Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. . . . And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him. Genesis 1:26-27

What does it mean that God created us in His image and likeness? Theologians have kicked this question around for centuries. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t explain the image of God in detail.

The two phrases “in Our image” and “in Our likeness” are parallel expressions. The Hebrew word for “image” comes from a root that speaks of carving. It suggests that man is somehow carved into the shape of God. Is this carving physical, biological, emotional, intellectually, relational, spiritual, moral, or what? How exactly are we like God?

John Calvin said, “The image of God extends to everything in which the nature of man surpasses that of all other species of animals. . . . And though the primary seat of the divine image was in the mind and the heart, or in the soul and its powers, there was no part even of the body in which some rays of glory did not shine.”

I love Calvin’s phrase “rays of glory.” The rays of God’s glory shine upon we human beings and clothe us in dignity. Whatever it means to be created in the image and likeness of God, it is high, lofty, and sacred. No plant, animal, bird, or fish shares this carving, nor can such creatures evolve into the likeness of God. The divine image is something that God uniquely impresses on humans. It is what defines us, shapes our identity, and sets us apart from every other aspect of God’s creation.

To fully understand the nature of man, anthropology and theology must begin with Genesis. The image of God explains our moral consciousness, creativity, and capacity for intimate relationships. It explains the higher dimensions of our intellect and emotions. Our language and communication skills reflect our God-likeness. Even the desire for a personal relationship with our Creator says something about us possessing the divine image.

It is because we are created in the image of God that life is sacred and should be treated as such, even in public policy. In an article for the Washington Post, Michael Gerson made this important connection:

If religious belief about the dignity of human life were illegitimate as a basis for public policy, there would have been no abolition or civil rights movements. The idea of a divine image found in every human being is one of the main foundations for the American tradition of liberty, tolerance and pluralism. Religious duty motivates millions to love and serve their neighbors, and thus to respect their neighbor’s rights of conscience.

Gerson is spot on. When we move away from the idea of a divine image being found in every human being, life becomes cheap and disposable. Atrocities like abortion, euthanasia, and a host of other crimes against humanity become easier for society to accept. When that happens, we deface the image of God. 

Comments

lisawheeler says:
I want to thank Dr. Jones for his decision to address the core issue of Christianity, and that is the reality of our origin. I am a biblical creationist and I've been witnessing to people based on our origin and a creator God. I've since watched your second sermon and it was very on point. I really want to thank you again.
yalesrl says:
I want to express a special word of thanks and appreciation for your message of 11/16/08. What a wonderful presentation of God’s plan and the Biblical blueprint for marriage! I especially appreciate your courage in proclaiming the definition of marriage as God its Creator intended it to be and not yielding in any way to the weakening of that definition as the contemporary world so desires. I hope you will: 1. Post a selection from that message on this blogspot. 2. Always continue to present God’s Word and Will with such clarify and faithfulness. God bless you for doing this. Some time ago, at the beginning of this current series, I wrote that I am a devoted lover of the Lord and try to be His faithful servant in every way I can. I noted, however, that I do not believe in a “young world” point of view. Actually, I am not an evolutionist. In fact, in reality, I am not even a theistic evolutionist. I simply believe that God can and does do things, create and maintain in accordance with His omnipotence and His own time schedule. I do not believe that accepting that this world may be thousands of years old violates the Scriptures in any way or any way invalidates our doctrine of salvation and redemption. Along the way, I was tempted to offer some counter point discussion on some of the issues you raised; because I believe there are some valid counter point issues. However, I thought better of that idea and realized that most who read this bog would not particularly want to read such discussion. I raise the issue again here only to remind your readers that there will always remain those of us who are serious about our faith, committed to Biblical inerrancy, and convinced of the sovereignty of God who believe that the world has been around for a lot longer than a few thousand years. Thank God I’m saved and certain of it! - Even if I’m wrong on the creation issue. The Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a child of God and I can rest assured in that promise.

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