Theology of Work - Lesson 3

The Image of God

In this lesson, you will learn that humans, created in God's image, represent Him by making His presence visible. This involves physical embodiment, relational partnerships, and functional work, as seen in Genesis and Daniel. It emphasizes the communal aspect of this image, particularly in marriage, and the moral obligation to uphold the dignity of all people. Post-fall, humans still bear God's image, progressively transforming into Christ's likeness, demonstrating His character through integrity, relationships, and work.

Gerry Breshears
Theology of Work
Lesson 3
Watching Now
The Image of God

I. Introduction to the Concept of the Image of God

A. Overview of the Image of God in Scripture

B. Theological Importance of the Image of God

II. Scriptural Basis for the Image of God

A. Genesis 1:26-27

1. Creation in God’s Image

2. Male and Female

B. Use of the Hebrew Word “Selam”

1. Common Usage and Translation

2. Graven Images in the Second Commandment

III. Biblical Examples of Image Representation

A. Daniel 3: Image of Gold

1. Nebuchadnezzar’s Statue

2. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s Refusal

B. Colossians 1:15

1. Christ as the Image of the Invisible God

2. Incarnation and Visibility

IV. The Nature of the Image of God in Humans

A. Embodied Souls

1. Genesis 2:7

2. Body and Breath Together

B. Collective Aspect of the Image

1. Individual and Communal Representation

2. Relational Dynamics

V. Functional Aspect of the Image of God

A. Genesis 1:28

1. Ruling and Subduing

2. Caretaking in Genesis 2

B. Work as a Manifestation of the Image

1. Partnership with God

2. Human Flourishing

VI. Post-Fall Image of God

A. Genesis 9:6

1. Dignity and Protection of Human Life

2. Universal Application to Humanity

B. James 3:9

1. Respect for Others

2. Sin and Image Bearing

VII. Teleological Aspect of the Image of God

A. 2 Corinthians 3:18

1. Transformation from Glory to Glory

2. Future Conformity to Christ’s Image

B. Romans 8:29 and Colossians 3:10

1. Predestined Conformity

2. Ongoing Growth into the Image

VIII. Practical Implications of Being Made in the Image of God

A. Personal Reflection

1. Self-Awareness and Moral Decision-Making

2. Relationship with Others and God

B. Work and Daily Living

1. Integrity and Excellence in Work

2. Making God Visible through Actions

IX. Conclusion

A. Summary of Key Points

B. Encouragement to Reflect God’s Image in All Aspects of Life

  • The theology of work involves every Christian’s vocation as a ministry, focusing on God’s creative energy expressed in service to others to create shalom, with insights into gifts, priesthood, justice, and the universal priesthood concept from the Reformation.
  • Understand God is a relational, self-giving being within the Trinity, inviting humans into a covenant partnership, unlike other religious views that see God as remote or pantheistic, and explore His intimate involvement in creation and loving nature through scripture.
  • Humans, created in God's image, make Him visible through physical embodiment, relational partnerships, and functional work, maintaining dignity and moral responsibility, even post-fall, while progressively transforming into Christ's likeness.
  • Learn how the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical, volitional, vocational, familial, and social dimensions of personhood contribute to human flourishing and how integrating these aspects can help address personal issues and enhance work life.
  • Learn that spiritual gifts, both traditional and practical, are divinely assigned and essential for ministry, emphasizing that any ability can become a spiritual gift when empowered by the Holy Spirit and used for God's mission.
  • Calling encompasses more than church ministry. The lesson highlights that every believer has a vocation to reflect God's presence in all aspects of life, using examples from Romans and Corinthians and insights from historical figures like Martin Luther and Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
  • Salvation involves immediate transformation through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, requiring conviction, repentance, faith, and baptism, and grants forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, a new community, a mission in God's work, and the hope of eternal life.
  • Learn that work is a divine partnership with God, starting from Genesis, emphasizing relational collaboration to cultivate the earth and create shalom, contrasting with modern views of work as a means to earn money, and highlighting business as a platform for meaningful work aimed at human flourishing.
  • Biblical justice involves active righteousness through selfless acts like giving to the needy and defending the oppressed, challenging traditional views and emphasizing community well-being in alignment with God's character.
  • Explore the concept of Sabbath rest, understanding it as a spiritual practice rooted in trust, satisfaction, and relationship with God, and learn its implications for balancing work and rest in alignment with biblical teachings.

