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The Image of God: Three Important Questions

February 19, 2020

Genesis is a word that simply means beginning.

Here in chapter one, we find both the beginning of the Bible and the beginning of Creation. We learn that we have a God who can create energy, matter, waves, time, life, and us by his very words. I find this to be an awesome truth about God! Our God is the glorious Creator. And out of everything God could have created, it is incredibly humbling to think that he created you and me.

In verse 27, God reveals to us a truth that should shape our entire view of humanity and his creation: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The God who created the heavens and the earth tells us this: We are made in his image. This is a very beautiful, complex reality, so let’s unpack three important questions that arise from this truth in Genesis chapter one.

Q1: What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

There are several ways that I think Christians can faithfully answer this question, but before we do, follow along with me in Genesis 1:26-27:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and 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.

First, to be created in God’s image means that we have been given a unique status, a divine dignity as human beings. It means that God has set us apart and made us a very special creation in this world. As Christians we cannot forget the significance of this special honor that God has bestowed upon all humanity.

Secondly, to be created in God’s image means that God himself has determined how we ought to live. It means that God has made us to live his way rather than our own way. J.I. Packer once described this word “image” in Genesis as “representative likeness.” In other words, God created human beings to represent himself through us on earth.

What do these truths mean for us as Christians? We must remember that all people, since the fall of Adam and Eve, have abused the privileged status of being called God’s image bearers. Our fallen sin nature can thus make it difficult for us to walk in holiness and love other people. But as Christians God is using us to restore his image among his fallen image bearers, whom he loves! These verses from Genesis should compel us to love all people as God’s creation, as we share the good news of powerful healing that is found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This should also compel us to live as Christ, in true righteousness and holiness.

Q2: How can God’s broken image bearers be restored?

Before we answer this question, it is important that we emphasize something about our created nature as human beings. When man became sinful, human beings did not stop being God’s image bearer. Though our ability to reflect God’s image is tainted by sin, we can still reflect God’s glory through our lives.

This is why by God’s common grace, evil people can still do good things. Reflecting God’s image is hardwired into how we were created, and it is fundamentally what makes us human. To be human is to reflect God’s glory, to be unhuman is to sin against God. Like a mirror that cracks, a cracked mirror doesn’t stop being a mirror. It just becomes a distorted reflection of what it’s supposed to be.

I think that most of us deep down know that we are spiritually broken. The danger we face is that we look in all the wrong places for restoration. Some of us are deceived into thinking that we can fix ourselves if we just live a good enough life or right enough wrongs. Others of us know we can’t fix ourselves so we try to live life to the fullest, indulging in all this world has to offer us.

How can God’s image bearers be restored? Not by themselves, or by the world, but by Christ alone. Through God’s grace we no longer belong to this fallen world, because in Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The reason why Jesus can restore us is not only that he was in the beginning of creation, but that he lived the perfect life as the incarnate Son of Man, fully human and fully God. In doing so Jesus became the purest reflection and example of God’s glorious image on earth. In other words, he was the perfect mirror without any scratch, crack, chip, or smudge.

Q3: If I’ve been restored, then what next?

Our last question has to do with the process of sanctification. This is the way we honor God by pursuing holiness with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is full of ways that we should respond to the gospel and reflect God’s glory.

One way is to pursue obedience to God. God wants us to conform our will to his will, so we turn from former sins and put God’s interests ahead of our own. We also spread the good news of salvation, whether that take us to our neighbor across the street or to the unreached across the globe.

Another way we honor God is by relying on him for spiritual nourishment and fellowship. For this, God has given us his Word and Holy Spirit to help us grow in our relationship with him. He also gives us the Church, the Body of Christ, to grow relationally with other believers who have been transformed by the gospel. Image bearers must also rely upon God’s grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ during times when we go astray.

We should also respond to God in worship. Praise him for the grandeur and goodness of his creation that reflects his handiwork. Praise God for making light to see, and night to rest. Praise God for making water, land and sky. Praise God for every sunny day and starry moonlit night. Praise God for filling this world with birds and fish and animals of every kind. Praise God for making you after his likeness.

And best of all, praise and thank God for restoring you in Jesus Christ.

[This article was originally posted in 2014.]

The Author
Colton Tatham

Colton Tatham is a pastor at Journey Bible Church, a non-denominational church in Olathe, KS. He graduated with an M. Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago before moving back to the Kansas City metro to prepare for church planting. Colton and his wife Kristen have a daughter named Rylee. The Tatham family loves Kansas City BBQ and Jayhawk Basketball. Colton is passionate about reproducing gospel-centered churches in the Kansas metro.

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