The Image of God – what does it mean?

26 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.”

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

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28, ESV)

What does it mean for mankind to be made “in the image of God”? I’ve heard lots of ideas about this, and probably the one I thought was best was that it relates to dominion. That relied on the principle that if you don’t know what a verse means, look at the verses around it. Dominion is mentioned around the “image” stuff above, so maybe that’s it.

I just listened to a sermon by Paul Blackham here (listen from 37’38), which bowled me over (as is not uncommon from him). In this sermon, he presented his view of what the image of God means. I hadn’t heard it before but I think he might just be on to something. He does a great job, but in case you can’t be bothered to listen, here’s my attempted summary of the position:

Instead of only looking at what’s around the verses for context, there is a clue actually within verse 27:

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

Could it be that the creation of them as ‘male and female’ was the way in which they were created in God’s image?

“But God isn’t male and female!”, I hear you cry. Well yes, but there are some remarkable parallels between the creation of Adam and Eve and God’s divine nature, in particular of the Father and the Son. Let’s take a look at Genesis 2:

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24, ESV)

  • Eve is a human and was made from a human. She is “human from human”, like how the Son is “God from God” (Nicene Creed).
  • Eve was made out of exactly the stuff that Adam was made of, so one might say that Eve was of one substance with Adam, like how the Son is of one substance with the Father (Nicene Creed).
  • Eve came out of Adam, like how the Son is (eternally) begotten of the Father (Nicene Creed).
  • Adam and Eve are equally human, because they are of the same substance, like how the Father and the Son are equally God.
  • Although they are equally human, Adam and Eve have different roles, like how the Father and the Son have different roles.
  • Adam is the head of Eve, like how the Father is the head of the Son (1 Cor 11:3)
  • Eve is the glory of Adam (1 Cor 11:7, Proverbs 12:4), like how the Son is the glory of the Father (John 1:14, 8:54, 17:5, 17:22, 17:24)
  • Adam and Eve are “one flesh”, like the Son and the Father are “one” (John 10:30) (apparently the word for “one” in “one flesh” is the same word that says that God is “one” in the OT – a picture of his triune nature)

Cool eh! What do you reckon? That explanation of God’s “image” certainly seems to have more to say and to be more rooted in biblical truth than the other explanations, which all tend to be a bit woolly, in my view.

The sermon also has some amazing things to say about marriage – check it out! “A husband and wife may reveal the life of the eternal God”.

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