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The previous post in this series can be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/introduction-to-biblical-counseling-week-two-sin/


What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.

n  A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

I.          Human Beings Were Created to Worship

A.  Adam, the First Priest in the First Temple: Humanity was uniquely created for worship of God. Our first home was a sanctuary, a temple. (This discussion is unfortunately a bit technical. If you are interested, I have provided some details in this section. If it seems a bit too much or is unclear, just get this point: God created us to be in relationship with him; which is by definition, worship.)

1.   Created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-29

a.   The matter of the image of God has been the subject of much investigation. The primary ways of understanding the doctrine have centered on what human beings are by nature or what human beings do:

But what is meant by the terms “image” and “likeness”? Three approaches to this question are commonly found, and no doubt all three have some merit. Many have concluded that humans are image-bearers due to their superior intellectual structure. Others have stressed that God mandates that humans function as rulers and managers of the creation as they image him (Gen. 1:26–28; Ps. 8:5–8). Yet another approach stresses the created relationships of humans; they image God as they relate to him, to each other, and to nature. Just as the Creator is a being in relationship, so are his creatures. Putting these views together, humans are like God in that they are uniquely gifted intellectually (and in many other ways) so that they may relate to God and to each other as they live as stewards of the world God has given them to manage. While an image is a physical representation of a person or thing (Exod. 20:4; Matt. 22:20), the human body does not mechanically image God, as if God had a body. Rather, the whole human being, including the body, images God’s attributes by ethical living in concrete settings.[1]

b.   In Kingdom Through Covenant (Peter J. Gentry & Stephen J. Wellum), G &W analyze the “image of God” referenced in Genesis 1:26-27 by reference to the Ancient Near East conventions and usage. They contend that the idea of man as the “image” of God means that human beings were placed into the Garden of Eden to re-present God’s presence [a detailed analysis of this point is appended in an endnote for those who would like to examine the issue].[i]  This concept may be a bit more understandable when it is put into the context of the ancient world:

All ancient temples and sanctuaries had images of deities that had dominion over them. Likewise the garden sanctuary of the LORD had images, but they were very different from what the pagan world later developed. These images were made by God, not by people, for humans themselves were the image of God….They were then able to communicate with God, enjoy God, obey God, and serve God.”[2]

Gentry and Wellum take the word “image” to refer to the capacity of the human being to be able to interact with God [again, see the endnote for the discussion of this subject].

c.  Our sanctification in part is the restoration of that image:

Another major aspect of the doctrine of image of God is developed from Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10. These verses describe redemption in terms of re-creation in the likeness of God, in righteousness, holiness of the truth, and true knowledge. The argument is that what holds so prominent a place in the new creation must also have held a correspondingly prominent place in the original creation.[3]


Paul argues that believers are destined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). We are to live as God would, to represent him and his character. Paul elsewhere refers to Jesus as the image of God (2 Cor 4:4). The writer of Hebrews uses the same verbiage, calling Jesus “the express image of God” (Heb 1:3). As humans gave visible form to God, so Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). Jesus was truly incarnate, becoming human to atone for humankind, but also an example for humankind (Phil 2:6–10; 1 Pet 2:21).

These New Testament passages convey that Jesus was the imager of God. As Jesus imaged God, we must image Jesus. In so doing, we fulfill the rationale for our creation. This process is gradual: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). Paul also links our resurrection to Jesus as the image of God in 1 Cor 15:49.[4]

d.   Human beings were created in a unique relationship with God, which is demonstrated in part by the fact that we were created in the image of God.  We have a relationship to God which is unlike any other created being. Now, damage to that was done in some manner by sin and the Fall. But in our salvation, we are being “renewed in knowledge after the image of [our] creator” (Colossians 3:10). We were created for God in a unique manner.

2.   “The Garden of Eden Was a Temple in the First Creation.” Dr. Beale makes that argument in A New Testament Theology, 617-622. The Garden of Eden was a unique place. It was a location where God walked freely with his people, just as God presented himself in the tabernacle (Leviticus 26:12). The words used to describe Adam’s charge to “cultivate it and keep it” are the same words used elsewhere to describe the work of the Levites in the Temple (Numbers 3:7-8, 8:25-26). Solomon’s temple echoed the Garden in many respects:[5]

The Garden of Eden was a sanctuary, the place where the people had access to the living God. And because God was there, every good and beautiful gift from God was also provided for their delight and benefit. In time Israel built a sanctuary and then a temple patterned after Paradise, not only to recall the memory of Paradise but also to rekindle the hopes of glory in the Paradise to come. To remain in communion with this LORD of glory and enjoy his bounty, they simply had to serve him and obey his commands.[6]

B.   Human beings live in a state of corrupted worship. Romans 1:18-32.

1.   Human beings know God yet suppress that knowledge.

a.   The Bible asserts the existence of God as beyond question. For example, the Bible begins with, “In the beginning, God created …” (Gen. 1:1). God simply is.  Paul uses the same process in Romans 1:18-32:  He writes that “the wrath of God is revealed …” (18); “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because has God has shown it to them” (19); “his invisible attributes … have been clearly perceived” (20); “for although they knew God …” (21); “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (25); “they know God’s decree” (32). Thus, the basic proposition for all the theology which follows in the book or Romans is that there is a God and we know it.  Thus judgment on all mankind is just, “So they are without excuse” (20).  Man’s sin is in direct opposition to the God’s known existence and decree (32).

b.   The problem of mankind is not that we do not know of God; it is that we do not want to know God –we suppress that knowledge.  In each of the instances which involve the admission that God exists, Paul counters that with the proposition that humanity suppresses that knowledge: (1) “men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (18); (2) “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened” (21); (3) “Claiming to be wise, they became fools”(22; cf. Ps. 14:1, “The fool says in his heart there is no God”); (4) “[they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images”; (5) “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (25); (6) “they did not see fit to acknowledge God” (28).

