The Story has implications.
Having located ourselves in the Biblical story in Class One, we reiterated how living in that story impacts our lives (or should). God declared his creation good (including us) and that goodness is still present. But it’s distorted by sin and death, causing all creation to groan for liberation and renewal. Jesus conquered Satan, sin, and death in his life, death, and resurrection, giving us the sure hope that the darkness does not win in the end. That narrative arc is important, because it reinforces the direction that all things are being made new, including us.
We are created in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26-31 tells us that God created men and women in his own image. There remains some conversation on exactly what that means. It might refer to the nature and capacity of humankind, showing that in some way we share certain attributes with God. For example, the Bible speaks of God creating, having a will, experiencing emotions, being in relational, etc. The same can be said of humankind, setting us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, reinforcing our unique place in creation.
But the image of God in us also might refer to the role and responsibility that comes with the command to “have dominion”. In this sense, we are created in God’s image to be his representatives on earth. We are to care for creation, making something of its potential, as God (the true authority) would want it.
Either way, the doctrine of the image of God makes clear that humankind enjoys a special relationship with our Creator and an elevated role in creation. It shows that humankind was designed and created to be a certain way in a certain harmony with God. It also reinforces the Biblical truth that every human life is valuable and sacred. And that truth alone has vast implications for how we live our lives.
The image of God is distorted, but not lost.
In the Fall (Genesis 3) all of creation becomes infected with sin and death because of humankind’s rebellion. The original harmony we enjoyed with God was broken and the goodness of it all was stained. So now, human beings, created in the image of God with creative capacity, now use that capacity for wicked things. We exercise dominion by oppressing one another and abusing creation. Our relationship with God, with each other, with creation, and even with ourselves has been broken. Nothing is as it should be, but all is not lost.
Scripture tells us that creations groans with humankind (Romans 8:22-23) to be set free from the power of sin and death. Humankind is captive to Sin; we can’t liberate ourselves. But we are also complicit in its proliferation; we participate willfully. We need both liberation from its power and forgiveness for how we are responsible for its spread. The good news is that this is exactly what scripture tells us Jesus accomplished on our behalf. Because of him, we are now free of sin’s control and free of our shame. We are free to be restored.
Jesus is the perfect image of God.
What does it look like to be restored? It looks like becoming more like Jesus. Jesus is the perfect representation of the image of God (Col 1:15, 2 Cor 4:4). He is what humankind ought to be, the new (perfect) Adam. And Scripture tells us that “…those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8:29).” God’s saving work is to liberate us and forgive us, freeing us to be restored and become like Jesus. Why is Jesus the perfect representation of the image of God? Because he was without sin. The power that distorted humankind had no power over him. Our “setting right” involves the removal of that sin and it’s power from our lives. Hence, becoming “like Jesus”.
We are restored by Jesus (not our own power) to be like him.
Romans 6:4 tells us that those who trust in Jesus are united to him through baptism. Baptism gives us a picture of a death (going under) and resurrection (coming up) where we are made new and clean (washed in water). The text tells us that this represents our connection to Jesus’s death and resurrection, “in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” That newness of life is the life of getting sin out, being restored and healed, becoming more like Jesus.
And the path to that newness of life, that restoration and healing, is to follow Jesus. He is “the way”. To obtain the life he offers requires us to “pick up our cross daily and follow him” trusting that he will resurrect us too. It requires us to take of our old self, to crucify the flesh (corrupted self), to put on the new self and walk by the Spirit. All of this gives us various pictures for what the way forward looks like: eyes on Jesus, seeking to be more like him, trusting that as we follow, we’ll be resurrected into newness of life.
That is the narrative arc of the true story of the world. What was corrupted in the Fall by Sin is being restored by being freed of Sin. That includes all those who are united to Christ in faith.