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The Image of God in Man: What Is It?

Do you think much about the fact that every human being is made in the image of God?  Today begins a series on the image of God in mankind.

The Bible is clear that this truth is so:

26Then 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.” 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31).

We, as humans, are the only creature that God made in such a way.  While dogs, trees, rocks, frogs, and the rest of creation bear the marks of their Creator, they were not made in the image of God.  We humans are certainly a special creation according to Scripture.

But what does it mean to be made “in the image of God”?

We see in this passage that the image of God simply means that humans were created like God and to represent God.  To come up with a list of all the ways that man is like God would fill a book itself.  Although He is other than us with certain characteristics unique only to Himself, God has shared many of His attributes with us.  The Bible seems to reveal three ways in which we have been made in the image of God.  The image of God in us is seen in:

  1. what we are
  2. what we do
  3. how we relate

The first aspect of the image of God in us is in what we are.  It is all the attributes that make us human—in essence, body and soul/spirit.  So, yes, part of the image of God in us is that we have an immaterial soul/spirit, but this is not the only way in which we are like God.  The image of God in us is so much greater.  We are also like God in that we have a body.  Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that God has a body because the Scripture is clear that He does not.  John 4:24 makes it clear that God is spirit.  Nevertheless, our body is used to do things that God does without a body.  For instance, God sees but does not have eyes.  God hears but does not have ears.  God touches but does not have hands.  God speaks but does not have a mouth.  Do see where I am going with this?  Our body itself is made in the image of God in that it is useful for us to do the things that God does.  Therefore, the image of God is in what we are.

Second, the image of God is in what we do.  As we see in the second part of verse 26, the image of God entails that we have been given the capacity to rule over God’s creation.  We are to be representatives of God on earth.  In order to do this, He has endowed us with a multitude of characteristics including reason, wisdom, love, knowledge, and many others.  So, as we go about overseeing the creation, we are manifesting the image of God.

Finally, the image of God is in how we relate.  Notice in verse 27 that the Bible says that God made man as male and female in His own image.  Isn’t that interesting?  What does maleness and femaleness have to do with God’s image?  I believe that it points to the fact that God is relational.  We notice here that God says let Us make man in Our own image.  “Us” and “Our” are plural pronouns pointing to the plurality in the Godhead.  As we see from later Scripture, God eternally exists as three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with each person being fully God, yet there is one God.  That, of course, is the doctrine of the Trinity.  Therefore, God is in His very essence a relational being as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist together.  For this reason, God created man with plurality—male and female.  He has created us to be relational creatures, even giving us complimentary bodies that must come together to procreate.  What’s more, we are inherently relational beings.  We desire relationships with other living creatures.  All of this points to the image of God in us.  Therefore, when we interact with others, we are manifesting the image of God.

For me, this truth leads me to amazement and thankfulness.  As for amazement, I’m blown away by the fact that the Almighty, Holy God of the universe made me like Him and as a representative of Him.  As for thankfulness, I fully realize that He didn’t have to create me the way He did, yet He chose to for the purpose of His glory.  All of this amazement and thankfulness leads to me to rejoice with the psalmist, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14).

May you rejoice as well!


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