It is important to note that such suppression does not entail utter denial of divinity.  It is a well-known fact that even atheists will pray.  Rather, it is best to understand such “suppression” as a denial of an aspect or attribute of God (see the chapter Charnock’s “Practical Atheism”):  Thus, in 1:18, the suppression is as to the knowledge of the wrath of God.  In 1:21, it is a refusal to honor or give thanks to God. In 1:25, they “exchange the truth about God.” In 1:19, it is rejection of his position as Creator.

2.  Moreover, due to the fact that human beings are built to worship, when they suppress the knowledge and worship of the Creator they immediately and necessarily turn to the worship of the creature: idolatry is unavoidable (Rom 1:25).  This leads to all other sin, “This introductory section to Romans affirms that idol worship is the root sin of all other sins.”  G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: a Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Nottingham, England: IVP Academic, 2008), 203.  “Men in our own sociologically and psychologically oriented age have all kinds of explanations for the moral problems of man.  But according to the Bible, it is not moral declension that causes doctrinal declension; it is just the opposite.  Turning away from the truth—that which is cognitive, that which may be known about God—produces moral declension.  The modern artists, the dramatists, and the novelists show how far modern man has turned away into moral byroads.  The Bible tells us the cause: men who knew the truth turned away; they are followed by men who do not know the truth, and this results in all sorts of moral turning aside”.[7]

The result of this process of suppressing the knowledge of God is sin: both in desire and conduct.[8]  Paul explains that it entails God giving one over to a defective understanding of the world.  That defective understanding leads to corrupt desires, which leads to corrupt conduct.

3.   Having explained the act of suppression in verses 18-21, Paul writes in verses 22-23, “[T]hey became foolish in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”  Plummer draws the connection from their suppression, through their ingratitude (a failure to worship) to their folly and sin:

These people not only might have known God, but actually did know much concerning him, and then refused to honor him as he deserved.  To this they were led by one gross, master sin, ingratitude, to which their wicked hearts naturally and powerfully inclined them.  The same depravity made them vain in their imaginations….Wicked men are as foolish as they are perverse. They are awful left to themselves. They are benighted. They are lost. [W]ickedness leads to folly, and folly in divine things is wickedness. So the Bible is right in not carefully preserving the distinction between fools and sinners.[9]

Plummer rightly notes the movement from suppression, through perverse thought, through corrupt lives.  Paul makes the same movement in this passage, returning to the issue of the mind in verse 28, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind.”

4.   A debased mind. “As a punishment for their thus reprobating the knowledge of God, God gave them up to a “reprobate mind:”—a mind reprobate in respect to those things which concerned their own honour and well-being. A reprobate mind signifies a mind that has lost its powers of just discrimination. The human mind had so ill and wickedly discriminated in rejecting the knowledge of God, that it was doomed forever to the same wayward choice, and to the same practical insensibility to the beauties of virtue and holiness. Thus, in the shocking instances just recorded, it desired and chose things, not only incompatible with the welfare of man, but absolutely unsuitable to his nature”[10]

5.   Turned over in desire and conduct.

a.   Desire. In verses 24 and 26 Paul writes that “God gave them up … .” In verse 24, they are given over to “the lusts of their hearts to impurity ….” In verse 26, they are given over to “dishonorable passions.” The human being have suppressed the knowledge of God, finds himself unable to even think straight (v. 21, 28). Getting God wrong, the physical, particularly the sexual life, of the human being becomes disordered.[11] In such a state, the passions and desires find full reign.

b.   Conduct. It is no surprise that a man who cannot think and who is a slave to his passions is a man who will live and act in a manner consistent with darkened thinking and sinful passions. This shows itself in: (1) idolatry (23 & 25); (2) sexual sin (24-27); and (3) every manner of sinful conduct (28-31).

6.   Some counseling implications.

a.    In salvation and sanctification, the process is one of renewing this mind so that it can discern the will of God.[12] The proposition here is that the generating mechanism for sin (the “flesh” in much of Paul) is this defective knowledge of God/suppression of the knowledge of God.  In the believer, the suppression is not absolute: thus, the believer is no longer under the “dominion” of sin.[13]  However, the suppression is still partial: thus, sin persists with the believer. Since the suppression is at the level of perception and thought, the results effect every aspect of the human being (depravity is “total” although it is not “utter”). This would explain why sin will take various forms in various persons based upon their experience and temperament and circumstances: the precise nature of the suppression and subsequent action will vary from person to person. This also leads to a model of counseling—show them Christ, teach them the will of God that their mind may be renewed so that the mind can now discern the will of God.

b.   A key ingredient for biblical counseling must be is a larger and larger view of our God. Sin is what we do when we don’t believe what God says (faith). Sin is what we do when we don’t hope in what God says we should hope in and for (hope). Sin is what we do when we don’t love, yearn for, treasure what God says is valuable (love).

Therefore, the local congregation and the particular acts of counseling and discipleship must be organized to help in this context, because sin tends to blind us to its actions within our own lives. Thus, another believer examining one’s life, opening the Scripture and teaching the will of God is an invaluable tool for sanctification. It functions in the same manner as the public proclamation of the Gospel—but the close connection between counselor and counselee (ideally, such a relationship would be reciprocal, “confess your sins one to another” (James 5:16) permits clarification on points which are misunderstood; and accountability to encourage and admonish on a regular basis (Heb. 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:14). Facilitating the ministry of a local congregation is such a way as to encourage and support such counseling is necessary to fulfill the Church’s function of making discipleship who observe all that the Lord commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).

