In our previous article we called attention to the concept: the image of God in man, and presented to our readers a short historical review of this concept. We also criticized the Roman Catholic presentation of this image of God and concluded with a few remarks in connection with the distinction: the image in broader and in narrower sense. We ended our article with the question: how, then, should we conceive of this image of God in man?
In answer to this question, we would remark in the first place that it is not difficult to understand the distinction as such between “image” and “likeness” in. We quote the text once more: “And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” These words, we understand, do not teach us two different things—we refer, of course, to the words, image and likeness. Rather, the one explains the other. The word “likeness” is simply a further description of the word “image.” The word “image” might simply mean that God had a certain idea of man, that He created man according to that idea, without necessarily implying that this image or idea consisted of a likeness. In other words, the idea which God had of man was that man should be a likeness of Himself.
Secondly, the idea of the image or likeness is simply that man was created to be a creaturely reflection of the living God, created so that he, as creature, could reflect the very life of the living God. When we say that a daughter is the striking image of her mother or a son is the striking image of his father, we mean the same thing. That man was created in the image of God implies, therefore, that he was created so as to be able to reflect the life of the living God. This, of course, is true only in a creaturely sense of the word. That man was created in the image of God, or, as we read in the second epistle of the apostle Peter, (that we are partakers of the divine nature), must not be understood in the essential sense of the word. Essentially only the eternal Son of God is the image of the living God. To be the image of God essentially implies that we have that very life of
God and therefore reflect it in the essential sense of the word. This, of course, is impossible. The essential difference between the creature and the Creator must, of course, be maintained. The creature can never reveal or reflect the life of the Lord except in the creaturely sense of the word. This implies that we, as creature and according to the measure of the creature, live and reflect the life which God eternally lives and knows as God. That man was created in the image of God means, generally speaking, that he was created so as to be able to reflect the life of the living God in a creaturely sense of the word.
Thirdly, keeping the above in mind, we may say that Adam was created in that image of God essentially; that is, he was created in the image of God with and according to his entire being and existence. This image consisted of true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. That the apostle, in , speaks only of righteousness and holiness is evidently because this knowledge must be understood as consisting of true righteousness and holiness. Adam knew God, knew Him with all the love of his heart and mind and soul. He was perfectly righteous and holy, consecrated unto the living God. That this is the Scriptural significance of the image of God is plain from all of Scripture—see ; ff; ; ; ; ; ; .—see “In The Midst of Death,” page 107. Besides, Adam was created in the image of God according to body and soul. Also according to the body. This receives emphasis when we read that God formed him with His own fingers out of the dust of the ground. Also from a physical point of view man has been wonderfully made. He has been created so as to love and praise the living God. However, he also received a mouth which is adapted to serve man so that man can speak and sing. Man’s vision, even from a natural point of view, far exceeds the physical eye of any other earthly creature. His body (eyes, ears, hands, etc.) have been formed so as to be a fit instrument in man’s service of the living God.
This spiritual knowledge, righteousness and holiness, constitute the content, the essence of the image of God in man. And man reflected the life of the living God, loved and sought and desired what God loves, seeks, and desires, etc., with all his being. We also speak of the image of God in man, besides in this essential, spiritual sense of the word, in a formal sense. By this we mean that man was naturally constituted so as to be able to reflect this life of God. This “formal aspect” does not constitute the essence of the image. Man was created, essentially, an image bearer, is that today, although he now is not in the image of God but in that of the devil. An animal cannot praise or serve or love the Lord. An animal cannot see the works of God as the works of God’s hands. An animal is not adapted to the life of God, cannot be reborn or regenerated. For an animal to be regenerated would imply that it would have to be changed from an animal to a man. Man, however, was created as adapted to this service of God. This capability of being endowed with the image of God we prefer to call the image of God in a formal sense. Hence, when man fell he retained his own human nature, remained essentially an image bearer, but lost the actual image of God, the reflection of the life of God. In fact, he did not merely lose this image. Man did not become a vacuum. He did not merely lose his true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. But his image turned over into its opposite. His knowledge became hatred of the living God and love of the devil, his righteousness became unrighteousness, and his holiness was turned into corruption. He became a servant of the devil; reflecting formerly the image of God he is now the image of the devil, and this is possible because he remains man. An animal cannot love God but neither is it able to hate Him. Man, if you will, now reflects the life of God in exactly the opposite way. But, as he was created in paradise, man was created in the image of the Lord. This constitutes his high nobility, his tremendously exalted position.
