Manhood Renewed: Imaging God by Ruling, Serving, & Speaking in Christ
May 25, 2018 Speaker: Bret Rogers
Topic: Manhood & Womanhood Passage: Genesis 1:26–28, Ephesians 4:24–24, Colossians 3:10–10
Exhortation for Men's Retreat 2018
Fort Worth, TX
When I was in high school and someone shared an amazing story, you would’ve heard “For real?!” or “Whaaaat?!” But if you were hanging with my grandpa and someone told him an amazing story, you would’ve heard, “Man alive!” So the title of this men’s retreat brings back good memories of a good man.
Walking as Men Alive in Christ
Of course, those who created the title meant so much more. The words re-center us on the glorious grace rehearsed in Ephesians 2:5—when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ. What does it mean to walk as a man now alive in Christ? I won’t pretend to cover the fullness of that reality in thirty minutes. Nor do I want to give you the impression that I’ve been perfected in this reality. But I do want us to walk toward a vision of manhood that’s being renewed in Christ.
I want to propose a biblical framework for thinking about manhood and masculinity. When I look at texts like Genesis 1-3, Psalm 8, 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 4-5, Hebrews 2, and so on; when I pull the various threads together, it seems that central to mature manhood is imaging God’s glory in Christ by ruling, serving, and speaking in ways appropriate to our complementary role alongside women.
Created to Image God’s Glory in Christ
Let’s unpack that a bit more. I’ll start with a few observations about being God’s image bearers and functioning as God’s image bearers.
Genesis 1 and 2 will form our foundation. But we won’t grasp their full message unless we know God as Trinity—one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. When it comes to creation, the New Testament makes the Trinity stand out. John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made through him” (John 1:1-3). Colossians then adds this: “all things were created through [the Son] and for [the Son]” (Col 1:16). We exist through the Son; and we exist for the Son.
But consider one more piece: God the Son is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:2). Think of a seal leaving its imprint in hot wax; so the Son reveals God’s glory. That Son eventually takes to himself a human nature (John 1:14). When he does, Colossians tells us that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). Jesus manifests the glory of the invisible God (cf. John 14:9). If you think about it, he still images God’s glory as a man in his resurrection body (1 Cor 15:49). Even more, the whole creation will eventually see God’s unveiled glory supremely displayed in the God-man, Jesus Christ (John 17:5, 24; Rev 21:23).
Why say all that before reading Genesis 1-2? Here’s why: when God creates man in his image, he creates that image through the Son, and for the Son, and with the goal that all creation would celebrate the Son who would bear that image himself as a man. Read Genesis through those new lenses. Bearing God’s image has everything to do with the revelation of God’s glory in his Son, Jesus Christ. That’s where it all begins. God created us as the image-bearers of his glory in Christ.
Imaging God through Ruling, Serving, Speaking
But what does it mean to function as an image bearer? What about your life displays God’s glory in Christ? I’d like to answer that by looking more carefully now at Genesis 1 and 2 alongside a few other passages. What stands out to me are three specific ways that we image God’s glory in Christ: ruling, serving, and speaking like God.
Let’s look first at ruling. Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion…” A better translation reveals a purpose statement in verse 26: “Let us make man in our image…so that they may rule…” We see it again in verses 27-28:
So God created man in his own image,
A in the image of God he created him;
B male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them,
B` ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,
A` and have dominion…’
Notice, “be fruitful and multiply” connects with “male and female he created them;” “have dominion” connects with “in the image of God he created them.”
Ruling creation rightly is one way we image God. People get glimpsed of God’s glory in Christ when we rule in ways that reflect his righteousness, his love, how he orders creation, how he provides for his people, how he leads and protects. We might say this: God is the true King; but he created us to reflect his rule as lesser kings.