C.  Humans Always Worship

1.  Romans 1:25. Note that when human beings leave off worshiping God, they immediately turn to worshiping creation.

2.  Worship in everyday life.

a.   Consider the formal aspects of worship in any religion.

i.    Belief.

ii.    Sacrifice.

iii.   Common actions: functioning together as a group.

iv. Music

v.   Prayer

vi. Special clothing

vii. Special places

viii. Special times

ix. Special food.

x.   Special language

xi. Directed thinking: meditation and study.

xii. One’s happiness and well-being hinge upon matters greater than oneself.

b.   Compare this to a college football game, a concert, a political rally.

c.   The nature of “gods” as extremely powerful but not wholly different human beings. Compare that with the understanding of “gods” and “idols” in terms of celebrities.

D. The end of all redeemed humanity is worship. Revelation 4-5.

II.         Idolatry

A.   Definitions of Idolatry

1.   JohnDavid Thompson in his ThM thesis on the doctrine of idolatry in the matter writes:

The focus of biblical idolatry is not primarily upon what is falsely worshipped but what, or more accurately whom, is not worshipped. Herein lies the source of confusion when it comes to understanding idolatry and its ubiquitous application within Christianity. The sin of idolatry does not begin with the worshipping of an idol, or little “g” god, rather it begins by not worshipping the God of the Bible. To summarize: idolatry is not the worship of the creature, it is not worshipping the Creator. Once idolatry has taken root, it is manifest in the worship of the creature, but it begins by a change in direction of worship. (11)

2.   Thomas Watson in his sermon on the first commandment in the Ten Commandments explains:

To trust in any thing more than God, is to make it a god.  

If we trust in riches we make riches our god. . . . 

If we trust in the arm of flesh we make it a god. . . . 

If we trust in our wisdom, we make it a god. . . .

If we trust in civility, we make it a god. . . .

If we trust in our duties to save us, we make them a god . . .

If we trust in our grace, we make a god of it. . . .

To love anything more than God, is to make it a god. . . .

If we love our pleasure more than God, we make a god of it. . . .

If we love our belly more than God, we make a god of it. . . .

 If we love a child more than God, we make a god of it.

3.   Idolatry is not in the thing itself, but in our relationship to the thing:

Other things are only evil respectively as they prove idols or snares to us; and so life, and all the ornaments, comforts, and conveniences of life; as liberty, honours, wealth, friends, health, they are all called self. The reason is, because by love, which is the affection of union, they are incorporated with us, and become parts of us: Hosea 4:18, ‘Ephraim is joined to idols;’ they are cemented with them. Now that which is to be denied in these things is not so much the thing itself, but our corruption that mingleth with them, and causeth them to become a snare to the soul.[14]

B.   Idolatry is really about fulfilling my own desire.

1.   A self-exalting heart.

This is how idolatry functioned in the Old Testament. The fundamental problem with the Israelites in the Old Testament was that they reserved for themselves the prerogative to determine what they needed and when they needed it, instead of trusting the Lord. The self-oriented hearts of the Israelites then looked to the world (the neighbors in their midst) and followed their lead in bowing to gods that were not God in order to satisfy the lusts of their self-exalting hearts. When this is comprehended, it portrays the terrible irony of Israelite false worship. When the Israelites followed the lead of their neighbors and bowed before blocks of wood, that act of false worship underlined their desire for autonomy and, in an ironic way, was an exultation of themselves even more than of the idol. The idol itself was incidental; (in our world it could be a pornographic picture, a spouse as the particular object of codependency, or an overprotective mother’s controlling fear attached specifically to her children) the self-exalting heart was the problems, which remains the problem today.

The main problem sinful people have is not idols of the heart per se. The main problem certainly involves idols and is rooted in the heart, but the idols are manifestations of the deeper problem. The heart problem is self-exultation, and idols are two or three steps removed. A self-exalting heart that grasps after autonomy is the Grand Unifying Theory (GUT) that unites all idols. Even though idols change from culture to culture and from individual to individual within a culture, the fundamental problem of humanity has not changed since Genesis 3: sinful people want – more than anything in the whole world – to be God.[15]

      Hosea 2:8-9:

Hosea 2:8–9 (ESV)

8  And she did not know

that it was I who gave her

the grain, the wine, and the oil,

and who lavished on her silver and gold,

which they used for Baal.


9  Therefore I will take back

my grain in its time,

and my wine in its season,

and I will take away my wool and my flax,

which were to cover her nakedness.


Note in these verses the revelation of the heart of the idolatrous Israelites: They looked to a god (not God) who could give them what they desired. They worshipped Baal, because they thought Baal gave them stuff. To cure them of their idolatry, God will have to cause them pain by depriving them of grain and wine – not because he seeks their hurt, but because he desires to cure them of their idolatry.

Contrast this with David’s exaltation in Psalm 4:

Psalm 4:6–7 (ESV)

6  There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”

7  You have put more joy in my heart

than they have when their grain and wine abound.


Or Habakkuk 3:

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (ESV)

17  Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

18  yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

19  God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.


2.  The self as a bundle of idols.

For the object—A man’s own self, it is a bundle of idols. Since God was laid aside, self succeeded in the crown; we set up everything that we call our own. Everything before which we may put that possessive ‘ours’ may be abused and set up as a snare, all the excellences and comforts of human life, both inward and outward.

