At the end of Creation Week, after God had prepared the world and filled it with a spectacular array of plants and animals, He performed His crowning work of creation – the creation of mankind. Genesis 2 describes this creative act in some detail, but the verses in Genesis 1 majestically declare the essence and position of man in creation. While the animals were created “after their own kinds,” only mankind bears the image of the Creator.
Over the ages, Bible scholars have contemplated and debated what it means to be made “in the image of God.” Obviously this short article will only scratch the surface, but hopefully it will whet your appetite and spur you on to further study and meditation.
We are told in Scripture, that God is Spirit, and does not have flesh and blood the way we do, (Luke 24:39, John 4:24) so it seems that this is not the kind of likeness Scripture talks about when it says we are created “in the image of God.” So what does it mean? One common idea says that we reflect God’s image in that we are rational, emotional, volitional beings – we can think, we can feel, we can choose. Other aspects of the image of God might be our abilities to communicate, to enjoy beauty, to be creative (though only God can create from nothing), and to have dominion (in limited spheres). There is much more, but we will mention only one other important aspect here.
In modern-day English, we sometimes use the phrase, “He’s the spitting image of his father.” While we may simply be referring to physical characteristics, what we often mean is that the son resembles his father in character, mannerisms, or behavior – that when we see the son, he reminds us of the father. Could we infer that we human beings were created “in the image of God” to reflect the character and behavior of our Creator? If so, how can we do this?
If we are honest, we recognize that we have more often borne the image of Adam than the image of God. We have all listened to the voice of the deceiver and rebelled against our Creator. The “image of God” has been blurred and distorted, and we are helpless in and of ourselves to restore it. But praise God! There is hope! God has a way, and it is found in Jesus Christ.
In Jesus, we see man bearing the unblurred, undistorted “image of God.” Scripture tells us: “(He) is the image of the invisible God,…” (Col 1:15). “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col 2:9)” What a mystery – God in the flesh! Jesus is human in every way we are yet without sin.
But fortunately there is more. As the “last Adam (1Cor15:45),” Jesus came to “undo” the work of the first Adam – to pay the penalty for our sin and to take the curse of death, that we might have life. And now, God’s plan is for us to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29 AKJV) – to be like Jesus. His plan is to renew His “image” in us, and to restore us to be all that He created us to be, in purity fellowship, and purpose. What an awesome calling! What an awesome privilege! What an awesome God!