Do you struggle with understanding what being “made in the image of God” means? Well, let me first say, that’s completely legitimate because it’s not like the Bible gives us a direct answer.
However, we are given clues.
By piecing to together the clues found throughout Scripture, we begin to understand the original design of who God created us to be and who we are now as believers in Jesus Christ.
This understanding gives us insight, revelation, and meaning, not only to the definition of this phrase, but also to our identity in Christ.
Let’s just say it’s exciting. Very, very exciting. So, without further ado, let’s begin!
God Created Man in His Own Image Meaning
So, where exactly does it say that God created man in His own image? Well, we’re actually told in the first book of the Bible as part of the creation story. In fact, it’s in the very first chapter of the first book of the Bible.
Genesis 1:26 tells us that when God first created humans, He made them in His “image” and after His “likeness”.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
So, what does that mean? Does being “made in the image of God” mean we “look” like God? Well, no because John 4:24 tells us that God does not have a body, because God is spirit.
Many suggested that to be made “in the image of God” means humanity is connected to God by having a personal, moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of being, just like God.
- We are given intellectual ability far superior to that of any animal.
- We are given a mind capable of hearing and understanding God.
- We are given emotions capable of responding to God with love and devotion.
- We are given a free will which enables us to choose whether or not to obey God.
Yet, while these are all true, I think the best understanding of what being “made in the image of God” means is, human beings are created with unique abilities absent from every other creature on the earth that mirror the divine nature of God.
To be made in the image of God means we are to be the visible reflections of the invisible God.
Think of it as the visible manifestation of God’s character, worth, and greatness.
Pretty heavy stuff, right?
It’s only natural to wonder next, “In what ways have we been created to reflect God’s character, worth, and greatness?”.
Well, there’s a lot, but the one I want to pay special attention to comes from the story of creation.
On the sixth day of Creation Week God had created everything on the earth. He created the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and every other kind of animal that scurries along the ground.
Afterwards God saw that it was good, but He wasn’t quite finished yet.
God want to create something even greater. Something even more wonderful and unique to be the finale to His beautiful creation.
So, God created human beings, a unique piece of creation designed to be set apart from the rest of the animal world.
Mankind was given the greatest privilege of all, to be a special expression of God’s own divine nature.
Genesis 1:26 says:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26 (ESV)
So, immediately after creating mankind, God tasked us with a unique role, to have dominion over the earth.
We don’t really use the word dominion anymore but think of it as an old-fashioned Bible word for having the power and authority to rule over something, such as a kingdom.
This was actually part of God’s blessing on mankind. Adam and Eve were given dominion over the entire earth, meaning they were to rule and reign over it on behalf of God who is the ultimate Ruler and King.
This means to be made in the image of God, and in His likeness, means that humans are like God and represent Him as rulers over creation.
Adam and Eve were to fill the earth with godly offspring who all reflected the image of God through their rule and reign over the earth.
Psalm 8 is a great passage that gives us more insight into this:
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas”
Psalm 8:4-8 (ESV)
So, by this point you might be thinking, “Okay Tiff, I see what you’re saying about God’s original design, but let’s be real, are human beings still made in the image of God created to rule and reign?”
The answer is YES!
Humans are still made in the image of God, but this “image” has been distorted by sin.
When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, humans turned from obeying God as their Ruler and King and instead made themselves “rulers” of their own lives.
They seized autonomy, if you will, of God’s good world and took it upon themselves to determine the parameters of good and evil, leading all of humanity into sin.
Because of the fall of humanity, we no longer reflect God’s divine nature properly.
However, here’s the best part! The story of the Bible doesn’t stop with the fall of man. God made a way for us, and all of creation, to be restored to glory.
Part of God’s perfect plan was to step into His own creation and became a man, also made in the image of God, through the person of Jesus Christ. Mankind could not reflect God properly because of sin, but Jesus was able to reflect God properly because Jesus did not sin.
Jesus became the perfect visible representation of God’s invisible being.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
Colossians 1:15 (NIV)
Now, because of Jesus’ completed work on the cross, sin is no longer a barrier between us and God. Everyone who has made Jesus Lord of their life now acknowledges Him alone as King of kings and Lord of Lords.
It is through our faith that the Holy Spirit then comes into our lives and transforms us into the image of Christ.
When we put God in His rightful place as King over our lives, we can then be restored to the perfect reflections of God that we were always created to be.
In fact, it is our purpose on earth to glorify God by bearing the image of Christ. We are made in the image of God, and now through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have an example to follow of how to bear that image properly.
We bear God’s image by becoming more “Christ-like” through implementing the teachings of Jesus into our lives. As we learn to do this more and more, we are transformed back into God’s original design, men and women who perfectly reflect the glorious image of God.
Have more questions on what it means to be made in the image of God? Let me know in the comments below!
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