The most fundamental reality of human existence is that we're made by God in His own image to be His representatives in His created world. In the very first chapter of the Bible we see that Yahweh created us to bear His image:
Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 ESV
What is with the plurality language here? Who is the "us" and "our" here? Who is God talking to? This is a reference to God's heavenly supernatural family, His divine council. From Philo onward, Jewish commentators generally held that these plurals were used because Yahweh was addressing His divine council. The early post Apostolic Fathers such as Barnabas and Justin Martyr saw the plurals as a reference to the Trinity. I think that is how most Christians see these plurals. But recent scholars tend to agree with ancient Jewish opinion.
F. M. Cross notes: "In both Ugaritic and biblical literature, the use of the first person plural is characteristic of address in the divine council. The familiar 'we' … has long been recognized as the plural address used by Yahweh in His council" (Cross, Canaanite Myth, 187).
The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary states: The "us" in "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26; cf. 3:22; 11:6-7) refers to the "sons of God" or lesser "gods" mentioned elsewhere (6:1-4; Job 1:6; Ps. 29:1), here viewed as a heavenly council centered around the one God (cf. Ps. 82:1). In later usage these probably would be called "angels." (p. 1019, "Trinity")
The plural language is important. Who is God talking to? His heavenly family. And with His heavenly family He discusses creating us, His human earthly family. God wanted us to be like His heavenly family. So what does it mean to be created in His image? Whatever it means we know that; It includes man and women, it is equally possessed. We also know that it is not incremental or partial, you either have it or you don't. It is passed on generationally. Notice Genesis 9:
"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Genesis 9:6 ESV
So this is after the flood, it's many generations later and man is still said to be made in God's image. This is after the fall, so the image includes all people believers and non-believers. We see here that it is wrong to murder/abortion because we, mankind, are made in the image of God.
So what does it mean to be created in God's image? The image is not an ability we have, but a status. God intends us to be His representatives on earth.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1:28 ESV
The first phrase, "be fruitful and multiply" means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, "subdue the earth," means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations.
So what does image mean? Our text might be better read, "Let us make man (as) in our image, after our likeness." In Hebrew like in English the preposition"in" can be use in different ways. If I said, The spare tire is in the trunk. I'm using "in" for location. If I said, I hit a curb and my tire is shredded in pieces. I'm using "in" for result. If I said, I drove her here in the car. I'm using "in" for instrumentality. Or I could say, I work in ministry. I'm using "in" to denote function or role. I work as a pastor/teacher. The same is true in Hebrew. So in this text in Genesis 1, "in" is better translated as "as". "Let us make man as our image." Denoting function or role. We are to be God's agents, His representatives, on earth.
This image was marred in the fall. So now only believers can truly bear the image of Yahweh. And we can only do this as we live godly lives. The representation idea is seen in:
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Exodus 20:7 ESV
The word "take" here is the Hebrew word nasa which means, to life, bear, carry. To bear the name is to be God's representative. We see this in:
But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." 2 Timothy 2:19 ESV
Christians, we name the name of Yeshua, we are His representatives and we are to depart from iniquity. We are to live lives of holiness. People are to see Yahweh in us.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 ESV
"Be imitators of God"—"be" is a present imperative and has the idea: "to become." They are to develop continuously into imitators of Yahweh. The Greek word for "imitator" is mimetes, which is the word that we get our English word "mimic" from: to mimic or to copy something. What it denotes is an actor, an actor who spends time and energy in studying a character with the view to reproducing it.
Speaking about the image of God N.T. Wright states, "It seems to me that God has put humans like an angled mirror in His world so that God can reflect His love and care and stewardship of the world through humans and so that the rest of the world can praise the creator through humans."
