Choosing to Make Himself Known

Have you ever given thought to the kindness of God in making himself known to us? We are, after all, only creatures. He is the Creator. He is in no way obligated to make himself known to us. Rather, he’s chosen to make himself know.

But how has he chosen to make himself known? Theologians have identified two ways in which God has revealed himself to his creation. Those two ways are general revelation and special revelation.

A layman’s definition of the former would be that God has revealed himself to everyone through the majesty of his creation. We see this truth affirmed all throughout the Bible. The psalmist declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19:1; cf. 19:2-6).

A layman’s definition of the latter would be that God has revealed himself specifically and especially through his inspired Word, the Bible. The same psalm goes on to proclaim the excellencies of God’s written Word (see Ps 19:7-11).

General revelation, however, is not sufficient to provide salvation. John Calvin writes, “Although they [i.e., God’s revelation in nature] bathe us wholly in their radiance, yet they can of themselves in no way lead us into the right path” (Institutes, 1.5.14).

We need the Word of God to show us the path to salvation. Again, Calvin writes, “Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God. This, therefore, is a special gift, where God, to instruct the church, not merely uses mute teachers [mute teachers is a reference to general revelation] but also opens his own most hallowed lips. Not only does he teach the elect to look upon a god, but also shows himself as the God upon whom they are to look” (Institutes, 1.6.1, emphasis added).

So, lets give ourselves to the reading and study of God’s Word.

We Need a Mediator

Sports fans lament strike-shortened professional sports seasons. In 1994, a Major League Baseball strike ended the season early and there were no playoffs. These strike-shortened seasons are usually the result of club owners and players not agreeing on how many millions of dollars these professional athletes should be paid per season.

And when the opposing sides are especially far apart on reaching an agreement, they usually bring in a mediator to help the two sides see eye to eye. The mediator accomplishes this by having each side make some compromises with respect to their ultimate goals.

The Bible teaches us that we are born at odds with God (see Psalm 51:4-5). We’re born sinful, and God is utterly sinless, which puts us at odds with God. We could conclude that we need a mediator between God and us. We need someone to bring the two sides closer together.

But unlike the mediators that sit between the striking players and the club owners, there’s no compromise with God. God is perfect in all of his ways, and he will not compromise his perfection. But God did send us a mediator.

Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and men (see 1 Timothy 2:5). In his Institutes, Calvin writes, “In this ruin of mankind no one now experiences God either as Father or as Author of salvation, or favorable in any way, until Christ the Mediator comes forward to reconcile him to us” (1.2.1).

When Jesus came as our mediator, he came to step in our place. He came to take the penalty that we owe. He came to make things right with the Father. He took on our sin, and he gave us his righteousness in return. What glorious good news is that!!

On our own, we stand no chance of being made right with the Father, but through the love and sacrifice of the Son, we can be put into a right relationship with him forever.

Two Types of Knowledge

Calvin begins his Institutes by arguing that there are two parts to sound wisdom. The first part is the knowledge of God, and the second part is the knowledge of ourselves. Both types of knowledge are important. Without the former, the latter is lost, and without the latter, the former is lost. But why is this so?

So long as we are content in ourselves–that is, so long as we don’t truly know ourselves, we’re quite content to remain in our current condition. It’s only when we realize that we are somehow lacking–it’s when we realize that we don’t have all of the answers–that we turn our gaze from inward to outward.

Calvin writes, “Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and–what is more–depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone” (1.1.1).

On the other hand, it’s when we truly know God in all of his perfections that we finally realize that we have blindspots in our lives. Our pride disguises our own failings and shortcomings. We compare ourselves to others, and we thus feel ourselves superior because–in our eyes, at least–we’re “better” than our neighbors.

We miss the fact that our neighbor isn’t the measuring stick, but God and his perfection is the measuring stick, and we all fall woefully short on that account.

Calvin writes, “As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power–the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness” (1.1.2).

We will never truly know ourselves until we come face to face with who God is, and we’ll never truly know God until we know something of ourselves, but let’s start the journey by knowing who God is.

Reading Calvin

I would hardly describe myself as a prolific reader, but I do like to read a good book. A number of years ago, I was struck by C. S. Lewis’ advice to not neglect old books. He wrote, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

John Calvin

So, I’ve decided to follow Lewis’ advice, at least so far as is concerned with one major theological work. I’ve read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology as well as other modern systematic theologies, so in 2021, I have decided to turn to something a bit older–approximately 500 years older. This year, along with nine other church members, I’m reading John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’ve read large chunks of this important work before, but I’ve never sat down to read it cover to cover.

