Article: Made in His Image | Julie (Nije) Thomas, USA

“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). This profound statement was spoken into the stage of creation before the curtains of the universe were pushed back to reveal God’s final and supreme act of creation – man. God establishes the uniqueness of mankind by announcing to the cosmos that He was fabricating man differently from all other creations. Only this creature that He formed out of the dust awakes into existence through the intimate experience of a first kiss, when God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). In man, God stamps His likeness.
Man – The Image, Not the God

The term likeness or image of God mentioned in the creation account is applied in similar terms when God gives Moses the Ten Commandments; “You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything” (Exodus. 20:4). This verse suggests that man was carved out in a pattern after God and hence the likeness. It also affirms that man is not divine but only God’s image-bearer. As a created being, mankind was fashioned to mirror God’s image but not His uncreated essence. God alone is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He alone is “the King eternal, immortal, invisible” God (1 Timothy 1:17).

Set Apart in Make and Motive
The verse following the proclamation sheds light on the motive of man as God’s image-bearer. “God created man in His own image; in the image of God, He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). Scriptures imply that sexuality was concomitantly created in all creatures except in mankind, where God separates it by creating the man first and later on the woman from man (Gen. 2:21-22). Moreover, the woman is made out of Adam’s flesh affirming their oneness and her coexistence in Adam even before she was brought forth out of him. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over everything” (Gen. 1:28). The command to fill the earth was given to all creatures. However, the directive to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living thing was given only to man. This regal authority over creation sets man apart as God’s image-bearer.

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Understanding the Image
To understand the image or likeness of God in man, it is important to recognize what it is not. Scriptures reveal that it is the very substance that distinguishes man from the rest of God’s creation. Both man and beast have bodies that share common designs and functions. Therefore, physical attributes such as the head, hands, feet, and fingers found in his material makeup, which man shares with other creatures, are not the image or likeness he shares with God. Moreover, the scripture makes clear that God does not have a physical component, because “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and “spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). The image of God imprinted in man is therefore not physical but God’s spiritual attributes.
According to Chaney (1970), it is difficult to comprehend the spiritual attributes consigned to man in the likeness of God because this image in man was corrupted by sin. However, scripture points to one born without sin, Jesus Christ, “the son of man” (Luke 6:5) as the perfect reflection of the image of God. “He is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). Furthermore, those who are born of the first-man Adam are given new birth through the last Adam, Jesus Christ, to be conformed to the image of God (Romans 8:29). This conforming of the new man to the likeness of God is manifested in the fruit of the spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The spiritual attributes of those born in Christ are enumerated by Paul when he writes, “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:23-24). Thus, it can be inferred that the image of God engraved in man at creation is true righteousness and holiness.

Adam, the Foreshadow
Although mankind was made to mirror God, his scepticism and subsequent disobedience caused that image to become marred beyond recognition (Chaney, 1970). Along with it, creation was subjected to corruption, and man’s divine vocation to subdue the earth was frustrated (Rom. 8:20-21). Nevertheless, Adam remains a foreshadow of Christ and serves as “a pattern of the one to come” (Rom. 5:14). In the fullness of time, where Adam was tempted beside a tree and failed through disobedience, Christ is nailed to a tree and triumphs through unequivocal obedience (Philippians 2:8). The deep sleep that Adam experienced in bringing forth the woman who is his body, foreshadows the sleep of death Jesus experiences on the cross to bring forth His bride, which is His body the Church (Colossians 1:18). Just as the first man is wounded on his side in perfect sinlessness for the woman, Christ the perfect sinless man is pierced on his side for the Church, causing a “sudden flow of blood and water” (John 19:34), the blood with which He purchases her and water with which He cleanses her to Himself.

The Image Perfected
Thus, the mystery of the image of God hidden in Adam is revealed in Christ the last Adam. The incarnation of Christ was possible only because God placed His image in man at creation. Although angels were created higher than man (Heb. 2:7), the scriptures do not suggest that they were created in the likeness of God or that God has a plan worked out for redeeming those who sinned against Him. Yet to Adam and Eve, God gives the solemn promise of a son who “will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Thus, the redemption of His people is the divine prerogative God accomplishes by embedding His image in His creature, man. In Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15) the image of God is embodied in perfection. By His death and resurrection, God consummates the Lordship of Christ over all creation and with His blood, purchases for Him a bride, His church. The creation mandate is fulfilled to the utmost in Jesus Christ, because “He has been seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:21-22). To Him be all glory, power, and dominion, forever and ever, Amen!

Julie Thomas

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