Truth consists of having the same idea about something that God has.
— Joseph Joubert —

The Imago Dei

(The Image of God)

So, if we have unwittingly adopted and promoted a pornographic view of the human body, what is the correct view?

Simple… The same view that its Designer holds.

And He tells us His view in the story relating the creation of the human body. Our answer is found in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1.

 

God’s View of our Bodies

The story goes like this (I’ll summarize here, but please read the entire account for yourself… like it was the very first time):

The God Who Is… creates the universe. By His infinite wisdom and power, He simply speaks every part of creation into being… until it is time to create man.

Then, two things change:

  • God stops to hold a conference among the persons of the Godhead to discuss the creation of man. It is declared in this conference that mankind should have a special status among all created beings: man was to be fashioned “in Our image and in Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).
  • This time, God “forms” man from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7) rather than simply speaking as He had done for all of the plants and animals already created. There was a very personal touch to this creation!

MyChainsAreGone.orgClearly, the human body is very special… it is very special to God!

Did that surprise you? It shouldn’t. This is what God’s Word has declared all along. When we take the passage at face value, the plain meaning of the words indicate that our bodies are crafted to physically look like God.

(Let me take a moment here to acknowledge that “image-bearing” encompasses much more than our physical shape, but since the topic of this article is on God’s view of our bodies, I am focusing on that aspect alone here.)

 

The Words God Uses

Now, perhaps you are thinking, “But God is ‘Spirit’ (John 4:24)! How can a body be made to look like a spirit? Spirits have no form!”

You would not be alone in making that assertion. But before I address the objection, let me point out some things about the passage itself, and the words used in the original language.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…’” (Gen 1:26a – NIV)

Of course, this was originally written in Hebrew, so the true meaning of the passage is to be found in the meaning of the Hebrew terms. They are as follows:

“image” = tselem (H6754) in Hebrew
“likeness” = demuwth (H1823) in Hebrew

Both words are used many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. An examination of their usage in the Old Testament will demonstrate that “likeness” is a general similarity; on the other hand, “image” is always a visual representation (I would encourage you to do a word study to affirm that).

It is not sound biblical interpretation to presume that a word which has a consistent meaning throughout Scripture has a divergent meaning in one passage only. Therefore, the best approach is to assume the consistent meaning for this word. This means that our starting point is to understand that God made the human body to be a visual representation of His form. Linguistically, we have no basis to question that meaning.

Answering Objections

Wait, don’t forget John 4:24! God is SPIRIT!!!

I haven’t forgotten. I have two points to make in this matter.

1. God’s self-revelation is progressive. In other words, He revealed something of Himself in Gen. 1, a lot more throughout the rest of the Old Testament, then a lot more in the person of Jesus Christ, then finally, through the teachings of Jesus, we are told that “God is Spirit.” Again, correct biblical interpretation demands that we hold the revelation which came first, then allow that understanding to be enhanced and expanded by what comes thereafter. It cannot completely overturn or redefine the first revelation.

2. The objection assumes something about spirits which we do not know: that spirits are limitless, shapeless beings. To start with, we know so very little about the Spirit realm at all! How can we declare the true nature of a spirit? Furthermore, what we do know from Scripture about spirits does not give any support to that notion… quite the opposite, in fact. Consider the following:

a. Angels are spirits (Heb. 1:14) yet they are geographically limited (Dan. 10:4-13); they are not at all places at the same time and they can be detained in one location (the angel Michael took 21 days to get to Daniel). To have geographical limits, they must have spatial dimension. That means they must have some sort of form (even if it is shifting and indistinct).

b. When God rebukes Aaron and Miriam for grumbling against Moses, God Himself uses these words to describe His personal meetings with Moses, “he [Moses] beholds the form of the LORD [YHWH]” (Num. 12:8). That word “form” (temuwnahH8544) clearly indicates a shape of some kind that was visible to Moses. We are not told what shape it was, but we are told that Moses saw it. And the shape he saw belonged to God!

MyChainsAreGone.orgOther Scripture passages could be quoted that also show God and/or angelic spirits in visible forms. In fact, they are so bountiful in Scripture that we have given them some big theological names: Theophanies and Anthropomorphisms. These words are used to describe times when God reveals Himself in human form (theophanies) or speaks of His nature using human terms (that other big word). I would suggest, however, that these words themselves unnecessarily presume that God has no form that can be seen, or that He exists in any form similar to a man’s.