We are created in God's image and God invites us to be co-workers with him. By developing and using the spiritual gifts God has given us, the tasks we perform when we work have eternal significance in themselves. We also have opportunities to interact with our co-workers, promote justice and enjoy times of rest.

So what is God calling you to do? Is his calling only for pastors and “professional ministers” or is it something that applies to all of his people? Dr. Gerry Breshears, professor of systematic theology at Western Seminary, explores key questions such as who God is, what he has created people to be, how being the image of God affects the way we approach work, and what is the role of spiritual gifts in our job. This course will expand your vision of what work is all about, as you come to see yourself as God’s co-worker and representative.

Theology of Work 
Dr. Gerry Breshears 
The Image of God 
Lesson Transcript


One of the most powerful concepts in Scripture is the idea that humans are image of God. We find it in the very first chapter of Genesis, and it comes up at crucial points to the rest of Scripture. And what I'd like to do here is we explore this idea of a theology of work, is look at now at the human side. What are we as image of God creatures? What does that mean? What are the dimensions of that? And what I'd like to do is just explore that a little bit, give you a picture of what I think the image of God is. And and this like a lot of things, there are some difference at some points. But the basic thing, pretty much all biblical theologians agree. But I want to take it just a little bit deeper is we understand this theology of work. So image of God. Chapter one of Genesis. If you have your Bible, please turn there and we'll start looking through some passages of the image of God. God starts and says, Let us make man in our image and that our is a picture of the I think the Trinity, the eternally self-giving partner making other centered God. Let us make man in our like in our image and likeness and let them rule over the fish in the sea, birds, the air. And then in verse 27, God created man his own image. In the image of God, he created them male and female. He created them, God bless them and said, Be fruitful rule, subdue. Now let's unpack it a bit. What is this idea of image? Oh, well, the word image Selam in Hebrew is a fairly common word, and the most common use of that word is we translate it not as image, we translate it as ideal.


In most of the contemporary translations in Old King James, it was translated as graven image. In the Second commandment, Thou shall have no graven images. The most common picture of image is a statue or an object of some sort that represents a God, little God. One of the fallen angels. I think of the gods that we're told not to worship and access. Chapter 20 The first of the commandments, I think, are fallen angels, very powerful spiritual beings who are associated with tribes or religions or something like that. In a idol, one meaning Vital is an object that represents the absent spiritual beings angel level thing. And that's what an image is. Let me show you a picture of that and turn over to Daniel. Chapter three. We're going to do some work in Scripture, so we're going to be flipping around a bit. Daniel Chapter three We see one of these sermons, one of these images in Daniel Chapter three King Nebuchadnezzar made a cell on an image of gold 90 feet high. I mean, big thing, nine feet wide, sit on a plain. During the province of Babylon, he announced to his all the guys I to come to the dedication of the solemn image. So all these guys come and they stood before the tell them and the Herald loudly proclaimed, this is what you're committed to all peoples of nations and men of every language. As soon as you hear the sound of all the instruments, you must fall down and worship the solemn of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. So soon they heard the sound of all the instruments everywhere. People fall down before the cell then of gold that Kingdom accusers had set up.


And of course, you know, the story goes some of the astrologers and haters, some dudes what are not falling down their name are Shadrach, Michigan, Abednego. They neither. This is done in verse 12 then Shadrach, Michigan, Abednego, who pay no attention to your king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image. Sell them of gold you set up. Now, my question. What is this solemn gold statue? 90 feet tall. Big thing. What is it? Well, it's a representation of the poor, not the gods of Babylon. Because here in verse 12, they don't serve your gods or worship your image of gold. And what they're doing is they're refusing to worship this image, this tell them, because somehow it is a representation of the spirit of Babylon or maybe the God of Babylon. We don't know exactly what it is, but it's something to be worshiped because somehow it makes the God or the spirit of Babylon visible and therefore you worship it. And what it sells them does is it makes visible and present the God who can't be seen the little bit like our Statue of Liberty, except we don't really see it to tell them. But somehow this is the spirit of the land or the liberty build back in Philadelphia represents the spirit of America. But nobody falls down and worships those things. But here it is. A Sallam is something that makes the invisible God visible and you worship it. No, put that back in Genesis one same word, solemn. And what we are as image of God is a way to make God visible, to represent Him in in some way that God is present in us. So not think with me. Just a minute here. Image of God.


