Made in the Image of God: Wisdom, Emotions & Morality

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

As we continue to look at humanity bearing the image and likeness of God, we come to the next way we image God: Through intellect, emotions and morality.

Wisdom and Knowledge

God is wise and full of knowledge. Several passages in the Bible speak to this truth, not the least of which is Isaiah 11:2, which says in anticipation of the coming of Jesus, “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Here God is spoken of (specifically God the Holy Spirit) as being the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, and of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Like God, we have the ability to have knowledge and wisdom (cf. Prov. 1:7). Solomon, King of Israel, was the wisest man ever to live (cf. 1 Kings 4:30-34). Jesus commends the dishonest manager for his shrewdness in using unrighteous wealth to make friends for himself, commanding His followers to be wise in using money as well (cf. Luke 16:1-13). So we can have wisdom, and we can know truth.

What we cannot know all things fully, nor can we fully understand God’s reasons for why He does what He does. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). The Apostle Paul states, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). So while we cannot fully know yet, we are fully known.

Emotions and Morality

The God of the Bible displays a full range of emotions. In Exodus 34:6-7, God, speaking to Moses, says of Himself, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (emphasis mine).

Here we see only a few of the emotions and moral characteristics of God: He is merciful and gracious. He is patient (slow to anger). He is loving and faithful. And, He is just. Additional passages record that God feels grief (Eph. 4:30), anger (John 2:15), wrath (Luke 3:17, 4:28), and outrage (Heb. 10:29).

Like God, we have these same emotions and moral characteristics. However, our responses can lead us to sin and folly. Anger is a good and righteous emotion, but our anger does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). When we are angered, even righteously, it often turns into something unrighteous. The Apostle Paul writes, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26-27). Paul also writes in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” Our anger, when not turned over to God, inevitably leads to bitterness and malice.

Most importantly, God loves; indeed, God is love (1 John 4:8). The Bible speaks of God’s love in various ways roughly one thousand times in the ESV translation. God loves in a variety of ways, not the least of which includes salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Likewise, we, as God’s image-bearers love; in fact, we are commanded to love. Time and again, the authors of the New Testament wrote to the church exhorting believers to love one another. In one of the greatest passages on this subject, the Apostle John, Jesus’ beloved friend, says:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12).

No one has ever seen God, but as we love each other, we make God known to others. This is why love is vital to our imaging of God. It’s why the greatest commandment is “‘…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). When we love God with all of our being, we will love each other. It transforms our relationships and makes all of life an act of worship.

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