Author: Harlan Sorrell
In Genesis 1: 26, 27, the Lord God Jehovah, speaking to the other two members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit), said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Mankind was created after the likeness of a triune God, being threefold – body, soul, and spirit. All of these three aspects of man’s being were created to “image” God. Webster’s dictionary defines “image” as “a representation of a person or thing, the visual impression of something produced, a copy; counterpart; likeness; a type; embodiment: as he is the image of laziness; the total impression created by a person; representation; portrait; reflection.”
God, being perfectly holy, created mankind as a visual impression of Himself. In the beginning mankind was holy in body, soul, and spirit. He was a copy and counterpart of God, a representation and reflection of his Creator. How wonderful! But as we read in Genesis chapter 3, through the cunning craftiness of the tempter, mankind sinned and lost that wonderful likeness of his Maker. In the fullness of time God sent Jesus, the second person in the Trinity “who is the image of the invisible God,” and by whom He created all things (Col. 1:15-16). He sent him “without sin” (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:21-22), but “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,” that He might “condemn sin in the flesh” (Rom. 2:3) and reveal to us again the image of God. He was the second Adam. 1 Cor. 15: 45-47. Heb. 1:1-3 says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” After Jesus sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, God sent the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to impart His image as it was expressed and exhibited by Jesus during His incarnation, to all who would open their hearts in faith to receive it. Paul says in 2 Cor. 3: 18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This is what the salvation of Jesus Christ does for all who will receive it according to the teaching and pattern set forth in the New Testament. Those who truly receive Christ and His teachings are made “joint-heirs” with Him and are adopted as “sons of God” (John 1: 12-14, 16; Rom. 8: 14-17), thus partakers of His divine image.
In Eph. 4: 17-24, Paul says, “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation (conduct) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” This is parallel with Paul’s expression in Col. 3:10, “after the image of Him that created him.”
This is the image that satan hates – the image of holiness. Since the very beginning of time he has sought to mar and destroy it in its every aspect as it pertains to man’s existence. Not only does he seek to destroy the image of holiness as it pertains to man’s soul and spirit, but he also seeks to destroy it as it pertains to man’s body. God desired from the beginning that man be a visual expression of Him not only in the spiritual aspect of his existence, but in that pertaining to the physical also. The purpose of Christ coming to earth and living in the flesh was to show us God’s image. Then after making the necessary sacrifice of His body to atone for our sins, He ascended back to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within our hearts that we might be restored to God’s image. In so doing he meant for our bodies to be temples showing forth the glory of God just as His body reflected the glory of God. “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought (redeemed) with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Contrary to some modern-day philosophies, God is concerned about the outward appearance of things. Outward appearances are reflections, that is, images. Rom. 1:20 says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead ….”
This scripture teaches us that the invisible things of God (such as His glory) are clearly seen and understood by physical things we observe with our natural eyes. The physical creation reflects the Godhead and His eternal power. This makes us to know that our outward appearance is reflecting something also.
A young lady who joined the police force was asked one time, “Aren’t you afraid to do your job?” “Oh no,” she replied, “My uniform speaks!” That was a point well made. She knew that when she was dressed in a police officer’s uniform she portrayed an “image” that demanded respect. She knew that when people saw her they automatically knew what she represented by the very apparel she wore.
Let this be a lesson to us as Christians. Our clothing and outward appearances speak also! God knew this, therefore, He gave us plain instructions in His Word. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair [hair braided with ornamentation], or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Tim. 2:8-10. “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 1 Pet. 3:3-4.
God is here expressing through His Word the “image” He desires Christian women to portray by the things they wear – an image of modesty, shamefacedness, sobriety, meekness, quietness of spirit, etc. These are all inward qualities of the heart, yet God wants them displayed in an outward manner. Do clothes speak of inward things? Of course they do! The clothes you wear (including the colors) reflect your mood or inward sentiments. This is an obvious fact. There is a reason why people wear dark colors to a funeral. A dark color speaks the appropriate mood for a mournful occasion. Light or bright colors speak of joyful occasions and sentiments. In view of these facts, if the clothes that we wear as Christians do not speak of “holiness” then they are relatively inappropriate to our profession. To wear any type of clothing that betrays the image of Him who created us is to step outside His will. “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (conduct).” 1 Pet. 1:15. This definitely includes the image we portray by the way we cloth our bodies.
A brother was in a Wal-Mart store with his wife and family when he was approached by a total stranger who said, “You must be holiness people!” How did the stranger ever guess such a thing? Was it because he could see down into the hearts of this brother and his family? No, it was because he could see an image portrayed. What he saw on the outside suggested to him very strongly what was probably in their hearts.
