What Man Lost in the Fall

With the introduction of sin into the human race, the image and likeness of God was marred. While the image of God in man was not totally destroyed, there are some apparent marks remaining in every man, but not the same as Adam knew.

Man did not lose God’s image completely when he sinned. When God prohibited one human from murdering another human, the basis was that man is made in the image of God (Gen. 9:6), and that prohibition continues to this day.

God hates the sin of idolatry so much that the first commandment prohibits worship of any other God and the second commandment prohibits idolatry. Why do these prohibitions receive more priority than prohibitions against moral sins? Because in worshiping idols, man becomes “a little god.” just as God makes man in his image, so man in turn makes an idol (the word “idol” means image) in his image. Then, instead of trying to get the idol to worship man, the human falls on his face to the “image.” This is repulsive to God because he wants man to worship him.

Since man would not become like God, nor worship him, Christ was made in the “likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). To remedy man’s failure, Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), took human flesh and personified the image and likeness expected of Adam. In doing so, Christ made it possible for man to one day assume the image of God. There are at least three aspects to the image and likeness of God that were lost in the Fall of man.

Spiritual Likeness

When man was created, he was created in innocence. He did not have an inner desire to rebel against God or to be disobedient to God’s commands. Man learned to rebel experientially. Man was given freedom to obey the commands of God, therefore, it is reasonable to assume God was aware of the possibility of sin and rebellion. In the garden, the serpent promised Adam and Eve the possibility of gaining further knowledge to make them even more like God. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). With the violation of the law of God by Adam, sin entered the human race. The serpent was only half right. Adam and Eve were aware of the knowledge of sin experientially and all the consequences of it (Gen 3:10).

They did not become more like God. In their innocence, they were spiritually alive. Now, the existence of a sin nature so hinders spiritual likeness with God that man’s former fellowship with God cannot be regained apart from justification. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19). The means of being made right with God is the application of the work of Christ to our lives by faith: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1).

Character Likeness

A second aspect of the likeness of God that we lost in the Fall was our character likeness. Before the Fall, man was inclined to perform the will of God. We have no way of knowing how long Adam and Eve remained in the garden before they sinned, except that, it must have included at least the day of creation and the Sabbath day of rest. It may be that several other days were also involved. Adam was given various responsibilities before the Fall, and as we consider what he did compared with our present responsibilities, we begin to understand how his character was changed. Before the Fall, man reflected the character of God; he had holiness, although it was “unconfirmed holiness.”

In the incarnation, God became like man, that men might become like God. The apostle Paul acknowledged that our nature would be transformed like Christ. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Rom. 8:29). Paul later challenged the Romans in the same epistle, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2).

We can regain a character like God through sanctification. Unlike the new birth, this is not an instantaneous experience but rather a continual process in the Christian life. But then one day the process will be completed, “We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Physical Likeness

No one is certain what Jesus looked like physically after his resurrection, but if we knew, we would have some idea of what Adam may have been like and what we shall be like someday. The one physical attribute that was lost at the Fall was eternal physical life on this earth. God promised, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17).

Since sin entered the human race, we have been plagued with death (Rom. 5:12). We must live with the sting of death until the return of Christ. At that time, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-53). Then we shall be like Jesus, restored in the original image and likeness of God.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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