And to this we would finally add, in this connection, that man was created with a free will. This freedom must not be understood in the sovereign sense of the word, as if man was free in the sense that he was independent of God and was therefore master and captain of his own fate and destiny. This, we know, is impossible. Never, in any sense of the word, can the creature, may the creature be presented was independent of the Lord. The Lord always does all His good pleasure, also in and through the moral-rational acts of all His moral creatures. This also applies, of course, to the sin of Adam and Eve in paradise. However, man was free in a moral sense, and that according to his creation. As he was created he could will to serve and love God. But, he was also created so that he could choose the evil. This lies in the very nature of the case. Man, by nature, cannot will the good. The elect in everlasting glory will never be able to will the evil. They shall be immortal, not be able to sin or die. But Adam was created so that he could will both, the good and the bad. Of course, choosing the bad he would involve himself and all his posterity in a horrible night of sin and corruption and death.
ADAM’S RELATION TO GOD
The Covenant of Works.
Although not given a place in our Reformed Confessions, the idea of a “Covenant of Works” is nevertheless endorsed and advocated today by several theologians of Reformed persuasion. It is, of course, imperative that we call attention to this concept when discussing the creation of Adam and the relation in which he stood to the living God. To understand what is meant by this Covenant of Works it is well to listen to those who advocate and teach this theory. A detailed exposition of this doctrine is presented to us by Prof. Berkhof in his “Reformed Dogmatics” from which we now expect to quote extensively.
First, the professor gives us the Scriptural foundation for the doctrine of a covenant of works. We now quote from the pages 213-215 as follows: “The widespread denial of the covenant of works makes it imperative to examine its Scriptural foundation with care.
1. The Elements of a Covenant are Present in the Early Narrative. It must be admitted that the term “covenant” is not found in the first three chapters of Genesis, but this is not tantamount to saying that they do no contain the necessary data for the construction of a doctrine of the covenant. One would hardly infer from the absence of the term “trinity” that the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Bible. All the elements of a covenant are indicated in Scripture, and if the elements are present, we are not only warranted but, in a systematic study of the doctrine, also in duty bound to relate them to one another, and to give the doctrine so construed an appropriate name. In the case under consideration two parties are named, a condition is laid down, a promise of reward for obedience is clearly implied, and a penalty for transgression is threatened. It may still be objected that we do not read of the two parties as coming to an agreement, not of Adam as accepting the terms laid down, but this is not an insuperable objection. We do not read of such an explicit agreement, and acceptance on the part of man either in the cases of Noah and Abraham. God and man do not appear as equals in any of these covenants. All God’s covenants are of the nature of sovereign dispositions imposed on man. God is absolutely sovereign in His dealings with man, and has the perfect right to lay down the conditions which the latter must meet, in order to enjoy His favor. Moreover Adam was, even in virtue of his natural relationship, in duty bound to obey God; and when the covenant relation was established, this obedience also became a matter of self-interest. When entering into covenant relations with men, it is always God Who lays down the terms, and they are very gracious terms, so that He has, also from that point of view, a perfect right to expect that man will assent to them. In the case under consideration God has but to announce he covenant, and the perfect state in which Adam lived was a sufficient guarantee for his acceptance.
2. There is a Promise of Eternal Life. Some deny that there is any Scripture evidence for such a promise. Now it is perfectly true that no such promise is explicitly recorded, but it is clearly implied in the alternative of death as the result of disobedience. The clear implication of the threatened punishment is that in the case of obedience death would not enter, and this can only mean that life would continue. It has been objected that this would only mean a continuation of Adam’s natural life, and not what Scripture calls life eternal. But the Scriptural idea of life is communion with God; and this is the life which Adam possessed, though in his case it was still amissible. If Adam stood the test, this life would be retained not only, but would cease to be amissible, and would therefore be lifted to a higher plane. Paul tells us explicitly inthat the commandment, that is the law, was unto life. In commenting on this verse Hodge says: “The law was designed and adapted to secure life, but became in fact the cause of death.” This is also clearly indicated in such passage as ; . Now it is generally admitted that this glorious promise of unending life was in no way implied in the natural relation in which Adam stood to God, but had a different basis. But to admit that there is something positive here, a special condescension of God, is an acceptance of the covenant principle. There may still be some doubt as to the propriety of the name “Covenant of Works,” but there can be no valid objection to the covenant idea.
3. Basically, the Covenant of Grace is Simply the Execution of the Original Agreement by Christ as Our Surety. He undertook freely to carry out the will of God. He placed Himself under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law, and were no more in a position to obtain life by their own fulfillment of the law. He came to do what Adam failed to do, and did it in virtue of a covenant agreement. And if this is so, and the covenant of grace is, as far as Christ is concerned, simply the carrying out of the original agreement, it follows that the latter must also have been of the nature of a covenant. And since Christ met the condition of the covenant of works, man can now reap the fruit of the original agreement by faith in Jesus Christ. There are now two ways of life, which are in themselves ways of life, the one is the way of the law: “the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby,” but it is a way by which man can no more find life; and the other is the way of faith in Jesus Christ, Who met the demands of the law, and is now able to dispense the blessing of eternal life.