Serving is another way we image God. Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Maybe your translation has “to cultivate and maintain it.” That’s fine. But there’s more implied than just gardening. When these words appear together elsewhere, they’re usually translated “to serve and to keep.” Usually, it has to do with Israelites serving God, keeping his word. We also find them referring to the priests serving in the tabernacle.[i]
The point is this: later revelation helps us clarify the type of role Adam had in the Garden. Not only was he to rule as a king; he was to serve as a priest. Think about it: the Garden itself was the original “temple” or dwelling place of God. Adam was to enjoy serving in God’s presence and keeping his word unhindered by sin.
One further way we image God is by speaking. God speaks throughout Genesis 1. He speaks creation into existence (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20). He orders creation by his word. As God’s image bearer, Adam speaks too. His words don’t create, but they do provide order. He orders the animals by naming them (Gen 2:19). He’s the first to receive God’s word, and was to be the first to speak God’s word to the woman (Gen 2:16). God writes poetry in Genesis 1 about the man (Gen 1:27). Adam speaks poetry over his wife in Genesis 2:23. There’s something about the way we use our words that images God’s glory in Christ. This will become even clearer when we get to some of the New Testament texts in a moment.
Summary & Clarification
So, let’s summarize like this: God made you to image his glory in Christ. The way you do that is by ruling as kings under God’s authority, serving like priests in God’s presence, and speaking as one filled with God’s words, a prophet perhaps.
Now, to clarify, none of what I’ve said is special to the men alone. Please do not leave thinking that men image God by ruling, serving, and speaking but women don’t. No! Everything I’ve said about imaging God applies equally to women. But we’ve got to get the fundamentals about being an image bearer before we see how that plays out as men in particular; and we’re going to get there. But first you need to hear some bad news and the good news.
Bad News: We Lack the Ability to Image God’s Glory Rightly
On our own, all of us lack the ability to image God’s glory in Christ (Rom 3:23). Adam forfeited dominion. He failed to rule the serpent and crush his head. Adam didn’t serve faithfully in God’s presence. Adam didn’t speak God’s word when he should have, but let the woman be deceived. Then, when he should’ve taken responsibility, he blames everything on the woman. He uses his words against her. He was made to image God’s glory by ruling, serving, and speaking; but he ends up rejecting it all for a lie.
Sin entered the world through this man, Adam. We’re born with his sin nature too (Rom 5:12). Apart from grace, we don’t rule well. Husbands and wives live for their own kingdoms instead of God’s—you can see the strife with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. People can’t rule their passions—Cain kills Abel; Noah is supposed to be a new Adam but he gets wasted. People can’t rule without pride—Babel builds a tower for their own glory; Nebuchadnezzar boasts in his glory and God turns him into a beast. By the way, pride will always make us subhuman, beast-like.
Husbands don’t rule their children well—some treat sin lightly and don’t discipline; others lead with an iron fist and abuse their power. We can’t even rule our tongues, James tells us. If anybody can, he is a perfect man. He bears the image of God well. But in Adam we can’t. Therefore, we also don’t speak in ways that image God. Apart from grace, we lie, complain, whine, tear down, and corrupt with our words. Words become weapons to cut each other down.
In Adam, we also lack the ability serve in our priestly roles before God. Sin bends us in on ourselves. Life-goals become self-centered. Sin turns people into means of getting what we want. We hate and we’re hated. This is how the story goes for all people born in Adam. The image of God in us has been marred by sin. Think of a mirror with mud smeared all over it. The mud distorts and hides your image. That’s what sin does in us. God made us to reflect his glory. But we’ve lost the ability to do so. Apart from grace, our ruling, serving, and speaking lies to other people about God and condemns us.
Good News: Christ Redeems and Renews the Image of God
But here’s the good news: God sent his Son into the world to redeem and renew the image of God in his people. John says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). When we see Jesus, we see the perfect image bearer (Col 1:15). Indeed, we see God himself—and not simply because Jesus has a divine nature, but because he truly images God in all he does as a man. To look at him ruling, serving, and speaking is to see God revealed (John 14:9).
He speaks God’s words after him. He's the Prophet better than Moses. He’s the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth (John 1:14). He tells Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). He says, “[I] speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28).
