Image Bearers

September 26, 2021 Speaker: Chris Jessee Series: Genesis: ORIGINS

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Genesis 1:26–28, Genesis 2:15–15, Genesis 2:18–23, Psalm 8:3–8, Colossians 1:15–20

As a reminder, the people that Moses was writing to were coming out of Egypt where life was used through slavery for gain. Individuals weren’t seen as individuals, they couldn’t come before the gods themselves, only those who claimed to be gods could do that.

  • They would've been wrestling with questions like: What does it mean to be a human being? (self-awareness; creativity; compassion; complex reasoning; emotions; being an image-bearer of God)

The Bible describes human beings as being unique, different from anything else that God created. But how are we different, and what does it mean for our lives? Let’s find out as we discuss what it means to be made in God’s image. This is part of what the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to speak to the people he was leading out of Egypt and it’s important for us to understand today so that we might live, not for our own glory, but the Glory of God - the one who formed and fills us.

I looked this week at our ‘Affirmations of Faith’ which can be found online and I wanted to draw our attention to two sections there, briefly summarized for our purposes today:

We believe that the universe has its beginning and end in God’s will. The universe is in no sense independent of Him and creation does not reflect a prior deficiency, but its formation and maintenance represent a continuing exertion of His creative power and ability. Both Adam and Eve were created equally in the image of God without sin. He endued them with knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, having God’s natural law of conscience written in their hearts and the power to fulfill that law.

Condition of Men/Women
God made man in His own image; male and female He created them, as the crown of creation, that man might have communion with Him.
As we’ll see next week - Tempted by Satan, man rebelled against God. They thereby incurred not only physical death but also spiritual death, which is separation from God.

A worldly response of either lumping groups of people together and stripping away their individual being or radical individualism that says there’s no authority over us is a right response in attempts to finding our purpose as image bearers. God’s Word alone can guide us into our created purpose, affirming that we’ve been created on purpose and for a purpose.

We were created as God’s image-bearers, given both a unique purpose and relationship with the Creator.

As we’ll see today, Moses’ radical message of the grace of God expressed through the purpose for humanity was taking center stage now...

1. We bear God’s image in our role over creation

Cultural Mandate:
Human beings are called to develop the latent potential of the world through the growth of the human race, development of culture, and care for the world God made (Gen. 1:28; 2:15).

[26] Then God said, “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.”

[27] So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

[28] 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.” - Genesis 1:26–28

Image Bearers

The Hebrew word translated “image” in Genesis 1:27 is used elsewhere in the Bible to mean a statue.3 You aren’t a literal statue of God. He has no form, no edges, no limits. But you do “image” God as you think like him and love like him and stand up for him. You can think of it this way: “Just as powerful earthly kings, to indicate their claim to dominion, erect an image of themselves in the provinces of their empire where they do not personally appear, so man is placed upon earth in God’s image as God’s sovereign emblem.” - Ortlund, Ray. The Death of Porn (p. 23). Crossway.

“Fill”, “Subdue”, “Have Dominion"

  • Wisely consuming and cultivating the world’s resources is a way in which we exercise our dominion in the world, expressing our care for the world God made as He desires.
  • Working with excellence, being diligent in our labors, and showing respect for our employers, coworkers, and employees is a way of serving and honoring the Lord.
  • Creating art—music, poetry, visual arts, novels, film, and more—is an exercise of our dominion when we celebrate the creativity, beauty, and goodness of God in overt and subtle ways.
  • Multiplying biologically, having children, along with supporting, protecting, and caring for the generations, is an exercise of our dominion as we bring new life into the world and extend culture as God’s image-bearers.
  • Multiplying spiritually, sharing the gospel and making disciples, is the unique way in which Christians fulfill this mandate.

2. We bear God’s image through our relationships

Humanity is the pinnacle of creation. Men & Women are created in God's image so, life is sacred.

We are to resemble God in character, speech, and actions so that they can have fellowship and worship with him and with one another.
Our calling, in a nutshell, is to be fruitful so that God's glory and goodness would multiply through us.

In other words, we are to be agents of God's dominion on earth, and the blessing of fruitfulness would enable them to populate the earth with God's image-bearers.
God's kingdom extends to the entire world, and his rule was to extend to every corner of the earth through his direct influence and through his image-bearers, of which we are privileged to be.

[18] Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” [19] Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. [20] The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. [21] So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. [22] And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. [23] Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.” - Genesis 2:18–23

  • God created humans as male and female.
  • God created males and females as equals.
    The narrative of Genesis 2 uses this idea to emphasize the equality of the man and woman. This is important for our understanding of God making the woman to be a “helper” (v. 18).
    The Hebrew word translated “helper” (‘ēzer) suggests providing aid, support, and even protection.
    Rather than seeing the word “helper” as implying someone being subservient, the Bible wants us to recognize the special dignity it conveys because of its connection to God Himself, who also is described as a “helper”.
  • God created males and females as distinct from one another.
    Correspondence speaks to the sameness of human beings but also to our distinctness from one another. While sharing the same essential equality, males and females are not the same. By God’s design, our corresponding distinction allows us to flourish as God’s image-bearers, notably through the command to the first married couple to “fill the earth”.
  • God created males and females for intimacy.
    By embedding his name (“man”; Heb. ’ish) within hers (“woman”; Heb. ’ishah), “Adam anticipated the deepest intimacy” (2:23). Here in Genesis the need for intimacy, fully knowing and being fully known, is fulfilled in the marital relationship.
    The Bible is filled with examples of intimacy that are not sexual in nature, such as friends, family, and in the church.
    (note poetry captured in v.23 and how that mirrors poetry used in 1:27 - relational poetry)
    Look closely at v.7 - we are formed by our creator, putting his hands into the dust he had created, forming us in his image. Then, he fills us by breathing his very life into us.
    There’s nothing else in creation that God treats this intentionally or tenderly…
    Intentional: giving shape, form and function to his image bearers
    Tender: bring us before his face and breathing into us, animating us for his created purpose for us:
    an abiding communion in close relationship with him
    A role, or commission as image bearing ambassadors, so great we’d need him to be able to accomplish it

