Made in God’s Image Genesis 1:26-28

Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God created human beings to be the crown of his creation. We are set apart from the plants and the animals. Human beings are not distant cousins of the animals. We are great and wonderful and different and the most excellent of all God’s works. Only human beings are created in the image of God, a special expression God’s divine nature within creation. But what does that really mean, “made in God’s image”?
The phrases, “In God’s image” or “In God’s likeness” imply there is some resemblance between human beings and God. The God of the Bible does not have a physical form, so the likeness is not physical. There have been different ideas over the centuries about what the image of God in human beings refers to. All of them may be aspects of the truth. So if the likeness of God in human beings is not physical, what might it be?
Mental
Many have thought that it is the capacity to think and to reason which sets human beings apart from plants and animals. Part of that is the sophistication of human language and communication. Another aspect is our ability to calculate and to reason with logic and to harness energy and indeed every aspect of what we call science, which is simply the Latin word for knowing. This is the mental image of God.
Creative
God is the Creator and some people have regarded the creativity of men and women as the image of God in us. Both the ability to make things with our hands but also the whole aesthetic aspect of our beings – our appreciation of beauty and the creation of glorious art and inspiring music and all the range of our emotions. This is the creative image of God.
Moral
The Bible reveals to us that God is holy and just and righteous. Human beings are set apart from plants and animals in that we have the ability to distinguish between good and evil. In Romans 2 the apostle Paul writes this.
Romans 2 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
Every human beings has a conscience. We can create laws and we all have the ability and the freedom to choose between right and wrong, truth and lies. This is the moral image of God
Social
Even back in Genesis 1 the Bible reveals to us that God is more than an individual. Genesis 1:2 speaks of the Spirit of God Who is in some mysterious sense distinct from God. Then we read
Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Let us make God in our own image. Let us … God is plural not singular. And the image of God is both male and female. So if I happen to say “man” in this sermon please remember that I am always referring to all human beings, all men and women, both male and female.
The witness of the whole Bible lets us recognise that God is the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one and one in three, unity in community. And with hindsight we can see that all three parts of the Trinity was involved in the work of Creation. God Himself is not singular but plural, not an individual but a community even within the Godhead. This has the implication that the image of God in human beings is somehow wrapped up in community. We are social beings. In Genesis 2:18 God saw Adam and said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and so created Eve to be Adam’s companion. Human beings are created to be in relationships with the capacity and the need for love. Created for relationships with other human beings and supremely for a relationship with God, of which marriage is given as a picture. Human beings are the only creatures who can have a meaningful relationship with their Creator. This is the social image of God.
Spiritual
In John 4:24 Jesus tells us that God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth. Human beings are made in the image of God because we are spiritual beings.
In Genesis 2:7 we read, the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
In Hebrew the word ruach means both breath and spirit. When God breathed the breath of life into human beings He gave us a spiritual dimension to life which plants and animals do not have. Man is the only praying animal. We are created to know God, with the capacity for the kind of relationship with God which Adam and Eve enjoyed, walking with God in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. We can worship and pray and exercise faith and love God and each other with God’s kind of love. This is the spiritual image of God.
Dominion over Creation
Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
The idea of ruling over creation follows immediately after the idea of man being made in God’s image and in God’s likeness. So over the centuries some scholars have seen this responsibility to rule over Creation as the explanation of what it the image of God in human beings actually means. This understanding is supported by a bit of Hebrew grammar. In the phrases “in God’s image” and “in God’s likeness” the little word “beth” usually translated “in” has another possible translation. Instead of meaning “in God’s image” it could mean “as God’s image”, in other words, “in the capacity of” God’s image or “fulfilling the role of” God’s image. In that case we are not talking about what human beings ARE as God’s image but of what human beings DO as God’s image. Early in human history, Rulers and Kings would have great statues built of themselves in remote parts of their kingdom to remind their subjects who their King was. In some languages those statues would be called the image of the king.
So in the capacity of the image of God human beings are appointed to rule over Creation as his appointed representatives. That is part of what “the image of God” in human beings means,. The command to have dominion over creation and to subdue it is the job human beings are given in our role as the image of God. Almighty God is the Creator and the Sovereign Lord of creation. Human beings are appointed to rule as God himself would rule. Dominion over creation is an aspect of the image of God.
Made in the image of God. Mental. Creative. Moral. Social. Spiritual. All of these are aspects of the image of God in man. Not just one aspect of our humanity but everything that makes us human. Made in the image of God – that is what human beings are. And entrusted with dominion over the whole of creation. That is what we were created to do. So here is the most important thing. Jesus Christ is the perfect image of God, the exact representation of God’s being. God made man in His own image so that one day God could become a man. There is something about the human body which is uniquely appropriate to God’s manifestation of Himself. Since God knows the end from the beginning, He designed human beings knowing that one day Christ would become a man to reveal God to the world. A human being is the only creature that God could one day become – because we are all made in the image of God. And there are some enormously important implications of that truth.
First, but probably least important,
Idols are forbidden
Here is the reason for the Second of the Ten Commandments. It is immoral to try to make idols or any other images of God because that is an insult to God. It would be impossible to represent God even in the slightest by anything human beings could fashion. But it is also wrong to make idols because God has already created an image of Himself on earth and that image is us – people! We are created by God, in God’s image and God’s likeness, described by God as “very good.” Any other image would be sacrilege!
Sanctity of human life
Here is the reason for the Sixth Commandment. We are made in the image of God, and therefore to murder is always evil. To destroy plant life without reason would be careless. To destroy animal life without good reason would be cruel. But to destroy the life of another human being is to destroy one who bears God’s image. Murder is an offence against the one whose image is carried. For this reason murder is accorded the death penalty as part of God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:5-6.
Genesis 9:5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
Murder is always wrong! And the Bible reason for that is that all human beings are made in the image of God. So ALL human life is sacred. This truth is the root of all laws concerning murder. This fact is vitally important in discussions about abortion and stem-cell research. It is just as important in discussions about end-of life decisions and euthanasia.
Equality and social justice
Here is the reason for the Bible’s insistence on justice and equality. All human beings are created equal. Race doesn’t make any difference. Gender doesn’t make any difference. Ability or disability doesn’t make any difference. Background, upbringing, status, wealth, none of these things matter. All human beings are created in God’s image and for that reason all are equally and infinitely precious in God’s eyes.
Jesus Christ is the perfect image of God
Colossians 1:15 tells us that Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. In Himself Christ sums us everything that human beings were created to be and to do. We will learn in a few weeks how Adam and Eve rebelled against God. When they did the image of God in human beings was defiled and marred for all their descendants. All aspects of the image of God in mankind were tarnished and human beings are now “a caricature of God”. But God’s image is still there in ALL human beings. And God became a human being in Christ so that we could be redeemed and His image in us could be restored again. Through Christ we can become new creations and be transformed into His likeness as we put our trust in Him.
Look around at the people sitting next to you – in front of you, behind you. You can even smile at them if you want to! Each and every one of us here today is a miracle of God – created in God’s image!

Made in the image of God. Mental. Creative. Moral. Social. Spiritual. That is what human beings are. And entrusted with dominion over the whole of creation. That is what we were created to do. Made in the image of God – the only creature that God could one day become. Christ shared in our humanity so that we can have the possibility of sharing in His deity.

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