Paul knew the importance of example in teaching others. He told the Corinthians that he was their father in the Gospel and then added:
I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 ESV
Why does he want believers to imitate him? It is because he is imitating Christ:
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
Paul was imitating Christ who was the perfect image of Yahweh. Paul tells the Thessalonians:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV
So Paul was living out this command that he is giving believers, he was imitating Christ. Notice what he told the Philippians:
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 ESV
Basically, Paul is saying, "Do what I do." Can you say to others, "Follow me as I follow Christ"? The constant call to the Christian is to be like Yahweh. It is Yahweh's purpose that each of us reflect the image of our Father.
All humans are God's imagers but since the fall only believers who have the Spirit can really do this well. Which means that we need to be doing a good job at this, because lost man totally bears God's name in vain.
So practically what does this look like? As Christians, as children of the heavenly Father, we have a duty to imitate Christ, if He is compassionate, we as His image bearers, are to be compassionate, If He is loving, we are to be loving. We are to display Him in all we say and do. We see some of what this imaging involves in Paul's words to the Ephesians.
The text that was read this morning, Ephesians 4:17-32, is all about changing. It is about those changes which God has made possible, and which we, by His grace, are to implement in our lives. Paul is introducing a new pattern of thinking and living to his readers. They may no longer live like the non-Christians, because they have been chosen, changed, and converted in Christ. They are now to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. This is just as important for us today as it was for them. To NOT live in a holy manner is to grieve our God:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 ESV
Who are we not to grieve? The Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? He is Yahweh!
In verse 30 Paul is quoting:
But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Isaiah 63:10 ESV
In context this verse is referring to the time of the Exodus. The presence of Yahweh is interpreted in this passage in terms of the Holy Spirit. But the Exodus narrative makes it plain that Yahweh Himself led His people through the desert and gave them rest:
And he said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14 ESV
Yet Isaiah unequivocally asserts that it was "the Spirit of Yahweh who gave them rest":
Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name. Isaiah 63:14 ESV
So who was it that gave them rest, Yahweh or the Holy Spirit? Yes! The Holy Spirit is Yahweh! Yahweh is the one true God and He exists in three persons. The Trinity is not just Christian theology, the Tanakh taught this also. Let's look at Isaiah 63, the passage that Paul quotes from in Ephesians 4:30.
…the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them…10 But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit…11 Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit…14 the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name. Isaiah 63:9-14 ESV
Here we see Yahweh, the Angel of Yahweh, who is the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So here we have all three members of the Godhead. Psalm 78 is a recounting of the same event as in Isaiah 63, notice what it says:
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. Psalms 78:40-41 ESV
The verbs "rebelled and grieved" used in Isaiah 63:10 of the Holy Spirit are used here of Yahweh-the Holy One of Israel. Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are One in essence.
And in the New Testament we learn that the Spirit and Yeshua are one in essence also:
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Yeshua did not allow them. Acts 16:6-7 ESV
The Spirit is Yahweh, the Son is Yahweh, and the Father is Yahweh. Ezekiel gives us the same picture:
In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me there. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem… Ezekiel 8:1-3 ESV
So we have Yahweh in verse 1, then in verse 2 we see a divine man, then in verse 3 we have the Spirit. These three figures are co-identified as Yahweh. The Jews were monotheistic, they served one God who was Yahweh, but they realized that Yahweh was the God head made up of more than one Divine being.
Some times Preterists ask if the Holy Spirit is still with us today. Yes, of course, the whole God head is with us. We dwell in the presence of the triune Yahweh. So when we grieve the Holy Spirit we also grieve Yeshua and the Father. And we grieve them when we live like the unsaved, we grieve them when we don't tell the truth, when we let our anger control us, when we steal and are selfish, when we tear others down with our speech instead of building them up. In verse 31 and 32 Paul uses six terms to describe the old, sinful behavior that we must put off. Then, he uses three terms to describe the new, godly behavior that we are to put on. Finally, he gives us the motive or reason why we should adopt this new behavior.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 ESV
Paul begins this passage with a command—he lists six things, from emotions to the reactions that come from them that are to be "put away."
"Put away"—is from the verb airo, which means: "to lift with a view to carry," but also means: "to take away, remove." "Put away" has the sense of a word picture, some commentators believe, of a landlord putting out an undesirable tenant.
