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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    03 THE IMAGE OF GOD

    IF man is immortal, we should naturally suppose that the Bible would make known so weighty a truth in some of the instances where it has had occasion to use the words “immortal” and “immortality.” Where else could it more properly be revealed? And the fact that its use of those terms affords no proof that man is in possession of this great attribute, but rather that it belongs to God alone, should cause a person to receive with great allowance the positive assertions of theological teachers on this question. Nevertheless, it is supposed that there are other sources from which proof can be drawn that man has a hold on life equal with that of Jehovah himself, so that he will live as long as God exists.MND 21.1

    The first of these is the opening testimony of the Bible concerning man, which asserts that he was to be made in the image of God. Genesis 1:26, 27: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.”MND 21.2

    The first impulse of a person unacquainted with this controversy would be to ask in astonishment what this has to do with the immortality of man; nor would his astonishment be in any wise diminished when he heard the reply that “as God is immortal, man, made in his image, must be immortal also.” Has God, then, no other attribute but immortality, that we must confine it to this? Is not God omnipotent? - Yes. Is man? - No. Is not God omnipresent? - Yes. Is man? - No. Is not God omniscient? - Yes. Is man? - No. Is not God independent and self-existent? - Yes. Is man? - No. Is not God infallible? - Yes. Is man? - No. Then why single out the one attribute of immortality, and make the likeness of man to God consist wholly in this? In the form of a syllogism the popular argument stands thus:-MND 21.3

    Major Premise: God is immortal. 1 Timothy 1:17.MND 22.1

    Minor Premise: Man is created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27.MND 22.2

    Conclusion: Therefore man is immortal.MND 22.3

    This is easily quashed by another syllogism equally good, thus:-MND 22.4

    1. God is omnipotent. 2. Man is made in the Image of God. 3. Therefore man is omnipotent.MND 22.5

    This conclusion, by being brought within the cognizance of our own senses, becomes more obviously, though it is not more essentially, absurd. It shows either that the argument for immortality drawn from the image of God, is unqualified assumption, or that puny and finite man is clothed with all the attributes of the Deity.MND 22.6

    In what respect, then, is man in the image of his Maker? The only correct and safe rule of interpretation, applying to language in the Bible as well as elsewhere, is to allow every word its most obvious and literal import, unless some plain reason exists for giving it a mystical or figurative meaning. The plain and literal definition of “image” is, as given by Webster, “An imitation, representation or similitude of any person or thing, sculptured, drawn, painted, or otherwise made perceptible to the sight; a visible presentation; a copy; a likeness; an effigy.” We have italicized a portion of this definition as containing an essential idea. An image must be something that is visible to the eye. How can we conceive of an image of anything that is not perceptible to the sight, and which we cannot take cognizance of by any of the senses? Even an image formed in the mind must be conceived of as having some sort of outward form, the word is used in each of the thirty-one times of its occurrence elsewhere in the Old Testament.MND 22.7

    The second time the word “image” is used, it is used to show the relation existing between son and father, and is a good comment on the relation which Genesis 1:26, 27 asserts to exist between man and God. Genesis 5:3: “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” No one would think of referring this to anything but physical resemblance. Now put the two passages together. Moses first asserts that God made man in his own image, after his likeness, and a few chapters farther on asserts that this same man begat a son in his own likeness, after his image. And, while all must admit that this latter refers to bodily form or physical shape, the theological schools tell us that the former, from the same writer, and with no intimation that it is used in any other sense, must refer solely to the attribute of immortality. Is not this taking unwarrantable liberty with the inspired testimony? There is no room for any other conclusion than that just as a son is, in outward appearance, the image of his father, so man possesses, not the nature and attributes of God in all their perfection, but a likeness, or image, of him in his physical form.MND 23.1

    It may be said that the word “image” is used in a different sense in the New Testament, as, for example, in Colossians 3:9, 10: “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Granting that the word here refers to the inward nature instead of the outward form, it must still ever be borne in mind that the point which popular theology has to prove is that man is immortal because in the image of God. This text is against that view; for that which is here said to be in the image of Him that created him, in not the natural man himself, but the new man which is put on, implying that the image had been destroyed, and could be restored only in Christ. If, therefore, it meant immortality as used by Moses, this text would show that that immortality was not absolute, but contingent, and, having been lost by the race, can be regained only through Christ.MND 24.1

    Ephesians 4:24 shows how this new man is created: “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Nothing is said about immortality even in connection with the new man.MND 24.2

    Again: The word here translated image (eikon) is defined by Greenfield, as meaning, by metonymy, “an exemplar, model, pattern, standard, Colossians 3:10.” No such definition as this is given by Gesenius to the word in Genesis. So, though this Greek word may here have this sense, it affords no evidence that the Hebrew word in Genesis 1:26, 27 can refer to anything else but the outward form.MND 24.3

