“The Image of God and Missions”
Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson, KY
It’s a pleasure to be sharing the Word of God with you tonight.
Illustration: Can you think of the most beautiful thing in all Creation? Mt. Everest? Hawaii? Alaska? The Florida Everglades? The Smokey Mountains? Think about it . . . what simply takes your breath of way because of how special and beautiful it is. To God, the thing that really captures Him is humans! Humans are the highlight of His creation!
You see, the fact that we are created in the image of God sets us apart from everything else that God created.
Tonight, in this sermon, we’re going to explore the doctrine of the image of God and also what implications that doctrine has for missions and evangelism.
Read the Passage
Read Genesis 1:26-27
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Let’s Explore the Doctrine a Little Bit
Question #1: What does the Image of God mean?
Let’s read part of this passage again (Read Genesis 1:26-27)
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Let’s also read verse 31:
31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
So, we see right off that bat that God said that the creation of humankind was good. He approved. He liked it.
We also see in verse 28 that Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply.
Have you ever thought about the fact that when they are multiplying that they are created more image bearers of God? They are creating more things, or more someones, that reflect the likeness of the One, True, Creator God!
As a matter of note, this doctrine is often referred to as the doctrine of the imago dei. This is a Latin phrase that means, image of God. Since we are speaking English tonight, we will refer to it as the doctrine of . . . the image of God.
Notice that male and female humans are created in the image of God. That pretty much covers everybody. Male and female humans.
So, let’s make sure we know that all humans are created in the image of God. Period. When it comes to who is made in God’s image, The Bible makes no distinction according to gender, race, culture, economic background, attraction, intelligence, athletic ability, none of those things! All humans are created in the image of God, after His likeness.
Also, as image-bearers of God, we are made in His likeness. We don’t know exactly what that means, but we know that there is some semblance of God in us. That is, we reflect His glory. What a privilege that is!
Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology helps us here when discussing this doctrine.
On this point, Grudem states, “The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.”
Ok, that’s pretty simple.
Question #2: How does the Fall of mankind affect the image of God?
Well, remember that the Fall occurred in Genesis chapter 3.
Listen as I read what God says in Genesis 9:6
Read Genesis 9:6
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.
So, this is after the Fall and God still refers to humans as made in His image.
We have more evidence in the New Testament where James says in James 3:9
9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.
Grudem speaks to this as well.
He says, “After the fall . . . we are still in God’s image – we are still like God and we still represent God – but the image of God in us is distorted; we are less fully like God than we were before the entrance of sin.”
So, the image is still there, but it is distorted. We’re still more special than the rest of creation, but not like we once were.
It might look like this (Show Visual)
Question #3: How does Jesus affect the image of God in us or on us?
Let’s first establish that Jesus is the perfect image of God.
Colossians 1:15 says,
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
So, Jesus, in His perfection, is the perfect image of God.
Not only is Jesus the perfect image, but He is also restoring the image in us.
Read Colossians 3:10
10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
Similarly, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
So, Jesus brings about the renewal of this image.
This is indeed a sign of God’s great love and grace towards us. Even though we have rejected Him; chosen sin; marred the image; He, in His love, is seeking to remake it.
As we see in the most famous passage in the Bible, John 3:16. God so love the world. When John 3:16 speaks of “the world,” it is not the mountains, it is not the stars, it is not the great gray whale, it is not the Grand Canyon, it is not the mighty oak tree, it is humans. “The world,” means humans. God loved humankind, those made in His image, so much that He sent Jesus. And Jesus is clearing up the blurred image of God in us.
Grudem says, “ . . . it is encouraging to turn to the New Testament and see that our redemption in Christ means that we can, even in this life, progressively grow into more and more likeness to God.”
So, in Christ, it might look like this (Show Visual)
Question #4: Will the image ever be made perfect again?
Well, the answer is no and yes.
You see, the image will never be made perfect again in this life. However, when Jesus returns to make all things new, the image will be fully restored for those who are in Jesus.
When we are fully sanctified and fully restored, then we will once again perfectly bear the image of God.
Grudem says, The amazing promise of the New Testament is that just as we have been like Adam (subject to death and sin), we shall also be like Christ (morally pure, never subject to death again).
At our final restoration, it might look like this (Show Visual)
Now, let us move quickly into implications for missions and evangelism.
What Implications does the Image of God have for Missions and Evangelism?
Implication #1: Every person has special and unique value because they are made in the image of God.
Let us rest here just a moment. Think about this. Every single person on this planet has tremendous value simply because they are made in the image of God!