Is it really unreasonable to consider that God may not have been “taking on” human form, but actually revealing His own true form? What form would that be? We don’t have to wonder. It is the form after which mankind was fashioned! He would “look like” mankind because in reality, mankind looks like Him!

From our perspective, when the unseen God allowed Himself to be seen, it would appear that He was taking on human form, when in fact that was not the case. If you think about it, there would be nothing taken away from the meaning of the Word of God if we understood God’s words about Himself and His revelation of Himself as literal. The Bible doesn’t tell us that the LORD appeared as a man, it simply tells us that the LORD appeared.

Here’s my point: There’s no compelling reason in the Bible to conclude that there cannot be a physical element to our image-bearing. Therefore, there is no reason to reject the plain sense of the word “image” (tsalem) used by God to communicate to us the nature of our being.

I know that some will not be convinced by this very brief presentation of this understanding and its biblical foundation, but for the sake of keeping this article readable, let me go on and talk about what this truth can and should mean to you and to me.

 

The impact of this Truth

Allow me to list a few things and then make a few comments about each point.

1.Your body is an intrinsic part of who you are as a human being.

Some people will tell you that the “real” you is not your body, but what’s inside. No doubt that your inner character is vastly more important than external perceptions of beauty, but that does not mean that your body is not “you,” too. In fact, your body is so much a part of who you are that God has determined that you will have a real body for all eternity! (study the Bible’s teaching on the ultimate and physical resurrection of all mankind.)

Your body is so important to God that He will even redeem your body from the results of the Fall and give you a new, “glorified” body. Having a body is part of being human. Even Jesus (fully God and fully human) still has His physical body.

2.Your body’s beauty is the personal handiwork of God.

Literally, it’s a kind of divine “self-portrait.” As such, it is worthy of great honor and dignity!

Your body’s beauty is not found in how sexually “attractive” it might be according to the world’s perverted notions; it is found in the fact that your body reflects God’s own likeness.

Furthermore, regardless of your body shape, it still bears God’s original design. It is not only the young, the thin, or the strong who reflect the Divine image, but every last one of us, regardless of age, weight, or gender. The honor and dignity of God’s likeness rests on our bodies now and for all eternity.

To God, every body is beautiful… wrinkles, rolls, warts, and all. We would do well to adopt God’s perspective in this matter. And until we do, we will dishonor God’s image on those we call “ugly.”

3. In God’s eyes, there is no shame to be found in our bodies as God created them.

MyChainsAreGone.orgThere is no greater honor than to be the bearers of God’s image. It is not something to be ashamed of. And God did not intend for it to be always hidden from view (Gen. 2:25).

In Gen. 3, when Adam and Eve sinned, it was they who presumed to attach shame to their bodies, not God. In fact, God’s question in Gen. 3:11 clearly indicates that their shame over their bodies was a result of their sin. Shame was never God’s idea.

There are indeed very shameful ways to act with our bodies, but this type of shame is not in the body itself, but in the mistreatment of the body and/or the relegation of our bodies’ significance to the realm of sexual indulgence and perversion. We must always treat the honor of our image-bearing with the respect and dignity that it deserves.

4. God is not a pornographer!

The way some of us think about and treat the human form, you would have to conclude that God cruelly made our bodies to be stumbling blocks to us all. One glimpse of a person in their natural state and we will simply be unable to respond righteously.

God’s creation is not a source of temptation.

(Nothing outside a man going into him defiles him! – Mark 7:15). It is our presumption that we will always respond lustfully that is the problem. It is within us. How dare we treat what God created in His own image as an object for our own selfish indulgence?

Did God make breasts to be a sexual enticement to men? If so, then how cruel He must be to then demand that I turn my eyes away from the “danger” every time I see a woman! Last time I checked, every woman out there wears them right there on her chest. God sure didn’t make it easy on us, did He?

That, of course, is rubbish. Women were made to be beautiful by God’s personal design. It’s a good design, too… Not meant to be a source of stumbling for me. If I treat it so, the problem is with me, not with simply seeing God’s design.

Vastly Different

Can you see how vastly different this understanding is from our world’s false thinking? Can you begin to see how thinking of your body (and others’ bodies) in this way could radically change your responses to body-related issues? I hope so.

