Who are we?
This morning, I invite you to reflect with me on one of my favourite psalms that we often use in the invocation to worship, Psalm 8:4. It reads:
‘What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’
In this day and age, with the flashing scenes of sci-fi movies, atrocities and crimes against humankind, which shouts to us from world-views of their own, I feel it is important to reflect on this psalm. There are several reasons for doing so:
- as mentioned above, because we receive many alternative challenges to that biblical understanding of man that can confuse us;
- so that we re-affirm truth that human persons are created in the image of God, and thereby value him (and ourselves) rightly, as God does;
- so that with right understanding, we may correctly interpret our own reading of the Bible and be able to convey its message more accurately to others.
We are created as Imago Dei (in the image of God)
The answer to the question ‘what is man that you should be mindful of him’ is found in the book of Genesis, where it reads:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.””
Genesis 1:26-28 (New International Version)
That the phrase ‘made in the image’ occurs several times in the first book of the Bible, Genesis (in 5:1-3; 9:6), must be that it is foundational in our understanding of who we are. Just in case we think it is something that belongs in the Old Testament era, we find a reminder of it in the New Testament in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, in 1 Cor 11:7.
We are transforming from Imago Dei to imago Christi (in the image of Christ)
So what does it mean that we are created ‘in the image of God’ (imago Dei) and why is that important?
I found several reasons in my reading, and give a short list of some of them here:
- Man is envisioned as at once spiritual, physical, social and historical in dimensions. Hence: I am to take care of myself more holistically.
- Man exists in relation with other persons, with God, with the world, and with himself, as in He created ‘them’. Hence: I have to relate with others, and the rest of His creature, holistically.
- Man, as God created him is to exercise both freedom and responsibility. Hence: I am not obliged (unless I choose to) to do anything and to take responsibility for choosing to do so.
- The imago Dei affirmed by the Old Testament, is to be completed in the perfect image of Christ (imago Christi), in accord with the New Testament, to which man must be conformed (Rom 8:29). Hence: I have to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The imago Dei first created, then corrupted through sin in Adam and Eve (see picture), is now renewed through Christ, and then begin in the process of regeneration toward a final glorification. Hence: I am to participate in this regeneration actively.
- This work of regeneration continues in the believer through the Word of God and the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Hence: I am to study the Word of God and be obedient to it by the guidance and enabling of the Holy Spirit.
- The true image of man is to be as the Lord Himself, ‘supremely beautiful in all He was, is, did, all He will be eternally’ (Reformed Reader). Hence: I am to desire Him and to desire to conform his likeness.
- Created in the image of God, human beings are called to love and communion with one another, with. This communion extending into relationship with others, beginning with procreative union of husband and wife, with the two sexes enjoying an inherent equality. Hence: I am to seek out fellowship and communion with others.
- We are nonetheless divided by sin and await the victorious coming of Christ who will restore and recreate the unity God wills in a final redemption of creation. The unity of the human family is to be realized only when Christ comes again. Hence: I am to anticipate His coming.
The Bible teaches us that we were created in a special way, for a special purpose, unlike anything else for His glory. Though fallen, we have been saved, by God’s grace, and now undergo regeneration, till we finally conform, by the work of the Holy Spirit and the study of the Word of God, to the likeness of the Lord Jesus. This is the most desirable and ‘supremely beautiful’ of anything that we know. Hence, our dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for each other to have the desire to be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ, our Lord.