Made in the Image of God
What Does That Mean?
Hebrews 11:3 – Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Genesis 1:26-27 says God created man in His “image” and likeness. Both terms are meant the same, so it is generally called “the image of God” (imago dei). Some people take the image of God to mean the qualities that make us human, such as: having a soul, higher-order reasoning, self-awareness, awareness of God, and being capable of having relationships with Him. This seems like a good definition, as humans are the only ones who are made in the image of God, and those are the qualities that make us human. Understanding the idea of Gods image as the soul has also helped some people reconcile evolution with Christianity.
Colossians 1:16 – For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
God gave Adam and Eve an immortal soul, thereby becoming the first truly human creatures. In other words, humankind was created at that very moment. Some have said that it may have happened around 10,000 years ago, which would fit well into the approximate chronological timeline presented in the Book of Genesis.
Images of God are an important theological issue, and it is an open-ended discussion–but this is not a free-for-all. Genesis, other Old Testament passages, and Israels surrounding culture provide a good picture of what images of God meant.
Rulers could not go all at once, and travel was slow. So, they would build monuments, or statues, to themselves all over their realm. These “images” would make it clear to all that a Kings reign extended anywhere he had an image.
Revelation 4:11 – Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Another type of image from the ancient world was an idol, a material object representing the deity inside the temple. Idols were not considered to be gods in and of themselves. They were statues to make it clear the gods, or pagan gods, were “present” in a sort of mystical way.
God never wanted an image, statue or anything like that – atheists and evolutionists try to bend scripture and history of pagan rituals to fit their agenda of trying to eradicate Christianity.
Exodus 20:4 – “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:”
Atheists believe the kings and the statues helped us to understand what it meant that humans were made in the image of god – which is a very silly correlation.
The image of God means that humans were given “powers that enable them to share in the government or rule of God over earthly resources and creatures. When you read Gen 1:26-27 with that in mind, the message becomes pretty clear: “Let us make mankind after our own image, according to our likeness, and give to them dominion over the fish…over birds…over livestock…over wildlife…over creeping things” (NRSV). Humankind, created on day six, was given authority to dominate other creatures that God had made on days four and five. They had this authority because humanity was made in the image of God.
Genesis 2:7 – And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
The phrase image of God is not a reference to the qualities that make us human. It is about the unique role that humans play as a representative king in the work of creation.
Once we have an understanding of what Gods imagery means in Genesis, we are better equipped to see how the idea is played out in other places throughout Scripture. In the last section, we saw that the phrase “image of God” in Genesis 1:26-27 means the representation of God as sovereign over His creatures.
Israels first two commands are, “I am the one God that you shall worship” (Exodus 20:3), and, “Do not worship any images at all” (20:4-6). The second commandment the Israelites broke during the Golden Calf incident in Exodus 32.
In the ancient Mesopotamian world, the kings were representative rulers of the gods; they were ruling over people in the name of the gods. Kings were considered to be deity-like, sometimes called the “sons” of a particular deity, and were frequently worshipped as deities. This Psalm is about the coronation of a King in Israel.
Exodus 20:11 – For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
God Himself has placed this king “on the hill of Zion, My holy mountain” (v. 6). The focus of the Psalm is the seventh verse. God says to the King, You are my child; I am your father today. . God has placed Israels King – his son – on the throne, ruling over people in his name.
Israels kingship story is so tragic because kings have mostly failed in reflecting that image. Uniquely for Israel, the role of bearer of a royal image was not merely bestowed upon one set of kings, but upon the whole of humanity–a remarkable concept. Psalm 8:4-6 succinctly sums up the meaning of the phrase, the image of God. A common Christian response upon reading Psalm 8 is to say, “Surely that cannot describe human beings as a whole. It is supposed to talk about Jesus. . Instead, read the Psalm in light of Genesis 1:26-27. This psalm speaks to humanitys elevated position.
Just like the English language, the word for man here means the human race. . The singular pronouns “he” and “his” merely reflect that “man” is grammatically singular (we do the same thing in English). Similarly, one is tempted to read “son of man” in verse 4, jump ahead in the New Testament, and assume it means Jesus.
