Made in the Image of God…
…but not children of God by natural birth.
In my recent on-line studies with Ligonier Ministries I have been learning more on God’s attribute of love. One of the requirements of the course entitled, “Loved by God,” is to dig deeply into what the Scriptures actually say about the eternal love of God. One overlooked truth about God’s eternal love is that God’s love did not begin at creation. Just as God is eternal, so are all His other attributes–eternal…including that of His love.
Most people might have some difficulty understanding how our status as image-bearers of God by His creation of us has anything to do with His eternal love or the reason why we cannot claim we are children of God by natural birth. I confess that before I studied the second session in the series, my little grey cells had not digested the clear facts leading to a rational dialog on the subject. Realizing this truth and the impact it bears on the entire plan of redemption has made me love God more for the magnitude of who He is, the immensity of His eternal love, and helped me to help others think about why there is now a difference between being an image-bearer of God and being a child of God.
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In what ways do many contemporary churches today misrepresent God’s eternal love? What sorts of teaching/preaching have you heard that endorses a universal love of God for His creation without distinction?”
My Answer: Many preachers in churches today have lapsed into a Unitarian view of God’s eternal love; and so they tell their audiences that God loves everybody the same way, unconditionally, just as they are—“warts and all.” They go on to exercise their misrepresentation by advancing their propositions that because God created us in His own image and likeness, they say that we are all children of God; ergo, God loves us all without distinction…This grave error in preaching has profound implications for the Biblical facts of God’s plan of redemption and the work of Christ in His atoning death…
I have to say that I have never heard a preacher delve into the eternality of God’s love as Dr. Sproul has emphasized in this lecture: a vital point underscoring the eternal attribute of love which has always existed in Him who is self-existing—eternally. If anyone would have pressed me on this issue, of course I would have stated confidently that God’s love is a pure and holy attribute of His as eternal because He is eternal; but I am grateful for Dr. Sproul’s clearly spoken emphasis of this truth.
How would you describe the object of God’s love before He made His people? Why is the work of redemption considered a Trinitarian work? Why would it be a mistake to think that the exclusive object of the love of God is the world or people?”
My Answer: God’s love is Trinitarian and covenantal; i.e., the covenant love in the plan of redemption, established between the persons of the Godhead from eternity past—in the complete foreknowledge that the fall of man was going to occur.
In Dr. Sproul’s words: “It would be a mistake to think that the exclusive object of the love of God is the world or the people whom He is pleased to redeem. The primary object of the Father’s affection is the Son, and that is something that is often overlooked in the study of the Scriptures. It is absolutely true that God loves us, but we need to remember that He loves us (the redeemed) in the Son, and it is because of His great love for His Son that we are included in redemption.”
And when I meditate on this truth, I see encounters with Christ in clear perspective in the Scriptures on the Trinitarian work of redemption declared from His own lips: “All that the Father gives Me will come to me” (John 6.37); “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6.44); “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15.26); “I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3.3, 5); “…make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28.19).
The plan of redemption in this covenant love is for the glory of the beloved Son of God, Christ Jesus (Mark 9.7; 12.6; 2 Peter 1.16-18)—by whom and for whom all that was created is created (John 1.1-3; Revelation 4.11), and for whose glory the redeemed are bought for His possession (1 Corinthians 3.23; 7.22-23), and that in all things He might have the preeminence (Colossians 1.17-19). Glory be to God!
Do you find it offensive or unfair that we are biologically born into this world void of the Spirit of God as children of wrath? How would you respond to someone who says that we are all children of God through creation simply because we are made in His image?”
My Answer: Saying that we are made in the image of God is only saying that we bear His image. In the material world, whose image an object bears is the one to whom that object belongs and is under sovereign subjection—even if that object denies it, it cannot be annulled. Saying that we are children of God is, in reality, claiming that God is our Father. The implications of such a claim mean that anyone who claims it acknowledges the sovereign authority of God as Supreme Patriarch over his life and conduct, and gives himself in loyalty, love and obedience to such a Father and Patriarch…
It might be offensive to our feelings, it might be painful to accept, but in fact we must face the real genetic implications of being in Adam and subject to the degenerative and lethal effects of his corruption upon the seed inside his loins. The effect of his rebellion—the denial of God’s sovereignty and the darkening of his understanding of the truth in his mind are real effects of his corruption which spread to every cell of his body—every seed in his loins. While his corruption did not nullify the fact of his being an image-bearer of God, he became a fallen image-bearer, corrupted and adversarial to the very God who created Him to be in His own image and likeness—and in his now-corrupted, natural, humanist state he and all his biological issue are worthy of God’s wrath. As a fallen image-bearer, Adam refused to acknowledge that he belongs to God and is subject to His sovereignty over his life—both the temporal and the eternal. In his rebellion against God, he exalted his own humanist spirit above the Holy Spirit, and became an instrument in the hands of the Evil One. In his rebellion against God, Adam literally became the father of the children of wrath… “This Is Us,” in our natural, biological state. Adam changed his posture toward God, but God did not change His posture toward Adam and the progeny housed within his loins—as fallen image bearers, in our perverted condition, we still belong to God and are subject to His sovereignty over our lives—both the temporal and the eternal…
If we are talking about what is “fair” or “unfair” on this subject, we must consider that if a holy God did what is “fair” toward us He would have annihilated Adam and Eve on the spot or pronounced an eternal and irrevocable curse upon them without possibility of remedy even by God Himself. But God is fair first to Himself—to His Trinitarian being—the Father cannot deny His Beloved Son His rightful inheritance from the creation. The Holy Spirit’s life giving breath cannot be quenched. It’s what the Godhead does. Therefore, if we examine the “fair” thing to do in the Father’s love for the Son, and the work of life through the Holy Spirit, it was to provide a way for some of Adam’s corrupted progeny to be made clean, reborn, regenerate. This could only be accomplished supernaturally by the regenerating work of God Himself in the lives of the Adamic seed born congenitally unregenerate—children of the corrupted Adam, no longer children of God. What is “unfair” to our constipated minds is the way this mechanism of regeneration would be accomplished—through the sacrificial death of The Father’s Beloved Son for the children of wrath—the Incorruptible for the corrupt—and the work of faith supernaturally given as a gift by the Holy Spirit to awaken the darkened minds of Adam’s children of wrath to life in God’s Beloved Son.
All humans have been created in the image and likeness of God, and, as such, belong to God who is sovereign over their lives both temporal and eternal, to ordain what He chooses; but because of Adam’s rebellion against God, being an image-bearer of God in itself no longer qualifies all as children of God. All humans are born as fallen, rebellious image-bearers; no humans are born embracing the sovereignty and ownership of a holy God over their lives. We are not born children of God; we are born children of wrath. Until the regenerating breath of the Holy Spirit works in the heart of a fallen image-bearer of God—by grace through faith in The Father’s Beloved Son—he remains a child of wrath. Only those who believe in Christ Jesus are born anew, supernaturally, children of God…
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear; and may God the Father whose love for His Beloved Son is eternal be glorified by another fallen image-bearer being born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” by His grace in the work of His Holy Spirit.