The True Image of God
All men are conceived and born in the image of god, but sadly it is the god of this world (John 8:44, 2 Cor 4:4, 1 John 3:8-10)
Before the Fall, man was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26) had no sin and was righteous before God, he was holy in the garden, separated unto God with an intimate knowledge of God and the likeness of God as the glory of God (1 Cor 11:7). God is righteous and holy and that is why the image of God is described in Scripture and the historical Reformed confessions as spiritual and ethical and not simply man’s abilities.
God is Spirit (John 4:24) and His image is Spirit therefore the image of God is God’s spirit in man which the Scriptures and the historical Reformed confessions declare to be true righteousness, holiness and knowledge (Eph 4:24, Col 3:10) and not man’s humanity or status above the animals.
It is impossible to have the image of God without also having His likeness. If I said I owned a Ferrari but it didn’t look, drive, sound or cost like a Ferrari, I can easily conclude that I do not actually own a Ferrari. The same can be applied to Adam and Eve. Before the Fall they had both the image and likeness of God but after the Fall they were different and no longer like God becoming unhloy and unrighteous through their disobedience. God promised the day they disobeyed Him they would surely die (Gen 2:17). Did God lie because they didn’t die that day? In fact Adam went on to live to the ripe old age of 930. God is truth and does not lie! Man immediately died spiritually once God's spirit was removed from him when he sinned and was no longer like God and therefore no longer had His image and began to die physically from that point on.
We know by reading Genesis 3 that man who was created out of the dust was now cursed to return to the dust because he was now spiritually dead and the following chapters clearly show the new status of man. Genesis 5:1 states that in the day God created man (past tense) He made him in His likeness with now no mention of the image of God. Then in verse 3 we see Adam’s son Seth made in Adam’s likeness and image with no mention of God’s image and likeness which confirms that the image of God was removed at the Fall and therefore all of Adam's posterity come into the world bearing his cursed image, shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) are estranged from the womb and go astray as soon as they are born (Psalm 58:3).
The following chapters in Genesis detail the evil man had fallen into with the Lord Himself testifying to the extent of it in Genesis 6:5 and 8:21. It is hard to justify that man could still be in the image of God if his thoughts are part of the image of God when they are only evil continually. The evil of man was the reason for God killing every man, woman, child and animal in the Flood except the remnant in the Ark. It is hard to accept that God killed everyone who supposedly were His image bearers in the Flood except Noah and his family because if true, then the question could be raised whether God casts His image bearers into Hell? (Luke 12:5).
After the flood in Genesis 9:3, God declares to man that he can eat every moving thing. To ensure that every moving thing does not also include man, God reminds them in verse 6 that man who was originally created in His image and above the animals is not to be treated like a dog or killed and eaten like an animal because he once bore the image of God.
Adam’s seed are like the children of a king that has lost his kingdom and crown, who should be treated in a respectful manner and different to the animals because they are able to once again wear a crown through another King that was promised to come from the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15). These are those chosen to be regenerated in Jesus Christ the eternal King.
All men are to therefore to be treated with respect because we are all equally born under the curse of our first parents and must realise that the only thing we deserve from God is His righteous justice, perfect judgement and eternal wrath because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
Man did not lose his humanity in the Fall which is his soul (mind, emotions and will) but all of man’s humanity became cursed and enslaved to evil because of the Fall and was the cause of him being cast out of the garden with a knowledge of good and evil which is the conscience. The conscience was given to man to comprehend what he had done and what he had become. It is the conscience that separates us from the animals and continually reminds us of our fallen state and desperate need of a Saviour. Man's mind, emotions and will are completely enslaved after the Fall to evil which is why the Lord Jesus Christ said to those in John 8:44 that they were of their father the devil and that the desires of their father they wanted to do.
If the mind, emotions and the will is the image of God as the proponents of the broad view of the image of God claim, then it can be argued that animals also have these and the demons even more so because they have a knowledge of God (Jam 2:19) and also know of eternity. It is vital to understand that the broad view of the image of God that is so popular today which includes man’s mental abilities to understand something of the Creator and eternity can not be attributed directly to being the image of God as there is no scriptural or creedal evidence for it but also because as Martin Luther said it would therefore mean that Satan himself has the image of God since he also has these abilities and to a far greater degree than man!
If it is argued that the knowledge of good and evil is the image of God then it could also be argued that Satan also has the image of God because he definitely knows evil and also knows what righteousness is as the Lord himself testifies in Job 1:8.
If there is anything left of the image of God in man it is the truth that he has the ability in Christ to once again bear the image of God that was lost, which is why God stated he is not to be treated or killed like an animal (Gen 9:3-6) because he once bore the image of God in the day he was made (past tense) which Gen 5:1-2 agrees with and twice confirms it was the day man and woman were created and not after the Fall.
To say that the image of God was only marred in the Fall and not lost as many do today is to imply that man is only spiritually sick and not dead (Eph 2:5). To be consistent with this view of a marred image would be to proclaim that all men have a marred image of God which just does not happen today. Instead, we are continually told even by the US President himself that everyone is born in the Holy Image of God!
