Humans are created in the image of God. This article highlights five things that explain the nature of man, and shows how the fall destroyed this image.

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God made human beings in His image🔗

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

The statement at the start of the Bible (Gen. 1:26-27, echoed in 5:1; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9) that God made man in his own image, so that humans are like God as no other earthly creatures are, tells us that the special dignity of being human is that, as humans, we may reflect and reproduce at our own creaturely level the holy ways of God, and thus act as his direct representatives on earth. This is what humans are made to do, and in one sense we are human only to the extent that we are doing it.

The scope of God’s image in man is not defined in Genesis 1:26-27, but the context makes it clear. Genesis 1:1-25 sets forth God as personal, rational (having intelligence and will, able to form plans and execute them), creative, competent to control the world he has made, and morally admirable, in that all he creates is good. Plainly, God’s image will include all these qualities. Verses 28-30 show God blessing newly created humans (that must mean telling them their privilege and destiny) and setting them to rule creation as his representatives and deputies. The human capacity for communication and relationship with both God and other humans, and the God-given dominion over the lower creation (highlighted in Ps. 8 as the answer to the question, What is man?), thus appear as further facets of the image.

God’s image in man at Creation, then, consisted (a) in man’s being a “soul” or “spirit” (Gen. 2:7, where the NIV correctly says “living being”; Eccles. 12:7), that is, a personal, self-conscious, Godlike creature with a Godlike capacity for knowledge, thought, and action; (b) in man’s being morally upright, a quality lost at the Fall that is now being progressively restored in Christ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10); (c) in man’s environmental dominion. Usually, and reasonably, it is added that (d) man’s God-given immortality and (e) the human body, through which we experience reality, express ourselves, and exercise our dominion, belong to the image too.

The body belongs to the image, not directly, since God, as we noted earlier, does not have one, but indirectly, inasmuch as the God-like activities of exercising dominion over the material creation and demonstrating affection to other rational beings make our embodiment necessary. There is no fully human life without a functioning body, whether here or hereafter. That truth, implicit in Genesis 1, was made explicit by the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ: as the true image of God in his humanity as well as in his divinity. The glorified Lord Jesus is embodied to all eternity, just as Christians will be.

The Fall diminished God’s image not only in Adam and Eve but in all their descendants, that is, the whole human race. We retain the image structurally, in the sense that our humanity is intact, but not functionally, for we are now sin’s slaves and unable to use our powers to mirror God’s holiness. Regeneration begins the process of restoring God’s moral image in our lives, but not till we are fully sanctified and glorified shall we reflect God perfectly in thought and action as mankind was made to do and as the incarnate Son of God in his humanity did and does (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:29, 46; Rom. 6:4, 5, 10; 8:11).

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