Made in God’s Image
Just for curiosity, I was reading several articles about imago Dei, the “image of God.” It has long been debated what God actually meant when He said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26). What does Made in God’s image mean?
The conclusion I was forced to come to is that the Bible really doesn’t give us enough information to make a dogmatic statement about how we are made in God’s image. In fact, several of the articles I read spent far more time explaining what they thought it didn’t mean. But there was one author who pointed out something I had never seen before, and it’s pretty powerful!
Look at the verses below from Genesis 1. I’ve highlighted the key point I want you to see:
- Verses 11-12: Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
- Verses 20-21: And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
- Verses 24-25: And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
(“Kinds,” by the way, is translated from the Hebrew word “min,” meaning genus or species. The Oxford Language Dictionary defines genus as “a class of things that have common characteristics and that can be divided into subordinate kinds.”). Nature.com explains, “A biological species is a group of organisms that can reproduce with one another in nature and produce fertile offspring.”)
But then there’s a pretty dramatic change when God speaks of the creation of mankind: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
I think we’d be very hard pressed to suggest that mankind shares a genus or species with our Creator, but clearly there’s something “like” Him about us. We certainly can’t speak of likeness in the sense of, “Oh, the baby has His eyes,” because we know from Scripture that God doesn’t have a body like we have. John 4:24 tells us, “God is a spirit,…” and Luke 24:39 tells us, “a (spirit) does not have flesh and bones…”
There’s one other point that’s worth mentioning. Genesis 2:19-20:
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.”
There was nothing and no one else who was the same “kind” as Adam. And that’s when God created Eve, not from the dust of the ground as with Adam (v. 7), but from Adam’s own flesh.
So, back to God’s declaration that He would make mankind “in His image.” I rather think we’re never going to be able to give a definite statement about what that means, and the reason for that is simple and complex.
Isaiah 55:8-9 declares, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
And Paul’s doxology in Romans 11:33-36 drives home the point when he says:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
I think there are just some things we will simply never understand until that day comes that “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
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