For the understanding of this, and that you may know how far self is to be denied, I must premise some general considerations, and then instance in some particulars; for it seemeth harsh and contrary to reason that a man should deny himself, since nature teacheth a man to love himself and cherish himself: Eph. 5:29, ‘No man ever hated his own flesh;’ and grace doth not disallow it. Therefore—

[1.] In general, you must know when respects to self are culpable. There is a lawful self-love—‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ James 2:8; in which there is, not only a direction to love our neighbour, but a concession and allowance implied to love ourselves; and in so doing, we do well. By an innocent and natural respect nature fortifies itself, and seeks its own preservation. A man may respect himself in a regular way. That self which we must hate or deny is that self which stands in opposition to God or competition with him, and so jostleth with him for the throne; lay aside God, and self steppeth in as the next heir; it is the great idol of the world, ever since the fall, when men took the boldness to depose and lay aside God, as it were, self succeeded in the throne. Fallen man, like Reuben, went up to his father’s bed. Self intercepted all those respects and embraces which were due to God himself, and so man became both his own idol and idolater. It is with God and self as it was with Dagon and the ark; they can never stand together in competition; set up the ark, and Dagon must fall upon his face; set up Dagon, and the ark is deposed and put down. [16]

3.   The great idol self.

Because self is the greatest enemy both to God and man. (1.) It robs God of his honour. Self, it is a near and dear word to man; it is both the idol and the idolater. It receives the worship which it performeth; as the sea sends out waves to the shore, and then sucks them in again. Self is made a god, and then god is made an idol; Phil. 3:20, ‘Whose god is their belly.’ All their toil and labour is to feed and delight themselves, and to exalt themselves. Self hath such sacrifices and devotions as God requires. Self hath solemn worship. A carnal man prays, and what then? He makes God the object, and self the end; so that self is the god. So self hath private and closet duties, vain thoughts, and musings, in which we lift up ourselves in our own conceit—‘Is not this great Babel that I have built?’ Some time of the day we consecrate to the great idol self, to puff up ourselves with the conceit of our own worth. This is a more secret worship of self. The public worship of self is in self-seeking, and the private in self-conceit, when we feast and entertain our spirits with whispers of vanity, and suppositions of our own excellency and greatness.[17]

C. We become debased by our idols.

1.  We are limited by our concept of G/god(s): “Man does not rise higher in thought and life than the Deity before whom he bows and to whom he submits himself; but he may, and too generally does, adopt the worst features of the character and conduct of his gods. What we constantly meditate upon transforms us into its own lineaments.”[18]

2.   We become what we worship (this is also the title of an outstanding book on idolatry by Beale):

a.         Psalm 115:2–8 (ESV)

           2       Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

3       Our God is in the heavens;

he does all that he pleases.

            4       Their idols are silver and gold,

the work of human hands.

            5       They have mouths, but do not speak;

eyes, but do not see.

            6       They have ears, but do not hear;

 noses, but do not smell.

            7       They have hands, but do not feel;

feet, but do not walk;

and they do not make a sound in their throat.

            8       Those who make them become like them;

so do all who trust in them.


D. Identify Idols: As an appendix hereto, I have attached 13 Tests for Heart Idolatry.


E.   What to do with the knowledge of an idol:


1.   Idolatry identifies the defect in our theology. The Israelites thought that their happiness and good lay with (1) getting corn and oil [which are stand-ins for anything which we want], (2) no matter what they had to do to get it. They falsely thought this life was everything; and effectively lived as if there were no God (Psalm 14:1) and as if death ends one’s existence.  Thus, finding an idol merely shows what we think God should be doing and how he should respond to us.


2.   Realize that idolatry is a defect of worship and thus the solution is correct worship.


a.   Psalm 4: David’s confidence in God flows from right worship (note the aspects of worship which David demonstrates in the Psalm) and this results in a confidence which idolators cannot know.  Thomas Watson’s words on Psalm 4:7 (quoted in The Treasury of David) are marvelous:


Thou hast put gladness in my heart. The comforts which God reserves for his mourners are filling comforts (Romans 15:13); “The God of hope fill you with joy” (John 16:24); “Ask that your joy may be full.” When God pours in the joys of heaven they fill the heart, and make it run over (2 Corinthians 7:4); “I am exceeding joyful;” the Greek is, I overflow with joy, as a cup that is filled with wine till it runs over. Outward comforts can no more fill the heart than a triangle can fill a circle. Spiritual joys are satisfying (Psalm 63:5); “My heart shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips;” “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” Worldly joys do put gladness into the face, but the spirit of God puts gladness into the heart; divine joys are heart joys (Zechariah 10:7 John 16:22); “Your heart shall rejoice” (Luke 1:47); “My spirit rejoiced in God.” And to show how filling these comforts are, which are of a heavenly extraction, the psalmist says they create greater joy than when “corn and wine increase.” Wine and oil may delight but not satisfy; they have their vacuity and indigence. We may say, as Zec 10:2, “They comfort in vain;” outward comforts do sooner cloy than cheer, and sooner weary that fill. Xerxes offered great rewards to him that could find out a new pleasure; but the comforts of the Spirit are satisfactory, they recruit the heart (Psalm 94:19), “Thy comforts delight my soul.” There is as much difference between heavenly comforts and earthly, as between a banquet that is eaten, and one that is painted on the wall.


These words point to a proposition which will be examined in a later lesson: A lesser pleasure is displaced by a greater pleasure.


b.   The way to stop worshiping and serving the creature is to turn and serve the Creator; there is no other way to put off idolatry than to engage in right worship. As Thomas Watson says in his sermon the first commandment:


Let it call us off from idolizing any creature, and lead us to renounce other gods, and cleave to the true God and his service. If we go away from God, we know not where to mend ourselves.


(1) It is honorable to serve the true God. “To serve God is to reign.” It is more honor to serve God, than to have kings serve us.


(2) Serving the true God is delightful. “I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.” Isa 56:7. God often displays the banner of his love in an ordinance, and pours the oil of gladness into the heart. All God’s ways are pleasantness, his paths are strewed with roses. Prov 3:17.


