In Genesis 1: 26-27 we read that God made humanity in his own image. In all of the creation accounts, it is only man that God makes in his image. We are unique in that respect. But what does it mean to be made in God’s image? How can we bear the image of the invisible God?
Made in the Image of God
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”Genesis 1:26-28 NIV
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
As the final act of his creation, God made mankind in his image. Exactly what it means to be created in God’s image is not specified. However, the reason for it is. It is so that we could rule over the other living creatures that God had previously created.
Make no mistake, God is sovereign over all of his creation. But as the final act of that creation, he created and appointed an image bearer to be his vice-regent on earth. He has left us in charge of his creation. Then, at the conclusion of the creation, God said that it is all very good; it was pleasing to God. Including his image-bearers. It was as he wanted it to be.
Distorting the Image
But that condition did not last for long. Soon, in the third chapter of Genesis, we find God’s image-bearers choosing to disobey him, grasping for an even higher position. Adam and Eve are not content to be under God’s authority. Instead, they reached for equality with God. And as a result, they fall into sin. Followed by expulsion from the garden of God.
No longer does humanity rule over the creation as God’s vice-regent. Instead, we seek to rule under our own authority. And no longer does the rest of the creation willingly submit to us. Rather we struggle with a ground that is reluctant to provide for us. And death becomes the fearful end of a long and weary life.
The image of God. We are still made in that image (1 Cor. 11:7). But that image is fearfully distorted. No longer do we represent him in his creation. And, no longer do we walk with our creator in his garden. Instead, we attempt to fill our lives with things that will cover up our loss. Things that will cover up what remains of God’s image within us.
Images of Idols
Idolatry. The worship of things that are not God. An attempt to replace the image of God within us, with images of our own creation (Rom. 1:22-23).
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, he made a covenant with them. Along with that covenant came the Ten Commandments. The second of these commandments (Ex. 20:4-6) was a prohibition against making images and then worshiping them. These images they were forbidden to make represented the pagan gods worshiped by the peoples around Israel. These images were not really gods themselves. But they did represent specific gods.
Now there were two issues with these images. The first, and most obvious, was that they promoted the worship of false gods. Worship that was forbidden in Israel. Worshiping these gods, and their images, led people away from the worship of the one true God. The God who had made himself known to Israel in the Exodus and at Mt. Sinai.
There is a second, and less obvious problem, with creating images. I am the image of the creator God. He has made me to rule over his creation and care for it. But when I in turn create an image and worship it, I turn the whole thing upside down. The image of God is now making images of gods, who are really not gods. And then worshiping what we have made rather than the one who made us.
Christ, the Image of God
But God has a solution to that distortion. And it was not just to clean off the tarnish. Rather it was to produce a new humanity. A new humanity with a restored image of God.
In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is identified as being the image of the invisible God. Adam was created in the image of God, yet fell. But Jesus was the image of God. Jesus did not just bear a superficial resemblance to God. He was God. And he was not just God’s vice-regent on earth. He was the creator himself, taking on the form of the creation.
In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam and Jesus. Adam represents our fall from being image-bearers; our fall into sin. But, through Jesus, the grace of God overflowed to lost humanity. While in Adam we all die, in Christ we have eternal life. Jesus did not come to restore Adam. Instead, he came to produce something new. In Christ, we are a new humanity (Eph. 2:15).
Transformed into His Image
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul expressed that “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Jesus is the image of the invisible God. And as his disciples, we are being transformed into that image.
This transformation is not a remodel project on God’s part. Rather it is new construction. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul said that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” And so, what God produced in the first chapters of Genesis has been created anew in Christ.
We were originally made to be like God, bearing his image. But that image was corrupted in our fall. However, in Christ, who is the image of God, we are made anew. I am not remade in God’s image. Rather, I am included in him who is the image of God.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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