I lead a Connect Group Course which traces the overarching story of the Bible to help make connections and between this fundamental story about God and personal faith. At our first meeting, we started in Genesis, examining what it was telling us about God and our relationships, with Him, each other and creation.
One of the most important understandings was that humanity ‘was created in his image’ (Gen 1:26-27); ‘we were created to be like God’, sharing his character and nature, including the freedom to choose. Of course we know what humanity chose. In choosing to rebel and make God in our own image, God’s image in us became corrupt and humanity entered into what they described as the ‘present (evil) age’, (see Gal 1:4). In this present age, evil was let loose and now dominates this fallen world, prompting humanity to focus on their own desires and will. Because of this rebellion, everyone’s destiny is death, both physical and spiritual. ‘Life’ has been forfeit because of our choice which resulted in humanity being banished from his presence (Gen 3:23).
In our course, we also looked at the other creation stories of the ancient civilisations that surrounded the Hebrews. All follow a similar pattern: evil existed before creation and that our universe was the result of squabbling, deceitful and fearful Gods who fought each other. The victor, in killing a rival god, used their corpse to create the universe. People were an afterthought and were created as slaves to serve these violent and inscrutable gods; appeasement was man’s only way to survive.
When we compare the two stories, we immediately see how different their cosmology was to that of the Hebrews. The God of Jacob was good, His creation was good, where no evil existed and men and women were created to be like him, to be honoured partners with God working to care for his good creation. What in fact fallen humanity has done in their stories is to create gods in their own image. They reassure us that what we are today has always been that way because that is the way we were made. Thus in creation stories of ‘the present age’ the gods will of course act just like us. So it’s not surprising that today when we look at our increasingly troubled world we can see that this cosmology is still the one adhered to by most people, no matter what their faith position may be.
However, Christians know that evil had entered God’s good creation through humanity’s rebellion, but now it has been totally defeated through Jesus’ death on the cross. What seemed like a defeat was actually a triumph where through the cross Jesus dealt with evil, the rebellion and sin, for those who believe who have been deemed right in the sight of God as they were in the beginning. Faith in Jesus has justified us before God, Rom 3:23 and ‘credited to us as righteousness’ Gen 15:6 & Gal 3:29. Paul tells us in Col 2: 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision (rebelliousness) of your fallen human nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. His death and victory exposed how the powers of the fallen world work as they did their worst against him but he humiliated them by exposing them for who they really are, violent, liars and evil.
That is why Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:17, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone’, for we ‘have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all’, Col 3:10-11.
Our new self redeems and restores us to reflect the true image of God. Paul follows this statement by listing some of the most basic community divisions fallen humanity has always used to promote conflict between people. These include conflict between, them and us, race, cultures, status, privilege and power. These no longer apply to those who are renewed ‘in the image of our creator’. Gal 3:28 has a similar list but also includes the conflict between male and female, i.e. issues of gender.
John sums up our new creation character, basing it on our God of love as the image we as new creations are to reflect. 1 John 4:16b God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus, (in his image). 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.
Fear (of the other) is what drives this fallen world, being the result of clash of our self-interests, but fear has not part of our new self, but instead our modus operandi is love. Paul reminds us in Col 3: 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. This is what it means to live according to ‘the image of God’.
Written by Sweis Meijers