(3) Serving the true God is beneficial. Men have great gain here, the hidden manna, inward peace, and a great reward to come. Those who serve God shall have a kingdom when they die, and shall wear a crown made of the flowers of paradise. Luke 12:32; 1 Pet 5:4. To serve the true God is our true interest. God has twisted his glory and our salvation together. He bids us believe; and why? That we may be saved. Therefore, renouncing all others, let us cleave to the true God.


(4) You have covenanted to serve the true Jehovah, renouncing all others. When one has entered into covenant with his master, and the indentures are drawn and sealed, he cannot go back—but must serve out his time. We have covenanted in baptism, to take the Lord for our God, renouncing all others; and renewed this covenant in the Lord’s Supper, and shall we not keep our solemn vow and covenant? We cannot go away from God without the highest perjury. “If any man draws back [as a soldier who runs away from his regiment] my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Heb 10:38. “I will pour vials of wrath on him, and make my arrows drunk with blood.”


(5) None ever had cause to repent of cleaving to God and his service. Some have repented that they had made a god of the world. Cardinal Wolsey said, “Oh, if I had served my God as I have served my king, he would never have left me thus!” None ever complained of serving God—it was their comfort and their crown on their death-bed.


III.        Practical Atheism


I have posted as a separate essay, a summary of Stephen Charnock’s Practical Atheism.


IV.        Conclusion


1.   We can understand our trouble in this life as a worship defect. It is a failure to recognize God as God. Instead, we make our own desires to be our god and then worship that desire in the form of an idea.


2.   The solution to our problem is two-fold (1) having lower (and thus right) thoughts of ourselves and (2) having greater thoughts of God (the fear of the Lord). This is not to debase ourselves. When we worship God, we are exalting in our humanity – for we were created for this purpose. This is not to leave ourselves hopeless; rather it is to commit ourselves to the One who truly loves us and cares for us. This results in our greatest happiness.


3.  Worship as an affirmation of the greatness of God:


Thus, when Climacus says that the religious life is one of suffering, he does not merely mean that it involves pain, though it does, but that it requires a person to recognize the limits imposed by their creatureliness, to understand what is within a person’s power and what be accepted as something one cannot control. At this point the theistic context Climacus presupposed becomes more prominent. Though human persons may have the illusion that they are autonomous, “self-made men,” in reality we are all completely dependent on a reality outside and beyond ourselves that we cannot control. Climacus expression tis by saying the religious task is to learn that “without God a person can do nothing.” …If we are creatures of God it is literally true that without God’s creative and sustaining power human beings would not exist, would be nothing at all. The recognition of my own nothingness before God and complete dependence upon God is essentially to recognize that God is God and I am not. It is in fact a form of worship, since worship is at bottom a recognition and affirmation of the greatness of God.


4.   The counseling implication: The purpose of counseling is not to solve a problem per se; it is to help another worship. You could think of the counselor as a “worship leader”.




Thirteen Diagnostic Tests for Heart Idolatry:

1.            Esteem:  God calls us to esteem his name:

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.

Malachi 3:16. Now, esteem alone does not constitute idolatry; for we should rightly esteem those who labor most diligently for Christ’s Kingdom (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Rather, whom we must highly esteem is our God.

Only one object can be held in highest esteem. Thus, we each must ask ourselves: What do I most highly esteem? What do I count as most honorable, most desirable, most excellent, most valuable? For the very act of counting some object as most valuable is to make God somehow less valuable.

In this place, special mention must be given to self: Our heart seeks its own. By nature, we esteem our self, our hope, our dream, our desires, our honor, in the first place.  Indeed, we consider it a positive evil to prohibit the self’s desire as the standard of all good.

Our culture in particular creates idols after this manner. The moral value of thing, whether it is good or evil lies in subjective human estimation. Morality is relative, not because we have no standard. Rather, the standard exists in the personal valuation. Thus, the public moral standard is to protect the right of personal valuation. I cannot condemn any moral decision other than to call someone else’s valuation wrong.

How do I test for estimation? Given a choice between X & Y, which do I choose? Which do I think best? We must measure this against our actual actions, because we often & easily say we esteem X when our practice shows that we esteem Y. We must look to our actual conduct, because sin by its nature deceives.

2.            Mindfulness: God calls us to mind him:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; Ecclesiastes 12:1

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.  12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?  14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.  Psalm 77:11-14.

What gets your attention? Look to your thoughts: When you have idle moments, what do you first consider? When you wake & sleep, what first captures your heart?

This requires great self-consciousness. Our thoughts and intentions (Heb. 4:12), may be disclosed in our conduct, our choice of words. But by their nature, our thoughts and intentions cannot be seen by others unless we bring them forth.

Here the Scripture brings a knife:

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Heb. 4:12-13.

When we read the Scripture; when hear the Scripture preached, how do we respond? The Holy Spirit uses the Scripture to uncover and display the seemingly hidden thoughts and intentions. We realize that we cannot keep our heart secret from God. Romans 8:27 calls the Spirit, “he who searches hearts.”

Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the LORD; how much more the hearts of the children of man! Proverbs 15:11

That which we consider most, that makes up the meat of meditation, that captures our heart’s attention — that is our God:

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;  Psalms 63:5-6

3.            Intention: The thing we make our chief aim, our intention – that thing is our God. It is here we can misuse God and make our seemingly devoted actions sin.  It as on this ground that Jesus rebuked the crowd:

26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”  John 6:26-27

They sought Jesus, but only as a means. They did not search for him for himself; they sought for him the way one would search for a door: to go through for something better. They sought him to fill their true god, their bellies:

18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. Philippians 3:18-19

When we intend any other end than to obtain Christ, we have made an idol:

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:13-15.

It is at this very point that the reward offered to those believe is mistaken. No true follower of Christ desire heaven or the new creation for itself; rather, such things are sought because that is where we may see our Lord.

