Table of Contents
Part III: The Terms "Image"
and "Likeness" as Used in Genesis 1:26
The Likeness Achieved
IT MAY APPEAR
paradoxical, but it is nevertheless a fact, that one may bear
the Image of God without His Likeness. But one cannot bear the
Likeness without the Image. Now and then there appear men who,
while being quite indifferent to, and even sometimes hostile
to, Christianity nonetheless seem to have a certain god-likeness
in their character.
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Indeed, I am constantly being put
to shame by the kindness, patience, and unselfishness of friends
who do not know the Lord. When I compare their natural goodness
with the evil propensities which I discern in my own heart and
which sometimes seem to me only to increase as I grow older,
I am appalled at my lack of patience, my unwarranted pride, and
my deeply ingrained selfishness. I know the Lord, and I love
the Lord as He alone can know, yet my character is a poor testimony
to the profession I make and to that which I know to be possible
for my life in Him. And if for no other reason than this, I am
fully persuaded that whatever is pleasing to God in my life is
not an expression of my old self -- still too discouragingly
in evidence -- but of the re-created man within who bears His
image, because it is in fact the Lord Jesus Himself. One seldom
sees evidence of it; least of all, do I see it. Yet just now
and then the veil is momentarily lifted, and one is permitted
the joyful surprise of a sudden otherwise inexplicable victory
of the spirit, as a testimony to the reality of His indwelling.
Oh, I know the comfort of the assurance of His constant presence,
but the proof of it to others is probably seldom seen indeed.
Meanwhile, I constantly meet men
whose character in many respects I greatly envy and would like
to emulate. I think Oswald Chambers best evaluated such individuals
when he said that the nobility in them is a remnant of a dying
Adam, but not the promise of a new life. And it is just this
circumstance which makes it unacceptable to God in spite of its
nearness in appearance to the real thing. In such men,
nobility of disposition
results from a combination of things including birth, circumstances,
and will. A saintly saint is much more strictly a work of God.
This alone is true God-likeness and it is possible only in those
who bear the image. While pseudo-man has the potential to become
a child of God, true man has the potential to become God-like
-- or as we are more accustomed to say, Christ-like.
a little, we have observed that with Adam, the image was created
when he himself was created, so that from the very first he appeared
as true man, though he lost this status when he sinned. He was
at the first, and in the end, a son of God. But the likeness
of God was not created in him, it was merely appointed for him.
Unlike the image, the likeness was something which was to be
achieved by his obedience and submission to God. It would be
safer, and more scriptural, to say that the likeness was not
to be achieved by Adam's effort but rather by the working of
the Holy Spirit in Adam. Our part is not so much a positive one,
as though we were able creatively to reform ourselves so that
we become Christlike, but rather that we should resist and restrain,
as far as possible and with the help of the Holy Spirit, all
the propensities of the old nature, both good and bad.
What we are really concerned with
here is the secret of growth in Christian character, a subject
of endless discussion and not a little argument. The view which
is presented here has at least this to commend it, that while
it demands real effort on our part, the end result is still entirely
a work of God; and pride is altogether excluded. This looks like
a contradiction, but it avoids two rather serious errors.
First, growth is not the result
of some process of complete self-surrender of the will, which
we are sometimes told is "all there is to it." It is
amazing how easily one can be deceived into relaxing the struggle,
by believing that in this kind of "weakness" lies our
chief source of strength, the strength of the Lord supposedly
being inversely proportional to the weakness of the individual.
This view takes several forms, but all of them are dangerous
self-deceits, in spite of their apparent Scriptural justification
from passages such as 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10. When Paul spoke
of weakness here, does he really mean weakness of will? We might
well ask the question, Would a man who could claim to have "fought
a good fight," suggest that no struggle is necessary anyway?
Secondly, man cannot assist God
in any direct way in the creation of anything that is perfect.
I think this rule applies even for the child of God. And the
man who is quite confident that by a constant exercise of willpower
he contributes directly to his own holiness in God's sight is
deceiving himself. For while he may be dealing successfully with
two consciously recognized
areas of failure in his life, he can only deal with the
things he recognizes. He is apt to suppose that having dealt
with these, he has achieved full stature. What he tends to do
is merely to concentrate on one or two symptoms, ignoring the
basic disease. The Word of God never promises a consciousness
of sinlessness, yet this is what most of us assume victory
to mean. The human heart is desperately wicked and is no sooner
subdued in one area when it will erupt in a subtle way in some
other area. I should like to suggest that man's part is not to
plant more flowers, but to keep the weeds down in the unoccupied
area, in order that the seed of God's planting may grow. The
new man, then, is entirely a creation of God in Christ. Yet we
do have a vital part in its growth.