It does not (not here, not yet). So, “man” is made to “be somewhat lower than God” (v.5). In the footnote, however, the NIV, which was put together by a homosexual, tries to get rid of Christ by adding “God” as a possible rendering – isn’t it funny how the enemy works. The Jewish Publication Society (Tanakh) has “the Divine”.
Humans are a step below God and His divine council. Humans are at the top of the designed world, being the only creatures made in the image of God, while all fowls, insects and creeping things are made for our pleasure. Humans are “crowned with glory and honor” (verse 5), a phrase usually reserved for God. They are also in charge of Gods works (v. 6), an obvious reference to Gen. 1:26-27.
The Psalmist goes as far as saying God has placed all things under human feet. This psalm is an excellent summation of the meaning of Gods creation. There is no other thing in the whole creation higher status than humankind. There is nothing in all of creation that is more God-like than humanity.
Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
What does it mean to be an “image of God”. One of the portraits that the New Testament portrays of Jesus is as Gods final Image-bearer. Jesus completely reflects the image of God; he is Gods real-life representation of creation. No human being more fully embodies this true human quality.
We can start where we left off earlier, in Psalm 8. This Psalm is all about praise to God because of the way He has raised mankind up: Man is somewhat lower than God, and is being crowned with glory and honor, with all things set beneath His feet. Mankind, in other words, is one step lower than God, given the power to run the Creation. Psalm 8 is perfectly in line with Genesis 1:26-27, in which the “image of God” is described as ruling all creation. In Hebrews 2:5-9, Psalm 8 is quoted for what may not at first seem like an obvious reason: Jesus is higher in ranking than the angels, an argument that begins with 1:5.
Genesis 1:26 – And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Creation is subject to no angels, but humankind. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “everything” was placed under human kingship–everything was subservient to humans (v. 8).
Jesus is the bearer of a real picture. You could argue Jesus is the only really, completely human figure to have ever lived. By looking at the crucified and rising Son, we get to see what it truly means to be a “person,” as opposed to the tainted, dysfunctional versions we are looking at in mirrors, or seeing in others.
Colossians 1:15-20 (see sidebar) makes this same point differently.
Jesus is “the picture of an invisible God” (v.15): He rules over creation, since everything is created in his image. It is easy to read that passage and think that this is just about Jesus deity, but you are missing half the point. As a risen Son, Jesus is the “head of the body, of the church, of the first born and of the dead” (v.18). By his resurrection, Jesus is the first person who completely fulfills the image-bearing role that was given to all of humanity in Genesis.
Romans 1:20 – For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Jesus did so not for himself, but for those to follow, Gods people. Jesus is not just “over all of creation”. He is the “first born of all creation” (v.15). Christians, in other words, are on board. As firstborn above all creatures, they ensure those born later attain that same status.
In short, by His resurrection, Jesus “completed” Gen. 1:26-27, for Him and us. For that reason, he must be made in all respects like his brothers, so that he may become merciful and faithful High Priest, serving God. And so he may make atonement for the sins of men.
This subject was already announced in the opening of the book of Hebrews, 1:1-4. In former times, God spoke through prophets, but now He speaks through His own appointed Son. The echoes of Psalm 2, in which Israels King is the son appointed by God, are confirmed in verse 5, when the writer quotes Psalm 2:7.
Psalms 33:6 – By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
As Son, Jesus is Davids recently appointed King, the rulers representative. But this Son takes things a step further: He is the “radiance of Gods glory, the perfect picture of His Being”. Jesus is Gods representative sovereign in a way that nothing else is.
The picture of God in Genesis is not of “what makes us human,” such as the single soul. It is about the sublime role that God has given to humanity to serve as its representative sovereign. That is what image means: Nothing more–but also nothing less.
2 Peter 3:5 – For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
It is an image of an unseen God, first born of all creation. For he created everything: things in heaven and on earth, both seen and unseen, whether they are thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; everything was created for and about him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. And he is head of the body, of the church; he is the beginning, and first born of the dead, so that he may have supremacy over everything. For God is pleased that in him all His fullness is found, and that by him everything, both things in earth and things in heaven, are reconciled to Himself, making peace by His blood, which was poured out on the cross.
Job 37:5 – God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.