Look to intention, consider your goals. Note this carefully. The sin of the people who came to Jesus was not hunger: Jesus had just fed. Jesus acknowledges food and clothing as rightful and needful. The sin lies in seeking such things first and most:

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33

4.            Resolution: That which is our aim – that thing for which we resolve to set our efforts is what we worship as God. We can see this in three ways.

First, we can consider the degree of our resolve: When we consider the degree of our resolve toward God and compare that with the degree of our resolve toward creature – be it anything – that which gains your most intense resolve is your God.  What promise will you not break? Which end will you not miss?

Second, do you resolve for things in this world without condition (our job, a relationship, a material good) and yet put limitations upon our resolution toward God? That which has no condition is our god or God.

Third, if we must have something of the world now – but leave our resolution for God for the future – then that which has our resolution now is our God. If we think, the world can have my morning and God have my deathbed conversion, then God is not your God.

5.            Love: That which we must love is our God.  Love is the essential act of soul worship. God unquestionably demands the place of the highest and greatest love – he claims the place of that which we must love:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)

Jesus called this the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37). Other things may be loved, but God must be loved first:

He loves You too little who loves anything together with you, which he loves not for Your sake.  – Augustine

John lays all sins as contrary to the love of the Father:

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15–17 (ESV)

Those that love pleasure have pleasure as a god (2 Tim. 3:4). Those that love their appetites have their belly as a god (Phil. 3:19). God even demands place before our dearest human relatives (Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26).

6.         Trust: That which we trust most is our God. Trust, a settled dependence upon God and God alone is at the heart of worship and faith. Faith necessarily entails trust. Thus, in Proverbs 3:5, we are instructed to wholly trust God:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

Do you trust in your riches – your ability to make money or the money you have (or dream you will have)? Then that is your god. Do you trust in friends – or the ability to make friends? Then such is your god. Yet the LORD is the rightful object of our trust:

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8–9 (ESV)

To trust in something other than the LORD is to make that an idol and seek God’s curse:

5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:5–10 (ESV)

Trust in the creature is always idolatrous.

7.         Fear: That we fear is our God; for fear is in the heart of worship. Thus, Scripture often terms worship to be “fear” of the Lord (Matt. 4:10; Deut. 6:13). In Isaiah 51:12-13 God equates fear of “who dies” with forgetting the Lord.  That which we fear most is our God.

Thomas Watson in The Great Gain of Godliness explains the rightful fear of the Lord:

[It] is a divine fear, which is the reverencing and adoring of God’s holiness, and the setting of ourselves always under his sacred inspection. The infinite distance between God and us causes this fear.

God is so great that the Christian is afraid of displeasing him, and so good that he is afraid of losing him.

This is not to be “afraid of God”, because a godly fear is mixed with love, faith, prudence (caution), hope, diligence (in the things of God).

That which we fear we make our greatest concern. If we first fear man, then man’s judgment is the basis of justification – we bring ourselves into judgment before that which we fear.

This is especially a deadly matter, because when we fail to fear God we cannot help but sin against him. That thing we fear other than God, that god which is no God, will lead us surely. Thus, the fearful and cowardly are reckoned among the idolaters (Rev. 21:8).

8.         Hope: That object of our hope is our God – it is the place to which we journey and subject our life. A drowning man thinks of nothing but the air – the place of the air is his hope and all his life he directs to getting air.

The Christian’s hope must be solely in the Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)

God, himself is our hope and joy:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Just as saving faith must entail trust so it must entail hope. Therefore, Jesus is called our “hope” (1 Tim. 1:1). This is the effect of Christ:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (ESV)

There are many who hope for “heaven”, by which them the fulfilling of their desire for the creature. They think heaven to be a place of all their current delight – when heaven (and better still, the New Heavens and the New Earth) are a place of love and joy in our Savior.

There is a subtle danger in our hope: For one can learn to hope in her own prayers, and obedience, and service. In so doing, salvation is no longer the gift of a God who justifies the ungodly, but rather the merit of my efforts. If we will hope in God, then we must hope in him alone.

That upon which we fix our immovable hope, that is our God – and thus is often an idol.

9.         Desire: Anything we desire as much as or more than a desire to enjoy God – that is our god.  David’s desire was for the Lord:

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4 (ESV)

When the Sons of Korah despair, they desire to appear before God:

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1–2 (ESV)

When you fall into a crushing hole of sorrow and despair, what do you desire – what do you think or feel could lift the weight? That which you desire in your joy – and that which you desire in your depression, that is your God:

1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! 2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 43 (ESV)

10.       Delight: Delight is the heart of one in rapturous worship – it is a transcendent joy. And thus, the object which brings on delight is that which is our God. For some it may be comfort, or pleasure, or control, or entertainment, or sex, or drugs, or music, or power, or adulation of others, or success, or food.

When you sit and think, What would give me the greatest delight? That which comes to your mind is your God.

This is not a speculative venture: look carefully, run through member and think of moments of delight: does God ever come into your heart as the object of delight? What delight tempts you first and most? You do delight in your God.