Our part is a negative one. This
will be apparent if we list a few key passages of Scripture which
bear on the matter, and after each reference give the key words
which really support this contention. The real crux of the matter
is this: Does man have within himself the power to produce anything
that is perfect enough to please God? Most Christians would say
that the believer does have this power. I do not think
that Scripture can be found to support this. If by reason of
the exercise of a redeemed will, a man could deny every evil
propensity of his nature, would this make him a righteous man
in God's sight? I think not. I think he would be in the position
of a gardener who had deliberately rooted out every single weed
in his little plot of land, only to find that he could not get
any flowers to grow because he did not have any seeds. The cleaning-up
process was excellent, but like the man who swept and garnished
his house (Matthew 12:44), his position could be more dangerous
than ever. This is the limit of his capacity -- to institute
a clean-up. He does not have the capacity to create a new thing
to replace the old. This is the work of God, and the most he
can do is to restrain the evil, that God may introudce the good.
This, I think, is the meaning of
such pasages as the following:
2 Timothy 2:21 ". . . purge himself . . ."
Colossians 3:5 "Mortify therefore your
members. . ."
Romans 13:14 ". . . make not provision
for the flesh. . . "
Romans 6:12 "Let not sin reign
in your mortal body."
of the natural propensities for evil which exist in every one
of us, however, is not something which we can undertake without
help. It is obvious that a will that is sinful cannot will itself
out of existence. The help that we need in this process of restraint
is promised by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The following
verses seem to indicate this principle:
Romans 8:26 ".
. . the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. . ."
Hebrews 4:15, 16 ". . . to
find grace to help in time of need. . .
1 Corinthians10:13 ". . . a way to escape. .
." (provided by God)
In these passages,
and in many more, the part which we may play is carefully circumscribed.
It is always the restraint of sin, and never the creation of
righteousness. It is a humbling thing to discover that God has
no confidence in the capacity of man to be good. And it is important
to observe that when one may by nature seem to be a better man
than others, as though relative goodness had some real meaning,
the truth is rather that some men are less evil than others,
which is fundamentally a different thing.
All of this can be summed up in
the words of John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I
must decrease" (John 3:30). Notice the one is not safe without
the other. Moreover, Paul made it very clear that the new man
himself was the sole source of any good thing that he did, this
new man being the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20). From this,
it is manifestly more appropriate to rejoice not in our victory
in the Lord, but in the Lord's victory in us. The more flowers,
the more distasteful the weeds. The purer the heart, the greater
the hatred of the sin which remains. As the sin occupies less
"space," it becomes more and more distasteful, the
gardener longing more and more for "all flowers." It
follows that the nearer a man comes to true holiness, to himself
the more distasteful will seem the weeds which remain.
Now it would seem from other passages
of Scripture that God has in mind the formation of a character
for each of us that is individual and yet a reflection of the
total character of Jesus Christ.
The likeness which God had in mind for
Adam was appointed, to be wrought out in time. Analogously, God
appointed the plants before they were in the ground (Genesis
1:11, 12). It is as though God created them perfect in His mind's
eye and then planted seeds so designed that they would grow into
a realization of the full flower He envisioned. I can sit down
with pencil and paper and produce, a line at a time, a drawing
of a new building which is not created by the act of my drawing
it, but which already exists in my own mind. The pencil merely
gives birth to that which I have already created. So the seed
gives birth to the plants which God had already made (Hebrew:
"appointed") before the seed was actually planted in
And in somewhat the same way God's
true children are "planted" in His likeness (Romans
6:5). That is to say, God has already designed the kind of person
whom He wants each one of us to be, and though the seed is planted
and its growth is at first altogether hidden, in due time it
takes a recognizable shape. With a human life growth is so slow
passing of the years
that it is scarcely perceptible even to ourselves. Yet we have
every assurance that in the end He really will perfect that which
He has begun (Phililipppians 1:6).
How is this perfecting
process carried out? First of all, it should be said that the
likeness to be achieved is a likeness to the character of Jesus
Christ. It is indeed nothing less than the re-formation of the
Person of Christ in us (Galatians 4:19). Not of the whole Person
of Christ, for that would clearly be impossible: only some small
portion is to be formed which is perfectly appropriate to our
Galatians 5:22 and 23 delineates the
character of Jesus Christ in a series of personality traits,
namely, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness,
faith, meekness, temperance -- and these traits are said to be
the "fruit" of the Spirit. How are these fruit born?
According to Scripture, they are born out of the doing of good
works (Colossians 1:10). They are, in fact, the consequence of
the effect upon ourselves of the carrying out of these good works.
And these good works are foreordained for each one of us specifically
for this purpose (Ephesians 2: 10), and they are exactly suited
to our capabilities and perfectly guaranteed to have the desired
effect if we will do them as God wishes them to be done. This
is surely the meaning of the familiar statement in the Lord's
Prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven":
which is not a prayer that God's will may be done, but rather
that it may be done in the kind of a way that it is done in heaven
-- willingly and perfectly. These things are set forth very simply
and clearly in Scripture.
We have, then, this sequence: in
Ephesians, specific good works are appointed by God for each
one of us to do; in Colossians, the doing of these good works
is designed to bear fruit in our lives, and in Galatians, the
fruits are identified as personality traits. By contrast the
"works of darkness" are unfruitful (Ephesians 5:9-11).
But contrary to what is commonly supposed, the spiritual "fruits"
are not the winning of souls for the Lord, for this particular
form of Christian labour is referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:1
It is quite possible, in fact,
for an exceedingly successful evangelistic campaign to be quite
unfruitful in the evangelist's own soul, as Jonah's experience
in Nineveh demonstrates all too clearly. It left him an embittered
spirit, a man indeed ready to commit suicide (Jonah 4:3).
