Man in God’s Image

The Voice of Hope
The Voice of Hope
Man in God’s Image
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Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7-9, 15-25

The Genesis record makes it clear that the creation of man was God’s crowning work. No other part of the created world had the distinction of being created “in the image of God.” At the conclusion of Genesis chapter one, we’re told; “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was VERY good.”

In our study of the human family, we must ask ourselves a very basic question. Why did God create man? We have no resources of our own to answer this question so we must rely on divine revelation. Even in asking the question we exercise caution because Romans 9:20 says, “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?” Because of whom God is, what He does must be both right and rational.

There are several things we can learn from the Scriptures about this question of purpose. The first is, God is love. First John 4:16-19 informs us, “God is love; and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” John 3:16, the Golden Text of the Bible, reaffirms God’s overflowing love toward all men.

We note also the heavenly proclamation recorded by John in Revelation 4:11. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” John records the elders and the four living creatures ascribing praise to God for creating all things, including man, for His pleasure. We generally think of pleasure as enjoyment, good feelings, or something like that. But here the word means “according to what He has willed.” God is worthy to be worshiped simply because what He willed has been carried out.

As a final point of introduction, we also acknowledge that God intends to use “…the ages to come [to] show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” That’s Ephesians 2:7. Really, there can be no doubt that God’s nature of love was central to His purpose in creating man.

In our study of “Man in God’s Image” we return to the opening chapters of Genesis to explore the reasons for our creation. I will read Genesis 1:26-28, and Genesis 2:15-25. If you’ve been tuning in for the past few weeks, you know we’ve already spent considerable time in these texts. But there is so much here that relates to different facets of our personal existence and our family relationships that we have, by no means, exhausted its riches!

Read Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:7-9, 15-25

In these verses, we discover several LIKENESSES that reflect man in God’s image.

The First is,

The Eternal Likeness

As you read through the opening verses of Genesis chapter one a pattern becomes established. “And God said, let there be…” and “it was so.” But notice, there’s a change in the opening of verse 26. Instead of simply saying, “…let there be..,” God says, “…let us make man in our image and after our likeness.” We know, according to Hebrews chapter 2 that God wasn’t talking to the angels here. Instead, He was addressing one or more other members of the Godhead.

This type of interchange within the Godhead appears at other places in the Scripture. Psalm 110:1 and John 17:24 are just two examples. The divine councils regarding the creation of man took place before the beginning of time as recorded in our text. According to passages like First Peter 1:18-21, Christ’s sacrifice, and our salvation, were “foreordained before the foundation of the world…” Now, on this sixth day of creation, we are given a glimpse into those eternal councils.

Every part of creation prior to man was ex nihilo; that is, it was created out of nothing by divine fiat. God simply spoke things into existence out of nothing. But man was different as revealed in Genesis chapter 2, verse 7. Man was formed, or fashioned, out of the dust of the ground by the creative work of God. The Hebrew word, yatsar, implies the idea of being “squeezed into a certain shape.” There was greater personal involvement by God in the creation of man.

Man, in many respects, was created with similar characteristics to the animal kingdom. Like the animals he was created with a body, and a soul – a mind, will, and emotions. But he was destined to be more than just a very complex and highly organized animal. There was something in man that made him qualitatively different than any animal. That difference is God’s image!

If you were asked to explain the difference between man and animals, what would you say? We often say the difference between man and an animal is spirit, but that statement is not sufficient unless we give further definition. The Hebrew term is ruach and is commonly translated wind, or breath. Obviously, animals possess the breath of life. When we say it is the spirit that sets humans apart from animals, we are talking about the aspect of man that is like God – an eternal spirit possessing moral and spiritual attributes. This contrasts with the animal spirits which cease to exist when the body dies, according to Ecclesiastes 3:21

Therefore, we can conclude that part of our being made in God’s image and likeness is the eternality of our spirit. This has implications for the importance of our choices in life.

Next is,

The Moral Likeness

When we use the word, moral, we imply the capability of reasoning, the capacity to choose. This is something that animals don’t possess. They can be trained to perform certain tasks based on reward or punishment, or they rely on instinct to guide them. But man’s moral consciousness enables him, even forces him, to make choices. The Scriptural command to love the good and hate evil necessitates the ability to make moral distinctions.

I remember when our oldest son was just a small boy, and I was certain that he had told a lie to me. The first question that came to my mind was, “Where did he learn that?” Almost immediately the answer came, “He didn’t have to learn it, it’s part of his sinful, human nature.” The moral likeness we’ve been given by God is indelibly imprinted on every newborn baby – but so is the stain of sin. My son made a choice to lie because he believed it would provide some temporary advantage to him. We adults are faced daily with the same kinds of choices.

