Imago Dei

Image of God: A theological term, applied UNIQUELY to humans, which denotes the symbolical relation between God and humanity.

In light of the recent Roe v Wade decision, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between God & humans. Why did God create us? What does it mean that humanity is made in His image?

God said in Gen 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” He then formed Adam from the dust of earth and gave him unique life. That is, “nyshamah” – our life came from His very own breath. Being created as uniquely human was a plan in the mind of our triune God (Father, Son, Spirit) from the beginning.

We were made to resemble Him.

Adam’s flesh – his body – mirrored the life of God as it was created in perfect health and was not subject to death. But the resemblance to his Creator was not evidenced in his flesh and blood. Scripture (John) says that “God is spirit” and therefore exists without a body. God the Son, however, came to earth and took on human form. Neither God the Father nor God the Spirit were revealed through flesh and blood. Even as Jesus became God-in-flesh, it was clearly on a different level than mortal man. While in His earthly body, the Son temporarily limited His deity; but He did not negate it. “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change His mind.” When Peter declared Jesus as The Christ, Jesus told him it was more than flesh & blood that revealed that to him.

I believe that it’s important to understand that the image of God (Latin: imago Dei) refers to the immaterial part of humanity. From creation, God enabled human beings to fellowship and partner with Him, thus setting them apart from the animal kingdom. Being created in the image of God gives humans a likeness to our Creator in as much as we can mirror Him in spirit – mentally, morally, and socially:

(Mentally) Human beings can reason and choose, reflecting God’s intellect and freedom. Humanity’s ingenuity and creativity declares we are made in God’s image.

(Morally) Humanity was created in perfect innocence, reflecting God’s holiness. Humanity’s conscience confirms the fact that we are made in God’s own image.

(Socially) Humanity was created for fellowship. God’s triune nature and humanity’s relationship with God and one another implies the significance of fellowship, demonstrating the fact that we are made in the likeness of God.

Being made in God’s image gave Adam the capacity to make choices. Although they were created with an innocent nature, Adam and Eve made a choice to rebel against their Creator, marring the image of God within themselves. From that point, humanity’s image was distorted and marred by guilt and shame. Though James tells us we still bear the image of God, we also bear the scars of sin. We are now mentally, morally, and socially broken.

BUT.
GOD!

Being rescued from our broken humanity was a plan in the mind and heart of our triune God (Father, Son, Spirit) from the beginning. Though we can’t fully comprehend, there was really no Plan B. We were made to be redeemed! And when God redeems an individual, He begins to restore us to His original image, creating us to become like Him “in true righteousness and holiness.” Though we did not recover our status of ‘innocent’, God has declared us ‘not-guilty’ by looking to His perfect Son’s sacrifice on our behalf. Paul said: “So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know Him in that way any longer.” Through Christ, we are made new creations in the likeness of God!

Soooo … why did God create us? What does it mean that humanity is made in His image?

Peter and Paul both tell us that God always planned for His image bearers to bring Him glory. He never had another plan for us. A promise of eternal life was made by the Father – our God who cannot lie – before the beginning of time. The promised Son was willing to be the One who would come to earth as a human and die so that fallen humanity could be redeemed and returned to God. Humans are now set to experience all the blessings that God had planned from the beginning of time, fully assured of no more fatal interruptions. Nothing can thwart the redemption plan. We are God’s workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them!! What an unbelievable thought … The psalmist was overwhelmed by it:

When I look up at the heavens, which Your fingers made, and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place, Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them? Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them, and make them a little less than the heavenly beings? You grant mankind honor and majesty!”

God created the world and included mankind. It was a very good world He had made. And even though we chose to break the glorious union we had with Him, He was not finished with us. He loved the world so much that He graciously sent the Son to reconcile us to Himself. In Jesus the imago Dei found its fullest, purest expression. Even as humanity was wrecked by sin, struggling against the expression of the imago Dei, Jesus perfectly and completely revealed the image of God. He revealed the heart and character of God in everything He said and did!

Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie said, “Jesus was the first glorified human, but He’s only the first.” In heaven we’ll be like Him. Those who have put the full weight of their Hope in Christ’s finished work, will fully bear the image of God as Christ bears the image of God. Salvation is available by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. And it is a free and accessible gift to anyone. Through Christ, the God-man, we are made new and even better creations in the likeness of God. Holding on to hope for the redemption of mankind gives us reason to work on behalf of all human flourishing, to witness to the world about the fullness of life in Christ, and to worship with abandon the One who created us and redeemed us!

Scripture references:
Genesis 1-3
Psalm 8
John 4, 17
Romans 5
2 Corinthians 5
Galatians 3
Ephesians
Titus 1
James 3

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