Of course, if you’re familiar with Calvin’s Institutes, you know this isn’t the type of book you sit down and read in one setting, but nor is it a book that will overwhelm you. Reading a few pages for 15-20 minutes per day will easily check this book off the list in less than a year’s time.

The first edition of Calvin’s Institutes was published in 1536 when Calvin was only 26 years old. I’m more than twice that age now, and I promise you that writing a book like the Institutes wasn’t on my radar when I was that young (for that matter, nor is it on my radar now)! Calvin continued to add to the Institutes through of series of updated editions until it took its final form in 1559, five years before his death.

Calvin wrote in one of his commentaries, “Today all sorts of subjects are eagerly pursued; but the knowledge of God is neglected. . . . Yet to know God is man’s chief end, and justifies his existence. Even if a hundred lives were ours, this one aim would be sufficient for them all.”

So, in 2021, I want to know God more, and inasmuch as Calvin was faithfully meditating on the scriptures as he wrote, I hope the Institutes will help me in that endeavor. I intend to write a brief blog each week to progress my reading. This blog is for me as much as it is for you, dear reader. Let’s grow in our knowledge of God together!

Do We Really Believe That “Jesus Saves”?

Yesterday, January 6, 2021, was a dark day in the history of our nation, and it was a day that will long live in the memories of many Americans. Yesterday, a “protest rally” turned into a criminal riot in our nation’s capital as rioters stormed the United States Capitol building, breaching security and making their way onto the floor of the House and Senate and even into individual lawmakers’ offices.

The rally was designed ostensibly to protest the “fact” that the election was “stolen” from President Donald Trump. [NOTE: This blog post is not arguing for or against the claim of a “stolen election.”] Unfortunately, the rally soon turned from a peaceful protest to a criminal riot with at least four people losing their lives (one through a police shooting and three through medical emergencies).

As I watched parts of the news coverage of this horrific event, I was particularly appalled when I saw one protester who was carrying a bright neon sign that read “JESUS SAVES.” As a Christian who has devoted himself to over 20 years of full-time vocational Christian ministry, I whole-heartedly agree that “Jesus Saves.” But I wonder if the individual who was carrying the sign really believes that.

For the record, I have no idea who that individual is. I don’t know that individual. The camera angle from which I was viewing was too far away to tell if it was even a man or a woman. I know nothing about that individual other than he (or she) was carrying a sign that read “JESUS SAVES” and he (or she) was trespassing on the steps of the US Capitol building during what can only be called an illegitimate and illegal criminal riot.

Also for the record, I believe there are many faithful Christians who voted for Donald Trump and I believe many of them were genuinely disappointed when he lost the election. Furthermore, I believe many authentic Christians may have some doubts about the veracity of the election results.

And with all of that said, however, if someone (Christian or otherwise) feels that an injustice has happened, that individual has every right to peacefully protest and to seek recourse through the law (i.e., the courts or other legal channels), but unless we’re being required to deny our Savior or a key principle of the faith, Christians are not justified in resorting to criminally violent behavior when their politician of choice loses an election.

So, here’s a question for serious Christians to consider. If we really believed that “Jesus Saves,” would we participate in a criminal endeavor because our politician of choice lost the election? I don’t think we would and I don’t think we should.

Participating in this type of activity reveals a heart of idolatry. Let me explain.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is sovereign over the events of this world (see e.g., Psalm 2). This means Jesus was sovereign when Donald Trump was elected four years ago as the president, and this also means Jesus is still sovereign now as Joe Biden will be taking the oath of office in less than two weeks. Nothing has changed in the heavenly realms.

And even “if” the election was stolen from Donald Trump, Jesus is still on his throne. He’s still sovereign. We don’t need to “storm the Capitol” if we believe Jesus is who he says he is. If we really believe that Jesus is sovereign, then we will understand that Jesus is just as sovereign under a Biden presidency as he was under a Trump presidency. And if we really believe that it’s Jesus who saves, then we know that Jesus can save people under a Biden presidency just as easily as he can save people under a Trump presidency.

Psalm 146:3–5 instructs us: 3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. 4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

Idolatry rears its ugly head when—among other things—we put our hope in politicians rather than in Jesus.

Christians ought to lament that the name of Christ was connected to the storming of the Capitol and other lawless deeds. We must remember what our Savior said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Let us purpose to not misuse the name of our great King (Exo 20:7), but to be ambassadors for his cause—imploring lost men and women to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20).

