Created in God's Image
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)
The first thing that the Bible tells us about mankind is that we are created in the image of God. This truth is the foundation to understanding man’s nature, man’s purpose, and how we relate to God and one another. Rightly understood, it deepens our knowledge of God, for through His image, He reveals himself to His creation.
What is an Image?
An image is a likeness or representation. For a vivid example, see 1 Samuel 6. When the Philistines desired to make a trespass offering to the God of Israel, they made images of mice out of gold. These golden images were visual representations of the mice that God afflicted them with.
Throughout history, people that did not know the true God often made physical resemblances of their gods, and these are sometimes called images. The true God, on the other hand, forbade his people from making images of God.
The Image of God
Man (mankind, male and female) created in the image or likeness of God speaks to man’s nature and purpose. In nature, man is like God. In purpose, man is made to be a God-imager, that is, to represent and reflect God in the earth. God allowed for no man-made physical representation of His glory. Instead, He imprinted His image on man, the crowning glory of His earthly creation.
Mankind is created with intelligence, creativity, will, emotion, and a glory that surpasses all other earthly creatures. Though made a little lower than the angels, man is made higher than the animals, and imbued with qualities that manifest characteristics of the invisible God. Most importantly, man is made with the capacity to be indwelt by the Spirit of God, whereby God makes His habitation in man and manifests His life to the world.
Mankind is also created with authority and status, to be used in man’s function to image God in the earth. Man is given dominion over the animals and over all the earth, and is thereby placed in position to represent God to the rest of the earthly creation. Performed faithfully, through this role man would be God’s representative in the earth and manifest the glory of God to all creation.
The Image of God in man establishes the dignity and value of all human life. Every man, woman, and child is created with the inherent imprint of God’s image. The image of God is part of man’s created nature and is therefore not something that is earned or achieved. Men value people that demonstrate great strength by mighty feats, or great intelligence by intrepid discoveries, or great power by conquest. But God places a high value on all human life by making it in his image. The weakest, frailest, most impoverished life is of great value.
The dignity and value of human life is not removed because of man’s fall into sin. In Genesis 9:6, God forbade murder on the very basis that, “in the image of God made He man.” Human life is precious because of the image of God.
The people of all nations are included in this, for all are made by God and in His image. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
Relationship and Family
Created in God’s image applies to both the individual and the community. That is, each person is individually created in God’s image, and mankind as a whole is created in God’s image. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). There are aspects of God’s nature that are manifested by man’s capacity for relationship and family.
Before God completed His creation of man, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Following that, God created the woman. This, of course, established the marriage relationship of husband and wife, but it was also thereby creating all human relationships. For, the union of man and woman, through procreation, would make possible every friendship, family, community, tribe, and nation.
God creating them male and female shows us that men and women both likewise bear the image of God, that the complementary distinctions between male and female are an inherent part of God’s good creation order, and that human relationship reflects something about God’s own nature as one who exists in an eternal state of love and fellowship.
The Faithful Image
Man through sin has failed to faithfully image God in the earth. The first man, Adam, disobeyed God and was exiled from the garden sanctuary. His sin brought death. When he later begat a son, he was in his own likeness, and after his image (Genesis 5:3). Death not only came to Adam, but passed unto all men.
Though man was created very good and with the glorious purpose to be God’s image and represent Him to all creation, through continual sin and rebellion against God, man has fallen short of the glory of God. A second man was needed. A faithful man and one who would succeed where Adam and the rest of us have failed. That man is Jesus Christ.
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law “ (Galatians 4:4). In the fullness of time, the eternal Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. In the person of the man Jesus Christ, God’s perfect image and likeness are revealed, for He is God’s only begotten Son and the Lord from heaven (John 1:18; I Corinthians 15:47).
Jesus is called the image of the invisible God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). In Jesus Christ, God is fully and faithfully revealed to us, For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
When we look to Jesus, we see all of God’s attributes displayed to us. His righteousness, justice, compassion, holiness, mercy, love, power, authority, and glory are perfectly made known. Moreover, as we through His life in us are conformed to His image, we are enabled to fulfill our glorious calling to bear the image and likeness of God.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Andy White is pastor of Southampton Primitive Baptist Church, Southampton, Pennsylvania.