Satan is a very subtle foe. He seeks to turn the Christian aside from God’s holy will many times by subtly reasoning with the mind concerning the scriptures. Remember, his purpose is to mar God’s image. Satan even tried this with Jesus. “Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Matt. 4:5-7.
Think of what the devil was doing here. He was using scripture to motivate the Son of God to act outside of the will of God. Think of what this could have done to Christ’s image. Had He jumped off the pinnacle of the temple and the angels indeed have caught Him and brought Him safely down without physical injury He would have greatly glorified His own fleshly image in the eyes of the people. But Jesus remembered that there was more written in God’s Word than what satan quoted. Jesus’ purpose was to do God’s will; not to glorify His flesh or gratify His own self-interest. God wants us to always be likeminded.
The devil still reasons with Christ’s people today about what “is written.” But his purpose is always to bring a wrong slant or wrong perspective concerning what is written. For example, he will suggest to our minds a portion of 1 Sam. 16:7 where God said, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart,” so as to lead us to believe that God pays no attention to outward things, just simply what’s in the heart; therefore outward things don’t really matter to God. But what satan doesn’t tell us is that outward things are, in fact, a reflection (image) of what is in the heart. Nor does he tell us that God was speaking in this scripture of man’s natural “countenance” and “height of stature;” not apparel or adornment. By reasoning in this way, satan is subtly leading us toward disobedience of other things that are written. This is His whole purpose. He knows that if he can get us to disobey in only one point he has successfully marred God’s beautiful image of holiness in our lives.
God has always been concerned about the image men and women portray in regard to their gender. In Deut. 22:5, He gave this rule to Moses, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” We know that this commandment was given under the old law system, the ceremonial aspects of which were nailed to the cross and done away. However, this was not a ceremonial, but a moral command, just as “honor thy father and thy mother” (Exo. 20:12), which was quoted and reemphasized by the apostle Paul in Eph. 6:2. The relationship between children and their parents was not nailed to the cross or done away. Neither was the relationship between men and women. God still wants a definite and distinctly different “image” portrayed by men and women in regard to their gender. Although there can be some variation of cultural patterns regarding this, the distinction is definitely required in any cultural setting by Him who created male and female. In Western culture, trousers or pants have long been recognized as pertaining to the male image. Dresses and skirts are recognized as pertaining to the female image. Webster’s dictionary gives us very clear-toned definitions regarding this. I quote: “Dress – the usual outer garment of women, generally of one piece with a skirt.” “Skirt – a woman’s separate garment that hangs from the waist.” “Trousers – an outer garment, especially for men and boys, reaching from the waist to the ankles and divided into separate coverings for the legs: also called pants.” When searching for restroom facilities in a place of public gathering, we depend very much on those images to guide us to the appropriate room relative to our gender. What man would dare enter the door exhibiting the image of a “dress?” Or what woman would dare enter the door exhibiting the “trouser” or “pant” image? Obviously we do know what kind of garments pertain to men and what kind pertain to women, don’t we? Our clothes do speak!
And what about the hair of our heads? Jesus told us that our heavenly Father has them all numbered (Matt. 10:30). So surely He is taking notice. Does it make any difference to God what kind of image we portray by the hair of our heads? Does hair speak? Yes. According to the divinely inspired apostle Paul it can speak of shame or it can speak of glory. “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering (the Greek says ‘instead of a vail’).” 1 Cor. 11:14-15. Verse 6 of the same chapter suggests that it is a “shame” for a woman to be shorn or shaven and that she should be “covered” (that is, vailed with long hair). Verse 10 also says that this is “because of the angels.” Even the angels in heaven are beholding the images that men and women are portraying before God, their Creator. They are desiring to see God’s divine order carried out and the holiness of God portrayed in all that men and women do. They are interested in seeing God’s will done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
In Jeremiah 10, verses 2 and 3, God said, “Learn not the way of the heathen … for the customs of the people are vain.” It is important that we be aware that the will of God as revealed in His Word and inspired by His Spirit will contravene many cultural trends and customs of the people. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a culture-transforming gospel. Every time in history that it has been received and embraced by the heathen it has transformed their culture – changed their concepts, customs, and traditions. Apostle Peter, writing to the Gentile converts “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1: 1, 18, 19), said, “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation (conduct) received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
One of the major causes of persecution for the early Gentile Christians was this cultural transition – their redemption from the vain traditions of their fathers. This put them directly at odds with the society all around them. It was the “offense of the cross.” The Christians were despised and looked down on and, in many cases lost their homes, property, and even their lives. They were made “gazingstocks” both by reproaches and bonds and took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and enduring substance (Heb. 10: 33-34). They were willing to endure the loss of all their earthly possessions that they might undergo a cultural transition that would reflect the Savior of the world. As these “gazingstocks” for Jesus bore their reproach, their image began to have its effect on the world. In spite of the cultural antagonism, Christianity prevailed. So powerful was the effect of the holy image being portrayed by the early morning church that by about 300 A.D. the Roman Empire had undergone a cultural revolution. The “dragon” (the prevailing pagan system and its heathenish culture promoted by the devil) was “cast out.” (See Revelation chapter 12.) It was bound for a thousand years (symbolizing a long period of time). Rev. 20: 2-3. The power of Christ and His gospel conquered the dragon, bound his heathen influence, and established cultural standards based on righteous principles. This righteous influence of “Michael and His angels” (Christ and His ministers) prevailed throughout Europe and the civilized world at that time. It was later carried to America by the Pilgrims and early settlers who brought civilization to this continent.
