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The Image of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 5, 2022 12:01 am

The Image of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 5, 2022 12:01 am

To have a right understanding of ethics, or the way that God wants us to live in this world, we need to know who we are. Today, Stephen Nichols draws out implications from the Bible's teaching that human beings were created in the image of God.

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Today, on Renewing Your Mind... God is hated, immorality is celebrated, and the truth is suppressed.

This past March, we held the 2022 Ligonier National Conference here in Orlando. Our theme was Upholding Christian Ethics, and this week we have the privilege of bringing you selected messages from that conference to help you navigate the challenging ethical issues that we face. Today, Dr. Stephen Nichols addresses what it means for men and women to be made in God's image. Well, a more beautiful portrait of our creation could not be painted than that portrait which is painted for us in Genesis chapter 2. I want to look at Genesis chapter 2, verses 5 to 9 with you. These verses are absolutely foundational to who we are, and they also show us foundationally who God is. This is the beginning of ethics, these opening pages of Genesis. So I invite you to turn with me to Genesis chapter 2.

We will look at verses 5 to 9 and consider them together. When no bush of the field was yet in the land, and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground, then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed, and out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of the good and evil. We see in this text this beautiful, almost mystical scene of this mist arising from this creation that has just been spoken into existence, and as Genesis 2 recalls for us, has yet to be formed. And then God comes into the scene and causes all of this vegetation to rise, causes all of these animals to be put on the landmass, causes all of the fish to be put into the sea, all of the birds to be put in the air.

But this passage pauses for a moment to talk about that special creation of Adam. There's a play here on the Hebrew word, the word for man is Adam, and the word for dust is Adamah, literally of the ground. Literally man is of the dust.

This is the first picture we have of our identity as human beings. We are of dust, feeble, frail, finite. Calvin uses this to remind us that this points fundamentally to humility, and then so unlike everything else in creation, where God simply speaks into existence all the magnificent creatures and beasts and flora and fauna, so unlike that. In an anthropomorphic expression, God, as it were, reaches down and grabs this hand full of dust, and He forms it like a skilled potter would form clay, like a carpenter would make some fine piece of furniture, like an architect would design a building, like an engineer would build it, like some master craftsman. God fashioned us and then breathed, and we became a living creature. Now, this word, living creature, is used back in chapter 1, verse 21 of the sea creatures.

Commentators have rightly pointed that out, but commentators have also pointed out the uniqueness of what is happening here. No other created thing has the breath of God poured into it to bring it to life, and the result is this magnificent creature of dignity, humanity. Once we see that man is created, we see that God has a place for man. A place is a garden. If you have a garden, a garden is somewhat of a sanctuary, isn't it?

Somewhat of a break from the hustle and bustle, somewhat of a break from all of the macadam in the concrete that surrounds us. We know this particular garden, this garden very curiously in this text we're told it's a garden in Eden. A few verses later we'll be told it's the garden of Eden, but this is the garden in Eden. We know this garden is a sanctuary because as we read in a few verses, Creator God will again in this anthropomorphic way walk in fellowship with His special creation of Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. And then what's more, we know this is a sanctuary because once Adam and Eve transgress and break the law and eat the forbidden fruit, an angel with something that even tops the best of our science fiction writers, an angel with a circling flaming sword stands guard over the sanctuary. This is a holy place that God has made for His creature. We have man, we have a place, we have a purpose. We are put into this creation to work. We see it here, but we see it later in chapter 2 where we are told to work and to keep it.

And this is pre-fall, this commission to work. But above all in this text we have God. I don't know if you noticed this, but I want to point out two things that we learn about God in just these verses. One is that God is the singular, sole, sovereign actor.

You can line it up on one side, God, and on the other side, man. All of the active verbs are on the side of God. He's doing all of the work here, all of the action here.

Man is passive. Take a look at it. The Lord God formed the man. The Lord God breathed into his nostrils. The Lord God planted a garden. The Lord God put the man whom He again formed.

And then verse 9, the Lord God made to spring up every tree. This emphasizes the sole, sovereign agent of creation is God. But then notice the name of God.