Is in some way something that makes God visible, just like an idol makes the fallen angel the demon God visible. We as human beings are a making visible of Yahweh. Hmm. Keep. Don't. Don't quit on me. What is it? That image of God. What is it that makes God visible in some way? Well, it's. Let us make man in our image. What is it that makes God visible? Well, preeminently look over in Colossians chapter one again. We're going to flip around a bit. Colossians chapter one, we find the same kind of thing. Well, cautions 115. Speaking of Christ, our key is the image of the invisible God, the first born overall creation. By him. All things were created and so on. He Christ is the image of the invisible God. What does He do? He comes to make God visible. He comes to reveal God. John 118 He comes from the bosom of the Father to explain him, to reveal him, to make him visible concretely so in his incarnation. Same idea image Coming back to humans, we are making God visible. How did Jesus make God visible? He did it by becoming embodied incarnation. The word became flesh Here. Genesis Chapter one. Let us make man in our image, not man's saw man's spirit, but make us make man in our image. So if this is correct, the image of God is not my soul or my spirit. The image of God is me as a embodied soul as well. Genesis two seven. What is Man? Genesis two seven God forms Man of a dust to the ground. Breezin to his nostrils. The breath of life and man becomes a living soul and fresh air. Living being a living person Man Adam is body plus breath together become person.


Genesis Chapter one. Let us make man, body and breath. Image of God. How the world cannot Be. How can we with a body. The image of God who has no body? Well, the thing it is image is a making visible kind of thing. And the way we make God visible, the way Jesus made God visible, is to be concretely, physically present. So He creates us with bodies for living in this world and calls us to be image, which part of is to make visible the invisible God. God said, Let us make man in our image. Let's make man in our image. Is this Adam or is this humankind? Or if you keep reading, let them rule. Let them rule. So image is just an individual person. Gary is the image of God, but it's an us thing as well. It's we together in some way. Jesus alone is the image of God, to be sure. But here it's male and female together in their covenant partnership as husband and wife are going to be making visible the Triune God. So when you think back, I know this is going pretty fast. Image is a making visible, making present kind of thing because I don't make the God visible. We make your way visible. It's not just me thing. It's an us thing. It's not just a soul thing. It's a body thing as well. Living person thing. Body, pulse, breath. Let us make mankind male and female, to be in our image in their likeness. So we are making visible the Triune God, not just me as an individual, but sharing me together as husband and wife, John and me together as friends and co partners in ministry here at Western Seminary and many others.


So image is a making visible thing. It's an US thing. It's a whole person thing. What else is involved here? Well, but them rule over the fish of the sea. There's a here's a working piece of functional piece. Okay. Okay. Functional piece. There's a working piece rule down in verse 28. Be fruitful. Fill the earth and subdue it. Fill and subdue. Rule over the fish, please. The Genesis chapter two. We're going to see that Adam is told to take care of the garden. It's worship language. They're partnering together with God. So a piece of image of God coming out or part of and I think part of image of God is this functional piece, this ruling piece, this working piece in an A theology work I think is really important is that somehow when we do our work as image of God persons, we make God visible in what we do. And it's the presence of God working through us, the Holy Spirit in us that makes this work. Okay, let's go back and run through this one more time. Image of God is fundamentally a making visible, making present concept idol to a fallen angel. US to Yahweh image is fundamentally a making visible. It is a whole person thing, body and breath, because as Jesus incarnate makes visible God, it is an us thing, not just the me thing. We do it individually. We do it together in a group way. We make God's character as a train God visible, better than we could do it just by ourselves. But individual is to Jesus alone is image of God, and it has a working piece of functional piece or Hmm, okay, so there's a functional piece. There is a God created man in his own image.