This understanding of our being crafted in the Image of God is the first step in recognizing the falsehoods in our society’s view and treatment of the body.

Read on… We’ll get even more specific.

— Pastor Ed

Next up: The Lies We Have Believed

 

 

8 Responses to The Imago Dei

  • I’m blown away by this I never really look at like you guys should put put a video on this people really need to here this!!!

  • What you say is true. Just as we are to hate the sin and love the sinner, so we are to hate the act and love the body. Our bodies are not something we are to be ashamed about. The shame lies in how we mistreat our bodies and disregard the sacredness of the boundaries God has set.

  • When I preached on Gen. 2, it occurred to me that the Lord God (pre-incarnate Jesus) actually formed the man from the dust of the earth and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. When the man opened his eyes for the first time, he found he was looking into the real face of his Creator. Since then, I have tended to question the arguments that theologians have put forward that biblical descriptions of God’s hand, arm, feet – as well as his emotions like love, jealousy, anger, etc.(anthropomorphisms) were put into the text simply to accommodate our inability to grasp the infinite spirituality of God. I am not going to pretend that our humanity is an exact representation of God’s glory (as some tel-evangelists have been known to do). Far from it. But I do think you are right that our bodies do still bear in them (no matter how fallen in sin humans are) something of God’s image.
    I would also let you know that your statements challenge me to dig further into God’s word to discover more of his perspective on what it means to bear in ourselves the stamp of God’s image.

  • David, I appreciate your thoughts – its encouraging me to dig deeper as well. One question I have: Why do you think God made the garments for Adam and Eve to clothe them? It might seem that God was acknowledging that their nakedness would cause them shame, lust, and other problems, and so God validated “covering up one’s shame.” Put another way, in a community of mature Christian believers, would you affirm everyone walking around nude all the time? (and I apologize if this has been answered elsewhere. If it has, could you point me to that location?) Thanks!

    • Hey, David. Thanks for writing. I’m sorry it took a few days to respond.

      Regarding God’s clothing of Adam and Eve… I would challenge you to reexamine how much of your perception of the event is colored by what we’ve always been told about it… and how our culture has conditioned you to interpret it. When I was wrestling with the questions you have asked, I decided to lay everything I had ever heard about the Creation/Fall story “on the table”… purposing to take them back up only if the biblical text demanded that I do so.

      When I asked honest questions about what the text actually said, I was surprised to come to very different conclusions than I had always believed before and/or had always been told by preachers and bible teachers.

      For example… we’ve always been told that Adam’s and Eve’s efforts at clothing themselves was woefully inadequate, being made from fig leaves… it simply would not hold up. So God made them more durable “leather” garments so that their now-shameful nakedness would not be exposed. This view, of course, presupposes that their feeling of shame about their nakedness was correct… they just needed a more durable solution.

      But… does the text actually support that idea?

      In Gen. 3:11, we hear God say, “Who told you that you were naked?” When I considered that interplay between God and Adam, I had to conclude that it was a rebuke. God knew very well that He Himself had not chided Adam for his nakedness (in fact, He Himself had affirmed the goodness of that nudity in Gen. 2:25!). His reason for asking was not to discern information (for He is omniscient), but to get Adam to ponder the answer to the question. While not specified, the answer has to be “Nobody” or “Satan”… and I believe it was the latter.

      So… God rebukes Adam for having a problem with his nakedness… does it make any sense that he would later ratify Adam’s problem with his nakedness by crafting “better” clothing?

      The problem is that we simply have never even considered that a different and more significant purpose might have been in God’s mind when he clothed Adam and Eve… because–I suspect–we ourselves are so culturally conditioned with nudity-is-shameful that we read the account and breathe a sigh of thanks to God for the provision… since everyone is embarrassed to be naked now since the fall, right? Our cultural conditioning has led to laziness with regard to our interpretation of this passage!

      Old perceptions die hard, though… and without a compelling explanation for why God clothed Adam and Eve, it will be hard to make a case that God was NOT affirming Adam’s reason for clothing himself. So I did a survey of the entire Bible to seek an answer to that very question… Why DID God clothe Adam and Eve? The text itself doesn’t specify why, but there are clues in the context that might lead us to a different conclusion than “shame” or “fear.”

