This week we’re going to continue on in our study by acknowledging that being an image bearer of God gives us value and worth, but now asking the question:
What exactly does it mean as a woman, to be an image bearer of God?
Value and worth, glory and honor, these are byproducts of that image of God in us. They are not the defined image.
Today, we’re going to define that image. And by defining what it means to bear the image of God, we’ll discover our deep purpose. The deep purpose God gave us when He created us in the very beginning.
An image bearing reminder
Last Wednesday we began our study on finding value and worth as women bearing the image of God. You can find it here.
We went back to Genesis 1, the beginning of our image bearing story, and discovered the wondrous act of creation God put in place when He made humanity. And in this wondrous act of creation, God enacted something entirely special, completely unique – a part of creation that images Himself.
Male and female, you and I, the image bearers of God.
And we discovered in Psalm 8 that though we sometimes may feel insignificant, God has crowned us with glory and honor.
There is nothing, dear woman of God, that you could ever do to add to that worth.
With that, back to Genesis 1 we go.
The Meaning Behind Image Bearing
In our first study on being God’s image-bearers, we looked only at Genesis 1:26-27. But to fully understand what it means to be an image bearer of God, we must expand our view and look at the continuing verses.
After God declares the creation of humanity to be in His image, God blesses the man and woman. And to this blessed creation, God pronounces in Genesis 1:28,
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Now, whether or not you’re reading this for this first time or the hundredth time, you’ve gotta admit, the language is a little weird.
These are not terms or ideas that we make a part of our modern, everyday approach to the world.
That does not make them unimportant though. It does not mean we get to skip over them.
For us to truly understand what it means to be image bearers of God, we must study this pronouncement that God gives the very first image bearers, Adam and Eve.
We need to ask ourselves what being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, subduing it, and having dominion really means, and to do that, we’re going to dig a little deeper to the heart behind this language in Genesis 1:28.
What God Gave...
Throughout Judeau-Christian history, Genesis 1:28 has been studied over and over and over again. And for good reason – it holds deep significance for understanding
- our origins,
- our purpose here on earth,
- our design as God’s created image bearers.
From these verses, many have drawn conclusions about bearing children and continuing on generations. Many others have drawn conclusions about dieting and what we eat.
For our purposes today, I’m not going to make any claims about these issues. I want us to look instead at what ties together all of these commands that God gives Adam and Eve here.
- What is the intent of being fruitful, of having dominion?
I believe the answer to those questions are the same as the answer to the question before us today:
- What does it mean for us women to bear the image of God?
And that answer lies in the language of the following verses. Genesis 1:29 begins by God telling the first man and woman, “Behold, I have given you…”
And then, Genesis 1:30 ends, “…everything that has the breath of life, I have given…”
Beautiful, isn’t it – that God gives.
Image Bearing Stewards
At this point in the creation narrative of Genesis 1, we are in the sixth day. Each of these first days of creation end with an insight into the heart of God:
God creates and fills the earth, and as He gazes over His creation, declares the state of things – He declares it good.
And all of this, God gives to His image-bearers. All God has carefully crafted, designed, placed and ordered is now put under the care of the first man and woman.
Really, let your mind comprehend the significance of this moment.
The God of the universe – to whom all power, all knowledge, all glory, all life belongs – freely creates all that fills the world as we know it.
From the blue sky blanketing the earth, to the soft soil teeming with nutrients, to the animals that roam and the animals that fly, the world God’s created is filled with beauty, wonder, and life.
Then, God creates His image bearers as part of this world.
And to them, God gives.
In this act of giving – from God to His image bearers – we discover what it means to bear that image.
Just as God took intentional time and careful concern to order all of creation, His image bearers are to do the same. And this directive from God, to care for all the good things He has given us,
is how we, as women, image God.
Our Purpose as Image Bearers
Eve was the first female to bear the image of God. We can learn much from her story (which we’ll unpack next week), but the purpose given to her by God in the Garden of Eden is the same as your purpose today, dear sister.
She was created to live in the image of God. This means she was to look outward, towards all the goodness around her, just as God did during all the days of creation. And then, she is to steward it well.
This purpose is picked up again in the law of Moses, and then Jesus in the gospels when he summarizes the law in Matthew 22:37-38 by declaring,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Your Purpose Today
If you want to know what it means to bear the image of God as a woman of God in today’s world, look around at your life.
Just as it was when God created back in Genesis 1, God has not haphazardly placed the people, situations, or items around you to be misused or misunderstood.
God has purposefully crafted your life, created your world, and created you to image Him in how you choose to live in it.
Care for your world.
Care for your people.
And this looking outward, as Jesus says, requires that we first look up.
Look up to the God that created you.
Be in relationship with Him first, and when that relationship is right, you will be able to look outward, look around you, and live out your image bearing purpose, which ultimately, is to love rightly.
Love God first, then the world around you, the people around you, the creation around you.
As you come to the end of this study on what it means to be a woman bearing God’s image in this world, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed.
You might be thinking: wow, this is a tall order. This purpose of mine to love rightly by looking upward and outward is something I don’t know if I can handle.
And you would be right. It is a tall order.
You cannot handle it… on your own that is.
This is why God sent Jesus to earth, to make right a disordered creation. A disordered set of loves.
I know you’re arguing with me right now, but it’s true. We’ll study this more next week if you don’t believe me.
The point for today is this:
Jesus has redeemed our disordered love, this disordered world. And someday, Jesus will completely redeem our disordered creation.
For now though, as we live in the in-between time, Jesus reminds us of our true purpose as God’s image bearers and gives us the opportunity to live into that purpose. And this is your purpose:
See the good around you, woman of God.
See the goodness only God could create in your life, in this world, and trust Him as you seek to live caring for all God has entrusted you with: His creation.
Love God, and love others as you go. In all of this, you image God.