4. The Parallel Between Adam and Christ. The parallel which Paul draws between Adam and Christ in, in connection with the doctrine of justification, can only be explained on the assumption that Adam, like Christ, was the head of a covenant. According to Paul the essential element in justification consists in this, that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, without any personal work on our part to merit it. And he regards this as a perfect parallel to the manner in which the guilt of Adam is imputed to us. This naturally leads us to conclusion that Adam also stood in covenant relationship to his descendants.
5. The Passage in. In we read: “But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant.” Attempts have been made to discredit this reading. Some have suggested the reading “at Adam,” which would imply that some well-known transgression occurred at a place called Adam. But the preposition forbids this rendering. Moreover, the Bible makes no mention whatever of such a well-known historical transgression at Adam. The Authorized Version renders “like men,” which would then mean, in human fashion. To this it may be objected that there is no plural in the original, and that such a statement would be rather inane, since man could hardly transgress in any other way. The rendering “like Adam” is after all the best. It is favored by the parallel passage in ; and is adopted by the American Revised Version.” thus far the quotation.
Before we proceed with the second quotation from this book of Prof. Berkhof in which he presents to us the various elements of this covenant of works, we wish to make a few remarks with respect to that which we have quoted. It is evident from this quotation, it seems to me, that the professor refers to the Protestant Reformed Churches when he states the objections which have been voiced against this doctrine. Note, for example, how the professor answers the objection that, in case of obedience, only Adam’s earthly life would have been continued. It is simply a fact that the professor completely fails to answer this objection. We all agree, of course, that Adam enjoyed fellowship with God. But the assertion that, in case of obedience, Adam’s life would cease to be amissible and therefore lifted to a higher plane, must surely be proven and not merely stated.
Secondly, the reader should notice that, according to the quotation above quoted, the covenant of grace is basically the same as the covenant of works. To be sure, the writer declares that it is the Lord Who lays down the terms, that these terms are very gracious terms, etc. However, these latter expressions means very little, are simply hollow sounds. It is simply a fact that, basically, the covenant of grace is fundamentally the same as the covenant of grace. In the covenant of grace Christ is our Head, places Himself under the law, did what Adam failed to do, and did it in virtue of covenant agreement. Would the professor, for example, be prepared to say that, if the covenant of grace is basically the same as the covenant of works, the covenant of works is basically the same as the covenant of grace? Of course not! But, then we need no longer wonder what is meant by the covenant of works. In the covenant of grace, which is basically the same as the covenant of works, Christ merited eternal life for us. In the covenant of works Adam is our head. Hence, the covenant of works simply means that the Lord presented Adam with the opportunity to obtain for himself and all his posterity, in the way of obedience, everlasting life. Besides, the very expression: covenant of works, cannot have another connotation. Terms simply have meaning.
Finally, I would also call the attention of our readers to the place which “conditions” have in this presentation of Prof. Berkhof. They fit in perfectly with his conception of the covenant. Conditions, as far as the undersigned is concerned, always precede before something else can follow. This is also true here. In this covenant of works a condition is laid down, the condition of obedience. And the plain meaning of the writer and the term here is that this condition must be met before the promise of eternal life can be bestowed upon Adam. Anyone is able to understand this. Now we all realize that regeneration must precede conversion, that conversion must precede the conscious enjoyment of justification, that the battle must precede the victory, the strife the crown. This lies in the very nature of the case. Hence, to teach that the promise is conditional must mean that something must precede the fulfillment of the promise. To teach that faith is the condition for the promise must therefore mean, if terms have any meaning at all, that we must believe before we can obtain the promise. But, faith is a part of the promise, belongs to the promise, is an element of it, God’s means whereby He bestows upon His elect people everlasting life. Terms have meaning. It is not fundamentally the question how we can or do interpret a term, but how a term can be interpreted. The professor, speaking here of conditions, also tells us that the Lord is absolutely sovereign in His dealings with man and that His terms are very gracious terms. The fact remains, however, that a conception has been taught and spread in the church in which it is impossible to mistake the meaning of the term “condition.” The promise of eternal life to Adam was conditional. Does anyone doubt the meaning of the expression in the concept: covenant of works? To teach that the promise of God is conditional also today would lead us into the very same direction. Hence, may we remain true unto the calling whereunto the Lord has called us.