Our last session considered the creation narrative as God's cosmic temple. Noticing the design structure of a seven-day creation is a pattern repeated in both the tabernacle and the temple. Exploring the theme of Renewed Vocation, what is it to be created in the image of God?
Scholars and theologians have long considered what it is to be created in the image of God. It is truly a unique designation given to humans in (Gen. 1:26). Understanding the topic's complexities, this lesson may only answer some of the questions. But, as with many things in the Scriptures, they invite us to explore and meditate as we discover the wisdom of God.
The IMAGE of God
Crowning, the creation narrative in (Gen. 1), is the creation of humans, male, and female.
Genesis 1:26 (NIV)
"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."
The Hebrew word translated as "image" is צֶלֶם tselem—a word which, among other meanings, can mean statue, idol, figure, or likeness. Statues of gods (idols) were common in ancient temples. Kings often claimed they were gods and would even call themselves "the image of god."(1) Such kings defined good and evil, often using their power for personal profit or gain.
However, Israel was not to understand their king as a god or even make images of God (ref. Ex. 20:4). Creator God had already made an image for Himself and placed them in His temple, humans!
God's image-bearers were created for a purpose. They were to carry forward God's creative work. In (Gen. 1:26), humans were to "rule over" God's good creation. When we read the word "rule," we often think of an authoritarian type of ruling or suppression. Is this what God intended?
The picture we see in creation is one of life and flourishing. God created a garden of life, flourishing, and abundance. Humans were to cultivate, grow, and nourish God's creation fulfilling His purpose of abundance and blessing. Humans were to "multiply, and fill the earth" (ref. Gen. 1:28). They were to create families and communities as they shared God's abundance and blessing.
However, as quickly as we turn the page in our Bibles, we see God's image-bearers choosing their wisdom over the wisdom of God. The temptation to follow their wisdom over God's wisdom resulted in curse instead of blessing (ref. Gen. 3). Driven away from life and abundance (ref. Gen. 3:24), death and decay creep over creation. The image-bearers are shattered as selfishness, greed, and evil overshadow the human condition.
Jesus In The WISDOM OF GOD
God's good creation is not left to chaos and decay. Jesus comes to restore both the image-bearers and creation. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (ref. Col. 1:15). Jesus came to reconcile all things to Himself and bring peace to the broken (ref. Col. 1:20). Jesus did this not through authoritarian rule but through service and self-sacrifice (see; Jn. 13:1-17; Phil. 2:8).
The New Testament authors viewed the resurrection of Jesus as launching a renewed creation. Through the resurrection of Jesus, his power to heal, transform, and restore life is available to everyone. This new life is a different way of living. It is living as restored image-bearers, filled with His Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
In Ephesians, the apostle Paul also speaks of Christians as renewed image-bearers. This is because we have been raised with Christ, God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works. (see; Eph. 2:1-10).
As Christians, there may be many activities we engage in each day. For example, we may be carpenters, project managers, homemakers, and accountants. However, we are created in God's image. As such, our work is seen in Jesus. Through him, we discover deeper purpose and meaning in our daily activities. Our work does not define who we are. Our vocation is because of whose image we are created in.
A renewed vocation realizes we work to cultivate, grow, and share God's abundant blessings and resources with others as we go about our daily activities.
Scripture quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
1. "Image of God Script Reference." Bibleproject.Com, 21 Mar. 2016, d1bsmz3sdihplr.cloudfront.net/media/ Script%20References/Image-of-God_Script-References.pdf. Accessed 18 Feb. 2023.
study guide: Renewed Vocation (session 3)