    The same reasoning will apply to 1 Corinthians 15:49, where the “image of the heavenly,” which is promised to the righteous, is something which is not in possession of the natural man, but will be attained through the resurrection: “We shall bear the image of the heavenly.” It cannot, therefore, refer to the image stamped upon man at his creation, unless it be admitted that that image, with all its included privileges, has been lost by the human race, - an admission fatal to the hypothesis of the believers in the natural immortality of man.MND 25.1

    In 1 Corinthians 11:7 we read that man, as contrasted with the woman, is “the image and glory of God.” To make the expression “image of God” here mean immortality, is to confine it to man, and rob the better part of the human family of this high prerogative.MND 25.2

    In Genesis 9:6 we read: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.” Substituting what the image is here claimed to mean, we should have this very singular reading: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for immortal made he man,” so that his life could not be taken. Evidently the reference in all such passages is, not only to “the human face divine,” but to the whole physical frame, which, in comparison with all other forms of animated existence, is upright and godlike.MND 25.3

    But here the mystical interpretation of our current theology has thrown up what is considered an insuperable objection to this view; for how can man be physically in the image of God, when God is not a person, is without form, and has neither body nor parts? In reply, we ask, Where does the Bible say that God is a formless, impersonal being, having neither body nor parts? does it not say that he is a spirit John 4:24. Yes; and we inquire again, Does it not say that the angels are spirits? Hebrews 1:7, 14. And are not the angels, saying nothing of those instances in which they have appeared to men in bodily form, and always in human shape (Genesis 18:1-8, 16-22; 32:24; Hosea 12:4; Numbers 22:31; Judges 13:6, 13; Luke 1:11, 13, 28, 29; Acts 12:7-9; etc., etc.), always spoken of as being, as God is, in the highest sense, so far from not having a bodily form, must possess it, as the instrumentality for the manifestation of his powers. 1 Corinthians 15:44.MND 25.4

    Again, it is urged that God is omnipresent; and how can this be, if he is a person? - Answer: He has a representative, his Holy Spirit, by which he is ever present and ever felt in all his universe. “Whither shall I go,” asks David, “from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Psalm 139:7. And John saw standing before the throne of God seven Spirits, which are declared to be “the seven Spirits of God,” and which are “sent forth into all the earth.” Revelation 4:5; 5:6.MND 26.1

    We now invite the attention of the reader to a little of the evidence that may be presented to show that God is a person, and so that man, though of course in an imperfect and finite degree, may be an image, or likeness, of him, as to his bodily form.MND 26.2

    1. God has made visible to mortal eyes parts of his person. Moses saw the God of Israel. Exodus 33:21-23. An immaterial being, if such a thing can be conceived of, without body or parts, cannot be seen with mortal eyes. To say that God assumed a body and shape for this occasion, places the common view in a worse light still; for it is virtually charging God with a double deception; first, giving Moses to understand that he was a being with body and parts, and, secondly, under the promise of showing himself, showing him something that was not himself. And he told Moses that he would put his hand over him as he passed by, and then take it away, that he might see his back parts, but not his face? Has he hands? has he back parts? has he a face? If not, why try to convey ideas by means of language?MND 26.3

    Again: Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders saw the God of Israel. Exodus 24:9-11. “And there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone.” Has he feet? Or is the record that these persons saw them a fabrication? No man, to be sure, has seen his face, nor could he do so and live, as God declared. Exodus 33:20; John 1:18.MND 27.1

    2. Christ, as manifested among men, is declared to be the image of God, and in his form. Christ showed, after his resurrection, that his immortal, though not then glorified, body, had flesh and bones. Luke 24:39. Bodily he ascended into heaven, where none can presume to deny him a local habitation. Acts 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1. But Paul, speaking of this same Jesus, says, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.” Colossians 1:15. Here the antithesis expressed, is between God, who is invisible, and his image in the person of Christ, which was visible. It follows, therefore, that what of Christ the disciples could see, which was his bodily form, was the image, to give them an idea of God, whom they could not see.MND 27.2

    Again: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with “God.” Philippians 2:5, 6. It remains to be told how Christ could be in the form of God, and yet God have no form.MND 27.3

    Once more: “God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” etc. Hebrews 1:1-3. This testimony is conclusive. It is an inspired declaration that God has a personal form; and to give an idea of what that form is, it declares that Christ, just as we conceive of him as ascended up bodily on high, is the express image thereof.MND 28.1

    The evidence already presented shows that there is no necessity for making the image of God, in which man was created, to consist of anything else but bodily form. But to whatever else persons may be inclined to apply it, Paul, in his testimony to the Romans, forever destroys the possibility of making it apply to immortality. He says (Romans 1:22, 23): “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” The word here rendered “uncorruptible” is the same word that is translated “immortal,” and applied to God in 1 Timothy 1:17. Now if God, by making man in his image, stamped him with immortality, man is just as incorruptible as God himself. But Paul says that he is not so; that while God is incorruptible, or immortal, man is corruptible, or mortal. The image of God does not, therefore, confer immortality.MND 28.2

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