Enjoy Your Prayer Life

Michael Reeves. Enjoy Your Prayer Life. London: Ten Publishing, 2014. 46 pages.

            All Christians recognize the importance of prayer, but many Christians still struggle to set aside the time to develop a meaningful prayer life. And if they won’t set aside the time to develop a meaningful prayer life, chances are that they won’t read many of the excellent books that are available about prayer. [NOTE: My favorite book in that category is Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton, 2014).]

            This is where Michael Reeves comes in. He has written a splendid short little book about prayer. And at only 46 pages, it can be read in a single setting.

            In this helpful little book, he talks about what prayer is. Prayer isn’t something “we do.” Rather, “prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself” (12). Therefore, a lack of prayer can be considered nothing less than practical atheism.

            In last week’s post, I reviewed a book about how we approach God’s Word. Our intake of God’s Word and prayer are intimately connected. In fact, “prayer springs from God’s Word” (17). God’s Word awakens faith in our hearts which then leads us to prayer.

            There is a danger of trying to “fit” prayer into our daily lives. Remember, prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself. Therefore, prayer isn’t something that’s only done in the morning or in the evening. Rather, our prayer life is to be unceasing. This, of course, means that prayer will happen in many forms. It may happen as we set aside an extended amount of time to approach the throne of grace. Then again, it may happen as the Lord brings to mind the name of a friend or loved one who is struggling with a health issue.

            But in all of our prayers, we need to recognize our utter dependence on God. We don’t accomplish God’s work through our own personal ambition. We need to rely on God every step of the way, and this is often expressed through prayer. And we often don’t even know how to prayer. This is when the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us in our prayers.

            So, brother or sister, be encouraged as you seek to develop a meaningful prayer life, and pick up a copy of Reeves outstanding little book on prayer.

Book Review: “Before You Open Your Bible”

Matt Smethurst. Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word. London: Ten Publishing, 2019. 89 pages.

            Have you ever given any thought to the Bible? It’s quite a book. It’s actually a collection of books—66 to be exact. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. To make matters even more interesting, the timespan from the first book written to the last is somewhere around 1,400 years. And it’s been over 1,900 years since the last book was written so the whole Bible is filled with ancient customs and ideas. The 66 books were written on three different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe). They were written in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). And there were approximately 40 different authors (with one divine author overseeing the process).

            This is enough to make one’s head swim, and these facts can make the Bible a very intimidating book. So, how should a person approach the Bible? Thankfully, Matt Smethurst has written a gloriously short (89 pages) little book to help us as we approach the Bible. Smethurst gives us 9 “heart postures” with which we should approach the Bible.

            First, we need to approach the Bible prayerfully. Smethurst admits that this shouldn’t come to us as breaking news. We know that the Bible is a divine book, and we know that God hears our prayers, but how often do we go to the Bible without prayer. Sadly, far too often. He offers a helpful acrostic as we prayerfully approach the Bible (an acrostic which he admits he received from John Piper). We should prayerful approach with I-O-U-S. Incline our hearts to God’s testimonies (Ps 119:36). Open our eyes (Ps 119:18). Unite our hearts to fear your name (Ps 86:11). And, satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love (Ps 90:14).

            Second, we should approach our Bibles humbly. We need to remember that our God is a God who talks. He didn’t have to talk to us, but he chose to talk to us. When we open our Bibles, we get to hear from the Creator himself. This should humble us.

            Third, we need to approach the Bible desperately. Bible intake isn’t an optional extra for the Christian. If we want to survive in this world, we need to look at the Bible as our survival food. The Bible isn’t snack food. The Bible is our main course.

            Fourth, we need to approach our Bibles studiously. Some people view Bible study as something that is reserved for Bible geeks or pastors or theologians. Not so! Bible study is for all of us. We study because we love. Because we love God (and he loves us), it makes sense to study his word. And as we learn more about God, our worship of him because more intense. And since we’re all theologians after all, we may as well strive to be good theologians.

            Fifth, we should approach our Bibles obediently. The Bible is good for us. God is committed to our joy and our flourishing. When we obey God at his word, we invite greater flourishing. Jesus told his disciples to teach everyone to “obey” his teachings (Matt 28:19).

            Sixth, we should approach the Bible joyfully. The scriptures are full of calls to joy. “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). ‘I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12). “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

            Seventh, we need to approach the Bible expectantly. The Word of God has power. It has the power to save (Romans 1:16), and it also has the power to change lives (John 17:17). The Bible will see us through all of life’s ups and downs.

