The Restoration of the Divine Image Through Christ
From a Sermon on Mark 7:31-37
Dr. C.F. W. Walther (1811-1887)
Consequently, when man thus came from the hand of God, he bore the image of God in himself. Wherein this image must have consisted is not difficult to guess, for everyone knows that an image is a reproduction having some identity or at least visible similarity with the original. Therefore, when it is revealed to us that God created man in His own image, this simply means that originally man resembled God, yes, in a certain sense was like God.
Through sin the image of His glory now plunged into darkness, death and the arena of misery.
Whoever saw man saw God's attributes shine in him. Man's whole essence was a faithful copy of God and a lovely, bright reflection of His glory. As the sun is mirrored in a calm sea, so the Creator was reflected in newly-made man.
But alas! what happened? By the seduction of Satan, man fell into sin, and sin in turn robbed us of God's image, divested us of our original adornment, hurled us from the peak of the most blessed good fortune into darkness, death, and ruin, and made this world an arena of misery. We no longer are as God created us. Our reason alone finds it absurd to assume that the almighty, all-wise, holy God should have created beings burdened with sickness, distress, and death; with error, blindness, and darkness; with sin and all impurity; with discord, unrest, fear, anguish, and pangs of conscience. But such a being man now is. He is aware that he is destined for a different world, yet is subject to death, thousands of different kinds of illnesses, and countless evils. Judge for yourselves: Had God created man and the world as they are now, could we really agree with the Bible's statement: "And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good?" (Genesis 1:31).
But blessed are we! We are not destined to remain in this misery. For that very reason God's Son became like us, that we should again become like God. Thus John writes, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:81. And Peter preaches, 'Whom (Christ) the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21).
Christ did not come only to win forgiveness for our sins ...
Consequently we dare not think that God's Son became a man only to fulfill the Law for us by His holy life. He did not suffer for our sins and die on the cross only to win for us the forgiveness of our sins, to deliver us from the punishment we deserve, to reconcile us with God, and despite our sins unlock heaven and salvation to us. This is how many see Christ. They, therefore, seek nothing in Christ but comfort for their restless conscience. That they should actually again become holy is of no concern to them at all. However, they are caught in a great, most dangerous error.
He came to restore the entire lost image.
In our text Christ not only mercifully received the deaf and dumb man and assured him of His grace. He also treated him, actually healed him from all his infirmities, restored hearing and speech to him and made him a healthy man. Exactly thus Christ not only wants to forgive all men their sins, but also to free them from their sins. He not only came to comfort and soothe their hearts, but also to cleanse and sanctify them; not only to make them acceptable to God, but to make them like God. In short, He came to restore the entire lost image of God in them. True blessedness of necessity means that sin actually is abolished, wiped out, crushed and destroyed in us.
We must "put on the new man."
The moment, therefore, a person accepts Christ's grace, sin also loses dominion in him. Hatred against sin is the first impulse of the divine image which Christ restores in man. The person regrets, deplores and abhors his sins daily, and humbles himself before God and men because of them. He also prays against continuing in sin, is on guard against temptation to sin, notices the gentlest stirrings of sin in his heart, arms and strengthens himself against sin from God's Word. Thus he unceasingly strives against sin, including his dearest pet sins. He tries to be rid of every sin with all his might. He who wants only forgiveness of sins from Christ, yet wants to cling to many sins, not wanting to be completely healed of sin by Christ, makes Christ a servant of sin. He does not believe in the true Christ at all. Not only is the abolition of sin in man part of the restoration of the divine image, but also man's renewal and sanctification. Once people are pardoned, the call of the Letter to the Ephesians goes out to them, "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness' (Ephesians 4:23, 24). And again we read in the Letter to the Colossians, "Put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Colossians 3:9,10).
Let our eyes be opened and our hearts kindled to the heavenly vision ...
Surely through His grace Christ heals His believers even here of their natural blindness, opens the eyes of their spirit, kindles in them a heavenly light, and again works in them a true knowledge of God. Nevertheless here they do not yet come to that complete, perfect knowledge man once had when he originally bore God's image in himself. Everyone, even the most zealous Christian, must say with Paul, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also lam apprehended of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).
of a world and an image more beautiful than the one ruined by sin.
But blessed are all Christians! As Christ in our Gospel restored the deaf mute not only in part but completely, so He will also restore in the world to come the image of God to which they were originally created in all who truly believe in Him. Yes, there by His grace the redeemed will shine more gloriously than they would have had they not fallen. They will see and experience that through His redemption Christ has built again a world more beautiful than the one ruined by sin. Therefore, if we read of the first creation, "And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, ii was very good," at the sight of the second creation all the redeemed will cry out so much more, "The Lord hath done ail things well!" (Mark 7:37).
The author of this sermon, Dr. C. F. W Walther, was horn in 1811 in Germany at a time when rationalism held sway in the Lutheran State churches as well as the universities. He studied theology at the University of Leipzig and was ordained to the ministry in 1837. His firm biblical stand met with such opposition and persecution by both his congregation and the church hierarchy that he resigned his pastorate and came to Missouri with a group of German emigrants. He was the first president of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, and took a leading part in endeavors eventually leading to the founding of Concordia Publishing House. He served as professor of theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, until his death in 1887.
There is no doubt but that Dr. Walther's strong biblical stand lies at the foundation of the strong creationist official position of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, today.