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The Spiritual Man, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

2- The spiritual man: The image of God

 

Perhaps this question is addressed to every person: Who are you? What is man?

Some would answer:

Man is a body, soul and spirit.

Another would answer :

Man is a living, sensible, talking, free, wishful creature.

Others say -with a sense of humility- that Man is dust and ashes, as our Father Abraham said about himself (Gen 18:27).

All this is said about any man, then what is the accurate answer? We say it is the definition of the Spiritual Man according to the Holy Bible:

He is the image of God

This is what God said in the History of Creation: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him.” (Gen 1:26,27).

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Perhaps man in his divine image was what philosopher Diogenes was searching for, or what the intellectuals mean by the word “Superman”.

Of course, by the divine image, it is not meant that man resembles God in His Divine qualities, such as eternity, infinity and the power to create! Not to be thought of! But it means the relative qualities such as:

The creation of man in the image of God in purity and righteousness

The spiritual man -before the fall- was innocent and simple. He did not know sin at all. I mean our parents Adam and Eve before the fall, when they were both naked and were not ashamed. (Gen 2:25). They have not yet eaten from the tree of life and therefore they did not know evil. They were like the innocent children, whom Jesus loved and said, “Assuredly, I

say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt 18:3).

 

The serpent deceived and lied to our mother Eve who did not doubt the serpent’s words because she did not know lying, deceit or suspicion. Such words were not in her intellectual dictionary at that time.

Man was created in the image of god in holiness:

Indeed how beautiful were the times when Adam and Eve were holy before the fall. But, what happened was that by sin man lost his holiness and accordingly he lost his divine image.

Man became captive to a strange duality which still accompanies him: good and evil, lawful and unlawful and what follows that of life and death. Thus, God said to him: “I have set before you today life and good, death and evil... blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that you may live” (Deut 30:15-19).

And as man lost his divine image by the loss of holiness, he lost purity and simplicity and also lost the knowledge of his divine image...

Then came The Lord Jesus Christthe image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) and returned to us, by His incarnation, the image of God to try and be similar to it...

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How can the spiritual man reach such image? The belovedSt John said:

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked ” (1 Jn 2:6). By this, God selected His saints... to be conformed to the image of “His Son” (Rom8:29). If man acted up accordingly on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ -in the general resurrection- “will transform our lowly body that it may be con-formed to His glorious body” (Phil 3:21).

St-Takla.org Image: The Revelation to Saint John the Apostle صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: رؤيا القديس يوحنا اللاهوتي و الرسول

St-Takla.org Image: The Revelation to Saint John the Apostle

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: رؤيا القديس يوحنا اللاهوتي و الرسول

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As regards the return to the image of God in holiness, the Lord says: “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:45). And again repeated it in (Lev 20:26). Also, St Peter the Apostle adapted the same phrase when he said:

“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:15).

And added: “Be holy, for I am holy “ (1 Pet 1:16), namely, return to your divine image...

By this holiness we are worthy to partake in the Divine Sacraments... and it is said: “the holies are for the holies.” We call the Mass at which the congregation receives Communion “Liturgy of the Holies”... By holiness, the believers prepare for Holy Communion and also by which they are sanctified. What a beautiful phrase which Samuel the Prophet said to the house of Jesse when he chose David as a King, “Sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice ” (1 Sam 16:5). Here we ask:

How is the spiritual man called a saint?

+ He is a saint because he is created in the image of God, according to His likeness.

+ He is a saint because he is the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in him. (1 Cor 3:16). It is impossible that the Spirit of God dwells in an unclean temple. It is said: “Holiness adorns your house, O Lord, for ever ” (Ps 93:5).

+ Supposedly, he is a saint for being a son to God. The Bible says, “Whoever is born of God does not sin... and the wicked one does not touch him ” (1 Jn 5:18) “And he cannot sin, because he has been born of God ” (1 Jn 3:9).

+ He is a saint because of the Divine Sacraments working in him.

He is a saint by the sacrament of Baptism in which ”... our old man was crucified with Him ” (Rom 6:6). His sins were washed away (Acts 22:16), through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:5). He is a saint by the sacrament of Repentance in which his sins are forgiven and the sacrament of the Eucharist by which he abides in Christ and Christ abides in him (Jn 6:56).

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+ He is a saint because he is a member in the body of Christ (1 Cor 6:15).

And as the Body of Christ is holy and he is a member in it, he must be holy, “for what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Cor 6:14). In the days of the Apostles, the believers were called saints. The phrase “called to be saints” was repeated in the Epistles of St Paul (Rom 1:7), (1 Cor 1:2), (Eph 1:4), (Col 1:22). In his Epistle to the Philippians, he says: “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:21).

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Man was created in the image of God in perfection

Naturally we mean the relative perfection as to what the spiritual man can achieve in his struggle according to his abilities and the extent of the work of grace in him. But the full perfection belongs to God alone.

It was said about Job the Righteous that “He was blameless and upright” (Job 1:8). It was also said: Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations” (Gen 6:9). God said to our Father Abraham: “Walk before Me and be blameless” (Gen 17:10). And the Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount :

“Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

And the Lord Jesus Christ, in each stage of His life was perfect, during His incarnation on earth. So He showed us how to be in the Divine image in the periods of our childhood, boyhood, youth and manhood.

Then, we must seek perfection in order to be an image of God and fulfil His commandment to us...

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We also say when God created man in His image, He did not create him in His image only, in holiness, righteousness and perfection, but..

God created man in his image in authority:

The Lord said: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28)...

God granted the same blessing to our Father Noah after the ark rested: “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth and on all the fish of the sea” (Gen 9:2).

When man was in the image of God, he was king and master of the creation.

