The image of God

Gen 1:20-28
20And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26And 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.
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Gen 5:1-2
1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
2Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

The image of God in man was not destroyed in the fall of man. Bearing the image of God is the reason that the most severe punishment was pronounced in Genesis 9:6 upon murderers.

Gen 9:5-6
5And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
6Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

The word made is in the perfect tense, indicating that man was not just originally made in the image of God, but has continued to be made in His image. As such, man is the crowning glory of God’s creation. Psalm 8:3-6 has its special prophetic application to Jesus Christ, but it also speaks of the dignity of man at the apex of God’s creation. To mortally attack man was to strike at God’s glory reflected in His work. In James 3:9 even cursing man is condemned because he is, not just were, made after the similitude of God.

Ps 8:3-6
3When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

Jas 3:8-9
8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

Jesus is the express image of the invisible God.

Heb 1:1-3
1God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

2Cor 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

John 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

Just as the law was a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things, so man is a shadow of the very image of God.

Heb 10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

The image of God in man has been corrupted, but not destroyed. In the resurrection, we will be completely restored to that image.

Rom 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

There are three views that generally express the differing understanding of the image of God:

Substantive — The substantive view holds to the idea that there is some substantial characteristic of the human race that is like God. Some may argue that we are a mirror image of God’s essential nature. Other substantive views suggest a spiritual commonality with God, God being a spirit and not having a physical body. Throughout the ages there have been different interpretations of substantive likeness to God. Irenaeus put forward a distinctive difference between image and likeness. Humankind before the fall (the moral and spiritual failure of its original progenitors) was in the image of God through the ability to exercise free will and reason. And we were in the likeness of God through an original spiritual endowment. Medieval scholars suggested that this was the holiness (or “wholeness”) of humankind which was lost after the fall, though free will and reason remained. Calvin and Luther agreed that something of the Imago Dei was lost at the fall but that fragments of it remained in some form or another.

Relational — The relational view argues that one must be in a relationship with God in order to possess the ‘image’ of God. Those who hold to the relational image agree that humankind possess the ability to reason as a substantive trait, but they argue that it is in a relationship with God that the true image is made evident. Later theologians like Karl Barth and Emil Brunner argue that it is our ability to establish and maintain complex and intricate relationships that make us like God. For example, in humans the created order of male and female is intended to culminate in spiritual as well as physical unions Genesis 5:1-2, reflecting the nature and image of God. Since other creatures do not form such explicitly referential spiritual relationships, these theologians see this ability as uniquely representing the imago dei in humans.

Functional — This third view differs from the previous two in that it argues that the image of God imprinted on us resides in function rather than in form or relationship, this function being primarily our task of ruling over earth. Genesis 1:26 speaks of humankind being made in the image of God and given the function of naming and ruling over the fish of the sea and the animals on land, reflecting God’s rule over all the universe, ourselves included. This view sees this ruling function of dominion as best expressing the imago dei, or our likeness to God.

— The Image of God

Some of the clues about the nature of the image of God in man can be seen in Romans 1.

Rom 1:18-23
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20For 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:
21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

  • Man is moral
  • Man has understanding of God
  • Man has reason
  • Man has the ability to exercise his will
  • Man is accountable

We think of man having five senses, but there is a sixth sense: a sense of God. The Substantive view of the God best describes the reflection of God’s Person in man. His attributes can be seen in our love, passion, purposefulness, deliberation, creativity, dignity, etc.

The Relational and Functional views do not seem to be very worthwhile reasons to justify the ongoing basis for capitol punishment or to call man the crowning glory of God’s creation. That man can have complex relationships or dominion certainly speak of a degree of sophistication, but not necessarily intrinsic glorious worth. They might make man similar to God, but not in His similitude.

Someone tells about the lady who walked into a hat store to buy a hat for a special night out on the town. She wanted something original, so she chose an emerald-colored ribbon and asked the weaver to make her a hat immediately. Within fifteen minutes, he made the most beautiful hat she had ever seen.
She asked, “How much?”
He replied, “Five hundred dollars.”
The lady shouted, “For a piece of ribbon!”
The man calmly unraveled the hat and responded, “You can have the ribbon for $5.”

Ingredient-wise, we may not be that unique from other creatures, but don’t forget that God did not make amoebas, elephants and your pet dog in His image. He made human being in His image, and He shed the blood of His only Son to pay for mankind’s penalty for sins.
— Sermon Central

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