In the image of God, He created him in male and female. He created them. So it's an us thing in the male female thing. Here is a, of course, male and female in this context to be Adam and Eve is husband and wife. But if we broaden out a bit, once we get some other people in the picture, there's a there's a relational piece to it. Well, it's not just that. It's not the just we're together on some sort of work team, but there's a deep relationship like the marriage relationship covenant thing together. There's a familial piece that'll come out because they're supposed to be fruitful and multiply. There's a partnership together in the church today. This picture of image of God is a work kind of thing. When we work together with God, Adam and Eve in the garden with God working together, even do garden is a relational peace covenant relationship with each other and and with God. Verse 28 God blessed them. That's a relational term. It's not just giving gifts to there's a relationship behind them. And he said, Be fruitful, multiply. And when he does the work with Adam in the garden, it's him and Adam working together. It's him, Adam and Eve working together at the end of chapter two. So there's a relational piece of so as making visible, there's a US thing that becomes relational. There's a working thing, a functional thing. It's something that we'll hear all too human beings have it. What about after the fall? Our fallen humans still Image Turn over to Genesis Chapter nine. Genesis Chapter nine post-Flood Wickedness has covered the earth. It's a horrible thing. God has done His cleansing work. Then God blesses Noah. Genesis Chapter nine repeats again Be fruitful, increase the numbers, fill the earth, and then he says, You can eat meat.


But and of course, you have to kill an animal to do that. He says you can do that, but whoever sheds the blood of man, you can shed the blood of an animal, but you can't shed the blood of a man who was shed about a man by man shall his blood be shed for in the image of God? Has God made man? No question. Is that just saved people? God's talking about can I kill non-Christians in the interest. No, no, no, no, no. I cannot murder other people. I cannot take their innocent life blood. Ironically, this is a place where capital punishment is talked about. But of course, that's not murder. And the reason is we are image of God. So all human beings post-football are still image of God. Everybody is image of God in the sense of deserving dignity and protection as human beings. Genesis nine James Chapter three talks about this is coercing other people who are in the likeness of God, and you shouldn't do that. So there's a dignity to all human beings because of image. God, even if we're sinful, even as we're rebelling against God, even if we're headed for hell in our resistance to God grace and refusing to like Jesus and be like him all human. So it's a whole person, all persons kind of thing. So it's persons. It's relational. It's functional. It's everybody at some level. There's one other dimension that we don't see in the alters we do see in the New Testament. And that's the idea that the image of God has a what the theologian calling teleological peace. If I look in Second Corinthians, for example, second Corinthians chapter three, we see this piece come out, Second Corinthians, chapter three.


Moses has been or Paul has been talking about Moses being up on the mountain and his face is glowing because he has been the very presence of God. And as He brings us New Covenant picture down the glory of the New Covenant, He comes to a close at the end of Chapter three, and he has this very interesting picture. And we Christians who with unveiled faces all reflect or behold the true meaning word. There we were unveiled faces all reflect or behold the Lord's glory are being transformed into the likeness, into His likeness, from glory to glory, which comes for the Lord who is the spirit. Now, the amazing thing is amazing. Amazing thing is, is that image of God in this context is something that we only have in part from glory to glory. So we are being transformed with ever increasing glory. We are growing into the image of God Now, in one sense we all are image of God. In another sense, we're growing into the image of God so that the image, particularly the image of Christ, becomes a goal toward which we're moving. Romans 829 talks about we being predestined to be conformed to his image. It's a future conformity that's yet to come. CLAUSSEN 310 talks again about us being growing into his image. So the images are a goal that we're growing toward. Okay, now let's go back and think about this again. The image of God is a making visible kind of thing. Images of God is a personal thing. It's about me as a person. Well, think about that just little bit. Person. Person is somebody who has self-consciousness, ability to understand the world, rational abilities or moral ability. We can make choices based on moral categories.