The word "all" is used twice in this verse, at the beginning, "all bitterness," and at the end, "all malice." He repeats the word "all" twice for emphasis. All of these evil dispositions are to be "put off"—every one of them, with no exceptions.
Literally it says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be taken away from you." The verb is passive. This is a hint that we cannot do this ourselves.
Paul moves from a resentful inner attitude (bitterness) through its outward expression in outbursts of rage and seething anger, to yelling abusively (clamor). Then he mentions spreading our anger by slander. He concludes with a catch-all term that covers all forms of anger, namely, malice.
"Bitterness"—is from the Greek word pikria, and can refer to a bitter taste of plants, and with reference to temper may mean: "bitterness or resentment." Phillips renders this word "resentment" and the New English Bible translates it: "spite." Barclay defines this as: "long-standing resentment," "a spirit which refuses to be reconciled." In effect, bitterness is the bearing of a grudge against another because of some wrong we believe they have committed against us or another.
We need to realize that Paul's commands here imply that you have been mistreated. You wouldn't be bitter if everyone treated you right. You wouldn't be harboring malice if others had been nice towards you. You wouldn't need to forgive if others had not wronged you. So, Paul is showing us how to respond in a godly way in an ungodly world where people wrong us.
"Wrath and anger"—wrath is from the Greek thumos. The NIV translates it: "rage." It is derived from a word meaning: "to boil." It refers to outbursts of anger, when someone boils over. It is used to describe the people in the synagogue in Nazareth, whose rage at Yeshua drove them to try to throw Him over the edge of a cliff (Luke 4:28). It is used of the rage of the mob in Ephesus that led to the riot against the Christians (Acts 19:28).
Anger—is from the Greek word orge. With reference to sinful human anger, wrath and anger are largely synonymous. If there is a nuance of difference, wrath is the sudden outburst of temper, whereas anger refers to a more settled attitude, often with the purpose of revenge.
We are all aware of the problem of wrath and anger in our society. We frequently read about road rage, sometimes to the extreme where one angry motorist shoots and kills another motorist over some minor frustration.
The distinguishing mark of sinful anger is selfishness: "I didn't get my way and I want my way! I didn't get my rights and I demand my rights!"
At the instant you begin to feel angry, you must deal with how you think. You must stop long enough to think, "God is sovereign and He has allowed this difficult situation for my training in righteousness. Any anger that I express towards the other person is really anger towards God, who has providentially caused this.
"Clamor"—is from the Greek word krauge. It refers to loud, angry words, where people are screaming at each other. It includes cursing and calling someone abusive names. It comes from a word that means: "to scream." I'm sure none of you know any thing about this experientially!
"Slander"—is from the Greek blasphemia, from which we get our word blasphemy. This Greek word is also used for blasphemy against God, but here it refers to speaking evil about someone to someone else who has no need to hear it. This is speaking against another person to cause injury to their reputation. When bitterness has moved outward into wrath and anger, and they have moved outward into clamor, clamor often moves into words that attempt to injure or destroy the other person.
"Malice"—is from the Greek word kakia, which is a general term for wickedness or ill-will towards another person. It is the desire to harm the person, either emotionally or physically. When coupled with slander, the intent is to harm the person's reputation or his relationships with others by smearing him.
Paul commands us to remove all six of these sinful attitudes and actions. They characterize unbelievers, but they have no place with those who are image bearers of Yahweh.
Paul's pattern here is not only to have us stop doing the evil behavior, but also to begin practicing godly behavior. We are to replace lying with telling the truth (4:25). We are to stop stealing and instead work hard and give to those in need (4:28). We are to stop using unwholesome words and instead use words that build up and give grace (4:29). So here, sinful anger is to be replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
The Greek word translated "be" means: "to become." It is a present imperative verb, indicating an ongoing process. The process begins when you choose to accept responsibility for your sin, rather than to blame others. At that point you begin trusting the Spirit to strengthen you to be a kind person.
