You and I were created in the image of God. It seems like a simple statement. It’s one we take for granted and often ignore. But what does it truly mean to be created in the image of God, Imago Dei?
First of all, it means that God created us like Him. He created a perfect, sinless man in the very beginning and put that man in the Garden of Eden to work the ground. When Adam and Eve sinned, God had to complete the punishment He had promised. However, He still created a plan of redemption for his sinful people. He sent His Son, a perfect man, to be born in His image, just like us. Because of that, we don’t have to live in fear of the future. He is our propitiation, our redemption, our promise, and our Savior.
This leaves us with a choice. We can accept Christ’s sacrifice and His perfection as our own, or we can choose to live instead in the condemnation of never ending sins.
But even this acceptance of Christ leaves us with a choice. Last year in the Bible Bee, we studied the book of 1 John. In this book, John addresses the false doctrine of gnosticism. Gnosticism is the result of a lot of wrong ideas about God and His creation. John refutes these ideas solidly in his letter. While the book of 1 John was written in about 85-95 A.D., the ideas of gnosticism still pervade today’s society in the year 2017 A.D.
The central idea of gnosticism is that anything fleshly or earthly is bad. Gnosticism generally takes one of two basic branches: Antinomianism (or you can do whatever you want) and legalism (or you can’t do whatever you want). Here’s the problems with each:
Legalism is the idea that because everything you can see or touch is bad, we should try to stay away from that as much as possible. This resulted in many hermits living out in the desert in the early church to try to escape from the world. It sounds like a really great idea, but if you shut yourself away from the world so that it cannot contaminate you, are you really obeying Christ’s command to ‘go out into all the world and preach the gospel’? (Mark 15:18) We were created in God’s image; that means we are called to do as He has done. God did not distance Himself from His creation, even when they sinned and disobeyed and seemed to destroy His plan for creation. Instead, He kept trying to reveal Himself to His people. So if we follow the mistaken idea of legalism, we are distancing ourselves from lost human beings made in the image of God. We are not following our responsibility as children of God.
On the other hand, antinomianism is the idea that because you can’t escape from the world that is bad, you should just enjoy it while you can. This is one of the most pervasive fallacies in our world today, with slogans like ‘Follow your heart’ or ‘you only live once!’ Besides, doesn’t God’s grace given us through Christ cleanse us from all that? This idea is addressed by Paul in Romans 6, where his answer is ‘By no means!’ or ‘Certainly not!’ (Romans 6:1) Sin is still sin! Christ’s coming didn’t give us a pardon to continue sinning; instead, He calls us to live ‘self controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age’. (Titus 2:11)
It is so easy for me to get distracted from the goal and to try to hide away from all the wrong things going on in the world. I mean, everyone in our house knows that if someone is mad, I am not going near them! But it’s also easy to think that what I said to my brother won’t matter because Christ has forgiven that sin! And it’s true, He has. But does that matter if I do it again tomorrow?
I think that as Christians, the only thing we can do to keep from falling into either of these traps is to keep our eyes on Jesus, the ‘author and perfecter of our faith’! (Hebrews 12:3) He alone can keep us from the ‘sin which so easily entangles us’ (Hebrews 12:2) and help us ‘be imitators of God’. (Ephesians 5:1)
After all, we are created in the image of God. That means that our call is always to imitate Him.