Man: In the Image of God

Genesis 1:26-28, “And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the face of the earth.   So God created man in his own image, in the image God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Created in the image and likeness of God, what does this mean?  It should be understood that these two terms (image / likeness) are inter-changeable terms (Gen. 1:26-27 cf. Gen. 5:3; Gen. 1:27 cf. Gen. 5:1).  But, in what way can it be said that we are created in the image of God?

 Man is Divine?

It certainly does not mean that man is divine.  The New Age movement, and Mormonism teach self-deification, but in truth we are not God.

God is the creator.  He is all-powerful, all-wise, and omnipresent.

Such doesn’t describe us.  “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps. 100:3).  “Thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God” (Ezek. 28:2; read context Ezek. 28:1-9).  See also – Acts 12:21-23; Acts 14:11-15.  There is a vast difference between God and man.  Job was reminded of this in Job 38-41.  Consider Job’s response after God had whittled him down to size – see Job 42:1-3.

 Physical Appearance?

I have had a young Indian child ask me, “Since man is created in the image of God, what does God look like?  Does he look Asian, African or European?”  Does the wording have to do with physical appearance?

This certainly is not what God has in mind here.  “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24).  “A Spirit hath not flesh and bones “ (Luke 24:39).The Father is not “flesh and bones” (see Matt. 16:17); This is despite what the Mormons teach – (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22; Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:9).

Someone might ask, “Isn’t it true that God at times is spoken of as having eyes?  Yes, it is (Prov. 15:3; Job 34:21-22).  However, listen to brother T. Pierce Brown, “The fact that God is spoken about as one who had eyes, hands, ears, and so on, has no bearing on this subject for two reasons: (1) If God is trying to let us know that he can observe us, hear us, and minister to us, he has to do it in words that mean something to us; (2) A bird or a fish may have eyes without being in the form of man.  So it is not without reason to speak of God’s eyes, ears, or hands, although he is Spirit.”  (Quoted in Rock Solid Faith, Vol. 2, Page 91).


Some have thought that the reference is to God being male.  However, once again this is not the answer.  God usually is pictured, in scripture, in masculine terms.  Sometimes he is pictured in feminine terms (see Isaiah 46:3; 49:15; 66:13).  In truth God is neither male nor female (see Luke 24:39 cf. John 4:24).

The language seems to include both genders (Gen. 1:27-28).  Murder is forbidden due to man being created in the image of God (Gen. 9:6).  Does this include the woman?  Clearly a woman’s life is of equal value as a man’s (see Ex. 21:28-31).  Bert Thompson has written, “How could this be the image of God… if a sexual distinction also is present in animals?” (ibid, page 94).

 Image now lost?

Some believe that man once was in the image of God but now is not.  This image, it is suggested, was lost in the fall.

In truth man still possessed this image long after the fall (Gen. 9:3, 6).  Man still is in the image of God (James 3:9-10 “are made” literally refers to action completed in past with abiding results).

 Eternal nature?

Some have thought that the wording means that man is like God in that man is an eternal spirit being.  The reasoning comes from the words of Genesis 2:7, “man became a living soul.”

However, the term ‘soul’ has different meanings in different contexts.  The word rendered in Genesis 2:7 is used of animal life in context(Gen. 1:20, “life;” Gen, 1:21, “living creature;”  Gen. 1:30, “life”).  Genesis 2:7 does not refer to the immortal part of man (see 1 Cor. 15:44-45 cf. Gen. 2:7).  The NKJV renders Genesis 2:7 “a living being.”

Man clearly does have an inner part which survives the death of the body; However, this is not the point here.


The contextual reference seems to have to do with how God created us to have dominion (Gen. 1:26-28; Psalm 8:3-8).  Don Simpson used to tell us in Preacher Training School that every time he flew aboard a plane, boarded a ship, or drove in an automobile, or took an elevator to the top of a skyscraper that Genesis 1:26-28 and Psalm 8:3-8 went through his mind.  Robert Morey said, “Image of God simply meant that man was created to be and do on a finite level what God was and did on an infinite level.  Man was created to reflect God in the created order (ibid, page 110).

Very clearly the reference is to authority (Gen. 1:26-27).  It is in this sense the language is used of the male and not the female in 1 Cor. 11:7-9.

Perhaps this image of God also has to do with how God created the animal world.  Read Genesis 9:1-2.  Matthew Henry, “What is it that keeps wolves out of our towns, and lions out of our streets and confines them to the wilderness but this fear and dread” (Vol. 1, page 56).  Adam Clark commented, “Had not God in His mercy impressed their minds with the fear and terror of man so that some submit to his will while others flee from his residence the human race would long ere this have been totally destroyed… tigers, wolves, lions, and hyenas … flee… from the dwelling of man… and thus he is providentially safe” (Vol. 1 page 79).

 A Parting shot

Jesus is the express image of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-4).  This word image is different for that which is used of us.

The word for us is eikon.  The word used for him is charakter.  This is a much stronger word.  Vine’s adds, “The Son of God is not merely his image (charakter) He is the image or impression of His substance or essence” (page 318).

It is as if God is going to make clear that we understand that we are not in His image in the same way His Son is.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Creation, Man, Phrase Study and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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