In chapter 1 it's God. Here four times we have the compound name, the Lord God. And Lord is Jehovah, and God is Elohim. And Jehovah means pre-existent, self-existent. All creatures are contingent. We have seen being after being after being come into existence by the power of another in Genesis chapter 1.

All beings are contingent except the most perfect being, the necessary being who is God. And so God, the perfect being is the source of all being, so He is Jehovah, the pre-existent one, the self-existent one. And then we have Elohim, mighty in battle, it speaks of a king. To say the Lord God is to say the Creator King.

And it is a very quick implication, isn't it? What do we creatures owe to the Creator King? Obedience and worship. And therein is the basis and the foundation of all ethics and of all laws.

This, as we will say again and again, is before the fall. This is the establishment of the natural order. And in this passage, we see two things that we must hold on to as we begin to discuss together ethics, and that is we are created in the image of God.

And God is the Creator King. We can plumb a little bit deeper here as we look at this passage. We see, of course, the sanctity of life. Let's think through this idea of sanctity. The opposite is profanity or vulgar, which has come to mean negative or dirty language.

In its purest etymological form, it simply means common. And so the vulgar or the profane is the common, and so the holy or that which is sanctity is the uncommon, the extraordinary. And so we see it in our creation. It is the common element of the dust of the ground and then God through His touch.

Again, anthropomorphically. But it speaks to the intimate connection of God with His creatures that God in His holiness sanctifies human life. The sanctity of human life. If we go back to chapter 1 and we see the image of God there in verse 26 and we drop down to verse 27, we see that gender is part of this natural order. Gender is part of the created order.

There is a sanctity to gender. And then as we read past verse 9 and we come to those final verses of chapter 2, we find the sanctity of marriage. Here too, the verbs are active on God's part. God causes Adam to fall asleep. God extracts as a careful surgeon the rib from Adam. God fashions Eve.

Another word for formed. And then God anthropomorphically grabs Eve by the hand and leads her to her husband. This is not an arranged marriage by parents.

This is not Adam on his Reformed dating app. And there's a sanctity to marriage. And then there is the sanctity of work. Work is not a result of the fall, thorns and sweat and frustration and conflict and toil.

That's a result of the fall, but work is not a result of the fall. There is a sanctity to work. It's what God made us to do. Adam and Eve enjoyed the fruits of their labor. And as we see the codification of what is the universal law in the Ten Commandments, as we see the codification of what has been present from the very beginning of creation of the universal order of things, even personal or private property has sanctity, the fruits of one's work. We have life, gender, marriage, work, private property, and the sanctity of law and order. There it is, the tree of good and evil. There is a law, we're going to see it in a few verses, the conditionality of this Edenic life and paradise.

And there is a consequence, a huge cosmic consequence. But do you know what is paramount to all of this? What is above all the sanctity of life, gender, marriage, work, personal property, law and order? It is the sanctity of the creator-creature relationship.

That is the foundation and the capstone. And again, what do we owe our creator as creatures? Do you remember that verse that Paul says, what do you have that you haven't been given? That's fundamentally what it means to be created. And the fundamental implication of that is gratitude. And from that gratitude springs obedience, and from obedience is worship. That's what is at base of this creator-creature relationship and the sanctity of it. Is it not why that is the first petition of the Lord's Prayer? We don't start with us, and we don't start with our needs, physical or spiritual, we'll get to those. We start with the holiness of who God is. And is not that the first five of the Ten Commandments? To honor God, to give the Creator His rightful place and due.

As creator-king, we owe God obedience and worship. Well, that's what we see in Genesis chapter 2, verses 5 to 9. Now we must ask, what does it look like in our moment? What are we facing today? And there has been from the beginning the conflict between the serpent and the seed. But in our day, the serpent has taken the form of crass, aggressive secularism.

We've seen it on the rise, and we feel it palpably. There are other states, there are Islamic states, but in the West especially, there is a force of secularism. And here's what secularism does.

