In the Image of God

by Scarlett Stough

Who is God? What does he look like? Is there a God who created the heavens and the earth? If, as the Bible quotes God as saying, it was so good, how did things turn out so bad (Genesis 1:31)? Did he communicate the answers to mankind? Can we know the answers to those questions?

All that we Christians know about God comes primarily from The Holy Bible; although, we can know something about him from the natural world around us which he created (Romans 1:20). We can be in awe of the temporary beauty of an hibiscus bloom that lasts only a single day; of the tenacity of the common dandelion; of the grandeur of mountain ranges; and the glory of the night sky. We can look closer and observe the complexities of weather and the human brain. We watch the development of children from conception and rejoice as they investigate the world around them. We can see his power, creativity and intelligence in his creation.

Without the Scriptures though, we can’t discover much about God on our own. According to the Bible only a very few people had direct contact with God: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets are among those few. To the rest of us, he reveals himself in the written word. Even after he revealed himself in Jesus, who was God become flesh, and then made his Holy Spirit available to us, we still rely on the written biblical account to know him. We don’t have to take it on blind faith that the Bible is an authentic record of God’s dealings with mankind; if you have doubts, you can read the accounts of people who have made their life’s work collecting evidence of its reliability. [Editor’s Note: Some authors who write on this subject are: Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict), Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ), and C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity). Ravi Zacharias has also written many books on this topic.]

Genesis is the first book in the Bible and its authorship is attributed to Moses who compiled ancient accounts which take us back to the beginning before the heavens and the earth were created. God is quoted as saying that he made man, male and female, in his image, after his likeness (Genesis 1 and 2). Jesus said that he and the Father were one. He said we could know God by knowing him (John 14:5-11). Paul tells us that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Through the New Testament writings we can read the accounts of people who knew Jesus and described what he did. Through these accounts we can learn about God.

Theologians tell us that God does not have a body in the same way humans do; that the Bible uses anthropomorphic language to describe the invisible God who is everywhere and knows everything. They may be right, but I’m sure none of them have seen God either.

Why is it important to know what God is like? The Bible reveals that God wants us to become like him. We can’t be invisible or all-knowing or ever-present or all-powerful; we die, and in our flesh, we don’t live forever as he does; so what is the likeness we can share even now?

An overview of God’s nature and character is found in Exodus 34:6-7.

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.

Compassion, grace, self-control, love, faithfulness, forgiving the repentant, and administering justice are all part of God’s likeness. Each one of those characteristics can be found as an admonition for us in the New Testament. These qualities make up God’s Name, his nature and character. [Future issues of Women in Christ will go into these more deeply.]

To become like God is to grow in compassion, graciousness, in the ability to control anger, to become faithful and forgiving. Where we have responsibility for justice, we exercise impartial judgment, punishing the guilty and releasing the innocent.

Before this process can start, God must give us a “new birth.”

  • We must be “born again” (John 3:3; I Peter 1:3-5).
  • When God gives us the gift of his Holy Spirit, the Spirit makes us sons or children of God (Romans 8:12-17; I John 3:1-2.)
  • We are given a new heart upon which the law of God is written (Jeremiah 31:33.)
  • We are given both the desire and the strength to do the will of God in all aspects of life (Philippians 2:12-13.)
  • We become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17.)

Becoming like God is not a matter of simply learning the rules and exercising will power; God transforms the natural man through renewing his mind (Romans 12:2.) As Jesus said to Nicodemus: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3.)”

How does this begin? “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16.) Believe Jesus. Turn to God. Confess your sins. Be baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 3:19-20.) Continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18.)

Bible Study Guide: Born Again
Volume 9 Issue 3 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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