They then only demonstrate that they remain a corrupted image of the God who created them.
Man has intrinsic value because he was created by God in His image. It is because of that reason that we stand solidly opposed to all things that would remove that value and therefore be a defiance and rebellion against God. That would include all forms of murder including abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia as well anything that treats man as a mere animal to be used and exploited. It also means that we stand solidly in support of all things that affirm that value including ministries of compassion to the sick, aide to the handicapped, comfort to the dying along and just punishment for crimes against man.
While man was created in God’s image, that image was corrupted when man fell into sin resulting in man being without hope apart from God’s intervention. But there is hope because God does intervene and begins restoring that image in those who become disciples of Jesus Christ and are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. That image will be fully restored when the redeemed are resurrected and enter heaven in their new incorruptible bodies. Your salvation from sin is for the purpose of God’s glory and as a redeemed individual you must do your best to use your mind, emotion and choices to bring that about by reflecting Him in your own life.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the Scripture references made. 2) Count how many times references are made to being rational, emotional or volitional. Talk with your parents about what those attributes mean, how they are affected by sin & how salvation changes them.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is man? What does society commonly say gives man value? What does God say gives man value? Describe God’s creation of man? What is man different from animals? What is the Biblical reason for capital punishment? What does it mean for man to be rational? Emotional? Volitional? What other ways does man show he is made in the image of God? How has sin affected man’s ability to be rational? How have you seen this in your life and the lives of others? How has sin affected man’s emotional characteristics? How have you seen this in your life and the lives of others? How has sin affected man’s ability to be volitional? How have you seen this in your life and the lives of others? What is the meaning of the theological phrase, Total Depravity? What changes does salvation make to man’s rational ability? Emotional characteristics? Volitional abilities? Reflection of God’s moral attributes? Why did God redeem man? How can man fulfill that purpose? How are you doing at fulfilling that purpose? What changes would help you do better?
Sermon Notes – March 25, 2007
Man as a Reflection of God – Selected Scriptures
The Creation of Man
Man as Reflection of God
Man’s Fall, A Tarnished Image
Man’s Redemption , A Restored Image
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