We see him ruling. He is King of the Jews. He rules over the serpent and doesn’t cave to his lies (Matt 4:1-11). We see him ruling over disease and death. We see him ruling with perfect justice and compassion for sinners. We see him ruling with immense humility and generosity, as he willingly lays down his life for others. He doesn’t abuse his power, but uses his power to become servant of all (Mark 10:45). Listen, nobody questioned who was in charge when Jesus wrapped himself in a towel and washed the disciples’ feet (John 13).
Jesus also serves God faithfully. It’s his food to do the will of the Father (John 4). He only does what the Father gives him to do (John 5). He serves as a better priest than all the priests before him (Heb 9-10). He offers his own body in sacrifice to God. He did all this to redeem the image of God in us (Eph 4; Col 3). He died to forgive us for the ways we’ve distorted God’s image in our ruling, serving, and speaking.
Manhood Redeemed & Renewed in Christ
But more than that, God raised him from the dead to renew God’s image in us. Hebrews says that we don't yet see all things in subjection to man, but we do see him, Jesus, crowned with glory and honor (Heb 2:8-9)! Jesus is the new and better Adam who restores dominion to humanity; and he is the one renewing God's image in us. That’s why it says in Romans 8 that we were predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Or in 2 Corinthians 3 that by beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. When you’re united to Christ, the true King, Priest, and Prophet, you start becoming like him in ruling, serving, and speaking.
Ruling in/like Christ
Ruling like Christ. He rose to bring men like you and me to be seated with him. That’s what Ephesians 2 says. You were once dead; but God made you alive with Christ and seated you with him in the heavenly places. You can now rule as you were made to rule. Yes, that rule will be incomplete until Jesus returns. But that reign has already begun in some sense for those in Christ. We’re seated with him in the heavenly places. Dominion restored! Revelation 1 calls us a kingdom of priests already. We’re already that in Christ; and it affects everything.
Ruling with Christ means you’re not a helpless victim of Satan’s temptations. You don’t have to obey the snake, when he offers you false intimacy in porn, or more fame for your ego, or bitterness over circumstances, or make you fearful of death. You’re seated with Christ over him. His lies don’t rule you anymore.
Ruling with Christ means that your fleshly passions don’t rule you anymore; rather, you rule them. Paul says, “I will not be dominated by anything.” Sex, food, drink, money, nicotine, caffeine, Facebook, iPhone notifications, work, studies, man-made political ideologies—“I will not be dominated by anything.” Why? Because we now rule with Christ. Those things can’t rule us anymore; we must rule them.
Ruling with Christ means that you also take up your cross. What sort of King was Jesus? What sort of man was he? One that served the good of his people by giving himself for them. He gladly took up sacrificial responsibility. Ruling well isn’t about making demands on your wife, always getting your way in life, keeping women in their place. It’s about being the first to offer yourself for their joy in God.
There’s a scene in C. S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy. King Lune of Archenland summarizes kingship like this: “This is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”[ii] Why does such a story resonate? Because God made us to be like that—first into the battle, proactive, taking initiative, protecting the weak; last one out swinging the sword, making sure the people are safe. And making this your joy in life.
Ruling like Christ also affects relationships in the church. For instance, Paul gets frustrated with the Corinthians. They’re taking each other to court; and he’s just baffled by it all because these are the same people who will judge angels one day! In Christ, there’s enough wisdom to rule angels in heaven and you can’t even get your petty disputes straight on earth! The more we’re conformed to the way Christ rules, the more we’ll image God’s glory in our relationships with one another.
Serving in/like Christ
What about serving like Christ? In Christ, we become a priesthood. 1 Peter 2 calls us a royal priesthood. We’ve been set apart as holy, brought into God’s presence, made God’s dwelling place as the church. And it’s now by the Spirit that we “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship”—Romans 12:1. Brothers, in Christ we’ve been freed “to serve God and to keep his word.” This will result in presenting your body as a living sacrifice.
When you see that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many, you’re compelled to imitate that service. Husbands, that includes the way you serve your wife and children. Jesus didn’t come to be served. If your home operates in such a way that your wife and children run around like little maids while you bark orders, and get angry when supper’s not ready, and irritated when they “interrupt” your life—then you lie to them about what God is like.