Communion fills us by reminding us of Christ’s work on our behalf

Paul reminds us that we are to continually ‘be filled’ by the Holy Spirit - giving breath and life to our being - that in him we might “live, move and have our being...”

3. We bear God’s image as a crown of glory and honor

Human beings in comparison to the greatness of creation seem small and insignificant. Yet it is only humans who were made by God to rule over all of creation.

[3] When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
[4] what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

[5] Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
[6] You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
[7] all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
[8] the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas. - Psalm 8:3–8

  • Psalm 8 provides a particular outlook on humanity’s place in redemptive history.
    • The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the One who, for a little while, became less than the angels when He added humanity to Himself (Heb. 2:6-9).
      • The Son of God became a human being, “a son of man,” taking on the form of His image-bearers. Through His death and resurrection, He was crowned with all glory and honor, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:5-11).

4. Christ is the perfect image of God.

[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [19] For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. - Colossians 1:15–20

Let’s think about what we’re being told here about Christ:

  • He was present at creation and represents it’s head (sovereignty / lordship)
  • He is present over the church and represents it’s head (Chief Shepherd - Head Pastor)
    • I’ve been struck by the thought lately, perhaps you’ve heard me say it in passing: God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is transcendent in his glory but imminent in his leading (he is holy, glorious, majestic and yet near for leading, comfort, empowering) - who but God treats us this way?
  • Consider this:
  • God, whose throne is established in the heavens that declare his glory, draws near to us as we humble ourselves and draw near to him!
  • Christ, whose hands cast the stars into place, also stretched them out to receive nails for our salvation!
  • The Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters of chaos in creation, is everywhere, at all times, sustaining that same creation all while ministering to us in our needy, weary state and empowering us for who we are in Christ!

Now that we are counted as holy and blameless before God because of Christ's sinless life and sacrificial work on the cross, Paul exhorts Christians to remember - through the power of the holy spirit reminding us - our hope in the Lord Jesus alone and we thanks to that finished work we are to persevere in our walk.

Once again, Paul also reminds us that the gospel is our daily bread; we are to be “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that we’ve heard”.

From that Edenic home we—humanity—were sent out, as if our home were also a staging site for our priestly mission. There was much to do. The world beyond Eden was untamed, and we were called to claim it for the Lord, work it, and keep it. Our mission was to imitate him and represent him on earth [...]

This means that man’s purpose was to expand the boundaries of the garden and raise up new priests to represent the Lord throughout the earth. Later, the mission was summarized as “be holy, for I am holy” [...] —this too identifies people as agents of life. Later still, Jesus supplanted it with the Great Commission to “go and make disciples” [...]

The New Testament writers simplify the Great Commission as a call to reflect and embody the love of Jesus. Heaven comes to earth through us, through Spirit-powered love. And in the midst of it all, we enjoy fellowship as we participate in God’s plans and are further brought into his love. This is life in its fullness. - Welch, Edward T.. Created to Draw Near . Crossway.

What a wonderful reminder as we close today that…

We were created as God’s image-bearers, given both a unique purpose and relationship with the Creator.

Closing Thought

Sanctity / Dignity of Life

Womb to Eternity (not just the tomb) - Shane Kohout

Implications in our life today:

  • Understanding of empathy, meekness, compassion as the lens through which we view each other
  • Standing up for life / standing against abortion
  • Making yourself or being a part of your family approach to taking in children through fostering or adoption
  • Care and concern for the elderly and time of death - treating them with dignity not indignance
    • Seasons of life as new opportunities for understanding the gospel and God’s grace
  • Embrace of individuals, help for families with special needs
  • Concern for individuals affected by immigration crisis
  • Rejection of any form of modern-day-slavery or human traffiking that commidifies God’s created image-bearers
  • Intervention for those tempted with suicide or self harm
  • Reaching out hospitably tp the tapestry of races around us
  • Abhorrence at men/women being treated as objects through subjection in porn
  • Informs our local and global mission, not as ”saviors” but coming alongside our fellow image bearers to the glory of God
  • Witness (evangelism - actually speaking/declaring truth) for, not just a ‘flourishing life’ on earth but -more importantly- eternal life!

A biblically informed worldview of humanity as image bearers alone can inform these types of implications -or convictions- in our lives. God is sovereign over his creation, but let’s be a church that is active in our role as image bearers - ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom whose rule will flourish through eternity!


Note: portions of this outline (specifically in the first and second points) benefited from Lifeway Adults (2021).

The Gospel Project: Adult Leader Guide - ESV - Fall 2021. Lifeway Press.

More in Genesis: ORIGINS

November 21, 2021

The Life of Joseph - Part 2

November 14, 2021

The Life of Joseph - Part 1

November 7, 2021

God’s Plan Moves Forward