Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
October 24, 2021
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Which God? The Triune God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is only one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “Hear, O Israel. The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” There is no oneness like the oneness of God. He is perfect in his unity. And yet, there are three distinct persons in the Godhead. This is impossible for our minds to comprehend, yet Holy Scripture teaches it from the very beginning. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Yet, in the original Hebrew it states Elohim, “Gods” created the heavens and the earth. Yet, it uses a singular verb for this plural noun. And this is how Scripture speaks of God throughout the Old Testament. Where you read “God” it usually reads “Gods” in the original Hebrew. Yet, it was always understood that God is one, even though the plural form of the noun is used.
God is one, yet the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters when God said, “Let there be light. And so, there is one God, yet we have multiple persons: the Father, whom Moses calls God, the Holy Spirit, whom he calls the Spirit of God, and the Son, who is called the Word of God. This is what St. John teaches us in the first chapter of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” So, when Moses wrote, “God said”, he is teaching that God the Father created through his Son, the eternal Word.
In the Apostles’ Creed we confess that God the Father Almighty is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Yet, he does not create apart from the Son and the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes of Christ, the eternal Son of God, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are three distinct persons, yet, one God, sharing in the one divine essence, created the heavens and the earth. God did this in six days, as Scripture repeatedly declares. Some assert that this is only a myth, intended to be taken allegorically. But that is not true. Moses clearly intends us to understand this as history. And Jesus himself calls this history, along with all of Scripture. Our all-powerful and all-knowing God created the world in six regular days and rested on the seventh. And he caused his prophet Moses to write accurately the account of how he did it.
Scripture makes clear that the Triune God created man as well. God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Us? Our? Who are these? Again, this speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who alone creates. These three are one, as the next verse makes clear, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” We are a special creation of the Holy Trinity, the one and only God.
Yet, God creates us differently than he did the light, the sky and seas, trees, fish, birds, and animals. God has saved the creation of man for the end. And he takes special care in how he creates this crown of his creation. He says, “Let us make man in our own image.” So, God makes man in his own image; male and female he creates them in his image. This means that man and woman shared in God’s image. This is why St. Peter tells husbands that their wives are “joint heirs of the grace of life.” (1 Peter 3:7)
Yet, what does it mean to be created in God’s image? Many have discussed this question at great length. Theologians and philosophers have speculated that it includes incredible intelligence, power over the creation, a healthy mind, immortality. And to be sure, Adam and Eve did have all these things from the time of their creation. And what else they enjoyed in that pre-fall world, we can only imagine, because we live in the fallen world and God’s image we have lost. But to speak narrowly, the image of God is original righteousness. Adam and Eve were created righteous. This means they were in a perfect relationship with God, who is righteous. They desired what God desired. They delighted in what God delighted. They perfectly feared, loved, and trusted in God with all their heart, soul, and mind. This is why in the Garden, they were naked, yet unashamed. They had no shame. They were without sin.
And every other blessing flowed from this righteousness. They were immortal as was the whole creation. They had dominion over every living creature, not with spears and clubs, but by the command of God they exercised dominion by sheer will. They were intelligent, strong in body and mind, and many more things we simply do not know, because we have lost this righteousness.
When Adam sinned, having failed in his duty as husband by permitting his wife to be tempted by the serpent and having eaten of the forbidden fruit his wife gave him, he lost the image of God. Adam became a transgressor, and so we all became transgressors. While Adam and Eve were created righteous, all their children were born unrighteous, because of their fall. So, while Adam and Eve were created to be the Lord’s delight, his favorite and best creation, we are born children of wrath, dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2).
This is why we do not love God as we ought. This is why our sinful desires often get the better of us and we can’t control our own actions. This is why we along with all mankind must be governed by laws and rules, keeping us in check lest we break out with our own selfish aims. We have lost the image of God. We have lost original righteousness. And in its place is original sin, that is, the sinful condition we have inherited from Adam. This is why our will lashes out against God’s will instead of living in perfect conformity with it. We are inclined to sin as a hornet is inclined to sting. And this unrighteousness is why we are frail and weak in other ways. We are forgetful and slow to learn. Our eyes grow dim and our ears dull. Although, we still exercise dominion over the creation, we do this only with powerful tools and at the cost of many casualties. Left naked as Adam and Eve were, we are the weakest of all God’s creatures. We get sick. We die. Even if we were placed in Eden, it would be no paradise. We’d turn it into a hell. This is a direct result of our sin. This all proves that we have lost the image of God.
We cannot regain the image of God by our own will or strength. Only God can restore his image in us. As God the Father created man in his image through His Son and the Holy Spirit, so does he restore that image in us. God the Father sent his own Son to be born of the Virgin Mary. God the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and formed in her womb Christ Jesus. Christ, who is the eternal Son of God took on human flesh, the same human flesh once formed out of the ground. And in the incarnation of God, the image of God was rejoined to the human race. Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God in human flesh (Colossians 1:15). Christ was conceived and born without original sin; having been conceived by Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, he did not inherit Adam’s unrighteousness. So, Christ was and is perfectly righteous. His will conforms to God’s will; he delights in what God delights. In fact, Christ is true God as he remains truly human, so that it is impossible for his will to act contrary to God’s will.
And the will of God was that Christ should die for our transgressions. By Adam’s disobedience, we were made sinners. By Christ’s obedience are made righteous. (Romans 5) This righteousness has been won for us by Christ, but we must receive it. And the Holy Trinity does this for us as well.
Out of water, the Triune God formed the earth. And with water and dust he formed the first man. So, through water and the Spirit God grants you a new creation. He says, “Let us restore man in our own image.” And by passing you through water and placing his name on you, he washes you clean of all your sin, and breathes into you the Spirit of Life. Through Baptism you are regenerated after the image of Christ, the image of God. In Baptism, you are made righteous by virtue of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross for your sins.
This righteousness and image of God is certainly given in Baptism. And it is received through faith alone. And so long as your faith holds fast to the promise of the free forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake, you clothe yourself in Christ’s righteousness.
We retain the image of God through faith alone. Yet, as long as we live in this life, we carry around the burden of original sin. Our old Adam still clings to us. And we still sin. So, it is important to know that our righteousness does not depend on our works. Our righteousness depends on Christ Jesus. When God looks at you through your faith in Christ, he sees an even more splendid reflection of his image than he did when he looked upon Adam when he first created him. Yet, sin does not lie harmless. The sinful flesh constantly rebels against God and his will. Unbelief gives birth to sin, and sin gives birth to unbelief. This is why we must repent of our sins each and every day. We must put off the old self with its practices and desires, and put on the new self after the image of Christ. We do this by turning from our sin, asking God for forgiveness for Christ’s sake, and believing in that forgiveness.
Only by believing and trusting in the forgiveness and righteousness Christ gives you, can you retain the image of God. But you cannot believe and trust in God by your own strength. Rather God continues to create and strengthen faith in you through the Gospel. It is by the means of Grace: the Absolution, the Sacrament, and the proclamation of the Gospel, that God continues to give you Christ’s righteousness and strengthen your faith, so that you are renewed after God’s image.
In this life we see only little of the fruit of being restored after the image of God. Our love indeed is kindled, but still in great weakness. We still struggle with sin. We’re still frail. We still die. But through faith we look to that day when we will finally shed this old Adam with its original sin and rebellious nature. And we will finally see ourselves like God (1 John 3:2), after his likeness. Our trust in God will be perfect. Our love for him will not fail. And our bodies will be transformed to the splendor of his glorious resurrected body. And we will never lose the image of God again. Amen.