“At Joshua’s command, the Israelite army gave a great shout, and Jericho’s walls fell down, the soldiers rushed in and conquered the city (Joshua 6:20).” So begins the mission of God’s people to take back the Promised Land.
The training manual for this mission was written much earlier by Moses. It begins with the first chapter of Genesis.
As this first chapter shows, while the Israelite’s mission was to pull down the walls of Jericho, our mission as God’s people in the twenty-first century is not much different.
Calling and Being Made in the Image of God Are Linked
When we read this first chapter of the Bible we are usually drawn into current controversies like evolution or the age of the earth. While these discussions may be important, Moses probably did not have them in mind when he wrote to his original audience.
Writing to the second generation of Israelites who were born in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt, Moses’s goal is to influence Israel to conform themselves to God’s will, to fulfill the mission to which they have been called.
Moses is showing them in the creation story that being made in the image of God is inseparably linked with their calling to his mission.
The same message echoes down through the centuries, calling us to faithfully bear the image of God through our own calling.
Theologian Christopher Wright states in his book, The Mission of God’s People, that:
When God created the earth, he created human beings in his own image with the express mission of ruling over creation by caring for it – a task modeled on the kingship of God himself. The human mission has never been rescinded, and Christians have not been given some exemption on the grounds that we have other or better things to do.
Clearly Genesis 1:26-28 associates the image of God with a calling, a task that God entrusts to Adam. Adam is called to rule over the earthly creation as God’s image bearer.
Michael D. Williams, a professor of systematic theology, writes,
Adam was created to bear God’s image into the world. He was created to perform a task. Image bearing is his reason for being. It is his very identity. Thus the language of image bearing in Scripture bears a dynamic, active, functional trajectory.
Minister and theologian Anthony Hoekema further explains this concept, writing in his book Created in God’s Image that,
God has created us in his image, so that we may carry out a task, fulfill a mission, pursue a calling.
All of scripture defines the point of image bearing as doing God’s will by obediently serving our Creator.
Our Mission in the Twenty-First Century
Again, while the Israelite’s mission was to pull down the walls of Jericho, our mission as God’s people today is not much different.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Being God’s image is serious business. It is at the very heart of the biblical story. We are broken images because of the Fall, but through the redemptive work of Christ we are now repaired, refreshed, and transformed into [his] image (2 Corinthians 3:18), and once again conformed to our Creator’s intention for us as his creatures.
As seen from this prospective, the call to believe the gospel is designed to return us to our first calling, our calling to faithfully bear God’s image in the world and to fulfill his mission.
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