Essential Truths of the Christian Faith - Monday, July 1, 2013

Human Beings Created in the Image of God

In art, the making of images is an exercise of beauty. Painting, sculpture, and the like are often imitative. Through our craft we depict objects drawn from real life.

The ultimate artist is God. When He fashioned the universe, He left His own mark upon it in such a way that the heavens declare His glory and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.

When God made the creatures that filled the earth and the sea, He created one creature to be uniquely made in His own image. Genesis 1:26-27 declares:

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

That the Bible says we are created in the image and likeness of God has led some (notably Roman Catholics) to conclude that there is a difference between being in the image and being in the likeness of God. But the structure of the biblical language indicates that image and likeness refer to the same thing. We are the icons of God, creatures made with a unique capacity to mirror and reflect the character of God.

Being made in the image of God is usually understood to point to the sense in which we are like God. Though He is the Creator and we are creatures, and though God transcends us in being, power, and glory, nevertheless there is some sense in which we are like Him. There is some analogy between God and us. God is an intelligent and moral being. We are also moral agents equipped with a mind, a heart, and a will. These faculties make it possible for us to mirror God's holiness, which was our original vocation.

The term man, when used in such Scripture passages as "God created man in His own image" (Genesis 1:27), means "humankind." Both male and female of the human species are made in the image of God. Part of the image includes mankind's call to rule the earth, to have dominion over it. We are called to dress, fill, and keep the earth as God's vice-regents. Here we are called to reflect the character of God's righteous rule over the universe. He never ravages or exploits what He rules, but rather reigns in justice and kindness.

In the fall of mankind, something ghastly happened. The image of God was severely tarnished. Our ability to mirror His holiness has been greatly affected so that now the mirror is fogged.

The Fall, however, did not destroy our humanity. Though our ability to reflect God's holiness was lost in the Fall, we are still human. We still have a mind, a heart, and a will. We still bear the mark of our Creator upon ourselves. The restoration of the fullness of the image of God in human beings is accomplished by Christ. He is, as the author of Hebrews declares, "the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3).

  1. God created human beings—both male and female—in His image and likeness.
  2. There is some analogy between God and human beings that makes communication between them possible.
  3. Human beings, like God, are moral agents with the faculties of mind and will.
  4. Human beings are called to have dominion over the earth.
  5. In the Fall, the image of God in human beings was marred.
  6. Christ is the perfect image of God. He is restoring us to the fullness of the image of God.

The Essential Truths of the Christian Faith devotional is excerpted from Essential Truths of the Christian Faith Copyright © 1992 by R. C. Sproul. All rights reserved.

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