"Be kind to one another"—the Greek word for "kind" is chrestos, it means: "to show oneself useful, to act benevolently." The verb itself speaks of activity, active good will, being useful for somebody else's good, always trying to do what is helpful to the other person, even if it involves sacrifice.
This word, "kind," was the rallying attribute for Christians in the early church. One reason was that the word, chrestos, looked and sounded like the word Christ— Christos. And kindness was the overwhelmingly evident attribute of our Lord, Himself. He said of Himself, "My yoke is easy," easy is the same word used here for "kind" by Paul.
Kindness is not just a feeling. Kind people are easy to take, not harsh. In the New Testament, the verb appears only in 1 Corinthians 13:4, but the noun and the adjective for kindness occur repeatedly in Paul's Epistles:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV
Here Paul tells us that the loving Christian is patient and kind. In our cruel and unkind society we have unlimited opportunities to show the world love through our kindness.
Clement of Rome wrote an Epistle to the Corinthian Church in which he quotes a saying of Yeshua that has the same Greek verb: "As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness."
How often is it that when we act unkindly toward others, the unkindness comes right back to attack us? The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 ESV
A soft answer would be responding to a person with kindness. Harsh words would not be kind and would stir the other person to act unkindly also.
The New Testament has much to say about the kindness of Yahweh, and as His children, we are to bear His image.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Luke 6:35 ESV
Here the Greek word chrestos, is translated: "kind," and in Romans 2:4, the same word is translated: "good." Kindness and goodness are so closely related that they are often used interchangeably. We could translate "kind" as "good." The kind person does good, they are useful to all.
Yahweh is kind; He does good, useful, helpful, gracious things for people. We are called to be like Yahweh, we are also to be kind to all:
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, Colossians 3:12 ESV
This is the same Greek word, chrestos, we are to be kind to one another, we are to be good to each other, we are to be gracious to each other.
The first test of Christian kindness is the home. Let me ask you married people, "Are you kind to each other? Children, are you kind to your parents? Parents, are you kind to your children?" Kindness is vital to our Christian witness, and the place to learn and practice kindness is in the home.
I think Clement of Rome was correct when he wrote, "As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness." Just as unkindness sets off a chain reaction of unkindness, so an act of kindness sets off a chain reaction of kind events. Kindness is contagious! But so is unkindness. Let's be sure that as God's children, we are spreading kindness to those we come in contact with.
Herbert V. Prochnow said, "You may be sorry that you spoke, sorry you stayed or went, sorry you won or lost, sorry you thought the worst, sorry so much was spent. But as you go through life, you'll find—you're never sorry you were kind."
Think about how kind Yahweh has been to you. In gratitude for all that He has done for us, we are to be kind to everyone. Think about how we will be able to influence others for the glory of God when we treat them with kindness. We can live this way, but will we? We must choose to be kind to others while trusting the Lord to provide the strength to do it.
Where is it today where most non-believers come in contact with Christians? I would guess that it would be on social media. So when you are on the internet, facebook, Google+, snapchat, twitter, are you kind? I see so much unkindness on the internet among Christians. I know it grieves Yahweh.
"Tender-hearted"—is from the Greek eusplagchnos, which comes from the Greek word for "bowels," which they saw as the seat of our emotions. To be tender-hearted means to have deep, "gut" feelings for one another. It means: "to have genuine concern for another person's well-being. It's means being sympathetic to the needs of others." It is the opposite of being calloused. If you are tender-hearted you will get hurt and therefore you need to be:
"Forgiving each other"—forgiving is from the Greek word charizomai, most English translations render this word: "to forgive one another." Although this is a legitimate translation, it is not the normal rendering of charizomai, which would be: "being gracious to one another." The concept is broader than forgiveness, but includes forgiveness. If grace by definition is something we don't deserve, forgiveness is acting towards others in a way they don't deserve.
