Series on Genesis, I Creation, C The Crown of Creation, Text: Genesis 1:26-30. Title: The Image of God


All of the pseudo-scientific speculations about our origins ultimately have one motivation which is to remove any sense of responsibility or authority from our shoulders. All the theoretical conjectures of evolution ultimately terminate upon this one point: who are we? This is why the Biblical account of the creation of man is important. In Psalm 8 we read, what is man that thou art mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him? you made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. In A.D. 399 Saint Augustine said, "People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars -- and they pass by themselves without wondering." If man was not created immediately and specially by God as Genesis one says, then the rest of what the Bible tells us is irrelevant. This is especially true of sin and salvation. If the evolutionists are right in their assertion that man evolved and that this happened at several times and places giving us several points of origin, then all that the Bible says about our connection to Adam and original sin is false. And furthermore all that it says about Christ and our salvation is wrong because the saving work of Christ is built on his being the last Adam, the one who fulfills the covenant that Adam broke on behalf of his people. Let us look carefully at the creation of man in the image of God. We shall see man made in the image of God, male and female in the image of God, the mandate for management in the image of God, and the image of God marred and mended.

I Man Made

A Immediate

Man is created immediately and in God's image. By immediately we mean that God took direct action. This action consisted in forming the body of man out of the ground and breathing into him the breath of life. This we are taught in Genesis 2:7, the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. As other aspects of the created life came forth they came forth in living form out of the ground without being formed by God directly as in verses 24 and 25, And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and 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. They were not formed and they did not receive the breath of God. Man, however does not live until God breathes into him. Thus he has a physical body and a human spirit direct from God. To assert that man was alive prior to this special act of creation and simply evolved into what he is now goes directly against this account.

B Image

The image of God is referred to in verse 27 of the account,  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. By image and likeness we mean that man becomes a responsible being capable of worship, and obedience. Alligators are not responsible. If someone is attacked we may destroy the alligator for safety’s sake, but they have not sinned. Being made in God’s image also means that man bears the impress of God's character in righteousness and holiness. The words image and likeness denote the same thing but have different connotations. Though often used interchangeably image and likeness may also be used in distinction. The word image can mean being the reflection of something else as of an idol. Then the image would have some, but not all, of the genuine characteristics of the real thing. Likeness, on the other hand, when used in distinction from image refers to a real correspondence in actual characteristics. Man was made both. Also, we must note that the plural is used of God in this act of creation. In verse 26 we read, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness which is a clear reference to the Trinity, and the involvement of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit in the creation of man. This leads us to our next point which emphasizes an aspect of the creation of man which actually reflects the persons of the Godhead.

II Man Male and Female

It is explicitly stated that God made them male and female. There is a plural not only in the creator but in the creature. It takes two to tango. The image is incomplete apart from the woman because, although she is taken out of the man, when she is taken out they are able to relate to one another like the Trinity. The emphasis is on the on the way in which the man and woman complement each other. This fact is made clearer in Genesis 2 where we learn that they were to be united in marriage and become one flesh. This being separate persons but in marriage becoming one flesh is a mystery as Paul says in Ephesians 5: 31 and 32, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. This is a mystery because it reflects the Godhead. So, while each individual bears the image of God whole and complete in himself, yet there is something about that image which is carried a step further in marriage. This is why divorce is seen in scripture not only as a sin but as undermining God's revelation. This is also why Paul can also refer to homosexuality in Romans 1 as unnatural. It is a crime against the order God has established to be a reflection of his glory, and indeed against the very image of God in man which is truly fulfilled in the union between the male and the female. Adultery undermines the image of God in the same fashion.

III Man’s Mandate for Management

To the idea of man being created male and female is now added the mandate for management in verse 26, Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Man has dominion and he is to subdue. He is God's representative to care for and manage this world. The concepts of ruling and subduing are seen here in the beginning as having to do only with the lower creation. After the fall, sadly, they describe man's relationship to other men, but not here. However even the concept of ruling over the lower creation has come under heavy fire from some environmentalists. They blame the Bible and our Judaeo-Christian heritage for man's mismanagement of the created order. They suggest if we had the eastern religious view we would consider ourselves at one with nature, kind of like the American Indians, who I'm not at all sure about, but they get this reputation in TV ads. The point is that these critics have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. The problem is not man's managing creation, but his mismanaging it. The answer is not to abdicate our responsibility but to do it right. In any case the reason man is given this responsibility is because he can answer to God because he is made in God's image. He is capable of this responsibility.

IV Man Marred and Mended

This idea is not in our text. We shall study it further as we proceed in Genesis, However, it is essential to our full understanding of the image of God in man that we see that although the Bible teaches that we are made in his image it does not teach that we retain that image unmarred. In fact what happens with the fall of man into sin is that the knowledge, righteousness and holiness with which Adam was endowed are lost. Man retains his capacity for communicating, believing, thinking, reasoning: but all under the dark shadow of sin. So, he retains the image of God but only as it has been defaced by sin. It may be that the word image includes those characteristics that  cannot be lost while likeness describes that which has been lost in sin. Thus sinful man is often compared to the brute beast. Humans often hate people of other classes, races and cultures yet as Mark Twain said, “There are many humorous things in the world; among them the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.” It is the teaching of the New Testament that in Christ alone we are restored. That restoration is only partial until we are glorified in the world to come, but it is real. Romans 8:29 says, For those God forknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, and II Corinthians 3:18 says And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory. John Erlichman went to jail after Watergate and found himself with a big self-esteem problem. He was a felon, shorn and scorned, clumping around in a ragged old army uniform, doing pick and shovel work out on the desert. He wondered if anyone thought he was worth anything. Up to his trial he had not faced his shortcomings, sins and failures. During two long criminal trials, he listened to prosecutors tell juries what a bad fellow he was. At night he thought about what was happening and began to take stock. Every day he read the Bible, walked on the beach, and sat in front of his fireplace pondering, without any idea where it was leading or what answers he'd find. He had nothing left of value--honor, credibility, virtue, recognition, profession—all gone along with the allegiance of his family, but he found Christ and he found God. He began to see himself and care about his integrity, his capacity to love and be loved, and his essential worth. The Nixon episodes were over and he emerged with gratitude to God for them. He found God, and he found himself because Jesus restores the marred image and makes a new one with value, honor, credibility, virtue, meaning and love. These are the things every one of us has lost whether we know it or not, and they are restored in Christ.


Ultimately the lesson of the image of God is that man is created with extraordinary dignity but that dignity has been lost by sin. An atheist said to the universe: "Sir, i exist," however, the universe replied, "That fact has not created in me a sense of obligation." In Christ we experience that dignity restored.