As we continue our look at the first chapter of Genesis, we’ll again focus on the statement, found in verse 27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” So we see that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God.
Last week I discussed the fact that this makes man distinct from everything else he’d made. And this is true. But what else does this mean, when it says that man was made in God’s image?
Whenever I ask this question of my confirmation students, they answer by saying that we were made to look like God. And, initially, this may seem to make sense. However, we must bear in mind that God is spirit (John 4:24). So, ultimately, this has nothing to do with our physical appearance.
Others, when they read this, rightly understand it to mean that we have been made to be like God. And they take this to mean that we share many of his character traits. For example, they say that, just as God is a relational being, so too are we. As God is creative, so too are we. And, as God is intelligent, so too are we. However, even though this is true, the fact that we’re made in God’s image means so much more.
When man was created, God declared that all he’d made was very good (Genesis 1:31). We see from this that the original condition of man was one of integrity. Adam and Eve were created to be like God in his righteousness, holiness, and wisdom. They were without sin so that they had a proper relationship with God. They knew God and desired the things that he desires.
However, when Adam and Eve sinned, something changed. They were suddenly fallen creatures. And this remains true of us today. The description of fallen man that we read in Romans 1 and 3, as well as in many other passages, shows that, even though we’re aware of God, our natural tendency is to worship the creature. We’re no longer righteous and we no longer do good. And what this tells us is that, by the fall, much of the image of God, possessed by the first man and woman, has been lost.
Even though this is true, we see in Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 that man continues to bear the image of God to a degree. We’re told that the one who murders shall have his life taken, because man was made in God’s image. In speaking of our tendency to both praise God and to curse man, James reminds us that man was made in God’s likeness. So to what is this referring?
Even though, in the broader sense, man retains God’s image regarding his intelligence, his relational nature, etc., these passages refer back to his original condition, as well as the condition to which we’ll be restored through faith in Jesus. Regardless of the fact that we are now sinners and that we’ve largely lost the image of God in which we’re created, this is what God intended for man, and it remains as his desire for us.
We know this because, in the end, we’ll be transformed into the image of Christ. As we read in 1 Corinthians 15:49, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” When Jesus returns, sin will be no more. The redeemed will be transformed and will once again bear the image of God in its fullness.