Instead of holding a grudge that develops into bitterness, we are to forgive those who have wronged us. The word used here points to undeserved favor. It implies that the other person has truly wronged us. Why does Yahweh command us to forgive each other? Because it is a fact of life that we will be hurt by each other.
None of us are perfect. We all still sin, and therefore, we will hurt each other. How many of you have ever been hurt by another Christian? Everyone has. How many of you have ever hurt another Christian? You can count on it, just like death and taxes. When we are hurt, how are we to deal with it, what do we do? Peter knows that when you forgive someone, chances are that they will turn around and hurt you again. So he asks the Lord this question:
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Matthew 18:21 ESV
Peter understood the tendency of man to fail, he knew it very well. So he asks, "How many times do I have to forgive, seven times?" Seven times might not seem like much to you, but Peter was going way beyond the Jewish requirement. Rabbi Jose Ben Hanina said, "He who begs forgiveness from his neighbor must not do so more than three times" Rabbi Jose Ben Jehuda said, "If a man commits an offence once, they forgive him; if he commits an offence a second time, they forgive him; if he commits an offence a third time, they forgive him; the fourth time they do not forgive." The Jewish Talmud said a person was to forgive three times and that's it. The Talmud contained rules and instructions by which, in addition to the Tanakh, the conduct of the Jewish nation was regulated. The Jews set so high a value on the Talmud, as to place it generally above the inspired Scripture. Kind of like some folks do today with church creeds, constitutions, and doctrinal statements.
Peter must have felt he was really being big hearted to go beyond the tradition of the Jews. Notice Yeshua's answer to Peter:
Yeshua said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:22 ESV
It would be hard to keep track of that many. That's the point, you're not supposed to keep track. He is not saying that you stop forgiving at 491. His answer is not to be taken literally! Yeshua confronts Peter with the truth, that the spirit of forgiveness really knows no boundaries. He is saying, "Don't keep track." Forgiveness is the mark of a loving person.
The deeper you have been hurt, the more difficult it is truly to forgive. Some believers have been abused emotionally, physically, or sexually as children by their parents or by trusted family members. Some believers have children who were abused by their mate or by a family member. Some have been betrayed by an unfaithful spouse whom they loved and cared for deeply. These kinds of wrongs are not easy to forgive.
But if you're a Christian, seeking and granting forgiveness are not optional. To not forgive hinders our relationship with Yahweh and mars His image.
When someone wrongs you, it helps to control your anger and make you ready to forgive if you s remember that Yahweh has allowed this to happen for His purpose and your ultimate good (Rom. 8:28). When Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, he could have become a very bitter young man. Instead, he chose to forgive his brothers. After their father died, they feared that now he would use his position of power to get revenge. But Joseph acknowledged God's sovereignty and goodness when he said to them:
But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:19-20 ESV
Joseph's theology of Yahweh's absolute sovereignty kept him from having an unforgiving spirit.
How are we to forgive? What is the standard? "As God in Christ forgave you"—God forgave you by His grace, not because of any merit. If you think that you somehow earned or deserved God's forgiveness because of your good works, you do not understand the Gospel. Yahweh forgave you far more than you can ever forgive anyone else.
Biblical forgiveness is a decision to release the offender from the guilt of his sin, to refuse to bring up the offense to use against him, to refuse to think about the offense, to refuse to talk to others about the offense, and to be reconciled to the offender if possible.
How do we live like this? Walk by means of the Spirit. Depend upon Him, trust Him. Memorize verses such as our text, so that they immediately pop into your mind when you are tempted to be angry or unforgiving.
Think about this, believers, if we could be a community in the midst of this world; a community of people who never lie but always speak the truth; a community of people who never get angry so that it's a sinful anger, but always act in love; if we could be a people who never steal but only share; if we could be a people who never speak are never harmful but always minister grace to people who are listening; if we could be those who have no bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, but are characterized by an incessant kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness; do you think the world might take a note of our message? They would see Yahweh in us Him image bearers.