It is important that as believers we have a grasp of the truth concerning our association with Christ. It will serve to separate from the world (Gal 6.14), motivate Christian living (Rom 6.11), and stimulate worship (Col 1.12-13), as well as educate us in those vital principles of the faith which have been committed to all the saints to keep and for which to contend (Jude v.3).
The creation of man
When God made man at the beginning, He made him in His own image and likeness (Gen 1.26-27). This involves at least three things.
First, God has personality, so Adam was given personality, enabling him to express the character of God.
Second, he was given spirituality, the ability to appreciate God and respond to Him.
Third, he was given rationality, the ability to think, perceive, and reason logically.
Because he possessed these things, Adam was able to represent God as His image, and reproduce God as being in His likeness. Of course, it goes without saying that Adam was a finite being, and therefore was limited in his ability in these areas, but nonetheless he had the capacity to display adequately the features which to infinite extent are found in God.
The spoiling of man
Adam, a perfect being, was spoiled when he sinned. Nonetheless, he still retained some ability to be the image of God. This is seen in the fact that God requires the capital punishment of murderers, and the reason He gives is stated clearly in Genesis 9.6: " for in the image of God made he man". What man was at the beginning before he sinned has relevance still. James writes of men as being "made after the similitude of God" (James 3.9). Paul also appealed to this idea when he was addressing the philosophers of Athens. He argued that it was not logical to bow down to material gods of wood and stone, when even their own poets realised that "we are also his offspring" (Acts 17.28-29). How can a lifeless idol have living offspring? So the apostle maintains the idea that even unbelieving men are the product of Gods creatorial power, and as such are the offspring of God as Creator. By making an idol they abdicate the responsibility they themselves have of being the image of God.
The restoration of the image
How shall this spoiling of man as the image of God be dealt with? A clue is found in Psalm 8, and its repetition in part in Hebrews 2. The writer to the Hebrews has assured us in ch.1 that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, and His relationship with God is the emphasis in that chapter. In ch.2, however (after the first five verses which constitute the first of five warning passages in the epistle), he shows Christs relationship with man by quoting from Psalm 8. The psalmist tells us that there is a mystery about man, for he asks, "What is man?". He has already surveyed the vastness of the heavens earlier in the psalm, and been impressed by Gods works; but man seems so insignificant. Yet he cannot really be insignificant because God is mindful of him, visits him, and does not ignore him as being of no account.
Not only does man seem insignificant, but he also has minority, for he is made "a little lower than the angels", angels being greater in power and might than men (2 Pet 2.11). They are fitted for life in heaven, whereas he is fitted for life on the earth. Balancing this fact, however, is the next truth set out by the psalmist, namely, that man has majesty, for God crowned him with glory and honour. He was to represent the "King eternal" (1 Tim 1.17), and was given competence to do so, as we have seen. To facilitate this, he was granted mastery over the works of Gods hands, to act as Gods viceroy, ruling for Him.
Sadly, however, we hear the writer to the Hebrews adding, "But now we see not yet all things put under him" (Heb 2.8), for sin had come in so soon, and mans mastery of all things was not established by Adam. This was seen so dramatically when he was overcome by the voice of the serpent, one of the creatures he was supposed to control!
Gods purpose in man realised
There is hope, though, for the quotation above contains the word "yet". There is something in prospect, even though Adam has failed. God will yet realise His purpose in man. But how can it be done? The answer is found in the words, "But we see Jesus". The first of seven mentions in the epistle of His personal name, the name He was given on earth, introduces us to the Man who shall restore that which He took not away (Ps 69.4), and also bring in other things besides, of which Adam knew nothing. When a man trespassed, he had to restore what he had stolen, and "add the fifth part more thereto" (Lev 6.5). Christ did not trespass, but Adam did (Rom 5.15-18), yet the Second Man has stepped in, and at tremendous cost to Himself has restored and rectified the sin of Adam, as far as God is concerned.
Now the Epistle to the Hebrews has the earthly reign of Christ in view when it speaks of the fulfilment of Psalm 8 in Christ. For God is going to bring His Firstborn Son into the habitable earth a second time, so that He may subdue His enemies and rule in righteousness. By so doing He will vindicate God for giving man the task of ruling for Him on the earth. This is the theme of the second half of Hebrews 1.
Association with Christ
There is another side to this matter, however, and it is found in the writings of the Apostle Paul alone. It has to do with the believers association with Christ in His crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension to Gods right hand. By means of this association with Him, believers are brought into a position wherein they are enabled to represent God as His image, and reproduce His likeness.
Things that differ
At this point we need to distinguish things that differ. Romans 6.6, Ephesians 4.22, and Colossians 3.9 speak of the old man. Romans 8.5-9 and Galatians 5.24 speak of the flesh. The old man may be defined as our former self considered as to its links with Adam the sinner. The flesh, on the other hand, may be defined as our present self conducting itself as if it has links with Adam the sinner.
As far as the old man is concerned, it is crucified, according to Romans 6.6. This is Gods reckoning of things, and should be ours too. Certainly it was the Apostle Pauls reckoning, for he could write, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal 2.20). He does not stop there, however, but goes on to assure us that despite being dead, he lives. This is a paradox, a dead person living. It can only be true if he has been vitally united to one who, having died, has risen from the dead. And this is the case, because the life which he had as a believer was a life in Christ, not a life in himself, which would have been the same as a life in Adam. So he does not live because he has been recovered from unconsciousness, but because, in a moral sense, he has been raised from the dead. Yet the person who now lives is not the old "I", Saul of Tarsus the sinner, but rather is "Christ", the Holy One of God, who lives within, because of the indwelling Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8.9-10).
The apostle goes on to state in Galatians 2.20 that the life he now lives has a three-fold character. It is a life of faith, for the initial faith that united him to Christ is ongoing. It is a life of appreciation, for he was conscious of the love Christ had for Him. It is a life of surrender and sacrifice, for its motivation is Christs giving of Himself at Calvary.
To be continued.