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THEOLOGY > Man > Crown of Creation > Implications of the Image 


Implications of the Imago Dei are numerous, affecting every aspect of man—his religious inclinations, his intellectual and rational capabilities, his community and social life, his relationship to the environment, and his ethical and moral judgments. The implications are many; four will be considered in order to illustrate the numerous implications.

The image defines man in the most authentic sense. Of all that can be said about man, the most essential affirmation is that he is the image of God; only man is crowned with glory and honor, both of which reflect the Maker. To speak of the Imago Dei is to speak of that which is most profound and most mysterious regarding man (see: Image of God).

Since man is the crown of creation, meaning that he is the image of God, and since this is true of no other part of creation, then man must reflect God more than any other aspect of the created order (see: Display the Image). Thus man is unique and distinct, so in defining man the image separates man and elevates him to the prominent position of rule over creation.

Since the image of God defines man, then the understanding of man must be found in terms of God. Comprehension of man arises as insight into the nature of God is attained, for man cannot be known unless God is known. As has been pointed out in other connections, the study of man is the study of God—anthropology must be Theological.

The image establishes incomprehensible value for man. Man’s true value resides in his creation by God and in the nature conferred upon him at creation. The importance of man is not that he is a part of Divinity or derived from Divinity, but that he is separate from Deity and made in the image of Deity. Because of the image man has worth. Man’s significance is not intrinsic but is derived from God by virtue of His creation of man in His own image and likeness. Man mirrors God.

The value of man is greater than any other part of creation. Jesus makes this point: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26-29). Inactivity on the part of the birds is not being praised but their lack of anxiety or worry about the future; God provides for them—His Sovereignty over them is sufficient. If this is true of the birds, it is even more true of man, for man is “of more value than they.”

Man’s value is so great that “whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed”  (Gen. 9:6). Capital punishment is predicated upon the fundamental value and worth of man, a value and worth that arises out of man’s likeness to God. To attack a man is to attack God; to kill a man is to make an unconscious assault on God. Therefore, capital punishment is not a social issue, but a theological issue—remove it from the theological arena and the issue is debatable. Otherwise the issue is absolute.

A related issue is the question of abortion, and the necessity of protection for the unborn. The unborn is life (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; 139:13-16), life conceived and developing as the image of God. To value the conceived but unborn individual is to value God. To lightly value the life of the unborn is to lightly value God, who is displaying His image in the unborn. The sanctity of life is predicated on the fact that life, from its inception, is made in the image of God.

The image is the basis for benevolence. To help the fellowman is to show kindness to God, or at least the showing of kindness to someone in need should be understood as doing it because of God’s image that is manifested in the person who is in need of compassion and assistance. All that we do should be done for the glory of God.

Emphatically this principle is taught by Jesus in the story of the good Samaritan: the true “neighbor” has “compassion” (Lu. 10:30-37). And the one who shows compassion may not be the religious person, but it may come from the one who is most despised and least expected to demonstrate such a trait. A Priest and a Levite looked at the man in need and “passed by on the other side”; but a Samaritan “saw,” had “compassion,” and did what was required to alleviate the need. After relating the story Jesus says: “Go and do likewise” (v. 37); the believer is to show mercy.

Paul writes to the Galatians: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Not only are believers obligated to the family of God, but there is also a responsibility to the larger world that is suffering and that is in need of authentic empathy and action.  Reason for the concern resides in the Biblical instruction, but also the motivation flows from an understanding that the suffering individual is the image of God.

Reference should be made to the phrase, “the least of these My brethren” (Matt. 25:40). There is debate over who is the “brethren” spoken of by Jesus in the passage: the Jewish people, believers and followers of Christ, or the larger community of people. Whoever is referred to, Jesus speaks of them as being “a stranger,” “hungry,” “thirsty,” “naked,” “sick,” and “in prison” (vs. 35-40). Toward these “brethren” the appropriate understanding and action should be shown; to do what is needed for “the least of these” is to do it for Christ.

The point is that compassion is to be shown because of what the individuals represent or symbolize. Acceptance of the undesirables of the world is because of Who they mirror; in showing kindness to men we are showing kindness to God.

The image is the basis for the unity of the race. All men stand in the same relationship because of their essential nature—all people bear the image of God. From the standpoint of creation and from the standpoint of composition, all people are united, regardless of sex or color. Every man is my brother.

Upon what basis can there be a legitimate appeal for goodwill among people? Sin (see: The Character of Sin), with its ravaging influence, is continually undermining and destroying valid relationships; but, in spite of this destructive fact, can there be any platform by which to seek acceptance of each other and to live in relative peace with one another? Can there be some semblance of community? Must there always be conflict?

Men need to see each other as bearing the image of Deity, the image of the God of the Scriptures. Comprehension of the meaning of the image inspires one to be more accepting of others and accommodating to their eccentricities, even their color and race. If the believer can come to see each individual as bearing the image of God, then perhaps he will be more inclined to relate properly to them and behave with civility toward them.

But it must not be thought that Utopia can be attained in this life and on this earth; true and lasting peace, or harmony among men, is an elusive state, and really an impossible state given the presence of sin in the men seeking harmony. Even with this caveat, we must still strive to “live peaceable with all men” (Rom. 12:18); Paul adds a condition: “if it is possible.” (see: Racial Solidarity)

Return to: Crown of Creation; Next Article: The Continuing Image 

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