On this point, the counsel of Thomas Brooks is most astute. If you delight in anything other than God, consider:

Look on sin with that eye [with] which within a few hours we shall see it. Ah, souls! when you shall lie upon a dying bed, and stand before a judgment-seat, sin shall be unmasked, and its dress and robes shall then be taken off, and then it shall appear more vile, filthy, and terrible than hell itself; then, that which formerly appeared most sweet will appear most bitter, and that which appeared most beautiful will appear most ugly, and that which appeared most delightful will then appear most dreadful to the soul.1 Ah, the shame, the pain, the gall, the bitterness, the horror, the hell that the sight of sin, when its dress is taken off, will raise in poor souls! Sin will surely prove evil and bitter to the soul when its robes are taken off. A man may have the stone who feels no fit of it. Conscience will work at last, though for the present one may feel no fit of accusation. Laban shewed himself at parting. Sin will be bitterness in the latter end, when it shall appear to the soul in its own filthy nature. The devil deals with men as the panther doth with beasts; he hides his deformed head till his sweet scent hath drawn them into his danger. Till we have sinned, Satan is a parasite; when we have sinned, he is a tyrant. O souls! the day is at hand when the devil will pull off the paint and garnish that he hath put upon sin, and present that monster, sin, in such a monstrous shape to your souls, that will cause your thoughts to be troubled, your countenance to be changed, the joints of your loins to be loosed, and your knees to be dashed one against another, and your hearts to be so terrified, that you will be ready, with Ahithophel and Judas, to strangle and hang your bodies on earth, and your souls in hell, if the Lord hath not more mercy on you than he had on them. Oh! therefore, look upon sin now as you must look upon it to all eternity, and as God, conscience, and Satan will present it to you another day![19]

That in which you delight is your God. Pray that your God be no idol and thus be the tyrant to accuse you at the Judgment.

11.       Zeal: Where do you place your effort? Are you lukewarm toward God? Are you weak in meditation and prayer but zealous at “self-improvement”? Are you careless in love, forgiveness, patience, and yet zealous for your own reputation? Zeal is a mark of worship. The one who knows & loves God, that one is zealous for God. You will be zealous in the cause of something.

Do not ask this question abstractly, but consider it factually. Look at your life – take the last year. Where and when have you expended zeal? That object which pulled forth your zeal is your God.

12.       Gratitude, thankfulness: For what, to what, to whom are you most painfully thankful? Where does your gratitude aim – for thankfulness will always find out one’s true God.

Consider this passage in Hosea: the children of Israel were thankful to Baal for their plenty – and not to the Lord. Thus, the Lord charges them with idolatry on the basis of their gratitude:

5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ 6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 8 And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. 9 Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. Hosea 2:5–9 (ESV)

God strips Nebuchadnezzar of his sanity when he thanked himself:

29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

Daniel 4:29–33 (ESV)

In Romans 1 Paul says that those who were not thankful to God are turned over idolatry:

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:21–23 (ESV)


Who or what do you truly believe has given you good? To whom are you thankful? There is your God.

13.       Where do you spend your efforts? Take a measure of your time. Take out a calendar and mark off your days and hours. What receives your industry? For whom do you work?

Let us think more deeply and peer into the heart: When you do the work, whom do you seek to please? You may quickly say God, but is that so?

When you work diligently and no one thanks you – or even worse, you must suffer some pain for your efforts, have you been cheated? Are you angry? Your reward from God is safe and cannot be lost merely because a man or woman treats you poorly. Indeed, it is often the opposite for the believer (Matt. 5:10-12).

If you are dark and angry, then you have not worked for God but for human approval? You have seen your god. (Adapted from David Clarkson’s sermon, “Soul Idolatry Excludes Men Out of Heaven”).


[1]Walter A. Elwell and Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library; Logos Library System (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996).

[2] Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006), 104.

“The extrabiblical context of the concept of the image of God should also be considered. In the ancient world images were apparently viewed functionally, as a means by which deities became present and visible in the world of humans. A statue or image of a god represented that god on earth, just as the image of a king represented the authority of a king in a land he had conquered. In Genesis, therefore, humanity takes the place of God on earth, a point that becomes clearer if we adopt the suggestion that Genesis 1:26 should not be translated “in our image” but “as our image, to be our image” (understanding the preposition beth as the beth of essence)”(Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 427.)

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1018.

[4]Michael S. Heiser, “Image of God,” ed. John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz, The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

[5] A full development of the issues which tie the garden and the temple would take an entire lesson in itself.

[6] Ross, 108.

[7]Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: a Christian Worldview (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982)

[8]“When the central light of creation is put out, men undertake to walk by the guidance of the phosphoric glare of their own most depraved passions” Abiel Abbot Livermore, Epistle of Paul to the Romans; With a Commentary and Revised Translation (London: Edward T. Whitfield, 1854), 96.

[9]Plumer, Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 66-67.

[10]John Fry, Lectures, Explanatory and Practical, on the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans, Second Edition (London: James Duncan, 1825), 38-39.

[11]LANGE: The connection between religious and moral ruin is exhibited also in the world at the present time.—The barbarous disregard of the human person in all sexual sins, as often concealed beneath the most refined masks of culture, is closely connected with the irreligious disregard of the personality of God and man.—A fundamental sanctification of the sexual relations can arise only from the vital knowledge of the dignity of personal life.—Sin taking on the form of the devilish nature in wicked maxims”John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, F. R. Fay et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Romans (1869; repr., Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 92. This comment is especially telling in that the original English publication was dated 1869.

[12] “[T]o correctly judge God’s will, the mind must be renewed” Moses Easterly Lard, Commentary On Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Lexington: Transylvania Printing and Publishing Company, 1875), 381.

[13]One could analogize to a person from an old Iron Curtain country who had access only to propaganda: the person would be under the dominion of such information. When the person gains a new degree of knowledge by freedom, the old confusions would still remain. Plainly, one’s desires will be affected by one’s knowledge. No one wanted a “smart phone” in 1965.

[14] Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 15 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 181.

[15]Heath Lambert, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 148.

[16] Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 15 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 182.

[17] Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 15 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 190.

[18] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., The Pulpit Commentary: Romans, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 42.

[19] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 17.


[i] The key clause is:

Let us make adam [man, human beings]

In our image

According to our likeness

Genesis 1:26.

