Have you seen one of the new £1 coins yet?
If you have one, take a look at the Queen’s head – on a new coin it is still clean, bright and clear. Now have a look at an old coin from several years ago. The Queen’s head is probably tarnished, faded, damaged and unclear.
This is a simple illustration of an important Biblical concept.
On the sixth day of creation, after God had made everything else and pronounced it very good, he then said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:..’ (Genesis 1:26). Man was to be the pinnacle of God’s creation and was made different from everything else in a crucial way – he was made in God’s image. Just like the £1 coin which bears the Queen’s image, but is clearly not actually the Queen herself, Adam (and therefore all mankind) was created in God’s likeness, bearing his image, but was not actually God himself.
So, what does ‘in his image’ mean? Creation Ministries International have a helpful article Made in the image of God which gives a clear explanation. To summarise very briefly, mankind reflects the likeness of God in that he was made as a spiritual being (as well as physical). Simply put, he was given a soul (Genesis 2:7). This differentiates him from any other living thing and leads to three key areas of likeness with God:
- A mental likeness: Mankind was given a rational mind capable of ‘understanding God’s communication with him’ and capable of thought, reason & choice. He was also given ‘emotions capable of responding to God in love and devotion’.
- A moral likeness: Mankind was made ‘positively holy’ and able to have communion with God. Furthermore, he was given the capacity for knowing God and his will. Since the fall this is demonstrated in the way we all have a conscience that knows right from wrong.
- A social likeness: Mankind was created to need and to have fellowship, with one another, but above all with God himself.
Look again at the two coins. Before the fall, man was like the new coin – God’s image in him was bright, clear and undamaged. When Adam fell, the image of God in him was damaged. It was not destroyed, but became tarnished and unclear. By nature, all of us are like this. We have rational minds, but they are corrupted. We know right from wrong, but sin affects everything we do. We search for love and fulfilment, but look everywhere other than to God. Sin has made us spiritually dead and separated us from God. This is a bit like the Queen’s head on the old coins – it is still there, but is nothing like it was when the coin was first minted.
Continuing with our coin analogy, can the old, tarnished coin repair itself? Of course not! The only way it can become as good as a new coin, with a bright clear Queen’s head, is if the maker takes it and re-mints it into a new coin. This is a bit like what God does with his people. Through the work of regeneration, the Holy Spirit renews the image of God in them and enables them to once again have spiritual life and a relationship with God. This does not mean they become perfect – on earth, Christians will always be hampered by their old sinful nature. However, as the apostle Paul makes clear (see Romans 8:30 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-54), God’s people can look forward to one day being glorified and given a new resurrected body. Their sinful nature will be destroyed for ever and they will once again bear that perfect image of God.
What about you? Have you experienced the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in your heart? Can you look forward to that great day when, as Paul writes,
‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.’ (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)?
[A00032 – 06/05/2017]