Man’s moral likeness to God also allows him to perceive beauty. In a general sense, evil is ugly and good is beautiful. The garden God prepared for Adam and Eve must have been an exquisitely beautiful place. After all, there was no sin to spoil God’s perfection. Every part of their environment was perfectly balanced. The varieties of vegetation and animal life, the temperature, humidity, color, sounds, smells, and tastes were all aligned in perfect harmony. The Garden must have been a delight to the senses; and it was all theirs to enjoy.

Man’s moral likeness to God also allows him to experience emotion. According to the Scriptures God experiences a whole range of emotions. Like us, He laughs – both with joy and derision, He is sad, He weeps, He pleads, He is angry, He blesses, etc.

Along with these moral qualities we also have been given the capacity to worship and love. Henry Morris, in his book, “The Genesis Record,” states “This eternal and divine dimension of man’s being must be the essence of what is involved in the likeness of God. And since none of this was part of the animal “soul,” it required a new creation.”

Our capability to love is part of God’s moral likeness. I mentioned in my introduction that we have the capacity to love because God is love. It seems clear that God’s love was central to His purpose in creating mankind. Somehow, in the mysterious recesses of His own nature, there seems to have been a desire to bestow His love on other spiritual beings outside the Godhead.

As we ponder the meaning of love, we are struck with the realization that love is a reciprocal relationship! That’s why unrequited love is one of the greatest tragedies of our human experience. For love to be expressed in its fullness it must be mutual. So then, if God created us with the purpose of bestowing His love on us, His purpose must have included a mutual and reciprocated love. Which leads us to another realization; love by its very nature is voluntary. Genuine love cannot be coerced.

That means that if we are to love God, in response to His love, we must do it freely of our own choice. Which raises another point; we are also free NOT to love God. Being empowered to make the right moral choice – to love – also necessarily means having the freedom to make the wrong choice – to reject God’s love. This is consistent with God’s creation of man as morally free spiritual beings “in His image.” God ran the risk of having His creation reject His love. As moral beings made in the image of God, you and I have the power to choose our destiny in response to God’s call. Because we are eternal beings, we must make our moral choices wisely.

Finally, we have

The “Physical” Likeness

Now before you call me a heretic and tune me out, let me explain what I mean! In my manuscript I have the word, physical, in quotation marks. God makes it clear to us in His Word that He is a spirit and does not inhabit a corporeal [kor-pawr-ee-al] body. That’s at least in part why He forbade the Israelites from making any kind of image to represent Him.

But let me ask you this; “Is our physical body not part of our being made in His image?” Even though God doesn’t have a physical body like ours, He designed our bodies to do the things He can do. God can see, hear, smell, touch, and speak without having eyes, ears, nose, hands, or mouth. Interestingly, whenever God or angels appear visibly to mankind it is the form of a human body! Thus, we conclude there is something uniquely appropriate in God manifesting Himself to us in this way.

One unique aspect of our creation is our posture. We are not like the animals. Instead, God created us to walk upright with an erect posture and a countenance that looks upward. He endowed us with the capability of facial expression that corresponds to our emotions. He blessed us with a brain and a tongue that are capable of articulate communication. All of these enable us to worship and praise Him in ways that other parts of creation cannot.

Remember too, that since the plan of redemption was formed before the creation of the world, God knew that in the fullness of time even He would take on human form. He would prepare a human body for God the Son. Philippians 2:7 tells us, “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Imagine, the Creator being made in the likeness of men, just as man had been made in the likeness of God!

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that God “has 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; Who 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…” The phrase I want here is “the express image of His person.” Jesus Christ is the exact representation of the Father! Knowing this, is it too much of a stretch to assume that God made man in the image of that body He would one day assume? You decide.

The Hebrew word for man is adam and is related to the earth. This is appropriate seeing that man’s body was formed from the elements of the earth. In God’s design and command for humanity to exercise dominion over creation that dominion was not only over the animals but also over the very earth from which man was taken. Lord willing, we’ll address this in greater detail in a later message concerning man’s role and function.

It is indeed both humbling and inspiring to meditate on these truths. I have a new appreciation for Paul’s words in First Corinthians fifteen “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” I realize that Paul is talking here about the resurrection body we will acquire in the future. But there is that sense in which we bear the image of the heavenly right now, even though it is marred by sin.

As those made in the image and likeness of God, we have an obligation to accurately represent Him and His character to an unbelieving and skeptical world. We have several generations of people who have been indoctrinated with the idea that they are simply more highly evolved animals, and our culture is clearly showing the effects of that worldview. Hopelessness and despair seem to be at an all-time high and people are looking for answers that make sense and truly satisfy. We have those answers in the Word of God. Let us do our best to clearly reflect God’s image so these lost ones will be drawn to the light.