Icons of God
Genesis 1:26-27, “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.”
What does it mean to be in the image of God? Images represent and reflect a greater reality. Genesis 1:26-27 says that God made Adam in his "image" or "likeness" four times, and Genesis 2 says that God placed him in a Garden-like sanctuary. The Greek translation of the Hebrew word “image” is “eikon”, from which we get our English word, “icon.”
In the garden sanctuary of Eden, Adam and Eve were created to reflect and represent God as his image bearers. They were created in the image of the triune God to indicate his presence and rule over the earth. As God’s image, Adam and Eve were to reign with God as kings and representatives of God.
What does it mean to reign as a representative? Better still, just what is an icon? Obviously the term wasn’t used the way we most commonly use it today since it was millenniums before the invention of the computer. But updating to the present and looking at a computer screen, we see a small picture file that we call an icon. When clicked, it ushers in the megabytes of the computer program that it represents. Likewise, in the face of the overwhelming brokenness of the world, God has created us as icons of his powerful presence. Icons do not point to themselves, but instead usher in a far greater reality. Similarly, we as believers represent God so that our presence ushers in, to some extent, the presence of Almighty God wherever we go.
Being recipients of God’s regenerating work has restored God’s image in us and made us worshippers and co-workers with Him. Through Jesus Christ, the perfect image of God (Col 1:15), we worship him and "are being transformed into the same image (eikon), from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor 3:18). Worship transforms us increasingly to reflect and represent God’s Presence more clearly as his image and icon.
As we are transformed to reflect God's presence as his image through worship, then this worship fuels our mission to represent God's authority and "subdue the earth" (Gen 1:27-28).
We only can accomplish our mission as we recognize our identity as icons of God. Often the demands of ministering to people expose our inadequacies, and we become depressed since their needs exceed our resources. However, these excessive demands remind us that we are only icons. We are not the answer! We are created as icons through which the glories of God’s presence shine. Jesus Christ is the perfect image and icon of God (Col 1:15) who has subdued our enemy (Rev 12:9). In his image we continue to conquer our enemy “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Rev 12:11). Only by the presence of Jesus with us and the power of his word in us can we accomplish his work through our lives. We are icons who conquer through his presence in us.
God’s glory is to be spread "in all the earth" through humanity crowned with glory and honor and properly expressing their dominion in creation. We are created to glorify God by filling the earth with image bearers crowned with that glory. What does it mean to glorify God? The Westminster Catechism reminds us that "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." If we are created to glorify God, then we should know what that means. We glorify God by multiplying images of him who are crowned with his glory; we glorify God by multiplying disciples. Jesus himself glorified God in this way. Near the end of his life, he declared, "I have glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. . . I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (Jn 17:4, 6). The work Jesus is declaring to be finished is that of building himself into his disciples who would, as “icons” of Christ, multiply themselves in other, Others, and OTHERS, until the whole earth is filled with icons of God.
Jesus glorified God by making disciples who kept God’s word. The mark of these disciples was obedience. Similarly, we glorify God by our mission in making disciples who multiply more disciples who keep God's word.
How then do we multiply disciples? Disciples multiply only as the word of God bears fruit in and through our lives. In Acts, the Genesis 1:28 language of "be fruitful and multiply" marks the growth of the church:
Acts 6:7, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, …”
Acts 12:24, “But the word of God increased and multiplied.”
Cols 1:6, “… the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing…”
The mission of every available believer is as God’s icons to make ourselves available to be touched by broken, depraved, perishing image-bearers so as to open up to them the power and presence of the One whose image we bear. We all feel so woefully inadequate for the assignment, but all we need to do is remind ourselves that we are “God’s icons” that represents Him and can convey them to him by way of the gospel connections!
Our mission flows out of Adam and Eve’s Commission to multiply image bearers who expand the boundaries of God’s glorious presence in Eden until it fills the whole earth.
Our mission is fueled by our worship as God’s image bearers in God’s tabernacling presence which is now in Christ who is the temple reflecting and representing God’s presence in the earth.
Our mission features our worship as the Lord’s name fills the earth through people crowned with glory and honor.
Our mission fails when it remains personal and not public, individual and not ecclesial, local instead of global.
Jesus expected His disciples to reproduce His likeness in others. He imparted His message and mission to His disciples so that they would reproduce themselves in others and make disciples of all nations.
As icons of God always remember that you belong to King Jesus. The King lives in your heart. Wherever you go, the King goes. Wherever the King is, the King reigns; there is the Kingdom of God. Jesus is Lord over any place that you take him because he goes with you (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is the light of the world. Wherever you go, you bring the light with you into the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome the light. The gates of hell cannot stand against the light.
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