And when he lost the divine image, the creation started to rebel against him.. “the serpent shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15) and “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you” (Gen 4:12). And man began to hunt animals and beasts began to kill man, who lost his respect when he lost his divine image...

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Also God created man in his image in strength:

The spiritual man is a strong person and I do not mean the samsonic bodily strength, but I mean the strong personality: strength of the spirit, thought, will and endurance, strength to combat diabolic wars and spiritual struggle, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. Also, strong morals: the spiritual man does not shake, fear, hesitate or let the thoughts of despair and failure rule over him.

He who is in the image of God never fears.

In this, David the Prophet said: “Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be confident“ (Ps 27:3). Who is fearful is not in the image of God, therefore the cowardly will not enter the kingdom (Rev 21:8). Adam, after the fall, was afraid (Gen3:10). And Cain, after he sinned, was overtaken by horror (Gen 4:14 , because both lost the divine image.

The saints and prophets gave a profound illustration of having no fear.

St Anthony first lived in a grave and he did not fear the warfares of Satan. He was not afraid when the devils appeared to him in the shape of beasts, screaming in horrible sounds and attacking him.

The martyrs did not fear all the threats and tortures of the rulers. Daniel the Prophet did not fear the lion’s den and the three youth did not fear the burning fiery furnace.

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And he who is in the image of God is always successful:

And therefore a failure or an unsuccessful person is not the image of God because the one who is in the image of God: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruits in its season and whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps 1:3). It is also said about the Upright Joseph : “The Lord was with Joseph and he was a successful man” (Gen 39:2).

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And he who is in the image of God must be humble:

Indeed, God is the sole humble One in the accurate understanding of the word, because as He is the high in the highest, comes down to our level, deals with us, talks with us and listens to our prayers. But man also can be humble according to his level. At least he knows himself being dust and ashes and should not take to himself the thoughts and manners of pride, haughtiness and vain glory. The humble man scares the devils because they see in him the image of the humble God when He made Himself of no reputation (Phil 2:7). But, the proud man is deprived of the divine image.

The spiritual man is in the image of God in many qualities:

Among the attributes of God is love and he who is in the image of God must be loving like Him: “and who abides in love abides in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). He is gentle and lowly in heart and wants us to learn from Him (Mt 11:29). Likewise in other virtues... “God is the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). He is the true light (Jn 1:9). He also called us: “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14), considering that we are in His image and likeness.

The Lord said: “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11). And at the same time, He Himself gave some to be pastors (Eph 4:11). And although He is the teacher -and He was called so- yet He gave some to be teachers (Mt 28:19,20).

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Some said that God created man in His image in His incarnation. Of course He knew the image He will take when He came to our salvation, so He created us in His image and likeness...

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God wants us to be like Him, in His image, even at work, to walk in His way, to have His same will: “On earth as it is in heaven.” (Lk 11:2) . We speak as if God is speaking in our mouths. We utter His words: “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Mt 10:20). In our actions, “... also to walk just as He walked” (Jn 2:6) and do His work. In all that we do, we ask ourselves first: If the Lord Christ was in our place, would He do that?... And in all our life, whoever sees us will say: Truly, they are the children of God, they are like their Father, as real sons to Him...

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The message of the children of God is to carry the image of God in themselves to the world, whoever sees them knows God and loves Him because he loved His image.

Whoever sees them in their love, calmness, integral personalities and living examples, glorify their Father in heaven. The Lord Christ ascended to heaven... but He left His image in His Disciples to be carried from generation to generation with His teachings.

Some may ask: How can man be in the image of God while God alone is unlimited? Is man in His image in this too?!

The answer: Man is definitely limited and cannot be like God who is unlimited. However, God who created him in His image put inside him the longing to all that is unlimited. From here, man has the ambition and also the growth and lack of satisfaction . He continually forgets those things which are behind and reaches forward to those things which are ahead, pressing towards the goal for the prize (Phil 3:13-14)...

Naturally man, who is in the image of God, would have the spiritual ambition and growth and not the ambition in materialistic and worldly matters.

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The second question: How can man be in the image of God and God is Creator?

Of course God is the sole creator, but also He gave man the gift of invention and creative thinking, which constantly produce new things which were not available before... But the difference is that God creates from nothing and man uses what God created to make a new thing.

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I can also say that we are the image of God in Trinitarianism and monotheism

Man is a self with a mind and a spirit , and the self, mind and spirit are one being. In this, he is the image of God who is Self, Mind and Spirit and all three are One.

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Finally, I say: As long as we are the image of God, we should keep this image and strive not to be the image of the world.

I wonder at those who want to copy the people of the world in everything so that they are called modern and not backward. We should be wise in this matter as St Paul the Apostle says:

“And do not be conformed to this world... ” (Rom 12:2).

Which means do not be like it, as your image is much better than that of the world, you are the image of God and St John the Apostle says: “In this the children of God are manifest.” (1 Jn 3:10). Therefore it is not right for the spiritual man to copy the people of the world, but be an example to them, light to the world in whom they see the image of God and love it...

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The spiritual man compares himself to the Divine Image and constantly asks himself: Where am I now and how far have I reached?

In the happy eternity there is one image, God and those who are in His image. But those who are not in His image will be cast out into outer darkness.

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Brethren, you were not created to be just dust and ashes because God created you to give you His glory, so that your beauty becomes perfect through the splendour bestowed on you ( Ezek 16:14).

St Paul the Apostle, when he wanted to clarify this picture, said in a phrase which also needs clarification:

“For as many as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27). What is the meaning of “have put on Christ”?

Do I stand before it as an explainer , or stand in astonishment and amazement.. before the image of God...?


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