            Eighth, we need to approach our Bibles communally. No, Smethurst isn’t suggesting that we join a commune! Rather, he’s stating the straightforward truth that Christianity was never meant to be a solo sport. Christianity has always been meant to be a faith that is lived out in community. While we should read the Bible individually and devotionally, we should also read the Bible in community. We can use the Bible to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16).

            Finally, we should approach our Bibles Christocentrically. That’s a big word, but when you look at its parts, the meaning becomes clear. We should approach our Bibles with the knowledge that Christ is at the center of everything that’s written in the Bible. Jesus himself told us that Moses and the Old Testament prophets were writing about him (see Luke 24:25–27). The Bible may have been written over a vast period of time and by many different authors, but the Bible is about Jesus from beginning to end.

Image of God (part 3)

In the previous two posts, I’ve discussed what the image of God is and what it means to have the image of God. In this brief post, I’ll be asking this question, “Who has the image of God?”

The short answer to this question is every single human being on the planet. All humans are created in the image of God.

It makes no difference whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Gay or straight. Male or female. Gender binary or gender queer. A US citizen or an illegal immigrant. Young or old.

All human beings bear the image of God. All human beings have been created in the image of God.

But I want to close with this thought. There is one person who breaks this mold. There is one person who wasn’t created in the image of God. Who is that person? His name is Jesus.

Jesus wasn’t created in the image of God because he IS the image of God.

The apostle Paul writes these words in Colossians.

Colossians 1:15
15 He [i.e., Jesus] IS the image of the invisible God (emphasis added).

Jesus doesn’t merely bear the image of God. He IS the image of God. And he came into this world to rescue us from ourselves. He came to rescue us from our sin and from our alienation from God.

Our sin had separated us from God, and he made “peace [with God] by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

And now, those who have trusted in Christ are being transformed day-by-day into the image of the Son “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, remember this. We’re all created in the image of God, and we’re being daily transformed into greater and greater likeness to the Son of God.

If you haven’t done so already, find a Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church and join that church. Hitch your wagon to the other members of that church so you can join them in this wonderful journey of being transformed together more and more into the image of God.

Image of God (Part 2)

As we’ve previously argued, every human being bears the image of God. But what does that mean? What is the function of the image of God in the everyday lives of men and women? Let me suggest two:—dominion and dignity.

Dominion is easiest to see from Genesis 1 since the word is explicitly stated in the text.

Genesis 1:26b

26b 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 (emphasis added).

To have dominion means to rule over something or to exercise authority over something. Notice how broad is the scope of mankind’s dominion.

Mankind has dominion over the creatures in the water, over the creatures in the air, and over the creature on the land. That pretty much covers every type of creature.

Unfortunately, some have taken their God-given dominion and used it in nefarious ways, but dominion doesn’t imply that we can be careless with God’s creation. After all, we do need to remember that this is God’s creation—not ours! We are merely stewards of God’s creation.

In being given dominion, we’re acting with authority as God’s stewards over his creation. So, for example. is it ok to go and kill an animal to provide food to eat? Yes, of course, it is. One may choose to eat vegan, but that’s not a requirement of bearing the image of God.

On the other hand, is it ok to hunt a species to the point of extinction? No, in doing so, we wouldn’t be exercising a proper dominion over God’s creation.

Or consider this scenario. What if we have to make a choice between killing an animal or killing a human being? What if we’re facing a moral dilemma?

Some of you may remember the incident with Harambe—a western lowland gorilla in the Cincinnati zoo—that happened a couple of years ago.

A three-year-old boy had somehow gotten into the gorilla enclosure, and Harambe, the gorilla, grabbed the boy and started dragging him around the enclosure. The zookeeper had to make a quick and devastating decision. He chose to shoot and kill the gorilla so that the boy could be saved.

It was all a very tragic event, and we won’t even get into the discussion about whether animal enclosures like zoos are good or about the boy’s parents and their complicity in allowing the boy to get that close to the enclosure.

It was a sad thing to have to shoot the gorilla, but it was the right call. The boy, not the gorilla, is created in the image of God. That means that the boy has more worth than the gorilla.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s OK to hunt gorillas for sport and put their heads on your mantles, but human beings have more inherent worth than other parts of God’s creation. Human beings are created in the image of God.

It always strikes me as strange when some “well-meaning” person has conflicting bumper stickers on their car—one championing the need to save the spotted owl, and the other championing a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.

