As Jesus kingdom parables became more and more direct in pointing out the sin of the religious leaders, so they became more and more devious in their attempts to do away with Him. Matthew 22:15-22 is an excellent example, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.” (NASU) Certainly, they could be nothing other than amazed!
Jesus skillfully answered their question with a simple truth from the very Scripture that these religious leaders venerated. Clearly, Jesus is pointing them back to Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NASU)
Unquestionably, you and I are fallen creatures. Without a doubt, the image of God is corrupted within us. Absolutely, the image of God upon us is marred almost beyond recognition. But the stamp of ownership on us is still unmistakable. God only wants one thing from us and that is for us to submit to Him out of gratitude and love because of what He has already done for us.
It seems obvious to me that this is what Paul has in mind in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASU) The Old Testament illustrates Christ’s once-for-all atoning sacrifice with limited-effect atoning sacrifices offered by human priests. The Old Testament also describes free-will thank offerings. It seems to me that those offerings illustrate what Jesus intends in Matthew 22:21 and Paul explains in Romans 12:1. I am supposed to render unto God that which is created in His image: myself. That will be in the form of a living sacrifice. If I will simply surrender myself to God, submitting myself to His will, Jesus will live in me, fulfilling all the commands of Scripture, meeting all the demands of holiness and righteousness. That is the only way to reverse the corrupting of the image of God in me. Christ living in me is the only way to transform me by the renewing of my mind. That is the only way for me to render unto God the things that are God’s.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.