Conversely, it is not evil works
in themselves which form the basis of God's condemnation, but
rather the "fruits" of those evil works in the doer's
heart. There is a beautiful illustration of this in Isaiah 10:5-l2.
In this passage, verses 5 and 6 reveal God's commission to a
pagan king to serve as His personal administrator of punishment
to a disobedient and offensive Israel. In verse 7 it is revealed
that the king
was quite unaware of
the real inspiration of his behaviour. He imagined he was merely
pleasing himself. Verse 12 shows that he would in no wise be
punished for the deed he had done at God's bidding, but he would
be punished for what the doing did to his own heart, confirming
his pride and his sense of personal power, "the fruit of
his stout heart."
is applied throughout Scripture. Works in themselves are not
the basis of God's judgment. Good works do not automatically
bring His approval; evil works do not automatically bring His
condemnation. Even in the lives of the saints this principle
holds. Paul, for example in 1 Corinthians 9:16 and 17, points
out that the work of preaching the Gospel was divinely appointed
for him so that in itself evangelism carried no automatic reward.
It was a rewarding experience only when he did it in a proper
spirit. Moreover, God's mercy extends itself towards us even
in this, that He seeks not only to fulfill His will in us but
to so work by His Holy Spirit in our hearts that we also "will"
to do His will (Philipppians 2:13). It is quite possible to do
the Lord's will in the wrong spirit, and when this happens the
benefit of having done it will be felt by others (for the Lord's
will is always for the common good, ultimately), but with no
profit to oneself. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul is careful
to say that although he should give all his goods to feed the
poor, if he does not have love in and out of the doing of it,
it profits him nothing at all. In a nutshell, it is not
by deeds that we grow, but by the effect that the doing has upon
ourselves. The effects are referred to as fruits: and it is by
these fruits, not by deeds, that men will ultimately be "known"
There is a beautiful inner consistency
and harmony in Scripture, and an equally beautiful appropriateness
in God's ways with us. In our desire to appear busy for the Lord
we all too soon forget that it is not God's object to make executives
out of us but saints, and at times He finds this easier to do
when we are forced into inactivity for a while. The times we
live in are so crowded with events and our culture has come to
attach so much importance to busyness and the filling of every
unforgiving minute with "sixty seconds worth of distance
run" that we have come to equate idleness with sin. Perhaps
after all, this is not such a new thing, for Martha, too, was
afflicted with it. But what a transformation would take place
in the lives of most of us if we could only realize moment by
moment that the things we are engaged in doing are of so much
less importance than the spirit with which we engage or don't
engage in the doing of them.
I think maturity comes with this
realization. In Isaiah 40:31 it is written, "But they that
wait upon the LORD
shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings
as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they
shall walk, and not faint." And if we may go one step
further before commenting,
Paul in Ephesians 6:13 says, "and having done all, to stand."
The sequence of events here is striking. The world accelerates,
everything gets faster and faster until a common rebuke takes
the form, "You're slowing down." In Christian life
as summed up by Isaiah and concluded by Paul, it is exactly the
opposite. The young Christian leaps in his new found vitality.
In time his flying here and there slows down to a run. Later
on a run becomes a walk. And if I do not misunderstand Paul,
the time comes when a walk is replaced by a stand. But how difficult
it is not to be troubled by the hyperactivity of everyone around,
so much of this activity being good in itself and indeed seemingly
necessary. The temptation is to conform, the Christian individual
conforming to the Christian group, and the Christian group conforming
to the society at large until busyness leaves neither time nor
strength to be still and know that God is present (Isaiah 30:7,
Psalm 46:10). It is a universal belief in every society in which
there is a clear religious sense that man becomes more nearly
god-like as he slows down and takes time to be still. Somehow
Christianity has lost the secret, and as a consequence it appears
to the man of the world as merely an alternative way of ensuring
success in life and guaranteeing an equally successful future
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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Chapter (Part IV)
This is not to
suggest that retirement from the world is the answer, but rather
retirement in the world, a retirement which engenders
a type of other-worldly character which by its very other-worldliness
has an impact upon the consciousness of men. It seems a crude
analogy, but if we may borrow a term from the world's busy-ness,
there is unfortunately such a thing as a "Christian rat-race."
The desire to escape from this may lead to an equally undesirable
attitude of isolationism, compounded of a sense of inadequacy
and a sense of persecution which finds expression in David's
cry, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove: for then would I
fly away, and be at rest" (Psalm 55:6). But being at rest
in itself is no greater a blessing than being too busy, unless
the end result is the deepening and strengthening of the likeness
of God in the personality.
And so we finish. In the Image
and Likeness we have our standing and our state; our sonship
in the family of God and our stature in the Lord; our true humanity
as the vessel, and whatever of the Divine nature we permit God
to engender within our hearts as the filling content of it; the
recovery of the original Creation, and the promise of the final
Appointment; present certainty and future hope -- all these,
because at the very beginning God had said, "Let us make
man in our image, after our likeness."