When approaching the doctrine of man it is important to understand how it affects the Gospel message, for if men do not see themselves as completely lost they will never seek a Saviour. Therefore, to say that man is still in the image of God after the Fall without being regenerated in Christ Jesus would be a denial of the vital doctrines of the antithesis, man’s original sin and true total depravity and which in turn would steal from the glory of God’s grace because the image of God can only be good and if man still has anything of it then he can not be totally depraved and would have something in which to boast before God.
The glory of God's awesome grace shines brightest when displayed against the pitch black background of man's total depravity as confirmed in Scripture. Romans 5:20 states that where sin abounds grace abounds much more and therefore to not declare the true extent of the Fall in the loss of the image of God in man is to rob a perfectly jealous God of His glory!
To say that man still had the image of God after the Fall also negates the need to proclaim the Gospel to all because 2 Cor 4:4 states that Christ is the image of God and if man already has the image of God then he already has Christ and there is therefore no need for him to hear the Gospel that points to man's desperate need of Christ.
As with all Scripture it is necessary for Scripture to interpret Scripture and for it to be taken in the proper context. 1 Corinthians 11:7 states that man is in the image and glory of God and this is indeed true to those who are born again in Christ Jesus to whom this epistle was written and instruction given. Even those who contend for the image of God in unbelievers do not use this verse in their argument as in this passage we see the image of God is related to His glory.
The same can be said about James 3:9 that describes men in the likeness of God. In this passage, when applying proper hermeneutical principals and taking the context into account, it is shown that it was written to the brethren which are mentioned 15 times in this epistle and not to all men. In chapter 3, these brethren are warned about the evil of the tongue and in chapter 4 are warned about how it can effect those who are part of the body of Christ and are already in His likeness.
All who do not have Christ are born slaves to sin, whose father is the devil (John 8:44) and the apostle John confirms that all who are slaves to sin are of the devil and his children and only those who are born of God (regenerated) are no longer slaves to sin and are God’s children (1 John 3:8-10).
The apostle Paul described man as being in the image of the man of dust (1 Cor 15:49) in whom all men die (v22) because they are under the curse and return to the dust (Gen 3:19). Paul is stating the truth of who all the sons of Adam are which was confirmed in Gen 5:3. Paul also states in Ephesians 5:8 that we were once darkness but are now children of the light. If man without Christ is darkness, how can he have the image of God who is light and in Him is no darkness at all? (1 John 1:5)
1 Cor 3:16-17 states that Christian’s are the holy temple of God in whom the Holy Spirit resides and are warned not to defile God’s temple. It is the goal of Satan to deceive the world by corrupting the Gospel and making men think that God loves everyone because they are all in His image and that everyone is His child and part of His temple even though they are not holy. Paul warned that the deception of the last days would involve a falling away and the man of sin would set himself up in the temple as God (2 Thess 2:4) and commit what Daniel describes as the abomination of desolation which is to take what is evil and place it within the Church which is the temple of God. Satan is succeeding in doing so today by placing himself within the church to deceive many to falsely believe they have the image of God which is confirmed in Scripture as being holy and declaring it to be in man who is only evil continually.
The devil in the garden succeeded to convince Eve who had the likeness of God that she didn't really have it and today has succeeded in convincing the world that men that do not have the likeness of God actually have it, and in doing so has perverted the Gospel. The doctrine of the image of God that is today being proclaimed by most evangelical churches has no basis in Scripture and is a product of tradition which has been elevated in such a way to become a sacred golden calf which is just what Satan would want and what Christ warned men about (Mark 7:9).
There is a book called The Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English that lists 127 confessions of that time and there are none that affirm the image of God in man after the Fall but many that confirm the image of God was lost at the Fall and only restored in Christ. Some of them are found here. https://cprc.co.uk/quotes/imageofgodconfessions/
It is important that we do not elevate theologians above Scripture and biblical confessions but if mentioning theologians, it is necessary to also note that many notable men such as Luther, Knox, Owen and more recently AW Pink held to the view that man had lost the image of God in the Fall and that it could only be restored in Christ. Many other notable theologians are quoted agreeing with them here https://cprc.co.uk/quotes/imageofgod/
Even John MacArthur once proclaimed the extent of man's depravity forty years ago as seen below and warned that they that do not do so are prostituting the Gospel. Why has he changed his message?
Many today do not believe in Hell because they can not comprehend that God could throw into Hell those who bear His image. They also argue for a universal love of God for all people and a desire of God to save all men as well as a common grace outside of Christ based on this foundation and some even use this doctrine of the image in all as an excuse for perversion. This false doctrine is to be refuted because it erodes the sovereign electing love of God for His people in the Gospel of Jesus Christ in which the demand to be born again is made because all are conceived and born in the image of the devil and need to be re-created (2 Cor 5:17). To promote a marred image of God is to falsely proclaim that man just needs a renovation and not regeneration.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the express image of God and the brightness of His glory (Col 1:15, Heb 1:3). Any image without His likeness is a counterfeit of the true image of God. It is only those who have not yet seen themselves before the piercing light of God’s holiness that could possibly still argue for anything good of God left in man in which they could boast and therefore it should be the duty of every true Christian to defend the truth of Holy Scripture by loving and correcting all who hold to a false view of the doctrine of man which affects the Gospel, and to seek to proclaim the whole counsel of God lest the blood of men be upon them.
Awesome Grace Church