That is why the issues that are before our nation at this time are should be so important to the people of God. Abortion, transgenderism, violence, murder, racism . . . these issues are tantamount because they involve humans, and humans are precious to God; they are the pinnacle of His Creation!
A person need not do anything else to possess this unique value other than to be born as a human.
Proverbs 22:2 says, “The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all.”
The uniqueness and value of each human being should drive us to missions and evangelism. They are of so much more value than anything else.
They are worth the extra effort. They are worth sleepless nights. They are worth continual prayers. They are worth giving up some time. They are worth giving up your lives and for the sake of reaching them, simply because their inherent worth. Yet, we’ll see in just a moment, there’s a far more worthy reason to reach them.
Implication #2: There are many who have no clue that they bear the image of God.
The second implication for missions and evangelism is to point out that many people have no clue that they are image bearers of God.
They simply don’t know.
Some have heard of the God of the Bible but have no idea who He is or that they are made uniquely by Him for a special purpose, which is to bring Him glory.
They don’t know that what God has for them is so much better than what this world has to offer. They have no clue.
Others have never even heard of the God of the Bible. They don’t know about Jesus; they cannot know about Him because no one has ever told them about Him.
They are worshipping the images of false gods, though they are made in the image of the one true God.
This is a tragedy. The fact that someone created in the image of God, whose purpose is to display the glory of God through their lives, this person has no idea about any of this. This is heartbreaking and should drive us to missions and evangelism.
Illustration: Jeremiah and I were taking a jog down the street this past Thursday. He was riding his scooter and I was jogging. He’s super friendly with strangers and he said hello to this woman who was also out for a stroll. The Lord impressed upon me to strike up a conversation about Jesus with her and I did so. She happened to be a Christian, but I didn’t know that going into the conversation. That woman, along with all the countless people out in the streets of Henderson that day are all made in the image of God and are worth you and me sharing the gospel with them. They are all precious in the sight of God, and should be in our sight as well.
Implication #3: God is using us, as image bearers, to bring restoration to image bearers.
Remember, that when God tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, that involves humans increasing the numbers of image bearers on the earth.
Now that the image has been tainted by sin, we have a great privilege and responsibly to help bring about the restoration of the image.
In other words, Just as Adam and Eve were called to expand the image of God on the earth, we are as well, as Christ’s ambassadors on this planet.
God is using us to bring about the reemergence of the brilliance of His image across the globe.
Illustration: I like to travel a lot and one of my favorite cities to visit is Nashville. Nashville is a very hipster city. I’m not really a hipster, but I’m kind of like the cousin of a hipster. I understand them, but I’m not quite one of them. Anyways, in parts of Nashville, typically where hipsters live you see homes and neighborhoods that not too long ago were run-down, that are now being restored to beauty and life. Homes are restored, small businesses are opening, people are moving there. Restoration is happening.
In the same manner, God is calling us, through the gospel of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring restoration to a world that is dying and faltering without Jesus. God will set them on a path of renewal and restoration that will one day be fulfilled completely in the return of our Lord.
The greatest image bearer has come and we must point people to Him.
What are some practical applications for me?
1. Recognize that everyone you see is an image bearer.
When you see your neighbor or a stranger on the street, take a moment to pray for them. Consciously say to yourself, “He is an image bearer! She is an image bearer!”
2. Hold a special place in your heart for people, as the Father does and as Jesus does.
Do not have a hard heart towards people. Weep for them as Jesus did. Learn to love them. Right down a list this week of ten people that you need to love more, for whom you need to pray for, with whom you need to share the gospel.
3. Determine today that you will be used by God to restore His image.
Do your part as part of the restoration crew that God is using to bring His image bearers back to Himself.
Don’t become hard-hearted, don’t become apathetic, don’t become too busy.
Write in a journal, mark it down in your Bible, tell Siri to remind you. You will be used by God to restore His image on the earth.
Satan is determined to keep humans from displaying the glory of God as His image bearers. He is hellbent again us. He’s not against the mountains, bears, or daffodils, he’s against us. He will do whatever he can to mar the image of God.
I said earlier that the mere fact that people are made in the image of God is motivation enough to share the gospel with them. Indeed, they are worth the cost of sharing the gospel. However, far more worthy than God’s image bearers is God Himself. He is worthy of all glory and all praise.
By faithfully being used by Him to reach image bearers, you are not only glorifying Him with your life, but you are multiplying His glory through the lives of others. He is worthy. That is why were made in His image, that is why Jesus came to redeem us, and that is why He will return again.
(Prayer of Commitment)
(Turn over to Pastor)
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