The Image of God

Many have wondered what the purpose of man is and how he relates with God. While I have the heard the question many times throughout my life, it is not something that I have set out to find. As a child, I suppose it just wasn’t that important to me, or maybe it required too much thinking. As I grew older, I thought that maybe I would run into the answer at some point, but I wasn’t in a hurry to find it. Recently, I have found that living for YHVH was more important than worrying about me and my purpose – and in that I have begun finding the answer to that question.

I believe that the answer to the purpose of man and how he relates to YHVH is a multifaceted answer that can be found in scripture. While I don’t fully understand every facet, the beginning of my understanding is in knowing how we are to present ourselves. We begin to see this in Genesis with the creation of Adam, and the understanding grows with the continuance of scripture. It can be found in the instruction to the children of YHVH, in the things the Messiah accomplished, and in the teachings of the apostles.

We begin to see an idea of how we are to present ourselves in Genesis.

image of GodThen 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.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.     Genesis 1:26-27

Man was made in the image and after the likeness of YHVH. For many years I was taught that this means that man looks like God. If you look at this set of verses alone, without context to the entire Word of God, this can appear to be true, but is this what scripture bears out?

To answer this question, and for a more complete idea of what it is to be the image of YHVH, I want to start with the third commandment.

“You shall not take the name of YHVH your God in vain, for YHVH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.     Exodus 20:7

In this commandment, the word take in Hebrew is “nasa”, and means to bear or to carry. When we claim to be followers of YHVH, we are to carry His name in a way that does not misrepresent Him. Taking His name in vain is making his name something that it is not, therefore making it useless. According to this commandment, we are to walk in the image of YHVH by being full representations of who YHVH is.

I think most people would agree that when Adam and Eve were created, they were perfect.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.     Genesis 1:31

They were created with an assignment to be the image of YHVH. When they were created, they were already the perfect image of the Creator including the fact that they had eternal life just as YHVH does. But something happened. Adam and Eve did not remain in the image in which they were created. By eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve decided that they knew better than YHVH, and they went against His wishes.

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”     Genesis 2:17

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.     Genesis 3:6-7

Without obedience to YHVH, Adam and Eve dropped their assignment, no longer representing Him. Instead, they decided to represent themselves, ultimately covering His image with the fig leaves they sewed together. Because they no longer represented YHVH, He took His final representation from them – eternal life.

Then YHVH God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore YHVH God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.     Genesis 3:22-23

Since then the entire human race has failed in bearing the image of YHVH. We have been deciding for ourselves what good and evil are, being more concerned about our own name and our own image instead of His.

Be still before YHVH and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!     Psalms 37:7

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.     Proverbs 14:12

The only man to ever succeed in this assignment to carry the image of YHVH is Jesus.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.     2 Corinthians 4:4

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.     Colossians 1:15

Children learn from their parents. As truth and correct living is passed down through good examples, so is untruth and immoral living through bad examples. Adam was created in the image and likeness of YHVH, but fell. Unfortunately, as is natural to do, the entire human race has followed the example to fall from our fathers beginning with Adam. Instead of following in the footsteps of Adam, we should be following in the footsteps of Jesus.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.     1 Peter 2:21

As Adam and Jesus were each created to bear the image of YHVH, so was all of mankind.

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.     1 Corinthians 15:45-49

From the creation of Adam, until today, our assignment has not changed. Our responsibility, one of the facets of our purpose, is to be a full representation of YHVH, to bear His name, to be in His image and likeness.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.     Genesis 9:6

Throughout scripture we see over and over YHVH saying, “bear My image.”

and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.     Ephesians 4:24

  • He tells us to be holy, just as He is:

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I YHVH your God am holy.     Leviticus 19:2

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.     Matthew 5:48

  • He tells us to be just, just as He is:

The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he.     Deuteronomy 32:4

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.     Deuteronomy 16:19

  • He tells us to love, just as He does:

But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.     Nehemiah 9:17

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am YHVH your God.     Leviticus 19:34

  • He tells us to bear the truth, just as He does:

I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I YHVH speak the truth;
I declare what is right.     Isaiah 45:19

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;     Zechariah 8:16

  • He tells us to be merciful, graceful, and kind, just as He is:

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.     Luke 6:36

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.     Ephesians 4:32

  • He tells us to be righteous, just as He is:

For YHVH is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.     Psalms 11:7

If Jesus fulfilled or completed our assignment, does that mean that we no longer have to be representatives of YHVH? Absolutely not. Remember, Jesus is the example that we are to follow. He is the same perfect image – the perfect representative – of YHVH that we are to strive to be.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of YHVH, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from YHVH who is the Spirit.     2 Corinthians 3:18

We have seen throughout the entire Bible a teaching of one of the many facets of the purpose of man. We were created to be the image of YHVH, carry His name, or be a representative of YHVH. Now let’s apply this to our lives. Are we being representatives of YHVH? Consider the things you do daily. Are you a perfect representative of YHVH? How are you doing with your assignment?

  • How do you treat others?
  • How do you act in public?
  • How do you act in private?
  • What kind of words come out of your mouth?
  • What kind of attitudes do you carry?
  • When you tell others of YHVH or His ways, is it the way you believe He would do it?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • What is your work ethic like?
  • What types of things do you dwell on?
  • Who’s way do you follow – your own, the way of other men, or YHVH’s?
  • Do you act out of opinion or fact?

When you are unsure as to whether a thing is right to do or not, what kind of question do you ask? Do you ask, “Why wouldn’t YHVH want me to have or do this or that?” This question can be dangerous, allowing us to justify things we probably know we shouldn’t be doing. Instead, ask yourself, “Is this something YHVH Himself would have or do?” The answers to these questions have been life changing for me. I hope they do the same for you.

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