But in Christ that doesn’t have to be the case. In Christ, you become a servant of all. You image God’s glory in Christ by finding ways to serve them. The same is true in the church. Present your body as a living sacrifice for each other. That’s why Paul goes on to spell out all kinds of things related to each other. Using our gifts, love, hospitality, meeting needs, rejoicing together, weeping together, living peaceably with all—these are ways Christ enables us to serve.
Speaking in/like Christ
What about speaking like Christ? Listen to this from Ephesians 4:24. “Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” That’s manhood renewed in Christ. Then he says this: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we’re members one of another.” The new self is created after the likeness of God. What’s the result? We speak truth with our neighbor. We don’t let corrupting talk come out of our mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Same connection in Colossians 3:8-10. “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Don’t lie to one another, seeing that you’ve put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Christ is right now renewing his people after the image of our creator. What’s the result? New speech patterns image the glory of our creator.
If all you do is criticize and put down your wife and children; if all you do is criticize and put down others, you lie about God. If all you do is remain silent around your wife and children; if all you do is keep quiet when the Scriptures would encourage you to speak, then you lie about God. God speaks for our good and for our salvation. God speaks for our joy. Husbands, edify your wife you’re your words. Brothers, edify one another with your words. In Christ, you can speak as Christ speaks and thereby image God’s glory.
Manhood Matures Only When Walking with Christ
Now, there’s a ton more we can tease out in terms of how we rule, serve, and speak as men in particular. For instance, the wife rules alongside the husband as an image bearer (Gen 1:27). But their roles differ in a marriage, with the husband leading and the wife submitting (1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:22-23). Or, within the church both men and women speak the word. Women can prophesy over the church or pray on behalf of the church (Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor 11:2-14). But when it comes to teaching and exercising authority, Paul limits that role to men (1 Tim 2:11-14). So there’s certainly more to tease out for specific application. But that’s the framework I wanted to set before you, with just one closing exhortation.
Your maturity in manhood is absolutely contingent on you knowing and walking Christ daily. In Christ change isn’t just possible, it’s promised. One day we will be like him, because we will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). Behold his glory now (2 Cor 3:18; 4:6). Study Christ in the word, and walk with him daily. Only by walking with him will our manhood be renewed.
A Closing Illustration in Boaz
That was obvious with Boaz, right? Remember Boaz in the story of Ruth. He walked with the Lord. He carried the Lord’s blessing with him to others, even at work (Ruth 2:4). And what do we see in his life? He’s a man in charge, a ruler; and how does he rule? He willingly opens his fields for the widow to glean (Ruth 2:3-4, 8). He goes above and beyond what the law required. His kindness, isn’t deterred by social class or ethnicity. He’s a generous provider (Ruth 2:14, 16). He owes Ruth nothing, but he chooses to give her everything she needs and more. He also becomes Ruth’s protector. He charges young men not to touch her (Ruth 2:9, 15-16). He puts measures in place to protect Ruth from harassment, shame, and insult.
And by doing so, the story tells us that he exemplifies the Lord sheltering Ruth beneath the shadow of his wings (Ruth 2:12-13; cf. 3:9). He points us to God’s glory in Christ. And you will too when you walk with the Lord.
Brothers, our culture is crying out for men like this. We’re living in a #MeToo moment where revelations of abuse keeping coming. Sadly some of them are coming from within the church. Many have lied to women about God by the way they have ruled, served, and spoken. It’s grievous. In Christ, let’s not follow in their footsteps. Instead, let’s point the world to Christ with our manhood. Let’s image God’s glory in Christ well. But let’s walk with him first.
[i]E.g., see Num 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chron 23:32; Isa 56:6; Ezek 44:14. See also the helpful discussion in G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God NSBT 17 (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 66-70.
[ii]The idea for this illustration came from Joe Rigney, “Masculinity Handed Down,” in Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice, eds. Jonathan Parnell and Owen Strachan (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 35.