Without a doubt, we ought to exercise a stewardship over God’s creation to save as many animals that are nearing extinction as we can, but the baby inside the woman’s belly is just that—a human baby—a human person. And as such, that baby has worth and dignity.

A couple of years ago, the singer Beyoncé posted on social media that she was having twins and that she had “three hearts inside her.” Her post instantly became one of the most “liked” posts in history. Millions of people “liked” her post.

Yet, many of those same millions—including Beyoncé herself—advocate for a woman’s right to kill the baby in the womb. We can’t have it both ways.

We can’t celebrate the baby simply because it’s wanted. What’s in the womb is either a human being with human personhood or it’s not. We can’t have it both ways.

Biblical and modern scientific evidence conclusively shows us that what is inside the womb is a human being. And because it’s a human being, it has worth, which brings us to the second “D” word—dignity.

Because we are created in the image of God, mankind alone has a dignity that no other creature has. Furthermore, EVERY human being has that dignity—from conception to natural death.

The United States of America has some of the most liberal and inhumane laws regulating abortion in the world. We share the company of nations like North Korea, Vietnam, and China. The least safe place to be for many babies in the US is in the womb.

Lawmakers in New York recently celebrated the passing of a law that allows for abortion up until the moment of birth. The embroiled governor of Virginia even made public comments that sounded like infanticide!

Only a few states place bans on “sex-selection” abortions (i.e., choosing to have an abortion because the parents don’t like the biological gender of the baby). This is draconian! But, apparently, to those who want completely unfettered access to abortion, it’s too much to ask for a ban on sex-selection abortions. According to one organization that is openly pro-abortion, they say,

“Bans on sex-selective abortions place a burden on [abortion] providers.”

How petty is that argument? What about the burden on that little baby boy and that little baby girl? He or she has been created with dignity and worth, and their dignity and worth trumps the burden on the provider.

Human beings have dignity and worth. Human beings have dominion. That’s the function of being created in the image of God.

Image of God (Part 1)

The Bible declares the worth and dignity of every human being by declaring that humans have been created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27). We see in this that human beings are categorically different than any other part of God’s good creation, and we can see this difference in at least two significant ways in Genesis, chapter 1.

First, for every other created thing, it starts like this. “And God said, ‘Let there be . . .’ ” We can see that in verses 3, 6, 9, 11, 20, 24, of Genesis, chapter 1. But when it comes the creation of human beings, God doesn’t say, “Let there be,” rather he says, “Let us make.”

This might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually quite important. Do we hear the personal nature of “let us make” as opposed to “let there be”? With the rest of creation, God simply spoke it into being—he spoke it into existence. With human beings, however, he crafted them. He made them. He fashioned them.

If we were to fast forward to Genesis, chapter 2, we’d see that God formed mankind from the dust of the earth, and God actually breathed the breath of life into his nostrils (2:7). This is categorically different than anything God did with the rest of his creation.

A second difference between human beings and the rest of creation is found here. All of the other living creatures in Genesis 1 were made “according to their kinds.” We see that twice in verse 21, twice again in verse 24, and three times in verse 25—“according to their kinds.”

With the creation of human beings, however, it wasn’t “according to their kinds.” Rather, when God created human beings, it was “in our image.”

So, if we were study a dog, we would learn something about “dog-ness”—or what it means to be a dog. And if we were study an elephant, we learn something about “elephant-ness”—or what it means to be an elephant. And if we were study an ant, we learn something about “ant-ness”—or what it means to be an ant.

But when we study human beings, not only do we learn something about what it means to be a human—or “human-ness”—but we also learn something remarkable about what God is like—because we’ve been created in his image, after his likeness.

N.B. We shouldn’t don’t read too much into that remark. We don’t believe that one day, we’ll be gods. “Godhood” isn’t in our future.

But, we’ve been created in God’s image, and that is packed full of meaning for us.

That word—“image”—it appears three times in Genesis 1:26–27.

  • “Let us make man in our image”
  • “So God created man in his own image”
  • “In the image of God he created him.”

And then, for good measure, one time at the beginning of verse 26, God also says, “after our likeness.”

So, what does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God? Theologians have wrestled with that question for centuries. One might think that the answer is simple, but it’s not.

First, let’s make it clear what the image of God (or imago Dei) doesn’t mean. Whenever we hear the word image, we quite naturally think of a picture or a likeness. We think of physical qualities.

