Theology 101 — Marred Image and Imperfect Likeness

We have not fully pondered the fact that we humans were made in the image and likeness of God until we also give thought to what disobedience and sin have done to this image and likeness. While rebellion against God resulted in the loss of paradise for Adam and Eve, it did not obliterate their likeness to God. It distorted the image, and it resulted in fellowship with God becoming a problem. Adam and Eve were turned out of Eden. 

Having forfeited their fellowship with God, they also henceforth possessed a nature bent toward sin and disobedience. Bible students across the centuries have referred this spiritual condition as “fallen.” 

All humans thereafter have been born with a fallen nature or an inclination toward sin. Our sinful nature puts us at risk to the influence of the world around us, as well as to that of Satan. Temptation makes its appeal to that fallen nature. We come into the world with an inborn tendency toward iniquity and sin.

Affected by sin

An expression that is widely used to describe this marred image and imperfect likeness is total depravity. This phrase is not to be understood as saying that humans are as totally depraved as it is possible for us to be. We all know non-Christians who possess admirable qualities, even sometimes outshining professing Christians in kindness, gentleness, patience and so forth. What total depravity expresses is that every area of our humanness has been in some way affected by iniquity and sin. 

Our total makeup has been victimized by our fallen nature — thoughts (our minds), affections (our hearts) and choices (our wills). 

All of this is the bad news, but the good news is that God had a plan for humans to regain likeness to Him. The beginning point in that plan is a new birth or regeneration that is launched through repentance of sin and faith in Christ Jesus. We term it Christian conversion. 

The ongoing stage in God’s plan calls for progressive or gradual growth and development in spiritual matters — increasing commitment to God’s ways, continual transformation by the renewing of our minds, gradual embodiment of revealed truth, persistence in the practice of prayer and, all the while, experiencing a growing conformity to the likeness of Christ, who, though becoming fully human in His incarnation, did not inherit a fallen nature. Rather, He was in His earthly life in every way “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). 

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