Secularism profanes all seven of those items that we saw as having sanctity, starts with life. This is a chilling quote. What does it matter if three-quarters of the world perishes as long as the remaining one quarter are communists? There's a quote by Vladimir Lenin, 1920. World's population in 1920 was two billion souls, two billion living creatures, formed from the dust in the divine breath into them. Nonchalantly, of no consequence, 1.5 billion lives. What kind of a worldview is that? It is a worldview that profanes human life. And what did we see in the 20th century but a dozen of genocides or purgings or ethnic cleansings, whatever euphemism is used.

And then we look within the borders of these United States and since 1973, 60 million plus daughters, an abortion. The secularist cheapens life. The secularist profanes life. Gender – what are we told? Gender is a social construct. You can create your own identity.

You can make your own identity. A direct affront to Genesis chapter 1, male and female, He created them. Psalm 8 reflects on creation, speaks of God's majesty, speaks of the heavens as the work of God's fingertips. No matter how amazing the universe is, no matter how amazing the night sky is, it is but the work of God's fingertips and the mountains and the seas and the earth. What is man? You are mindful of him, this small creature in the vastness of the universe, which itself is but the fingertip of God.

Do you see the scale here? God, the universe, man. That you have crowned Him with glory and honor. And yes, it's a messianic Psalm, and yes, it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but make no mistake about it, it's a commentary on creation. But then you go to 2 Corinthians 4, 4, and Paul says something that's utterly fascinating. Christ is the image of God.

See the difference? We were made in the image of God. And the image of God in us is fallen and cracked and marred, but Christ is the image. Now we have hope. And Christ does what Adam could not do.

He keeps the law. Every single point of it, utter fulfillment. And then Christ undoes what Adam did by purchasing us from the cross with His blood.

Our only hope as fallen image bears is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul's leaving Ephesus, he calls the Ephesian elders to gather with him in the book of Acts. Ephesus was a wicked city, an idolatrous city, but look under the hood, it wasn't idolatry, it was secularism. It wasn't the worship of Diana as some inner fulfillment, it was crass materialism, that's all it was.

It was hedonism, drunk on it. When Paul went into that city, he could have done any number of things. You know what he remembers the Ephesian elders that he said to them when I got to you, do you know what I taught you? Repentance before God and faith in Jesus Christ. That is our ultimate hope, that is the ultimate message, that is our only hope, and our only message is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so we look out on this world and we say, repent.

Repent before God, you have profaned this sacred creator creature relationship, repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ. And that's the very foundation of Christian ethics, isn't it? Dr. Stephen Nichols has shown us how God's word addresses the moral confusion that surrounds us. This week on Renewing Your Mind, we are pleased to feature messages from the 2022 Ligonier National Conference here in Orlando, where we concentrated on the theme, upholding Christian ethics. Maintaining a Christian understanding of ethics can prepare us to stand for the truth, love our neighbors well, and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Those are core tenets of the Christian faith, and they describe why Dr. R.C. Nichols started Ligonier Ministries more than 50 years ago to teach as many people as possible about God and His holiness. I'd like for you to hear from one of our ministry partners. His name is Dennis, and he called us recently to tell us of the impact that R.C. and Ligonier Ministries have had on his life. So what he did for me by his written materials was to strengthen and reinforce my initial eyes opening to what the Scriptures actually taught. And I grew to really love R.C., his sense of humor, his ability to communicate difficult ideas in a very understandable way, and have only been growing ever since then over these last decades. And we are pleased to report that Dennis' story is echoed around the world. Ligonier resources are now translated into many languages, and it's estimated that nearly 50 million people each year interact with us. The ongoing financial support of people like Dennis fuels this global outreach, and if you'd like to join him and thousands of others, would you give a gift today?

You can call us at 800-435-4343, or you can give your gift online at Well any discussion about Christian ethics must include marriage. Marriage is not something that was formed by a nation. No, it predates countries.

It predates governments. Marriage is authorized and instituted by God. And if marriage is given by God, that means God gets to regulate it. God gets to define it. God gets to declare what it is and what it isn't. The truth about marriage tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-02 07:28:51 / 2023-03-02 07:36:31 / 8

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