On my desk in my office, I have a picture of my wife and a picture of my children. One could say that those pictures are images of my family, and there wouldn’t be anything wrong with saying it that way.

But when we talk about the image of God, we’re not talking about a picture or a likeness. When we look in a mirror, our physical appearance isn’t the image of God. That’s not what it means to be created in the image of God. The Bible teaches us that God himself doesn’t have a body like we do. God is spirit (John 4:24). So, our physical bodies aren’t the image of God.

What, then, does the image of God mean? The image of God in us relates to various capacities that we have. Here are four of those capacities.

First, we’ve been created with a moral capacity. Our moral capacity is part of what it means to be created in the image of God. We are ultimately accountable to God for our moral choices.

No one, for example, chastises a lion when that lion attacks and kills another lion who was encroaching on his territory. No one says that the lion has committed an “immoral” act. That would be nonsense. Lions weren’t created to act morally or immorally. Lions do what lions do. It’s neither moral or immoral.

But suppose a businessman started canvasing the neighborhood where his competitor lived. If the competitor decided to shoot him because he was “hunting in ‘my territory’,” we would all consider that an immoral act. The competitor would go to jail, and rightly so. Human beings are moral creatures who’ve been created in the image of a moral lawgiver.

We even acknowledge that there is such a thing as a moral lawgiver. And when we live according to God’s moral standards, our likeness to God is reflected by our actions.

Second, we’ve been created with a spiritual capacity. Our spiritual capacity is part of what it means to be created in the image of God. No other part of God’s creation has a spiritual capacity.

The lion doesn’t stop and offer thanks to God before he eats the antelope! But we’ve been created to know that there’s something more to our existence. Romans 1 tells us that God has made it plain to everyone that he exists.

Romans 1:19
19 
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

Why we are here? Why is there something rather than nothing? If we were to believe in Darwinian evolution, we’d have to come to the conclusion that we’re all just a cosmic accident. If we believe in Darwinian evolution, human beings have no more dignity than houseflies.

But, because we’ve been created in God’s image, we have a spiritual capacity. Isaiah 43:7 tells us why we are here. We are here because God created us for his glory. We bring him glory by worshipping him.

Third, we’ve been created with a mental or rational capacity. Our mental or rational capacity is part of what it means to be created in the image of God.

The word of God commands us to love God with all our hearts, all our strength, all our souls, AND all our minds (Matthew 22:36–40)!

No other part of creation can do this. Dogs and cats did not get up this morning thinking grandiose thoughts of God. They get up in the morning and all they want was fresh water, fresh food, and some attention! That’s all that they want.

Human beings, however, have been created with the capacity to think rational thoughts.

Fourth, we’ve been created with a relational capacity, and our relational capacity is part of what it means to be created in the image of God.

Notice what the text says in verse 26. It says, God—singular—said, “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness”—plural pronouns.

What are we to make of this? Are we to assume that Moses—who wrote the book of Genesis—didn’t know his grammar rules? That’s NOT what’s happening. This grammar is quite intentional.

This is an early hint about who God is. This is an early hint about the doctrine of the Trinity—one God, singular, in three persons, plural.

How does the Trinity relate to relationships? Since God is Trinity and the Trinity is eternal, that means that God has always been in relationship with himself.

There’s never been a time when God the Father wasn’t in a relationship with God the Son. And there’s never been a time when God the Son wasn’t in relationship with God the Holy Spirit. God is and always has been in a relationship with himself.

And so, since we’re created in his image, it’s reasonable to suggest that he’s given us this relational capacity as well.

The very first thing that isn’t good in all of creation is that man was alone. It’s not good for man to be alone. So, God created woman to come alongside man. God created woman to help complete the man.

We’ve been created for relationship. We’re not meant to be hermits. Some people have hermit tendencies, but it’s not good to be alone.

We’ve also been created to be in relationship with God. In Genesis 3, it’s God who comes looking for Adam and Eve in the garden. God wants a relationship with his creatures.

One final thought about these various imago Dei capacities. The image of God is lasting and enduring for all time to all people. Even after sin comes into the world and corrupts the world, human beings are still referred to as God’s image bearers. Sin doesn’t nullify the image of God.

Nor does a diminished capacity nullify the image of God in a person. Suppose, for example, someone’s suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She doesn’t remember her own name, much less her husband and children. One could rightfully argue that her relational capacity has been severally affected.

But is that woman still someone who’s been created in the image of God? Does she still possess the image of God? Answer. YES, she does. She is still a woman created in the image of God and she still has dignity and worth.