But the scripture prophesied that after the thousand years were finished the dragon must be loosed again for a little season. We have reached that time in the unfolding and fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The dragon influence is loose today all over the world. This is why the prevailing cultural trends of our time are reverting back to heathenism. This is the reason people can walk the streets today in clothing (or lack of clothing) for which they would have been arrested a hundred years ago. Also, many false prophets are helping the “dragon” accomplish his purpose by diluting the Word of God or refusing to preach or teach certain portions of it. The evil forces of Gog and Magog (Rev. 20: 7-9) have compassed the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and church of the first-born (Heb. 12: 22-23) around about on every side with intent to overwhelm the city and every cultural establishment within its walls. We are surrounded by heathenism – heathen life-styles as well as heathen customs of dress. Heathen music is permeating the radio airwaves. Heathen images are everywhere – on television, billboards, the internet and videos, in magazines and newspapers. Our constant exposure to these images has a desensitizing effect on our souls. It is easy to become so numbed to the evil that is behind them that what they represent begins to seem like a normal way of life to us. It is human nature to conform to what we constantly see. We as twenty-first century Christians are now facing a crisis like we have never faced before. We have a choice to make. Which culture will we follow – Christianity or heathenism? Many today are endeavoring to gain converts to Christianity by mixing the two cultures together, thus removing the “offense of the cross.” However, the end result of this is that heathenism, not Christianity, always wins. If we follow true Christianity we put ourselves in direct antagonism to the cultural trends of the unregenerate society all around us. Can we do it? The Christians of the first century did. Also, Daniel and the three Hebrew children did. The three Hebrew children were cast into a fiery furnace because they would not bow to a certain image. We too may be required to go through some fiery furnaces for rejecting the images that the world is going after today. But remember, after the three Hebrew children went into the fiery furnace, king Nebuchadnezzar looked in and he got to view another image. And he said it looked like “the Son of God.” (Dan. 3: 25.) That’s the image we want the world to see!
Let us pray for heavenly vision, that we may see things in God’s perspective (Psa. 36:9). Jesus said, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15. The great heart of God is deeply grieved today by the heathenish images He sees displayed by the masses of this present evil world. It is abomination in His eyes. The baring of the arms and legs and midriff, the low-cut blouses, the ear rings, the eyebrow rings, the nose rings, the finger rings, the tattoos, the paint and powder on the faces, the cutting of the hair, the wearing of men’s apparel, and many other heathen customs are all a sad betrayal of the holy, pure image God desires women to portray. All these images so esteemed by the world as glamorous are the direct products of “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” which “is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2: 16.) The men of today’s society are also displaying very ungodly, God-dishonoring images – long hair, tattoos, ear and eyebrow rings, necklaces, muscle shirts and shorts that reveal hairy chests and legs, etc. – it is all pride and fleshly lust. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
There are many dear souls who have never known any way of life other than the heathen practices of modern society. Truly our hearts go out to them in deep compassion. Jesus is still offering to them freedom from the bondage and entanglements of the flesh and this sinful world. He still can, and wants to, transform them into His divine image. And moreover, He wants us as His people to show them that image in our daily lives. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Rom. 12: 1-2.
Brethren, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Col. 2:8. “Rudiments,” according to Webster’s dictionary, are “the first slight beginnings of something.” We should beware of the first slight beginnings of any cultural transitions that do not reflect “holiness.” They will ultimately “spoil” us and mar the image of Christ. Beware of any philosophical reasoning in favor of the “rudiments of the world.” Rather, let us earnestly contend for that culture-transforming faith which was delivered to the saints of the first century. Amen.