Ponder a paradox with me.
In Genesis 1, we learn that God creates humanity in his own image and likeness. Exactly what that means has perplexed theologians for literally millennia. Some say being made in God’s image means that we have a mind, will, and emotions. Some see the image as referring to our ability to have a relationship with God and with others. Still others understand God’s image to be related to his command for Adam and Eve to have dominion over the rest of the created world.
It isn’t necessary for our purposes to solve this debate. Suffice it to say for now that God has, in certain very important ways, made us like himself.
It is interesting, then, that when Satan tempts Adam and Eve in the Garden, he says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
I find this striking: Adam and Eve are made in the likeness of God, and yet Satan’s foundational temptation to them is to be like God. Why does Satan’s offer tempt them at all if it is something they already have?
This question isn’t merely academic. I want to suggest that it’s foundational to our day-by-day decisions.
Fundamentally, while we are made in the image of God, it remains the case that we are not God. One of the ways that we differ from God is that God determines the difference between right and wrong; our place is to recognize and accept the determinations that God has made.
This distinction between God and us is essential. Because God is the Creator, because his Word has made things what they are, he cannot possibly be wrong about anything. God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. Reality is formed by God’s Word.
Our words, by contrast, can certainly be (and often are) wrong. Our understanding of things is properly measured by the standard that God himself has established. We are to be like God, then, in reflecting the truths that he has already declared.
By contrast, we don’t get to be like God in presuming to independently declare truth for ourselves. We do not have the authority to determine right and wrong on our own say so. The modern admonition that you need to have “your truth” is the embrace of Satan’s temptation, not God’s instruction.
So the question for Adam and Eve in the Garden is the same one that confronts us every day. Are we content to be like God by being conformed to his image, embracing what he says is true, doing what he says is good? Or will we rather insist on being like God by claiming the authority to determine what is true and deciding for ourselves what is good?
Adam and Eve chose to become like God in the second way, becoming rebels against his authority, and bringing death to themselves and to the world. Salvation from this is found only in Christ, who himself is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).