I: The Image of God & Sanctification

Throughout the history of the Church, theologians have discussed the image of God in a large number of ways. I want to add to their discussion today by talking about the image of God regarding holiness and sanctification.

This begins with Adam and Genesis 1:28. In that verse, God gives Adam the dominion mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Adam, with the aid of his helpmate Eve, were to do these things. Why did God command these things? Because God not only wanted Adam and Eve to rule over creation, but to spread His image throughout the earth by procreation. Adam failed to do this. Next, we see this same command passed onto Noah and his family in Genesis 9:1-2, but Ham, Noah’s son, failed like Adam. This un-fulfilled command was then turned into a promise which Abraham received. Rather than being told to spread God’s image across the globe, God promised Abraham that He would bless the nations through his descendants.

Did the dominion mandate just go away? No. It is fulfilled by Jesus. Jesus is called the “last Adam” in 1 Cor. 15:45, and is referred to in Romans 5:14 when Paul says, “Adam was a type of the One who was to come.” These verses mean that in Adam we get a preview of not only what Jesus would be like, but we also get a preview of the work Jesus will do. How so? I’m glad you asked! This is where the image of God and holiness comes into play. Jesus, unlike Adam fulfilled this command from Genesis 1:28 not by procreation (as Adam was to do) but by making new creations out of sinful human beings. Follow me now. When a person places their faith in Jesus, they become new creations. They, who were originally made in the image of God (but marred by sin) are now by salvation more realistic displays of the image of God than they have ever been before because they are living in communion with God, and thats what they were made for! In regards to holiness and sanctification – when one is saved by Jesus, Jesus begins to conform to His own image, which the Bible says is the exact representation of the image of God (Heb. 1:3, Col. 1:15-20). So being made into the image of Jesus is being made into the image of God.

So you see, the more people come to Jesus, the more people are being into the image of God by Jesus through what is called sanctification (growing in holiness!). What does this mean? Jesus is fulfilling the Genesis 1:28 command by making these new creations all over the globe. Thus, the image of God is now being spread throughout the whole earth by Jesus, with the aid of His helpmate, the Church.


Justification vs. Sanctification: A Soul-Settling Truth

If you’ve been around churches long enough, you’ll have heard two very big theological words: justification and sanctification.  The difference between these two is massive and if we get them confused we not only are misinformed, we’re in grave danger.  So lets define them:

Justification is God’s declaring you to be what you’re not, righteous.

Sanctification is the process by which God makes you into what you’ve been declared, righteous.

Justification happens in an instant, when you place your faith and trust in Jesus for salvation.  It is at this moment that a great exchange happens, God removes your sin and gives you the righteousness of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21).  Sanctification, rather than an instantaneous event, is a process.  This process will take your whole life, and will be completed when you meet Jesus face to face after death or at His second coming.  Because this is a process, we must be patient with Christians around us.  Why?  Because they are imperfect people in process.  They are not perfect, and we should never demand perfection from them.

There is grave danger in getting these two terms mixed up or backwards.  If we trust in our sanctification for our justification (or if we trust in our own works of righteousness for our salvation) we have no salvation.  But if we understand that we’ve been declared righteous (something we are not) and then God grows us in that righteousness over time, we’ll be okay and your soul will be settled in life, because we screw up a lot.  And we all need to hear this because we screw up far more than we could ever imagine.  But praise God that our salvation is not based on what we do (Romans 4:4-5), but on what God has done for us.  Yes we do “works” of righteousness, and strive to be closer to God through our Christian disciplines, but amen (!) that our salvation doesn’t rest on these disciplines.

This is indeed a soul settling truth.

My Resolution for 2013 – Join Me?

Sorry to say this but there will be no book recommendation today due to New Years.  BUT I’ve got something better for you.  Since most of you are thinking through goals for 2013, I want to share mine.  It’s the same each year, but each year I try and pursue it from a different angle.

Since I have been a Christian, my resolution every new year has been the same.  You may say that I am boring to do so, but let me explain.  As December ends and January roles around I find one desire growing in me:  to know God better this year than last.  I want to be able to say in December 2013, that I know God better now than I did in 2012.  I want to be closer to Him, I want to talk to Him more and in a more real way, I want to know His Word better, I want to feel Him more, I want to be more like Him, and most of all I want to love Him more than I did in the previous year.

How will all this be accomplished?  I could make a bunch of resolutions to do it.  For example I could make resolutions to read more, to pray more, to fast more, to rebuke more, to evangelize more, etc.  Those are not bad resolutions, but they are all “fruit” issues.  My resolution gets at the “root” issue, namely, treasuring the gospel.  You see, if I treasure the gospel more this year than last, all of those things I listed will happen.  If I do not treasure the gospel more this year than last, those things will likely decrease.  So instead of going at specific “fruit” issues, I want more heart work being done, more “root” issues.

Where do I get this in the Bible?  Titus 2:11-12, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”  I will not be godly if concentrate on reading the Bible more.  I will not be godly if I make it my aim to share the gospel with every person I meet.  I will not become more godly if I try to “do” more things.  The only way you and I will become more godly, is by reflecting on the gospel; because it is the gospel, the grace of God that has appeared, that teaches us, or instructs us to live godly in this present age.

Titus 3 also shows this.  In chapter 3 Paul gloriously describes the gospel in verses 3-7.  Then in verse 8 he says, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.  These things are good and profitable for men.”  When Paul says “these things” he means the gospel that he described in verses 3-7.  What is it that causes believers to carefully engage in good deeds?  What is it that is good and profitable for men?  The gospel!  When believers treasure the gospel, good deeds flow forth in abundance.

So my resolution this year, is the same as last year, and will most likely be the same as each new year comes that God wills to bring us.  I want to treasure the gospel more, so that I grow more.  When I grow more, I know God more.  When I know God more, I love God more!  When I love God more, I am filled with infinite pleasure and delight!  So really my desire this new year is for the increasing of my joy in Jesus, above all things!  Join me this year in this glorious pursuit.