      You can find my work here: The Biblical Purpose for Clothing

      The idea behind that paper is this… whatever purpose God had for clothing them, it must be a biblically valid purpose, it must have been a good purpose, and it must fit the biblical context.

      I welcome any feedback, comments, or questions you may have.

      Pastor David Martin

      • Regarding “The Biblical Purpose For Clothing”
        Further questions to address:
        Does this not reveal that our Maker was the first to “shed blood” upon the earth? (Gen.3:21)
        Did Adam and Eve feel the warmth of the animals blood flowing between their toes? (Gen.3:21)
        Is this event not the foreshadowing of the Blood of Messiah?
        Did not those skins represent our “Covering”, for both our sin as well as the promise of our bodily resurrection?
        Did not this act of sacrifice inform the whole of mankind (including Cain Gen.4:1-7) revealing the exclusive requirement for the covering of our sin?
        So does not our “longing” for our material clothing reflect the longing man had for their Spiritual covering which we now have in Jesus, and continue to now have as the longing for our ” house” (covering) eternal in the Heavens? (Ref. 2 Cor.4:14 – 5:10…esp.5:2)
        Should not these be the compelling reasons why mankind is to “cover” themselves as well as how the Redeemed testify Jesus to the world?
        Just asking.
        Thank you
        Bob Gander

        • Thanks for writing, Bob. I’m going to give a pretty detailed answer to your questions… I hope that you’ll consider them carefully.

          Let me start by asking you a question… Are you willing to hold to a doctrinal position that is not stated in the Bible at all? Or further, are you willing to promote and declare a moral standard that cannot be found in God’s Word?

          For my part, I am unwilling to do either.

          Does Gen. 3:21 reveal that our Maker was the first to “shed blood”? Actually, the text doesn’t say that at all. No blood mentioned. If it *did* happen, it was not germane to what God evidently wanted us to know about the event. Is this event called the first sacrifice anywhere in the Bible? No. Is it referred to as a foreshadowing of Christ anywhere in the bible? No. Did Adam and Eve “feel the warmth of the animal’s blood”? No. At least there’s no biblical basis for even suggesting that.

          (The true sacrificial foreshadowing of Christ was a Passover… the spotless lamb, the shed blood, the blood on the door in the pattern of a cross… all point forward to Jesus. Then in the NT, Jesus was called “the Lamb of God”; He was sinless, and He was literally killed during Passover… so, in both directions, the Bible confirms that this is the real foreshadowing.)

          What you have proposed is a view of this event that has been taught for years and years, but it’s a view that is wholly unsupportable from the entire biblical text.

          But I can go further… it’s actually *contrary* to the biblical text. There’s no such thing as a sacrifice if there’s no repentance on the part of the sinner. Did Adam and Eve repent? The narrative actually leads us to conclude that they did not… at least they didn’t when confronted by God about their sin.

          And where in the Bible do we *ever* see a sacrifice killed by the hand of God? Isn’t part of the point of the offering of a sacrifice the fact that the hand that sinned was required to kill the animal that would atone for the sin?

          Those are three significant strikes *against* the interpretation that God performed the first sacrifice: the Bible never (ever) calls it that; there was no repentance; and God never wields the knife.

          Moving on…

          Did the skins represent our “covering”? No. We are not told that in the text. All we know about it is this: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” That’s it. 15 words (in NASB). No reason given. No meaning provided. The context before (“she was called Eve) and after (the way to the Tree of Life is blocked) give us absolutely no clue as to what God’s purpose was. So, on what basis can we assert *any* meaning and build doctrine or moral mandate upon this passage? There’s none.

          Does our “longing” for material clothing reflect any spiritual meaning? No. There’s no biblical basis to claim that. Such a “longing” is more reflective of cultural conditioning than anything else.

          If you will really honestly consider the substance of your assertions, you’ll see that the true driver of your line of reasoning is the commitment to a “requirement” for clothing, when in truth, the Bible simply never gives such a mandate. Personally, I’m unwilling to base any sort of moral behavioral requirement on such a shaky biblical or logical foundation.

          If you have read “The Biblical Purpose for Clothing” referenced above, I’d welcome your review to demonstrate where it is weak or mistaken biblically. The most honest and natural and biblical answer to “Why did God clothe Adam and Eve” is that for warmth and protection. No other explanation is even close.

          Pastor David M.

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