Honoring the Sanctity of Human Life
Sunday School Lesson for January 20, 2002
A Lesson for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Focal Teaching Passage: Genesis 1:26-27
The Image of God and the Sanctity of Human LifeóGenesis 1:26-27
As we approach Genesis 1:26-27 within its scriptural context, we readily observe that the personal phrase "Let Us make" (v.26) is in stark contrast to the impersonal "Let the land produce" (v. 24). Here in this most critical of passages we see compelling evidence that man is the crowning act of Godís creation. This is further expressed by the fact that the animals were created "according to their kinds" (v.25), whereas man was made in the "image" and "likeness" of God. We also observe that man is clearly the creature and is totally dependent upon God, the sovereign Creator, for his life and very existence.
The Scripture explicitly declares that God "created" man in His own "image" and "likeness." The magnitude of these simple words cannot be overstated. Gordon J. Spykman comments that the "Christian confession concerning the image of God captures the very heartbeat of the biblical view of man" (Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics, 223).
In regard to the two significant words found in this verse, many Old Testament authorities believe that the terms are used as synonyms, and together indicate the uniqueness of man as Godís special representative. However, each word does have a strategic function as descriptive of the essential nature of mankind.
Therefore, to declare that God has made man in His "image" and "likeness" is to say that man is vastly different from other things God has created. Man occupies a special place in the mind and heart of God and is uniquely related to Him in a way that other creatures are not.
It is also critical to understand that Scripture teaches that man is the image of God, not that he contains the image. That is, man in the totality of his being is created in Godís very image and likeness. The image of God, or imago Dei, may not be limited to one feature or component of his being (like his spirituality or rationality). Rather, the whole person reflects the divine image. We might conclude, therefore, that to be human is to be in the "image and likeness" of God.
Perhaps another way to understand what is meant by these two terms is to focus upon three concepts implied in the text that will help define the "image of God":
In addition, there are other ways in which we are like God and reflect His nature and being (see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 445-449):
The fact that God created man "male and female" also relates to the image of God idea (see Grudem, Systematic Theology, 454-466):
Man in the Image and Likeness of God: Practical ImplicationsóSelected Passages
God Values the Pre-born as PersonsóJeremiah 1:5
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
According to the Scriptures, the pre-born infant is a person known and loved by God. Therefore, life in the womb is in the image and likeness of God and is sacred.
God Warns Against MurderóExodus 20:13
You shall not murder.
Since men are created in Godís image and likeness, the murder of the innocent is prohibited. Consequently, human life has divinely-endowed value and significance.
God Commands Love for Himself and OthersóMatthew 22:37-40
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Since men are creatures made in Godís image we are responsible to display our love for Him through obedience to His commands. This involves loving those who are made in His image and likeness.
Major Questions for Application and Discussion
H. The changing definition of "family"