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THEOLOGY > Man > Purpose of Man > Display the Image 


Man was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6; I Cor. 11:7; Jas. 3:9). These words do not describe two different aspects of man’s being, but rather both words express the same incomprehensible fact: man resembles God.

According to the psalmist, man has been made “a little lower than the angels” and has been crowned with “glory and honor” (8:5). “Angels” translates the Hebrew word, Elohim, a word that is usually translated “God” (Gen. 1:1); if this translation is chosen in Psalm 8 then the psalmist is asserting that man has been made a little lower than God, which is consistent with man being crowned with “glory and honor.” In the most exalted sense man is like God.

These two concepts in Psalms (“a little lower than the angels” and crowned with “glory and honor”; it is proper to note that this passage in Psalms is applied to Christ in Heb. 2:6-8) are commentary on the words in Genesis: “image” and “likeness.” These words and phrases are indicative of the Imago Dei; they communicate that the nature of man is a reflection of God.

Even though man is like God, it is improper to identify man with God, or to indicate that man partakes of God or emanates from God. Man has no divinity, which means that man is not an extension of God. In some sense, however, God made man like Himself; that is, man mirrors God (see: Image of God).

Since man is the image of God, in a sense, he is the display of God—this point is inescapable. Man cannot help but be what he is; even the non-believer in his daily existence reflects the One who made him. It would seem, then, as a result of man being created in this manner that it is proper to affirm that an element of the purpose of man is the display of God’s image. Man’s purpose is to show forth what he is: the image of God.

Man is to display the image to the world. Any place there is a human, God is seen. So at no geographical point where individuals are found is God without witness. Affirmation of God is given by every star in the heavens, and all the inhabitants of the earth join together in confirmation of that testimony which is uttered by the cosmos every moment.

By his being or existence each particular individual gives testimony to God in at least two senses: one, God is; and two, God is the Creator. Every time a person sees another person, the person is seeing in the other person a walking testimony to God’s existence and to God’s creative work. Not only do the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19), but man also, who is crowned with “glory and honor,” daily and universally gives testimony to the God of glory.

Because man is, there is witness to the fact that God is. If there is man, then there must be God. Chance cannot be entertained as a viable explanation for man’s appearance, whose existence argues for God’s existence. In other words, from randomness, complexity does not arise—if there is something, then there must be Someone; a mind suggests a Mind. The presence of creation, especially man, implies, no requires, a Creator. If there is man, how could God not be?

While man’s presence affirms God’s being, man’s uniqueness testifies to God’s creative work. Man cannot be of himself; he must be of Another. Man in his finiteness can lay no claim to Deity. And all of the characteristics and limitations of man must find infinite and purity of expression in One who is greater than man. It defies reasoning even to consider that man in his intricacy is simply the product of time plus chance. In other words, how can anyone meditate on the sophistication and precision of man in all of his anatomical systems and entertain the possibility that it is all the luck of the lottery? There must be One who is behind each individual one; there must be the One planning the one and accomplishing the creation and sustenance of the one. To think otherwise is to be a fool (see: Foolishness of Atheism).

Man is to display the image to the other person. In the constant communication by each person to every other person, there is the message of Theism, that is, Biblical Theism, for there is no other Theism. The only God is the God of the Bible (see: The God of Creation). And each individual testifies to this God in the fullest sense.

The Scriptures teach that part of being a believer is to believe that “God is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). This is the initial qualification for coming to God. Without this concept, God cannot be pleased. There must be a foundational acceptance of the fact of God—man must believe in God. Theism is not optional.

It is overwhelming when the very fact that must be accepted in order to come to God is given testimony to by every person to every other person every second of the day. To see another person is to hear of God, even though no word is spoken; that is, each individual, believer and unbeliever, is giving testimony to the very God that many of them either do not recognize or do not bow before. Each man and woman is a walking advertisement for the God of the Christian faith. So to see a person is to hear the call to faith; it is to be challenged to believe, to believe in God and all that is associated with Him.

The tragedy is that so many individuals see and do not see! That is they see and do not perceive, they hear and do not understand (Mk. 4:12). Their metaphysical reflection is null. Many, who are confronted by this irresistible evidence of Theism, fail to perceive His very existence.

Involved in Theism is the Gospel of the Christian faith; in fact, Theism and the Gospel cannot be divorced—where there is one there in the other. The Bible teaches Theism, and the essential component in Theism is God’s exercise, after the entrance of sin into His creation, of His grace in the salvation for His creation whereby He is working for His glory alone.

To be confronted by another individual is indirectly to be confronted by the Gospel. Admittedly, the presence of another person does not inform fully of the Gospel, but by the other person’s existence, there is testimony to the God who is. And the God who is, is all about the Gospel. So, in an implicit manner, each individual is proclaiming God and His Gospel. The Gospel is not without witness.

To see another person, therefore, is to hear the call to faith; it is to be challenged to believe, to believe in God and all that is associated with Him.

Man is to display the image to self. As man considers what he is, two thoughts are inescapable: one, the significance of man—the realization of what man is; and two, profound humility—the realization of what man is not. In the image is the basis for both concepts.

Man has unfathomable value and worth—he is the image of God. Therein resides his significance. Man is like God, and he needs to accept the testimony of what he is.

He is distinct from all of the rest of creation and is elevated above all creatures. Not only is he superior to them, he is ruler of them, each and every one; in fact, man is sovereign over the created order. He has been given the Dominion Mandate (see: Dominion Mandate), and he exercises his sovereignty underneath God’s Sovereignty (see: God is Sovereign).

All of this flows from the nature of man, a nature which is the image of God. Man gives testimony to himself of what he is, so there is no basis for a sense of an inferiority complex, nor an attitude of inadequacy. The only secure basis for a positive self-image is a recognition of what man is in relationship to God—he mirrors God. How can man not be convinced that he has value and worth? How is it possible not to believe in purpose? If there is God, then why would man consider himself an animal? Man is to evaluate himself in terms of God, not solely in terms of himself and his supposed evolution.

But he should also accept the testimony of what he is not; man is like God, but he is not God. There is God and there is man; there is the Creator and there is the creature. There is the Infinite and the finite. There is He who is Being itself, and there is he who must be called into existence, One is unmade, the other is made. The One is eternal, the other is temporal; One inhabits eternity, the other is bound by time and space. Man is merely the image.

A realization by man of his contingent state will foster within him a profound and abiding humility—man must accept his creatureliness. Boasting of independency is removed as reliance on God is realized. The humility of the creature before the Creator indicates a comprehension of Sovereignty. Man does not rule in the ultimate sense, God does. Man is simply the clay in the hands of the Potter.

Contemplation of the image and its limitations cultivates an attitude of humbleness, and creates the potential for worship.

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