In our image:

ANE background G & W rely upon the work of Paul Dion “Ressemblance et Image de Dieu” for the pre-Mosaic Egyptian usage of the concept “image of god”. From (at least?) 1630 B.C. onward, the phrase “image of god” was used to convey the notion that the Pharaoh was a son of a god and conveys or reflects “the essential notions of the god” (Kingdom, 191). Moreover, since the Pharaoh conveyed the essential aspects of the god as a son of the god, the Pharaoh also held the status as ruler over the world: “To sum up, the term ‘image of god’ in the culture and language of the ancient Near East in the fifteenth century B.C. would have communicated two main ideas: (1) rulership and (2) sonship. The king is the image of god because he as a relationship to the deity as the son of god and a relationship to the word as a ruler for the god” (Kingdom, 192).


The proposition is supported by references to various inscriptions. For example, An inscription from the time of Esarhaddon, 681-668 B.C. (LAS 125, in PSimo Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, Part I: Texts): reads:


What the king, [my lord] wrote to me: “I heard from the mouth of my father that you are a loyal family, but now I know it from my own experience,” the father of the king, my lord, was the ery image fo the god Bel, and the king, my lord is likewise the very image of Bel (quoted in Kingdom, 193).


That is, the king was the image of the god Bel, who thus conveys the authority and majesty of the god.


Doing a quick search, I noted the following additional references to “image” which support the concept. First, from the Stela of Amenhotep III:


Amun’s blessing to the King

Speech of Amun, King of Gods:

My son, of my body, my beloved Nebmare,

My living image, my body’s creation,

Born me by Mut, Ashru’s Lady in Thebes,

Mistress of the Nine Bows,

Who nursed you to be sole lord of peoples!

My heart is very joyful when I see your beauty,

I did a wonder for your majesty,

You repeat your youth,

For I made you the Sun of the Two Shores.

Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973–), 46.


From “Hymn to Aten and the King”:


You love him [the King], you make him like Aten.

You dawn to give him eternity,

When you set you give him infinity.

You create him daily like your forms,

You build him in your image like Aten.


Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973–), 93.


When my brother sent Mane, his messenger, saying, “Send your daughter here to be my wife and the mistress of Egypt”, I caused my brother no distress and immediately6 I said, “Of course!” The one whom my brother requested I showed to Mane, and he saw her. When he saw her, he praised her greatly. I will l[ea]d her7 in safety to my brother’s country. May Šauška and Aman make her the image of my brother’s desire.


William L. Moran, The Amarna Letters, English-language ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).


From the Victory Stela of King Piye:


“Hear what I did, exceeding the ancestors,

I the King, image of god,

Living likeness of Atum!

Who left the womb marked as ruler,

Feared by those greater than he!

His father knew, his mother perceived:

He would be ruler from the egg,

The Good God, beloved of gods,

The Son of Re, who acts with his arms,

Piye beloved-of-Amun.


Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume III: The Late Period (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973–), 68.


In our image:


Next relying on the research of Ernst Jenni, Die hebraishen Prapositionen, Band 1, 1992, G&W state that the preposition beth (b), English “in” marks an “equating status”. “Thus, again, be indicates something locative and proximate” (Kingdom, 199). Thus, humans are closest to God in the matter of “image”. When the creation looks upon Adam, they will see the “image” of God: the one conveying God’s rule in creation.


According to our Likeness:


G & W, relying (in part) upon the Tell Fakhariyeh Inscription, explain that , “‘image’ refers to the king’s majestic power and rule in relation to his subject while ‘likeness’ refers to the king’s petitionary role and relation to the deity” (Kingdom, 302). (A discussion of the inscription can be found here:http://www.wtctheology.org.uk/sites/default/files/resources/Garr%20Image.pdf)
In the article cited by G & W, Garr makes this observation: Fakhariyeh uses the Aramaic “image” to refer to himself in respect to the god and “likeness” to refer to himself in respect to the subject:


In the first section [which uses the word ‘likeness’ to describe his relationship to the deity], the ruler is a supplicant. He deflects attention from himself, placing himself in a position subordinate to his divine addressee and requesting that his prayer be answered. In the second section [which uses the word “image” to refer to his relationship to the deity], the governor is center-stage. He beings by addressing his own needs for recognition, sovereignty and respect. Later, he becomes focused on power, and his use of power to direct events. Whereas the first part of the inscription depicts Had-yit‘I as a supplicant, the second depicts him as sovereign. (Israel Exploration Journal 50/3-4 (2003), W. Randal Garr, “’Image’ and ‘Likeness’ in the Inscription from Tell Fakhariyeh”, 231).




In other words, the two representational terms reflect and implicate complementary function of the object/or ruler himself. “Likeness” [ atwmd] is petitionary and directed at the deity; it is cultic and votive. ‘Image’ [mlx ] is majestic, absolute and commemorative ; it is directed at the people. Thus, these two Aramaic terms encode two traditional roles of the Mesopotamian ruler – that of devout worshipper and that of sovereign monarch (231-232).


When this is coupled to analysis of the preposition ke, according to (again, relying upon the work of Jenni) they state, “ke indicates something similar but distal and separate” (Kingdom, 199)




Hans Walter Wolff, in Anthropology of the Old Testament, wrote:


Accordingly, man is set in the midst of creation as God’s statue. He is evidence that God is the Lord of creation; but as God’s steward he also exerts his rule, fulfilling his task not in arbitrary despotism but as a responsible agent. His rule and his duty are not autonomous; they are copies. (quoted in Kingdom, 200).


G & W thus argue that “image of God” refers first to covenant relationship which human beings are to hold toward. It references the relationship one has toward God; and the relationship which one holds to the creation, both the human beings and the non-human creation.

This does not mean that human beings did not suffer significantly at the Fall.


21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:21–23 (ESV)


However, that loss is not distinctly related to the matter of the “image” of God. It also helps explain a passage such as Colossians 3:10:


10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:10 (ESV)