There's a right wrong. There's a good, bad there's a shame, not shame on persons person's inner interrelationship. So this whole person thing is a way in which we are like, God, he is person. We are person in this ability to be a self aware, to be aware of others, to relate to others, to decide on a moral basis. So we're persons and there's a likeness to God. There's a resemblance to God as persons. There's this working together, this functional side. There's this relational side of we do it as isn't us. It's a whole person, all persons. So here's the way I define image of God in just brief form. Image of God is the amazing ability and awesome responsibility to make visible the invisible characteristics of our Creator and Redeemer. The image of God is our amazing ability. So we're persons and we have abilities, God given abilities that are just phenomenal, phenomenal, the amazing ability and awesome responsibility because we're under command of covenant relationship with God. We're not made for our souls are made for relationship with God. So an amazing ability, awesome responsibility to make visible God in us and out of us. We make his character visible, the character of the Creator Redeemer in all that we are in and all that we do know a lot of stuff we could do with that. Some of the obvious places are life protection kind of thing. Why do we protect life, not just human rights? That's important. It's because of image of God. There's a divine dignity to all persons, and not just all functioning persons, not just all. People. We like all persons. And now it gets too down to the bottom line. When we talk about the the weak, the widow, the orphan, the alienated, the helpless, the sick image of God says that we as making visible, making present the reality of God, have a divine calling to work in the lives of everyone, but especially the widow, the orphan, the alien, the sick, the oppressed, the helpless to work in their life for human flourishing.


And that's, of course, our theology of work at work is that image of God, both because they are image and therefore deserving of these kind of things. But we our image to be like God in our living, in in our doing. And like God, we reach out to the sinful. We reach out to the weak. We read it out to the helpless, the widow, the orphan, the unborn, the end of life person to reach in and help them flourish and relate to God and others in good ways. We go and talk with be with touch. People who are in those kinds of situation because the image of God thing and when we do our work, no matter where we do it, we do it in a way that makes God visible. We make his presence real no matter where we are. I think with for me, just for a moment in this idea of working hard, I worked for years as a schoolteacher, mathematics teacher. I worked for years as a bookkeeper, full charge bookkeeper. I worked for years as a high precision machinist. And I'll just take the machine shop because I never worked in a Christian shop. I assume there are Christian machines beside me, but I didn't meet many of them. I in in that shop, I was there as an image of God representation making present invisible the character of God I am. And as I would make parts there on the scene, see trucker lathe that I worked with a lot. Toward the end of my career as a machinist, I was making really high precision and I loved it. It was interesting work and a challenge to make these very high precision parts. And I've had parts on airplanes going into space and medical equipment, all kinds of stuff.


And I'm doing this not just because I'm making money. I did, but I did it because I was increasing human flourishing. I was using that creative energy as image of God, because God is present in me and working and partnering through me. And I would do this in a way that would make God's character visible so that the people around me could see God, not just in the fact that I talk about Jesus, because I will talk about Jesus to a post if it'll stand still. But in the in my way of working, I did this other centered human flourishing attitude toward my work. And my work was a way of doing the work of God because I'm image of God, I am making him visible. I'm making him present in what I do in in the relationships around me. So I come in there and I want to be a person who is helpful. I want to be a person who is does integrity. If I mess up a part, I don't throw it in and hope nobody will notice it. I market is out of tolerance and therefore he you know, gosh, I want to do that. But integrity. So I do it the integrity. So I work really hard to make the parts right. All of this a part of that theology work, not just because I may get fired if I don't do well, not because I'll get a raise if I do. Well, though, those are good things that I do it to make copies of. I do the calling of his in my life as image of God, making God visible the amazing abilities that we have as human beings, the awesome responsibility to make God visible, and those kind of four fundamental dimensions personal.


We have this ability to think and make moral decisions, be self-aware, to be related. We have this functional piece, the ability to work together with and for God, the relational piece relating to the humans and to God. And these we call teleological, this growing piece of and your God. And when I look at my life and I look at my work, I try to look at it from these dimensions and ask myself, am I using my person as a Christlike person? Am I doing my work as a partnership with God? Am I relating to God in a way that's full of integrity and openness and vulnerability? Am I growing into the fullness of that image? And those are grids I use to examine my working and my being. And it comes right out of this theology, the image of God that's at the foundation of our creation as human beings. Amazing concept. Lot of stuff there, a lot of stuff. This is foundational. Get you thinking. You think about the theology of work.


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